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“The Big Picture of Salvation”

“Don’t miss the forest for the trees.” This familiar idiom helps people grasp the big picture and not get lost in the details. When it comes to salvation, at times Christians have lost sight of the big picture of what God is doing in salvation and have relegated it to simply “asking Jesus into your heart.” While this is a fine way to teach children, God’s redemptive plan is bigger than we can possibly imagine. We can begin truly appreciating what God is doing in the work of salvation by tracing this important topic through the pages of the Old and New Testaments. 

            God’s salvation of humanity began before time itself. God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). That is, God’s plan to redeem fallen sinners is an eternal decree dependent solely on His mercy and grace. Through the unfolding of redemptive history, we see how this eternal decree has worked out in the lives of God’s people.

            To begin, God created a good world, free of sin and corruption. “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good (Genesis 1:31).” The crowning work of creation was man and woman. Created in the image of God, they were called to spread the image of God all over the world (“Be fruitful and multiply”) and to act as the under-rulers of creation (“have dominion”). Yet they gave into the temptation to sin and, consequently, now had a broken relationship with God, bringing punishment and death into the world. However, in the midst of the curses God justly gives as a consequence of sin, there is a glimmer of hope. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).” Theologians regard this verse as the first announcement of the gospel, or the protoevangelion. God promises to redeem sin through one who will destroy the evil one. It is this “seed promise” that must be traced in order to see the unfolding of God’s redemptive work. 

            The failure of mankind to live up to God’s standards is evident by the continuous fall into sin in Genesis 3-11. However, in Genesis 12, God makes a covenant promise to Abraham which ensures fulfillment; namely, that God Himself will be the one who brings about the desired ends. When the other iterations of the creation mandate were given, it was up to mankind to perform (cf. Genesis 1:28, 9:1, 11:4). Yet, in the Abrahamic Covenant, God takes the role of completing the task Himself. “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3).” The unconditional nature of God’s promise to Abraham becomes the hope through which the people of God could ever be assured of salvation (cf. Romans 4).

            The giving of the law is the next question. If God’s covenant with Abraham was unconditional, why did God give the law through Moses? The Apostle Paul explains “It was added because of transgressions (Galatians 3:19).” So as God calls Moses to lead the people out of slavery, He gives them His law so they may 1) come to know, love, and serve the one true God (Ex. 20:3, Deut. 6:5-6), 2) be protected from the nations which surround them, and 3) recognize their utter failure to live up to God’s holiness. (Rom. 3:19)

            The sacrificial system was put in place not merely as a means to cleanse from sin, but to point forward to a perfect sacrifice. It can be said that the law, sacrifices, and rituals were merely shadows prefiguring the reality that was to come (Colossians 2:17). King David says: “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering” (Psalm 51:16). Yes, the law required sacrifices, but David recognizes it has always been the heart that God is trying to get to. 

            Throughout the history of Israel, it becomes clearer that these chosen people will never live up to the holiness of God on their own. Through various rulers and kings, through exile and return, the people remained hopeless in their own strength.

            Yet God had not forgotten the promise made to Abraham. “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). When Christ comes to earth, God’s plan crystallizes (Matthew 1:21). The people needed a seed, or offspring to defeat the work of the serpent. When Jesus is born, the promise is fulfilled (Galatians 3:16).

            Jesus is the faithful Israelite, the promised seed come to destroy the works of the serpent (Revelation 12:9). Therefore all of the unconditional promises of God belong to Him. How can we receive these benefits? By being united with Him in His death and resurrection (Romans 6:5). 

            Christ’s sacrificial death upon the cross atones for the sins of His people and His resurrection assures that sins have been forgiven. When individuals come to Christ in repentance and faith, they can be sure of salvation. We can be certain of the unconditional nature of salvation as promised to Abraham by virtue of our union with Christ (Ephesians 1:9-10).

            At Christ’s return, we look forward to glorified resurrected bodies in which we love and serve Him for all eternity. We look forward to a New Heaven and New Earth where righteousness dwells. We look forward to the final stage of salvation where all of God’s people enter into His presence with great joy, finding all of our rest and peace in Him forever (cf. Rev. 21:3-4).

Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to  

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

“Am I Ready To Die?”

“So I’m dying… faster than everyone else.” These are the words of Claire Wineland in the trailer of a new documentary about her life. Claire is a popular face on YouTube, an online video community, as she has shared her story of growing up with cystic fibrosis. Some of her most engaging talks deal with her perspective of living with the imminence of death. Claire explains, “When I was born, I had a life expectancy of 5 years old. And then it moved to 10 years old. And then it moved to 13 years old. And then it moved to 18 years old…” She explains how the eventuality of her death has always been in the back of her mind; yet she must find ways to live in the moment, not allowing the thought of death completely consume her.

Claire Wineland

            This is a topic relevant to us all as death is, in fact, a part of the grand scheme of life. It is the ultimate statistic: 10 out of 10 people will die. So perhaps, the question we must consider is, “Are you ready to die?” Now, this is not intended to be a morbid thought experiment, but rather an important aspect of self-reflection. It is possible that some of you are living your last days. Some readers may know they are in their last days and others may not. In truth, no one really knows how much time they have left. Still, the question remains pertinent: “Are you ready to die?”

