Chuck. E. Cheese & The Gospel

Today I took my brothers to Chuck. E. Cheese. It was a fun experience, albeit it was a little crazy and hectic in this children’s casino. Caleb and Matthew each played their arcade games and tried to garner as many tickets as possible in order to get some prize at the end of our afternoon. Matthew came up with 121 tickets, and Caleb only came up with 84 (he was obsessed with the pure chance style games). We walked over to the counter to pick out toys, and they each laid eyes on their ideal toy. Caleb wanted an emoji glow stick (yes, it is as stupid looking as it sounds) and Matthew wanted a Rubik cube (Chuck. E. Cheese. themed).Chuck-E.-Cheese

Both of those toys were 400 tickets a piece.

They were way short.

Matthew may have done better in the arcade than Caleb, but they were both going home empty handed.

Now unbeknownst to my brothers there was a nifty little rule at the toy counter that allowed someone to purchase tickets for a penny a pop. So lo and behold, Matthew and Caleb both got their toys that will be broken or lost within the week (I got me one single Cherry Airhead for what seemed like a bajillion tickets, which was a tremendous rip-off).

Now, let me tell you, my sacrifice for Caleb and Matthew was puny. It was a handful of dollars. But it is a teeny tiny example of the gospel message.

Bear with me.

I have sickness. I have pain. I have rebelled against God. I have sinned against God. I have countless grievances committed against God.

Yet every ounce of that has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ upon the cross. Every ounce of it.

While reading this afternoon, I came to the passage from Isaiah 53 that is likely well known to you if you have a church background. I was amazed by the consistent refrain of ‘He. . . Our.’ Look at the passage with me and see what I mean.

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; he was despised, and we didn’t value him. Yet he himself bore our sicknesses, and he carried our pains; but we in turn regarded him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced because of our rebellion, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on him, and we are healed by his wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the Lord has punished him for the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:3-6

How does that not evoke worship in your heart? I’m drawn to the edge of tears when I think deeply about this passage. I read it over and over again this afternoon, underlining and highlighting different aspects of it.

One thing that’s cool about this passage is that it reminds us that the Old Testament foreshadows Christ as being the sacrificial Lamb of God. This passage should also remind us that the righteousness that we are given by God came at an immense price. Look at the unfairness of this situation.

He bore our sicknesses

He carried our pains

He was pierced for our rebellion

He was crushed for our iniquities

The Lord punished him for the iniquities of us all

Jesus paid an incredible price for us to obtain forgiveness of sins and peace with God (v. 5).

What’s even crazier is that none of us could ever receive this righteousness, this forgiveness, this peace on our own. Verse six paints an immensely clear portrait of our tendency as humans. We all have strayed, we all have turned to our own way. Now this passage wasn’t written to us 21st century Christians, but I think it’s safe to say that we also are in the same boat of none of us being able to measure up to the perfect standard of God’s holiness. Romans chapter three makes this pretty clear, so take a look at that chapter if you are wary of my proclamation.

None of us could ever measure up. We all despise and reject Jesus when we fall into sin, and every single one of us has fallen into sin. Some of us may think we’re better than others in our pursuit of perfection, but even if that was the case, we would still all fall short. Just like Matthew performed better than Caleb and still came up short.

Every one of us comes up short.

How grateful we should be.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!

Christ lived the life I could not, and He paid the sin debt I was unable to pay.

I don’t want to belittle the gospel with this illustration at all, but I can’t help but think of entrance into heaven like that prize counter at Chuck. E. Cheese. The cost for the ‘prize’ of eternal life with God is an insurmountable debt that I cannot pay. I see myself holding in my hands the ragged tickets I’ve garnered in my life, realizing I don’t stack up at all with the cost of eternal life. I picture Jesus tapping me on the shoulder and telling me ‘I got this.’

The people who read this passage in the days of Isaiah were likely given a sweet and ferocious anticipation for the coming Messiah.

I know that He has come. Jesus Christ paid my debt. He took all of my sins, pains, rebellions, and grievances. He was my substitute sacrifice. He paid my debt.

You can either reject this gospel or you can receive it. You can either reject Jesus as your substitute sacrifice or you can receive him.

Receive what he has done for you.

Worship.

– In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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*The Christian walk is not one of achievement or earnings, this was simply an illustration.

