The Voice Of God

There are seasons of my life in which I feel like God is not speaking to me. I pray, read, study, go to church, and there’s just something missing. He’ll ‘go quiet’ so to speak for a time, but then He’ll open up my ears to the ways that He was speaking to me all along. These seasons of quiet have the potential to strengthen my faith if I let them. Or I can allow myself to go the opposite way and depart from Christ in the quiet seasons.

There was a season in the history of God’s people where they faced this choice. The prophets had grown quiet, the Roman Empire was rising and making all peoples subjugated to its will, including the Jews. No genuine prophet had risen up for centuries, and yet the prophets of old had told of a Messiah that would come and make all things new. In a sense, the Lord hadn’t spoken for centuries.

I can’t imagine what it was like to be in the people of God in that time. It would have been tempting to lose hope, to jump on the bandwagon when any number of men claimed to be the promised Messiah. In this moment however, no one was expecting an infant babe in a manger. Man, this Christmas season so far has been great. I’ve had the opportunity to stop and reflect and remember what makes the Christmas story so magnificent. There’s an aspect of the Christmas story I pray that we all remember, one that sometimes gets lost on me. And to get this aspect of the story, look with me at the book of Hebrews.

The book of Hebrews is an ongoing reminder that this infant babe we remember during the Christmas season is more marvelous and more amazing than anything that this world has to offer. Page after page, chapter after chapter extols the rich wonders of His majesty. If you have a hard time glimpsing the greatness of our gracious King, then take a gander at the book of Hebrews. Better_background slide

What I want us to think about comes from the opening passage of this book. I’m not intending to unpack this whole passage in this post, I just want us to have our minds and hearts formed by one part of it. Read with me Hebrews 1:1-4.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. – Hebrews 1:1-4 

The truth I want us to grasp is found in the first two verses, but this whole chunk of Scripture is too great to not share.

Long ago, God spoke to His people via the prophets. Now he speaks to us by the Son.

Those two sentences should floor us.

But they don’t.

We are a disenchanted people, things don’t inspire awe in us because we have the answer or supposed answer for every phenomenon whether it be natural or manmade.

There are great and epic stories in our culture that get such an enchanted and wondrous response from us. For me it’s This Is Us and the new Star Wars. I’m reading tweets and news articles, trying to find out all I can about these two stories. The trailer for the new Star Wars movie drew me into wonder. Enchantment. Amazement.

Now that’s probably a lame reality of my life, but it’s also a convicting one.

There is a story that is far greater, far more worthy of our excitement, anticipation, and proclamation. The story of Jesus.

Seriously.

Pause with me. Think.

 

The people of God were used to having a conduit so to speak to God, they had men and women of renown who spoke on behalf of God as prophets. Then, silence. Now Jesus steps onto the scene and throughout the entire narrative of His life we come to realize that God now speaks to us through this personal and intimate relationship made available to us through the Resurrected Son.

Here are three quick ways to apply this wonderful gift to our lives this Christmas season:

1. Read the Gospels. God speaks to us now via His Son. Look at the Biblical accounts of Jesus. See the way that he interacts with sinners, religious leaders, His disciples. Hear the teachings of the Kingdom. Immerse yourself in the life of Jesus. Don’t let this amazing gift go to waste.

2. Prayer. Man, now I’m going the cliche Sunday School route. But it’s true. God speaks to us via His Son. The Son whom Hebrews tells us is still on the throne of glory. The Son who holds the cosmos together. He is willing and able to commune with you through prayer.

3. Be Still. I am horrendous at meditation. Literally the worst. My mind goes crazy running all over the place. But this Christmas season, stop. This Christmas season, be still. Be quiet. Don’t talk. Be still and silent. Imagine the 400 years of silence. Feel the anticipation well up inside of you. Then when you’ve lost your ability to stay still, go out and proclaim the wondrous news we have that Jesus is alive and He is the voice of God.

