Terrence Jones says there’s something upside down about the landscape of the church in America these days.
“American Christianity is messed up,” he said. “We forget that Jesus is the prize, that reigning with Him and being with Him is the reward.”
The gospel has become something completely different, said Jones, pastor of Strong Tower at Washington Park, Montgomery, as he preached the convention sermon Nov. 14 to close the annual meeting at First Baptist Church, Trussville.
People “chase tranquility and comfort” as the goal, but nothing this world has to offer will ever compare to the eternal treasure found in Jesus Christ Himself, he said.
“We have to recapture the idea of faithful endurance.”
The ministry has a set path, he said — it’s a cross, then a crown. Christians walk through suffering here with endurance and then gain the reward of Christ in eternity.
That’s what Paul reminded the young pastor Timothy as he wrote to him from death row — that if we have died with Christ, we will also live with Him, and if we endure with Him, we will also reign with Him.
It’s a trustworthy saying that Paul offers in 2 Timothy 2:11–13 — one of five “trustworthy sayings” that Paul gave in his epistles.
Jones said all were written to pastors, perhaps “because Paul knew pastors would be prone to doubt and wonder, ‘Is God really with me?’”
From this particular “trustworthy saying,” pastors can draw three conclusions, Jones said: commitment to Christ comes with a great reward, lack of commitment leads to great peril and ultimately God wins because He cannot deny Himself.
“Nothing we can lose in this life can compare to what we will receive,” Jones said. “It is, however, possible to be characterized as having perseverance but still need a warning.”
Looking at Revelation 2, Jones said the story of the church at Ephesus shows us something important — that walking away from Christ is a possibility.
Both that passage and the verses in 2 Timothy “remind us that abandonment is something we need to be sober minded about,” he said.
Pastors have to fight to endure and hold on to their love for Jesus. But a bit of good news — “even when we are faithless, God is faithful,” Jones said.
All Christians have had seasons where they are faithful and seasons where they are faithless.
He recounted the story of how several months ago his family’s home was broken into, robbed and vandalized.
“People wonder how we’re able to stay, how I’m able to walk across the driveway and share the gospel with the person I know robbed our house. The answer is I see myself in all of these categories,” said Jones, explaining that he identifies with people who deny Christ.
God is always at work
“There are moments where I endure and there are moments where I’m faithless.
Yet God is always at work, he said.
“If we stumble He will carry us. And if we rebel He will push us to the side and use somebody else to take the gospel to the ends of the earth. So we march on.” (Grace Thornton)