The Beauty of Conviction

The Bible is convicting.

I think we start to believe a falsehood over time that we are always to leave our time in God’s Word feeling encouraged, equipped, overjoyed. While these experiences and moments in God’s Word do take place, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Throughout the last couple years, I keep turning to the same well-known verse to remind me of this fact.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, – 2 Timothy 3:16

Paul is describing to his mentee, Timothy, the role of God’s Word in the life of a follower of Jesus.

Notice how it includes rebuking and correcting! Now, when I’ve been corrected and rebuked throughout my life, it doesn’t normally come with a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. So, there will be times where we go to God’s Word and get smacked in the face with conviction, with the need for repentance and turning from our sins.

This has been happening to me today.

There’s an aspect of conviction, of repentance, that I forget sometimes still. It’s what blew me away during my time in God’s Word this afternoon.

It’s the following truth.

God is with me in the midst of conviction.

Do you feel like God is distant in the midst of you recognizing your sin? When the Bible confronts your anger, lust, pride, gossip habits, fear, worry, hate, do you feel abandoned, condemned, less-than?

That is the enemy’s way of stealing what is truly a gift, the process of repentance, and replacing it with self-loathing.

Don’t give into his tricks.

God is with you in the midst of conviction.

This came out of a very unfamiliar passage for me, Haggai chapter one.

In the first chapter of Haggai, the Lord speaks through the prophet Haggai to call the people to repentance (which is really what all prophets in the Bible were called to do).

The reason for this prophetic word of repentance is because the people of God were building houses for themselves while the Lord’s house laid in ruins.

Side Note: I’m sure churches have used this passage to tell people to contribute financially to building plans. No. That’s not what this is about at all. According to Acts 17:24-25, God doesn’t dwell in our modern churches anyway. So, don’t fall for that baloney. 

After this convicting word from the Lord, one that likely didn’t bring much happy feelings for the people, there is a powerful verse. Let’s look together at what happens when Haggai is done bringing this word.

Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the whole remnant of the people obeyed the voice of the Lord their God and the message of the prophet Haggai, because the Lord their God had sent him. And the people feared the Lord. Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave this message of the Lord to the people: “I am with you,” declares the Lord. – Haggai 1:12-13

Bam.

Boom.

That’s some good stuff right there.

Side Note: I will likely end up naming my firstborn son Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel Roach has a nice ring to it. I’ll see if I can convince Jamie. 

God hasn’t permanently abandoned the people to their sin.

God hasn’t abandoned you to your sin forever.

Now, Scripture does make it pretty clear that there are times in our lives where God lets us pursue the sins we keep choosing over Him until we see that they are empty.

But when conviction comes to you, that’s a wonderful thing!

It means that the Spirit of God is moving in your heart!

When the conviction comes, remember that God is near. That God is drawing you out of your sin and into a renewed relationship with Him. If conviction never comes into your walk with Christ, beware. You likely have strayed. I’m not saying that you need to be convicted every day you read God’s Word. By no means. But a lifestyle devoid of conviction is likely a lifestyle that is hardened to God’s Word.

Let’s go back to Haggai.

After this profound statement from Haggai, we see that God truly is with them, truly is moving after this word of conviction. In verse 14, we see this:

So the Lord stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest, and the spirit of the whole remnant of the people. They came and began to work on the house of the Lord Almighty, their God, – Haggai 1:14

God is moving in the hearts of the leaders of God’s people, as well as each individual follower of God as well!

What we see here then in this:

God brings conviction, is present in conviction, and gives them the ability to respond to this conviction.

Have you ever felt convicted over your sin and then set out on your own to change?

How did that work for you?

If you’re like me, you probably were repenting over and confessing the same sins not too long after this.

God is present in our conviction, but He also provides for us the grace and strength necessary to respond to that conviction.

Instead of trying to modify your behavior, lay your heart bare before the Lord. Let Him slowly but assuredly cleanse your heart of that which leads to the sin in your life.

Also, rely on your brothers and sisters in Christ! None of us are strong enough to resist sin on our own!

Man, this one really put the rambling in Roach Ramblings.

I hope you see the truth of God’s Word!

You haven’t been abandoned or forsaken in your conviction!

He is with you and will give you the strength to move forward!

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Wretched Idolatry

The Bible is not always as PG-rated as we would like to think. While teaching the Bible in a flippant manner is not good, I also think that there is a shock value in many Biblical texts that we are supposed to steep in rather than gloss over.

Here in February, I’ve been starting through the book of Jeremiah. This is a book of the Bible that I have never spent a ton of time in, but as part of God’s Word I know that it is useful for my training in righteousness. As I was reading through the first few chapters the last couple days, I’ve been caught totally off guard by the language it uses when talking about the idolatry of God’s people.

Through the lips of Jeremiah, God proclaims that the spiritual idolatry of His people is equivalent to whoredom.

You read that right.

Not only that, but the Lord goes on to use even more shocking imagery for the sins of His people.

In essence, Jeremiah 2-3 teaches us a few things about idolatry.

IDOLATRY IS ADULTERY

Idolatry is adultery. This imagery, this theme, is all throughout the Biblical story, most often seen in the prophets.

Look at the language that God uses through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 2-3.

