Well, good morning Grace and also to those who watch via the internet, our mobile app and our missionaries across the sea and our partners across the sea; we welcome you today as well. We're in a series called Life-Changing Decisions and, for those of you all who are regulars, you're very aware of the series.
It's week 3 of a 5-part series. But, if you're new and this is your first time – to sort of ramp everybody back up to speed to remember what we're talking about – we're talking about the decisions that we need to make before we make decisions. Those decisions that we need to make before we make decisions.
I think all of us, if we're honest, have had those times where we've made a decision and it didn't turn out the way that we wanted and we wish that we could do a rewind or a mulligan. I'm not a golfer, but I hear some of you all who golf love that word "mulligan." Is that correct? I hope so.
Anyway, I've heard that God gives us mulligans. So, thank God for that. But, I think we've all had those moments where we wanted to rewind, we wanted to rethink what we've done. And that's why we're talking about these decisions that we're making that are life-changing. We're look at things that, before we make a decision from this point forward on in our lives, what can we do – what decisions can we make before we make the next decision?
And last week, if you remember, we talked about taking responsibility. We said that, in a lot of our lives – and listen, there's no question about it, there are some things in our lives that we cannot control. I totally give you that; concede that. But, we do have the ability to change the way we respond to those things that God has thrown our way. And ultimately, if we're honest, a lot of the things that we get ourselves into, we did make some choices that somehow got us there.
So, we talked about taking responsibility and at the end of the day, what I'm really trying to do in this series is this: I believe that many of us are where we are today because of decisions that we made in the past. And I believe we're going to be where we're going in the future based on decisions that we're making right now. So, we want to make great decisions. We want to make decisions that will change our lives.
And so, last week we talked about taking responsibility. This week we are going to talk about what word will we follow. And that may not make a whole lot of sense to you as I read it. But, I want to try to explain what I mean by that. In our lives, we all make decisions based on things that we know.
Maybe we were taught something. Maybe a mom said something to us. Maybe we read a book on something. Maybe we saw a YouTube video on something. Maybe we listened to a DVD. And so we have all this information, these structures that we have, that we make decisions on. And at some level, we're going to have to decide. Especially for those of us who are followers of Christ.
Now, if you're here today, maybe you went to First Friday and you were like, "Hey, that church is cool. They do bumper cars and they were doing all that stuff. Maybe I'll come check them out." I just would encourage you to listen and to hear what I have to say. But for those of us who say that we're followers of Jesus, at some point in our lives, we're going to be confronted with what I'm getting ready to tell you and it's always difficult. It's difficult for me, it's difficult for you depending upon what area it is.
But, we're going to have to make the decision before we make decisions. Are we going to do what God's Word says or are we going to do what something that we like, or our emotions, or what we think is right? Are we going to do what that says to us? And sometimes, that's just a rub for all of us because there are areas in God's Word, if we're all honest, that are just tough sometimes.
And you go, "Wow. I don't know that I really want to do that. I don't really feel like turning the other cheek at five o'clock on University Parkway when traffic is going on and somebody just pulled out in front of me. I don't want to do that." But, we have to make those decisions. Are we going to follow what God says or are we going to do what we want to do or what we think is right or what we read in a book that said to do it this way? And at the end of the day, we're going to have those choices.
So, what word are you going to follow? And, as you know, we're in the book of Jonah and we're going to see today as we go through chapter 3 and four verses into chapter 4, we're going to see that Jonah wanted to do what he wanted to do. Not what God wanted him to do. Jonah is the Frank Sinatra of the Old Testament. He wants to do it his way, okay? And oftentimes in our lives, if we're honest, we do that as well.
So, let's get after it today. We're going to go through chapter 3 and four verses into chapter 4. We're going to look at the story of Jonah which is really cool. And isn't it awesome that, at the end of this series, you will have read the entire book of Jonah and you didn't have to go home and do anything? You got it all here in church. I mean, this is a great place. I mean, yeah. Where else can you go and get all that Bible, right?
