“What Do You Know?”

We’re all guilty of it: asking questions without really expecting an answer. We politely ask “How are you doing?”, slowly moving by and expecting a cordial “Just fine.” A speaker standing in front of an audience begins by asking how everyone is feeling. “Good!” The chorus rings out in unison. Yes, these are simply culturally-accepted forms of greeting and we don’t need to make that big a deal out them. However, it is helpful to note that perhaps the questions “How are you and how do you feel?” point to something a little more primal in our shared human experience, namely, the need to be “okay”. Yet, we live in such a broken world where even creation itself groans and longs to be “okay”. (Romans 8:22) How can we expect any different? The answer is not in how we feel, but in what we know.

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows Me.’” (Jeremiah 9:23-24) The pinnacle of the human experience is found in knowing and understanding God. The benefits of knowing God are infinitely more than we could possibly imagine; however, I will highlight three wonderful benefits that come along with knowing and understanding the God of the universe.

Benefit #1: Knowing God Brings Understanding
Solomon was the wisest man (apart from Christ) who ever walked this earth. As he writes his Proverbs to pass down his wisdom, Solomon highlights the fact that true knowledge only comes through the “fear of the LORD.” (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10) This type of language may seem strange to our modern ears, but these words are foundational for knowing God. Fearing God must entail a worshipful reverence towards God and willful submission to His will. It is only when we recognize who God is and who we are that we can truly see this world as it is meant to be seen. Wisdom and understanding, first and foremost, is thinking God’s thoughts after Him. God is the all-knowing Creator and if we desire understanding, we must first come to understand Him. For hundreds of years, the study of theology was commonly known as the “Queen of the Sciences”, for to understand theology (that is, the study of God) is the starting point in our understanding of all the natural sciences.

Benefit #2: Knowing God Brings Peace During Trials
Those who know God can and will be “okay” even in the midst of the darkest times because their circumstances and feelings do not dictate their lives. Instead, those who know and understand God will see that God is working, even in our hardest times, to bring about His glorious will. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) This does not mean we will always understand what God is doing, but we can trust that He is in control and that He knows better than we do. This is why the Apostle Paul can endure through so much suffering and pain, and yet he holds fast to the mission that God has placed before him. “But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

Benefit #3: Knowing God Brings Eternal Life
Finally, and most importantly, knowing God through Christ is the only way to eternal life. “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) I think it goes without saying that the first two benefits are contingent on this last one. In fact, we don’t desire to know God only because we are seeking the benefits in and of themselves. No, knowing God is the end game. Knowing God is the purpose of life. Even our understanding of eternal life needs to be tweaked. We generally think of the concept of “eternal life” in terms of quantity of life, when in fact we should understand it to be speaking of the quality of life. Eternal life is good and to be desired not because eternity is a long time but because it is eternity spent in the presence of God. Never-ending life without God is not heaven, it is hell.

Sometimes I have good days where everything seems to be going my way. Other days are not so good. Sometimes I’m happy and sometimes I’m sad. I get angry and frustrated with people and situations. I laugh at my children as they play. I get upset with my children when they fight. How do I feel? That changes from moment to moment. Instead, ask me what I know. I know God. I know that my sins have been forgiven because my Lord Jesus fully paid for them upon the cross. I know that Jesus will come again, and I know I will be will Him for all eternity. Day to day I may struggle, but my hope is not in having good feelings. No, my hope is in the knowledge that God has revealed to me through His holy, inspired, written word, the Bible. What do you know?

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

“Change Now! Or Else…”

I enjoy doing some people-watching from time to time. More than once, as I’m sitting in a public place, needing to focus on work, I’m distracted by watching how people interact with others. Mostly, they are simply going about their everyday business; however, I’ve witnessed some interesting encounters. For instance, I can recall two separate times when total strangers begin polite small talk and then as the conversation moves to a new conflicting topic, these people are now ready to pounce on each other WWE style. Can you guess the topic? Politics.

