“A True Church Submits To The Bible”

“Experts say…scholars agree…” Have you heard these phrases before? Many times, as a news show discusses a difficult topic, in order to bring closure to the issue, they often bring in an “expert” to give the final word on the matter. After the “expert” speaks, the conversation is over. (At least to some.) What do you trust to be the final word on any given issue? For true churches, that authority is found in the Bible alone.

Over the last few weeks I’ve tried to answer the question, what makes a true church? (as opposed to a counterfeit church). We first discussed that a true church has the true gospel message. Last week, I said that a true church follows the true Jesus. Finally, we will look at the premise that a true church submits to the Bible.

Please notice that a true church “submits” to the Bible, not simple “believes” in the Bible. Why is that an important distinction? There are many who claim to believe in the Bible, who claim to care about what the Bible says; however, upon closer examination their actions and life speak contrary to their profession. The Bible is often treated as a fortune cookie where an individual randomly opens to a page, reads one verse out of context, and then imagines they’ve received some special guidance. This reminds me of an old joke where a man, seeking direction, randomly opens up his Bible, places his finger on a verse: “He went and hanged himself.” (Matthew 27:5) Thinking that that couldn’t be right, he did it again, “You go, and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37) Distraught, he tried one more time, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” (John 13:27) Obviously, this is NOT the way we should treat the Bible.

Submitting to the Bible means that whatever the Bible says, we are to believe and be changed by it. Our ideas, beliefs, and traditions all need to be molded by God’s Word. Even firmly held beliefs that have been taught for years and years need to be reexamined in light of God’s revealed word. Why? Truth matters! I don’t want to base my life on a lie or my own misconceptions. If I believe that the words in the Bible are the very words of God, then I must be in submission to them. I must constantly reassess myself and my ideas by what God has said. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Do you believe this? Does your church believe this? The Bible is the only book on earth that is written by God, literally “breathed out” by Him and given to us so that we may be complete. I am very confused by people who say they believe this about the Bible, but do not spend time reading it or desire to have it shape their daily lives.

Again, having the Bible, reading the Bible, or even saying you believe in the Bible is not enough. Unfortunately, there are many “churches” who do each of these things but they don’t actually submit to it. How can I say such a thing? They admit it themselves. Claiming the Bible is merely a product of mankind, many spend most of their time explaining away the truths of the Bible until everything becomes relative and the Bible no longer has any meaning. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible is not the simplest book, and it does take some explanation and study, but on the whole, the Bible is clear on the most foundational issues. This is what we call the perspicuity of Scripture. Perspicuity is just a fancy word meaning that the Bible is clear. You don’t have to go to Bible college or have a degree in linguistics to understand the basic message and teaching. The Bible is written to the common, everyday people, and when read, it can be understood.

I recognize that churches have understood minor topics differently throughout history and even today; however, when it comes to the non-negotiable aspects of the Faith, that which separates true Biblical Christianity from counterfeit christianity, true churches find agreement. Counterfeit churches don’t like what the Bible clearly teaches, so they do “theological gymnastics” in order to undermine its teaching. In fact, counterfeit churches love to undermine the trustworthiness of the Bible because this makes the people dependent on false teachers and their organization. “You can’t possibly understand the Bible without us telling you what it means.” This tragically rips the Bible out of the hands of the everyday people.

A true church submits everything it does, believes, and teaches to the Bible. The Bible is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice. The Bible is the final word on every issue, and when rightly understood, we should be conformed to its words. The Bible alone is the “expert” that comes in to end the controversy. So I encourage you once again, if you do not belong to a Bible-believing church, please join one today.

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

“A True Church Follows The True Jesus”

Who you are following? In modern times we “follow” a lot of different people. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allows common people to “follow” celebrities, politicians, and other “famous” people. We are connected to these individuals in a new way. However, do we really know anymore about them from their internet presence? Most likely, no. These platforms simply become another way for people to sell themselves, their philosophies, and ideas.

In a more serious example, take the life of Jim Jones (no relation), a cult leader of the 60’s and 70’s. Jones put himself forward as a religious leader who was simply teaching the Bible. In actuality, Jones brainwashed a large group of people who followed him to a commune in Guyana and eventually convinced his followers to commit mass suicide. Do you know who you are following?

