This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday January 26th, 2020.
We are four weeks into our series “Neighborhoods and Nations”. This series has been designed to help us look at and talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church to both our neighborhood and to the nations. Ultimately, we will continue to discover how we can effectively be a neighborhood church (local) for the nations (global) and what that looks like. Last Sunday I talked about expectations. I spent some time talking about the difference between Church Membership and Church Attendership. I talked about what a Church member is and is not.
So, as I have been spending the three-weeks talking a lot about our purpose (To glorify God in everything), what constitutes a church (The church is a people, not a program) and our expectations (I will…), and we now come to the nuts and bolts or foundation of what we have been talking about and it is our responsibility or our God-given call to our neighborhood.
God has established this church right here at 1604 17th Street West smack dab in the middle of Bradenton for a reason, and the reason is not to just show up every Sunday and have a service. We have a greater job to do and that job entails sharing and shining. God has called us to be a witness or light to this community and neighborhood. We have something this neighborhood (and the world for that matter) needs. We are God’s people and we have been given the gift of Salvation and we have been entrusted with the Gospel message. “For our exhortation didn’t come from error or impurity or an intent to deceive. Instead, just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please people, but rather God, who examines our hearts. For we never used flattering speech, as you know, or had greedy motives—God is our witness— and we didn’t seek glory from people, either from you or from others. Although we could have been a burden as Christ’s apostles, instead we were gentle among you, as a nurse nurtures her own children. We cared so much for you that we were pleased to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3 - 8
The Gospel is the message Salvation it is this is the gift of God by grace. It has been given to us by grace (unmerited favor) through faith. Jesus came to save the world from sin. Therefore, we call him Savior. Through his life He came to show the way to the Kingdom of God and through his death and resurrection He made it possible to receive it. You see Jesus came to give us the ultimate gift… Because of his great love, He gave his life so that we could have life and have it abundantly. This is THE gift from God. He gave it, have you received it?
Salt & Light
Reminder There are 25,000 people living in a 1-mile radius from West B. Southside and this means that we have our work cut out for us. So I would like to spend the time we have together to “flesh out” what it is that we are called to be and do in our community and neighborhood.
In Matthew 5:13 – 16, this portion of Scripture is part of a sermon series that Jesus gave called “The Sermon on the Mount” and Jesus is speaking to his disciples. He is speaking to those who have dedicated their lives to following and serving him (his disciples and ultimately to us). In this passage Jesus uses the examples of salt and light to describe His people and to remind us what we are called to do.
He first describes believers as the salt of the earth. Salt was the most commonly used seasoning in antiquity: ‘Can that which is tasteless be eaten without salt?’ (Job 6:6). Its preservative powers made it an absolute necessity of life and a virtual synonym for essential life-giving forces and, not surprisingly, endowed it with religious significance. One of the main purposes of Salt was for preservation and it was intended to keep an object in the state in which it was found and it was used to bring out the flavor in foods. But it was not intended to make it better. In Ancient Israel it was meant to keep meat and fish from spoiling. The purpose was to preserve, but it could not revive or refresh… thus it could not make spoiled meat fresh.
Jesus also called his disciples to be the light of the world. Israel were the people God intended to shine his bright light into the world’s dark corners, not simply to expose evil but to help people who were blundering in the dark to find their way. They didn’t do a great job at that. So here Jesus is calling his followers to complete the job originally set out for Israel.
So, it is in this passage Jesus is calling his people to preserve the message he is preaching by being salt and sharing this message by letting the light (message of hope and salvation) they have shine brightly and unashamedly.
Jesus talks about a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Jerusalem was a city set on a hill and they were called to be the light of the world. They were to show the world the way to the one true God and that He should be worshiped. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. It is impossible. It is already exposed.
A City on a Hill (The Church)
A lamp is not put under a basket
We are God’s people. We have received THE gift of God. So, what is our call or response to our neighborhood and the nations?
As Disciples of Christ we are called to be the salt and light of the world. This is THE job of the believer. This is the GIFT God has given to us.
God has given you the greatest gift you could ever want or ask for… life. This is the gift that keeps on giving. This is the gift we must share with our neighbors. Let us not be ashamed of this gift. Let us work hard to be salt and light and refuse to work hard to keep it hidden and useless.
 Achtemeier, P. J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. (1985). In Harper’s Bible dictionary (1st ed., p. 893). San Francisco: Harper & Row.