So, we're going to look at Jonah and then we're going to do some take-homes at the end and I really believe this will be a life-transformational message for all of us. So, let's look here. We're going to do Jonah 3:1-4:4. I'm reading out of the English Standard Version. You're welcome to follow along in your Bible, but we try to put it every where and on the screens here and on the TV so that you can follow along and it makes it very easy for you to see what the Bible says.
So, if you remember where we're at, Jonah has been thrown into the water, the fish swallowed him, three days in the fish and he's now spit back up – the word was vomited back up – onto the dry land and now we're picking that story back up here in Jonah 3:1.
It says, "Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time..."
If you remember in chapter 1, God spoke to Jonah. He said, "Jonah, here's what I want you to do. I want you to go to Nineveh, I want you to preach a word and I want you to arise and go." And do you remember what Jonah did? He rose and fled. So, now the word of the Lord comes to Jonah again, the second time. He's getting a re-up. He's getting a mulligan. He's getting a redo here.
The second time the Word of the Lord comes to Jonah saying, "Arise and go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you."
Some cool things that you might not see in the English translations. This is really cool. The word "great city" in the Hebrew contains – it's a compound word. It actually has "Elohim" in there. And "Elohim" is the word for God. So, it literally can be translated "a great city to God." Which makes the reader ask, "What's so great about the city? I mean, they're brutal. They kill people. They treat women terrible. They do all these things, this great city."
So, if you were reading it and you were hearing this, it would make you question, "Why is this city so great to God?" And Jonah is a great writer. He's always baiting us to make us question what's God doing? Where's He going?
So, God says, "Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you."
So, Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the Word of the Lord. Remember in chapter 1, he rose and he fled. Now, after three days in the stomach juices of a great fish, Jonah figures it's probably a good thing to go to Nineveh. So, he rises and goes to Nineveh according to the Word of the Lord.
Now, Nineveh was an exceedingly great city. Once again, "Great city" still has "Elohim" in there. This great city of God. Why is God calling it great? Is He calling it great because He thinks it's great? Well, it can't be that great because the people in there are bad. Why does God see this city as great? You know? Is it just huge? Is it godlike in it's stature? Or is it maybe God sees it as a great city because He wants to do something great in that city?
So, "Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth."
Now, for those of you all who really like archaeology, you will realize that most archaeologists say Nineveh was not that big of a city. And what they say is is they're like, "Here's a great example of where the Bible's not right. It wasn't a three days' journey. Three days' journey would be like 55 miles. Nineveh was not 55 miles." What I would like to tell you again, this is an example of where maybe not understanding language is something that would help us out. This is probably an ancient Near Eastern idiom.
The way they would transact business in the ancient Near East is they would go into a city one day and then they would transact their business day two. And then they would leave the city day three. So, this was a big city for the day but a three days' journey was not walking three days through the city, that way. It was probably an idiom that says "three days' journey in breadth" because we're going to see that it says that Jonah went in on day one and then he preached which would sort of follow the ancient Near Eastern customs of how that works.
So, if anybody is like, "Ah, the book of Jonah is no good. The Bible is wrong and all of this stuff because Nineveh wasn't that big. It wasn't 55 miles." Just understand that we may just be not understanding exactly what's going on here with some idioms in scripture.
So then it says in Jonah 3:4, "Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey..."
Which would be exactly right. He would go in a day's journey because it's a pretty big city. Goes in a day's journey then he preaches his message and he would go out. And that would be a three day's journey. So, he goes in a day’s journey and he called out – this is really important. Lean in here and look at this. Five words in Hebrew.
"Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown."
That was his whole message to the city of Nineveh. That was it. He just goes in and does his thing. We're going to find out that Jonah doesn't really want to be there. He doesn't really want to do what God's told him to do. But I guess, after spending three days in the belly of fish, he figures, "I can at least go in and say the message and walk out."