This is what the Lord says: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown. – Jeremiah 2:2

Long ago you broke off your yoke and tore off your bonds; you said, ‘I will not serve you!’ Indeed, on every high hill and under every spreading tree you lay down as a prostitute. – Jeremiah 2:20

You have lived as a prostitute with many lovers – would you now return to me?” – Jeremiah 3:1b

Then in the most stunning language we see this:

(you are) a wild donkey accustomed to the desert, sniffing the wind in her craving – in her heat who can restrain her? – Jeremiah 2:24a

Why such abrasive and shocking language?

Because the reality of idolatry is deplorable.

God made a covenant with His people in the Old Testament, and although He rescued and redeemed them time and time again, they turned from Him and worshipped other gods. They were not faithful. All one has to do is read the Old Testament with even the slightest attention to idolatry and you will see that it seeps into almost every story. God’s people regularly and religiously pursued false gods of the other nations and false gods of their own creation.

What idols have you created? What fills your heart and mind besides the Lord?

IDOLATRY IS CONTAGIOUS

So we’ve seen in this passage that idolatry is equated to spiritual adultery.

Sadly, it gets worse. Jeremiah says that idolatry is contagious. According to Jeremiah 3:7-10, we see that the faithlessness of Israel leads Judah into sin as well.

When a country or community becomes dominated by idolatry, the idolatry starts to become the new normal. Idolatry can become the status quo, seeping into the very nature of the community.

How many of us find our confidence and security in our possessions? How many of us find our confidence and security in our government or military? How many of us find our confidence and security in our ability to follow man-made religious traditions? How many of us find our confidence and security in the praise of others?

All of the above are foolish.

Here’s a not-so-subtle form of idolatry I’ve found myself in: needing the praise of man.

There’s nothing wrong with desiring appreciation. That’s a natural desire. But when the praise of man becomes the source of energy, life, and joy in my heart, I’ve fallen into idolatry. One way the praise of man has become a contagion in our communities is through social media. Now, every person has the ability to speak up about practically anything. Now, we can parade our accomplishments before a litany of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ who will build us up with their likes, and if we’re lucky, their heart emojis.

This is all fine and dandy when the likes are coming.

It becomes discouraging when the likes run dry.

Even writing about this seems silly. Ultimately it is.

Social media gets us consistently and constantly comparing our lives to the lives of others, filling our minds with things that are neither pure nor lovely.

In a world of people-pleasing affirmation addicts, the idolatry of needing affirmation became contagious. I fall into it time and again.

WE CAN TURN FROM IDOLATRY

Here’s the good news. Both for me and for you if you too struggle with idolatry.

Jeremiah 3 has some profound words about the grace of God.

” ‘Return, faithless Israel,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will frown on you no longer, for I am faithful,’ declares the Lord, ‘I will not be angry forever. . . . . . . . “Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding.” – Jeremiah 3:12b, 22a

I’m not faithful to God. I’m a spiritual harlot. I’m a donkey in heat. Yet God says here in the book of Jeremiah that He will receive His people back to Him. This theme of God’s forgiveness and grace in the midst of our vile sins runs throughout the entire narrative of Scripture.

He is not angry forever. He relents from giving us what we deserve. He is faithful, even when we are not. He is powerful enough to cure us of our backsliding.

I backslide a lot.

Like a lot a lot.

Yet each time I return to the Lord, each time I limp my way back to Him, He is faithful to receive me and restore our relationship.

There is a way out of the idolatry you find yourself in, the idolatry that is ingrained in your psyche, the idolatry that is likely even culturally acceptable.

Return to the Lord, to your first love.

Lay your idols down at His feet.

Let your heart and mind be filled with praise for Him.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Judah, Not Joseph

I enjoy the Christmas season. I enjoy the lights, the music, the presents, my family and friends. I enjoy the hope and joy that saturate the season.

What gets me most excited and stoked for Christmas however is when I dig into Scripture and think about how the arrival of Jesus is the answer to so many promises that God made to His people throughout the Bible. I know I have written about that at length in several other blogs throughout December, so let me today focus us in on an aspect of the Christmas story you may have missed. I know that I missed it until this year.

God uses the line of Judah, not Joseph.

Alright, maybe you don’t see that as mind-blowing. Well let me show you how that above statement is one of the greatest acts of God’s grace I see in the Scriptures.

We have to start in the genealogy of Jesus, and then we will go back in time to the book of Genesis.

Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, – Matthew 1:2-3

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read the first chapter of Matthew and just glossed over this powder keg of God’s mercy. Abraham has Isaac, Isaac has Jacob, and Jacob has twelve sons. The most prominent of these sons is Joseph. Ever heard of him? In Genesis 37, 39-50 we read all about him. He was an incredible man of faith who trusted in the sovereign plan of God in his life, despite being sold into slavery, accused of sexual sins, and forgotten in a jail. He rose to great fame in Egypt, being used by God to save the people of Egypt and the people of God from starvation during a famine. Although he was not a perfect man (just a reminder that the figures in the OT are not primarily moral examples to follow), he was a great one.

You would think that God would choose to use his line to one day bring the Savior. I mean, if it was up to me, that’s who I choose. I choose the man who followed me faithfully, not one of the brothers who sold their own brother into slavery. That’s not what God does however.