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday January 19th, 2020.
Three weeks ago, we began our current series titled “Neighborhoods and Nations”. This five-week series is designed to help us look at and talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church. Ultimately, we will discover how we can effectively be a neighborhood church (local) for the nations (global). Last Sunday I talked about the church and how the church is not an organization (programs, leadership, and building) Church≠ Building + Clergy + Program, but is an organism (a body made up of multiple parts and Jesus in which Jesus is the head) Church = Body (people) + Mission (our objective) + Kingdom (God’s plan).
Today, my aim is to continue to talk about the church, but more specifically the local church and the importance of being connected to a local congregation through membership. Now, some of you may be thinking, “I do not need to be a member of a church in order to be a Christian.” And you would be technically be right. However, I would challenge your statement by saying that a person who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and does not see the value of corporate worship, to the extent of neglecting regular attendance and participation in the local church. In fact, the idea of believers living outside of fellowship with other believers was a completely foreign idea. When you look back to the Ancient Church of the New Testament, the evidence of salvation was synonymous to joining or gathering regularly with an assembled group of believers. So, essentially, when one became of follower or believer in Jesus Christ it meant they entered in to fellowship with other believers. I like how John MacArthur answers the question of why the local church matters when he writes, “The church is the only institution the Lord established and promised to bless. Why would anyone who claims to love the Lord want to keep His people at arm’s length?”
Church Membership vs. Church Attendership
Now, the goal for today is not to guilt you, make you feel bad or twist your arm to join the church, if you haven’t already, but it is to encourage you to see the importance being connected to a church body where you regularly attend and worship. In a few moments I will be talking primarily about church membership and expectations, but before I do this, I think it is important to define the difference between Church Membership and Church Attendership.
Romans 12:4 – 5, “ Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.”
The word “expectations” tends to scare people when it comes to the church. Often people join a church with ulterior motives, (i.e. a place to bury and marry you, it’s good for your social status, some even use it as “fire insurance” … If I am a member of a church, then I will go to heaven.) I am not quite sure why expectations scares people. But, not only does it scare some, it also offends others. People are offended because the church desires and asks that members be active and moving so that the body of Christ can function properly. The text above talks about the various parts that make up the body of Christ and 1 Corinthians 12: 18 – 24 says, “But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted. 19 And if they were all the same part, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” Or again, the head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that are weaker are indispensable. 23 And those parts of the body that we consider less honorable, we clothe these with greater honor, and our unrespectable parts are treated with greater respect, 24 which our respectable parts do not need.” And this tells us that parts of the body need to work together in order to work effectively. So, the expectation for each church member is that you be a fully functioning part of the body so the other parts can function properly as well.
At West Bradenton Southside we do have expectations of our members. I don’t view these expectations as overbearing or demanding, but life-giving and edifying to the church body as a whole. The following are six expectations of every church member…
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday January 12th, 2020.
Last week we began our new series titled “Neighborhoods and Nations”. This five week series is designed to help us look at and talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church and how we can effectively be a neighborhood church for the nations. As I mentioned last Sunday, West Bradenton Southside’s primary objective is to be “A church who glorifies God in all we do.” Today as we continue, I will talk specifically about Church. I will talk about what Church is and what the church is not, how the church is a local and global organization, what a God glorifying church looks like, and conclude with three reasons why Jesus established the Church.
God’s Church is not a place.
Church≠ Building + Clergy + Program. The church is not an organization or a building with the Pastor as the CEO, the members as the employees and the product as clever gimmicks, and a plethora of programs designed to keep members busy and happy. The church is not designed for consumerism where the job of church leadership is to craft and create a program or experience for people to consume and be entertained in the name of Jesus. This quote from Pastor John MacArthur says it perfectly, “So, when you look for a church, look for a church where preaching centers on God, on His Glory, and not you. Where God is constantly being exalted. Look for a church that exalts Christ, not where they sneak him in here and there.”
The Church is a people
Church = Body (people) + Mission (our objective) + Kingdom (God’s plan)
The Bible is specific in telling us the Church is THE BODY of Christ (His people) and this body (believers) is intended to glorify God and bring the Gospel message locally and to all nations.
