We’re Just Talking

One of the greatest movies of all time is obviously The Incredibles.

That may or may not be a bit exaggerated, but my family certainly loved it growing up. We loved it so much we had the accompanying GameCube game. We loved it so much we could quote vast stretches of the dialogue, especially the parts that we found humorous.

At one point in the movie, Mr. Incredible and Frozone are hanging out in a car, listening to the police scanner, hoping for something to be a part of. Syndrome, the villain, has his pal Mirage watching them.

She reports in and says “They’re just . . . talking”.

I don’t know if it’s the cadence of her voice or what, but that random line had me and my siblings dying, and we still use it. At least a couple of us do.

I wonder often what the city I live in thinks of the community of believers that I’m a part of.

I wonder often what the enemy of the Kingdom thinks of the community of believers that I’m a part of.

If they were to summarize what we’re doing, what would they say?

Do the spiritual forces of evil simply say “they’re just talking”?

When I look at my life, I pray that I’m able to say I do more than talk. Yet it’s so easy to do only that.

“We need to be discipling younger men and women. We need to reach out to our friends that aren’t believers. We need to invest in this ministry or get involved in this way in our neighborhood.”

We talk about it.

We go through studies on it.

We go to conferences about it.

But are we actually doing it?

We dream.

We vision cast.

We plan.

But do we act?

From my personal experience, I can attest that when I talk about getting to work in our community, sometimes that does enough to assuage the conviction that I should be doing just that.

So then I go back to the norm.

The status quo.

Here’s the American version of walking with Christ:

  1. Believe in Jesus
  2. Pursue the American Dream
  3. Stick to only minor adjustments to the status quo

I want so much more.

Church, enough is enough. Planning is good. Prepping is good. Talking is good. Vision-casting is good. Dreaming is good. But all of this leading to no action is not the heart of God.

I’ve been in Vernon for almost three years now.

I have done a whole lot of talking.

I don’t know how much I’ve actually done.

I want to invite you, brother or sister in Christ, into action.

I want to share what the Lord has put on my heart in regards to action.

Here’s the normal process for me before I act:

  1. I see a ‘problem’ in the church or the community
  2. I go to Scripture and look for a solution
  3. I act

There’s nothing explicitly wrong with that. But it often leads to rash action that is birthed out of my own frustrations or opinions or perceptions.

The Lord has been leading me to view my actions in this way instead:

  1. Prayerfully and quietly listen to the Spirit’s leading
  2. Make sure what I feel the Lord is leading me to do is faithful to Scripture
  3. Act

Do you see the difference? Too often we walk in Biblical wisdom, but it’s couched in our own frustrations. We adhere to Scripture, but in response to our perceived issues with the church or community, rather than in response to the Spirit’s voice in our prayers.

I long to be the type of man who only ever acts when the Spirit is calling me to act. I long to be the type of man who acts, rather than just talks.

The books of 2 Corinthians and Titus have been on my heart a lot lately.

2 Corinthians is quickly becoming one of my favorites. It’s a book all about weakness. I don’t like when people acknowledge my weakness. It leads me to pop off, to get frustrated. Yet 2 Corinthians teaches that Christ-followers are to rejoice in their weaknesses.

This verse has been coming to my mind a lot.

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. – 2 Corinthians 1:12

Are we just talking?

Or are we conducting ourselves in the world with sincerity and integrity?

Are we relying on worldly wisdom (which I would argue that Biblical wisdom without the Spirit is rather close to that) or God’s grace?

The book of Titus is all about how we should respond to the gospel by doing good works in our communities.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always be gentle toward everyone. – Titus 3:1-2

That one’s tough.

(A quick side note: let’s stop with the gossip. Are we slandering people? Or are we considerate, remembering that every action has behind it life experiences that we know nothing about? Are we peaceable? Are we gentle, even when we don’t get our way?)

We are to be ready to talk about doing good.

No, that’s not what it’s calling us into.

We are to be ready to DO whatever is good.

Church, enough with the lallygagging. Enough with the talking endlessly.

It’s time to listen to where the Spirit is at work.

It’s time to join in with what He is doing.

It’s time to take the advice of Bono’s pastor who told him: Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Find out what God’s doing. It’s already blessed.