But, look at what is said here because it's really important here when we read scripture. "Yet forty days..." – First of all, this gives them time. Think about this: If you had 40 days and you knew in 40 days a city was going to be destroyed, you could get out of the city. So, forty days is a long time. Not only that, but 40 days, if you know the Old Testament, it's always a time of testing. It's always a time of "what is God going to do? How are you going to respond to God and how is He going to respond to you?"
So, it says, "Forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." The word here "overthrown" can literally mean destroyed. But, it can also mean "turned upside down and reshaped." There is a lot ambiguity in what Jonah says to the people of Nineveh. And I think Jonah is aware of that. I think he knows that what he's saying is a little bit ambiguous which means that they may respond to this in a different way.
This may not just be, "Hey, in 40 days, judgment is coming. Period." There might be some wiggle room here for maybe them to respond. And let's see how they did respond. Five words, Jonah says, as he goes into Nineveh and then he leaves.
It says in Jonah 3:5, "And the people of Nineveh believed God."
Whoa. Can you imagine of I got up and spoke five words and you guys were like, "Man. Let's hit the deck and start praying." That would be awesome, wouldn't it? If I came in and said, "Hey, in 40 days, Lakewood Ranch is going to get destroyed."
You'd be like, "You're crazy man!" Well, these people here, they believed God and they called for a fast and they put on sackcloth from the greatest of them to the least.
I highlighted this word "fast" because I think most of us, when we think of fasting, we think of going without food. Would that be fair enough to say when you think of fasting? I'd like to sort of talk to you a little bit just about this for just a second because this is an important word in the Old Testament.
You'll notice a lot of times in the Old Testament that people will fast like in Esther. She says, "Call a fast..." and then she says, "...and don't eat for three or four days. You go, "Hold on. Why is that that way?" When David fasted because his son had died, it says, "And he didn't eat." So, hold on. What's going on here? If you read in Isaiah 58, you'll see that Isaiah says, "This is the real fast that I've called you to do. I've called you to give your bread to the hungry. I've called you to let the oppressed go free. I've called you to get involved in other people."
The word "fast" is not about going without food. I've always perplexed – I remember when I was a kid, I'd raise my hand in Sunday school because I, you know, I was a little ornery. I probably still am to some degree. But, I was a little ornery. And I'd be like, "Hold on for a second. The Bible says that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. Why do we have to go without food, then, to get His attention."
Did anybody ever think about that? Like, hold on. If God's this God of grace and mercy, why am I like not getting to go to Golden Corral to get God's favor? What's up with that? Well, what I did is I went to school and continued to read and study. What I realized was that fasting itself is being so involved emotionally and spiritually into something. Usually a point of mourning where they just are so involved in mourning and empathy that they end up going without food. It's not the going without food that makes it the fast. It's the being involved in other people's lives. It's mourning or truly giving yourself.
I can even tell you sometimes you get out in ministry – maybe some of you all have gone on missions trips or you've done missions work – and you get so focused during a day you realize, "I've not even eaten all day. I've totally been involved in other people's lives." I'd like to submit to you that that's probably a more Biblical idea of a fast than just not eating Burger King for a day and hoping that God will hear your prayer, okay?
So, "They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least."
Check this out. Five words and everybody in town is focused. They are focused. And you're going to see this word "fast" here is going to come back in a minute because the king's going to tell them not to eat anything. So, if they were fasting and that's what it meant, then that wouldn't make any sense. So, they're emotionally involved in the fact that, "Hey, God's going to destroy this place and we need to start getting serious."
"They put on sackcloth from the greatest of them to the least. Then the word reached the king." This is amazing. Five words is just going through the city like crazy.
"And he arose..." – keyword there because, you remember, God always says, "Hey, arise and go to Nineveh" and Jonah arose and went somewhere else.
So, the king arose and what does he do?
"He arose from his throne, he removed his robe..." – his nobility – "...and he covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes." This is serious stuff going on here. These Ninevites are really responding to Jonah.
