Not Man’s Gospel

I was unconscious when they found me, blood on my forehead. They got me responsive and took me to the emergency room as I went into shock.

What had happened you ask?

I was on a jog with Gracie in her stroller when a pack of vicious street dogs attacked. I fought them off bare-handed as best I could, as I protected my precious baby girl. I pulled hair, punched snouts, kicked, and screamed for help. I eventually succumbed to their attack, but Gracie was saved.

What a story that would be.

Unfortunately, that is not the truth.

Seven years ago now, when I was a student at Oklahoma Baptist University, we had a snow day. Me, being the buffoon that I was, neglected to wear a jacket. Instead I decided to take DayQuil. After hours of snowball fights, makeshift sledding, and other shenanigans, I had approximately zero water in my body. That night, when getting ready for bed, my brain stopped working was a result.

I went tumbling into the shower, knocking down the shower curtain with a crash before drilling my face on the spigot.

And that, my friends, is where they found me.

Good stuff.

Hilariously embarrassing stuff.

So why do I share a lie and then the true story?

I’m glad you asked.

First, read these verses.

Paul, an apostle – not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead – Galatians 1:1

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. – Galatians 1:11-12

In the letter to the Galatians, Paul makes extra sure to emphasize a couple of things right off the bat. First, he is an apostle. He has authority to speak into the life of the church. But this authority comes from Christ’s call on his life. Secondly, the gospel message that Paul proclaimed in Galatia didn’t arise from his own deep thoughts about life. Rather, this was a message from God above.

Now, Paul likely didn’t have in mind the content of the gospel message when he made these statements. He was defending his apostleship and telling his testimony about experiencing the Risen Christ.

But, it has got me thinking.

I think that one of the greatest proofs for me personally regarding the truthfulness of the Biblical story is how bad humanity is in it.

If I’m going to make up a story revolving around me being found unconscious and bloodied, I’m going to tell you a story about me being the victor. I certainly am not going to tell you a story of me passing out getting ready for bed.

If humans were going to make up a story about our universe, and the meaning of life in it, they certainly wouldn’t make up a story where our righteous deeds are filthy rags, we deserve hell due to our natural inclinations toward sin, and we are in desperate need of a Savior.

The gospel message that Paul came to Galatia to proclaim, the message that he will tease out in all of its beautiful, grace-saturated truths, the message that we today get to continue proclaiming in our communities is not man’s gospel. It is the gospel of God.

Again, man’s gospel would not be what we find in Scripture. It would likely be quite Disneyesque, all about following your heart and achieving your dreams. Go your own way. Blaze your own trail. Be morally good.

But that is not the message of Scripture. The message of Scripture is I’m dead and need to be brought to life. I am a sinner in need of a Savior.

Brothers and sisters, be encouraged.

What we have is good news.

What we have is the best of news.

We should proclaim it from the rooftops, not as our beliefs, but as the gospel of our great God and Savior.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Were You There When?

Where were you when the twin towers fell?

I distinctly remember where I was. I was in second grade at the Episcopal School in Wichita Falls, Texas. I don’t remember what subject I was in at the time, but I remember getting interrupted as the teachers wheeled in a tv for us to watch live this act of terror (maybe not the best choice by the teachers at the time).

What is crazy to me is that I regularly interact with students now that weren’t even alive on that fateful day.

Yet, they could still tell me most of the details surrounding the attack.

Why? Because through YouTube videos, documentaries, museums, and reflection, they have been discipled in the knowledge of that event. They know what it reflects, proclaims, and means for our country. Through these remembrances, they become part of a people that have been formed by that event.

On a lighter note, I think of Texas Rangers fans. I am not really a huge baseball fan anymore, but I grew up in a Rangers household. So although it happened long before I was born, I can tell you the details surrounding the Nolan Ryan beatdown of Robin Ventura.

Why? Because for quite some time before every Rangers home game, they played a hype video giving glimpses of all of these great moments in Rangers history, and that was included in it. Every game I went to with my family, I was being discipled in the knowledge of Rangers lore.

Church, we are being discipled. At all times. We are constantly being indoctrinated through reflection and collective memories.

The church was made for doing the same. When we come together as followers of Jesus on Sunday mornings, everything we do should be helping us collectively look back at the history of God’s people. Not only that, we should find our place in their midst.

The book of Deuteronomy is avoided by many. It appears dry, rote, religious in all the wrong ways. But if you actually look closely, there is so much beauty in it. There is a really short, easy to read, great book on the subject called Invited To Know God if you’re in to reading. I’m really only merely regurgitating what it talks about.

But anyway, in chapter six of Deuteronomy we see the following passage, one that drives so much of my vision for the ministries I serve in at my church.

“When your son asks you in time to come, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the rules that the Lord our God has commanded you?’ then you shall say to your son, ‘We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt. And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes. And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land that he swore to give to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. – Deuteronomy 6:20-24

I mean, that’s beautiful.

Don’t forget that Moses is addressing the children of the Exodus generation. The generation that was brought out of Egypt died away in the wilderness due to their disobedience and unfaithfulness. These are their children Moses is speaking to. And yet, he encourages them to say ‘we were Pharaoh’s slaves’. Why? Because they were to find themselves in the story.

Church, we are to find ourselves in the story of God’s people.

It is popular in our current day and age to make Christianity nothing more than a private relationship with Jesus. And yet, that is not even remotely Biblical. The anti-religion version of Christianity causes us to miss out on the beauty of finding ourselves in the story of God’s people, from the time of Abraham to the time of Martin Luther to today. What a rich heritage we have.