(Read I Corinthians 12:12 – 27)
The Apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Corinthians and in this passage, he describes the body of Christ, or the Church body, as a living organism (singular) made up of many individual parts (plural). Paul uses the human body as an analogy to show how the Church body should function the same way as our own physical bodies. Our bodies have many parts (or members) and they have specific functions. The eyes are for seeing, the ears are for hearing and the nose is for smelling etc. Likewise, the Church (body of Christ) has many parts and each part has a specific function. In verse 17b Paul writes, “God arranged the members of the body, each one of them, as he chose.” And he writes in verse 27, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” Let’s pause for a moment. What does Paul mean when he writes, “God has arranged the members as he chooses” and “You are the body of Christ.”? Paul says that the Church is made up of people. When I speak of members of individuals, I am not merely speaking of people who have attended a membership class or have a little piece of paper that says they are members of such and such church. I am referring to individuals who are born again believers in Jesus Christ and have an active role in the Church body. The word “member” in this passage is derived from the Greek word Melos which is translated as someone who is part of a larger unit. If you are a believer, then you are part of a larger unit called the body of Christ whether you have a certificate or not.
The Church is both local and global
When we talk about the church, we are not talking about an organization, but we are talking about a large living organism. It is believed that there are over 2 billion Christians on this planet. Now this includes people who would identify themselves as Christian. This is the whole of Christianity… all denominations. Since we live in the United States, I think we sometimes unintentionally forget that the church is both a local and global organism. We must be willing to look past the truth that the church exists beyond the West and English-speaking people. We see the expansion of Christianity throughout the globe from Roman governed Israel to Europe. From Asia to the Middle East. From South and Central America to North America and beyond. When we look at the whole of Christian history can see how God has moved across the globe among the family of Christian believers. Thus, the church is universal in the sense that there are Christians all over the world and the way people worship varies from region to region, country to country and culture to culture. However, the universal church is made up of a conglomeration of local churches.
While it is important for the church to have a global mindset, we must also acknowledge and understand the importance of the local church as well. The New Testament continually emphasizes the importance of local congregations. We read this is Hebrews 10:24 – 25, “And let us watch out for one another to provoke love and good works, 25 not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.”
What Does a God Glorifying Church Look Like?
There is no such thing as a perfect church, congregation or pastor. The only perfect thing about the church the is the Head; who is Jesus Christ. Since both sinners and redeemed sinners make up the she will always be imperfect. So, the best we can do is look at the early church as our model and example so we can glean insights and characteristics as to what a God glorifying church should look like.
Read Acts 2:42 – 47
There are four characteristics I found in this passage that hopefully and prayerfully will inspire us as a church and as individuals to become the God glorifying church that God wants us to be.
Three Reasons Why Jesus Established the Church
Jesus did not establish the church because He needed us finish the work that He started. He did not establish the church for His people to have a place to go on Sundays, and He did not establish the church because He needed an institutional organization to keep His people in line. He established His church for a much bigger picture. Here are three reasons He established His Church.
Now the church, which has been granted the life of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, is called to display the character and glory of God to all the universe, testifying in word and action to his great wisdom and work of salvation.
Friend, what are you looking for in a church? Good music? A happening atmosphere? A traditional order of service? How about:
A group of pardoned rebels…
Whom God wants to use to display his glory…
Before all the heavenly host…
Because they tell the truth about him…
And look increasingly just like him – holy, loving, united?”
 Three Reasons… taken and adapted from Dever, Mark Built Upon the Rock: The Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012 p. 42 -43
 Dever, Mark: What Is A Healthy Church? Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007, p. 48
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday January 5th, 2020.
Now that 2019 is behind us and 2020 is just beginning people all around the world like to step back and look at or reflect on their lives and the previous year to see how they did and how they can better themselves. On January 1st millions of people evaluate their year (look at successes and failures) and then resolve to do things differently for the next year. Some of the top New Year’s resolutions may be
As the campus Pastor of this church one of the main jobs I have, aside from preaching, is to work with leadership and the congregation to clearly communicate and implement the primary objective of our church. This simply means I need to ensure we know what we are supposed to do, why we need to do it and how we will do it. In doing this I need to ensure that we have developed an atmosphere or platform where we are encouraged and empowered to take actions to fulfill them.
So, it is fitting that today start a new series titled “Neighborhoods and Nations”. For the next five weeks we are going to talk about the calling God has placed on us individually and as a church and how we can effectively be a neighborhood church for the nations. Today we will begin by talking about and fleshing out our primary objective, in other words answering the question why we exist (personally and congregationally).