"And then he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh..." – the king sent out an edict. And here's what he said:
"By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything."
Don't eat, too. Just don't eat. I know you're fasting but don't eat. Let them not feed or drink water. I mean, this is serious. They not only called everybody together, they were like, "Go get Fluffy and go get the cow and go get the pig and everybody is going to sit here and we're going to focus in on God." So, all of you animal lovers, here you go. Here's a good example of Fluffy coming and praying. Okay.
So, "Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth and let them call out mightily to God." Can you imagine trying to cover up your dog with sackcloth, man? They'd be like, "Ah! I'm not doing it!" Anyway, not American dogs, right?
"Let them call out mightily to God." Really interesting here. These people were like, "Man. We need to seek God because God, in 40 days, is going to overthrow this city.
"Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands."
Notice, there, the "called on God mightily" and the "turning from evil" are both together. They're both part of the same package. This turning; this really seeking God. Turn from your evil ways. And this word "violence." A lot of times we read "violence" and we think of physical violence like hitting somebody or whatever. The way these words mean in the Old Testament are the way we treat others. God sees it – when we don't treat our neighbors with love or, when we don't love anything – He sees that as violence.
And, you see that in the New Testament – especially in the Sermon on the Mount – where Jesus is like, "Even if you even said something, you've done it." So, God looks at these things very seriously. And the king says, "I want you to call out to God mightily and what I want you to do is I want you to turn from your evil ways, I want you to turn from the violence that's in your hands."
And he says, listen: "Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish."
I'm going to tell you something. This king was a far greater theologian than Israel because this king understood something. This king understood that I can't make God do anything, but what I can do is do my part. I know that what I need to do is I need to repent and I need to turn from my evil ways and, you know what? Maybe God will then not destroy Nineveh.
In other words, he sees that God is a great God, that He's far greater and far bigger than we can ever imagine. And I want to stop here for a second because this is really important. This has been on my heart and I want to share this with the church all weekend.
All the great revivals that have happened throughout the history of the church have come from two things. Every single one of them. People mightily calling upon God and people turning from their wicked ways. Every revival that has ever happened has happened that way. That has been an effective revival that has changed people.
And what we've got today – because we've almost got a movement in the church that doesn't really want to pray anymore and that doesn't really want to turn away from sin anymore and you're just like, "Come on in! God's your best friend. Everything is fantastic." And somehow we've forgot that God's holy. He actually is a holy God. There needs to be some sort of reverence for Him. And I would just like to suggest to all of us, and I think every one of us – I don't care what persuasion you are or what you think about what's going on in this country or whatever else or what you think about what's going on in the world, but I'm here to tell you that our world truly needs God.
And if we're going to be – look, I can't change what's going on in California. I can't change what's going on in Washington. I can't change what's going on in Huntsville, Alabama. But, what I can do is I can at least get up and speak in Sarasota, Florida to the church that I pastor and say, "Listen, these stories are there for a reason. They're there to explain to us what moves the heart of God."
And, what moves the heart of God is people calling out to Him and saying, "God, I'm tired of living the way I've been living. I want to live for You." That moves God's heart. And, what we need is we need God to move in our world because our world is messed up and I think everybody knows that. Everybody knows that we need something and, I'm going to tell you, it's not another tax break or it's not another tax hike. And it's not more medical insurance or less medical insurance.
What the world needs is the world needs God. That's what they need. God is the answer to the world's problems in every way, shape or form. And so, what we see here is we see people that have decided they're going to call out to God and they're hoping that God will relent from what He's going to do. And check this out:
Jonah 3:10, "When God saw what they did..." – keyword here, look – "...how they turned from their evil way..."
That got God's attention. This is what got God's attention. They said, "I'm not living that way anymore, God. I want to live righteous. I want to hook up with you and I want to live right. I'm tired of doing it this way."
"When God saw that and how they had turned, God relented of the disaster that He had said He would do to them, and He didn't do it."
