Submitting to Sinners

What are we to do when governments and authorities allow abortion to run rampant? What are we to do when governments and authorities sow seeds of systemic racism? What are we to do when governments and authorities destroy life at any level? What are we to do when governments and authorities commit genocide? What are we to do when governments and authorities attack the church, persecuting and executing?

We are to submit.

Now if you’re like me, you probably think that doesn’t sound right at all. In fact, it makes you bristle and bow up. Submission is a term that shows weakness, that makes us think of being pinned to the mat in a wrestling match. Yet, despite our desire to be our own governing authorities, we are called in Scripture to submit to those God has established over us.

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. – Romans 13:1-2

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority – 1 Peter 2:13a

These verses still rub me the wrong way. If you’re like me, it’s okay to acknowledge that. We don’t like being led, governed, being told what to do. We have grown up in a culture that tells us we are governing ourselves. That doesn’t line up with Romans and 1 Peter. We are called to submit to authority over us, because authorities over us have been put in place by God. We are called to submit to authority over us, because it gives God glory, it is for ‘the Lord’s sake’.

Let’s be clear however about what submission is and isn’t.

SUBMISSION ISN’T SILENCE.

This is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about what it means to submit. Submission doesn’t mean keeping quiet about sin and injustice. There isn’t a country in the world (that I know of) that fully lines up all of their laws and legislations with the commands and character of God. That kind of place doesn’t exist in a Genesis 3 world. So what that means for us as Christians is that the countries we reside in have sinners at the helm and these leaders won’t always lead their country into conformity with the cause and commands of Christ.

In those moments, we are given the right and responsibility to speak up.

Now, there is a way to speak up however. Facebook fights and Twitter clap-backs aren’t the way. Instead, raise awareness. Go to the source. Model it in your own local community. Be humble. Be kind. We have a world full of slacktivists unfortunately, those of us who write about what we should change in our country without striving to do just that at a local level. Man, I’m bad at that.

Submission is not silence. It is however words spoken in kindness and humility, actions taken in a local community, not violent riots.

SUBMISSION SOMETIMES INCLUDES SUFFERING.

Oh how I wish at times that this wasn’t true, but alas it is. When we submit to the government that we are under, that can sometimes lead to suffering.

Earlier today I watched a video, it was a clip of a sermon from a pastor in China named Wang Yi. This pastor was the epitome of what I am writing about in this blog. He was telling his congregation, with much passion, that they were called to speak up and tell the president and leaders of their country that they were sinners in need of the grace of God. He was saying that they could best exemplify and extend the grace of God to these sinful men by suffering. Over and over he attested that if they were to be persecuted and responded with grace, their sinful leadership would encounter the grace of God and turn to the Lord. He was willing to lead his people into suffering via submitting to this government that he was under!

He is now in prison for his belief in Jesus.

He is now walking out what he preached.

He is now extending the grace of God to those who hold him captive.

He was not silent in the midst of a sinful government, but he knew that he was under this government for a reason. That reason appears to be so that through persecution he could extend the grace of God!

SUBMISSION IS WITNESS.

This is the most important aspect of submitting to earthly rulers. When we do so, we are proclaiming the fact that God is ultimately governing those who govern us. Less and less people willingly submit to authority these days, and when we do this it points to the ultimately rule and reign of Jesus. Consider the following verses.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been give to me. – Matthew 28:18 

The risen Jesus is proclaiming to His disciples that He holds all authority over all things, both in heaven and on earth.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; – Psalm 24:1 

David is proclaiming the truth that all that is in the world is the Lord’s. Everything comes under His authority!

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8

Just after a short dialogue about the kingdom of God, we see Jesus telling His followers that they would bear witness to the gospel. Since this was in the midst of a dialogue on the Kingdom, you could make the argument that they are to be witnesses to the King and His Kingdom as well.

In summary, when we submit to earthly authorities, at whatever level, we are bearing witness to the One who controls all things.

So Trump and company may not have my support in all that they do, but they have my respect. They have my submission. Because I know who is on the throne.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The Present That Never Fades

Advent is a wonderful way to start the year.