What God does is far more merciful, gracious, and beautiful than what I would do.

God uses Judah.

If you noticed before, I said Joseph’s story is in Genesis 37, 39-50. That’s because Genesis 38 is all about Judah. This seems confusing at first glance, as it detracts from the story that is happening with Joseph in Egypt. In Genesis 38, we are going to see the egregious sin of Judah. This is not PG-rated, and there’s no wonder we never talk about it in church (although we should).

Instead of typing out the entire chapter, let me give you the highlights of this man’s sins, and feel free to take a glance at this chapter yourself. It is dim and depressing, but there is light coming.

First off, we see real quick that Judah has left the fellowship of his brothers (v. 1). This isn’t explicitly sinful, but it sure sets him off in a dangerous direction, as he ends up living with Canaanites instead of the people of God (v. 2). Fast-forward a bit, and he has a daughter-in-law named Tamar. When Tamar’s husband passes away, we get an awkward fly on the wall account of Judah’s sons’ sins against her. After God kills Onan because of his wicked actions, Judah sends away Tamar (v. 11), essentially abandoning her in her time of financial and relational need.

Tamar concocts a plan to get back into the family, to have her right to a husband out of Judah’s family given to her. She plans to make herself appear as a prostitute and impregnate her own father-in-law. Wowza.

Not the typical Christmas story, no way.

Pause and think. Tamar had some understanding that this plan would work. That tells you a little bit about Judah. A prostitute would be a desire of his. This likely wasn’t the first time he had a sexual escapade with an unknown prostitute.

The plan works. Judah blatantly gives in to sexual sin, although he does not know that it’s with his own daughter-in-law.

Tamar would eventually give birth to two sons, twins, named Perez and Zerah. The same Perez that we saw back in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.

Let that sink in.

God would choose to send His Son through the line of Judah the sexually broken and vile (we can cut him a little slack however, since Judah was one of the more upstanding of the lot in their dealings with Joseph at the close of the book), rather than through the line of Joseph who faithfully followed God even in the midst of intense suffering.

Let that sink in y’all!

Matthew 1 and Genesis 38 are screaming at us the exact same thing!

It’s not about us!

It’s not about how good we are (or how good we think we are)!

God gives His amazing grace and mercy to the most unlikely of people!

This Christmas, do you feel unworthy of the gift of God’s grace that covers every single one of your sins? Do you feel unworthy of the fact that God has chosen to richly bless you this Christmas not just with physical and familial things but also spiritual things that we cannot even fathom?

If so, look to Judah.

See his sins, see his unworthiness.

And then look to the Lion of Judah.

Look to the one who took away ALL of your sins and who now resides with God the Father on high.

This Christmas, I’m most excited about celebrating the fact that God has poured out his unbelievable grace on a sinner like me.

That’s what Christmas is ultimately all about.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The Reason For The Season

Yesterday, my good friend Marco and I went to the High School for lunch. In a forty minute lunch period, there were two fights. The saddest part of this is that both were widely encouraged by the other students. There was cheering, screaming, applauding, and the obligatory phone recordings of the festivities.

That more or less affected my entire day. I was supremely saddened by the fact that there is so much violence in our world, so much hatred. It seeps down into the upcoming generations.

After being present at these events, Marco and I had a conversation about sin and it’s global nature. He made a statement that I will forever steal.

Our sin is the reason for the season. 

When we approach the Christmas season, we like to say that “Jesus is the reason for the season”. To an extent this is true, and I’m not intending to split hairs. But we must acknowledge that the reason Jesus had to come in the first place is because of our sin which separates us from God. None of us come away clean, innocent, or pure in the eyes of God.

Although it’s generally not read in any Advent moments, the following passage is worth remembering:

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned – for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one to come. – Romans 5:12-14

There you have it. According to Scripture, the real reason for this Christmas season is the sin that is prevalent in me.

Our sin is the reason for the season.

Adam’s sin has been imputed to all of mankind. Each of us is born into sin. There are many different worldviews present today that teach that mankind is inherently good. The Christian worldview is not one of them. According to Scripture, all have been born into sin. Instead of being inherently good, we are inherently sinful.

We don’t offer courses at our church to teach people to sin against God. Toddlers don’t go through “Deception 101” and “Advanced Selfishness”. It’s wired into them. They are innately broken.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. – Psalm 51:5

David sang about his innate sinfulness. He knew that he was birthed in sin.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. – Matthew 22:37-38

When I put my life up against this statement of Jesus, I realize just how sinful I am. I don’t love the Lord my God with all that is in me. So if we’re being real, we are way more sinful than we think that we are.

Yes, this is bad news.

That’s also why the good news of the gospel, the good news of Christmas, is good.

You see, the passage out of Romans 5 does not end there on the global nature of sin. It bursts into the glorious light of the gospel.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 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. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:15-17

The sin of Adam was imputed to all of mankind. The sin of Adam spread to all of mankind. This is the background of the Christmas story. The shadow of the cross of Christ is on the cradle. The birth of Jesus is ultimately about His eventual death, His sacrifice for our sins.

In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see two beautiful things happen.