Just incredible that God responds to you and me when we respond to him. You know, in this language – which, I don't have time to get into it – but, the language that Jonah uses is Sodom and Gomorrah again. It's all – I could show you in Hebrew how this whole thing is Sodom and Gomorrah again but, where Sodom and Gomorrah were judged, they're not. God relents because they've responded to Him.
And, not only that, but you can also see in this passage how the Ninevites responded to God but, just a few years later when Jeremiah is preaching, the Jewish people arrest Jeremiah and throw him in the prison. They don't respond in the way the Ninevites did. See, it's an incredible story here. So, God relents of what He's going to do and He didn't do it. Now, would you not go, "Man, that's a great story?" I mean, who wouldn't think that's a great story?
"But, it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry."
Wow. The prophet that had disobeyed God that was mad at everybody else for disobeying God. The prophet that had disobeyed God, that God had given a second chance to, could not extend grace to the Ninevites at all. Think about that for a minute. In other words, he was okay with grace coming to his people. But, he wasn't okay with grace going to those people that had killed his people and raped his women and killed his children and had done all those bad things. He couldn't give them grace because what he wanted is he wanted God to judge them. That's what he wanted. And, he's going to have this moment here with God that he tells God this.
So, "It displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, 'O Lord, is not this what I said...'" – literally, this is "my word" in Hebrew.
"'O, Lord, was not this my word when I was in my country?'"
"Yeah, God. I know what Your word is, but I like my word. My word is better. These people did wrong. They did all this bad stuff and what should be happening is You should be getting them. They should be judged. I like my word better. I don't like Your word. I'm going to do what my word says because I don't like it. I'm displeased. I don't like this, God.
"And, by the way, isn't this why I made haste to flee to Tarshish? I knew. I knew that if I went there and preached Your word, there was a chance they might have repented. And how do I know that? Because I know. I knew that you're a gracious God and merciful. I knew that about you. Slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.
"I knew you were so good that if I went out to those nasty people and told them about Your love, they might actually turn back and you would accept them. And I don't like that, God. At all.
"Therefore, Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live."
I mean, this is the guy that just got given the second chance grace. This is the guy that fled from God. This is the guy that God miraculously saved at the last minute even though he prayed a half-hearted prayer. And he cannot extend the grace to the other people, at all, in any way, shape or form?
"And God says, 'Do you do well to be angry?'"
Jonah, do you really do well to be angry? So, let's stop here for a minute and let's sort of debrief. Jonah has been an incredible story. We didn't know at the beginning why Jonah fled. We didn't know at the beginning why he ran from God. Now, we know. Now, the writer has told us, at the back end of the book, he's told us that the reason Jonah fled was because Jonah knew that God was a good God and he might just allow these Ninevites repentance and he didn't like it.
And, so oftentimes in our lives, if we're honest – and look, I'm not trying to give anybody a hard time. I'm not trying to give anybody who watches via the internet or mobile app, or any of our missionaries or people abroad, I'm not giving anybody a hard time here. As a pastor, it's my job to teach. And, these books that were written to Jewish people back in the day that had issues with all their surrounding neighbors and wanted all their surrounding neighbors to die and wanted everybody to get judged, here comes this book of Jonah that comes in and it shows you the graciousness and mercy and goodness of God and how He genuinely wants people to come home.
So, what are some take-homes that we can walk away with this morning? First of all, whose word will we follow?
Now listen, I'm not perfect at that and you're not perfect at that. But, that doesn't mean that because we're not perfect at it that we don't need to look in the mirror and ask the question, "In my life, whose word am I going to follow?"
Because, see, Jonah says, "O Lord, is this not my word that I said when I was in my country? Lord, I knew that You were going to do it Your way and I wanted it done my way."