This is such an important question, one we should ask in the church. Yes, that means we should examine pastors and other church leaders. It matters what they believe, what they teach, and how they live. Most importantly, we should ask the question: which Jesus do I follow? (That might seem a strange sentence, but humor me.)

In his first letter, Apostle Peter encourages and guides local church pastors, assuring them, “When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” (1 Peter 5:4) Peter makes it clear that church leaders are only “under shepherds”; Christ Himself is the chief Shepherd, the Senior Pastor. Therefore, all true churches first and foremost must follow Jesus. He must be the true Pastor of the church. I love how the 23rd Psalm, in Spanish, makes it clear. “El Señor es mi Pastor.”

Do you know which Jesus you follow, or what Jesus is the chief shepherd of your church? The answer to this will help you ascertain whether or not a church is a true church or a counterfeit church. The Apostle Paul writes to the church in Corinth deeply troubled by the issues going on there; namely, some of the people are starting to follow a different “Jesus”. They no longer believe in the true Jesus of the Bible, the One who is God in the flesh, who lived without sin, who died a sacrificial death, and who rose again from the grave. They believe in a “Jesus” of their own imagination. Paul writes, “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed… you put up with it readily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11:4) It is to the shame of these Corinthians who have turned from the true Jesus to a false, man-made Jesus. Paul calls them to repentance.

Even today, we can find many different “Jesuses” in the world. How can we tell if we are looking at the real Jesus or a false “Jesus”? By looking to the Bible. The Bible tells us who Jesus is, what He came to do, and what our response to Him should be.

Jesus is God in the flesh. (John 1:1, 14) Jesus clearly recognized He is God (Mark 2:5) and proclaimed Himself to be God (John 8:58). Jesus is not a created being or some sort of lesser god or angel. Jesus is not merely the son of God in an earthly fashion. In fact, Jesus uses the term Son of God as an affirmation of His divine nature; those who opposed Him understood that. (John 10:32, 36) Jesus is also not simply a moral teacher, a guide to point people to truth. Jesus emphatically states that He Himself is truth. (John 14:6) Therefore, to make Jesus less than God is to be following a false Jesus.

Jesus entered into His own creation with a very specific purpose. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10) “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.’” (Mark 1:38) “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” (1 Timothy 1:15) The Bible is clear that Christ came to bring salvation to lost, sinful people. Christ came to usher in the Kingdom of God, to make right what sin had broken at the Fall. To make the mission of Jesus less than that is to create a Jesus of your own imagination.

Finally, if we follow the true Jesus of the Bible, we must listen to Him. Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) When we come to Christ in faith and repentance we are transformed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit. “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) Sins that I once found joy and pleasure in, I now hate and despise for the sake of Christ. I don’t think I can be righteous in my own strength, but I know the Spirit now empowers me to live a life that glorifies God. Too many “churches” follow cultural trends of the world and have given up caring about sin. In fact, many “churches” now celebrate and encourage the very sins that Jesus died for. Be assured that these counterfeit churches follow a false Jesus.

I recognize my words may seem harsh. Please understand the only reason I write this is because truth is so important. You have the right to believe whatever you want. At the same time, I want people to have as much information as possible in order for them to consider whether or not their beliefs align with the Bible. Mark Twain once said, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” I would encourage you to consider the Jesus you follow. Do you follow the true Jesus of the Bible or do you follow a false Jesus? A true church follows the true Jesus.

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

“A True Church Has A True Gospel Message”

In that last few articles I have invited you to join a local, Bible-believing church if you have not already. The question may be raised, “What do you mean by a ‘Bible-believing church?’ Don’t all churches believe in the Bible?” In fact, while we’re on the topic, the question could be raised, “Aren’t all churches basically the same?” I’m glad you asked (or are willing to go along with me for a while). The quick answer is no. No, not every church truly believes in the Bible and not every entity that calls itself a church is actually a church as defined by the Bible. Intrigued? Then please, keep reading.

For starters, I am not making the exclusive claim to truth here. I would never say that anyone who doesn’t believe exactly like me is not a true Christian. What I am saying is that we have been given, by God, a standard, objective truth by which to judge what is true and what is false. That standard is the Bible. Therefore, what I am proposing is that Christians should join a local church that, according to the Bible, is a true church and not a counterfeit church. In order to do this we must look at what the Bible says a true church of Jesus Christ should be. Keep in mind, there are areas on which true, Bible-believing Christians have disagreed from time to time. However, there are a number of non-negotiables that true churches all hold to because of the clear teaching of the Bible. We want to focus on a few of these essential, non-negotiable characteristics that make up a true church.