 

 

God Is Not A Psychopath

God needs nothing from us, but He asks for everything. abraham-and-isaac-1

In his book Paradoxology, Krish Kandiah argues that this is one of several apparent paradoxes that we see in the Christian faith. This paradox is most notably seen in the story in Genesis where Abraham is led by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. Yet this paradox shows itself not only through other stories in Scripture, but through innumerable stories of missions and martyrdom that I have heard in everyday life.

In the past year, I have wrestled with this in a major way. In prayer, journaling, Christian community, and the like I have fought this ‘paradox’ with everything in me. I’ll be honest, the wrestling matches with God over this haven’t been easy or pleasant. Now I’ll be clear right from the get go that I personally have had an extremely blessed and privileged life, but my wrestling was dark all the same.

My biggest hold up in this aspect of the Christian faith is the fact that God directs all circumstances in my life to be for His glory. I’ll be real transparent here. This made me mad. This seemed vastly unfair to me. How could God be allowed to do anything He wanted to me, and all I was allowed to do was put on a smile and say it was for His glory? When He took away my granddad, was I to just smile and say ‘for His glory’? When a member of my family went wayward, was I to just smile and say ‘for His glory’? When my health got rocky, I was separated from all the guys I had deep friendships with from OBU, and I didn’t get to be with Jamie, was I to just smile and say ‘for His glory’? If suffering, disease, or death came into my life, was I to just smile and say ‘for His glory’? I again know that I’ve been blessed, but this was the battle.

It didn’t seem fair. I had seen in Scripture that it’s super clear that God doesn’t need anything from me.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. – Acts 17:24-25

I have no need of a bull from your stall or of goats from your pens, for every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the insects in the fields are mine. If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it. – Psalm 50:9-12

God owns all, He made all. He gives me everything and is not served by human hands. So why would God ask so much from so many of His followers? If He needs nothing, why does He ask for everything? Why would He ask Abraham to give up the very thing that the promises of God were contingent upon, his own son? Why does he ask so many of His followers to give their lives for Him in missionary service, to endure trials of many kinds for the sake of His glory?

God needs nothing from us, but He asks for everything.

Why? Why? Why?

These aspects of the Christian faith that seem like paradoxes tend to keep us at bay, as we shove these things out of our minds because they seem too difficult to rationalize, too complicated to come to grips with. My eyes are slightly beginning to open (in part because of the work of theologians like Krish Kandiah) to the fact that as we press into these ‘paradoxes’, the beauty of the gospel shines forth and we are led to praise the God who is in the center of the tension.

So I press forward. The verse at the center of this paradox for me is John 3:16.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

Yes, God asks for everything from His followers.

However, this must be understood in light of the gospel truth that God gave everything for His followers.

God sent His one and only son to live the perfect life I could not live, to die the death I deserved, and to rise from the grave three days later to set me free from the power of sin, hell, and death.

You may have heard this gospel message for the first time in reading this blog, or you may have heard it a million times.

Either way, it is the answer to this ‘paradox’. God is trustworthy, in that we know that He is doing all for not only His glory, but our good as well.

Psychopaths and surgeons have something in common – both can inflict considerable pain with a knife, both can cause scarring, loss of limbs and terrible disfigurement. But whereas we would fight off an attack by the psychopath, we would willingly put ourselves under the surgeon’s knife because we trust their expertise and their motives. We recognize that in order to save a life, sometimes pain and loss have to be endured. – Krish Kandiah

To use this analogy, God is not a psychopath. We know that when He goes to work on our lives, it is for our good. The pain caused by His work is for our good. We may not have the privilege of seeing in the moment why the pain is happening, but we can cling to the fact that He is loving and good to us. The Scriptures tell us so.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28

We know that we don’t see the whole picture. We also know that God is worthy of trust.

When He asks us for everything, we need to remember that He has given everything for us.

I would like to conclude with another lengthy paragraph from Kandiah’s book:

If God did not withhold even the life of his own Son from us, there can be no doubting the generosity or benevolence of God. The cross of Christ is the place where God dealt with our sin and gave himself up for us. If God loves us this much, we know that anything he does to us or asks us to do for him is not to be taken in isolation, but understood in the context of love. It is through the times of loss and trauma and sacrifice that we can learn most about trust and faith, God’s heartbeat and God’s resurrection power. 

When you can’t see His hand, trust His heart.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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