You see, we usually expect good manners and polished conversation skills when interacting with strangers; however, when we start “politicking”, the gloves can come off and we feel justified in spitting out venom. “He shouldn’t be so stupid anyway! He deserves to be yelled at!” Right in the middle of the public library or the grocery store, two people with different views and opinions go at it.

So what’s the problem here? Even though this seems to be the model given to us on news channels, nevertheless, anger and yelling is merely a symptom of the true problem. Namely, we want things to change for the better, but we cannot agree on how to make that happen. So we offer an ultimatum, “You change now! Or else…”

This is NOT a political article. I am NOT endorsing any person or party. Rather, I would like to challenge of few of the presuppositions of individuals on either side of the divide when dealing with these touchy conversations.

1. Presupposition #1: You Must Conform To Me
One of our big problems in this world is that we think that we are so smart. When you are speaking to someone with whom you disagree, what is your end goal? Do you want them to simply adopt your ideas? Are you the standard of truth?

The reality is, Biblically-speaking, all human beings are found lacking (to put it lightly). No, an individual is not the standard of truth and we shouldn’t act like we are. Especially, if you profess to be a follower of Christ, you should be pointing people away from yourself and to Him. Political ideologies are not be the standard by which we should call people to conform themselves, rather to be conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29)

2. Presupposition #2: Change Is Won Through Argument
If we take the example above of the two strangers arguing, the question is, “Do either of them really think this argument is going to change the other person?” You tell me, has anyone yelling at you ever made you think, “Hmm… they sure do make some fine points.”? Most likely not. True change only comes when there is first a change of heart and again, Biblically speaking, that only comes through the grace of God.

Many times throughout history we have seen examples of people being forced to affirm an ideology or they would suffer the consequences. What is the outcome? They may get in line for a time but they will not be truly changed. So yell, scream, make wonderfully logical arguments, but unless a heart is softened by God to receive truth you are engaged in a futile task. (John 12:39-40)

3. Presupposition #3: Better Politics Will Save Us
Sadly, some professing Christians really believe this. I don’t think many would outright say so, but the impression is given that “political wins” are equal to “Gospel wins.” Therefore, what should we be looking for in politics? A political messiah of course! One who will rid us of all those whom we politically disagree with and will usher in a “golden government”!

This is exactly what Jesus spoke against when He entered into this world. “Perceiving then that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.” (John 6:15) Why does Jesus leave these people who want to make Him king? They missed the point. Jesus pointed the people to spiritual needs and realities but instead they wanted fulfillment now. Jesus says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.” (John 6:27) Our country and government are not eternal and will one day perish. Do you recognize this? Politics is an unruly god to worship and will let you down. True salvation is only found in Christ.

Finally, I want you to understand I am not saying we shouldn’t have political conversations. I’m saying that we must keep our conversations in perspective. Speak and listen to those with whom you disagree. In fact, try listening more than you speak (James 1:19) and perhaps you can learn from one another. We all want to see progress for the better, but remember that true progress only comes through the grace of God working through His people. So perhaps, you can start the process by being gracious and kind in your next political conversation.

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

“How Will You Respond?”

My wife and I love watching detective shows. Whether it’s Monk, The Closer, or Sherlock, we enjoy watching the mystery unfold before our eyes and the way the characters come to understand the “how” and “why” behind each case. There’s always the moment the detective confronts a suspect. The exchanges vary from show to show but the detective often looks for a suspect’s reaction when given information: when told about a death, do they respond with surprise, sadness, or does it not seem to bother them? The suspect’s response could be an indicator of truth, and could mean life or death for this person. Likewise, only a few weeks ago we celebrated Easter Sunday, the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Most people know the facts of the event, so the big question is “How do they respond?”

You see, even at the very moment of the resurrection of Jesus, people had various responses to what happened. As we take a look at 3 primary responses we see in Matthew’s account of these events, we also see these are the 3 primary responses people have in our own modern time. Whatever you response may be, I leave you with one important caution; think this through. If Jesus really did rise again from the grave, then how you respond has eternal consequences.