Last week I mentioned that the church is first and foremost NOT an organization; rather the church is the assembly of redeemed sinners. With this in mind, the first essential, non-negotiable characteristic is that a church must be centered on the true gospel message. This might seem obvious, right? However, this has become more and more lost in many “churches” throughout the world. Many churches have abandoned the gospel message in order to move to a life-enhancement message. No longer are people called to come to Christ for eternal life but instead to “have their best life now!” The gospel message becomes deteriorated into messages on gaining wealth and prestige, “3 ways to enhance your marriage”, or “7 ways to be a better you.” Many of these so called “churches” are more like a self-help clinic. No mention of sin, no mention of judgement, no mention of grace; instead you get a half an hour talk on personality growth mixed in with corny jokes. This is not why Jesus came to earth to die!

Or perhaps, the message is one of social justice. This is when the pulpit is used not to call sinners to repentance and faith in Christ, but to call people to be better helpers in the world. Don’t get me wrong, followers of Christ should be the best helpers in the world as we follow Christ’s command to “love our neighbor as yourself.” However we must remember that helping with physical needs is never enough. We can clothe, feed, and house a person but if they remain in their sins without hearing and trusting what Jesus has done for them upon the cross, we have done them no good. Eternal needs are infinitely more important than physical ones. The gospel is NOT simply about social justice.

Let’s take a moment to look at what the gospel is about. 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 that we have eternal life. This is the gospel. A true church teaches that our only hope is what Jesus has accomplished for us. Many counterfeit churches teach that we must do something to earn salvation from God. True churches teach that Christ did it all and that salvation is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8-9) If you belong to a church that doesn’t teach this, you may belong to a counterfeit church.

This is only one of the non-negotiable, essential characteristics of a true church. (More to follow…) The point is, if you believe in truth and that truth matters, then you should desire to be with a true church. A church that worships and praises God because of what He has done for you in Christ. This is not a sales pitch in order to get people to come to my church. (I am always happy to recommend other churches that preach the true gospel message.) This is a call for truth. The gospel is the most important message in the world and true churches preach this message.

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

“The Church That Christ Built”

“I’m a spiritual person, but I just don’t believe in ‘organized religion.’” Have you ever heard someone say this? So… they believe in disorganized religion? What is that? People bumping into each other and no one knowing what’s going on? Or how about the sentiment, “I like Jesus I just don’t like the church.” That’s like telling a man who is a dedicated, loving husband, “I like you I just don’t like your wife.” How do you think he would respond?

These ideas are fairly common but they are a bigger deal than you probably realize. If the church is what the Bible says it is, then to claim any religious or spiritual standing with God and yet to despise His church, is a great error.

Pastor and author Mark Dever, summarizing the Bible’s teaching on the church, puts it this way: “The church should be regarded as important to Christians because of its importance to Christ. Christ founded the church (Matthew 16:18), purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28), and intimately identifies Himself with it (Acts 9:4). The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), the dwelling place of His Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), and the chief instrument for glorifying God in the world (Ephesians 3:10). Finally, the church is God’s instrument for bringing both the gospel to the nations and a great host of redeemed humanity to Himself (Luke 24:46-48).” In other words, the church is a big deal because it is a big deal to God!

The church is not the idea of any man or organization; rather, the church has its origins in the mind of Christ. Jesus says, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus not only is the founder of the church, but He is also the sustainer of the church. Some have claimed that the true church had left the world after the death of the apostles, but nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus not only said that He would build His church but that He would keep it. Jesus continues speaking to Peter and the other apostles, saying “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it [the church].” (Matthew 16:18)

Why would Jesus continue to protect and keep His church? Jesus paid for the church with His precious blood upon the cross (Acts 20:28); therefore, He intimately identifies with His church – His people. When Saul is ravaging against the early Christians in the book of Acts, Jesus steps in, knocks Saul down, speaking out “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” As the followers of Christ are being persecuted Jesus is right there with them. He does not leave His people; He has and always will care for His church.