And so many times in our lives, if we're honest – because I'm getting ready to put up here a screenshot of like six things in our lives that probably most of us, at some level, at some time struggle with obeying God. I'm not putting them up here to make you feel bad. I'm not putting them up here to give you guilt. I'm not putting them up here so that you get mad at me. I'm up here to say that I believe that if we would trust God and step out in faith and actually believe what His word says, we would be blown away at how much God honors His word.
And, so often, we get caught up in doing it our way rather than his way and, if we're going to make great life-changing decisions – if we're going to make decisions before we make decisions – then we need to make sure that, before we make decisions in our lives, we're doing what God's Word says first.
So, get ready. Here it comes. It might be an ouchie for some of you but it's not intended to be an ouchie. It's an ouchie for me just as much, okay? Because it's not like I'm perfect. But, these are some areas that we probably struggle with doing what God has told us to do.
First one. I'll just go ahead and get the 800-pound gorilla. Let's talk about finances. "Aw, man. He went to New York and he's come back. Now he's a finance preacher."
No, I'm not at all. Okay? I was actually wanting to put that down here really small, if you know who I am. But, I was like, "You know what? I just need to go ahead and deal with this."
Let's talk about this for a second. Many of us know what God has – and listen, our church has never had better offerings. So, it's not like I'm up here trying to talk about this because we want to see more money. I don't want your money. What I want is I want to see you walk in the victory of trusting God and realizing that He's the one that can provide for your needs. Because I'm going to tell you right now, that's a terrible thing when you have to take the burden of carrying all that load in your life.
At some point, it's really nice to go, "You know what God? I've got to just trust You and let You do Your thing." And here's the crazy thing: He will do it. So, in our finances, we sometimes struggle. We go, "We know what God's word says, but this is where I'm at in my life. And I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that." Listen, there's no judgment here. You're going to Heaven. I'm not mad at you. None of that stuff. But, I just want to say that at some level we have to think about that.
How about marriage? Let's talk about marriage here for a second. You know, people come into my office and they're like, "You know, Pastor Chip. I just want you to know that my spouse, they're just not completing me. You know, I've been watching The Bachelor and they're flying around and doing this stuff and it's just not like that in my life. They snore and their breath sort of got bad over the last 15 years and they're getting hair on their face in places that I would've never experienced and all of that good stuff. I just need some completion in my life."
And I'm like, "No. What you need is some Word of God in your life. You need some 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5. The Bible says that a marriage is a covenant, which means you're to serve your spouse. It's not what you get out of the relationship. You have covenanted with them that you're going to give to them."
Whoa. That's like, people go, "I'm not doing that!" I'm like, "I get it. That's exactly Jonah. Same thing. I'm going to do what I want to do."
How's it working?
"Well, it's not working too good because I've been through like five people recently."
Well, maybe oh, God. Just maybe oh, God. You know, the guy that who created the heavens and the earth. The guy that formed you in the womb? You know, that dude? Maybe he knows just a little bit more than we know. Just a little bit.
And so, people come in and they're like, "Yeah, man. What about this wife? Wives submit! Ephesians 5."
I'm like, "Homie. That ain't written to you! What's written to you is love your wife like Christ loved the Church." He's like, "Oh. Yeah. Oh, okay."
And this is the deal. I mean, what does the Bible say about this? How about like enemies? You know, what's funny is you get people – and if you've been in church long enough, you'll always get somebody that goes, "Oh, I'm going to tell you who the Beast of the Sea out of Revelation is and what this crown and this horn is."
You're like, "Dude. Ain't nobody knows what that garbage is. Stop it. That's so unclear. Nobody knows what that is. But, the Bible's really clear: Love your enemies."
"Yeah, but no, no, no. What that means..."
"No. It's real simple. Love your enemies. Simple."
Well they'll go, "Well, yeah. But, I don't want to love my enemies."
"I know. Neither did Jonah. At all."
"What about Jesus? Did he get 'em back?"
"Nah, man. He said, 'You know what, Father? Forgive them. They don't know what they do.'"
"What about forgiveness, you know what I mean? People..."