            The knowledge of impending death is often romanticized in popular music and films. So when an individual learns he has an incurable disease, he is told to live those last few days with great joy and passion. One country song says, “I went skydiving. I went Rocky Mountain climbing. I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fumanchu…” I’m not saying that is the wrong response, I’m just wondering how realistic it is.

            Wrestling with the reality of death is not new. People of every place and time have spent moments wondering about what happens after we die. Do we just cease to exist? Do we go to some sort of an afterlife? How can one truly know?

            Writing around the year 380 BC, the Greek philosopher Plato constructs an interesting dialogue in his book The Republic on this very topic. The conversation is between his teacher Socrates and an older man named Cephalus. As they speak about aging and wealth, Cephalus moves the discussion to the reality of death and how people think about death as it slowly, but truly approaches.

            “When a man thinks himself to be near death, fears and cares enter into his mind which he never had before; the tales of a world below and the punishment which is exacted there of deeds done here once a laughing matter to him, but now he is tormented with the thought that they may be true.” In other words, what is to come of me when I die?

            One of the most famous lines in all of Shakespeare’s plays comes from Act 3 of Hamlet. In this scene the prince of Denmark cry’s out, “To be, or not to be? That is the question.” Hamlet considers whether life is worth living anymore. Is it “nobler” to go through the pain and suffering of life? Or perhaps death would be a nice escape from hardship. “To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub, for in the sleep of death what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this moral coil… Must give us pause.” Again, what is to come of me when I die?

            I am not trying to belabor the question incessantly. I only intend to make sure that we all take this question seriously before it is too late. You see, while we may personally not know what exactly happens when we die, there is One who does. One of the central claims of historic, biblical Christianity is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. So central to the Christian faith is this truth that the Apostle Paul declares that if Jesus did not truly rise from the dead, then Christians are simply fools wasting their lives (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:14). However, if Christ did truly rise from the grave, then all of His words and teaching are instantly vindicated. He knows what is to come.

            “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” This alone, like death itself, is bad news. 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. That death from this life is not the end. Do you have this hope?

            Sadly, Claire Wineland died September 2018 at the age of 21 due to a stroke after complications with a double lung transplant. Life is truly a precious gift. While Claire lived knowing that death could come at any moment, we often do not. So take some time today and think about this topic. Again, ask yourself, “Am I ready to die?”  

Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to  

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

“When God Doesn’t Hear Your Prayers”

Having a close friend, someone you can talk to about anything, is important. Yet we’ve all been in a situation where those same bonds can become fractured. In these moments it is no longer an easy thing to pick up the phone and connect. Similarly, followers of Christ must recognize that we have a great, merciful God who loves to hear the heart cry of His people but that connection can become fractured at times. What I’m trying to say is, God doesn’t always hear your prayers. Did I get your attention?

            That idea might seem foreign in our day and age. We sometimes have a vision of God being some cosmic grandfather who doesn’t care about our actions but merely “sees the good in us all.” Biblically speaking, nothing could be further from the truth. God cares about who you are and what you do. And sin is such a big deal to God that the only way for Him to appease His holy justice was to send Jesus to be die in the place of His people. Sin is a big deal to God, therefore it needs to be a big deal to us. One way we can come to understand this is through the way the Bible speaks about prayer.

God Only Hears The Prayers of His People
            If I’m out in public with my daughters and I hear one of them call, “Daddy!” I turn immediately and listen. However, if another child calls “Daddy!”, I simply ignore it. Why? My responsibility is for my children. The children of God are those who have come to trust in Christ through faith alone. These are the ones who have been given “the right to become children of God (John 1:12).” These are the ones who hear the voice of their Shepherd and know that they belong to Him (cf. John 10:3).

            Those who do not belong through faith to God’s family remain separated from God because of their sin. The Prophet Isaiah says, “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.” The consequence of this separation is that God does not hear your prayers. Isaiah continues, “and your sins have hidden [God’s] face from you so that he does not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2) So when a non-believer tells me they’re praying for a new job, or for healing, I wonder why they think God will listen. This person continues to ignore God in every aspect of life. The prayer that really needs to come from the mouth of unbelievers, and one that I know God hears, is the prayer of a contrite heart who makes a confession of sin and a desperate need for Christ. “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).”

God Does Not Always Hear Christian Prayers
            “What do you mean God doesn’t always hear the prayers of Christians?” If you are a true follower of Jesus Christ, God doesn’t just save you from your sins (justification) but He desires that you are continually growing and maturing (sanctification). One way God does this is by teaching that our prayer life will be hindered when we indulge in sin. “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened (Psalm 66:18).” Loving my sin more than God is a sure way for me to lose connection with Him.

“When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood (Isaiah 1:15).” Dr. John N. Oswalt comments, “Prayer is not a device that allows sinful persons to continue in sin. Rather, it is a way that a repentant worshiper communicates with a gracious God. Prayer is useless without true repentance.” True followers of Christ will hate having a fractured relationship with their God. Therefore, we must recognize this situation in order to confess and turn back to God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).”

