Pay Attention!

I have always been interested in the arts, especially theatre and film. I even had the opportunity to study acting in New York City with some great teachers who worked in the business. With that background, I have always been fascinated how concepts that you learn in an acting class translate to life, specifically as a follower of Christ.

For instance, when working on a scene an important thing to remember is that you must keep your attention on the other person; you must be really listening to them. If you are focusing on yourself, how you look and sound, then you will not be present in the scene and you won’t be truthfully responding to them. This is a big difference between an experienced actor and a novice. Many times the beginning actor is merely waiting for the opportunity to say his lines, instead of actually listening to what the other person is saying. This results in stale, lifeless line readings. As an audience member, I go to the theatre to see life unfold before my eyes, not to watch actors who have simply memorized words in a script.

In the same way, life itself becomes stale and meaningless when our desire is to make it all about ourselves, to put all of our attention on “self”. We often believe the idea that if we focus on bettering our self, on finding our own personal happiness, then everything will be great. The problem is that this type of personal fulfillment is not lasting. The thing that once brought us so much joy and happiness becomes dull and common and we soon lose interest in it. So we have to leave that behind and find a new thing that will give us that buzz and rush once again. For example, we are in love with idea of “falling in love”. We become infatuated with someone and chase after them. However, according to recent statistics, 40%-50% of married couples end up divorced. Why is this? Didn’t they “fall in love”? The problem is that most marriages begin with the idea that it is all about personal fulfillment. The moment one person does not feel they are getting from the relationship what they used to get, they move on to another one. It’s not the person that we cared about; it was that feeling of something new and exciting. With this in mind, we can see why 30%-60% of all married individuals will engage in infidelity at some point in their marriage. (Journal of Research in Personality, 31, 193-221) The all-important “I” must be fulfilled and we see to it that it is, even if it comes to cheating on a spouse, running away from problems, or turning to drugs and alcohol.

However, when we read God’s Word we see that, as people who have been made in the image of God, we are not created for ourselves but for God. We are made to focus on God, worship God, and to reflect His goodness. The writers of the Westminster Catechism had it right when they wrote that “they chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” When we come into a relationship with God through Christ we start to see life as it really is. We see that all of those things we once used to bring fulfillment never actually satisfied. It is only in God that we find fulfillment that lasts. In God, we find joy inexpressible (1 Peter 1:8) because we recognize that we deserve nothing from God and yet, by His grace, have received everything. Every good gift is from God (James 1:17). In response all of our focus and attention should be moved from “self” to Him who actually deserves it. When we put our attention on God, on what has been accomplished for us by Christ upon the cross, and what the Bible teaches us, we will find that everything else will fall into place. Then we can sing that words of the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” with full hearts knowing that God is all that we need and He is our primary focus.

Next time you are watching a film or a play see if you can tell if the actors are really listening to each other or if they are waiting for their turn to speak. Acting that is vibrant is acting that is not about the actor but that is about the journey the characters are going through. A life that is meaningful and vibrant is a life that is not focused upon “self” but that is focused upon God.

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” -Lemmel 1922

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

God Has Spoken

God has spoken. This short sentence should not only bring us comfort, but utterly amaze us. The God who has revealed Himself through His awesome creation has condescended to a level in which His creatures can understand. R.C. Sproul explains, “We receive distinct information from God Himself, and that astonishing fact lies at the root of a Christian understanding of knowledge.” In earlier times, God spoke directly to people such as Adam and Noah. Other times, He spoke through various means: as the Angel of the Lord, in the burning bush, in the fire and cloud over Mount Sinai, among others. He also called upon prophets and apostles to be His voice to the nations. However, the highpoint of God’s Special Revelation is found in Jesus Christ. In John’s Gospel he states that “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known (John 1:18).” This powerful statement declares that God has most fully revealed Himself in the person and work of Christ. Commenting on this verse, John Calvin says, “…God is openly seen in the face of Christ.” This means that to understand the character and nature of God, we must understand Jesus. Theologian Charles Hodge further explains, “The words of Christ were the words of God. The works of Christ were the works of God. The love, mercy, tenderness, the forgiving grace, as well as the holiness, the severity and power manifested by Christ, were all manifestations of what God truly is.”

How then do we obtain this “Special Revelation”? In order to answer this question, we must look at the Bible, for the Bible is the modern Christians direct revelation from God. The Apostle Paul writes, “all Scripture is breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16), that the words that we have in the Bible are the very words of God. Again, Paul writes, “for whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Romans 15:4).” Paul is stating that the Old Testament Scriptures were written for the people of God, so that 1) they may know God, 2) they may know what the will of God is, and 3) through this knowledge they may have endurance and encouragement in life.

If the Bible is truly God’s word, truly written by God, then it logically follows that the Bible has authority. If the words in Scripture are God’s words, then to disbelieve those words is to disbelieve God. To ignore those words is, fundamentally, to ignore God. Therefore, the Bible must be held in high honor, diligently read and studied. This also means that we affirm the Bible is infallible and inerrant; it is incapable of error and cannot “fail” at any point. The book of Titus tells us God cannot lie; because the Author of the Bible cannot lie, His authoritative word is also unable to lie but is completely and consistently true in all that it affirms. The Bible alone must be our sole source of everything that we do and teach as followers of Jesus Christ. With the reformers of the 1500’s, we must proclaim that we believe in Sola Scriptura; that is, we believe that the Bible alone contains all the knowledge we require for salvation and holiness.

The Bible contains the testimony of God and is, therefore, our only rule of faith. The Bible contains the precepts of God and it is, consequently, our only rule of duty. Finally, the Bible contains the promises of God and it is, therefore, our rule of hope. On any issue or controversy that comes before us, we must look to the Bible for instruction. When the Bible speaks on any subject, all else must remain silent. When the Bible speaks it leaves no room for doubt; it is our final appeal on all matters because, fundamentally, God has spoken.

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

Do You Identify As A Christian?

How do you identify yourself? We have many different ways in which we like to identify ourselves in our modern culture. We say this person is a Democrat and this person is a Republican. We classify people as a conservative or a liberal. Some people are religious, while others are secularists. The popular movie “The Breakfast Club” introduces us to “the brain, the athlete, the basket-case, the princess, and the criminal.” How do you see yourself? And how do others see you? Often, the answer comes from the different identities we claim within each category.

What about the category of “religion”? Would you identify as a Christian? Would you classify yourself in this way? Many people, especially in America, would. I have asked many people if they considered themselves a Christian and often they answer “Yes, I grew up going to church.” Or, “Yes, my parents were very religious.” It seems to me that many people assume a Christian identity based off of their own ideas of what makes a person a Christian as opposed to what the Bible says.

You see, we’ve made self-identification the be-all-to-end-all in terms who we are. However, this is not a new idea. In the Bible Jesus speaks of a group of people who classify themselves as His followers, but the reality is very different. We find these words in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

The truth of the matter is that many people classify themselves as Christians without understanding what a Christian is and how one becomes a Christian. Simply self-identifying as a Christian does not make you a Christian. Neither does giving money, being baptized, growing up with Christian parents, or even going to a church. Being a Christian means that you trust wholly and completely in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It means that God has done a radical work in your heart, that you have been born-again by the spirit of God, and now desire to live a life that glorifies your Lord. When you reflect on the passage above the question is not do you know Jesus, but does He know you? That is what makes someone a Christian; not self-identification, but being identified by God.

“How Do You Identify?”

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