When Loved Ones Are Far From God

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).” These are some of my favorite words in the Bible. They remind me that my life should be characterized by joy, prayer, and thankfulness to my God. However, at times I find myself lacking in joy when I consider the fact that so many people I love do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. I am not alone in this struggle. Many followers of Christ find themselves at a loss when they see their loved ones living a life in rebellion against God. What can be done?

The first thing we must remember is God can always be trusted; we must never think He is not in control. As Abraham is interceding for the city of Sodom before its destruction, he asks the question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just/right (Genesis 18:25)?” The answer is “yes”. God always does what is good and just, therefore we must trust in Him at all times, even in the most difficult of situations.

This is not a “blind faith” that I am insisting on. Rather, as we read the Bible and see God’s faithfulness in the past, we should be certain that God will remain faithful in the future. Again, this is not wishful thinking, but based on the very nature of God. Paul insures Titus that God’s call of salvation, though in eternity past, will most certainly come to fruition because of the fact that God cannot lie (cf. Titus 1:2). The apostle’s evidence for his statement is the foundational truth about God Himself. Therefore, we must continue to lean on God, trust Him in the midst of seemingly hopeless situations, and know that He is truly “working all things together for good (Romans 8:28).”

Secondly, God cares about our lost loved ones more than we do. This may be hard for us to believe at times. However, He is their Creator, He is their God, He provides for them daily, even as they continue to turn their backs and walk away from Him. Loving their sin more than God, people continue to suppress the truth of Him and His power in their unrighteousness. (Romans 1:18) However, while this is going on, God still is caring and patient. (Matthew 5:45) “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23) It is the desire of God that our loved ones repent and turn to Him. He desires they would “be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

Finally, we must heed the call we have been given to be ambassadors of Christ. We are to be the vessel God uses to implore the world to be reconciled to Himself. (2 Corinthians 5:20) Do we intentionally share the truth of Christ and His gospel message with our lost loved ones? Do we look for opportunities to bring up spiritual conversations? Do we offer to pray for our lost loved ones? Do we share how God has been working in our own lives? If not, I beseech you dear Christian, pray for the boldness you need to lovingly be a witness of God’s grace. We must put legs to our prayers and not give up proclaiming the gospel. Put on the “beautiful feet” of one who brings the good news of Christ and take that news to your loved ones while there is still time. (Romans 10:15)

“But you don’t understand, my loved one is so far from God, I don’t think they will ever come to know him. They outright hate God and mock God.” Yes, I do get it. In fact, at one point in my life, I was that person. I thought I was too smart, too sophisticated to believe in God. Belief in God, I asserted, is merely an intellectual crutch for those who just can’t cope. Yet, when I least expected it, God, in His mercy and grace, changed me from the inside out. However, I am not some special case, God has done and continues to do this in people all around the world.

Be encouraged, then, as you read about the Christian hater Saul and how Jesus Christ completely changed everything about him (Acts 9). Be encouraged as you read about how God can humble even the most stubborn hearts, as He did in the life of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-37). Be encouraged as you hear to the testimony of God’s holy, inspired word: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save (Isaiah 59:1)” and “Consequently, He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25).”

The well-known British preacher, Charles Spurgeon once said, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.” May this be our cry as we pray and speak to those who are outside of Christ. All the while rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks to our great God and King because we know He will do what is right. Finally, don’t lose heart, don’t give up hope, no matter how far they may be from God, because God is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).”

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

ALL THINGS NEW

When I meet people and they find out I am a pastor, I usually get a few different responses. One I hear most often is the assumption that, as a pastor, I primarily deal within the realm of morals and ethics. I recall a conversation I had about raising children and dealing with behavior issues. After relating several instances when my own children were misbehaving, the person responded, “Yeah, that must be tough for you when your job is to teach morals and good behavior.” The comment didn’t come across as judgmental or rude; the conversation was very light and friendly. However, this caught my attention because it reflects a view many people outside of the church hold, that of the duty of pastors. Many think our primary aim is to merely instill morals and ethics to our congregation, that our goal when dealing with rowdy children is simply behavior modification.