Our sins are put on Christ, and the perfect righteousness of Christ is put on us. Just as all of us are born into sin because of the sin of Adam, so we in Christ are righteous before God the Father because of Christ’s sacrificial death on our behalf.

Y’all, this is beautiful news.

I’ll be honest. Even when I write out this passage from Romans 5, my logical sensibilities are challenged by that final verse. The righteousness of Christ is a free gift. I cannot earn it. Neither can you.

We make our standing before God dependent upon our own actions and abilities, our personal holiness and righteousness. Yet the Bible makes it abundantly clear time and time again that there’s literally nothing I can do to earn what God did for me in sending His Son to die for me. Even my most noble attempts at righteousness are nowhere close to the perfect righteousness and holiness of God.

The world we live in is broken, ravaged by sin. There are wars, there are natural disasters, there is family violence and screaming matches in cafeterias. There doesn’t seem to be much peace anywhere. It is in this space that the message of the gospel can be transformative and tremendously impactful. The light of the gospel shines brightest in darkness.

This Christmas season, reflect. This Christmas season, in the midst of Sunday School parties and family, gifts and egg nog and decorating the house, reflect upon the message of the gospel.

Our sin is the reason for the season. But God the Father sent His Son Jesus to take our place. 

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

Self-Help and Gimmicks

“If you go all in and all out for the cause of Christ, there will be setbacks along the way. But remember this: Without a crucifixion there can be no resurrection! And when you have a setback, you do not take a step back, because God is already preparing your comeback.”

This afternoon, I was hanging out at my house, striving to finish a popular Christian book that has come out in recent years. When I read this quote I couldn’t help but pause and be taken aback. Here we have the ultimate moment of human history, the defining moment of our faith, used to talk about how I shouldn’t give up in pursuing my dreams.

This is what inundates the evangelical world these days, and I honestly cannot help but feel a whole lot older than 25.

The above quote is not heretical, it is not sinful, it is not vile or vehement. But the above quote does stir up frustration in me, it does make me feel like an old soul.

The reason being is that I see a plethora of these types of takes on Scripture all over the place in evangelical circles these days. When I see what’s getting shared on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram; when I see what is getting preached at churches, when I see what fad gains all the hype, they all seem to come back to this style of the faith.

Here’s what I see Christianity to be about. The Christian faith is about using the Bible (often incorrectly or inappropriately) in order to achieve your dreams, in order to grow your self-image, in order to be okay with the fact that you’re not okay, in order to fit in more with the culture at large. The Christian faith for a lot of people these days is about clawing and crawling and fighting our way back into the center of society instead of assuming our rightful place in the margins.

It’s about using Snapchat and Instagram and other pop culture references like TV shows and movies to make following Jesus seem legit, seem relevant, seem worth a student or adult’s time. It’s about wearing t-shirts that say “I’m a Christian, but I cuss a little”. Now to me, cursing is not the unforgivable sin. That being said, why in the world should we be parading around acknowledging sinfulness in order to be relevant and relatable?

When I look around me at churches and sermons and podcasts and videos, etc., what I see is that we’ve lost a vision for what it is that we are to offer the culture around us.

What we have to offer the culture is the incredible gift of God’s grace poured out on anyone who puts their faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross through His death and resurrection. That’s it. That’s what we offer. Now I’m all about striving to make our churches and our Christian culture places where people feel loved and welcomed, that’s why I speak out adamantly against hatred based on politics and other frivolous stuff. But at the end of the day, what I have to offer someone down the street from me is the love of God, not how cool or relevant it is to be a Christian.

I’m supposed to be on the margin, and I’m supposed to be a fool, not cool.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18

We know the cross has power, but to the outsider looking in on my life, if I look like a fool instead of being relevant, that’s what is to be expected.

Here’s what I plead for our churches to do, our people to do:

PREACH GOD’S WORD, NOT SELF-HELP

Let’s be honest. This is hard. It’s hard to not slip into morality, into ‘be better’ sermons and speeches. The best way I know how is by preaching through books of the Bible. Immersing our people in the flow of the book. David and Goliath is not about overcoming obstacles. Jonah is not about overcoming fear. Samson is not about strength to fight the enemy. Philippians 4:13 is not about sports. We fall into all of these assumptions about Scripture because we never get a full story. If you’re reading this and you’re not in vocational ministry, model this in your home or your area of spiritual influence. Dig deep. Don’t settle for less.

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. – 2 Timothy 4:2-4

PREACH GOD’S WORD, NOT GIMMICKS

I have fought the pressure countless times to be relevant. I’ve come to learn that our society is so fickle, and fads are so quick. Nothing lasts. Well, except the Bible of course. Right now we are preaching through Deuteronomy in our youth group, and we’re growing. Not because the preaching is amazing, but because relationships are being built. The students have been taking notes, and although many I find in the trash, growth is happening through God’s Word. I’m an old soul and love liturgy and the simplicity of the Bible. What I know about my faith didn’t come from gimmicks in youth group, it came from God’s Word being taught.