Are we mentoring someone?

Are we serving our church?

Are we serving our neighborhood?

Are we praying for others?

Are we letting others know we’re praying for them?

Are we inviting other people into life with us, or just the people we like the most?

It’s time to do more than just talk.

It’s time to act.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

The photo is not my own. 

 

Your Body Is A Temple

Your body is a temple.

This phrase, which is true according to Scripture, is most often associated with working out or going on a diet. So, if you’re into Whole 30, Crossfit, running half-marathons, or the paleo diet, you’ve probably justified doing said thing via truths like this. Your body is a temple that should be cared for.

Now, let me say right off the bat, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that at all!

I personally ‘enjoy’ running, lifting small weights, and doing sit-ups. My body is a gift of God (as is yours, as is all of life) that should be cared for (just don’t ask me to eat any of those nasty vegetables).

That being said, the truth from Scripture that my body is a temple of the living God speaks to far, far more than just my exercise and diet routine.

My body is a temple.

As a follower of Jesus, your body is a temple.

This means that the Holy Spirit, the presence of God, resides in us.

Read that last sentence again, I don’t think you got it.

How amazing is that.

Let’s rewind thousands of years to a moment that is unpacked for us in 2 Chronicles chapter seven.

Solomon, the son of David, is building a temple for the presence of God to reside in for the sake of the people of God. Remember, the presence of God lead the people through the wilderness while manifested as a pillar of smoke and a pillar of fire. Remember, when Moses encountered the presence of God, his face shone like a flashlight and freaked everyone out.

In 2 Chronicles 6, Solomon and the people of God are dedicating this elaborate, glorious temple that they have built for the Lord. Then, this passage happens:

When Solomon finished praying, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the burnt offerings and sacrifices, and the glorious presence of the Lord filled the Temple. The priests could not enter the Temple of the Lord because the glorious presence of the Lord filled it. When all the people of Israel saw the fire coming down and the glorious presence of the Lord filling the Temple, they fell face down on the ground and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying, “He is good! His faithful love endures forever!” – 2 Chronicles 7:1-3

So, once Solomon prays, the presence of God comes flying down and fills the temple. This manifested presence of God is so glorious, the priests could not even enter. When the people encountered this presence of God, they fell face down in awe and wonder and lifted up praises to the faithful, loving, and good God.

I read this yesterday and was in awe myself.

How terrifying and awe-inspiring would it have been to be there to see that?

Now, sin has obviously marred our ability to fully experience the presence of God in our own lives each day.

But that presence still resides with us, in us.

If you are a follower of Jesus, your body is a temple for the Living God.

Now, don’t you think then that this truth impacts way, way more of my life than just my choices when it comes to exercising and eating? I surely think so.

In one New Testament passage that talks about our bodies being temples, we are told to flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6). It would seem then, that there truly is more to this than we think.

Here are some implications.

Purity

If our body is a temple for the Holy Spirit, we should strive to be pure (not only in our actions, but in our hearts and minds as well). We will all fall short in this. That being said, it should drive our decisions when it comes to the conversations we have, what we fill our eyes and minds with, what seeps into our hearts and affects them. Maybe I am the weakest of believers, but what I allow to get into my heart always comes out in thoughts, words, and deeds. As a temple for the Lord, purity should be our priority. Do you give more thought to your body, or to your heart?

I see innumerable posts from people who are seeking to inspire others in regards to their health choices. This clearly is important to many.

Where is the value on purity of heart, mind, and eyes? It seems to be missing. As temples of the Living God, it shouldn’t be.

Power

In Romans 8, we are told that the Holy Spirit is what brought Jesus from death to life, and we are reminded afresh that the Holy Spirit resides in us.

Now, let me be clear, sanctification is a long process. I state this all the time on this blog. I want to remind all of us that becoming like Jesus is a lifelong battle. You can’t snap your fingers and become like Jesus immediately. Don’t believe anyone who tells you you can.

That being said, the Holy Spirit more or less removes any excuse we have to willfully sin.

If you are a follower of Jesus, the very power that raised Jesus from the dead resides in us.

Think about your battles with pride, greed, gossip, lust, anger, envy, selfishness, addiction.