Is that right? Is that what we want in the church, a behavioral and moral change? Well, yes and no. This is what I mean–yes, as followers of Jesus Christ we do desire to see people change. We do desire to see people turn from sinful life patterns and turn to Christ. When it comes to our children, yes, we want them to behave in a way that reflects the truths found in the Bible. The difference, however, is that we don’t want that to be the end of the matter. Meaning, our primary aspiration is not behavior modification in and of itself. We long to see behavior changed as a reflection of what God is doing in an individual’s heart. In fact, biblically speaking we do not believe there can be true, lasting change in a person until there is first a heart change, and a heart change can only come through the grace of God. 

The Bible gives us a very clear picture of the human race and the truth is, it’s not a pretty picture. This can be a hard fact for us to swallow because we have the idea that mankind is really “not that bad”. However, the Bible uses other words to describe us. The Bible says that we are “dead in [our] sins” (Colossians 2:13), that we “cannot please God”(Romans 8:8), we are “without hope” (Ephesians 2:12), and that we are “God-haters” (Romans 1:30). Not the encouraging message that people generally expect to hear from the Bible; however, it is the truth of our fallen human nature. When we look at this picture, seeing who we actually are, it may seem bleak. It is. Yet it makes the glorious grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ shine brightly through the darkness. 

You see, according to the Bible, behavior correction alone is a futile task. A pastor would be wasting his time if that were his sole desire. If we are dead, hopeless, God-haters, then what we truly need is God to do a miraculous work in us. Dead people can do nothing to make themselves look more alive. Putting makeup on a dead person may look good for a time, but eventually they will begin to rot. So what do they need? They need to be made alive, they need to be miraculously brought to life. It is the same for the broken sinner. We have no hope within ourselves, for an outward change of behavior is merely a white-washed tomb. We need God to bring us to life.

Jesus speaks about this amazing mystery in John 3. Jesus tells Nicodemus, a religious leader, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus was a man who had spent his entire life trying to live up to religious and social expectations, trying to be a “good” person. The truth is, however, Nicodemus remained spiritually dead. No matter how much he tried to mask his sin and no matter how much good he tried to do to outweigh his sins, he was still broken and guilty before a holy God. Jesus knows Nicodemus’ heart and He knows that what he actually needs is a new birth. 

This is what pastors are looking for in their congregations and parents in their children, a new birth. Good behavior and changing of sinful life patterns reflect that new birth. So the call from the church is not simply “stop doing that” but to come to Christ and live. It is only when we come to Jesus, confess our sin, and trust in His finished work upon the cross that we can have any hope of change. It is at this moment of faith that a person is born again by the Holy Spirit and is able, through His power, to live a life that glorifies God. As the Apostle Paul states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) It is then, because of the grace of God I can say I am not who I once was. God has made me new!

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

When Christmas Seems Unbearable

“Smile! Be Merry! It’s a happy time of year!” But what if you can’t smile? What if you don’t feel the “holiday spirit”? If this is you, you can be sure you are not alone. Many people have those same feelings this time of year. Perhaps, you will not even be able to pinpoint why you feel this way; you just do.

Medical professionals have concluded that certain individuals may be more prone to what is called “seasonal depression”. Unfulfilled expectations, financial pressures, and excessive commitments during the Christmas season can all bring about feelings of stress and anxiety. Perhaps the past year was filled with difficulty, or even tragedy. For instance, losing a loved one can make the holiday season almost unbearable.

What can be done? You might be thinking, “This guy’s a pastor! He’s just going to say ‘have faith’ and then everything will magically get better.” Yes and no. I do believe that ultimately everything in life boils down to spiritual issues and one’s relationship with God. However, no, I do not think we can simply broad-stroke each individual’s feelings with a silver bullet Bible verse, or instruct people that if they merely change their thinking, everything will be better. What I can offer is hope.

