“Being His Witness”

He was dead. They knew He was dead. Yet, now He was standing right in front of them, giving a command. “Go therefore and make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19) Jesus’ followers must have been overcome at this experience. In fact, Matthew writes that as they were worshipping the risen Christ some still doubted, even as He stood before them. After 3 years of training, and now experiencing the resurrection of Christ, still some had a hard time believing. Why? We don’t exactly know, but I think it has to do with fallen human nature. We are prone to disbelieve, wandering from the truth of God. However, we must listen to what Jesus says and how He says it in order to be who we are called to be: disciple makers.

All followers of Christ must heed and act upon the command Christ gives in Matthew 28. The task of evangelism is not solely the job of the pastor or overseas missionary, but for all who know the gift of saving faith in Christ. We are to be so overwhelmed by what God has done for us that we must tell others. As it has often been said, we are merely beggars showing other beggars where to find bread. To do this effectively, we must be authentic, vocal witnesses in our everyday lives.

Being “authentic” means we have been truly born-again by the Spirit of God. You cannot share what you do not have. Testing our own hearts to see whether or not we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) is vital for anyone as they begin the pursuit of evangelism. It is only from this place of assurance in Christ that we can effectively and passionately “proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9)

Being an “authentic” witness also means we sincerely care about those to whom we are witnessing. The gospel is not a hammer we use to crush others who have different beliefs. Rather, we speak the gospel boldly because we have a sincere desire to see them come to a saving faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul cries out, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20) as he thinks about the many people in Corinth living their lives apart from God. Likewise, believers today must be intentional vocal witness because we desperately wish to see as many people as possible come to understand the depths of their sin and the riches of grace that God mercifully bestows upon those who come to Christ in repentance and faith.

We cannot think we are actually being witnesses if we are not opening our mouths. Yes, we can be good examples by our daily attitudes and actions. And yes, this is a way to glorify God. (1 Peter 2:12) However, in order for people to truly know why we are changed by Christ, we must speak. In fact, the Apostle Paul makes this very clear. “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14) The gospel is the good news of what Christ accomplished for His people upon the cross of Calvary and like every message it must be spoken. Therefore, to be an effective witness of Christ we must vocally speak the gospel to those who need salvation.

Thirdly, our witness needs to come in our everyday lives. For some reason, we’ve decided in the modern church that we must go to other countries on missions trips in order to be vocal witnesses. The reality is that God calls each of us to be witnesses wherever He has placed us. When Jesus calls Peter and Andrew, He says, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:20) Professor Ren Broekhuizen points out that before Jesus calls them, Matthew states that Peter and Andrew are fishermen. Why is this important? Because Jesus is calling them to serve Him right where they are. He is not saying they must be something they are not, but to be vocal witnesses as fisherman. Similarly, when Jesus calls us, He calls us right where we are. If you are a teacher, business owner, or police officer, you are called to be a witness in your sphere of influence.

Finally, as we boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, we must remember Jesus’ promises. As Jesus gives the Great Commission, He assures us, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20) Jesus does not leave us alone as we try to witness. He comforts us and empowers us to be effective and fruitful in our endeavors. God speaking through the prophet Isaiah says, “My word that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11) Our job is only to be faithful and obedient witnesses. God is the One who saves, not us. Therefore, when God’s gospel goes forth, we can rest in His sovereign hand to save.

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18) Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords. When He speaks we must listen. When Jesus commands us to “go”, we must “go”. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) He has called us, empowers us, and remains with us. The question is, “will we obey?” Will you be His witness?

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

“All You Need Is Love…Right?”

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone. Was it a success? Has love conquered all? Were the Beatles right when they sang out, “All you need is love”? Or can we recognize that the pie-in-the-sky type of love we desire is still a dream? I’m not saying we cannot enjoy loving our spouses, family, and friends. But the all-encompassing love that covers every area of life, the happily-ever-after kind, remains unfulfilled.

Why? If we all want love and peace, why is it that we can never achieve it? Why is it that people are constantly abusing one another, constantly hating one another, constantly killing one another? Even as I write, I’m having a difficult time focusing because all over the news and on social media, I’m flooded with stories and information from the latest school shooting in Florida, a shooting that has taken the lives of 17 people. A school shooting that took place on Valentine’s Day, a day where we celebrate love.

I think the problem is that we are completely ignorant about what true love is. In fact, as a society, we are disconnected from the very source of love. The Apostle John writes, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Only a few verses prior, he writes, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God.” (1 John 4:7) Finally, it is in verse 8 that we hear the most familiar of these words “God is love.” You see, if we are not in touch with the One who created love and is Himself love, then we cannot think we will ever truly know what real love is apart from Him.