Listen, listen. You're going to Heaven. This isn't like if you don't get there or you don't measure up, you're out. None of that here. We believe in grace here. If it weren't for grace, none of us would make it. If it was all about us trying to figure all this out and get everything checked off, I can assure you this: Every one of us would fail. But, that doesn't negate the fact that we've got to look honestly at what does God's Word say and am I going to follow it or am I not going to follow it? Am I going to do it my way?
And here's another example. Forgiveness. I meet Christians all the time that say, "Hey, listen. My ex did this or this person did that or this neighbor did this or the small group leader did this or this pastor did this and I'm not forgiving them and I don't want them in my life and I've set boundaries. I've pushed them away because I'm not dealing with them at all."
But yet, when Jesus is talking about forgiveness in Matthew 18:15, here we go.
He's like, "The deal is this: If somebody has done you wrong, go to him. If they don't listen to you, go take a couple more. They don't listen to you, go to the church. And that's the way it works."
Peter's like, "That's great."
Matthew 18:21 he's like, "That's fantastic man. But, JC, man. Look. I know you like showed up here and whatever. You walk on the water and stuff like that. But, dude. I'm a fisherman and maybe you don't understand people like I do. But, some people are just habitual line-steppers and they just keep doing the same thing over and over. So, how about this? How about I use a Biblical number? I'll forgive 7 times. How about that, Jesus?"
Jesus is like, "Fantastic. How about like 70 times 7?"
Peter's like, "Yeah, not so much, man. Not so much. You don't understand this person over here."
But see, this goes back to it. See, here's the deal. When you're having to step out in faith when you don't want to do that, but you know that's what God's asked you to do. And you step out and you may be stumbling and you may be bumbling. God is not concerned with us stumbling forward.
In fact, He expects us to do that. But, as we stumble forward trying to walk out His word in our lives, guess what He does? He shows up. And that, as your pastor, is what I want in your life. I want you to make decisions where you see God show up in your life.
How about the way we treat competitors in business and so on and so forth? What do we do with that? How about ethics and morals? I mean, you hear it all the time. "Ah, yeah. The Bible is outdated. Everybody knows that this is the way you gotta live. I mean, come on man. Some of this stuff is just... I mean, it doesn't work today."
Really? I mean, I'm not a big critiquer of society, but I'm looking around at society and I'm going, "Society doesn't look like it's working very well to me." Maybe it is for you all, I don't know. I'm looking around and I don't really, normally I'm pretty busy, so it's not like I'm a big social critiquer of anything. But, I'm looking around and I'm going, "Man, there's a lot of problems. Maybe, just maybe, God knows a little bit more than we know and maybe if we did it His way, maybe it would really change our lives."
So, whose word are we going to follow? I think that's a practical take-home and there may be plenty of other things that we could talk about up here, but I think these are some of the things that we struggle with.
Secondly, – and this is huge – the man given a second chance can't find grace for others. Can we? That's tough. That's tough. You ever found it very easy when you've made a big blunder to go to God and be just so thankful that He's a merciful God and He's a gracious God but yet, when it's somebody else, it's sometimes difficult to give them the same mercy and grace?
[child crying in background]
Alright, I got an amen from the child. I love it. He's like, "That pastor is preaching today and none of you all are listening." But, I want you to think through this here because this is huge. So often – and we want to be a church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We want to reach those people out there that aren't going to church. We want to reach people who have been burned by religion. We want reach people that don't know Jesus as Lord and Savior.
But, I'm going to tell you something. They're never going to be reach if we, like Jonah, can't figure out a way to give grace to people that maybe don't live the way we live or don't look the way we look or don't act the way we do. We need to be people that find grace because that's what God gave to you and me. And I don't know about you. Maybe you're not like me, but I have a strong suspicion that you are. And if you're anything like me, you realize your own internal faults. You realize how much you don't always measure up to who Jesus is.