Hope is a word that is fundamentally misunderstood. These days we generally use the word hope as a synonym for wishful-thinking, uncertainty in one’s desire. However, the Bible uses the word hope to signify the feeling of confident expectation. The Apostle Paul ends his letter to the Romans by saying, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13) God is not a God of “wishful-thinking”, nor does He desire that we abound in uncertainty. Rather, saying that God is the God of hope gives us certainty that the promises He has made will come to pass. Time may move slowly and trials may come upon us, but God’s promises to His people will be kept. This is our hope. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety or depression this Christmas season, let me remind you of the hope of Christmas.

You see, we cannot separate the birth of Christ with the mission of Christ. That baby lying in a manger came to earth with a specific purpose. Jesus entered into His own creation in order to bring light and life. Since the fall of mankind and the entrance of sin, life has not been how God intended. The hatred and strife that permeates society, the sickness and disease that destroys families, the anxiety and depression that causes so many to despair of life are all the consequences of living in a sin-stained world. God knows this, cares about us, and He is making all things new. (Revelation 21:5) Jesus came to earth in order to save us from this broken world.

This is the hope of Christmas: that even when Jesus was still in the womb of his mother, Mary, she cried out “my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:47) Zechariah proclaims, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people.” (Luke 1:68) How could Mary rejoice in a Savior and Zechariah say that He has redeemed His people even before Jesus’ birth? Only because those statements are spoken with hope, the confident expectation that God does not fail in His purposes. Jesus would grow, He would live a perfect life, and He would die as a perfect sacrifice for His people. If you come to Christ in repentance and faith, you can be sure that your present suffering is not the end. You can be certain that one day all of the trouble you have in this dark world will cease, and you will be with your God and King forever.

So even when it is hard, I encourage you to, “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” (Romans 12:12) God has not left you alone. “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) This is something we can hope for.

If you are not a follower of Christ and are struggling with finding hope, I tell you this: you can look in a lot of places to find meaning and hope, but I know (from personal experience) you will not find it. True and lasting hope only comes through Christ and what He accomplished upon the cross. I cannot offering a quick fix for all of your problems. I simply offer hope through those problems, even in the most difficult of circumstances.

One day when you leave this world, when you die and stand before God you can have hope, not because of who you are or what you’ve done, but because your trust is in Christ. My hope this Christmas is that the baby lying in the manger is my Savior. Is this your hope?

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

When Tragedy Hits

November 11th, 2018 will be a day that many in our small community of Globe-Miami will never forget. You see, it has become common for us to turn on the television and to hear news of tragic events in various places across the country, yet when it happens in your own backyard it hits you differently. “Why did this happen? Why would somebody do such a thing to another human being?” These and other questions flood our minds in the midst of such a tragic situation and it is likely that answers may never fully come.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow; will it be celebrated by those who lost loved ones? Will those who experienced such a tragic event even want to set aside a day to focus on giving thanks to God? Honestly, I cannot answer for them. And whatever they decide for themselves is okay. The amount of time that goes into healing from a situation like this varies. It will take time, prayer, and loving relationships for people to be able to truly heal. In times like these, one must hold on to the promises of God even when it seems difficult to do so. “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

Perhaps, you may say, “Don’t give me that ‘religious’ nonsense right now. If God is so great, why did this happen? Obviously, God doesn’t care. This is not a time for God!” Though that may be an appropriate reaction right now. In fact, throughout the Bible (particularly the Psalms) we see similar reactions when tragic events occur. This means that God understands us, He knows that life can be hard. So go ahead, be angry with God, He can handle it. But if you are going to be angry with God, tell Him! 

