The Death of Death in the Death of Christ

In his book, “The Death of Death in the Death of Christ” (1684) John Owen wrote to combat a false doctrine of his day; namely, the un-biblical teaching of universalism. This book has much to say even to our modern context. However, I would like focus upon the very title of the work. Why should we discuss the death of Christ?

The death of Jesus Christ was no ordinary event. In fact, the death of Christ is the singularly most significant event in history. Why should we care about the public execution of a poor, small town carpenter? It’s because that carpenter was none other than God in the flesh sent to earth to redeem a people for Himself through a voluntary, sacrificial death. If this bold assertion is true, then His death has monumental implications in our response to it and to how we then live our lives.

Eternal Purpose Through Death
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus mentions His mission here on earth, stating the He came “not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45) Statements such as these make it clear that Jesus was not merely some religious guru unwittingly killed by outsiders. His very purpose was to die. When we celebrate the incarnation of Christ (God becoming flesh) during the Christmas season, one truth often pointed out is that this baby born in a manger is born in order that He may die. In fact, this was the very purpose of God, that evil men would put Christ to death. Acts 2:23 states, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” God brings about His purposes and plans even through the evil intentions of the hearts of wicked men. Therefore, we see the greatest tragedy in human history, the death of Christ, is also the greatest joy for those who trust in Him.

Joy Through Death
Why is the death of Christ a joy for Christians? It is through His death that we are made right with God and brought into a relationship with Him. Through the death of Christ we can have true, transcendent joy and peace. Through the death of Christ, reality and life make sense. You see, from a biblical Christian perspective, the death and resurrection of Jesus is not simply something we celebrate at Easter every year; it is the very heart and soul of who we are and we hope in.

Throughout history, many have tried to diminish the extent and power of Christ’s atoning death. Some people teach that Christ’s atonement merely “wiped the slate” of the man born into sin, but after that, it is up to man to live a life worthy of God. However, the worth and value of the atonement of Christ is far beyond anything we can ever imagine. When Christ shed His blood upon the cross of Calvary, he paid for the sins of his people: past, present, and future. Because of the unconditional nature of the election of God, and the fact that Christ’s sacrifice for his people is undeserved, and not earned, we can also have comfort in the fact that the salvific effects of the atonement can never be lost in the life of the believer.

Life Through Death
The perseverance of the saints is a foundational truth within the Christian faith, and not only because it comforts the soul of man, but because it is wrapped up so tightly within the sufficiency of Christ’s sacrificial death. “The law has but a shadow of the good things to come.” (Hebrews 10:1) Within the nation of Israel, Jews would continually offer sacrifices in order to make themselves right with God. But even as soon as the sacrifice was offered, they would leave the temple and fall into sin. Although this sacrifice was commanded by God, it was not fully sufficient to cover their sin for all time. Repeated sacrifices were necessary. As Hebrews explains, the “shadow” of the sacrifices can never make perfect those who offer them. In the same way, we can be certain that no modern person can be made right with God by “being good enough”; we always fall back into our sin.

However, Christ is the substance of what the shadow of sacrifice is pointing toward. Because He offered His body, sacrificing Himself, we can be sure we are sanctified through Him, once for all, when we trust in Him. “When Christ had offered for all time, a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12) These verses clearly show the role of Christ as our priest, relating back to the idea of the priests in the temple. There were no chairs in the Temple; these men did not sit down until their work was complete. When Christ, as our priest, sits down beside the Father, we see the completion and finality of His sacrifice. His work is done and accepted as sufficient by God the Father. The act of God raising Jesus from the dead proves that God accepted the sacrifice of Christ.

Death to Death
What does the death of Christ have to do with me? Everything. It is the instrument through which God brings broken, sinful people to Himself. Apart from the death of Christ, we are utterly lost and hopeless. However, when someone turns from their sins and turns to Jesus, he or she can bold proclaim, “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:54-55) It is then when we truly see the death of death in the death of Christ.

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

“Theology Matters”

“Religious truth is whatever makes you feel better… Whatever your personal beliefs are is just fine as long as you keep them to yourself… That is just your ‘interpretation’…” Phrases like these abound throughout conversations with friends and family all over the world. Many try to dismiss the attempt to make any truth claim when it comes to spiritual matters. So the question is, “Why does it matter to know truths about God?” Is one wasting one’s time to even begin such a journey of discovery? Why study theology?

Truth Matters
The first answer to all of these objections has to be that truth matters. We live in a time and culture where most people believe that truth is relative; that is, that truth is whatever you want it to be. However, from a biblical worldview this is not a tenable position. Followers of Christ must hold that truth is objective because we have an objective standard, the Bible. Therefore, we believe that truth can be known because of God’s self-revelation, and that we should desire and strive to know that truth as much as humanly possible.