Read Matthew 9:35 – 38 (highlight 37 & 38)
Before we begin, I believe this passage is a great reminder to all of us the call and the challenge God has placed on us.
Vs. 35 – 38: Jesus’s ministry consisted of going out, preaching the Good News, and healing the sick. He had a ministry of mercy and compassion. He saw the crowds of people and he had compassion on them. He saw the state of their nation and the people as they were like sheep without a shepherd. They were abused, rejected and lost… they had no spiritual leadership or guidance.
This is when Jesus says to the disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” Jesus was telling his disciples that there was a lot of work to do and pray that God will send out willing and qualified people to go out and do the work of the kingdom (bring the sheep back to the Shepherd, Jesus).
The Abundant Harvest in Bradenton – Facts
Here are a few hard truths about the area in which we are located.
Every Saturday our church hosts DOWNTOWN Ministries who provides food, clothing and other necessities to the less fortunate and homeless in our community. This can be up to 200 people a weekend.
There are 25,000 people living in a 1-mile radius from West B. Southside.
There are over 100,000 people that live within 10 minutes of Southside and 42% of them are minorities.
We are uncertain how many are churched as a opposed to unchurched, but the fact remains there are plenty of people in the surrounding area of our church that do no know Jesus Christ and have no church to call home.
There were close to 200 accidental drug deaths in Manatee County in 2019.
There were over 600 non-fatal overdoses in Manatee County in 2019.
Just with these statistics I think it is obvious that we are living in an abundant harvest field. The truth remains that we are small, and we are few, but we must pray that the Lord of the harvest sends out workers for the harvest.
Read Matthew 28:16 - 20
So, what is our response? It is extremely important for us as Christian individuals and as a church body to know our objective. We do have a reason for existence. Aside from God; having a purpose or objective in life should be what gets us up and keeps us going day after day. Hopefully you/we aren’t just eeking our way through life without a plan or a purpose (like so many do) because you/we have no clue what our purposes are. The Bible has much to say about our objective. If we look at the passage, we see…
We have looked at two key passages and how they apply to us individually and congregationally. Thus, our primary objective for West Bradenton Southside and for us individually can summed up like this… Our primary purpose is to glorify God in all we do. This excites me because Our objective aligns perfectly with first question of The Westminster Shorter Catechism. The Westminster shorter catechism is the condensed version of the Westminster Confession of Faith which was drawn up in 1648 by the Westminster Assembly that was made up primarily of the Church of England as a document that provides advice on worship, doctrine and church government. The Second London Baptist Confession is adapted from this confession. The shorter catechism is a confession of faith that was written in a question answer format and reads like this, Q1: “What is the chief end of man?” Or what is our purpose? Answer “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” This is a beautiful statement and clearly defines our core objective perfectly. The authors of this confession site 1 Cor. 10:31… “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” The church (and we for that matter) were created for more than mere existence, we were created to worship God and to praise his name. That is why we gather week after week. We are not a social club. We are not a governing entity. We are a group of believers who gather to worship and glorify God. Not only are we to start with worshiping God, but we are also to called to continue our worship through enjoying him. I think we sometimes forget this part. Isaiah 43:5 – 7: We were created by God for him. We bring pleasure to God. So, our response should be to take pleasure in him.
Glory to God and God’s Glory
What is Glory? When we talk about bringing glory to God it means that we speak of his splendor, we proclaim his praise, we live our lives in admiration to Him as we do all for him and through Him.
Since we define glory as the above, I believe the next question to answer is “What does the glory of God mean or look like? God’s glory is His manifest presence. It is the revelation of God’s nature, being, and presence to humanity.
His glory is magnificent and far beyond our comprehension
We see this in Exodus 33:18 – 20. Moses desired one thing… To see the glory of God. The result was Moses saw the back side of God’s glory, because nobody can see God in his full glory and live.
Isaiah 6:1 – 6 we see the hem of God filling the temple. When the prophet Isaiah sees the partial glory of the LORD, his response is fitting. “Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Armies.”
