“Keep Your Eyes On Jesus”

A familiar passage in the Gospel of Matthew is the Apostle Peter calling out to Jesus as he sees Him walking on the waves of the sea. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” To which Jesus responds, “Come.” (Matthew 14:28-29) As Peter makes his way onto the water, things seem to be going well until he begins to look around; then being filled with fear, he starts to sink. As he cries out Jesus grabs him by the hand and pulls him to safety. Peter is questioned about His doubt while the disciples fall down to worship Jesus. What’s the point? Keep your eyes on Jesus!

Sounds simple enough, right? Christians must live with their eyes fully focused on Jesus every step of the way. Similarly, Bible-believing churches must remain focused on Christ. However, it seems that is not always the case. Too many times professing Christians and churches have substituted something other than Christ to focus upon. Whether we are talking about political agendas, humanitarian causes, or theological imbalances, we must recognize any “double vision” in order that we may call out, as Peter did, “Lord, save us!”

When the church gets sidetracked and loses focus, it is usually because there are important and worthwhile things to attend to. That is to say, even “good things” can become bad when they take the center stage position that belongs to Christ alone.

Political Involvement
Desiring godly political policy is a good thing. Christians should be involved in the political process and should vote with firm footing on a biblical worldview. However, good politics will not save us. “If only this person was in office and not that person. If only this law would pass and not that one. If only this political party was in power and not that one… then all would be right in the world.” Dear Christian, if this type of thinking pervades your mind and conversation, you are sinking. Turn your eyes back to Christ.

Humanitarian Causes
Helping other people is a good thing. Throughout the Bible we are called to care for, feed, and clothe the poor and downtrodden. So many churches begin outreach programs in order to follow these commands. Yet taking care of physical needs is not enough. The primary need of every person in this world is not physical but spiritual. Feeding and clothing people who remain dead in their sin leaves them no better off than when you first “helped” them. Yes, we should help with physical needs but our primary goal should be to share the saving message of Jesus Christ with people. When any humanitarian cause becomes our primary, all-encompassing mission as the church, we’ve lost our focus on Christ. Under the water we go…

Imbalanced Theology
Theology is studying the truths of God’s word. I love studying theology! I love opening the Bible and learning more about God. I love reading books and taking classes on theology. Theology is a good thing. The purpose of studying theology is so we can know God more and worship Him more. Yet, when studying becomes about being a “know-it-all” or gaining religious superiority, we lose sight of Christ and begin to sink

Likewise, an imbalance in our understanding of theology can lead to loss of Jesus-focus. Too many individual Christians and even whole churches can become obsessed with certain topics (usually secondary or tertiary issues) at the expense of the focus of the Bible writers, namely, Christ and Him crucified. The Bible tells us we are to teach the “whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) Nevertheless, instead of focusing on the primary teachings of the Bible, some people get distracted with end times issues. They want to know the details of what’s going to happen in the future, so most of their time is spent trying to connect current events with prophetic texts. Or, some get distracted by focusing on spiritual warfare issues. Every little thing that goes wrong in their life is attributed to Satan or demons. Again, theology is important and each of these topics has their place. What I’m trying to say, however, is these should not be the topics we are consumed with; we should be consumed with Christ. If a Christian can give you details on Daniel’s 70th week or tips on how to exorcise a demon but cannot give you an orthodox definition of the Trinity, they may be sinking.

We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. We must remember that all that we have and all that we are is because of Him and what He has accomplished for us upon the cross. I echo the words of the Apostle Paul in 2nd Corinthians 11, “I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Beloved, don’t take your eyes off of your Savior!

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

“Life Is Sacred” Part 3

“If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?” We’ve all heard this before. You may have even said this before. The point, we all understand, is to show kids that they don’t have to do or be like others around them. However, take a look at popular trends and you’ll notice that indeed, everyone does do exactly what their friend does. What are the new styles in clothing and music? That’s what is going to be everywhere. We can’t help it: advertising does work. Don’t believe me? I could list for you a number of stupid things that I have bought throughout my life because it looked so good in the commercial but it turned out to be nothing other than cheap garbage.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been talking about the very difficult subject of suicide. In this brief series of articles, my aim has not been to deal with the very nuanced reasons an individual might have for taking their own life. Rather, I’ve been trying to point at a bigger (and I believe foundational) culprit in the landscape of the suicide issue; namely, that our popular culture has such a disdain for life that suicide has become merely a choice among others.

