The Battle Cry of the Reformation

In times of war, even the bravest soldier can be crippled with fear as the battle looms ahead. In difficult times, the soldier may forget what he is fighting for or begin to doubt if it is a noble cause. Then he hears the general shout and he is reminded and encouraged. Simple words, yet words filled with meaning and power— just what he needed to hear. We call these words a “battle cry.”

A battle cry could be a yell to rattle the nerves of the opposing forces. Or it could be a political or religious phrase to inspire the men to fight. One of the most legendary of these cries comes from a battle at a small Franciscan mission in southern Texas in 1836. Mexican General Santa Anna and his men outnumbered and outgunned the small band of Texas independence fighters. After 13 grueling days, they stormed the fort. Among those who lost their lives were Colonel William B. Travis, James Bowie, and the famed Davy Crockett. The phrase “Remember the Alamo” became the battle cry of General Sam Houston and his men as they fought and eventually captured Santa Ana at the Battle of San Jacinto.

During the Reformation the same idea applied. The leaders of the Reformation knew the battle ahead would be a tough one. Not only must people be ready for discipline from the church, but also from the state. In fact, many people lost their lives in horrendous ways throughout the battles during the Reformation era. However, these were not physical battles, men attacking each other on the field of war. No, these were battles of ideas and beliefs. For the Reformers, the weapon of choice was not a sword or a bow, but books, chief of which was the Bible, but secondly, the writings produced and distributed throughout the land.

The Reformation leaders wrote many books and pamphlets in order to show their positions were founded not on their own opinions, but on the Bible. However, they needed a way to make clear the most foundational tenets they espoused. How did they do this? Through the use of the battle cry.

The battle cry of the Reformation is found in five short Latin phrases that succinctly proclaim the protest of the Protestants: Sola Scriptura, Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, and Soli Deo Gloria. Each of the Five Solas highlights a Biblical truth that had been eaten up by the traditions of the Roman Church. Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura) means the Bible alone is the sole authority for the church, doctrine, and life. Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) proclaims we are saved by God from sin and death because of God’s grace, not because we have merited any goodness of our own. Faith Alone (Sola Fide) states we appropriate God’s salvific grace only through faith in Jesus Christ. There are no outward religious ceremonies that can merit or manipulate God’s grace. Christ Alone (Solus Christus) means the reason God can be just in forgiving sinners is because Christ was the perfect and complete sacrifice for sin. We cannot add anything to the perfectly sufficient work of Christ on the cross. Finally, To the Glory of God Alone (Soli Deo Gloria) means that because salvation is 100% a work of God that God alone receives the glory.

Together these phrases make up the battle cry of the Reformation. In hearing them now we are reinvigorated by the amazing grace of God. In studying them, we come to understand how thankful we should be for those who gave their lives for this truth. In shouting them as our battle cry, we are reminded that so many people are still under the yoke of religious tradition today, and that our mission as followers of Christ is not over. We must continue to preach and proclaim these truths to the world! Soli Deo Gloria!

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ

500 Years and Counting

Summer is ending and Fall is right around the corner. You can almost feel the cool breeze and taste the pumpkin-infused treats. This time of year has become a favorite for my family. We enjoy all of the seasonal events and are looking forward to visiting the pumpkin patch. However, this time of year holds another type of significance for me and other Christians. These next few weeks are moving toward an important and historic day in the history of the church, the day is October 31st. No, I’m not talking about Halloween. I’m talking about Reformation Day; the day in when the Augustinian Monk, Martin Luther, nailed his 95 Thesis to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany kicking off the Protestant Reformation.

In fact, this year marks the 500th anniversary of that momentous occasion and therefore is an opportunity for us to reflect upon the truths that were fought for during those tumultuous times of the 16th century.

“Why?” you may ask. “What was such a big deal about some religious bickering so long ago and why should I care?” I’m glad you asked. For starters, the Protestant Reformation became the impetus for not only religious reform but for political, economic, and social reform. Many scholars today see the Reformation as the signaling of the modern era. The outcomes of the Reformation are wide and varying. For example, the Reformation brought about higher literacy rates among the common people. Education in general became more desired and available to men and women. Economically, Protestant cities grew more with greater amounts of entrepreneurship. And politically, the Reformation was a key factor in the development of the state system. However, these are not the reasons I believe we should remember and celebrate Reformation Day.

The Reformation’s strength is not in its forging 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 some 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?” As we will see, it was questions like this that Luther and others struggled with. It was questions like this that Luther found no satisfying answer to within the traditions of the church. Only when Luther opened his Bible and the Holy Spirit open his eyes did Martin Luther come to understand a concept so powerful that it shook him to his core. What did he learn of? One word: grace.

Join me as we use these weeks leading up to Reformation Day to remember and celebrate the amazing truths of God. Truths that were not created by the Reformers but that they came to understand from God’s written word. So grab yourself a pumpkin spiced latte, open your Bible, and read the Words of truth that have changed so many and that continue to do so today. The Reformation is not over, we continue to reform and conform our lives to the Word of God. So here’s to 500 years and counting.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ

“All Things (NOT) Being Equal”

“It’s all the same in the end… Just be a good person, help others, and we’ll all have one big party when we get to heaven. I mean, do you really believe in a god that would send people to hell for believing in a wrong religion?” Ever hear this type of sentiment? Perhaps you’ve even said it yourself. In fact, even I used to think this at one point in my life. However, upon closer examination does this logic hold up? Can we say all belief systems are created equal and lead to truth?