Are those more powerful than death?

No, they’re not, even in the moments when they feel impossible to overcome.

If the Holy Spirit raised Jesus from death to life, then the Holy Spirit is more than capable to help you fight.

Stop willing yourself to avoid temptation.

Pray. When you are tempted, remember that you are a temple of the Living God. When you are tempted to sin, remember that the Holy Spirit is within you. Rely on Him for the strength to fight. Stop trying to do it alone.

I’ll say it one more time to close. Being a temple of God is not primarily about exercising or eating. It’s about purity and power.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

 

 

Was It The Spirit?

I often ask in prayer that God would open my eyes to the powerful works He is doing in my community. I often ask that I would be able to discern where the Spirit of God is moving. I often ask that God would allow me to see the power of the Spirit at work through me.

These are prayers I believe God loves to answer.

There are things in my life that have happened that can’t be explained without the Lord’s involvement. The moments when I’ve been lonely and have been reminded through a song on the radio that God is with me. The moments when I’ve been fighting to move forward in my faith and a friend on the other side of the country has called me at just the right time. The moments when the same theme has exploded off the page in times of personal devotion and study of God’s Word. The moments when I have counseled a fellow believer and knew what to say to encourage and strengthen their soul.

These may seem like ordinary moments in ordinary days, mere coincidences; but to me, they are clear experiences of the Spirit of God at work in my life.

This very topic has come up in my life a lot this past week. Through conversations at Pizza Hut with a friend and personal study at home, I have thought a lot about the work of the Spirit. When it comes to the work of the Holy Spirit in our communities, I’ve come to be reminded of this truth:

What God does, lasts.

For, “all people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. – 1 Peter 1:24-25

Anything less than a true movement of God in an individual, family, or community will ultimately be shown for what it is, a fraud.

Now let me just be transparent. I’m a skeptic. I’m a doubter. When we see the perceived movements of God at youth camps or my church’s Disciple Nows, I get pumped, but there’s also a nagging doubt. Was this really the Lord, or was it just the emotional pull of that dope bass line? I mean, we’ve all been there. We have responded to the emotions of a moment and we have all made audacious goals. I can’t tell you how many times at Super Summer I made audacious goals to read the Bible in a month or pray an hour every morning. I was moved in the moment. It didn’t last though.

Now I’m not saying that those desires to get into God’s Word and prayer were not from God. The Scriptures make clear that He draws us deeper into relationship with Him. What I’m saying is that my heartfelt proclamations of change most oftentimes boiled down to one thing:

Boredom.

That’s it.

I was bored by my average, run-of-the-mill, ordinary, Christian walk. I was bored and pained by fighting the battle against the same sins day after day, month after month. So summer camps and other mountaintop experiences gave me the chance to try and start out on a new path, one not beset with the harsh realities of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

And I believe that if we were to take down our walls for a moment of brutal honesty, most “movements of God” were nothing more than us trying to manufacture change in an instant.

So, by all means, I pray for revival. I pray that God shows up in amazing and mighty ways in Vernon, TX. I pray that He shows up in amazing and mighty ways all over the world. When a movement of God seems to be hitting a community though, I tend to wait. I wait to see if it lasts.

Consider Gamaliel in the book of Acts. In Chapter five, he tells people to leave the Christians alone. For if it is a man-made movement, it will not last. If it is from God, then there is nothing they can do to stop it.

Or consider how In 2 Kings, we see some of the craziest examples of God’s Spirit at work in the world. Like in the first chapter there is fire falling from heaven to show that the Lord is living. I’ve been reading 2 Kings as part of my personal devotion time, and I have been praying that God would remind me that His Spirit is in me, and that God would do great things in and through me. As I came to chapter two though, I was reminded again of the truth.

Check this out.

The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.” “Bring me a new bowl, he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw salt into it, saying, “This is what the LORD says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make this land unproductive.’ And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken. – 2 Kings 2:19-22

Think about this. Elisha, a prophet of God, comes to a town that had bad water. Elisha says with boldness, “This is what the Lord says: I have healed this water.” Now that’s an audacious claim. Elisha is speaking on behalf of God! A man speaking on behalf of God! Now, I get nervous when people claim to speak on God’s behalf. There is a difference in our modern era between re-proclaiming what God has said in His Word, and actually claiming to be a conduit from God. Yet Elisha says that the Lord said He wouldheal the water.

