Last Sunday, we followed Jonah's journey from the belly of a fish to the heart of a city - and in the middle of his journey we find a story of grace, obedience and second chances.
As he stepped onto the dusty road, with the city of Nineveh looming in the distance, Jonah felt mixed emotions.
Yes, God had spoken to him and asked him to go.
Yes, he had refused and run away.... and God had found him.
Yes, he had been as good as dead... and God had saved him.
And God had spoken again. A second chance had been given, not only to Nineveh and its citizens, but to Jonah as well.
He should be so grateful, so happy to be alive and breathing! But he just couldn't shake his anger and hatred for the people of this city, he couldn't help but feel utter contempt for their lifestyles and their culture, he despised them.
But he had made a vow to God... and he would obey.
[listen to the message]I think Jonah is one of the easiest people to relate to in the Bible. His struggle with living in obedience to God's call while being manipulated by his sinful nature is a story we have all shared in at some point. The apostle Paul summed up this struggle this way: "I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate. And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord." [Romans 7:15, 18-19, 21-25]Throughout this series, we have described sin as "any area in our lives where we have run from the love and presence of God." This includes all of us.God, in his grace, pursues us and extends to us the invitation to return to him. We have described this process as "repentance."But what good is an understanding of our running, or even of turning our running back towards God, if we don't take the next step? This week, we defined the next step after repentance as "obedience."Repentance turns you around. Obedience lets you take the next step forward.Here's some thoughts from Sunday's teaching & discussion:
1. OBEDIENCE HAS INCREDIBLE INFLUENCE
Jonah’s obedience influenced the Ninevites to:
o Believe God
o Call on God
o Repent of their evil ways
o Receive God’s mercy
2. GOD HAS CHOSEN US TO ACCOMPLISH HIS MISSION
How willing are you to be God's messenger,
taking good news to undeserving people?
3. REPENTANCE & OBEDIENCE GO HAND-IN-HAND
And they share a common factor: sacrifice.
In what situation(s) would you consider fasting and giving up your (rightful) comforts - sacrificing - in order to seek and find God?
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
• Repentance brings us to God’s mercy
• Obedience brings us to God’s grace
Last Sunday we celebrated Palm Sunday together with Matthews Memorial Church.
Pastors Ryan Reveley and Travis Jarrett co-preached on the events leading up to Jesus' entry into Jerusalem, focusing on Judas,
Peter & Jesus.
:: Heart Matters - Judas
Judas is an easy target when we want to pin a "bad guy" label on someone; let's face it, how much worse can you get than the guy who betrayed his Master to face trial at the hands of the religious leaders and crucifixion at the hands of the Roman government?
We love stories that tell us about "the good within"
- but our "good" is meaningless if we are
disconnected from the heart of Jesus.
What was really in the heart of Judas? Is there anything redeemable, restorable within his story? John 12:6 gives us some insight into the heart of Judas - "... [Judas] did not care about the poor, because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.
Judas had a hard heart; even though he was working with Jesus, the heart of Judas was far from the person and mission of Jesus, it was disconnected from the heart of Jesus.
:: 5 Ways a Heart Grows Hard
If Jesus had addressed Judas' heart and actions directly, I think he would have said this: "Judas, your heart is hard because..."
1. You have selfish motivations
-- nothing says, "I'm selfish" like the label "thief"
-- when we sit above the desires of God and the needs of others, then we know we have a "self" problem
2. You have an unwillingness to be inconvenienced
-- Judas watched as another washed Jesus' feet without any motivation to share in that service to bring honor to his Master
-- Jesus' life and ministry modeled a willingness to be inconvenienced in order to minister to the needs of others
3. You are misusing the gifts & blessings you've been given
-- Judas' responsibility was stewardship over the moneybag
-- He took advantage of that trust, using what was given to God for his own benefit
-- Our heart hardens when we are poor stewards of God's blessings
4. You have misconceptions & false expectations about God's plan
-- Judas' heart-hardening was probably subtle and progressive
-- The more Jesus spoke of his death, the more the truth of Jesus failed to line up with Judas' expectations & image of a Messiah, the more distant he became, until finally he plots against Jesus while still sitting with him
5. You think that your secret sins are unknown because you look "good"--- This was the final stage of Judas' heart-hardening; there is nothing more deceitful than the lie that says, "I'm fine" while living disconnected from the heart, life and mission of Jesus Christ
-- Judas had forgotten God's earlier warning to his people: "...your sin will find you out."
"A hard heart becomes completely disconnected from Christ;
our solution, then, is to confess our sin, allowing the Holy Spirit
to transform our hardened heart into hearts of soft, new flesh,
and then to receive forgiveness and grace from Christ,
that we may walk fully in new life with Him."