Perhaps a historical anecdote will help. George Washington was a brave, strong man. It seemed nothing could kill him. As a boy, fighting small pox and later as a soldier, Washington always seemed to come out unscathed. That is, until he met his deadliest foe… his doctors. On December 13th 1799 Washington woke up with a severe sore throat that became increasingly worse throughout the day. When he began having trouble breathing and speaking the doctors were called. They agreed the best treatment would be bloodletting, a common practice of the time involving bleeding a patient of “diseased” blood so that the body would produce fresh blood. Blood was drained from Washington pint after pint. When this didn’t seem to work, the doctors gave him laxatives to drain his bowels and vomit-inducing drugs to drain his stomach. At the same time the doctors were draining the life out of Washington. On the morning of December 14th, George Washington breathed his last.

What happened? Washington was surrounded by 3 doctors! The problem was that the medical procedure they used was not based on fact. The very procedure used to save his life was actually what ended it. Do all medical practices lead to health? No!

In the same way, it is a lie to say that all religious systems or spiritual ideas lead to God. The popular culture espouses such thinking in order to be kind, loving, and “tolerant” to all people. I understand the desire to be kind, but is encouraging belief in a false god really loving? If someone stepped on a rusty nail while believing that a lucky rabbit’s foot would keep them from getting tetanus would you encourage them to keep believing in that rabbit’s foot? Would that be a loving thing to do? No, it would be foolish, especially since we have reliable treatments for tetanus. The loving thing to do would be to tell the person the truth; no matter how sincere their belief in the rabbit’s foot is, they are wrong and should go to the hospital for a tetanus shot.

Similarly, it is not loving to encourage false beliefs about God. As followers of Jesus Christ we must be bold at pointing out error and pointing to truth as it has been revealed by God. Many people believe things with great zeal and sincerity. However, this alone does not make it true. The doctors who attended to President Washington were sincere in their care for him. In sharing truth and correcting error, it is not the goal of the Christian to win the argument or make the other person look stupid, the goal is that people would come to the knowledge of God and be saved. That is why we are called to “speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15) The acquiring of truth is a means to knowing God. (John 17:3)

Are you ready and willing to accept bloodletting as a legitimate medical practice today? I don’t think so. So why should you be willing to accept any old idea about the truth of God? Not all religions are created equal and many may claim to be the way to eternal life but in the end, lead to eternal death. In reality the only way is through Jesus Christ. (John 14:6) Is that a statement from a mean and arrogant person, or words of love and concern? You tell me.

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ

The Faith of Demons

It has been a little over a year since my family and I moved to Globe so that I could follow God’s calling to be the pastor of Maranatha Baptist Church. Since then, one of the great privileges for me has been to write for the local paper. As I sit down every week to write, I always take a moment to consider who my audience may be. Perhaps those who take time to read these brief articles are fellow believers of Christ who attend other Bible-believing churches. Some may be non-believers who merely stumble upon the articles and give them a once-over out of curiosity. However, I have a feeling that some readers may be people who have the faith of demons.

Now, I could keep it short and end the article here with many people wondering what exactly I mean by “the faith of demons.” (I won’t do that to you today.) So what do I mean? The answer can be found in James 2:19, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

If you were to take some time, walk around town, and ask passers-by if they believe in God what do you think the majority of the responses would be? “Yes, I believe in God.” This can be substantiated by numerous polls that have been taken over the years. In fact, according to a 2015 Gallop Poll, 75% of Americans identify as Christian. However, another poll from the Hartford Institute of Religious Research states that only about 20% actually attend church regularly. That’s nearly 200 million people who claim to believe in God, even claim to be Christians, and yet never step foot in a church building. Am I missing something here?

If someone were to claim to be a big football fan but you could see no proof what would you assume? “Yeah, I’m a really big football fan! -No, I don’t have a favorite team. No, I don’t watch any of the games. I honestly can’t even say I know all the rules of the game…” Hmm… Doesn’t sound much like a real football lover, does it? And you wouldn’t believe this person even if they stated that they were a fan. So why then do we accept any persons fickle confession of Christian faith when they have nothing to support their words?

You see, it’s one thing to believe in God, to believe that He is the Creator and giver of life. In fact, the Bible says that it is utter foolishness to not believe that. Still, the Bible makes it clear that even demons recognize the existence of God. However, if this even needs to be said, demons are not going to heaven. The faith that demons have in God doesn’t save them it causes them to shudder because they know that their end is near. They know that they shall spend eternity in the “lake of fire and sulfur.” (Revelation 20:10) So why would we assume a different outcome for someone who has the same faith of demons?

My point is not to be cruel or anything of the like, my point is to help us see things clearly. There is a big difference between saving faith and the faith of demons. Which do you possess? Do you have faith in God? Does that faith cause you to shudder at your sin and to turn to Christ for forgiveness? Or does that faith simply have you check off the “Christian” box on the hospital form. Does your faith in God give you a deep desire to be with other believes in worship on a weekly basis (Hebrews 10:25), or simply to show up on Christmas Eve and Easter?

Do you see what I’m getting at? I can’t judge your heart, only you and God can. But at the same time, I would implore to do just that. Test yourself, try to take a look at your life and your actions. Do they reflect the life and actions of one who has surrendered body and soul to Jesus? Or does your life reflect one whose faith is like that of demons?

By Pastor Nick Jones
Maranatha Baptist Church
1320 E. Saguaro Dr. Globe, AZ