God’s Glory and Our Primary Objective
So, what does this mean? We have looked at our primary objective… To glorify God in all things. We have looked at what glory means and what God’s glory looks like. As we have looked at these, I am fully convinced that it leads us to a question we must continually ask ourselves, “Does what we do glorify God, or does it glorify us? If it is for our glory, then it is not worth investing.” “You will find only emptiness when you pursue your own glory. You will find complete assurance in the pursuit of God’s glory.”
I have established that West Bradenton Southside is a neighborhood church for the Nations and this means we are intentional in all we do. Our worship, our activities, events, and even our church logo has intentionality behind it.
Our logo… what it means.
Arrow up – Represents God’s glory and also represents the church We are a church who glorifies God.
Circles – (Acts 1:8) “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Each circle represents Judea (local), Samaria (the lost) and the nations (world)
Circles represent movement – We are to go in the power of the Holy Spirit to be witnesses of Jesus Christ locally, to the lost and to the world.
It is safe to say that the church is not a destination for crowds. The church is a vehicle to send people into neighborhoods and to the nations. We do not exist to put on great performances to entertain or attract people to us. We do not invite others to the church to be an experience or for people to be spectators. We invite and we exist so we may glorify God in all we do. When we know why we exist this helps us to determine what we say yes to and what we say no to It gives us a simple template to follow… Is what we are currently putting our energy, time, and resources into glorifying God or glorifying us?”
How do we bring glory to God?
Be Intentional in the Gospel – outreach, evangelization, inviting
Be prayerful – What do we invest in? What is God calling us to do? Praying for one another. Praying for the lost.
Be ready to move - When God moves, we need to be ready to move when he does
This is the manuscript for the sermon I preached at West Bradenton Baptist Southside on Sunday December 29th, 2019
Read Jonah 1 – 4
Jonah is one of my favorite books of the Old Testament. It is a short book that is packed with many life lessons. The overall theme of the book is the struggles people have giving up their desires for God’s plans and purposes. In simple terms it is about the struggles we have when our lives become more about God’s ways verses ours.
When we look at the person Jonah, we believe he had an uneventful life as a prophet. Aside from his story in this book he is only mentioned one other time in the Old Testament (2 Kings 14:23 – 29) where he allegedly spoke a prophecy to the King of Judah which helped restore the nations boundaries with Israel.
Chap. 1: 1- 2: Since we don’t read much about him, we assume Jonah had a good, quiet life; he was probably comfortable and happy where he was in life. Then one day God showed up with a command to bring a message of judgment and repentance to the wicked city of Nineveh. Jonah was not going to endanger his life by going to this violent city and he certainly was not going to ruin his reputation with the people of Israel by reaching out to this horrible city. So, Jonah does what so many of us do when we don’t want to do something for God… he ran. Why did Jonah run to Tarshish? At the time of this account Tarshish was known as the westernmost place in the Mediterranean world. It was common for people who were rebelling against God to physically leave the place where had God spoken to them or even met with them and go the opposite direction. Tarshish was just that place for Jonah. In this story Tarshish is anywhere – anywhere but the place where God calls you; in fact, it is the opposite direction a person takes when he turns his back on God’s call and command… Tarshish is the excuse we give for not going.
Twice in Jonah 1:3 it tells us that Jonah flees from the presence of the Lord. This is significant because it emphasizes what Jonah is NOT going to do. He is not going to go to Nineveh; in fact, he is going as far away from the presence of the Lord as possible. You see God’s instruction to Jonah was simple and specific
1) Get up
Jonah’s decision to run was rebellion and he was going to go to any extreme to get away from God. Jonah runs away to avoid God. Jonah was going to a city and culture where he would not hear about God’s faithfulness, God’s mercy, or any references to God. He wanted nothing to do with God.
This is exactly what people do when they live in rebellion to God. The first thing a rebellious person does is not only disassociate himself with God, but with places and people who are also following God. A person who turns his back on God does not run to be with other believers, no, he goes to the place or places where he believes God is not present.
Jonah ran because he did not love in the way God loves. Jonah had no love for the people of Nineveh, and he had no desire to see them spared by God. This was the main reason Jonah rebelled. He knew God was compassionate and would spare them if they repented and He wanted none of that.