“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” -Psalm 13:1-2

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, but I find no rest.” -Psalm 22:1-2

“How long, O Lord, will you look on and do nothing?” -Psalm 35:17

Truthfully telling God about your anger, fears, and sorrows can be the beginning of healing and growing. Through this time, you may discover you have much to give thanks for even in the midst of such suffering. I’m not saying it is easy, and I don’t mean to belittle the horrific nature of last week’s events. What I am trying to say is that once you express your feelings to God, don’t run from Him. Rest in Him. The words of Christ beckon us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

If you’ve ever read the book of Job, the first two chapters make completely no sense if you don’t keep in mind who God is. Job is a man blessed with many with good things. He has money, family, and integrity (a rare quality). But it doesn’t last. Job loses everything in one horrific day. All of his wealth is gone and all his children are killed. What will Job do now? In a moment such as this we might want to follow the advice of Job’s wife: “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9) Yet, that is not his response. In the midst of sorrow, Job professes his continued trust and loyalty to God, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

How can he do that? How can Job be so naive? God must hate Job! Right? Otherwise, why would an all-powerful God allow this to happen? That is where the book of Job really shines as a insight into the mind of God as to the “hows” and “whys” of what God is doing in His people through heart-wrenching situation. God never leaves us or does anything without purpose. Job came to understand this after the long and difficult period of waiting and wondering. “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2) It was a time in Job’s life where the temptation is to despise and run from God; yet what we really need in times like these is to come to know God more, to come closer to Him. “I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You.” (Job 42:5)

I pray for the peace and comfort of God to envelope all of those who have been affected by this tragic event. I don’t pretend to know exactly how you are feeling right now, but I pray you will find a hope in God that will guide you as you move forward in your grieving and healing. Look to Christ, the One who sacrificed His own life that His people may live. Hear the promises that await those who have put their trust in Him: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rev. 21:4) Until that day, live with hope in Jesus Christ. 

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

Post Tenebras Lux

There are some moments in history that seem to stand out among the rest. In fact, we set aside particular days in order to remember various historical events. Holidays such as Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day are intended to focus our attention on those past events that have shaped our present reality. A day that has become increasingly significant to me as I view the vast scope of world history is October 31st, 1517, what we now refer to as Reformation Day.

As a Christian, I find the time period of the Protestant Reformation to be particularly intriguing. Not because I believe the Reformers came up with new ideas or forged new territory, making progressive leaps into the unknown. Rather, the strength of the Reformation was in pointing people back, not to a time or system, but to Jesus Christ. The Reformers desire was not to start a new church or type of religious insurrection, but to see the church and her leaders move back to the Bible, back to what God has said, not what men and their traditions have said.

As we take a closer look at some of the issues that the Reformers were dealing with, we will see that they were not simply matters of church politics but were issues that touched to the very heart of the Gospel. “How can a sinful person be made right with a holy God?” Reformers struggled with. questions like these, to which they found no satisfying answers within the traditions of the Roman church.

However, when the Reformers, guided by the Holy Spirit, opened their Bibles, everything began to change. The truth of the Word of God that had been kept from the average person, that had been locked up in Latin and forbidden to be translated into the common tongue, began to burst forth into the hearts and minds of the Reformers and overflow into society as a whole. The impetus, then, for the Protestant Reformation, was not political or economical, but Biblical.

The dark times of Biblical ignorance was coming to an end, as the Reformers diligently taught the Bible, translated the Bible, and made sure the average person understood the Bible. Post Tenebras Lux — after darkness, light. This brief Latin phrase became a battle cry as John Calvin and other Reformers saw the glorious Word of God shine forth, and breaking the darkness of the false Gospel and doctrines of Rome. The chains of religious bondage that held people down, the rule of the papacy that contradicted Jesus Christ, and the selling of indulgences that cheapened the Gospel of grace were all seen for what they were in the light of God’s holy, inspired Word, the Bible.

We are now separated from the beginnings of the Reformation by over 500 years. However, that does not mean the Reformation is over. In fact, the cause of the Reformers, and the need for the light of God’s Word to go forth, is stronger than ever. We live in a world that is increasingly hostile to truth, a world of spiritual apathy; where religious bondage increases, sin is glorified, and hope is elusive. What is the answer? While many may jump into a political, social, or economical tirade, the answer is that we need “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4) to break out into the dark corners of our world. We need the Bible to be heralded as the banner of truth. We need to pray that God’s grace would extend to the hearts of those who are trapped in religious bondage. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit would draw to Himself those stuck in addiction and sinful life patterns that they may be convicted of their sin and see their need of the Savior.