This passage out of Deuteronomy is an invitation.

It is an invitation to be with God.

It is an invitation to be with God by focusing on what God has done, both individually and in our families.

If we as families are truly allegiant to Jesus as Lord over all in our lives, we are going to look distinct, different, even weird to the world around us. When kids, friends, neighbors, co-workers question why it is that we live the way that we do, we can tell them the story.

God drew the people of God out of Egypt, to draw them in to relationship with Him.

In the same way, God drew us out of our bondage to sin, in order to draw us into relationship with Him.

That’s our story.

And as we reflect on our story, we are drawn into obedience. Did you notice that?

Verse twenty-four described the fact that God gave them as a people commandments and statutes to follow. But that obedience was to always come after remembering the story!

That gets me pumped. Seriously, that’s powerful.

The call to holiness that the Bible lays before me is in the context of what God has done for me. If we don’t place ourselves in the story, the beauty of that call fades.

We must teach and preach the story.

That’s what I’m becoming passionate about. I want those I serve to know the story. Telling them how they are to live does nothing. Telling them the story of all that God has done leads to a desire for obedience.

Yahweh’s call upon their (our) lives is not random or arbitrary but born of his past goodness… By telling the redemption story, therefore, each new generation joins the story and learns to love the Lord in this way. – A.J. Culp 

You’re being discipled, brought into a story.

Make it the story of the Bible.

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In His Name,

Nathan Roach

The Church & Calling in Moana

I love stories in the form of TV shows, movies, and books. I love seeking out gospel truths or themes that are in play even in stories that have absolutely nothing to do with the gospel.

When watching Moana this past Saturday I could’t help but wrestle with some of those truths. Moana is about a girl who feels drawn to the ocean at a young age, yet she is slowly led away from her dream to explore such a vast sea and instead is encouraged to pursue a quiet life in the coconut-sustained village (albeit with the responsibilities of being the next chief). Would it have been a rewarding life? Surely. Would it have been a comfortable life? Definitely. Yet it wasn’t what she felt called to, rather it was what she was culturally assimilated into.

During one of the incredibly catchy songs towards the beginning of the movie, Moana’s grandma says the following to her:

You may hear a voice inside
And if the voice starts to whisper
To follow the farthest star
Moana, that voice inside is
Who you are

Now I would obviously argue that our identity is not found in the voice inside us per-say, yet we know the Holy Spirit guides us and leads us sometimes via the quiet whispers to our souls. Consider the words of Jesus about the Spirit:

“But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” – John 16:33

The Holy Spirit truly does speak to us and disclose to us that which we are to do. The call of the Holy Spirit is strong, for it led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4). Romans 8:14 says that those who allow themselves to be led by the Spirit are sons of God. Galatians 5 tells us to walk by the Spirit.

Yet in light of all this I can’t help but wonder how many of us (including me) silent that voice inside because it is culturally crazy. Sometimes as was the case in the movie it’s family pressure that prevents us from setting sail so to speak via the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s the feeling that we have all we could ask for where we are (I do affirm that God will not call all of us to take geographically large leaps of faith, but He will call all of us to step out in faith in some manner). moana

One of the most powerful moments in the movie was when Moana was ‘called’ or ‘chosen’ by the weird sentient ocean deity thing. This happened when she was a toddler but was not acknowledged by her father as having happened and so she faced opposition each time she tried to ‘step out in faith’. After the death of her grandma, she went all in. Led by the weird and faceless sentient ocean deity she embarked on a grand journey where she restored light and life to the kingdom that had been tainted and destroyed by the darkness of death.

There is a darkness and death that plagues our world today as well. Yet unlike the movie this is due to humanity’s rebelling against the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The True God of the cosmos is calling some of us to abandon the comfort of what we know to fight against the darkness in the middle of the unknown.

As I was watching the movie I couldn’t help but see the church at work in the village of Motunui. How often do we find ourselves supporting those who are feeling called by God or encouraging them to stay with the status quo? How often do we feel a call to step out in step with the Spirit but we’re afraid to run too far ahead of the church as a whole?

Another powerful scene in the movie is when Moana as a teenager realizes that her people have been voyagers all along, and that only recently they had adopted this routine of life that kept them “safe and well provided”. Man how impactful and timely that could be for the present church. How many of our churches leave their members safe and well provided for, while abandoning the mission of God to reach the nations that are yet to be reached with the gospel of grace? How many of our churches have forgotten the original call of God and have settled for the safe and comfortable? In the movie, the darkness and death infiltrated the village in the end. Irregardless of the safe and comfortable lifestyle they curated for themselves, the curse of death still raged around them and ultimately in them. The curse of sin in the real world is at work all around the earth, may our churches not become bubbles where this is dis-acknowledged. Rather may our churches be places where we encourage the Moanas of our congregations to abandon comfort and safety to follow their call.

May there be more Moana-like men and women in our churches. Men and women who hear the still small voice of the Spirit and are willing to leave all they know for the sake of the gospel. May there be more churches that embrace the call of God on themselves as a whole.

The beauty of the gospel is that our God is not some weird ambiguous faceless sentient wave. Our God came in human flesh and left His Spirit in our hearts as the result of our faith in Him. His Spirit calls us into the ocean of abandonment for the sake of the gospel. Let’s step out in faith.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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