Jesus is the better prophet.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Drifting

No one drifts closer to God.

I was eight hours into my egregiously long fifteen hour drive from Phoenix, Arizona to Wichita Falls, Texas when I heard this phrase in a podcast. I had seven more hours to think through its implications, and later that evening I realized that you can illustrate this reality in Scripture. 21208930_1417528678364805_1062599607_n

No one drifts closer to God. On days that we don’t pursue intimacy with Him we are naturally prone to drift further away from His presence, from the spiritual disciplines, and from His call on our lives. It just happens. Sure there are days where I’m not intentionally pursuing communion with Him and still feel close to Him. But 95% of the time, when I am not pursuing the spiritual disciplines, when I’m not pursuing His glory, I am drifting further and further from Him. If this happens for too long a season, it can lead me into sinful thoughts, behaviors, or lifestyles.

We all naturally drift away from God. This happens. This process is shown to us in the first Psalm. Look with me at Psalm 1:1.

How happy is the one who does not walk in the advice of the wicked or stand in the pathway with sinners or sit in the company of mockers! – Psalm 1:1

We see here in this verse an illustration of the regression that can happen in regards to sin.

Walking with the wicked – – – standing with sinners – – – sitting in the company of mockers.

Man this can happen so fast in our lives if we’re not careful.

It starts with us walking with God in the path of righteousness that is later described in this Psalm. Next thing you know, you’re not actively or intentionally making sure you’re on the path. This leads to a sometimes even subconscious walking on the path of the wicked. The wickedness of the world is thrown at us every waking moment, and so when we’re not communing regularly with God we can begin to walk out our lives on a path of wickedness that is provided to us by this world. It’s our natural inclination towards sin.

After drifting down this path for a while, we can find ourselves standing with sinners. Now, let me be clear, I do not see this verse as an indictment against having relationships and friendships with those who don’t share our faith. Standing with sinners in relationships is not at all what this verse is talking about, nor is it what I’m talking about. When placed in the illustration rather, it should surprise us that this wicked man is now standing. He is not moving towards God. He is not pursuing the Lord. He has set out on the path of wickedness and now he simply stands. Stands unaffected by sin.

In the seasons of my life that I have been drifting away from the Lord, I would find myself standing with sin lifestyles all around me, yet I wasn’t motivated to do anything about said sin. I had become apathetic towards sins that grieve the very heart of God, sins that my Lord and Savior had died for. This is what my heart is prone to do naturally when I do not pursue God. I subconsciously walk down the path of wickedness and soon find myself apathetic to sin.

I wish that was as far as we often get in our lives. Yet this isn’t the case. We can take it one step further – from apathy to mockery.

We can drift so far from the Lord that we go so far as to mock the very things of God.

This isn’t necessarily happening in our lives in pronounced or explicit ways, but it can happen in our hearts and minds. It can happen when we’re at small group or when we’re singing hymns at church. It can happen when we’re listening to a sermon or talking to a friend. We mock the things of God. I confess that this has happened in my life. I will be hearing a friend share about raising money for a mission trip and internally I’m mocking the idea of missions. I would be listening to a sermon and hear about how God is great and good and internally I would think to myself what is good about Him? I would receive godly and wise counsel from parents or other men and women in my life and immediately shrug it off or disregard it. This was extremely present in my high school days, as I sat in my mockery of God.

Now Psalm 1 is not in my opinion a Psalm about this regression, although I do believe David wrote the regression (walk – stand – sit) on purpose. I do pray and hope that as you read this, you are honest with yourself and with God about where you may find yourself today.

Are you walking with God on the path of righteousness, or are you sitting in sin?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. . . . If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. – Galatians 5:22-23a, 25

This is the fruit that should be present in our lives, that should be ripe in our lives. I am not myself prone to all of these things naturally, so again it takes active listening and walking with the Spirit of God in our lives.

The first Psalm gives us a clue on how we can make sure that we don’t drift away from the Lord.

Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. – Psalm 1:2

The man who is prosperous (not necessarily in an earthly way) is this man. The man who does not drift is this man.

May we be men and women who treasure the Word of God. May we be men and women who delight in the instructions of the Lord and make it a point to meditate on His Word day and night.

No one drifts closer to God.

It takes delightful discipline.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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Grace To Say No

The enemy of our souls has crafted a debilitating and devastating one-two punch with which he wages war against us. The combination of temptation followed by shame in the aftermath of failure can leave us reeling and broken. I can think of countless times where I’ve been there.

We let our guard down, allowing our ears to be itched by the enemy with the enticing ‘promises’ of present pleasure and enjoyment. When our minds aren’t bathed in Scripture and prayer they becomes increasingly susceptible to these sly and alluring lies to give in to the desires of our flesh and act in sinfulness. The deed is done, as the lustful thoughts enter the mind, the angry word lashes out at the friend, the white lie is uttered from the mouth. Yet the enemy isn’t done with us quite yet.roadblock

After giving into sin, the enemy attacks us with shame, guilt, and condemnation. He leaves us grasping for grace, doubting its power to truly redeem and purify us of our most recent fault. We come crawling to the cross for redemption, but we wrestle in our minds and deepest hearts about whether or not there is actual grace for the 1001st fault.

Yet even with a Biblical and right understanding of the power that grace has to forgive us of our deepest faults, we can still get caught in a discouraging cycle of a habitual sin if we don’t realize that grace has power before we sin as well.

The cycle goes something like this. Temptation, sin, confession, forgiveness. Temptation, sin, confession, forgiveness. We may have seasons of strong victory over our habitual sin, but if we don’t understand grace’s one-two punch, we are destined to remain in such a cycle of despair and discouragement. Been there. Done that. Bought that t-shirt. I don’t want to be stuck in a cycle of sin again. So how do we overcome, and stand firm in temptation?

We understand the full power of grace at work in our lives. We understand that grace is not only there for us when we fail, it is there for us before we even come close.

For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. – Titus 2:11-14

Wow. Read that passage again. Really meditate on it and strive to comprehend it. The grace of God teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldly passions. It teaches us to live lives of self-control, uprightness, and godliness. This doesn’t come from a self-help book (been there, done that), it doesn’t come from simply willing yourself to be better. The power to change and get free of habitual sin lies in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace, grace, God’s grace. Grace that is greater than all my sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, combat the one-two punch of the enemy. Don’t get dragged down into a never-ending cycle of temptation and condemnation. Counter with not just the grace that we are given when we sin (because we will continue to make mistakes), but the power that grace gives you and I to say no to that which our flesh wants to say yes to.

How do we receive this power? By faith in what Christ has done, and hope in what that means for eternity.

This passage is beautifully explicit about what Christ has done for you and I who worship Him as Lord. He gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify us. You and I have been redeemed from the stain of sin, we have been purified from the infection of our flesh. Christ did this. Not because of anything we could do, but because of His great mercy and love (Titus 3:5).

Let that saturate your mind and heart. Let that seep through the broken cracks of your sinfulness and let it come as a breath of fresh air. In Christ, we have grace that is greater than all our sin.

Implementing the power of grace to say ‘no’ to our temptations does not come by way of formula or steps. It comes by way of meditating on the gospel and proclaiming aloud that “that’s not me”. When temptation comes your way, proclaim the wonders and goodness of God’s grace. When temptation beckons, combat it with prayer and the recitation of Scripture. Maybe you memorize this passage and use it to wage war on the enemy. Whatever method you may use to combat sin and experience grace, let Christ be central.

Oh how foolish and naive I am when I attempt to combat sin through my own strength. Oh how fortunate and blessed I am that I don’t have to.

The power to overcome sin is the Lord’s.

Meditate on His grace.

Walk in freedom.

Wage war.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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