Response #1: Excuse
When the guards watching over the tomb of Jesus came to after passing out because of an angelic encounter, they were told to lie about what happened to Jesus’ body. “Tell people, His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.” (Matthew 28:13) Why? At least two reasons: 1) This was going to make the religious leaders look bad. And 2) Because we know that dead men do NOT come back to life. Right? So there must be another explanation. This seems to be a popular position nowadays. Some think, “supernatural things are impossible, therefore Jesus could not have truly come back to life.” It doesn’t matter that He proved it by meeting with His disciples (John 20:19), eating with them (John 21:12), having them physically touch Him (John 20:27). It doesn’t matter that Jesus appeared to a group of over 500 people after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:6), dead men do not come back to life. But what if they can? What if that presupposition is lacking in the face of the proof that is standing right in front of you. There Jesus stands, speaking with His followers. (Matthew 28:18)

Response #2: Doubt
A passage in the Bible that has always baffled me is Matthew 28:17, “And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted.” Some did what?! They knew Jesus died, they knew they put Him in a tomb. Now Jesus is standing right in front of them and some of them are doubting? Yep, that’s how are sinful nature works, I guess. I think this is a major response people have when it comes to the resurrection of Christ, that of doubt.

Most people have heard the story of Jesus, perhaps even used to attend some sort of a church. They wouldn’t say they don’t believe in God or even deny that Jesus rose from the grave. However, the reality is that these people simply doubt that Jesus has any significance in their life. “Yeah, sure, Jesus is why we celebrate Easter. I just can’t be bothered with all that ‘religious stuff.’” What these people fail to recognize is that Jesus rising from the dead is a game changer! Life and the way we see the world has to be drastically altered when we come to understand the resurrection. This means that everything Jesus taught is true. This means His sacrifice for the sins of His people was sufficient and final. Finally, it means that if you ignore the claims of Christ, you will be held accountable.

Response #3: Worship
“When they saw [the risen Jesus] they worshiped Him.” (Matthew 28:17) The ultimate response (and Biblically correct response) is not to simply believe the facts about the resurrection of Jesus, but to worship the Jesus who was resurrected. Falling down at the feet of Jesus in worship means believing who He is and what He came to earth to do, listening and doing what He says, and centering your whole life around Him. Easter Sunday is not just an excuse to wear a fancy pastel outfit and strut into church; it is celebrating and worshiping King Jesus who died for our sins and rose again from the grave. This changes things.

I’ll be the first to admit that if the resurrection of Jesus did not happen, then am wasting my whole life. The Apostle Paul says that if the resurrection is false that I and all who follow Christ should be pitied. “If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 19) However, if Christ has been raised from the dead, then your response is infinitely important. You will either bow your knee in worship to Jesus now, or you will do it with fear and trembling at His judgment seat. (Romans 14:10, Philippians 2:10) This is not a scare tactic, this is a loving warning and reminder that our responses have consequences. So the question remains, “How will you respond?”

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

“Gospel Conversations”

Over the last few weeks we’ve discussed the task of evangelism, why followers of Christ should participate, tools God has given us, and how to deal with problems that might keep us from doing it. However, the big question is, “What does a gospel conversation actually look like?” Today we will take a look at an example dialogue.

A great model for this task comes from Jesus in John 4. Jesus speaks with a woman of Samaria. The basic structure he uses is 1) Begin a conversation about ordinary things (Jesus asks the woman for a drink of water). 2) Move the conversation to spiritual matters (Jesus tells the woman about ‘living water’). 3) Use the law to reveal sin (Jesus asks the woman to call her husband, bringing to light her sin) 4) Share the good news that Jesus paid the price for sinners (Jesus reveals that He is the long-awaited Messiah).

The following dialogue is fictional; however it is based on many conversations I have personally had over the years. The dialogue is not intended to be a script to memorize; rather, to show what a conversation about spiritual matters looks like. “Chris” is the Christian and “Norm” is his unbelieving friend. They’ve just finished watching a movie.