No, the Reformation is NOT over. In fact, the Reformation will not end until Christ comes again. Until that day, we must be constantly reforming every aspect of our lives to the revealed Word of God, the Bible. So open your Bible today and hear the Words of your Creator. If you find yourself in darkness, open the words that bring light. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Get a FREE download of my new E-booklet on the 5 Solas of the Reformation by visiting www.CrossHopeBible.com/5-solas.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

The Times They Are A-Changin’

You may remember the popular Bob Dylan tune, “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The song rings with truth today just as it did in 1964 when it was first released. Popular culture is constantly changing. Sometimes the change is for the better, while other times, for the worse. However, our perspective on change has much do with our individual world-views. 



From a Christian world-view, many changes in our culture over the past 15 years or so have caught us off guard. Why? Because there are many things that, in times past, seemed so foundational to the human experience that are now being put to the test. For instance, a brief perusal of current news outlets shows questions we once all knew the answer to, but now… not so much. Questions like, “What is the family?”, “What is marriage?”, or “What is male and female?” At one time, a simple answer would suffice. However, many people now disagree with these simple answers.



How do we respond to this current landscape filled with many opposing views? Let me start by stating what I think we should not do. We should not use our disagreements as an excuse to destroy one another. All too often, various groups on either side of the political and ideological aisle have forgotten basic human kindness when wrestling through current topics. This is to our shame. When did we become so hateful? Now, let me be clear what I mean when I use the word “hateful”. The word hateful cannot be used to describe someone who simply has an opposing view to yours. Our culture has fostered such self-centeredness that many people believe people with a different view are “mean, bigoted, and hateful.” No, hateful is when we disagree with an idea and then hurl personal insults, slandering another person with the intention of tearing them down. 



So, what should we do? King David asks the same question in Psalm 11. “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” As Christians, we see so many things that are foundational, things God instituted for the good and flourishing of mankind, being changed.

I believe there are 3 things we should keep in mind as we address current these. 

1) We should listen. 
Are we truly listening to those with whom we disagree? We need to be more intentional to listen and come to understand them even if we remain opposed to their ideas. 

2) We should love. 
As followers of Christ we are called to be known for our love; whether our neighbor or enemy, Jesus calls us to love. Those with whom we disagree remain image bearers of God and have inherent worth and value. Let us disagree in a way that shows this. 

3) We should proclaim the Gospel. 
Our political aspirations or humanitarian efforts are futile if we are not preaching the Gospel. We must remember that our only hope for change is through Christ.

“As the present now will later be past, the order is rapidly fadin’. And the first one now will later be last, for the times they are a-changin’.” -Bob Dylan

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

Has God Forgotten Me?

 “God must not care about me. He must be punishing me. I just can’t go on.” Do these phrases ever come from your lips? Does the feeling of utter hopelessness seem to take over your thoughts, permeating throughout your entire body as you wonder if life is worth living anymore? Do you cry out to God pleading for His help and yet the answers never seem to come? You are not alone. But you might feel alone. The Bible is replete with instances of God’s people in distress asking for help, looking for answers.

Psalm 13 is a cry from the heart of King David as he pours out his need before God. Feeling far away from God, David asks if God has forgotten him. “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?” (Psalm 13:1) Four times David cries out the phrase “How long?”. There are instances of pain and distress for followers of Christ that are common to all. Then, there are some who go through seasons, years, and even lifetimes of persistent pain and trouble.

Chronic diseases that make life seem unbearable have afflicted many people;  this Psalm is for you. Years of struggle, fighting temptation, and dealing with horrible family situations has been the lot of many; this Psalm is for you. In fact, this Psalm is for any one of God’s people who have ever uttered the phrase “I can’t go on.” However, when Psalm 13 becomes your prayer, it will give you hope that you can.