I’m not trying to trivialize suicide or those who have struggled with these thoughts, I’m trying to point out that we are all products of our environment and perhaps we live in an environment and culture that has nurtured a disdain for life to the point that we’ve normalized this saddening act. In fact, it seems to me that we not only have normalized that act of suicide, but by our jokes and romanticizing, we make light of suicide.

How many times have you heard someone say, “Uh… I just want to kill myself.” Why? “Because the ice cream machine was broken at McDonalds.” Now, we all know that person doesn’t really want to commit suicide because they can’t get a dipped cone, but why this choice of language? Why do we think that it’s ok to express frustration in terms of ending one’s own life? We take something trivial, like ice cream, and we raise the stakes by making it a life or death situation. I’m not saying that people kill themselves because we make jokes about suicide. What I’m trying to point to is how we have made such a serious topic into something as common as talking about the weather. Also, I have to wonder how much the idea of seeking a permanent solution (suicide) to temporary problems has infiltrated the minds of people, if only in part, by this type of jesting.

Secondly, we’ve romanticized suicide to the point that we’ve made it seem that there is something larger-than-life or even beautiful involved in the act. This is especially true when we hear of celebrities who have taken their own life. “Musicians and actors are such great artists so they must know something about life that us common folk do not.” Celebrities are cementing their legacy when they take their own life. “Now they will always remember me.” This all seems attractive in some way to many people. So much so that after a celebrity commits suicide you can be sure that the number of suicides and attempted suicides will rise. According to CNN, there was a 10% increase (nearly 2,000 deaths) in the suicide rate following the suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams in 2014, most of them enacted in the same way as Williams. “If your friend jumped off a bridge, would you?”

Again, this is a very sad and difficult topic. We don’t want to simply turn these horrible deaths into statistics. At the same time, we need to recognize that, as a culture, we will reap what we sow. Because we’ve treated suicide in such a loose fashion for so long, we can’t act surprised when these type of deaths happen. Life is precious. Why can’t we pass that on to the culture? I pray we can stop treating life as expendable and cheap. We must not continue the atrocities at abortion clinics, we must move forward with laws that prevent doctors ending people’s lives, and finally, we must stop this easy attitude we have with suicide. Life is a gift from God, it’s time we start acting like it.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)

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

“Life Is Sacred” Part 2

If you read last week’s article, you’ll remember we are dealing with the difficult topic of suicide. Suicide is becoming more and more prevalent, seemingly affecting more people. I contend that part of this influx is due to our modern ideology, or what has been termed the “culture of death.” In other words, we live in a culture that has no respect for the sacred gift of life and that sort of thinking flows into many areas.

Jumping Into A Volcano
Do you remember the 1990’s film “Joe Versus the Volcano”? It has since become something of a cult classic. An “average Joe” is stuck in a meaningless, boring life. Lost in a dead-end job, lacking of romantic fulfillment, his daily purposelessness is slowly eating away at him.

Eventually, Joe is told that he has an incurable disease. Which then leads him to meet a business man who an interesting proposition. The man needs to buy a rare mineral from a small tribe of Pacific Islanders, who will only sell if someone volunteers to be a human sacrifice by jumping into a volcano to appease the wrath of the “fire god.” The business man pays handsomely for Joe to enjoy the final days of his life, if he is willing to commit suicide in a few days. With nothing to lose, Joe takes the offer…

Truth In Comedy
“Joe Versus the Volcano” is not intended to be anything more than a light comedy. However, a message can be extrapolated that is important for us to see in our modern context within the “culture of death.”

It is becoming common in the world for people to ask a doctor to end their life. These people are suffering with a horrible disease and will most likely be dead soon anyways, right? Two problems arise here. First, life and death are the prerogative of God alone. (1 Samuel 2:6) Killing someone who is sick is still killing someone. Second, we are continuing to learn the trajectories of this type of thinking. For instance, what should be the criteria to opt for so-called “Right to die” or more commonly, Physician-Assisted Suicide (PAS)? Terminally-ill, pain, unhappiness, no more money for medical treatment, or just bored with living, how far do we take this?

You might be thinking that I am making the “slippery slope” fallacy. The idea that the “Right to Die” laws could possibly lead to ludicrous outcomes. However, ideas that at one time seemed far out are now sad realities.

The basic argument is always: “Terminally ill people should have the right to die with dignity. They should be given the right to end their lives if they are in continual, painful suffering.” It was as if proponents of PAS were drawing a line stating, “This is as far as we are willing to go.” The problem is that if you don’t have a standard by which to judge your worldview, that “line” is liable to move.

As you look around the world, you will find that this line has moved further than PAS proponents ever said it would. For instance, The Netherlands began their journey in government sponsored suicide in 2001. Since then, the practice has moved from PAS for the terminally ill, to those who are dealing with “hopeless or unbearable” suffering, now which includes those with mental illness. That last one especially should catch your eye. Mental illness is now a reason to let a doctor end your own life in the Netherlands. (And how do doctors even define mental illness? What a wide range of extremes there are!) Not to mention that in 2010, a citizen’s initiative was put forth to legalize PAS for people over 70 who are simply done living their lives. Do you see what I mean, it truly is a slippery slope!

Thankful For Life
Instead of showing the world that life is only worth living if you are well off, healthy, and wealthy, what if we taught that life is a precious gift no matter the circumstances? Again, I am not trying to minimize anyone’s pain or suffering. I am trying to say that life is worth living. This is the message that we should be passing on throughout the culture and to our children. God created us, guides us, and calls us to Himself. Yes, we will struggle and deal with all sorts of junk in this world. However, that is why God sent Jesus Christ to save us. So let’s recognize that we are lost and powerless by ourself; yet let our answer be to turn to Christ and live instead of seeking to kill ourselves.

We must be thankful for the gift of life that God has so graciously bestowed on all his creatures. Let’s confront this “culture of death” that is pervading the thoughts and minds individuals throughout this world. Instead of teaching that life is cheap through death agendas like abortion, PAS, and culturally accepted romanticism of suicide, let us move forward with the gospel of Christ that brings meaning to life now and eternal life to come.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

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

“Life Is Sacred” Part 1

One of my favorite films is the Christmas classic, “A Christmas Story.” I love to watch Ralphie and his seemingly-impossible journey of trying to acquire a Red Ryder BB gun. However, one scene sticks out in my mind as I write this article.

As Ralphie and his family are driving home, they have a blowout and Dad gets out to change the tire. Ralphie tries to help by holding the lug nuts, which, after an accident, spill out on the road. Ralphie lets out an expletive (and it wasn’t “fudge”). And both parents are shocked at their young son. “Where did he learn this word?”

The truth is, Ralphie had heard his father use that type of profanity many times. Yet, the blame is skirted to a friend. As we watch, we can’t help but ask the question, “Why are these parents so oblivious?” Don’t they understand that kids are sponges? Learning is not something that simply takes place in a classroom, but through every word we say and action we do in front of our children.

Over the last few weeks the topic of suicide has come to the forefront once again as we have received news of more celebrities taking their own lives. Let me make this very clear, suicide is always a tragedy and should never be taken lightly. It should break our hearts when this discussion comes up. At the same time, I can’t help but see the connection between our modern, cultural ideas of life and death and the rate at which suicide seems to be becoming more and more common, and not just among the rich and famous.

You see, our culture as a whole, has been teaching for many years now that life is not something that is sacred; rather life is cheap and expendable. How so? No one is teaching that outright. That is irrelevant. How did Ralphie learning to cuss? We’ve been teaching the desacralization of life through many means, including: 1) The killing of babies in the womb for purposes of convenience. 2) The legalization of so-called “Physician Assisted Suicide” 3) The romanticizing of suicide. (We will look at 2 and 3 in the coming weeks.)

Firstly, and I recognize this is a very contentious topic, the issue of abortion has done so much to cheapen the sanctity of life. Many studies have been done throughout the years to ascertain why abortions are sought (I’ll let you do your own googling) and the overwhelming response is for purposes of convenience. Either the parents feel they cannot afford a child, the pregnancy was an “accident”, or they are trying to hide their sexual exploits. In other words, millions of parents have been willing to sacrifice their own children on the altar of convenience. Usually, when you hear this topic in the political area it goes something like this: “What about when the mother’s life is in danger or in instances of rape?” The problem is, these reasons are less than a half of a percent. Meaning, the one who makes this type of argument is going for an emotional response not a thought-out position. We can answer those types of questions, but first we must agree that most people who desire to have their babies killed do so because they don’t want to be bothered by their children. Tell me, what kind of message do you think our young people are getting when this is being argued all the time in the public sphere? (How did Ralphie learn to cuss?)

You see, we’ve tried to make this topic of abortion not about a baby’s life or death but rather a topic about choice. So those who support abortion have garnered such banners as “Pro-choice” or “Pro-women’s health”. When the reality is, abortion is about the choice to take another human being’s life. “It’s our CHOICE.” So why should we act surprised or be sad when someone takes their own life? They simply made a choice. We’ve blasted out the message that life and death is only a choice that we get to make. Naturally, then, it follows that if we are fed up with life, we can choose death. If we can make this choice when someone is a baby, why not when we are older? Let’s be consistent. Right?

Obviously, when we turn on the news and hear of a celebrity who has taken their own life or we have a friend or family member who has commited suicide, we weep. As we should. We call suicide tragic and wish that the person would have reached out for help. Why do we respond in this way? Because whether or not you want to acknowledge it, you know that life is a precious gift from God. Life is to be cherished and fought for and loved and lived. Life is sacred and we must come to remember that as a culture. We must celebrate life and not try to find more and more ways to end it.

Life can be hard and can come with many struggles. I am not trying to belittle your experiences. However, there is true hope available. Ending your own life is not the answer. Hope and healing can and do come from Christ alone. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help. Talk with someone. Don’t listen to the “culture of death.” Reach out to a friend or local pastor. Open up the Bible and see what God has done for us so that you may have LIFE. Listen to the words of Jesus, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) (www.TheExitMovie.com)

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

“I’m Not Who I Once Was”

When I meet people and they find out I am a pastor, I usually get a few different responses. One I hear most often is the assumption that, as a pastor, I primarily deal within the realm of morals and ethics. I recall a conversation I had about raising children and dealing with behavior issues. After relating several instances when my own children were misbehaving, the person responded, “Yeah, that must be tough for you when your job is to teach morals and good behavior.” The comment didn’t come across as judgmental or rude; the conversation was very light and friendly. However, this caught my attention because it reflects a view many people outside of the church hold, that of the duty of pastors. Many think our primary aim is to merely instill morals and ethics to our congregation, that our goal when dealing with rowdy children is simply behavior modification.

Is that right? Is that what we want in the church, a behavioral and moral change? Well, yes and no. This is what I mean–yes, as followers of Jesus Christ we do desire to see people change. We do desire to see people turn from sinful life patterns and turn to Christ. When it comes to our children, yes, we want them to behave in a way that reflects the truths found in the Bible. The difference, however, is that we don’t want that to be the end of the matter. Meaning, our primary aspiration is not behavior modification in and of itself. We long to see behavior changed as a reflection of what God is doing in an individual’s heart. In fact, biblically speaking we do not believe there can be true, lasting change in a person until there is first a heart change, and a heart change can only come through the grace of God.

The Bible gives us a very clear picture of the human race and the truth is, it’s not a pretty picture. This can be a hard fact for us to swallow because we have the idea that mankind is really “not that bad”. However, the Bible uses other words to describe us. The Bible says that we are “dead in [our] sins” (Colossians 2:13), that we “cannot please God”(Romans 8:8), we are “without hope” (Ephesians 2:12), and that we are “God-haters” (Romans 1:30). Not the encouraging message that people generally expect to hear from the Bible; however, it is the truth of our fallen human nature. When we look at this picture, seeing who we actually are, it may seem bleak. It is. Yet it makes the glorious grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ shine brightly through the darkness.

You see, according to the Bible, behavior correction alone is a futile task. A pastor would be wasting his time if that were his sole desire. If we are dead, hopeless, God-haters, then what we truly need is God to do a miraculous work in us. Dead people can do nothing to make themselves look more alive. Putting makeup on a dead person may look good for a time, but eventually they will begin to rot. So what do they need? They need to be made alive, they need to be miraculously brought to life. It is the same for the broken sinner. We have no hope within ourselves, for an outward change of behavior is merely a white-washed tomb. We need God to bring us to life.

Jesus speaks about this amazing mystery in John 3. Jesus tells Nicodemus, a religious leader, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus was a man who had spent his entire life trying to live up to religious and social expectations, trying to be a “good” person. The truth is, however, Nicodemus remained spiritually dead. No matter how much he tried to mask his sin and no matter how much good he tried to do to outweigh his sins, he was still broken and guilty before a holy God. Jesus knows Nicodemus’ heart and He knows that what he actually needs is a new birth.

This is what pastors are looking for in their congregations and parents in their children, a new birth. Good behavior and changing of sinful life patterns reflect that new birth. So the call from the church is not simply “stop doing that” but to come to Christ and live. It is only when we come to Jesus, confess our sin, and trust in His finished work upon the cross that we can have any hope of change. It is at this moment of faith that a person is born again by the Holy Spirit and is able, through His power, to live a life that glorifies God. As the Apostle Paul states, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) It is then, because of the grace of God I can say I am not who I once was. God has made me new!

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

“Why Do You Believe That?”

I love talking to people about spiritual things. In fact, I have had many conversations with complete strangers about the Bible, God, angels, salvation, I even had a guy that wanted to talk to me about unicorns once (that was an interesting talk!) Most conversations go well and are cordial, but some… not so much. Yet I still enjoy these types of conversations because I learn so much about how people think.

For instance, as I begin a conversation with someone about a spiritual topic, I generally will simply ask questions and let them tell me what they believe. After a while, I’ll then ask them why they believe that, not what but why. (This is where things usually get interesting.) Most people are very ready to tell you what they believe, but the moment you ask them to explain why they believe what they believe they are no longer so articulate. Often the answer is, “I just do.” Or “It seems right to me.” Once I asked, “But doesn’t it is seem like you just made that up?” Her answer, “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” (She didn’t change her mind.) This is a significant problem in our modern time, as it was during the time of the Protestant Reformation. What is the issue? Authority, or the standard by which we know what is true.

Where does our authority come from? In Luther’s time, authority came primarily from the leadership of Rome, tradition, papal authority etc. If a teaching of the Roman Church was in conflict with the Bible, then the church had priority of authority. Likewise, in modern times we have issues with authority as well. People believe they can find authority in many different sources, such as personal feelings and experiences. Many believe they can be the standard of their own personal truth.

Where does authority actually come from? As disciples of Jesus Christ, we recognize that authority comes from God’s Word alone. During the Reformation, the Reformers recognized that some teachings were not in line with the Bible. Their goal then was to return to a true understanding and application of the Bible as God’s Word. The Latin phrase “Sola Scriptura” or “Scripture Alone” has become a rallying point for this idea. The Reformers believed, as faithful churches do today, that the Bible is the sole authority on all matters it addresses. Scripture alone is where we get our teaching from, and it is where we derive all of our knowledge of God.

Many people believe that experience is the best way through which to understand something and receive authoritative insight. However, in the Bible there are many instances where people have momentous, miraculous experiences; yet in the end they have not been changed by it. For instance, at the end of the Gospel of Matthew, the disciples greet Jesus. They “worshiped Him but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17) Jesus was dead, yet now He stands before them in His resurrected body. Although they can see Him with their eyes, there are still people in the group that doubt what they are seeing; they doubt their experience.

In the same way, the Pharaoh of Egypt during the time of Moses had many miracles and signs performed before him and yet it still says the he “hardened his heart.” Experience is not something we can always trust to give us certainty. In 2 Peter, the Apostles tells us that what we have in God’s Word is a “more sure” witness to us. This is coming from one who walked and talked with Jesus and saw many miracles performed. Peter says that even the great experience on the Mount of Transfiguration is not comparable to having the sure word of God in the Bible.

It is stated nicely in the Cambridge Declaration, “The biblical Word, rather than spiritual experience, is the test of truth.” We must rely on Scripture alone to give us the authority we must follow, rather than depend on the erratic and relative feelings derived from experiences. If we believe that God has spoken through His Word, that He is able to preserve and keep it guarded for His people, then we must listen to it and do what it says. We should not relegate our lives to following the teachings and philosophies of man if we truly have the Word of God.

Sola Scriptura means that we, as the church, derive all that we know about God from God. He has revealed to us His character and nature. He has revealed to us the character and nature of mankind. He has revealed to us the work of Jesus Christ. Consequently, if we believe something that is not taught in the Bible or that is contradicted by the Bible we must abandon it as false.

“Why do you believe that?” Next time you hear this question, I hope you can say, “Because the Bible teaches it.”

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

“You Are An Image Bearer of God”

I love seeing the creative hand of God. Whether it is gazing at the amazing rock formations as you travel down to the valley or standing in awe of the tall pines in the Pinals as they sway back and forth, dancing in the wind. However nothing beats seeing a newborn child. Holding a baby in your arms is a glorious reminder of the goodness of God, because this child is not simply like the other creatures that God has made; no, a child is an image bearer of God.

The creation of man and women is God’s crowning climax in His creative work. This is told first in Genesis 1:26. “Let us make man in our image after our likeness. And let them have dominion…” After God creates the universe, planets, the earth and everything in it, He created mankind in His image to be the ruler over it all. He then gives man a special mandate saying “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion…”(Genesis 1:28) Mankind is blessed with abundance and blessed with work.

Mankind is given something that no other part of creation is given; man is built with the image of God within him. When God created man, He created him out of two basic components; namely, the material and the immaterial (or spiritual). The Bible tells us that when God created Adam, he used the dust of the earth, breathing into the dust the breath of life, thus adding the spiritual matter to the physical substance. (Genesis 2:7) This is an amazing fact because no other creature is said to be made out of these two components of material and immaterial; man alone is created with these aspects. Therefore, man alone has the spirituality necessary to commune with God. We are created in this manner that we might have fellowship and a real relationship with God. We are made to worship God, made to have a connection with God. God has created us with this special capacity to know Him, which, although marred by sin, will be fully realized at the consummation of His Kingdom.

Now, because all people are created in the image of God, all people have inherent worth and dignity. All people matter because all people are made after the likeness of their Creator. This too, has been argued throughout history. Many times certain people groups have chosen to look down on other people groups because they were believed to be inferior in some way. This kind of thinking has led to horrible consequences, including slavery, murder, torture, and other unspeakable acts that have appeared upon the stage of history.

The disbelief of people being made in the image of God has also led many to consider that people have no more worth than any other animal in the world. However, to put animals on the same level of importance as people is to miss the many and varying differences between humans and animals which show that humans are made in the image of God. For instance, no animal has the need and desire to create works of art for mere pleasure. Humans, on the other hand, create paintings, poetry, and music for expression and enjoyment. God is the Creator, and so as humans are made in His image we have a need and desire to create.

Another way in which we recognize that man is made in the image of God is through man’s natural tendency to be a moral agent. By this we do not mean man is completely and fully moral in all his ways. However, mankind has, as a whole, a general moral outlook to life. Throughout history, various societies and people groups have created laws and regulations in order to govern its people. We must first recognize that this is because God has written His law on our hearts. Romans 2:15 tells us that men naturally “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” That is to say, all people then have an innate knowledge of God through His law because they are His image bearers.

Mankind also should recognize God through creation because of the image of God placed in him. As David writes in the 19th Psalm, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” As we gaze into the vast landscapes of space, pondering the beauty of the stars and planets, we must stop in that moment and glorify God. The Apostle Paul in the book of Romans tells us that the creative order of God “clearly” reveals to mankind the existence, power, and glory of God. (Romans 1:20)

You are an image bearer of God. You are not some creature that is only here by chance. You are not some cosmic mistake. You are God’s creation; remember that next time you look into a mirror.

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

“We All Need Rest”

The first day of summer is not officially here until June 21st. However, you’ll have a hard time convincing students. Give it a try; you just may hear those immortal words of Alice Cooper ring out, “School’s out for summer!” (Did you just sing them in your head?)

Summer vacation is a wonderful time of year. Do you remember sitting in the last class of the day, clock ticking, counting down the final seconds until that last bell rings. Joy, excitement, even relief begins to flood your adolescent mind. What does the summer have in store? What adventures will come? Summer vacation always feels long, filled with endless possibilities. I miss those days.

At the same time, I recognize now that those feelings of looking forward to an extended period of rest are God-given. That may seem like a strange idea to you. “How can the desire for summer vacation be God-given?” It’s not vacation, but the desire for rest. Each book in the Bible addresses the idea of finding or entering into God’s rest.

As God began to lead His people through Moses, He made special promises. “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14) As long as Israel was faithful God promised to be with them, guide them, and bless them. (Deuteronomy 28:1) The “rest” God promised was prefigured in the giving of land. God would provide land where His people could live and worship freely. Throughout the first six books of the Bible we see this march toward and eventual conquering of the land of Canaan (later called Israel). By the end of the book of Joshua, because of the promises of God and the faithfulness of the children of Israel, His people finally entered into the land, into God’s rest. “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers.” (Joshua 21:43-44) All of God’s promises to the people had come to fruition.

So shouldn’t Joshua be the last book of the Bible? (That would make reading the Bible in a year a whole lot easier!) The problem is sin continued to reign in and among the people. In fact, the book following Joshua is Judges, which has an eerie refrain summarizing the basic idea of the whole book, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25) Sin is something that affects more than just the surface level of who we are and what we do; sin is at the very core of our being. Throughout the pages of the Bible, the people of Israel are a clear example of the deep-seated nature of sin. Sin continued to interrupt the nation’s covenant relationship with God, and they received consequences; namely, a broken relationship with God. A restlessness of wandering, not finding peace or comfort, because true and lasting peace can only come from God.

We read the words of God in the Psalm 95, “I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’” Again, this broken relationship must be restored if the people were ever to enter into that ultimate rest. So how do we usually go about achieving a desired outcome? We work for it! That’s exactly what the nation of Israel did. They tried to be as religious as they could to earn “rest” from God. However, no matter how hard we work, we always fall short. (Romans 3:23) “In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.” (Psalm 40:6) God always values to have our heart more than anything we achieve in our own power. While we may think we can try our best to meet God’s standards, the reality is God wants us to trust Him because we humbly accept that we cannot.

So how is it ever be possible to enter God’s rest, that rest we are so inclined to desire, of which remembrances of childhood summer vacations are shadows? Only through faith. “Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. For we who have believed enter that rest.” (Hebrews 4:1-3) This is yet another layer to the amazing Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christ Himself is our rest! He achieved what we could not so that we can receive His benefits.

So this summer, as you see kids having fun and taking it easy, think about your desire for rest. Take some time to consider the call of Christ and His offer of the kind of rest you will never find apart from Him. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

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

“Where Will You Find It?”

“That new job will complete my life. If I just had a little more money, all would be well. If I can get out of this old, stale relationship and find love, then I will truly be fulfilled.” Do these statements sound familiar? It’s very common for people to assess their own lives and come to the conclusion that if only they had that one thing that was missing or that thing that is off in the distant future then everything would be better, life would be how we imagined that it should be, and all would be well. Right?

Obviously, my answer is no. However, why is that the case? I know what some people may be thinking… “Don’t give me one of those ‘churchy’ answers.” Fine, then just look around at the people in the world who do have all of those wonderful things that we average joes dream about. Look at celebrities and business moguls; they have it all, right? Fame, money, achievement, these are the people who have made it to the top. They must be completely fulfilled and happy with their lives!

Except for one problem… The reality is that even those who have “made it” struggle like the rest of us. How often do you turn on the news and rich and famous couples are getting divorced (again)? The front page of the newspaper reports that another celebrity has committed suicide. Drug and alcohol abuse runs rampant among the most prestigious people as they try to numb themselves from the world. Do any of these names ring a bell? Whitney Houston, Heath Ledger, John Belushi, Janis Joplin, River Phoenix, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley – Sounds like the who’s who of America royalty. Yet, this is only a short list of the rich and famous that died from drug overdose.

“I won the lottery, if I had all that money and fame, I’d do better.” Really? Do me a favor and google the phrase “what happens to people who win the lottery?” I did. You know what I found? These headlines, “How Winning the Lottery Makes You Miserable”, “Here’s Why Lottery Winners Go Broke”, and “Jackpot Winners Who Met Tragic Ends.” Apparently, having money isn’t everything. Jack Whittaker won $315 million in a West Virginia lottery in 2002 and after his life was spiraling out of control, Jack said, “I wish that we had torn that ticket up.”

The “churchy” answer helps us make sense of all this mess. According to the Bible, we are made to worship God. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6) If we don’t worship God we will find something else to worship. The Apostle Paul makes this clear when he writes that people have, “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” (Romans 1:25) What’s the problem with that? Worshiping false gods will never satisfy. False gods always let us down.

The sentiments of longing in the beginning of this article are common, yes, but ultimately we cannot build our lives around them. We cannot use all of our time and energy worshiping those ideas. Our desire for affection, fulfillment, and life are right and good, however, they can only truly be found and pursued in Christ. This is what we were made for!

I’ll end with these words from C.H. Spurgeon from 1880.

“And now [Christs sacrifice] also satisfies my affections. And it will satisfy yours, dear friend, if you trust to it. You need somebody to love—everybody does. You cannot go through the world simply living inside your own ribs. You must live in somebody’s heart and if you give your heart altogether to any human being, you will be disappointed. But, oh, when you love Christ with all your heart—when you live wholly for Him, then you have something that fills your heart right up! Here your love can rest! It can roost and build its nest in the wounds of Jesus! There is nothing that can fill the affections of any one of us like the dear person of our suffering Lord.