Finally, we must recognize that according to the Bible, the true church of Jesus Christ is not a building or an organization. No, the church is a supernatural entity made up of all those who have been born again by the Spirit of God. The church is the people who have been purchased by the blood of Christ. The church is to be found wherever and whenever true followers of Christ are gathered. Whether that is in a home, a coffee shop, a school, or a church building, the church is the assembly of the redeemed. As the Spirit of God dwelled in the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem, now the Spirit dwells in the people of God because we are the temple. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) That is why we no longer need a physical temple building in order to be near to God and serve Him. The people whom God has called out of darkness are the supernatural dwelling place of God. We are the church, we are the temple, we are what God by His grace has called us to be.

Being part of the church, therefore, is an awesome calling and a blessed privilege. It is a joyful thing to gather week in and week out together with others who have tasted of the grace of God. To be with those whom God is using to forward His kingdom. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ but you do not belong to a Bible-believing, Christ-centered church, I would encourage you to do so. Do not forsake gathering together with the people of God (Hebrews 10:25) but find joy in being part of the church Christ has built and is building daily through the salvation of His saints.

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

“Getting Serious About God”

“3, 2, 1… Happy New Year!” Yes, more than likely many of you spent Sunday night preparing yourself for the ever important New Year’s countdown. You’ve counted down, watched the ball drop, and celebrated the beginning of 2018 with a bang. The question is, “Now what?” Perhaps you have big plans for this new year, new horizons in life you are heading toward. Or maybe you want to keep it simple, a resolution or two to focus on. Whatever may be on your mind, I would like to encourage you to consider this year as the year you begin taking God seriously.

It has been my experience that most people say they “believe” in God, but nothing in their life reflects that belief. They have no desire to read God’s word, pray to God, or to worship God with His people. God is treated with mere apathy; they just don’t care. Is that you? Maybe you know someone like that.

Would you call yourself a Christian but you don’t really care about the things of God? Reflect upon yourself and be honest. For example, if I told you I loved a certain person but I didn’t ever spend time with them, never talked to them or listened to them, would you believe that I actually loved them? Of course not. Why then do you think we can say we love God or have a relationship with Him and yet we never do those basic things which are involved in every relationship?

If you can see yourself in the above description, consider it a grace from God. To be able to truly see ourselves and our failings in light of God is always a good thing. Ask yourself this: “Have I truly been born again by the Spirit of God?” Becoming a Christian is first and foremost a work of God in the heart of a sinner. Yes, we do respond to God in repentance and faith. And yes, we should take steps of obedience in following God. However, doing a religious act alone will not save you. If you raised your hand at a revival meeting and walked down an aisle, that doesn’t save you. If you were baptized, that doesn’t save you. If you took catechism or confirmation classes, that doesn’t save you. God is the Savior and if you have not been born again by His power, no religious act will do you any good. So I am not asking if you have participated in any of these acts but if you have been born again.

The natural question is “How can I be born again?” In fact, it is the very question Nicodemus asked Jesus. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’” (John 3:3-4) What Nicodemus failed to recognize was that Jesus was not speaking of a natural birth but of a spiritual birth. We are spiritually dead and we need new spiritual life (birth) in order to be in relationship with God. (Ephesians 2:4-5) How does this happen? Jesus answers Nicodemus thus: “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Meaning, the new birth is a sovereign act of God. The Spirit alone brings new spiritual life to a person. So what do we do? We trust God.

The Bible says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17) If you can test your own heart and see you have not been born again, then hear what God’s word says to you. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) See your sin and how it separates you from our holy God. See that all sin deserves punishment. “For the wages of sin is death…” Yet, see the hope we can have in Christ. “…but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Do you believe this? Do you believe that Christ paid for your sins with His precious blood? Do you believe that Jesus went to the cross in your stead? Do you believe that Jesus rose from the grave three days later, defeating sin and death? Then the Bible says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

Finally, if you can say you have been born again, I encourage you to cultivate that relationship with God this year. Don’t treat God as a superstition, something you turn to only when you want something. Instead, enjoy having daily fellowship with your Creator and King. Spend time hearing His voice as you read through the words of Holy Scripture, the Bible. Spend time pouring out your heart time Him in frequent, daily prayer. Spend time worshipping Him in a corporate setting with others who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. Finding a Bible-believing church is an important part of being a follower of Christ. (I’d be glad to give you a few recommendations.)

Each new year is a new beginning, an opportunity for change or improvement. As this year is just dawning, move forward in your relationship with God. Take the next step of following Him and serving Him. If you are reading this little article, take this as a sign that it is time to get serious about God.

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