However, because we are sinful people living in a sin-stained world, we try to find love anywhere but from God. In fact, we take those familiar words “God is love” and we switch them around, “Love is god”. Then naturally, the progression continues: desire is god, lust is god, sex is god, pleasure is god, self is god, anger is god, hatred is god, until we all live our lives thinking we desire love, when in reality we desire to fulfill our individual, sinful cravings.

Last October, the news hit about Harvey Weinstein and all of his sexual abuses. This was followed by an avalanche of actors, directors, producers, and more who have been living their lives in the public eye very differently than they were in private. This news seemed to shock so many. I was not shocked in the least bit. I’ve come to understand that we can profess to believe something or be someone with our mouths, but our hearts reveal who we truly are. Is it any surprise that the same group of people who were praising and honoring Hugh Hefner (who died only a few days before the Weinstein allegations surfaced) as an “icon”, “legendary”, “revolutionary”, and “one of the nicest people I have ever known”, would be closet sexual predators? Where exactly is the disconnect where we think we can indulge in the type of deviant sexual behavior promoted by publications such as Playboy, and yet we can have “true love” and happiness at the same time. I don’t think we understand how our minds and ideas are immensely altered by such material.

The truth is, as a society we often say we want things, but we are not willing to attain them appropriately. We want loving, committed marriages that last a lifetime, but we “can’t control our sexual impulses” so we sleep around with multiple partners, not because we love them, but because it feels good at the time. The same goes with our youth. We can’t expect them to practice abstinence before marriage, right? So let’s provide them with all of the condoms and plan B pills they could ever need. What we don’t realize is that we are destroying the emotional mechanisms that are connected with sex, emotions God intended to create a special bond between husband and wife. We distort sexuality into merely physical pleasure and we end up paying the price for it. Do you see what I mean? “All you need is love.” But what “love” are you talking about?

At the end of the day, the answer is love. But not the type of love we see out in the world. We need the love of God. The type of love that sent Jesus into this world to die for sexually and emotionally lost people such as us. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) You’ve probably read that verse at least once in your life, but can you say that you truly believe it? If you want to understand true love, if you desire to have the type of love that is not perverted by this world, the love that we truly do need, then turn from false love and turn to Christ. When you come to Jesus in repentance and faith, then you can say the Beatles were right all along, “All you need is love.” And that love is found in Christ alone.

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

“The Mystery of Marriage”

It was a beautiful Saturday morning in June almost 10 years ago that I woke up as an unmarried man for the last time. Growing up in the valley, I usually spent the summer complaining about the weather, but honestly, I can’t tell you if it was hot that day. If it was I didn’t notice. What I can tell you about are the little moments from that day that are burned into my memory in such a way that I will never forget them. Waiting alone for the ceremony to begin, I stand there straightening my white bow tie nearly 100 times. Standing at the front of the church as my bride finally appears at the end of the aisle. As she walks toward me, my eyes do not leave hers for even a second. Finally the ceremony ends, we kiss, head back down the aisle, and stand together in a small room, alone for the first time as husband and wife, both of us overcome with a feeling we had never experienced. This truly was a day we would never forget.

If you are married or have been married, it is likely my memories will resonate with you. How can that be? This was a special day for just Laura and me. Yes, but in reality, our wedding was no different than anyone else’s. But there is something special about marriage we all recognize, especially on our own wedding day, that perhaps we forget about later on in life. We recognize that marriage is a big deal, something sacred, something that deserves honor and commitment. What we may not realize as we stand at the altar is that marriage is bigger than we could ever imagine.

In his letter to Ephesians, the Apostle Paul says that marriage is a profound mystery. (Ephesians 5:32) In the New Testament, the word “mystery” does not mean that something is a secret or that it is not known. Rather, a mystery is something once veiled (not understood) that has now been brought to light through Christ. Marriage is a mystery in that it is an institution that has been practiced since the beginning of mankind, and yet the true meaning behind marriage was not fully understood until Jesus entered into the picture. Paul quotes from Genesis 2 saying, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The union of husband and wife is revealed to be a divine picture of Christ and His church. (Ephesians 5:32)

What exactly does this mean? It means that a man and women coming together in a loving, committed relationship is a picture for the world of Christ’s love and commitment for His church — His bride. A marriage can be tough at time and each spouse must be willing to make sacrifices and love one another unconditionally. Similarly, Jesus loves His bride to the extent that He gave His very life for her. Jesus sacrifices Himself for his bride, cleansing her, and preparing her for the ultimate consummation of His love: the wedding feast. “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready.” (Revelation 19:7) This is what we long for as the Bride of Christ, we long to be with our Savior and to sit at His table in eternal glory. Feasting and enjoying the presence of God. “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” (Revelation 19:9)