FIND COMMON GROUND IN HOLINESS, NOT SIN

Here’s the reality. To a culture that is pushing us to the margins, our calls to holiness are not popular. If we read Scripture, we are reminded that they were never meant to be. It is a travesty, a heart-breaking one for me, that we have tried to fight our way back into the center of society by illuminating and emphasizing our sins instead of our Savior. Let us be people who acknowledge our faults no doubt, but find joy in speaking about our Savior and the way He has redeemed us. In Christian circles specifically, may we never find camaraderie in our porn, alcoholism, selfishness, anger, greed, envy, cursing, or any other sin. Let us find camaraderie around the cross of Christ.

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE SCRIPTURES, NOT CHRISTIAN FADS

Brothers and sisters, those who know my heart know that I don’t intend to berate or reprimand. Instead, I seek to inspire and encourage and remind. I pray that you and I would be people who dive deeply into Scripture. Not those two minute sermon clips on Facebook or the latest book by a popular Christian author. Rather, get into God’s Word. You’ll find that even books like Deuteronomy are full of amazing reminders of God’s grace for us.

The church is on the margins.

That’s where we’re supposed to be.

Enough with the gimmicks and self-help style Christianity.

Let us be men and women who proclaim the true message of Scripture and parade around God’s holiness rather than our sin.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Far As The East Is From The West

After church on Easter Sunday many years ago, my parents put together an egg hunt for my two youngest sisters. Our backyard served as the hunting grounds and the prey stood no chance.

Who am I kidding? They struggled to find these eggs. My, oh, my. Poor little ones.

The oldest three siblings, inluding me, ran around helping as vaguely as possible. We didn’t want to help too much. But at some point you can only be so patient.

It was like when Dora the Explorer or Steve from Blue’s Clues ask, “Do you see ____?” And c’mon, everybody sees ___ right? I mean, Dora is a child, so I get it. Steve? You’re a grown man. It’s really not that difficult to see a blue pawprint on THE ONE PAINTING in your entire house.

I suspect you get the picture now.

Eventually, though, they found the eggs. They needed some direction, but they succeeded. All was finally well on that Easter day.

Sometimes I think we’re like little children looking for Easter eggs. We want to find something that seems hidden, something that surprises us to find it. We don’t think our parents are cruel for making it a game. And it’s (mostly) fun for everyone involved. Even more is the delight when you find an egg!

But just as children need a nudge in the right direction, we too need some help.

I went through a couple weeks of wanting to find an egg. For me, this egg was a message from God. I really wanted God to speak to me. It seemed like God was distant and all I could do was send an email to Heaven and wait for a response.

But God wasn’t checking emails. Instead, he was waiting for me to call.

So, after a time of confessing these feelings and thoughts I had about God, I was guided by a brother in Christ toward prayer. I prayed a thankful prayer, and I prayed a prayer asking for God to speak. I called God.

God picked up.

And this is what God said,

“The LORD is merciful and gracious,

slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”

That’s Psalm 130:8. A Psalm of David.

Let’s walk through the few verses that follow:

9 He will not always chide,

nor will he keep his anger forever.

10  He does not deal with us according to our sins,

nor repay us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,

so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

12 as far as the east is from the west,

so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

God will not “always chide.” The CSB says, “He will not always accuse us.” I think that’s a bit more clear. But take a second and think about what this line means.

God will not always accuse us. Think about what this implies. If I say, “I won’t always love ice cream,” that implies I love ice cream right now. This means at some point God accused us! God accuses anyone who does wrong–and we all do wrong. We all stand accused by God based on what we have done toward God and toward others.

Accusation is coupled with anger. The being who created the heavens and the earth, who threw angels down from heaven, who covered the world with waters, who spoke light into being sits on the throne of heaven with anger towards us. Why? Because we lie. We cheat. We steal. We hate. We lust. We rebel against the source of life itself, God Almighty.

These wrongs are called sin or iniquities. And when we sin, because God is not apathetic toward our wrongs, but is merciful and just, we stand accused by God.

But the gulf between heaven and earth collapsed in the God-man called Jesus. And Jesus stood in our place of being accused. By dying on the cross, Jesus took God’s accusation toward us upon himself. Since Jesus was fully man and fully God, he could take on this accusation. Jesus lived a perfect life, died the death we deserved, and then rose from the dead to prove he was God. He proved the accusation could no longer be made for those who are “in Christ.” That merely means whoever believes in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

And suddenly, for those who believe in Jesus, things are different. God’s huge love can cherish us. God’s expansive love can reveal itself to us more clearly and completely. Because Jesus took on God’s accusation toward us, we no longer stand accused. We stand in the presence of God without being destroyed by God’s holy perfection. We boldly stand in the presence of God.

We can stand in God’s love because of God’s love.

God removes our sins from our record book and puts them in the grave. They are removed as far as the East is from the West. They are ineffably far away from us.

Sin was once close to us when we were far from God.

Now God came close to us in a manger. God came close to us as a man. God came close to us as a fellow sufferer in death when Jesus died on the cross.

God came close to us and now sin is far away.

Bless the Lord, oh my soul. Bless the Lord.

– Matthew Welborn

Confessions of a Perfectionist

Matthew 5:48 used to put me in chains.

Be perfect therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. – Matthew 5:48

In college, this verse led to so much pain in my life. Instead of realizing this verse was to show us that we could never measure up to the perfection of God the Father, I made it my standard.