God Does Not Hear Selfish Prayers
            Finally, we must keep in mind the purpose of prayer. Prayer is not the Christian version of making a wish. Prayer is first and foremost communing with the God of the Universe. Prayer is aligning our heart and will with God’s. Therefore, God will not hear our selfish prayers. “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions (James 4:3).” Pastor John Skaggs of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church here in Globe comments on this verse, “God is not a Genie in a bottle to summon when you have a wish. God is holy, holy, holy and will be treated as such by his children.” I don’t care what those false teachers on “Christian” television say, God is not going to hear your petty prayers for fancy cars or bigger houses.

Prayer is an amazing gift from God. Being able to communicate with our Creator is simply mind-blowing. So please, pray and pray often. But remember, if you want God to really hear, approach Him in His way: humbly, with a desire to have His will be done. Having direct contact with the God of the universe is the most important connection you could ever have. This is the relationship that we should desire above all.

 Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to     

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

“Let The People Think!”

I love the theatre. To be clear, I’m not saying that I love a particular room with a stage and seating; no, I love the art of the theatre. I love the stories. I love the power a play can have as an audience is suddenly transported out of their own reality for a moment and placed within the imaginary circumstances provided by the playwright. I love how a well-done production causes audiences to laugh, or cry, or think. For all of these reasons and more, I love the theatre. It saddens me to see the theatre slowly fading from our culture. However, while it lasts, I think the theatre is an important means of illuminating ideas, political or otherwise, in a way that all people can grasp. This has always been a strength of the arts, to act as a mirror of the culture.

            Years ago I had the privilege of directing a production of Seussical, a musical retelling of the beloved stories of Dr. Seuss. Although the play is very colorful and energetic, I wanted my actors to find moments of substance that would ground the characters. One particular moment that we discussed was in the musical number “The Biggest Blame Fool”, wherein the majority of the characters are harassing Horton the Elephant because he believes something which no one else does. His large ears allow him to hear the tiny Whos on the dust speck, while the others cannot. The Sour Kangaroo leads the other characters in singing, “Tellin’ lies, makin’ jokes it’s an elephant hoax! Brother, that’s against the law! Breakin’ the peace, creatin’ a fuss! Somebody’s thinkin’ different than us! Biggest blame fool in the Jungle of Nool!”

            Right there on the page, the line jumped out to us. “Somebody’s thinkin’ different than us!” What does this mean for the characters in the story? They feel empowered to treat Horton however they deem right, whether that is to chase him off, incessantly harass him, or even throw him in jail. Thought crimes are just too much for these silly creatures to handle.

            The crazy thing is, however, while this silly musical is intended to entertain children, it gives a lucid look at an important topic in our own day and age. Namely, the popular culture is becoming more and more aggressive toward those whom they see as committing a “thought crime”. In other words, “Believe like us, or else.”                           

            In last week’s article I gave an historical sketch of Isaac Backus and his role in the fight for the separation of church and state in the 1700’s. Though I didn’t give much commentary throughout the article, one of my primary purposes was to highlight the fact that people of all backgrounds should desire that we retain, as a nation and in culture, the vital right of free speech and free thought. While most people seem to affirm this ideal, sometimes the evidence points in other directions.

            Separation of church and state is the basic concept that the state will not mandate a particular church or religious philosophy to be believed by all at the consequence of judicial punishment. Yet, what about the philosophy, dare I say “faith”, of the secular culture? Should that be mandated by the state? Should individuals be punished if they do not bow the knee to the cultural “religion” of the day? Backus wrote, “How can such a union be expected so long as that dearest of all rights, equal liberty of conscience is not allowed?” So while certain groups and individuals will call for the freedom to express their ideas, in the next breath, they call for others to be punished for expressing contradictory ideas.

            “Wait a second,” someone may interject, “haven’t religious people done the same thing as various points in history?” To that I respond, yes! There have been individuals and groups that have done horrendous things to people with contrary ideas in the name of religion. I am ready and willing to admit that. However, just because people of the past did erroneous things does not mean would should continue the habit. Instead, we must be able to work together to ensure that the freedom of conscience remains intact in our culture.

            So while the secular world view gains more and more traction, the question must be posed about the place for people of faith. Will religious believers be allowed to think their own thoughts or should the state curb their ideas? Will Christians be allowed to be Christians in a Biblical and historic sense or will the powers of the culture bring their wrath upon the church?

            These questions become more and more important as we approach another election cycle in which candidates for the office of the President of the United States come forward to vie for your vote. Albert Mohler comments, “The candidates need to be asked if they, as President, would use executive authority through federal departments to force a secular orthodoxy on religious groups, organizations, and businesses. The candidates need to be asked if they will protect the rights of Christian colleges to educate their students and hire their faculty in accordance with the tenets of faith, without being threatened by the state.” In other words, will Christians be allowed to be Christian?

            Forced belief is bad idea for any world view. We must take a strong stance against any form of government coercion regarding belief. This doesn’t mean that people cannot disagree and shouldn’t passionately proclaim their beliefs. It does mean, however, that we have the right to agree or disagree without fear of government punishment. We must fight for the continued right to think!

 Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to      

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

“Isaac Backus and The Separation of Church and State”

The idea of the separation of church and state has become so common in the minds of contemporary people that it is almost a “given”, an assumption that this principle has always been around. However, a cursory look at history will show that many people had to come forward and fight for this, now treasured, ideal. It was not an atheistic or secular group of people who argued for the separation of church and state, rather, instrumental in its development were early Baptists and Baptist leaders. Baptists were not the only ones who stood for this principles but, as Gilbert Alan Parker explains, “They were among the most vigorous and outspoken champions of the principles governing the separation of church and state.”

            In their advocacy for religious liberty, Baptists took a strong stance against any form of government coercion regarding belief or practice. Scholar Albert W. Wardin writes, “Advocates of this principle maintain that the state would neither control nor subsidize the church, while the church would not seek to control the state.” It is this ideal of freedom that remains a hallmark of Baptist thought. Walter Shurden writes, “Religious freedom means separation of church and state and not accommodation of church and state… Baptists, not only in America, but around the world have been solidly on the side of the separation of church and state.” One of the most indomitable among them being Isaac Backus.

            Backus spent over sixty years of his life and ministry enveloped in the fight for religious freedom. Driven by his desire to allow the Bible alone to be the authority of the church, Backus believed “the union of the two governments [church and state] in the New England colonies must be broken if America is to become a truly Christian land.” Backus believed that the church should be governed by Christ alone and therefore, the church should be free from any governmental regulations. He was fervent in his preaching and writing in which he “articulated a system of religious liberty which was to benefit all denominations.” Freedom to choose and believe according to conscience was a forefront issue for Isaac Backus.

            Born in Connecticut on January 9th, 1724, his life span covered many vital moments in history including the Great Awakening and the American Revolution. Historian Stanley Grenz comments, “[Backus] lived in an age in which ‘liberty’ and ‘freedom’ were popular and often used words but in which full religious freedom had not yet been granted by the ruling civil-ecclesiastical establishment.” However, Backus would initiate an instrumental work that would begin to shake the old order of things and cause many rise up and take a stand for freedom from all forms of tyranny.

            Backus saw this as a gospel issue. While he did believe that Christian truth was vital for any society, he believed that a state church was detrimental to Christianity. Michael Haykin explains Backus’s belief, “A state church cannot be a true church because it forces people to belong against their wills.” Forced belief is contrary to the Bible’s clear teaching. Backus writes, “Religion must at all times be a matter between God and individuals.”

            In 1773, Backus published his most famous pamphlet “An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty” in which he outlines his arguments for equal rights concerning, what Backus referred to as, liberty of conscience. Backus wrote his pamphlet to appeal to the common people, hoping that they would understand and affirm the logical points that he was arguing for.

            Backus begins his pamphlet by clarifying that he is not arguing for an abolishment of government stating, “What a dangerous error, yea, what a root of all evil then must it be, for men to imagine that there is anything in the nature of true government that interferes with true and full liberty!” Rather, Backus claims that submitting to government should not entail an encroachment upon true liberty, especially religious freedom. Scholar Peter Judson Richards points out how Backus was trying to reveal to the individual that liberty has political and spiritual aspects. Richards writes, “The general ignorance of the spiritual underpinnings to liberty caused a slide into mere licentiousness, and a disdain for the God-ordained institution of government.” Again, Backus was not trying to diminish the necessity of government, but to put government in the proper place. Richards continues, “Within this framework, Backus established a fundamental opposition between autonomous individualism and true liberty.”

            Backus then goes on to explain the differences between civil government and ecclesiastical government and how these two spheres must not be conjoined or confounded. History has shown that when these two governments are joined issues arise. Backus writes, “Where they have been confounded together no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued of which the Holy Ghost gave early and plain warnings.”

            Backus closes his pamphlet by appealing to the reason of the reader. He asks them to be consistent in their thinking in order that they may see and understand that what he is asserting is important for every man and woman, regardless of religious affiliation. He puts forth an important question as the nation prepares, in only a few years following the publication of his tract, to declare independence from Britain, “How can such a union be expected so long as that dearest of all rights, equal liberty of conscience is not allowed?” Backus was looking for a true response from the leaders and people of his day. It was his hope that his article would begin a conversation that would bring about the betterment of all involved. In the same way, I hope my brief articles open up conversations that will help our community think and grow as we consider the many important topics that we face today, including liberty of conscience.

 Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to

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

“It’s All The Same, Right?”

Sometimes making a choice can be one of the most difficult tasks for a person. Probably the most thorny of these choices is the always troubling question, “What do you want to eat?” I’m sure we’ve all been down this disastrous road a time or two. What’s the problem? Too many choices and too many individual tastes. I’ve been on road trips where we have circled an area five times only to end up in a restaurant that no one is happy with. However, once our stomachs are full and the argument is over, we realize that food is food, and in the end, it’s all really the same, right?