Definitions Matter
Secondly, if human beings are in the state of sin which the Bible tells us that we are, and that we can do nothing to rectify this problem by ourselves, then we need to know what God has done for us. Only the true God can save you from your sins. Many people claim to know God and even say that Jesus is their savior. The question is, “which Jesus are you talking about?” The Apostle Paul states, “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed… you put up with it readily enough.” (1 Corinthians 11:4) Paul is concerned when people say that they believe in Jesus but the one they believe in is not the true Jesus.

Imagine I come to you proclaiming myself to be the President of the United States. What would you say to me? Perhaps I even told you that my name was Donald Trump. Would you accept me as the President? I don’t think so. You would recognize that even if I use that title and name of the President, we are different people; our characteristics makes that clear. In the same way, merely using the words “God”, “Jesus”, etc. don’t in and of themselves mean anything. We must discover through the details and characteristics who we are talking about. Is Jesus the Son of God or simply a traveling moralistic teacher? Is Jesus God in the flesh or a created being? Fundamental questions must be considered as to which Jesus we are talking about, because only one Jesus can save you, the Jesus of the Bible.

True Hope Matters
Finally, only the Triune God of the Bible can bring you peace and comfort in this broken world. People everywhere are daily dealing with and struggling through a multitude of issues. People killing one another, children being abused and abandoned, and relationships torn apart are all frequent occurrences in a world that is living out the consequences of sin. Through all the stress and strain we long for peace. We long to bring peace and comfort to our friends and family members who are going through these troubles.

Why is it important to know truths about God? Because knowing the true God brings peace. Jesus tells His followers, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) You see, Jesus brings a peace to the hearts of His people that the world can never bring. He brings a comfort that is alien to us, a comfort that gives us the ability to move forward in life no matter the circumstances we find ourselves in. A false Jesus cannot do this– a false ideology cannot do this,–only God can.

Theology Matters
We should be on a life-long pursuit to know God as He truly is, as He has revealed Himself. I want to leave you with a quote from “Dug Down Deep” by Joshua Harris.

“I’ve come to learn that theology matters. And it matters not because we want a good grade on a test but because what we know about God shapes the way we think and live… Theology matters, because if we get it wrong, then our whole life will be wrong. I know the idea of ‘studying’ God often rubs people the wrong way. It sounds cold and theoretical, as if God were a frog carcass to dissect in a lab… But studying God doesn’t have to be like that. You can study Him the way you study a sunset that leaves you speechless. You can study Him the way a man studies the wife he passionately loves. Does anyone fault him for noting her every like and dislike? Is it clinical for him to desire to know the thoughts and longings of her heart? Or to want to hear her speak?

Knowledge doesn’t have to be dry and lifeless. And when you think about it, exactly what is our alternative? Ignorance? Falsehood? We’re either building our lives on the reality of what God is truly like and what He’s about, or we’re basing our lives on our own imaginations and misconceptions. We’re all theologians. The question is whether what we know about God is true.”

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

Stop Saying OMG!

Stubbing your toe must be one of the worst pains in the world. Well, I guess that’s not exactly true, but we sure act like it sometimes. We’ve all done it, you stub your toe on the bed and the words that come out of your mouth wouldn’t be permitted on HBO! (A little hyperbole, but the point is made.) Perhaps you’ve even been surprised with some of the profanity you’ve spoken. However, I bet if you yelled out, “Oh my God! That hurt!” or “Jesus Christ! I’m in pain!” you wouldn’t even bat an eye. In fact, most people wouldn’t. But what if I were to tell you that I’d prefer you use one of those common four letter words instead of God or Jesus? Why? Because this is a bigger deal than you may think.

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” I’m sure we’ve all heard this before. This is the 3rd of the 10 Commandments that Moses receives from God in Exodus chapter 20. However, you may not be aware of the words that follow this statement. “For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” (Exodus 20:7) Meaning, God takes this very seriously.

You see, we look at the 10 Commandments and think, “Don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, yeah, those are the big ones.” We go on to assume that lying, coveting, or using God’s name as a curse word is really not that bad. “Hey, we all do it, right?” Yet, God says He will punish those who misuse His name. We usually save punishment for serious crimes. Yes, God sees this as a very serious crime.

God blesses us daily. He gives us life and breath and all the good things in this world. (James 1:17) How do we thank Him? We use His name as way to express disgust and annoyance. We treat the holy name of God as common, filthy language. How would you respond if people started using your mother’s name to express disgust or hatred? You would be offended and want it to stop. So why do we persist in using God’s name in this way?

Why do we do this? Why is our response, “OMG!” or “Jesus Christ”? The answer may surprise you. We disrespect and treat as worthless that which we hate the most. Do you realize that no other person in history is hated as much as Jesus Christ that they would use his name as a curse word? No one stubs their toe and yells out, “Adolf Hitler, that hurt!” We profess to hate Hitler and the atrocities that he committed, yet, interestingly so, not enough to trample his name through the mud.

You may say, “But I don’t hate God.” The truth is, we are all born into this world as God-haters. (Romans 1:30 cf. Psalm 51:5) We rebel against God because we desire to worship ourselves instead of Him. Our language is merely a glimpse into our hearts. Do you profess to love God and yet continue to use this type of language? Maybe this would be an opportunity to ask yourself some hard questions. “Do I really love and trust Jesus for my salvation, or have I been playing a religious game?” It’s not a bad thing to ask these types of questions; in fact, the Bible encourages we do so. (2 Corinthians 13:5, cf. 2 Peter 1:10)

I get it, sometimes things just “slip out” and we can’t help it. Or can we? Do our words really reveal part of our hearts? Listen to words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” When His disciples are perplexed about this teaching Jesus responds, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (Matthew 15:11, 18-19) You see, the mouth reveals the heart, the place where our sin grows until we act upon it. If our mouths are constantly using God’s name in vain, we should be aware that this points to a heart problem.

Next time you feel you need a word to express disgust, surprise, or annoyance, please, try to be a little more creative. I know, stubbing that toe hurts and you need to say something, but don’t use your Creator’s name, use your own name. Maybe that would change the way you think about it.

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

Learning How To Disagree

Opinions. We all got them. We all think ours are correct, and want others to agree. In fact, I think I could explain it better in a poem.

Opinions, opinions, everywhere.
You have an opinion, but I don’t care.
I’m much too smart to listen to you.
Before you speak, this conversation is through.
I know that you’re wrong right from the start.
I don’t want to hear it, not even one part.
Don’t waste your breath or my precious time,
because the only opinion that I’ll hear is mine.

I’m no Longfellow, but hopefully you get the idea. We have reached a staggering level of dismissiveness when it comes to discussions between people with different perspectives. No longer can we sit down, listen to an idea, weigh the logic of their argument, and then offer a rebuttal based on it. No, we plug our ears, and when it is our turn, we simply go off on our own personal diatribe of opinions, never once interacting with the other’s argument.

This form of “dialogue” is exacerbated on social media. For some reason, likely the perceived anonymity, people feel brave sitting behind a keyboard. They no longer have the restraints of polite society, nor, it sometimes seems, the expectations of logical thought. What passes for discussion, political, religious, or otherwise, is often nothing more than an utter display of thoughtless buffoonery. (I say that with love.) However, I have not given up on social media as a place where ideas can be discussed, debated, and even disagreed upon with civility. Today, I offer a few helpful tips on how to disagree well.

1) Listen Well
This may seem obvious, but we must listen to the people with whom we disagree before giving a response. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Proverbs 18:13) Too often people talk past one another because they refuse to listen to the other position. A good discussion can only be had when opposing sides listen to one other, trying to grasp the point of the argument.

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19) Again, constructive conversation can be had between people with opposing ideas, but we must be prepared to listen and think before we respond, refraining from fits of anger that only cloud our judgment.

2) Argue Well
Once you listen to the opposing view, now you are ready to offer your rebuttal. How? By ignoring everything the person presented and responding, “You’re stupid. Educate yourself, you kool-aid drinker”? No, this never progresses the discussion in any meaningful fashion. Yet, this type of “witty” response seems to predominate on social media. This is NOT good argumentation.

Rather, we should take two basic steps: 1) Engage with the content of the individual’s position, and 2) Offer your opinion with supporting evidence. Sounds simple but this is rarely achieved online.

We need to be able to truly understand the other person’s position so that we know why we disagree. In fact, to truly give a good argument, you should be able to state the opposing position in such a way that the other side can say, “Yes, that is what I believe.” Instead, people generally give a vague, inaccurate picture of the opposing view and then argue against that. This is called the strawman fallacy and is a dishonest way to argue. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:16)

Instead, know the opposing view well by listening well, and then interact with the actual argument. For instance, you could say, “You stated here (fill in the blank), and I recognize that by this you mean (fill in the blank). However, I disagree with your assumption here (fill in the blank).” This is the beginning of a constructive conversation with someone you disagree with.

3) Grow Well
However, simply expressing your disagreement is not enough. In order for both parties to grow in their understanding of one another, you must now offer your opinion on the topic, supporting your views with evidence. This means, instead of only saying what you believe, let the other person know why you believe in that way. Do you have facts that support your thinking? Can you quote others who have articulated your position in the past? This was the practice of the Apostle Paul as he traveled from town to town. “Paul went in, as was his custom… reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” (Acts 17:2)

Building a case for your position with corroborating information allows your ideas to be understood more clearly and helps the other person know why you believe as you do. This not only leads to better thinking, but also better rapport with those who remain contrary to your ideas. Yes, they may still disagree, but are more likely to remain friendly in future conversations.

So please, next time you are perusing your social media site of choice, or even having a face-to-face conversation, and notice something you disagree with, do not say, “You’re wrong, you big dummy.” Don’t allow the instantaneousness of clicking “reply” move you past the stage of thinking. We can disagree on things. That is the great blessing of living in this country. Free thought is not only allowed, but is greatly encouraged. Yet, free thought still requires “thought.” Let us disagree, but let us disagree well.

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