As you read the Psalm, you may relate with David’s pain, but when you get to verse 5 do you still see yourself? “But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.” Can you proclaim such a statement of faith in spite of the circumstances you may be going through? Bible commentator Matthew Henry observes, “Here the mind of the despondent worshipper rises above all its distressing fears, and throws itself, without reserve, on the mercy and care of its Divine Redeemer. See the power of faith, and how good it is to draw near to God.”

It is my prayer that you would sing to the Lord with David because you recognize that “He has dealt bountifully with [you]”. You will sing whether or not your circumstances change because you know, as the Apostle Paul learned, the Lord’s “grace is sufficient for you, for [His] power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Matthew Henry continues, “In this way believers pour out their prayers, renouncing all hopes but in the mercy of God through the Saviour’s blood: and sometimes suddenly, at other times gradually, they will find their burdens removed, and their comforts restored; they then allow that their fears and complaints were unnecessary, and acknowledge that the Lord hath dealt bountifully with them.”

Let’s take a moment to look at how God demonstrates His love and goodness through the Gospel message. Perhaps, you’ve heard this word “gospel” but don’t know to what it refers. What is the Gospel? The Apostle Paul writes in Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:17) The gospel is the good news that God has made a way for broken sinners, such as myself, to be made right with Him through faith in Christ alone. The gospel is made possible through the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you…Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) Jesus lived a perfect life, died the death we deserve, and rose again defeating sin and death; when we turn from our sins and believe in what Jesus has accomplished for us we can be certain we have eternal life. This is the gospel. This is the grace of God through which we can get through the hard times of life.

“I can go on.” I can say this, not because I am so strong and put together, but because I have trusted in my Savior Jesus Christ and He will get me through. It is only because of Christ that I can move forward every day and trust that no matter what comes upon me, I will be okay. If this is not you, then I implore you to come to Christ. You too can have hope in any circumstance. You too, with David, can say, “I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” (Psalm 13:6)

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

In his book, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” (1684) John Owen wrote to combat a false doctrine of his day; namely, the un-biblical teaching of universalism. This book has much to say even to our modern context. However, I would like focus upon the very title of the work. Why should we discuss the death of Christ?

The death of Jesus Christ was no ordinary event. In fact, the death of Christ is the singularly most significant event in history. Why should we care about the public execution of a poor, small town carpenter? It’s because that carpenter was none other than God in the flesh sent to earth to redeem a people for Himself through a voluntary, sacrificial death. If this bold assertion is true, then His death has monumental implications in our response to it and to how we then live our lives.

Eternal Purpose Through Death
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus mentions His mission here on earth, stating the He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Statements such as these make it clear that Jesus was not merely some religious guru unwittingly killed by outsiders. His very purpose was to die. When we celebrate the incarnation of Christ (God becoming flesh) during the Christmas season, one truth often pointed out is that this baby born in a manger is born in order that He may die. In fact, this was the very purpose of God, that evil men would put Christ to death. Acts 2:23 states, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” God brings about His purposes and plans even through the evil intentions of the hearts of wicked men. Therefore, we see the greatest tragedy in human history, the death of Christ, is also the greatest joy for those who trust in Him.

Joy Through Death
Why is the death of Christ a joy for Christians? It is through His death that we are made right with God and brought into a relationship with Him. Through the death of Christ we can have true, transcendent joy and peace. Through the death of Christ, reality and life make sense. You see, from a biblical Christian perspective, the death and resurrection of Jesus is not simply something we celebrate at Easter every year; it is the very heart and soul of who we are and we hope in.

Throughout history, many have tried to diminish the extent and power of Christ’s atoning death. Some people teach that Christ’s atonement merely “wiped the slate” of the man born into sin, but after that, it is up to man to live a life worthy of God. However, the worth and value of the atonement of Christ is far beyond anything we can ever imagine. When Christ shed His blood upon the cross of Calvary, he paid for the sins of his people: past, present, and future. Because of the unconditional nature of the election of God, and the fact that Christ’s sacrifice for his people is undeserved, and not earned, we can also have comfort in the fact that the salvific effects of the atonement can never be lost in the life of the believer.