Chris: What did you think of the film?
Norm: It was alright. I don’t buy the ending. Why do filmmakers always feel like they have to have a happy ending?
Chris: Doesn’t everyone like “they all lived happily ever after?”
Norm: Yeah, I guess so, but it just isn’t very realistic.
Chris: I think that’s kind of the point. We already deal with so much garbage in the world that sometimes people just want to escape.
Norm: If only it was true though, right? If only we could live “happily ever after…”
Chris: We can.
Norm: What do you mean?
Chris: Well, take this movie for instance. The couple ends up happy, right?
Norm: Yeah, so?
Chris: What happens when one of them gets cancer and dies? They’re happy now, but the fact still remains that terrible things happen in this world and eventually everyone dies.
Norm: So… how can you live “happily ever after?” You’re going to die someday.
Chris: Because I know that death is not the end of the story.
Norm: Okay, so we all go to heaven when we die. Yay! I’m looking forward to floating on a cloud.
Chris: Yeah, cartoons have really given us a bad picture of heaven and eternity.
Norm: What, no sitting on clouds?
Chris: Let’s just say, it’s much better than sitting on clouds. But more importantly, no, not everyone goes to heaven.
Norm: What do you mean?
Chris: Well, God has a standard and if we don’t meet His standard then we don’t make it to heaven. Think of taking your car to emissions. If you don’t meet the standards, you don’t pass.
Norm: Okay, so what are God’s standards?
Chris: Would you consider yourself a good person, Norm?
Norm: Sure, I’m not that bad. I give to charity and I’ve never cheated on my taxes.
Chris: Okay, let’s use God’s standard to test if that’s true or not. Would you like to?
Norm: Sure, what do I got to lose?
Chris: Norm, the Bible says “you shall not bear false witness.” Have you ever told a lie?
Norm: Sure, who hasn’t?
Chris: What do you call someone who tells lies?
Norm: A liar.
Chris: The Bible says “you shall not steal.” Have you ever stolen anything?
Norm: When I was younger.
Chris: Which would make you…
Norm: A thief, I guess.
Chris: The Bible says “you shall not commit adultery.”
Norm: Ah, I got this one! I’ve never cheated on Sally.
Chris: Good, glad to hear it. However, Jesus says that if you even look at a woman with lust, you’ve already committed adultery in your heart. Have you ever done that?
Norm: I guess you got me.
Chris: So Norm, according to your own admission, you are a lying, thieving, adulterer at heart. And that’s only 3 of the 10 commandments. So if God’s has to pass judgment on you according to this standard, would you be innocent or guilty?
Norm: I suppose I would be guilty.
Chris: So what would be the sentence, Heaven or Hell?
Norm: Hell.
Chris: Does that concern you?
Norm: I guess I never thought about it before.
Chris: You see, Norm, God created us, He provides for us daily, and yet we sin against Him constantly. But God provided a way for us to be forgiven. Do you know what He did for us?
Norm: No, what?
Chris: God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ, He lived a perfect life, and died a sacrificial death. When we believe in Jesus and what He did for us on the cross we can be certain that our sins are forgiven. Think about it this way, it’s like you owe a huge fine in court, there is no way you could ever pay, so you’re going to jail. Just as the judge is about to sentence you, someone comes into the courthouse and pays the fine for you. That’s what Jesus was doing on the cross. We broke God’s law, so we should have been the ones to pay for it forever in Hell. However, Jesus loves His people so much that He suffered in their place so that they wouldn’t have to, He took our punishment.
Norm: That’s… amazing. What should I do?
Chris: I’m glad you asked, Norm. Repent of your sin– that means turn away from it–and turn to Christ alone. Trust and believe that when Jesus was on that cross He was dying for you. It’s done with a simple prayer. Call out to God, Norm, ask Him to save you. He will never let you down. That’s the only way we can truly have a “happily ever after.”

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