            Looking into the world of religious organizations and belief systems, one may come to a similar conclusion: “It’s all the same, right? I mean, does it really matter what you believe, what your faith is in so long as you have faith?” This kind of thinking is exacerbated when one considers all of the groups in town who claim the title “Christian”. In fact, I was recently having a conversation with a young man who, as the topic moved to spiritual matters, agreed with me but then interjected, “But I look around and see Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Mormons, and all sorts of other groups — how do I know which one is right?” This is such an important topic.

            To begin, we must start with the assumption this young man made; namely, that although each of the groups would claim, to varying degrees, the title “Christian”, there must be something which differentiates them. There must be something which makes one “right” and another “wrong”. So while we may try to be “PC” affirming that all groups who self-identify as Christian do so rightly, our instincts tell us otherwise.

            To begin with, we must have a standard about what a Christian is from an objective point of view. You see, words are only as good as their definitions. Somehow we’ve come to believe in our modern culture that words can mean whatever we want them to mean. If this truly is the case, then no words have meaning and all conversation and debate will go nowhere. Fortunately, words do have meaning and this is the case for the term Christian. The standard, then, we use in order to define Christianity must be the Bible. For in the Bible we learn of the Christ, from who Christianity comes. Therefore, if one is going to claim Christianity, we should be able to look at the Bible to discern the validity of the claim.

            However, it may be helpful to start with an illustration. We are currently inundated with coverage of the Democratic debates. Now imagine if a presidential hopeful got up on the stage and began to argue against the basic Democratic position on every topic and to argue instead for the Republican platform. How do you think the others would respond? Perhaps at first they would be confused, but eventually someone might be brave enough to say, “Why are you here? You’re not a Democrat!” The person might respond, “Yes, I am! How dare you say that!” However, in what sense could an individual be a Democrat if they do not hold to any of the foundational beliefs of the party? In truth, they couldn’t. You see, self-identification alone does not mean anything. The question is, “What is the content of your beliefs?” The content comes first and then the label follows.

            Similarly, just because a group or denomination claims a Christian label and perhaps even a Christian heritage, one must look at the content of their beliefs in order to discern how “Christian” they truly are. Now, let me be clear, I am not saying that I personally have a corner on the market of truth. There are areas in which true, Bible-believing Christians disagree, and yet both can still be legitimately considered Christian. The Democratic debates show that there are areas in which Democrats disagree on, while they all remain within the broad Democratic spectrum. However, there would come a place when a Democrat moved so far from that spectrum that they can no longer be consider a true Democrat. This is also true of Christianity. Some have moved so far from historic, Biblical Christianity that there is no way to truly consider them Christian (even while they cling to the term).

            What must be part of the content of the beliefs in order for a group to be considered Christian? Briefly stated, 1) One must believe that Jesus is who He said He was throughout the Gospel records. Jesus was not merely some teacher, guru, great example, or prophet. Jesus is God in the flesh (cf. John 1:1, 14). Jesus clearly recognized He is God (cf. Mark 2:5) and proclaimed Himself to be God (cf. John 8:58).

            2) One must believe that the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God and that it can be trusted as such (2 Timothy 3:16, 1 Peter 1:22-25). How can one be a Christian and yet believe the Bible is suspect? If you believe the Bible needs to be updated to fit current trends, that the Bible is missing “many parts which are plain and most precious,” or that the Bible needs to be corrected by science, then I don’t see how you can legitimately consider yourself to be a Christian.     

            3) One must believe that salvation comes by the grace of God alone, through faith in Christ alone. Even a superficially reading of New Testament books such as Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians would make this point very clear. Yet, so many groups want to add rituals, organizational membership, or other types of “works” to the requirements of salvation. This is not Christianity.

            This is in no way intended to be exhaustive or my final treatment on the topic, but it is a starting place. As I talked with this young man, I encouraged him (as I do all of you readers), not to be sidetracked by names on buildings or organizational identifications. Rather, look to the content of their message. If a group is truly part of Christianity, their message and teaching will make it clear.

              Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to 

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


“I Object! That Is Impossible!”

Have you ever been in that awkward situations where someone in a group announces a particular belief as if everyone in the group holds to it? “Everyone knows that (fill in the blank) is good and (fill in the blank) is bad.” The person assumes everyone will nod in agreement, and most seem to. Yet there are times when I watch as everyone nods, and I want to stand up to say, “I object! I don’t agree with what you are saying.” Sometimes I do, but sometimes I let it go because of the situation. No matter what, it can be uncomfortable.

            Over the last few weeks I have tried to engage readers with a number of arguments and ideas in order to create conversation about truly important topics. Everyone has an opinion about everything; however, sometimes we spend our time discussing futile things instead of the most important things. I think perhaps we are afraid to find ourselves in an uncomfortable, argumentative situation. I don’t want us to fear this; instead, I encourage thoughtful reflection and civil dialogue. Just because politicians can’t seem to pull it off doesn’t mean that we, as a community, can’t give it a go.

            One reader wrote of an objection commonly made when one makes a claim that entails the supernatural; namely, that feats beyond the natural world are scientifically impossible. He writes, “I don’t have reason to believe that anyone has ever walked on water, due to my understanding of gravity, water and walking, and to never having seen anyone walk on water.” A fair question.