Now, yes, the Bible is replete with references to being holy because God is holy, of striving to live worthy of the call of God. That being said, the Bible never expects us to be perfect humans in our own strength. Let me say that again and make sure you see both sides of that statement.

The Bible never expects us to be perfect humans in our own strength.

Oh, how I missed this message in the Scriptures.

Instead of allowing my imperfections to drive me to the power of the Spirit, I allowed them to shame me of doing things that now embarrass me. Let me lay it out for you.

I put my faith in Jesus and what He did for me on the cross on December 24, 2000. I was seven years old.

What this means is that the vast majority of sins I have committed in my life have come after putting my faith in Jesus. So what began in college was a process of dealing with that sin in an unbiblical way.

I would live for Christ, having verses about being perfect always on my mind and heart. Yet over the course of weeks and months sin would pile up in my life. Instead of repenting of it and accepting grace, I would naively and foolishly simply restart my life with Christ. This would look like buying a new journal, buying a new Bible, buying a new Bible study or Christian book and simply beginning afresh (this often involved getting rid of those things that I had previously been using for my spiritual life).

My life was all about being perfect and shoving sin back down into my heart by simply pretending like I was starting afresh. To talk about it in Christianese terms, I made private rededications to God dozens of times. The first few days of a ‘rededication’ would be absolutely great. But then the weight of all of my sin would come crashing back down on me.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Two years ago, while in Phoenix, God spoke through my now wife and through His Word to tell me clearly the following: stop running, accept grace. All of my rededications didn’t have the power to change a stinking thing in my life. When faced with the reality of my sin, I was running away from the very One who had died in my place, the very One who I could find rest in.

Stop running, accept grace.

Maybe you are somewhat like me. Maybe you are constantly under the weight of the call to be perfect. Maybe you are trying to be that perfect man or woman under your own power. My encouragement to you is found in the following verses.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. – 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. – James 1:4

Even typing this up in my office brings my heart to worship. Oh, how I wish I had searched the entirety of Scripture for what it says about being perfect.

Let’s meditate on 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 together.

In that passage, someone is doing the following:

  •      Sanctifying you completely
  •      Keeping your spirit blameless until Christ comes again
  •      Keeping your soul blameless until Christ comes again
  •      Keeping your body blameless until Christ comes again

Is it you?

NO.

The Scriptures make clear that it is God, the one who calls you, the Faithful One, who does this work in your heart and life.

HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.

That gets me animated in preaching, teaching, and in this case blogging.

HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.

That verse does not say, and you will surely do it. You will keep yourself blameless and holy. No! It says He will.

I just had the temptation to run down the hall of my church. This seriously gets me so excited.

The pressure is off my tiny little shoulders.

We are called in Scripture to be perfect and holy.

But this is not on our strength.

No, it is done by God, and according to James 1:4 it is often done through the difficulties of our lives. This is a small reminder that everything in our lives, including the rough parts, are used for His glory by making us more like Him.

I wish I could tell you that I have never felt the urge to run since God called me out of my rededication addiction in October 2016. I wish I could tell you I have perfectly embraced the reality that I will not ever be perfect under my own strength. That’s not the case. But looking at my shelf right now and seeing two years worth of journals is a reminder that I’m no longer running from the past.

Yes, you are called by God through Scripture to pursue holiness and Christlikeness. It is an active thing. That being said, it requires resting in the finished work of the Faithful One on your behalf.

The pressure is off your shoulders.

The pressure of perfection was placed on Jesus Christ and He accomplished what we could not.

You are called to be blameless and perfect.

HE. WILL. SURELY. DO. IT.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Move Toward Someone

Monday afternoon I was in Mardel bookstore searching for some material for the children’s ministry at our church. As I walked through the kids section, I saw a book I had given my prodigal younger brother for Christmas in a previous year and tears filled my eyes. Two years after his departure and I still get caught off guard with the pain of that reality.

Monday night I was at FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) and heard something about a great event being put on by another church in town, and for a moment envy and jealousy crept into my heart, threatening to briefly harden my heart towards this other church instead of rejoicing with those who rejoice.

In the span of just a few hours, I was confronted with my suffering and my sin. My external pain and internal temptations.

Some of you may be thinking what I think from time to time, “Nathan, shut up, you’re constantly talking about these things on this blog.” My fear is our churches are full of people thinking the same thing about each other, “Can you just stop talking about the same things all the time? We get it. Sin, sin, sin. Suffering, suffering, suffering.” And while there are a plethora of commands of how we’re supposed to treat each other, we appear sometimes to not really want to obey these commands at all. Let’s look at some below.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. – Romans 12:15

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. – Galatians 6:2

What I am not advocating for is all of us sitting around together in our Sunday School classes, going in a circle and sharing our deepest current sins and struggles with absolutely no follow up (This happened to me at a D-Now when I was in Junior High. It wasn’t helpful.)

What I am advocating for is for us to be willing to have those type of conversations with some of our fellow believers.

Talking about these things is not always done in a beneficial way. Opening up about sins for the sake of tearing down facades of perfectionism and walls of great lives is not enough. I once sat in a Men’s Group in college where all we did was rate our temptation towards certain sins on a scale of 1 to 10. After that we prayed together, acknowledged we’re all battling temptation, and then never talked about it again. This does basically nothing. It’s borderline enabling, because it tells people that everyone fights sin so don’t beat yourself up too much. 