In the liturgical church calendar, Advent begins the year. While I wasn’t raised following this church calendar, I’ve started to embrace it due to its richness and sublimity. It makes me stop and consider the history of our Christian faith, and feel a depth that’s lacking in general life.

It’s counter-cultural too. Instead of our year starting in January with “resolutions” to be the best we’ve ever been, our year starts with a realization that we can’t ever be better on our own. Our world is corrupt, fallen, sinful. Pain, sickness, and suffering abounds. Something’s not right.

We’re not ok.

But our year begins with the fulfillment of a promise. A promise that a savior would come and deliver us from sin and pain and death. A promise that a king would come to set things right. A promise that a gift would be given that keeps giving, giving, and giving.

Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises and more.

When we start our year off with a baby Jesus, we’re starting the year off with a fulfilled promise. We’re starting our year off with songs of joy. We’re starting our year off with hope and peace. These are wonderful ways to begin the year, I’d say.

We start the year with deep hurt, deep desires unfulfilled. But we start the year with a child who was born to meet our deep hurt and to fulfill our deepest desires for life, joy, peace, and love. Jesus is this child. And the church calendar follows his birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension. It’s a wonderful way to live your ordinary life in an extraordinary way.

It also reminds us that Jesus lived an ordinary life for probably 30 years too. He worked with his hands as likely a carpenter. He didn’t have a lot of money. His family was pretty poor. He didn’t have running water. He didn’t even live in Jerusalem! That’s God’s own city! It’s where God’s presence was (more or less) since King David and King Solomon. But when Jesus, fully God and fully man, walked about on earth, he wasn’t even living in his own city. Why?

Because Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Because Jesus came to those who were far from God. Those who were literally, physically far from God — Gentiles, non-Jews, people like you and me.

Jesus offered a free gift through his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. This gift is the beginning of our new life (for those who believe in Jesus). This gift starts our lives. This gift starts our years, year after year. It’s the beginning of something new and great.

Paul, in Romans, puts it this way:

And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. – Romans 5:16

I had to read this about fifty times before I had a glimmer of what he’s saying here. And pardon me for missing something. I’m sure I did.

But what I gathered here is so amazing.

The free gift from Jesus “following many trespasses brought justification.” It’s easy to get lost in all this language, to be honest. But right before this, Paul says, “the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin.” What’s that mean? It means the free gift is not exactly like how Adam’s one sin led to a fallen world. When we sin, even one time, we are condemned. Condemned means we’re guilty. So through one sin, we’re guilty.

One wrong thought or action in this life causes you to be guilty. That’s it.

We need this guilt removed somehow. But we can’t remove it ourselves through good works. John Stott explains why:

“So what can be done? If we are ever to be forgiven we must repay what we owe. Yet we are incapable of doing this, either for ourselves or for other people. Our present obedience and good works cannot make satisfaction for our sin, since these are required of us anyway. So we cannot save ourselves.” (emphasis mine)

We need a gift. Now, recall that one wrong thought or action in this life causes us to be guilty. If you’re anything like me, though, you’ve done a bit more wrong than just one. Let’s just say I sin once a day. Since being born, that’s over 9,000 days. That’s over 9,000 sins. Woh. First of all, that’s more than I expected for some reason. Second of all, that’s only with one sin a day!

Two sins a day makes 18,000. Three makes over 27,000. If one makes me guilty, then how much more am I in the gutter!

But here’s the great part. Even after thousands of sins (or trespasses) the free gift of God brings justification! Just one sin causes condemnation. Yet one free gift overcomes innumerable sins and causes justification.

This is a much better way to start your year.

Instead of ending your year with presents that will fade away with time, start your year with a present that will never fade. Start your year with Jesus. Start your year believing in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Start your year with peace, hope, joy, and love.

– Matthew Welborn

 

Given Up

When you really dig deep into Scripture, you can’t avoid the hard stuff.

There has been a phrase in the Bible, in one singular verse, that has caused me a whole lot of problems. It’s the phrase that I circled when I read it last month, and put question marks all above it.

It’s in the following verse.

Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. – Romans 1:24

God gave them over.

This phrase had been giving me fits. How does a good and loving God give mankind over to the most vile desires and passions that they have? It’s easy for me to do what I did, circle and question it, but never come back to it. Thankfully, I came back to this verse.