            I will admit that I agree, walking on water seems completely outlandish and simply impossible! However, I’m not sure that the reasons presented for dismissing the Biblical claim that Jesus did indeed walk on water holds up to further investigation. I would like to provide three primary ideas behind my reasoning.

            There are many things which people have never seen that they believe are true, including facts about historical events and people. Can you prove to me that Julius Caesar existed without using records or ancient writings? How can I be certain that the Revolutionary War really happened and the government didn’t simply fabricate a genesis story of the country in order to drum up patriotism? Obviously, these are silly questions, but I think that is the point. Just because I have not seen something does not alone rule it out as true.

            Secondly, yes, our observations of the physical world do seem to preclude anyone ever walking on water. However, how many times have scientific, inquisitive minds halted particular theories because they seemed to upset previously held notions? My reading through the history of science has shown me that many times new ideas cause others to be thoroughly reassessed. As I was reading through theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking’s book recently, I came across this admission: “Many scientists were unhappy with the universe having a beginning, because it seemed to imply that physics broke down.” In other words, they didn’t like the theory because it messed with their current understanding of the world. Likewise, our knowledge of gravity, walking, and water does not, in itself, mean that the Bible record of Jesus walking on water is impossible. All one could deduce from current knowledge of gravity, walking, and water is that it doesn’t seem possible.

            Finally, I think that people begin in the wrong place when they try to use the miracles recorded in the Bible as an objection to Biblical truth. They are miracles! Of course they are hard to believe and are not part of the natural order of things. Even a cursory reading of the text shows that those who originally witnessed the miracles were amazed and, at times, disbelieving.

            Additionally, one must look at the foundation behind the miracles before considering them. Try to explain an airplane to a person in a jungle, who has never seen one. “I flew through the air in a giant metal tube with wings to get here!” They might respond, “Metal is too heavy to fly in the air! Do you think I’m some sort of fool?” Jumping right to a “flying metal tube” with someone who has no knowledge or foundation of the physics behind air travel would make an airplane seem crazy and unbelievable.

            Similarly, the Bible begins with an all powerful, all knowing, Creator who brings everything into existence by His mere word and will. If then, the self-existent God can create all things, it follows that He can do whatever He wants in and through His creation. Nothing stops Shakespeare from doing whatever he pleases in the worlds he creates — including supernatural events and characters that are not normal in everyday life.

            The God of the Bible is the ultimate author and artist. He is able to act in ways that are beyond the normal constraints of the physical world as we know it, and He has the right to do so! Therefore, while miracles are hard to believe, I can readily accept them because of the God who is bringing them to pass. In fact, anytime a miracle occurs in the Bible, they are done for the purpose of showing that only the true God can do things are beyond the natural world. Examples can be found here: 1 Kings 18:16-45, Isaiah 44:6-11, Mark 2:1-12.

            You see, objecting doesn’t have to be awkward. Nor does responding to objections. I still believe we can have important discussions about highly polarizing subjects in a civil and constructive manner. So please, let us read, think, and grow together in our understanding of the world, of God, and of each other as we consider these various topics. Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to 

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

“Don’t Be Fooled: A Look At The Moral Law”

When I was a teenager the newest trend was to download music on your computer to burn your own compilation CD of your favorite songs. Same idea as a mix tape, only a little newer and little cooler — at least I thought so! I was so excited when my family finally got a computer that had the ability to burn CD’s that I ran to Walgreens on the corner and bought a pack of ten to get started. With the playlist ready to go, I opened the cellophane wrapper only to discover that I didn’t actually purchase blank CD’s, I purchased 10 empty CD cases. What a bummer! My excitement quickly dissipated because only a few moments before at the store my mom said, “Let me see the CD’s to see if they’re the right ones” to which I responded, “Don’t worry about it, I know what I’m doing!” Famous last words.

            Sometimes in life we think we know exactly what is going on, until we realize that we don’t. We can assume that our understanding of reality, of the world around us, is what we imagine it to be, only to be caught off guard. We believe we know that Darth Vader clearly says “Luke, I am your father”, only to learn that the line is really “No, I am your father.” All joking aside, it is vital that we all take time to assess what we think we know, what we have assumed, and what we believe to be logical, in order to make sure that we have not been lead astray.

            Last week I introduced a form of Deism common among people who grew up in a church/religious context. However, as I mentioned in the previous article, I truly believe that Deism (in its many forms and permutations) is the commonly held belief of many people today. True, most would not use the term but personal testimony is a dead giveaway. “Sure, I believe in a creator, call it God if you’d like, but I don’t think he/she/it really cares if you go to church, so long as you are a good person. Isn’t that really what all religions are about in the first place, just being a good person?” It might sound good on the surface, but does it really hold up to scrutiny?

            Why would someone who is not “religious”, in the popular understanding of the term, espouse any belief in a god? A number of reasons would be given including, 1) The order and beauty of nature, 2) An internal sense of something beyond the physical world, and 3) the moral law written on the hearts of all people. While these are all true, they are simply not enough. Like a CD case missing the CD, the Deist perspective is incomplete.