Confession without daily walking in wisdom and love through sin is dangerous and incomplete.

We need to be people who daily fight for each other. Yes, daily. To get there, we have to acknowledge that all of us fight sin and fight suffering. Every one of us. Every day.

I have yet to meet someone who is physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and relationally 100% every day. So even on my most joyous and hopeful days, I’m struggling in a sin-ravaged world.

Now that I’ve rambled, let me get to the part of the blog I really want to focus on.

To get to what I’ve described above, we have to move toward each other.

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, someone is not going to randomly start opening up about their sins and struggles at church out of nowhere (if they do, that’s likely a cry for help that we must follow up on and be a source of hope and freedom for that person).

Why do we need to move toward one another?

Because we’re human. And we’d rather not open up about these things.

But Christ came to us.

John 1:14 says that the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us. He set up shop on our block. We in our flesh would never go to God, so He came to us in grace and love.

We can model this in this way. Move towards someone today. Move past the mega-annoying ‘how are you doing’ question that only leads to a ‘good’ response. Push past that into real questions about their lives. Seek to humbly listen, learn, and love. Don’t come with answers, come with questions. Don’t come with selfish motives, come with a desire to love someone in your church as Christ would.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger – James 1:19

This will inevitably be insanely awkward at first. Last year I met with two great young men every week for lunch, and for months it seemed to be all conversations about Fortnite and sports. It took a while for us all to collectively push past those surface conversations into deep intentional ones. In some of my discipleship relationships today I’m still in the awkward stage. To be vulnerable and open about these matters in our lives, we need to trust that the other person cares enough to pray, call out, convict, and follow up.

Guess what. Doing this, this moving towards someone else thing, is uncomfortable. It takes effort because it’s not what we’re naturally prone to do. Yet Christ stepped out of glory to meet us here on earth. You and I can get out of our comfort zone in order to become covenant communities of believers who are actually for each other in the grimy and gritty days we live in.

I would challenge you to not simply like and share this post, but rather to implement it. Pick one person this semester or season to have this type of relationship with (outside your spouse). Pick one person that you weekly, if not daily, reach out to in the midst of our own personal sins and struggles. Don’t just confess. Walk through sin. When it comes to walking through sin with another, I mean that when someone confesses sin to me, I’m going to text and call and message and make sure that they are aware of my prayers and of my Scripture-based encouragement as they go through the fight. Don’t just break down in tears about difficulties in your life, pray through it.

If we as the Church would do this, we would see our churches come alive.

Move towards another person today.

The Righteousness Of Jesus

(Tonight, we add Matt Welborn (one of my closest friends from OBU) into the mix of writers. Our blog has almost 250 followers and I’m excited to see it continue to grow with your help!)

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about sin and righteousness. The more I read about God’s righteousness, the more I realize the depth of my own sin.

I was reading in Mark 7 recently, and I came across the passage in which Jesus and His disciples go about eating without washing their hands. The Pharisees were upset. Jesus wasn’t following the rules! How can someone be righteous if they don’t obey their elders? At first glance, maybe Jesus is in a bind here.

Yet Jesus responds to the upset Pharisees:

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ – Mark 7:6-7

Their hearts were far from God, thus their worship was in vain.

The Pharisees were supposed to be the most righteous of all of God’s people. If I was sitting around, observing this conversation nearly two-thousand years ago, I’d be worried. The people I saw as most righteous were the same people Jesus was saying were far away from God.

I don’t want to be far away from God. At the same time, I’m not very righteous. I’m terribly unrighteous. Jesus spits a list of sins shortly thereafter:

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” – Mark 7:20-23

Yikes. I’ve definitely had evil thoughts. Sexual immorality — yeah. Theft? Well, I envy often. And I’ve stolen for sure. Murder? I’ve hated another person. Jesus says that counts. Adultery? I’ve lusted after another person. Jesus says that counts too.

I don’t really want to keep going in this list. It’s hard to look inside and see how evil my heart is and has been.

The beautiful thing, though, is Jesus knows already. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” I want that. I want a clean heart. I want a right spirit.

When Jesus came to earth and lived among us, He knew our unrighteousness. He knows it more deeply and intimately than we probably will ever know. We are born into sin, far away from God. But God came to us.

Jesus came to us when we were far away.

By dying on the cross and raising from the grave, Jesus conquered sin and death and all unrighteousness. He came to exchange our hearts of stone for hearts of flesh. He desires for each and every one of us to be alive in Him. To be actually, fully, completely human. Jesus wants us to walk with Him in the same way Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden. Jesus invites us into relationship — even in our state of unrighteousness.

Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

In our state of unrighteousness, Jesus died for us. He defeated death and is now offering the free gift of righteousness to all who believe. What does that righteousness look like? Phillipians 4:8 tells us. This is what we get to think about and be about:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. – Philippians 4:8-9

The God of peace will be with us. Jesus gives us the Spirit of God to practice the very things above. This is a list I’d much rather embody.