Life Through Death
The perseverance of the saints is a foundational truth within the Christian faith, and not only because it comforts the soul of man, but because it is wrapped up so tightly within the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrificial death. “The law has but a shadow of the good things to come.” (Hebrews 10:1) Within the nation of Israel, Jews would continually offer sacrifices in order to make themselves right with God. But even as soon as the sacrifice was offered, they would leave the temple and fall into sin. Although this sacrifice was commanded by God, it was not fully sufficient to cover their sin for all time. Repeated sacrifices were necessary. As Hebrews explains, the “shadow” of the sacrifices can never make perfect those who offer them. In the same way, we can be certain that no modern person can be made right with God by “being good enough”; we always fall back into our sin.

However, Christ is the substance of what the shadow of sacrifice is pointing toward. Because He offered His body, sacrificing Himself, we can be sure we are sanctified through Him, once for all, when we trust in Him. “When Christ had offered for all time, a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12) These verses clearly show the role of Christ as our priest, relating back to the idea of the priests in the temple. There were no chairs in the Temple; these men did not sit down until their work was complete. When Christ, as our priest, sits down beside the Father, we see the completion and finality of His sacrifice. His work is done and accepted as sufficient by God the Father. The act of God raising Jesus from the dead proves that God accepted the sacrifice of Christ.

Death to Death
What does the death of Christ have to do with me? Everything. It is the instrument through which God brings broken, sinful people to Himself. Apart from the death of Christ, we are utterly lost and hopeless. However, when someone turns from their sins and turns to Jesus, he or she can bold proclaim, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55) It is then when we truly see the death of death in the death of Christ.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

“Theology Matters”

“Religious truth is whatever makes you feel better… Whatever your personal beliefs are is just fine as long as you keep them to yourself… That is just your ‘interpretation’…” Phrases like these abound throughout conversations with friends and family all over the world. Many try to dismiss the attempt to make any truth claim when it comes to spiritual matters. So the question is, “Why does it matter to know truths about God?” Is one wasting one’s time to even begin such a journey of discovery? Why study theology?

Truth Matters
The first answer to all of these objections has to be that truth matters. We live in a time and culture where most people believe that truth is relative; that is, that truth is whatever you want it to be. However, from a biblical worldview this is not a tenable position. Followers of Christ must hold that truth is objective because we have an objective standard, the Bible. Therefore, we believe that truth can be known because of God’s self-revelation, and that we should desire and strive to know that truth as much as humanly possible.

Definitions Matter
Secondly, if human beings are in the state of sin which the Bible tells us that we are, and that we can do nothing to rectify this problem by ourselves, then we need to know what God has done for us. Only the true God can save you from your sins. Many people claim to know God and even say that Jesus is their savior. The question is, “which Jesus are you talking about?” The Apostle Paul states, “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed… you put up with it readily enough.” (1 Corinthians 11:4) Paul is concerned when people say that they believe in Jesus but the one they believe in is not the true Jesus.

Imagine I come to you proclaiming myself to be the President of the United States. What would you say to me? Perhaps I even told you that my name was Donald Trump. Would you accept me as the President? I don’t think so. You would recognize that even if I use that title and name of the President, we are different people; our characteristics makes that clear. In the same way, merely using the words “God”, “Jesus”, etc. don’t in and of themselves mean anything. We must discover through the details and characteristics who we are talking about. Is Jesus the Son of God or simply a traveling moralistic teacher? Is Jesus God in the flesh or a created being? Fundamental questions must be considered as to which Jesus we are talking about, because only one Jesus can save you, the Jesus of the Bible.

True Hope Matters
Finally, only the Triune God of the Bible can bring you peace and comfort in this broken world. People everywhere are daily dealing with and struggling through a multitude of issues. People killing one another, children being abused and abandoned, and relationships torn apart are all frequent occurrences in a world that is living out the consequences of sin. Through all the stress and strain we long for peace. We long to bring peace and comfort to our friends and family members who are going through these troubles.