How then should we view marriage and love in light of this revealed mystery? We should honor marriage and see it as a holy institution of God. We must not allow the fickle ideas of the world enter in, telling us we can simply move from marriage to marriage because we aren’t “in love” anymore. We must not think we can receive the benefits of marriage without the commitment. It has sadly become the norm to “try it on before you buy it” and people are giving themselves away sexually (sometimes to multiple partners) without the slightest feeling of remorse, because “that’s just what you do now.” We’ve denigrated these wonderful gifts of God into common filth. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Hebrews 13:4)

The problem is that in some instances we have recognized marriage as good and holy and at other times we are seemingly forgetful. This Valentine’s Day, I encourage to consider love and marriage in light of God’s word. You’ve experienced the feelings of love, you’ve recognized the big deal that marriage is, now see how love and marriage have always been God’s way of pointing you to something even bigger. Love and marriage are a visual, a marker to give us a greater understanding of what it meant for Christ to die on the cross for His bride, the church. I believe when we understand these truths, our earthly marriages will be more joyous than ever before because we see that our love is only the beginning, only a picture of the ultimate fulfillment of love that awaits those who are in Christ. This mystery is indeed profound and we wait for its fulfillment with eager expectation.

P.S. Laura, my bride, I love you! Happy Valentine’s Day!

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

“Are We Lost In Love?”

If there was room, the headline of this article would read, “Love, Sex, Romance, and Other Things Sin Has Corrupted.” Why? Well, here we are once again in the month of February, the month we usually set aside for reflecting on love and being in love; however, amid all of the media turmoil and news of sexual abuse scandals, I wonder if Valentine’s Day will be approached differently by the “talking heads” and “who’s who” of pop culture.

Valentine’s Day was always something I enjoyed as a kid. Getting a box of cards to give out to each of my classmates with little heart candies tied to them was a fun and memorable time. I even put a little more effort into finding just the right card to give to that special girl I was too nervous to talk to. This was serious matter. “Be My Valentine” or maybe that is too direct? Perhaps, “I’m Yours”: subtle enough and yet still makes the point. Like I said, serious matters.

In all earnestness, how does our culture approach this day? I ask this question because for the most part we tend to get our ideas of love, relationships, romance, and even sex from movies, television, and music. We are formed by media more than we realize. So when “love” is modeled for us in a thrilling love story on the silver screen, that is what we come to expect in our personal lives. If it works that way for those characters, why not me? And now, we throw in the mess that is so prominent in the news of more and more celebrities being accused of sexual assault in one form or another. The very people we put so much stock in as we watch them live out fantastical lives in the movies and television, these people who seemingly have all the money and success that most of us will never achieve, these are the mighty ones who are dropping like flies from the grace of public opinion. Are we lost without them? How can we navigate the world of love without our “guides”?

Over the next few weeks I want to discuss the idea of love, how the world sees love and how love is portrayed and taught in the Bible. This is an important matter, not only because it deals with real people and real emotions, but also because the way we view love and relationship is passed on to our children, grandchildren, and so on. What do we want for them? Consider, what we are teaching young boys about relationships and how to treat women? What are we teaching them about sex and its proper place? Or how about young women? How are we preparing them to go off into this world where it is reported that 1 in 4 girls will be sexual abused before they turn 18 years old? As a father of two young girls this is a very frightening thought! Yet this is the world we live in, and we must prepare our children for it.

I think one of the huge issues we have is not only have we muddied our thoughts on love from the cinema, but also many people have not seen love rightly displayed in their own home lives. The sad reality for me growing up is that it was a rare occurrence for a friend to have both of his biological parents living at home in a loving and healthy relationship. Perhaps, even sadder is the fact that none of us questioned it. This was our reality, this was what we had come to learn and expect as the norm. We don’t live in the world of “Leave it to Beaver”; if your relationship isn’t working or if you “fall” out of love, then move on and try again… at least that’s what we had come to understand. So is it any surprise that the same mentality continues, that we look at love and marriage as disposable things that can be done away with the moment we are no longer interested? Don’t get me wrong, there are instances of abuse where a woman should leave her husband for her safety and the safety of her children. However, what I am pointing out is the utter disdain that our culture has adopted towards lifelong, committed marriages.

How should we view love and relationships? Jesus says this, “‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6) In a nutshell, marriage is one man and one woman together for life. God has given love, romance, marriage, and yes, even sex, to mankind as good gifts that we should honor and cherish. Let us, therefore, look at love in light of who God is and what He says. Then I think we will see love’s true beauty and purpose and we will not get lost in the corrupted “love” of this fallen world.

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