The good news for those who have been caught up or are in a life of rebellion and sin is… God will pursue you no matter how far you are from him. This is good news for those who are actively running from God, because it shows God values you, loves you and desires to get you back into a right relationship with him. The hard truth is He will use whatever measures needed to get you back. God will pursue you in his great and radical love for you. James Bruckner writes in his commentary of Jonah, “The good news is that God pursues him. God does not let him go but finds him out in order to rescue him.” The truth is one can ever run from the presence of God and no one can be so rebellious and sinful that God cannot or will not forgive you and set you on the right track. Rosemary Nixon writes in her commentary of Jonah, “Jonah’s contest with God is ill-matched. The account illustrates the impossibility of escaping God’s presence and folly of attempting such a thing.” Resistance to God is futile because when He wants to accomplish something, he will go to any extreme to get it done.
Verse 1:17 “The Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” The key word for me in this passage is “appointed” … some translations say, “prepared”, “provided”, or “sent” and all these words have the same meaning. God ordained or designated this fish for this task. God had a task for the great fish and swallowing Jonah was the task. Many people read the great fish as a judgment against Jonah but fail to see the fish is a sign of God’s mercy. The fish saved the life of Jonah. Had it not been appointed then he would have died at sea and this would be the end of the story; but God lovingly and mercifully pursues and provides safety for him. I am sure Jonah didn’t see it this way (as most of us don’t see God’s mercy in times of rebellion). He now finds himself in the most unpleasant of places (In the belly of the great fish) and soon he will come to the realization of God’s grace and mercy in this situation. This is very common among men and women in rebellion to God.
God lets us continue in rebellion. He allows us to turn our backs on him and He will let us face the consequences of our bad choices. In other words, He allows us to hit rock bottom; not out of spite and anger but out of love and mercy. God does not usually protect us from the consequences of our bad choices. However, he will meet you where you are, and He will walk alongside you to get you to the point where you need to be with Him. Call it tough love or call it discipline the fact remains when you hit rock bottom, God is there with you to lift you up.
Chap. 2:1 – “Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish:” After Jonah was engulfed by the great fish and I think the response of Jonah in chapter 2 is a bit surprising because he turns to God in prayer. Personally, I would expect to read, “God I didn’t want to do what you called me to do in the first place. I think you got the wrong man to do the job, so I ran as far away from you as possible. Couldn’t you have just left me alone safe and secure in my comfortable life?” This however is not what we read at all. This whole chapter is a prayer of thanksgiving from Jonah for being saved and delivered. Really, it only took a potential shipwreck, being thrown into the sea, left for dead and a large fish engulfing him to get him to this point. Is Jonah finally getting the big picture here? Well, let’s not get too hasty because there is still a bit of defiance in this man’s heart even after this time of praise to a God who has taken him captive.
The situation we find Jonah in is like what many of us find ourselves when we hit the bottom of the barrel. Sometimes it takes some pretty extreme events and possibly even fear of death to get us to acknowledge our rebellion. When we get to this point, we will either respond in anger, bitterness, and blame or we will respond as Jonah did in thankfulness, gratitude and praise. However, there is one important ingredient missing in this prayer that we should note and that’s true repentance. This is where Jonah’s slight defiance comes into play. Sure, Jonah is thankful God spared his life, but the problem is the same rebellious Jonah is still in the belly of the fish. It doesn’t appear that he has a change in heart. He is a man who has reached rock bottom and has nowhere else to go. The beautiful thing here is that even in Jonah’s slight defiance God hears and accepts his prayer for what it is… “Thank you for not letting me die and for keeping me safe, I’ll do whatever you want me to do even though I don’t like it.”
Chap. 3:1 – “The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time…” In this chapter we are witness to God’s second call. As far as we know Jonah is the only biblical prophet who had to have God repeat himself on what He wants the person to do. I can just imagine God saying, “Ok Jonah, have you learned your lesson? I am going to get this job done and you are going to be the one who accomplishes it. Now, go to Nineveh and tell them of my impending judgment.” The beauty of God’s second call to Jonah is that He doesn’t remind Jonah of his rebellion, nor does he say, “I saved you so you owe me your obedience; you even said you would do what I want in the belly of the fish so I am here to collect on your promise.” Nothing of that sort was spoken at all. God is not one to hold grudges, he does not keep bringing up our sins after we have confessed them nor does he hold us accountable to the flippant promises we make in order to get out of the mess we have created for ourselves. He simply and lovingly restates what He has called Jonah to do.