Do you want to know how I know that the Lord truly did move?

Look at that bold part of the passage.

At the time 2 Kings was written, the water was pure. What God did, lasted. That’s how you can tell when God moves. Did the fruit last? Is the water still pure?

It breaks my heart to acknowledge that through the years many students who I have seen make bold audacious claims of allegiance to God have no desire to follow Him anymore. I believe that seeds were planted. But like the parable, thorns came and choked the sprouts.

So when I hear lots of emotional excitement about some supposed movement of the Lord, I wait to see the fruit. I wait to see it in my own life, and in our communities.

Let me again be clear. I pray, I plead, I beg for God to move. I just have a different opinion than most on how that will happen. For me, there’s no bells and whistles. We combat sin, speak the truth of God’s Word, and invest relationally. There’s often no hype associated with it. Sometimes I wish there were. Yet when I see a student, over time grow increasingly more and more in love with Jesus and less and less captive to besetting sins, it’s in those moments that my eyes are opened to seeing God move. Yes, He can save my entire community in an instant if He so wished, but it’s in the day to day ‘coincidences’ that I see Him at work.

I see the fruit.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

Behind The Scenes Of Christmas

Aslan is on the move.

There are few phrases that draw out emotions deep in my soul like that one. Whether it was in the book form of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe or the movie adaptation, that phrase brings so much hope. In the case of the aforementioned book, Aslan is a depiction of God in a fantasy world designed by C.S. Lewis. In the book there is much hopelessness as an evil witch presides and reigns over the kingdom. Those loyal to Aslan are captured and condemned. Yet whispers still bounce about in private conversations.

Aslan is on the move.

Sure enough, the titular character ends up defeating the evil witch and bringing joy and hope to the kingdom once ravaged by perpetual winter.

When I sat in the theaters and watched this book come to life on the big screen, my heart was overwhelmed with emotions each time that phrase was proclaimed. Something deep down in my heart was being pricked each time, and I began to realize that the thought of God’s intimate involvement in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations brings so much joy and hope in my heart.

Enter the Christmas story.

Hundreds of years of quiet.

A messiah was promised by the prophets of God, and yet generation after generation passed from life to death and each subsequent generation still had not seen this promised messiah rise up.

Over the last couple weeks my wife and I have been trying to prioritize time in God’s Word together and we’ve been focusing on the Gospel of Luke. As we have been digging in together, I have been struck by the way that the Spirit is moving throughout the first two chapters leading up to the public ministry of Jesus. Just under the surface of the events that are taking place, we see that the Holy Spirit is leading the way.

The Spirit of God was something that only a chosen few received from God the Father in the Old Testament. After the resurrection of Jesus, this Spirit is poured out on all who have put their faith in what Jesus did through his life and sacrificial death. It is not shackled or limited to just a few people. It’s for everyone. It’s the agent of life that works in each of our individual lives as followers of Jesus.

Yet here in the beginning of Luke, it was not for everyone. Not yet.

In the darkness of centuries of silence, the Spirit of God began to move.

First, an angel appears to Zechariah and tells him the following about his soon to be son:

“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. ‘ – Luke 1:14-15

This soon to be child would be filled with the Spirit of God as a fetus. That’s pretty incredible. In his mother’s womb he would have a special outpouring of God’s Spirit upon his life, and he would eventually pave the way for the arrival of the promised Messiah (1:17). This proclamation of the angel comes during an average day, when it seemed like the Lord had forgotten His people.

After Jesus’ birth is proclaimed to Mary, the story continues with Mary going to visit her relative Elizabeth (the woman whom Zechariah was married to). When this happens, we see the Spirit move again.

And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” – Luke 1:41-42

Elizabeth is given the words to say to proclaim the praises of the Messiah through the presence of the Holy Spirit in her heart and life.

It only gets better though, as the Spirit of God continues to move.