Why is it important to know truths about God? Because knowing the true God brings peace. Jesus tells His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) You see, Jesus brings a peace to the hearts of His people that the world can never bring. He brings a comfort that is alien to us, a comfort that gives us the ability to move forward in life no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in. A false Jesus cannot do this– a false ideology cannot do this,–only God can.

Theology Matters
We should be on a life-long pursuit to know God as He truly is, as He has revealed Himself. I want to leave you with a quote from “Dug Down Deep” by Joshua Harris.

“I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live… Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong. I know the idea of ‘studying’ God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab… But studying God doesn’t have to be like that. You can study Him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study Him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?

Knowledge doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood? We’re either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what He’s about, or we’re basing our lives on our own imaginations and misconceptions. We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.”

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe

Stop Saying OMG!

Stubbing your toe must be one of the worst pains in the world. Well, I guess that’s not exactly true, but we sure act like it sometimes. We’ve all done it, you stub your toe on the bed and the words that come out of your mouth wouldn’t be permitted on HBO! (A little hyperbole, but the point is made.) Perhaps you’ve even been surprised with some of the profanity you’ve spoken. However, I bet if you yelled out, “Oh my God! That hurt!” or “Jesus Christ! I’m in pain!” you wouldn’t even bat an eye. In fact, most people wouldn’t. But what if I were to tell you that I’d prefer you use one of those common four letter words instead of God or Jesus? Why? Because this is a bigger deal than you may think.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” I’m sure we’ve all heard this before. This is the 3rd of the 10 Commandments that Moses receives from God in Exodus chapter 20. However, you may not be aware of the words that follow this statement. “For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7) Meaning, God takes this very seriously.

You see, we look at the 10 Commandments and think, “Don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, yeah, those are the big ones.” We go on to assume that lying, coveting, or using God’s name as a curse word is really not that bad. “Hey, we all do it, right?” Yet, God says He will punish those who misuse His name. We usually save punishment for serious crimes. Yes, God sees this as a very serious crime.

God blesses us daily. He gives us life and breath and all the good things in this world. (James 1:17) How do we thank Him? We use His name as way to express disgust and annoyance. We treat the holy name of God as common, filthy language. How would you respond if people started using your mother’s name to express disgust or hatred? You would be offended and want it to stop. So why do we persist in using God’s name in this way?

Why do we do this? Why is our response, “OMG!” or “Jesus Christ”? The answer may surprise you. We disrespect and treat as worthless that which we hate the most. Do you realize that no other person in history is hated as much as Jesus Christ that they would use his name as a curse word? No one stubs their toe and yells out, “Adolf Hitler, that hurt!” We profess to hate Hitler and the atrocities that he committed, yet, interestingly so, not enough to trample his name through the mud.

You may say, “But I don’t hate God.” The truth is, we are all born into this world as God-haters. (Romans 1:30 cf. Psalm 51:5) We rebel against God because we desire to worship ourselves instead of Him. Our language is merely a glimpse into our hearts. Do you profess to love God and yet continue to use this type of language? Maybe this would be an opportunity to ask yourself some hard questions. “Do I really love and trust Jesus for my salvation, or have I been playing a religious game?” It’s not a bad thing to ask these types of questions; in fact, the Bible encourages we do so. (2 Corinthians 13:5, cf. 2 Peter 1:10)

I get it, sometimes things just “slip out” and we can’t help it. Or can we? Do our words really reveal part of our hearts? Listen to words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” When His disciples are perplexed about this teaching Jesus responds, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:11, 18-19) You see, the mouth reveals the heart, the place where our sin grows until we act upon it. If our mouths are constantly using God’s name in vain, we should be aware that this points to a heart problem.

Next time you feel you need a word to express disgust, surprise, or annoyance, please, try to be a little more creative. I know, stubbing that toe hurts and you need to say something, but don’t use your Creator’s name, use your own name. Maybe that would change the way you think about it.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ
facebook.com/MBCGlobe