            C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, makes the case that a moral law, the basic understand of right and wrong that all people in all times and places have understood, is a pointer to the truth and existence of God. This is part of the natural revelation that Paul speaks of in Romans 1 that leaves mankind without an excuse in denying God. The Deist, however, does not regard any special revelation from God Himself in any religious text, including the Bible. Therefore, what the Deist can know of God must come from natural or general revelation, (i.e. nature and the moral law). The big question is then, “Is that enough?”

            The moral law is good, right? It is good not to lie, cheat, steal, or kill. These basic ideas are foundational in any civilization. It follows that the moral law giver, God, is also good, right? Yes, God is good; however, this leaves the Deist in an interesting predicament. You see, the law of gravity will always be followed, there is no breaking it. Yet on the contrary, the moral law, although we affirm it is good, is constantly broken by all people, even those who believe it is important. So we have a moral law, a moral law giver, and people who break this moral law.

            Now the question is, “What does the moral law teach us about the moral law giver?” That He is good, yes. But does that mean He is also forgiving, gracious, and kind? No, from a Deistic perspective you cannot substantiate any of that. Lewis remarks, “The moral law does not give us any grounds for thinking that God is ‘good’ in the sense of being indulgent, or soft, or sympathetic. There is nothing indulgent about the moral law. It is hard as nails. It tells you to do the straight thing and does not seem to care how painful, dangerous, or difficult it is to do.”

            The reality is God has revealed His moral law in the hearts of all people (cf. Romans 2:15), but not so we can somehow live up to its standards, because if we are honest with ourselves, we see that we are constantly breaking it even as we go against our own conscience. However, God has not simply revealed His moral law, but He has revealed the way for law breakers to be forgiven. Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, came to earth to live a perfect life, free from any law breaking, and then died a sacrificial death in order to set law breakers free. The reality is, thinking we can be perfectly moral in our own strength is like buying a pack of CD cases believing they are filled with actual CDs. While the example may seem silly, the idea it is intended to point at is anything but. Don’t be fooled. Let the moral law point you to the God who is not only good, but who is abundant in mercy and grace.

Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to            

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

“I Believe In A god That…”

One of my favorite films when I was younger was the classic 80’s flick, The Karate Kid. Filled with iconic scenes and memorable lines, the film garnered a cult following that recently inspired YouTube to produce a spinoff series that catches up with the characters years after the events of the film. Out of all the familiar catchphrases, the one still is recited in pop-culture is the mysterious directive of Karate master, Mr. Miyagi, “Wax on, wax off.” Not understanding why he was told to clean cars and paint fences, (Daniel came here to learn to fight!) he followed the old man’s orders until he could take it no longer. Finally Mr. Miyagi revealed the movements Daniel was repeatedly doing were not simply cleaning motions but were self-defense moves that he could use to protect himself. This changed his outlook and his attitude.

                   “Why are we doing this? What is our end goal?” Knowing the reason why you do something is important; it affects your outlook on life. So let me ask you, why go to church? What is the point? Is it just an optional bonus for some people? The question could be further posed, “What is the point of Christianity as a whole?” Now, obviously your world-view will dictate how you respond.

                   In turns out, perhaps unsurprisingly, many people have a view of Christianity that is not Biblical or historic, especially many teenagers who grew up going to church. Sociologists Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton spent many hours interviewing approximately 3,000 teenagers only to discover that, although most of them self-identified as Christians, the way they expressed their beliefs opposed orthodox Christianity. Smith writes, “To the extent that the teens we interviewed did manage to articulate what they understood and believed religiously, it became clear that most religious teenagers either do not really comprehend what their own religious traditions say they are supposed to believe, or they do understand it and simply do not care to believe it.” In other words, perhaps churches have not been clear about the “point” and goal of it all.

                   In order to classify what these teens were espousing, Smith and Denton were forced to coin a new phrase: Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. The basic ideas are that a god does exist, created the world, and wants everyone to be nice and happy.  However this god doesn’t really need to be a part of your life unless you need help with a problem. And finally, good people go to heaven when they die.

                   Unfortunately, it has been my experience that it is not simply teenagers who believe like this, but the vast majority of people who have even the smallest form of a religious background. Dr. Albert Mohler comments, “Let’s be very clear, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is religion, but it isn’t Christianity. It’s nowhere close to biblical Christianity.” Yet it seems that many people assume the above ideas do accurately reflect Christian belief.

                   While many people will never use a term like Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (or any form of Deism) to describe their world-view, it seems to be that the basic tenets are widely-held by many people. In the past, I have simply regarded people who would espouse these types of beliefs as irreligious or indifferent. Yes, they would say they believe in a god, but they simply can’t be bothered by this god. Yes, they would pray if they were in a bind, but to join a group of like-minded people seems preposterous. Yes, they think that they deserve to go to heaven when they die, but solely to be with lost loved ones in a type of paradise not to be with God. According to this mindset, life is primarily about one’s self-fulfillment and happiness while on this earth. It all sounds good, right? So what’s the problem?

