What Grace Is For?

I was home from Oklahoma Baptist for the summer and I decided to go to a get together with some of my high school friends. We ended up being at a house with a few dozen people. I had a great time interacting with a lot of old friends. As the night went on and the numbers dwindled, Cards Against Humanity was pulled out and offered as an activity (think adult style Apples to Apples). While I’m not a fan of this game, my conscience cannot be thrust upon others, so the fact it was brought out is not what bothered me.

What bothered me is when a young woman a few years older than me looked at me and said, “I know this game is horrible, but hey, that’s what grace is for right?” She laughed and went back into the other room to continue playing.

Again, my conscience is different than yours. Cards Against Humanity is not the devil. So that’s not what my blog is about.

What my blog is about how that statement, although it was in jest, seems to be the way many people treat grace, treat the good news of Jesus Christ.

Grace has been abused. There is an incredible tension in the Christian faith where God’s grace does not run out, but we are not called to trivialize it by accepting sin in our lives. Now I’ll be the first to say that I struggle with giving myself grace, it’s hard for me to accept it when I turn from actions, words, and thoughts that I know are not honoring to God and thus are sinful.

Not only do we sometimes abuse grace with a cavalier attitude towards our sin and the call to holiness, we also desire to be welcoming and encouraging to others and so we tell them their sin is a okay in the eyes of God. I’ve done it. I may not have explicitly told anyone, hey, your sinful lifestyle is pleasing to God, but rather by not confronting it I am giving them this idea.

This comes from a desire to love others well. But in actuality, it is loving others poorly.

There is a big portion of people who are following Jesus who have done away with the commands of God, the call to holiness that is explicit in Scripture, in order to love others like Jesus would. I’ve heard the dialogue. I’ve taken part in the conversations. I’ve felt the temptation to do the same. We want to make up for the ‘sins’ of our forefathers by responding to the sinner on our block with love. I’m all for that. But we must also lovingly speak truth. Jesus did not come to do away with the call to holiness, in fact He calls us to be like Him in perfection (Matthew 5:48).

The abuse of grace is dangerous and grieves the heart of God. The reason I know this is because the Bible speaks clearly against it. The other day I was reading through 2 John while also preparing a lesson for my youth on John 14, and interestingly enough both of these passages speak up against the abuse of grace. Look at these verses with me please.

And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it. – 2 John 6

Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. – 2 John 9

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. – John 14:15

Loving Jesus is shown in following His commandments as taught in Scripture. To love others in the context of the church is to walk in the commandments of Jesus as taught in Scripture. Verse nine of 2 John is a hard one. If we stray from the teachings and commandments of Jesus as taught in the Scriptures, we are in fact straying from God Himself. This verse is not saying that if I struggle with sin I will lose Jesus. Rather it is saying that I don’t get to call the shots. I don’t get to decide what Jesus says. Kind of like one of my recent posts, Scripture tells us what Jesus’ heart is and thus what the character of God is (The Light Of Jesus, John 14:7).

There are well-meaning men and women, including myself, who at times abandon what Scripture says in order to love people the way we feel Jesus would. Our hearts are in the right place, but we are in danger of becoming what Jude verse four describes as ungodly people who abuse grace and forget that Jesus is their Master.

What I’ve discovered to be more and more true is that Biblical illiteracy is the reason many of us live in sin. It’s been hard for me to figure out how people (including myself at times) can love Jesus and also accept and celebrate sin in their lives and in the lives of others. Then I realized it’s in part because we don’t read Scripture as much, or as closely, as we should.

You can’t avoid these verses.

You may be a Greek theologian and scholar who can explain to me how these verses (which is a small sampling on the topic) don’t actually teach us to follow the commands of Jesus that we receive from His teachings and the teaching of the apostles. If you can, I don’t think I’d agree with you.

You can’t be more merciful than God, and yet we try to. We try to apologize to others on behalf of God, trivializing His commands and extending grace to areas of sin that we shouldn’t celebrate.

I am always looking for feedback and loving discussion, so comment below if you want to. You can also follow my blog below.

Love you guys.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Prayer & Community

The themes kept appearing incessantly throughout the week. They came from my own lips in the midst of Bible studies, and they came from the lips of local church planters of many different backgrounds and ministries. They showed up in D-Now teachings and Skype conversations. It was as if God was divinely orchestrating the entire week so that I would be able to undoubtedly grasp that without these two things, I could not successfully stay afloat in ministry in Phoenix.

Prayer and community.

I’m sitting in my apartment on an immensely rainy day, and these two things have not left my mind. For the past nine days I’ve had the privilege to host a team of nine students from my Alma mater, Oklahoma Baptist University. In the midst of walking with them this week and simply doing my best to paint a picture of what ministry in the West is like, the importance of prayer and community kept reverberating through my mind and heart. There is so much power in both of those practices and having the team here affirmed how beautifully refreshing practicing them can be to the heart of a Christian.

obu
So thankful for this team from OBU and the work they did in the city this past week!

There’s two ways of going about life on a normal week.

The first way of going about life is isolation. Yes, I may go to church with brothers and sisters in Christ, I may live with one of my closest friends, I may do fun activities and engage in conversation with my peers. Yet I can still be tremendously isolated by my failure to share what my deep-seated questions and pains may be at that time. I’ve looked my roommate in the eyes when he’s leaving the house, all of me wanting to scream out my need for prayer and encouragement, but my desire to stay comfortable and not admit weakness keeps me silent. I have the sovereign Lord of all willing to listen to my humble cries for help yet I can in my isolated state keep laboring through the darkness unwilling to seek the light of Christ through the practice of prayer.

That way of life is dark, depressing, and ultimately not how God designed us to live. But there is another way to go about everyday life in a missional mindset. That way of life is saturated with prayer and community.

A life saturated with prayer and community is the blessed life. Community is what the church is all about. It can definitely happen through functional and organized church events. Yet most of my growth and support in the context of community has happened on a random Tuesday when my friends ask me how I’m doing and I say “not so great”. For goodness sake, we were designed to need each other and we shortchange what God has given us through His church if we don’t place ourselves in the vulnerable position of community.

Prayer is too often my last resort. How silly and prideful of me. Prayer should be our first step of faith when faced with any circumstance. Prayer doesn’t have to be in a specific posture or location. Prayer is reliance on God, and prayer has transformational power. I’ve seen it change the hearts of others, I’ve seen it change the circumstances that I’m in. But more often than not, the transformational power of prayer happens in my own heart. When I praise God for all that He is, confess my sins and shortcomings, and give thanks for all the blessings He’s given me this day, I can’t help but have a heart that is changed and more in love with God.

I’ve been reading some of the short letters at the end of the New Testament and I’ve found encouragement to keep striving to implement both of these practices. There are many verses that combine both practices: deep community and prayerful posture.

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. – 3 John 2

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; – Jude 20-22

John practiced praying for his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. He prayed not only for their spiritual health, but also their physical health. As followers of Christ we are to pray in the spirit, building each other up in our holy faith. We as followers of Christ are to also have mercy on those who doubt.

That final verse has been the most beneficial and impactful to me in regards to living in Christian community. I’ll honestly say that I’m not entirely sure the exact context of “have mercy on those who doubt”. Yet I imagine it has implications on how Christians should treat each other.

I’ve been following Christ since I was seven. Despite this, I doubt.

In certain seasons of my life I struggle with doubt in regards to certain things. Not necessarily in regards to mental doubt, but emotional doubt. I used to have a lot of fear in regards to confessing my struggles in doubt to my brothers in Christ. Yet it has been so true in my life that when I confess my anxieties and faith struggles that the mercy of my brothers drives me to remembering the promises of Scripture. We all need community to encourage us in our faith. We all get down and discouraged, we all need affirmation of the truths of God’s Word. We all need to be shown mercy and grace.

If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we must be a people of prayer. If we as followers of Christ are going to stand for Him in the coming days, we need to be in a community of brothers or sisters in Christ who daily point us to Him.

Prayer and community.

I can’t exist without them.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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