“Jonah got up and went to Nineveh” Jonah’s second response is very different from his first response. I don’t think it would be too far off base to say Jonah’s response was reluctant obedience to God. His response of obedience was probably out of not wanting to go through again what he just went through. In other words, he learned his lesson the hard way. Doesn’t this always seem to be the case? God is placing a call on Jonah’s life and in his sovereignty, He was going to accomplish his will through Jonah. Up to this point I believe Jonah’s account is mostly about God accomplishing his will regardless of how the prophet did or did not respond to Him. Does this make God a power-hungry dictator who is set out to take away our freedom to choose? No, the opposite is true. God knows what is best for us in all circumstance and He desires that we trust him at His word in our lives. God wants us to trust him exclusively so that our only response to him will be obedience no matter what the cost.
This does bring up the question as to why God calls us to do some things that seem to be unconventional and radical. Nearly every time God calls us to do something spectacular it will go against the status quo and challenge the “way we have always done it” mentality. Yet God calls us to trust Him and to go out in faith to accomplish what he has set out to accomplish through us.
It should be noted that God does not beg or negotiate with us. Even in the instance of Jonah he doesn’t make a deal with him. Despite Jonah’s less than enthusiastic message to the Ninevites God still worked a mighty miracle that day. After Jonah’s little excursion at the beach he sets out for the city of Nineveh. Upon entering the city, he yells out in his best condemning hellfire and brimstone preacher voice, “In forty days Nineveh will be destroyed!” The response of the Ninevites is astounding! This desperately wicked and prideful race that was despised by all turned from their evil ways. The Ninevites were anything but compassionate and loving towards anyone who dared speak evil of them. To hear the response of the people was repentance is unbelievable but to also hear the King responds in repentance was literally unheard of. Don’t you love it when God does the unthinkable?
What was the response of the Ninevites? Chapter 3:5 says, “Then the people of Nineveh believed God.” They heard the words of the prophet and they fully believed they were receiving a warning from God. They may not have fully understood what the judgment, but I am sure they knew it meant complete and utter destruction. They repented in hopes that their lives would be spared. We know that their repentance was genuine as the decree was to fast and put on sackcloth for their sins. These are outward signs of repentance and seeking mercy. However, it wasn’t the act of fasting and sackcloth that God saw, He instead saw their hearts and how they were according to verse 10“turning from their wicked ways”. This is true repentance. The king of Nineveh’s response was even unique. He may have been uncertain that God was going to have compassion on them as he says, “Who knows? May God turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger so that we may not perish.” These words of the king imply that he has humbled himself and is truly repentant.
The story gets better, in chapter 3:10 says that God “relented” which basically means he had compassion or felt sorrow. Literally God’s heart was moved by the people’s response and his only response was compassion. Some people have a problem with this because it implies that God changed his mind; but I don’t see it that way at all. There is no reason to get upset or even defend God’s response because He was just doing what He always does… extending grace and compassion on those who are truly repentant.
Chapter 4: Jonah was witness to one of the greatest movements of God in history and his response is displeasure and anger. Instead of rejoicing and thanking God for his wonderful mercy Jonah gets angry with because He didn’t destroy the city. In fact, the account says, “Jonah was greatly displeased, and he became furious.” The word displeased is translated “hot with anger, burning with anger or stewing in fury.” He wasn’t just mad; he was furious. The problem was he allowed this fury take root in his heart.
He says, “(This is) why I fled to Tarshish in the first place” which literally means, “I ran as fast as I could, I hurried away, and I took flight”. He intended to get away from God. He is so angry that Jonah asked God to kill him and be done with it. Jonah’s anger is burning so hot he would rather die than rejoice with God. God asks Jonah, “Is this anger really doing anyone (yourself included) any good?”
Jonah ends on a somber note. There is no closure to this story. It ends with a rebuke from God and we do not know how Jonah responds to this rebuke. I think we all would like to believe he came to his senses and repented and got right with God, but we just don’t know. However, I believe the book ends the way it does because it leaves you and me with a challenge… How should we respond when God calls us to things we don’t want to do? How are our hearts? What is God calling us to do? Is he calling you and me out of our comfortable lives to go out to places where we wouldn’t normally go and proclaim the message of repentance? Could that place be right outside our church doors and across the street and to the surrounding community? These are the questions we will continue to ask and answers to discover in the new year. The main question is, how will we respond when God says, “GET UP! GO! And PROCLAIM”?
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I currently live on the Gulf Coast of Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with over 25 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful.