“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

“Revive Us, Lord”

It is often overwhelming when we take a big look at the world that we live in. We are inundated with news broadcasts of shootings, kidnappings, and terrorist plots. The idea of morals and values is outdated, old-fashion nonsense. Our political processes are more and more akin to an episode of Jerry Springer. What is going on? What should we do? In truth, what we really need is for God to graciously revive us as a nation and people. So… should we pull out the tents and start singing 10 verses of “Just As I Am”? Not exactly.

I’m not trying to be facetious. Many people have benefited from the kind of tent revival that we usual imagine when we think about this subject. However, according to the Bible, true revival only comes through the grace of God, not because we scheduled a meeting. Let’s look at 2 things (more to follow) that usually occur during a season of revival.

#1: Believers Pray Eagerly and Earnestly
Growing up, self-sufficiency and resourcefulness was viewed as a virtue to be desired and appropriated. And it is true that individuals must have a certain amount of self-sufficiency in order to care for oneself. At the same time, followers of Christ must recognize our complete and utter dependence on God. “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) These words from Jesus are very straightforward. We depend upon Him for everything. Therefore if we desire to see revival, we must not look to ourselves but to God in prayer.

The apostles learned this lesson when Jesus gave them the task of being His witnesses “to the end of the earth.” A daunting and impossible endeavor in their own power. So they were told to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and empower them for the work God was giving to them. (Acts 1:8) How did they wait? In devoted, corporate prayer. (Acts 1:14) Similarly, when God’s people throughout history have desired to see a mighty working of the Spirit they began in prayer. For instance, a small prayer meeting in the North Dutch Church in 1857 set in motion what we now know as the Great Revival. With no other options on the table as to how to keep his dying church alive, Jeremiah Lanphier invited people to come pray with him. After waiting, 6 people showed up and they began to pray. Perhaps that doesn’t seem like much to us, but God can use 6 people just as easily as 600 people if He sees fit. Case in point: after two years the fruit of this prayer meeting spread across country and an estimated two million people were added to local churches. This is the power of God.

Likewise, after much prayer the apostles came to the feast of Pentecost and it was here that the Spirit came in power over them. The apostles began to “speak in other tongues” so all who were there heard the message of the Gospel in their own native language. (Acts 2:4, 8) God showed His presence and power, especially, in this miracle during Pentecost. The question now is “How will the people respond?

#2: God Convicts the Sinful Hearts of People
After hearing the preaching of Peter and the other apostles, “[the crowd was] cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37) They were filled with awe before the presence of God and true guilt came upon them. This type of response is another pattern that is important for us to recognize in instances where God revives His people. Throughout the history of revival we see many examples when groups of people become overwhelmed by their sin and creatureliness in the presence of God. Even this type of response is a grace of God. He must soften the hearts, “preparing the soil” to hear and recognize our human failures before an almighty God.

Jonathan Edwards, the puritan preacher and leader during the Great Awakening of the 1730s, was not known for an impressive, dramatic preaching style. In fact, Edwards was a dry, monotone orator who simply read his sermons from a manuscript. Nevertheless, God used this man to bring about revival in his time. While preaching his most well-known sermon, “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God”, Edwards read his manuscript as usual; however, this time people wept over their sin. How did Edwards achieve such a response? It was nothing he did; rather, God worked in and through Edwards. God softened the hearts of the hearers and revealed to them, through the preaching of His word, their need of a savior.

We desire to see God bring about a great revival in our own day. However we must keep in mind that God is the one who truly brings about this type of change in the hearts of people. We must humbly submit ourselves to Him in prayer and be prepared to see ourselves as we truly are: utterly broken and lost people. So now, we pray with the Psalmist, “Will You not revive us again, that Your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6)

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

“I’m Not Who You Think I Am”

I have a confession to make. I’m not who you think I am. In fact, I’m not who I think I am. I’m not the person I portray when I’m out in public. Some people may look at me and think, “Gee, he really has it all together.” Others may sneer (and rightly so), “He thinks he’s so great. What an arrogant fool.” The truth is, I struggle daily. Sometimes lay awake at night worrying that I’ll fall. I’ve failed many times and I continue to fail daily. I’m not always happy with myself. I hate to think that I’ve let so many people down. I’m tired of trying so hard without seeing much progress. I’m scared I’ll never see my life become what I always imagined it would be.

Yes, this is me speaking. However, these are more than just my feelings and thoughts. These thoughts belong to all of us from time to time and, surprise surprise, even to those who are followers of Jesus Christ. We are all prone to moments of doubt and weakness. We all struggle with the collision of our public and private personas making us feel exposed and vulnerable. When we find ourselves stuck in these thought patterns, we must pause and reflect on the truths God has revealed to us in His word. Only then can we look at the world and our place in it differently. So today, let us all take some time for a quick reality-check.

Reality Check #1: We Are Still Regular People.
It may seem strange we have to begin here, but the truth is that we sometimes forget: even when someone becomes a Christian, he is still just a regular person. Yes, a regular person who has been born again by the Spirit of God and whose sins are completely forgiven, but a regular person nonetheless. All of the frailties of humanity remain. This is not to say that we are not guided or strengthened by the Spirit, but to highlight the fact that Christians still deal with human problems. Sometimes, the church gives the impression that becoming a Christian is more akin to a comic book superhero than a real-life person.

We read stories about great men and women of faith and it seems impossible to live up to their examples. How can I be as brave as Polycarp or Perpetua before the roaring crowds and lions? How can I leave behind all of the comforts of life and risk everything for the sake of the Gospel like Hudson Taylor or William Carey? I will never be as smart as Calvin or Edwards and I’ll never be able to move people like Luther or Spurgeon. Yet, even these were only men and women, each with their own trials and struggles. To exalt these “heroes” of the past is to dishonor their memory. Why? Because even they would recognize there is nothing good in them apart from Christ. (Romans 7:18) They achieved nothing apart from Christ. As followers of Jesus Christ we must all remember that we are just regular people who have experienced the grace of God.

Reality Check #2: Our Identity Is Not Contingent On Others, But On Christ.
Stop it! Stop it right now! Stop acting like who you are is based on how people in this world perceive you. We put too much stock in other people’s opinions of ourselves. We think we must dress to impress. We must be likeable, funny, and charming. We must be intelligent and have a quick wit. If we don’t reach the standards we believe others have for us, then we fail. We must then change in order to please our god. Wait, what? That’s right, when our self esteem and fulfillment is contingent on anyone other than God Himself, we have made that person our new god.

The reality is that we will never live up to who others think we should be. We really don’t even live up to who we think we should be. Most importantly, we don’t live up to who God thinks we should be. However, that is the whole point of the Gospel! “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The “all” in this passage means all. We all fall short of God’s glory and God’s standards. Our standing before God is not based on who we are or what we can achieve. No, our standing with God is based completely on the finished work of Christ on the cross. Our identity then is found in our union with Christ. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) So I will fall, I will be tempted, and I will struggle, but I’m not depending on myself. That makes all the difference. I find my worth and value in Christ alone.

Ultimate reality is not how we see the world, but how God sees the world. In a day and age when an individual can “self-identify” as whatever he or she wants, we must remember that lying to oneself will only take you so far. Yes, I’ve tried to be something that I’m not. Yes, I’ve failed at putting on a show for others. At the end of the day, however, I stand before the mirror alone and I know who I truly am. The question then is not “Will I be what the world wants me to be?” The question is, “Will I be who God is making me into? Will I trust that He knows what is best no matter how the world perceives me?” I may not be who you think I am, but I am who He thinks I am.

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

“What Do You Know?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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