Whatever is true — seeking the truth in all things. Whatever is honorable — thinking about the words that lift people up and serve the Kingdom of God. Whatever is just — the Bible is pretty clear about God’s desire for justice (and our place as seekers of justice). Whatever is pure — Jesus says during the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” To see God!

The list continues. Whatever is lovely — is it not pleasant to see beauty? The loveliness of the Grand Canyon, the wonder of wildflowers, the patience of your parents, the face of God. Whatever is commendable — the great acts of service: loving God, loving others, and laying aside your selfishness to serve another person. Anything excellent and worthy of praise — anything!

This is a much better list of things to think about and be about. I pray that the Spirit of God would reveal the depth of your sin, the great need you have for a Savior, and the wonderful reality of your new life in Christ. Think about the loveliness of Jesus Christ. Think about these things. Practice these things. And the God of peace will be with you.

The peace of Christ be with you,

Matt Welborn

I Deserve Death

This phrase was not a part of my regular vernacular before I moved to Vernon. Sure, I knew that it was true according to Scripture, but it wasn’t something I spoke about often. But then a couple of my close friends started saying this pretty regularly. Sometimes in jest, but most often with a heart for being real about what the Bible says about us, which leads them to live with a sense of profound gratitude even in the midst of difficult circumstances.

As I have been moving through the book of Romans in my personal study time, I finally have come to the end of chapter one. And this final verse is a doozy.

and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them. – Romans 1:32

This verse, which I’m focusing on today, immediately follows a list of sins (not an exhaustive list) that characterize those who have chosen to abandon their Creator and worship created things instead. You can go back and read Murder & Envy if you would like to hear my thoughts on that passage.

Anyway, here’s the indictment. Here’s what we deserve if we have committed any sin, for the preceding list covers a wide range of our sin struggles, great and small.

According to the truth of Scripture, we deserve death.

I, Nathan Roach, am a sinner. Daily I struggle with sin. God has said that apart from Christ I deserve death.

Here’s the fact of the matter. Not only do we as human beings sin against the righteous and just Lordship of Jesus, we know better. Earlier in Romans we see that all of mankind inherently knows that there is a God, and thus inherently knows what is good and what is bad (Romans 1:18, 21).

When you boil it down, our sin is cosmic treason.

God sits upon the throne in heaven. Right now I’m reading Revelation in my quiet time (don’t worry, I’m not charting or diagramming the end times) and although there is a bajillion different things in that book that I know absolutely nothing about, I have been encouraged and in awe of the way it proclaims the glory of God (Revelation 5 stunned me), the Lamb who was slain is worthy of power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing (Revelation 5:12). It is against this God, this King, that we are committing treason every time we sin.

Every time.

You see, too often I view my sin as first and foremost transgressions against whomever I sinned against. So if I say something out of anger towards Jamie, I feel as if I’ve sinned against her, and so on.

But the reality is, our sin is cosmic treason in the face of the Creator of all things.

Every time we sin, we challenge and defy God’s right to reign over his creation and to impose obligations on us as creatures made in his image. – R.C. Sproul 

Our sin is a big deal.

Our sin results in us deserving death.

You know, that’s what makes the second part of this verse even more painful to read. Not only do wicked men know that death is what they deserve for celebrating and walking in lifestyles of sin, they also celebrate and approve those who do the same.

Isn’t that such a clear picture of much of what’s wrong in the world (it shouldn’t be surprising that God’s Word portrays the reality of the world we live in)? We rebel against God, and instead of repenting, we accept and celebrate and condone and praise those who walk in sin as well.

I’m plenty guilty of this.

Let’s take the sin of gossip and slander, of speaking about those who aren’t in the room. I hate this sin. I hate that it seeps into my life from time to time. I do my best to fight against it, but in my weakness I fall into it. Here’s the mental gymnastics I do. Instead of acknowledging that I have sinned against God by speaking about one of His image-bearers in an ungodly manner, I choose to say to myself ‘everybody does it, it’s okay if I fall into it too from time to time. Besides, it’s a small town, it’s just part of it.’

Gossip and slander may not seem like damnable offenses, but before a perfectly holy and just God, they are.

So not only do I know that death is the price for sin, I accept and celebrate those who sin as well.

Shame on me for the times I twist my own version of morality because I don’t want to be allegiant to the commands of the God who made all of this.

That’s why our culture condones sin. It eases the conscience and cosmic treason becomes communal. It’s easy to not feel guilty for something that is culturally acceptable.

This is where the chapter ends.

But thankfully it’s not where the book ends, nor is it where the story ends.

This bleak picture of our sin is where the gospel shines the brightest. We deserve death, but we have been purchased through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We fail daily, but Christ lived a perfect life that we could not, and DIED THE DEATH WE DESERVE.

So as a follower of Jesus, I don’t have to worry about the eternal punishment of my sin. I am set free in Christ.

I have been saved by God in Christ. I daily seek to become more like Christ. I want to learn to love what he loves and hate what he hates.

I deserve death, but because of Christ, I don’t get it.

This is the message every person in our community needs to hear. Wherever you may be reading this, it is the message every person in your community needs to hear.

People are dying without the hope of Christ. They are receiving eternal death in hell. We must not be complacent. We must speak.