I want to share a blog that honestly might make some of you stop following my writing (although I hope this isn’t the case, cause I love y’all). I want to share with you this afternoon an unpopular but no less integral and important aspect of doctrine.

God’s mercy isn’t infinite.

I recently read this in a commentary on Romans and wrote in the margins that I’ve never heard this taught and my gut reaction is to write it off as hearsay and maybe even heresy.

Then I thought about it for a little while. And I must admit, it’s true.

God is infinite, and thus his character can be described as such. But to say His mercy is infinite is to say that there is ultimately no punishment for sin. Infinite mercy is thus an extremely popular belief in our present day in age, even in many churches. The doctrine of hell, of separation from God, is glossed over and removed, replaced instead with the doctrine of his grace and mercy which never cease.

This is why Biblical literacy, or the preaching of the whole of Scripture, is such a passion of mine. It is only when we take certain passages and make them the centrality of our entire beliefs about God that we fall into gross misunderstandings of His character and the reality of the world we live in.

In this passage in Romans 1, we are clearly told and taught by God through Paul that God’s wrath is poured out on all mankind apart from Christ, since all mankind has at some point suppressed the truth of God and have chosen instead to follow their own wisdom (aka foolishness, Romans 1:22) instead (You Deserve Wrath, Not Love) . Romans 1:23 goes on to say that all of mankind has chosen to exchange the glory of God for their own images.

With all of this in the background of our reading of this verse and this difficult phrase, we begin to see what God is doing.

What God does here in that phrase “God gave them over” is the term ‘judicial abandonment’. God is choosing to give mankind up and over to its own desires, its own sin, its own ‘wisdom’.

This judicial abandonment by God ultimately leads to horrific darkness. It is to be totally and completely devoid of God. It becomes intriguing to me the more I think about it to realize that what our culture is begging for, what sinful mankind is begging for, is exactly what God grants in this passage and ultimately what they will receive when they face Him after they die.

Mankind apart from Christ wants life apart from God. Mankind wants to call the shots. God’s wisdom is too overbearing and too narrow, so mankind fights back and exchanges Scriptural truth for personal conviction and opinion. God’s call to suffer and die to one’s self is too insane a calling, so mankind says that to follow one’s heart and live for one’s own desires is the way to go. Jesus saying He is the way, the truth, and the life is too narrow-minded and bigoted, so mankind opens it up to all systems of belief.

What breaks my heart each day is to see so many who have grown up in the knowledge of Scripture doing what verse twenty-two proclaims. They cling to new wisdom, because God is old-fashioned, and thus become foolish in His eyes.

Judicial abandonment by God is horrifically dark. Judicial abandonment by God is Him giving us what we desire in our hearts apart from Christ.

I’m a sinner apart from Christ. I’m prone even as a follower of Jesus to want sinful things. Just look at this list later in this chapter: homosexuality, unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slander, hate, arrogance, boasting, disobedience, being unloving, being unmerciful, and celebrating all of the above sins. We are all prone apart from Christ to desire and strive towards these sins. So for God to ‘give me over’ is to give me what I want.

The Bible actually closes this way.

Let the one who does wrong, still do wrong; and the one who is filthy, still be filthy; and let the one who is righteous, still practice righteousness; and the one who is holy, still keep himself holy. – Revelation 22:11

So no, God is not infinite in mercy.

One day, God will give us what we want. Whether it be our sin, or the righteousness of His Son. One day, after we die, God will either give us eternity with Him because of faith in His Son, or we will go through eternity separated from Him in a real place called hell.

This is an immensely difficult truth. But it must be read in conjunction with the other truths of Scripture. Here’s an encouraging one:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. – 2 Peter 3:9

God desires for all to come to repentance. He desires for all to receive the righteousness of Jesus. But His mercy is not infinite. If we reject Him here, He will reject us for eternity.

Thank God that He sent His Son to live the perfect life I could not and to die the death I deserve. Thank God that Jesus rose from the grave and set me free from sin.

Thank God for those who told me the gospel.

Notice how this passage says that all of mankind has been judicially abandoned by God apart from the gospel. Apart from Christ, that is our lot, our end game. This is the message we must share.

Let’s get on the ball and share with those who need to hear.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

You Deserve Wrath, Not Love

God’s love is unfailing and inexhaustible for those who are His children. His mercies are new every morning. His faithfulness stretches to the horizon. His grace is inexhaustible as well because of the blood of His Son poured out on the cross. His wrath is just, fierce, and poured out upon those who are not His children.

Most of us would affirm the first four sentences, leading us into worship of our wonderful King. Yet instead of worshipping God because of His wrath, we tend to apologize to the world for that aspect of His character, as if He was a moody teenager whose actions simply needed defending because He is in a phase.

I would affirm and attest however that it is the wrath of God, His just, fierce, and full wrath, that makes the gospel shine even brighter in my heart. It is true that the light of the gospel shines brighter against the backdrop of our dark and dire position before God.

I’ve heard it a bazillion times from those who think the Scriptures are archaic, untrustworthy, and unnecessary for the modern Christian. The picture is painted of a god in the Old Testament who is vengeful, violent, wrathful, angry, and moody. In steps Jesus however and the god of the Old Testament is neutered, replaced with this Son of God who comes onto the scene of human history proclaiming that God loves everybody no matter what and that we are not in danger of God’s wrath as long as we are loving and not judging.

To claim that the New Testament portrait of God is one of love rather than wrath is in my opinion impossible to reconcile with Romans 1.

Romans 1:18 says the following.

For the WRATH of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. . . (emphasis mine)

Paul certainly begins his letter to the church in Rome with gospel truths and thanksgiving for those who were called by God in Rome to be saints.

That being said, he transitions into a lengthy proclamation of God’s wrath and the fate of mankind apart from God’s wonderful grace via Christ.

Since I have been studying God’s Word, I have never undertaken to study the book of Romans. This is in part because of its length, but definitely the more terrifying aspect of it for me is its depth, how meaty and deep it is. The whole salvation debate that seems to be the rage for any newly minted self-proclaimed theologian (i.e. Calvinism vs. Arminianism, etc.) uses much of Romans for its battleground and because of this I just didn’t want to wade into those waters (since when it comes to how God saves people my answer is I have no idea). However, it was also passages like this in Romans that I wanted to avoid having to mentally wrestle with and come to terms with. It’s easier to pretend these passages about God’s wrath are not here.

All this to say, after many years, I decided that now was the time, and so I picked up a commentary by the late R.C. Sproul and I’ve been slowly digesting this meaty chunk of Scripture. Lo and behold early on I’ve had to face this one.

God’s wrath.

Revealed. Unapologetically and explicitly said to be against mankind for their sin.

When I’ve read Romans 1 in the past, I’ve kept myself out of it. The people that Paul is talking about in this passage were the wicked and foolish men of past and present who were unwilling to submit to God as Sovereign over their lives. This time through I’m seeing that I am definitely in this passage. There’s no avoiding it. Honestly in reality I’m all over it.

Why is God’s wrath being poured out?

. . . against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. – Romans 1:19-22 

Mankind has seen evidence of God through creation. I’m not trying to fight about apologetics or philosophy, now’s not the time or the space. I’m simply affirming what the Word of God says to be true: creation alone testifies of a Creator.

Mankind has seen evidence of God, but every single man and woman who has ever lived has suppressed the truth. Every person who has ever walked the earth has chosen to ignore the reality of God and instead live however they want. All of us have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.

God is perfectly just and right. Those who refuse allegiance to Him are deserving of His wrath.

I, Nathan Patrick Roach, deserve death. I deserve separation from God for now and eternity. In the words of Lecrae, “If we all fought for our rights, we’d be in hell tonight”.

This dark and dire statement is where the gospel blossoms. That is why God’s wrath is necessary, and honestly is beautiful. I cannot sit here and say I understand how God’s wrath works nor can I affirm and celebrate the destruction of another. However, I can give great thanks that God extended grace to me through His Son.

Brother or sister, if you are living outside of a relationship with Jesus, then you are deserving of God’s righteous wrath. Just as I am deserving apart from Jesus.

I would plead with you to repent, to turn. We all at one point suppressed the truth of our God for our own sinful and selfish gain. Search your heart, submit to King Jesus.

Thank God for His wrath, for in it we find His grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

The Good News of Nathan?

The gospel is all about Jesus.

As people of God we should be all about the gospel.

These seem like total no-brainer statements, yet if we’re honest, we all subtly move away from these truths.

I know that I have countless times in my life in the past and in the present. First, when it comes to that first statement, here’s what would happen. When I first got to OBU, I wanted everyone to know my story. You can see the problem that arose just by how I phrased that last sentence. I wanted people to know MY story, not the story of Jesus, not the story where I was simply an extra with a teeny tiny part to play.

So what happened is that I regularly, I mean probably a couple times a month, would share my testimony with anyone who wanted to hear it. Each time I shared it I would emphasize all of my nasty, gritty, and grimy sin struggles. Anger, sexual sin, dishonesty, rebellion. Then at the very end I would tack on a quick here’s how God redeemed me from all of that (the other stupid thing I would do was act like none of those sin struggles were still in my life, maybe to will myself into getting rid of them, who knows). It also got so bad that I would embellish my story like crazy, dramatizing it, making it seem unfathomable. This snowballed and soon my story was full of scenarios and situations that never actually happened. Imagine that, being dishonest when sharing my own testimony. Man thank God for grace.

The gospel that saturates the Scriptures was suddenly about me. I never said that in those words, but it was clear in the way that I shared my life story.

Life progressed and as I entered vocational ministry, the temptation to make the gospel the means by which I would build my own kingdom and legacy was hot and heavy. In hopes of not making the same mistake silly old 18 year old Nate made, I confess that this continues to be an ongoing battle for me. Ministry is rough and rugged and not at all what I expected it to be when I first submitted to God’s call on my life as a teenager. Yet despite the brutality of it at times, it’s easy to treat it as any other job and make it about achieving my own goals and aspirations. I don’t particularly believe that everything is explicitly black and white, that having dreams and desires is sinful. That being said, it is sinful to take from God’s glory (or hilariously attempt to).

The proclamation of the gospel is not to be used to build our own kingdoms of sand. I’ve seen evangelists and preachers make the gospel their avenue to glory. I’ve fought and at times given into that same desire in my own heart. May we be men and women of God who do no such thing. May we understand the futility of trying to make the gospel about us.

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son – Romans 1:9a

The gospel of His Son.

The gospel is all about Jesus.

Let us transition to the second statement.

As people of God we should be all about the gospel.

Sometimes the gospel seems mundane. Sometimes the gospel of Jesus Christ seems like VBS style theology to the pew-hardened follower of Jesus. Here’s where Paul in the book of Romans blows that false feeling out of the water.

So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. – Romans 1:15

There was already a gospel presence in Rome when Paul wrote the Roman church this letter. This is easily proven in verse seven. For there to be church community in Rome, people needed to have submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. For them to have done that, they would have needed to have heard the gospel. Thus we can say that the gospel had been preached in Rome. Yet, Paul is eagerly anticipating the opportunity to preach the gospel in the very place there was already a gospel presence. Why? Because as people of God we should be all about the gospel.

It may seem repetitive to our hearts, but if it is, it is more than likely because its beauty has not cascaded into every dark crevice. A right understanding of the good news of Jesus Christ leads to a yearning to hear it and preach it and share it and soak it in. We should be all about the gospel. That word can get watered down, so here is what R.C. Sproul gives as a mini-synopsis of this good news:

  • Jesus’ life of perfect obedience
  • Jesus’ atoning death on the cross
  • Jesus’ resurrection from the dead
  • Jesus’ ascension into heaven
  • Jesus’ outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the church

What a surprise, the gospel is all about Jesus.

We live in a society where we are supposed to tickle the ears of our congregations with pep-talks that use Scripture as support instead of actually preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

To preach the gospel every week does not require preaching from the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) every week. Every story in Scripture points to Jesus in some way. Any sermon can be a gospel-saturated sermon.

Let us not grow weary of proclaiming the gospel to our families and friends.

Let us be men and women of the gospel.