Zechariah was made mute by the angel of the Lord due to his doubting of God’s promises, yet at the arrival of his promised son Zechariah begins to proclaim and sing the greatness of God, something that comes about via, you guessed it, the Spirit of God.

And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people. – Luke 1:67-68

The phrase Aslan is on the move does something in me, but this verse does even more. God visited and redeemed His people. That is the message of Christmas. Everything else is just noise. Sunday school parties and Christmas lights and gifts are great, truly. But what gets me most excited about this season is that we get to reflect on that promise. God visited and redeemed His people.

The actual birth of Jesus aside, there is one more figure in the proceedings leading up to the ministry of Jesus that is gifted with the presence of the Spirit.

Jesus is now the age where he is required to be purified in the temple (according to Leviticus 12) by his parents. So Mary and Joseph take Him there, and they there encounter a man by the name of Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, and he was waiting for the promised Messiah.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. . . and he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, . . . “for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples” – Luke 2:25, 27-28, 30-31

This Spirit-filled man proclaimed the majesty of the infant Jesus. He proclaimed to all who heard him (much like Anna a few verses later) that this infant was the one who would bring salvation to all the nations.

In the bleakness of the perceived silence of God, God shows that He is present and involved in the world.

The story of Christmas is a story of God’s movement in the world.

Aslan is on the move.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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His Kingdom Comes Through Prayer

I want to see God’s kingdom break through in my community. I’m not alone in this. I hope and wait and strive and serve and lead and hope some more. I see moments where God does beautifully amazing things (just last night we had seventeen students in our home for a student Bible study), but my thirst for more of God’s wonderful works in our community is not yet quenched.

You might have noticed a word missing from my list.

Pray.

It’s frustrating to notice in my own life a lack of prayer when it comes to wanting to see revival take off. I pray quite a bit in popcorn-style, brief, one sentence moments throughout my day. However it’s harder to get alone and get on my knees in order to ask and plead for the Lord to do a great work in my community.

God continues to lovingly call me into a deeper personal and private prayer life.

For the summer I’ve been taking my students on Sunday mornings through the “I Am” statements of Jesus in the Gospel of John. This has been a refreshing and encouraging season for me, as I study these, and I’ve come to notice a lot of what the Bible says about praying for His Kingdom to come on earth.

There are some pretty unbelievable promises in Scripture when it comes to the prayers of those who follow Christ. Consider this small sampling.

Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. – John 14:13-14

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. – John 15:7

Okay, let’s be real. If we were to truly take these promises to heart, we would never miss a day of prayerful pleading before the throne. These verses are astounding.

These verses are NOT saying that if I hit God up for a Ferrari and a million dollars in cash, it’ll be waiting for me when I get home today. That being said, unfortunately verses like these have been twisted to be about the prosperity of the believer. So you hear guys say that if we have enough faith, then God will give us whatever we ask. We will be healthy, rich, and wise. We won’t have any problems whatsoever, and if we do, we simply don’t have enough faith because these verses teach us that we can get whatever we want from God. This is a vile heresy that is founded on what to me is the greatest problem we face in our modern church, Biblical illiteracy. If we read our Bibles well and often, we would see how this prosperity gospel is so opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and how the Bible refutes it in page after page (take for example the fact that the people of God, who had not abandoned God, were enslaved for 400 years by Egypt in the book of Exodus. I guess they just didn’t have enough faith).

Anyway, there’s a clear caveat on these promises of God. Jesus says that the Father will be glorified in the Son through the answering of our prayers which are said in the name of Jesus. For me to pray for a Ferrari and a million bucks is not really in the name of Jesus, nor would the answering of those selfish and audacious prayers bring glory to God.

So these verses teach us that God promises to answer those prayers of ours that ultimately glorify Him. He is sovereign, and He knows what is best for us. So sometimes He chooses to not answer our prayers the way we want or in the timetable we prefer. But if our prayers glorify Him, He will answer them. How beautiful is that.

With these verses fresh on my mind, I studied Acts chapter one last Friday with one of my best friends and fellow staff members here at the church. While I learned a whole lot through our conversation about the chapter, I found myself starkly reminded yet again of the necessity of prayer.

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and His brothers. – Acts 1:14 

Jesus had ascended at this point, and all He had left His followers with was a promise that He would send His Spirit to them. While they waited on this ambiguous and confusing promise, they prayed together. They devoted themselves to prayer. In the following chapter, the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, showed up and revival was born. Prayer was the prerequisite for revival. Now I do not know what exactly they were praying for while they waited, but they prayed all the same.

We have a great number of people who carer about our community and want to see God do immeasurably more than all we could imagine. But when we make it about our strength, our work, our service, our desires, our dreams, our glory, then maybe we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot.

What if our community is poised for the gospel to flow into every home, and it is our prayerlessness that is hindering it, because we’re not making our desires about God’s glory?

Now, God can move however He wills and desires, but this question plaques me regularly.

What if we got on our knees. Not for God to bow to our desires but rather for us to beg God to bring His desires for Vernon to fruition.

Wherever you may be reading this blog, what f you got on your knees daily for your community as well?

I am prone to make audacious commitments, but I am going to strive to make it a point to pray a few times a week for God’s Kingdom to spread in my home. If we pray for gospel growth, truly believing that God is able to answer our prayers, then we may just see more miraculous things come about in the place where we call home.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

What Grace Is For?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t avoid these verses.

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

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

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

Love you guys.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

Spirit-Powered Ministry

I wake up on Wednesday morning, eat a couple waffles and a banana, take my vitamin, jam to worship music while I get ready, and then head off to work. I put the finishing touches on my sermon for youth group, and then head to lunch. After lunch a nervousness clutches my gut and squeezes tight. I rest in the afternoon and then head up to youth. At youth I watch as the students interact, eat, and play games. Then I walk up the stairs while looking and re-looking at the notes I’ve taken over a half a dozen hours of studying the passage. Then I preach. Then I go get Sonic and go home to read.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

There are times as a minister where it feels like something is missing. I put in work and effort and try to be engaging, all to go home and do it again the next week.

As we’ve been studying 1-2 Thessalonians together as a youth group, certain verses jump out at me as I read it in different settings. Yesterday I was reading it and 1 Thessalonians 1:5 jumped off the screen (I prefer an actual paper Bible but the app can be useful occasionally).

because our gospel came to you not only in words, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. – 1 Thessalonians 1:5

Nestled in Paul’s chapter of thankfulness for the faith of the Thessalonian believers is this statement about how the gospel came to the people of Thessalonica. It came to them from Paul and his missionary team not only in mere words, but also with power from the Holy Spirit that lead to conviction.

Meditating on this verse (saying it over and over, thinking about the words and phrases) caused me to realize that there is definitely oftentimes a lack of power and conviction from my sharing the gospel, and maybe that has to do with me sometimes trying to preach and work under my own strength.

Regardless of what your profession or vocation is, we are all in ministry. We are all called to minister like Jesus to our neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family. So I think this verse has implications for all of us. When we do ministry in our specific contexts, we should be reliant upon the Spirit’s power.

Thinking about this made me go searching through old journals to find a quote from last February. Last February I was able to attend a NAMB Conference in Los Angeles, California. A pastor by the name of Vance Pittman was talking about this very thing. He said a couple things from the stage that have come to mind time and again.

More can happen in five minutes of God’s manifest presence than in fifty years of human effort. 

What happened at my church on Sunday that can only be explained by God showing up?

Man, these are good. These are powerful quotes that prompt a whole lot of thought in me. I’m reminded that truly God can do so much in an instant. More than I could do in decades of ministry. That first quote brings to mind a passage out of Acts that was my absolute favorite during one semester at OBU.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made my man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. – Acts 17:24-25

There are few passages in Scripture that draw out awe and amazement in me like this one. In just two verses of one of Paul’s sermons we see just how mighty God is.

God:

  • made this world and everything we see
  • is the Lord of heaven
  • is the Lord of earth
  • does not live in temples made by man
  • is not dependent upon the works of men
  • needs nothing
  • gives all mankind life
  • gives all mankind breath
  • gives all mankind everything

Boom. That’s powerful stuff. This verse should take down any thoughts about God needing us to move, God needing us to spread the gospel. He graciously chooses to use us, but He does not need us.

