Nick Jones

God, Life, Religion

Saved!

“Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” – Luke 17:19

According to Luke Jesus was walking along the border of Galilee and Samaria when he came across ten lepers. These people had been ostracized from society. They couldn’t associate with anyone other than those who had the same malady, which usually meant they stuck together in groups and in little communes.

As Jesus was entering a local village (Scripture doesn’t identify which one) these ten lepers call out to Him. “Jesus, have mercy on us!” They’ve heard about Jesus, they no doubt recognize Him by the crowds that were following, and they’ve kept their distance. Jesus shouts back, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” Luke then says in verse 14, “And as they were going, they were cleansed.”

Evidently they turned around and went to the priests. They had enough faith to believe that when Jesus told them to go show themselves to the priests that they would be healed. Now it’s important to note the word used here in verse 14, “cleansed.” The Greek indicates healing from a ceremonially unclean disease or sickness, which is what these lepers had. They had to shout “Unclean, Unclean!” Every time they were near anyone who was “clean.”

But as we continue through Luke 17 we find out that one of these leprous men comes back to Jesus and falls at His feet praising and thanking Jesus. It’s a Samaritan. Jesus says, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine–where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” The implication is that most of the men were not foreigners, that they were Jews.

Now pay attention to what Jesus says next, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well (has saved you).” There a difference between cleansing and saving isn’t there? All of them were healed in body, but this Samaritan was healed in his soul, he was saved. His gratitude for what Christ had done for him pricked his conscious. He recognized he had experienced an encounter with God Himself.

And so with us, we must develop a life of gratitude. God does so much for us that we neglect to thank Him for. God does so much for us that we gloss over during the day. We get caught up in the things we want and need that we forget to thank Him for the things He’s done for us. Thank Him today.

How Do I Become Righteous?

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” –Matthew 5:20

That is a strong statement for Jesus to make. What Jesus is informing His hearers here on the mountain is that in order to obtain salvation, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, one must be more righteous than the most righteous people. The scribes and Pharisees counted themselves righteous because they were sons of Abraham and because they followed what the law required. According to them they were righteous because they obeyed the law. They made themselves righteous.

The Bible is clear that in order to obtain salvation one must be righteous, one must be free from sin. Jesus says in Matthew 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We must be righteous in order to be saved. Which then leads to the question, how do I become righteous?

Many will say that if we keep the ten commandments, obey the Bible, do good works, all those things will make us righteous. Sounds good right? “Righteousness is right living” is what I’ve heard before. And many Christians focus on being good and following what the Bible says. The unfortunate thing is that when we do that we become legalists because we are trying to become righteous in our own power.

What does that look like to God? Isaiah has some words about that, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” All our righteous deeds are a like a filthy garment in the eyes of God. We can’t make ourselves look more righteous in God’s eyes. When we try in our own power to be good, we are trying in our own power to save ourselves, to make ourselves righteous. And when we try to make ourselves righteous in our own power we are putting on filthy rags.

Jesus asks us to put on His righteousness. In Revelation 3 Jesus tells the church of Laodicea who is lukewarm and believes themselves to be rich and fully clothed that they are instead naked. And that the only way to solve that problem is to “I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you m ay become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourselves and that the sham of your nakedness will not be revealed.”

We Christians today think we have it together. We think because we obey the commandments, help people out, believe the right things that God has to save us. The problem is that we are relying on our own righteousness. Christ says, “Buy from Me My white garment of righteousness. Put it on.”

Even though it’s free, it will cost you everything you have, everything you are. Because to buy from Christ means to give Him all. When we buy His righteousness we trade ourselves, we give up ourselves. And when Christ clothes us with His white garment, we are instantly righteous. Now we always have the choice to take the garment off (and frequently do), but when we submit to Christ, He puts it back on us and we are righteous again.

We get righteousness by submitting to Christ, moment by moment, day by day. We get righteousness by taking Christ’s righteousness as our own, infiltrating our lives, and running our lives. Definitely easier said than done.

For the previous post in this series on the definition of righteousness Click Here.
For the next post in this series that deals with what righteousness is not, Click Here.

My Grandmother

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Two weeks ago my grandma passed away. It’s been an interesting two weeks. I have been struggling how to write this post. For the last several years I’ve seen her go downhill, and for the last few years I have been in denial. Not denial that she would pass away, but denial that I had already said goodbye and was going to be ok when she passed away. In my mind I knew that she would pass away sooner rather than later, and so mentally I had thought that I had prepared myself for the inevitable conclusion.

Two weeks ago my grandma passed away, and it hit me harder than I thought it would. Granted I have been blessed that I have made it to 31 years old without losing any of my close relatives. Up until this point all four of my grandparents were living. I feel funny writing about the grief that I am going through as I realize how blessed I am to have so little death in my family.