                   My question to anyone who holds these types of beliefs is first and foremost, “According to what?” Meaning, where do you get these ideas? I clearly remember a moment speaking with a person about the kind of god she believed in, to which I responded, “Where are you getting this information from? Aren’t you just making this up?” She thought for a moment and admitted, “I guess you’re right.” However, she didn’t seem to be troubled by this self-realization. An entire world-view created in one’s imagination, with no foundation and yet, she doesn’t care… I don’t understand this type of thinking.

                   We must examine our motives. Are we doing something over and over, like Daniel in the Karate Kid, simply because someone told us to do so? Do we know our motive, our end goal? One must remember that growing up in a Christian church and having Christian family members does not make one a Christian ipso facto. And what we believe does ultimately matter. Yes, knowledge of God is only truly achieved through His sovereign hand. Knowing God is what Christian salvation is all about (cf. John 17:3). However, Christians must strive to be evermore clear about the truth of God and the gospel of Christ as revealed in the Bible. We must not allow tradition or culture to get in the way of what is truly Biblical. We must not be like Mr. Miyagi and hide our motives and purposes; instead we must make sure we are understood as we forthrightly proclaim truth to our children, to our community, and to the ends of the earth.  

Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to            

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

“You Have Faith… But I Have Science!”

Some people may find it strange to note that one of the earliest and most important proponents of what is known today as the Big Bang theory, was none other than astronomer and Roman Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître. As a priest, Lemaître believed in a God that had revealed Himself in a way that mankind could understand. As a scientist, Lemaître believed that the mysteries of the physical world could be understood through observation and intellectual inquiry. Although many today believe there is an uncrossable chasm between faith and science, tracing the history of science tells a very different story, with many of those great minds of the past also being devout believers in a supernatural God. 

            Before Lemaître’s proposal, the consensus of the scientific community was the eternality of the universe, that is, the belief that the universe has always existed. It was regarded as “religious” to think that the universe had a beginning. In fact, famed theoretical physicists Stephen Hawking writes, “Many scientists were unhappy with the universe having a beginning, because it seemed to imply that physics broke down. One would have to invoke an outside agency, which for convenience one can call God, to determine how the universe began.” 

            So while all of the evidence was coming forward that the universe did in fact have a beginning, something that Bible believing people have always affirmed, many in the scientific community did not want to believe the objective evidence because of their emotional response. Objectivity is when one is “not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts.” I believe this example is helpful in pointing out that even when we affirm that we are being objective in our view of evidence, all people must be aware that we have particular beliefs that we hold for emotional reasons. All people have beliefs that are, in a very real sense, beliefs of faith.

            It was not until the 1960’s that the universe having a beginning became the scientific consensus. But instead of the evidence of a universal beginning convincing all people of the truth of God as the Beginner, many people had to convince themselves that the universe came forth out of nothing — that is, there once was nothing and for no apparent reason, there was suddenly something. Stephen Hawking writes, “I think the universe was spontaneously created out of nothing, according to the laws of science.” To be fair, Hawking does go on to try to explain why he thinks this; however, consider such a statement in light of everything else you know about reality. Does something ever come from nothing? Not only is this sort of thinking non-scientific, it is a full-blown statement of faith. Hawking is relating something he believes without empirical evidence; in other words, something he believes by faith. 

            With all of this in mind, I believe that, simply stated, there is an infinite, eternal being, who created all things. I believe the Creator has revealed Himself to all mankind through His creative work. The Apostle Paul writes that God has plainly made Himself known stating, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse (Romans 1:20).” Additional, I believe this Creator entered into His own creation in the person of Jesus Christ revealing further that our Creator is personal and not merely some cosmic force. The actions of Christ proclaimed His true divinity and finally, His resurrection from the dead solidified His claims. How can I believe these things? Are these just faith statements or do they also contain scientific inquiry?

            I look at the world around me, I see all that has been made, I recognize that there is a maker. I learn of the life of Christ and the claims that He made, I learn that He was killed by Roman officials, a fact that has little dispute even among irreligious historians, and that He rose from the dead three days later, appearing to many people including an appearance to a crowd of over 500 people (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:6). I read of these events in the most widely dispersed, historically reliable, best attested work of antiquity, the Bible. Finally, I have had an encounter with this Creator God through the new birth of His Spirit. Biblically speaking, the idea of Christian regeneration, or the new birth, is something that is an objective work of the Spirit apart from the will of man.

            I am not asserting that Biblical Christianity is solely an objective stance simply come to through a series of tidy arguments; obviously faith is vital for Christians. The primary point I am trying to make is that all beliefs, including those held by atheistic or agnostic scientists, have an aspect of faith to them. Therefore, when one asserts, “You have faith, but I have science” as if they automatically have the intellectual “higher ground”, you can assess their statements and point out their faith.

            Biblical Christianity makes sense. It makes sense scientifically and spiritually. It makes sense of all that we see and all that we cannot see. As C.S. Lewis eloquently put it, I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Hawking quotes are from his book “Brief Answers to the Big Questions”.

Add your voice to the conversation. Questions, concerns, clarifications can be sent to            

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