As far as the second quote, this is definitely convicting. I rarely show up to church expecting big things from the Lord. Now, I am a consistent advocate of the Lord moving in the ordinary, via our spiritual disciplines. That being said, we serve a God that is capable of more than we could ask or imagine. There’s something to be said for expecting Him to do just that.

For instance, I pray for revival in our country regularly. I want to see God do something in my generation that cannot be explained by human logic or human strength. I want Him to draw an entire generation to Himself.

Now back to the monotony.

Work for the Lord in ministry (again, whatever your vocation might be, you’re to share the gospel), be faithful in the times where it feels like drudgery. But don’t try and move without the Spirit of God. Paul spoke the gospel to the people of Thessalonica, but he didn’t ignite revival. The Spirit of God brought power which led to conviction in the hearts of men.

If I’m not praying for God to move, then it will be a waste of my time. No one will come to know the Lord through our words alone. We need God moving. We need the Spirit of God to empower our words, leading to full conviction in the hearts of men and women.

What if we as a church began praying like this. What if we realized that God doesn’t need us, but graciously used us. What if we prayed that God would move through our words. Without Him, the gospel will not expand in our midst.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

Fruit Of The Spirit

I try and show kindness and patience to the random guy checking my tire pressure at Discount Tire, but I pop off at my sister after four seconds of slight annoyance. I try and show gentleness and joy towards the cashier at Fry’s, but then I get upset with Jamie when I feel slighted. I try and show faithfulness and goodness towards my boss at work, but then I slander my brother in Christ. fruit-of-the-spirit

Here at Wellspring, the college and young adult ministry has been walking through the book of Galatians. As I’ve studied and taught, God has made it clear where I need work, and that is in my interactions with biological family and my family in Christ. I would argue that most of us have an easier and simpler time walking out the fruit of the Spirit with the stranger or non-believer than we do those who we’re intimately involved with in everyday life.

Yet as I’ve looked at the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ passage in Galatians, it’s come to my attention that evidences of the fruit of the Spirit are most clearly demonstrated and seen in our relationships with our biological and faith families.It’s easy to see the non-believer and strive to emulate these Christ-like characteristics in our interactions with them. It is much harder however to live these out in the context of our faith community and our relationships with roommates, siblings, and parents.

Let’s look at the passage.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 5:22-26

This list of God-glorifying characteristics is nestled inside many words that Paul has about the importance of supporting each other as the body of Christ. In verse thirteen of chapter five, Paul tells us to serve one another humbly in love. All throughout chapter six, Paul tells us lots about living in faith community: restore the unrepentant brother or sister who is walking in sin (v. 1), carry each other’s burdens (v. 2), do good to all, but especially those in the family of believers (v. 10).

So yes, while I definitely affirm that exemplifying the fruit of the Spirit to the stranger, the person in need, and the unbeliever is vastly important, I think the greater testament to or litmus test for our heart condition is how we walk out the fruit of the Spirit towards those that we are closest to.

Am I loving, joyful, patient, kind, self-controlled, and good towards my siblings, roommates, and those I’m in deepest community with via the body of Christ?

If you are anything like me, you don’t do this perfectly. If you are anything like me, you have areas you can grow in. So the question becomes, how do we cultivate the fruit of the Spirit?

 

Prayerfulness. The passage tells us to keep in step with the Spirit, to live by the Spirit. I can do neither of these things outside of prayerfulness.

Treasure Christ, cultivate a deep prayer life. Out of these practices, you will begin to see your heart become more in tune with how you can be living out the character of Christ in the relationships that are the closest to you.

I’ve tried to change my behavior simply by saying ‘hey I’m going to strive to be more loving this week’. While this may work for a moment, it rarely leads to any lasting change. Instead if I treasure Christ, and see in the Scriptures the love that Jesus walked out in all of His relationships, through prayer my heart becomes more aligned with His and I begin to see Christ’s love flowing out of me. The same can be said of any of the other fruit of the Spirit. When we study and see these characteristics personified in Christ, and when we pray that God would align our hearts with His, out of this comes cultivated character and lasting change.

My hope is that I would strive to better pray each day for my heart and actions to be aligned with the heart and character of Christ. Especially in how I treat the family of faith.

Blessings.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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