And I am sure that He also satisfies all our hopes. Large as they may be, there is enough in Christ to fully gratify them. And as for our fears, He fills them up so that we seem to have nothing to fear! ‘If God is for us,’ in Christ, ‘who can be against us?’ If Christ has died for us, who is he that condemns us? And what is there that can now separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord? Oh, if you would all but try this blessed plan of believing in Jesus as the Lamb of God slain for your sin—if you would but eat the fat of this great sacrifice—you, also, would prove the truth of the first sentence of our text, ‘For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.’ In that way you would have all you could take in, and a great deal more than all you need!”

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

“Use Us, Lord”

“Someone should do something about that.” We often hear people say this when talking about a problem (I will admit I’ve said it before). However, if every time we felt the urge to say this phrase we instead actually did something to fix the problem. we would all be in a better situation. So, let’s stop pointing to others and ask ourselves what we can do.

Last week, we began to look at the church’s desire for revival in our own time. We peruse the history of spiritual awakening and tend to think, “Wouldn’t it be great if someone could do that again? When is the new Martin Luther, George Whitefield, or Billy Graham going to step up and do something?” Instead, we should be reminded that revival begins in our own hearts first. I confess that I have too often been the person wishing someone else would bring revival to our churches and communities. So, taking my lead from Jonathan Edwards, Resolved: I will seek God’s will in seeing a spiritual revival happen in my time and place through the power of His Spirit.

We’ve already discussed the events of past spiritual awakenings: 1) Believers pray eagerly and earnestly and then, 2) God convicts the sinful hearts of people. However, as we look at the text of the New Testament and the history of revival, we see that God does not stop there.

#3 Jesus Is Exalted
After such overwhelming experiences of God’s holiness and our personal sin, a time of revival tends to lead to a new experience of love, joy, and peace as Jesus is exalted. Why? Because after seeing our sin, the only peace we find is in knowing that Christ took our punishment. This understanding of the gospel and why is it “good news” overwhelms the hearts of the saved.

Truly encountering God always changes people. We find examples of this type of change throughout the text of scripture, whether it is the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:5) or the apostle Peter (Luke 5:8). When an individual comes to see who he is face-to-face with when he is in the presence of God, he becomes a new man. Likewise, in our own day, when people come to understand the depths of their sin and the grace of God, they are forever changed by His mercy. The sinful desires that once ravaged the body are now mitigated by the holy desires that come through the power of the Spirit.

When I became a believer, I no longer wanted to indulge in the things of my past but I found true joy and peace being together with God’s people in worship. I desired to hear God’s voice as I diligently read and studied His Word, the Bible. All of this only came because of God’s mercy and grace, not because I was seeking to find something. On the contrary, when I thought I knew what I wanted, God stepped in to show me otherwise. Revival brings about a new interest in living life in line with God’s word and in His will.

#4 Spirit-Empowered Witness
Finally, in a season of revival, the Spirit empowers believers for bold witness to win many unbelievers to the faith. If a friend of your was to win the lottery, you would hear about it. How do I know? Because that type of “good news” is not kept secret for very long. However, Christians claim that the only true “good news” is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The fact that God became flesh and entered into His own creation to save broken sinner is an amazing, unbelievable truth that should bring us more joy and excitement than anything else in the world. Why then, is it so difficult for followers of Jesus to tell other people about Him?

A revival we desperately need in our day is for God to ignite a spirit of immediacy when it comes to gospel witness. We need to be creating a culture of evangelism in our local churches. A culture where people see sharing their faith not as something out of the ordinary, but as a regular, daily occurrence. Having leaders that are able to stand up and preach truth to unbelievers is a great blessing, and we have been blessed to have people like Billy Graham to do that. Yet for a great impact with long term reach, I believe that the example the New Testament gives us is that of regular, everyday Christians taking it upon themselves to stand up for the faith and to take the gospel message wherever they go.

So as we pray for God to revive His people, we should not be asking Him to make other people do something; instead our prayer should be asking Him to use us. As followers of Christ we are simply tools to be used in the hands of the Master. May the Master be pleased to use us to glorify Himself. Therefore, trusting in God, looking to past examples, and moving forward with the gospel of Jesus Christ, I pray to see a revival in my own time and place. I pray that God would glorify Himself in raising up more revival leaders, that He would soften the hearts of many people, and that it would please Him to save many from their sins through Christ. “Use us, Lord!”

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