Two weeks ago my grandma passed away. This grandma taught me how to iron my clothes. This grandma taught me how to cook Indian food. This grandma taught me that presentation of food is just as important as taste. This grandma taught me how to host a gathering. This grandma taught me how to properly set a table. This grandma celebrated my birthday and my brothers birthday with us even when it wasn’t our birthdays. This grandma took us camping. This grandma encouraged my brother and me to act out Bible stories even if it was just for her and grandpa. This grandma was so much to me. And to see her go downhill was so hard for me.

Two weeks ago my grandma passed away. As soon as I was told she was in the hospital and would be going into a nursing home my family drove up to where she was. On the Sunday we arrived she recognized me, my wife, and my daughter. She knew who we were. She was happy to see us. It was good to see her, even though it was hard to see her. That would be the last time I would see her.

Two weeks ago my grandma passed away. She passed away April 20, early in the morning. My mother called me after I had come back home. After Sunday she didn’t recognize anyone. After I had seen her she went downhill much more quickly.

Two weeks ago my grandma passed away. There will always be a hole in my heart. But the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4 ring in my ears:

But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13, 16-18

Two weeks ago my grandma passed away. But someday soon I will see her again. Someday soon when Christ comes she will be raised up in complete health. Someday soon she will rise up when Christ sounds that trumpet and I will see her again. What a glorious day that will be!

Fine Tuning of the Universe

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Apologetics includes not only philosophical answers to questions, but also scientific answers to questions in defending one’s faith. When it comes to the beginning of the universe ultimately it takes faith to believe how it began because none of us alive today were there to witness the beginning of the universe. Enter the Fine-tuning of the Universe Argument:

  1. The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design
  2. It is not due to physical necessity or chance
  3. Therefore, it is due to design

The sticking point for most people will be number 2 as some will believe that it is due to chance. But let’s look at that for a minute or so.

The Big Bang is the most prominent theory as to the beginning of the universe. Basically, the theory is that roughly 13.8 billion years ago the universe sprang into existence as a singularity and has been expanding and cooling ever since. Now I’m no scientist, so you’ll have to forgive my lack of in depth knowledge as to the specifics, but according to the model everything had a beginning. We don’t know what caused the singularity, there was no space before it, in fact there was nothing before the Big Bang.

Now there are different ways to interpret this data. And since no one alive today was actually there, it’s difficult to say with absolute surety that one way is the way. The way I interpret the data is that God created the universe. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Now there is a fine-tunedness to our universe. Some will say that it was chance that our universe sprang into being, and that is is chance that our earth is in the right spot in the solar system, and that it’s chance that the various laws are the way they are. But the universe is fine tuned for life. And if any of these fine tuned numbers were off by just a little amount, there would be some significant problems for life. Here are just three examples, and remember these are the maximum deviation from the accepted values, meaning that if they deviated by those amounts we would have some issues.

  1. Gravitation constant – If this constant varied by just 1 in 1060 parts, none of us would exist.
  2. Cosmological Constant – If this rate varied by just 1 in 10120 parts, the expansion rate of the universe would either be too fast or too slow .
  3. Mass Density of the universe – If this rate varied by just 1 in 1059 parts, would either cause stars to burn too rapidly to form, or there would be insufficient helium creating a shortage of heavy elements.

The universe is so fined-tuned for existence it’s difficult to say that it was mere chance. Michael Turner, an Astrophysicist at the University of Chicago is famously quoted in regards to the fine-tunedness of the universe as saying, “The precision is as if one could throw a dart across the entire universe and hit a bulls eye one millimeter in diameter on the other side.”

The probability that this universe happened by mere chance is ridiculously remote. I believe the best explanation for the universe is that God created it.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.” –Psalm 19:1-2

For the previous post in the Apologetics click here. For the next post click here.

Chose the Good Part

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“But only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:42

Here’s the context. Jesus had just finished sharing the parable of the Good Samaritan. He had asked the lawyer that famous question, “Who was the neighbor?” To which the lawyer couldn’t even muster the ability to say “The Samaritan.” In the next verse we find Jesus traveling to a different town and two women befriend Him and are neighborly to Him.

Mary and Martha invite Jesus to their home and Martha begins the preparations as most good hostesses do. While Martha is busy buzzing around, Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to what Jesus was saying. Martha was upset as most of us would be if our sibling was not helping out and demanded that Jesus tell Mary to help her. Jesus’ reply? The above text.

When reading this passage I noticed a connection between this verse and Psalm 27:4.

“One thing I have asked form the LORD, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple.”

The one good part that Mary had chosen was to sit at the feet of Jesus and meditate upon His words, to accept His leading, and to be fully engaged with Him. Mary chose the good part. How many times in life when we spend time with God do we choose the good part?

So often I come to my time with God quickly and with other things on my mind. Instead of choosing the good part, I choose the bad part. I choose hurriedness, I choose scattered brain, I choose to focus on me. Reading this helped me realize that the good part is slowing down and choosing Christ.

I realized that by slowing down, ingesting the words of Christ I choose the good part. I realized that instead of choosing worldly pleasures and my own righteousness, by choosing the good part I choose Christ’s righteousness. When Christ was talking to the church of Laodicea in Revelation, He encouraged them to buy from Him white garments and gold.

So often I come to my devotional time thinking I have it all together, thinking that I know what I need to know.  But when I slow down and understand the good part, I realize that I don’t have it all together, and I need to not just meditate on His words in the morning, but all through the day. Once I have it, it can’t be taken from me, but I can step away from it. Just as it is with His righteousness. When I buy the white garment of His righteousness I have it and it can’t be taken from me. Only I can choose to take the garment off.

This excites me as I hope it does you. Jesus is waiting every day for us to spend time with Him. Why not choose the good part today?

What is Righteousness?

I mentioned that one of the things that I have been studying as of late is righteousness by faith. But it might be a good idea to start out by defining righteousness by faith or justification by faith.

The problem that we humans have with justification by faith or righteousness by faith is that is defined as this:
“It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.”

The first part doesn’t appeal to many people. How many of us really want to lay our glory in the dust? Most of us if we’re honest with ourselves would like to be famous. We want our fifteen minutes of fame. We try to find or create different ways in which to do that. And society is bowing to our desire. Look at how easy it is to become famous today, all you have to do is get a viral video and bam!

“It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust, and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself.”

–Ellen White

Yet justification by faith is the work of God laying the glory of man and woman in the dust. God can’t work with a person full of pride thinking they can do everything on their own. The reason He can’t is because that person won’t let Him work.

Here’s the thing, God only works with people fully submitted to Him. He won’t force anyone to anything they don’t want to. And when we submit to Him we are admitting that we can’t do anything to save ourselves.

The Bible teaches that we must be righteous in order to be saved. Jesus says in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

If we even think that we can be more righteous than the Pharisees of old we’re mistaking ourselves. It doesn’t matter if we believe the truth, if we’re doing it for our own glory, we’re lost. Righteousness by faith means we submit to Christ, admitting that we can’t save ourselves and that we can’t be righteous in and of ourself. Then and only then does Christ give us His righteousness.

As Jeremiah said, “And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘The LORD our righteousness.'” It is Christ’s righteousness, not ours.

The next post in this series will deal with how we become righteous. (Click Here)

10 Things I’ve Learned From Being a Pastor

Every pastor has a list of things they’ve learned. Here are 10 that I’ve learned in the last nine years I’ve been a pastor in no specific order. It’s geared for other young pastors.

1. If you look young, you’re going to get the “young” comment. Everyone tells me it’s not a curse, but being a pastor in his early thirties that can still pass as a college student has some major drawbacks. Every church I have served in I have gotten this comment in one form or another, “You look so young.”

The problem with this comment is many times the attitude that comes with it is a belief that because you look so young it’s difficult to take you seriously and believe that you really know what you’re talking about.

2. Not everyone has the same goals as you. Not everyone is going to have the same goals for the church as you do. Don’t go in guns a blazing with your goals expecting everyone else to fall in line. Ministry doesn’t work that way. Ministry is servant leadership.

3. Learn to say “No.” If you can’t say “No” you’re going to be in trouble. Church members will expect certain things from you and if you’re always saying “Yes,” it means you’re saying “No” to your family. Your family should come before your job. Also, by always saying “Yes” you are enabling church members to avoid realizing the Spiritual Gifts and the ministry that God has given them.

4. Check your ego at the door. You’re not the most important person at church. Your ego may say otherwise, but remember Christ is the head of the church, not you.

5. Listen, listen, listen. So often we think we know the answers to everything. Listening is a difficult skill to learn. Listening is not taught at University or Seminary. Church members will thank you if you can make sure that you really and truly listen to their concerns when they share with you. Don’t be looking around for the next person to talk with, listen.

6. Read regularly. This is a tough one. With everything that a pastor does, how in the world do you spend time reading? Reading is where you will get your sermon ideas, illustrations, continue your education, and help you better your skills as a pastor. Aim to read between 15-20 non-fiction books a year.

7. Mentor someone. Andy Stanley says it best, “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone!” The church needs its members to be involved in ministry. You shouldn’t do it all. Your family will suffer, your personal life will suffer, your health will suffer. This goes along with number 3.

8. Exercise regularly. Without exercise our bodies become out of shape. Just like we must exercise our mind (see number 6) we also must exercise our bodies. Christ saved us so that He could use us. Let’s give Him the best we can give Him.

9. Make sure your available times are clearly stated. Be clear about when you’ll be in the office. Set up some office time so that if people want to meet you at the office you can tell them the times you are available.

10. Don’t neglect prayer and personal worship. And this doesn’t mean spend time reading the Bible in the section that you’ll be preaching on this week. Spend time abiding in Christ, spend time in prayer, spend time for your soul, not for your job.

I hope you enjoyed these 10 things I’ve learned. If you have anything you’ve learned or think that I have missed, go ahead and leave a comment letting me know what you have learned.

The Moral Argument

Apologetics is somewhat of a passion of mine. Apologetics is the defense of what you believe. You can be an apologist for Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Atheism, etc… So whenever you are defending what you believe you are in essence an apologist. The statements and phrases used in defending your faith are called arguments, and one that I want to look at today is called the Moral Argument.

The Moral Argument is I believe a difficult argument to dismantle. People keep trying to tear it apart but it keeps popping back up again when some of the logical conclusions of the detractors are considered. The Moral Argument goes something like this:

  1. If objective moral values and duties are objectively real, then God exists.
  2. Objective moral values and duties are objectively real.
  3. Therefore, God exists.

Some definitions:

Moral Values – A general category that refers to all that is ‘good’
Moral Duties – A class of moral values to which one is morally responsible or obligated

A lot of times when I share this argument with people the first thing they say is, “But I know a lot of atheists who are more moral than many Christians.” This may be true, but the argument here is not that belief in God is necessary for morality but rather whether God Himself is necessary for morality. One doesn’t have to believe in God in order to be moral. But the question is, “Is God’s existence for morality necessary?” I would argue yes.

There are certain universal beliefs as to what is immoral. Murdering someone is wrong, raping someone is wrong, stealing is wrong. These are all objective moral values, meaning that they are moral values that are true despite what people believe. We all hold these moral facts as true.

Another argument against I have run up against is that society has learned through the process of what is best for society what is moral and was is immoral. Another way of saying this is that everyone makes up their own moral code. This is moral relativism. The problem with moral relativism is that it is easily abandoned when something they value is threatened.

For example, if you believe murder is wrong but you believe that this is a personal belief and that everyone has the choice to choose what is moral in their own lives, then you must allow someone to believe that murder is right. How can you morally object to their act of murdering your spouse/child/significant other? You can’t. You can’t tell them they are wrong because their morals dictate that they are right.

Moral relativism fails. It has no legs.

There are many more arguments against that I could go into. But I just decided to talk about the ones I’ve most commonly interacted with. I find apologetics fascinating and an opportunity to talk with others about God rather than at them. The purpose of any apologetic argument is not to win, but to share and to connect. It’s a conversation point to help people think more.

Trust Your Heart?

“Trust your heart.” Have you ever received that advice? Princess Diana before she passed away was quoted as saying, “Only do what your heart tells you.” I know I’ve received that advice before. When a big decision needs to be made, especially in some Disney movie, the advice is, “Trust your heart. Your heart will know what to do. Your heart will never lead you astray. Listen to your heart.” But can we really trust our heart?

The problem with trusting our hearts is that our hearts can lie to us. Our hearts will tell us that everything is ok when its not. Our hearts tell us what we want to hear, not necessarily what we need to hear. Our hearts are liars. When we listen to our hearts we lead with our emotions. And many times when we make decisions based on emotion we can get into a lot of trouble.

Most importantly, our heart can tell us that we are righteous when we aren’t. Our heart can tell us that because we are going to church, paying our tithe, and follow the ten commandments that we are becoming more and more righteous in the eyes of God. The only problem is that the Bible tell us that our righteousness is as filthy rags. Our righteousness is nothing in the eyes of God. Check it out:

For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.

–Isaiah 64:6

You see, God tells us not to trust our heart. He says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” The heart is more deceitful than anything in life. Everything else is less deceitful than the heart. Our heart has the potential of great evil more than anything else in our lives. Jesus, talking with His disciples in the Gospel of Mark says this, “From within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”

The heart produces these things! When we allow our hear to lead, when we trust our heart, we end up in a bad way. Yet there is hope. Christ says in Revelation 3 to “buy from [Him]…white garments so that [we] may clothe [ourselves].” The heart tells us we don’t need Christ’s righteousness. But Jesus says that unless we are clothed in His righteousness we will only be wearing filthy rags.

I want to buy the white garment that Jesus is selling. I want to let Him lead my life and change this deceitful heart. Don’t you?

Periscope Experiment

I started a Galatians series at the Sandy Seventh-day Adventist Church. With this series I decided to try out Periscope and add information that I couldn’t include in the sermon. This is the first one.

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