Why do we give ourselves the grace and we can't find a way to extend it to others? Let's really drink deep on that today because I think Jonah is really talking to us about that. And the last point that I've got to make, and this is huge especially for those of you all maybe who came from First Friday or maybe you haven't been in church in a long time or maybe you're new to this whole thing and you're going through and trying to figure out what am I saying today or whatever. But, this is huge. And this is huge for some of you all that are in church, too, because this is a life-changer.
We often run because we think God is angry at us. Jonah ran because He knew God was good. Think about that for a minute. Jonah knew how good his Father was. He knew how awesome God was. He ran from that. See, Adam and Eve – and we're not even going to get into any of that stuff. If you come in here and you don't believe in that, whatever. If it's just a great story, whatever. Whatever you want to believe on that. Just listen to me here. Adam and Eve were told. Sinned. And when they sinned, the first thing that really got disrupted was their understanding of God because they went and hid from Him. They hid because they thought God was going to get them. And see, we all are sinners. You go, "I don't want to... I hate that word."
Call it whatever you want to call it. A. B. Whatever you want to call it. Let's just agree with one thing. It's not mistakes because, when you've done it like a hundred times – the same thing – it's not a mistake anymore. There's an issue. Can we at least agree with that? There are things that we do, I don't care what you want to call it. You don't have to call it sin. That's what the Bible calls it. But, you can call it whatever you want to call it.
The Bible uses a Greek word, "Hamartia", which is an archery term where you shoot an arrow and you miss the mark. Sin, missing the mark, whatever you want to call it. Sin puts glasses on us that we see the world through and filter the world through and it changes the way we view God so often because we see God as being angry at us. He's not. And maybe you're running today. Maybe you're running in so many ways.
Maybe some of the list that I put up there you're running from. And you're just like, "You know, I just, I know God's mad at me." He's not mad at you. What He wants us to do is He wants us to take Him at His Word and He wants us to just step forward. It's not going to be pretty. You're going to make mistakes. You're going to fail at it. But, God's like, "Listen, if you'll just stumble forward and you'll just try to move towards me and try to follow my word, I will be there for you because I'm not mad at you. I love you."
And listen to what Jonah says: He says, "He's a gracious God. He is abounding in steadfast love." Maybe you're here today and you're like, "You know, I've been trying to do life in so many areas of my life without God." Maybe today is the day that you go, "You know what? I want to try to do my life with God." And that may be a myriad of different people. It might be somebody who goes, "I've never been a Christian before. Never accepted Christ. Never done anything and I want to do that today. I want to come forward and make that decision."
Or somebody may say, "I want to go forward and I really want to make this decision in my life." I'm not talking about coming forward down here, I'm talking about moving forward in your life. But, I think what we need to do is just take a moment here and ask God to help us look in the mirror and say, "What areas in my life am I doing it my way rather than Your way? And God, help me to do it Your way. Help me to see You in my life in such a powerful and profound way."
So, let's pray.
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are a good God. You're a gracious God. You're a God of extravagant love. You're a God of unparalleled grace. And Lord, I just pray that You would settle in here for just a minute into this service. Wrap Your arms of love around Your people. Let them know how much You care about them. Lord, for those that are running in areas of their lives, I pray, God, that rather than feeling condemnation or guilt, that they would actually feel the desire to want to move towards you and to really take you at your word. To really believe again.
And so, Lord, if there's anybody in here that has been trying to live life apart from You but they want to move forward, I pray that they'd make that commitment today. And Lord, for those of us that maybe have some areas in our lives that we struggle at really taking You at Your Word, I pray, God, that we would have a moment with You, not only now, but this week, where we try to work those things out with You and talk to You about it so that we can get on Your plan because, Lord, we want to make decisions that change our lives.
And Lord, in doing that, we need to make decisions before we make decisions and the big one is we need to decide whose word are we going to follow? Lord, help us to choose Your word. So, Lord, I pray that as we leave here today, as we walk out of here, I pray that You would lead, guide and direct all of us. I pray that You would continue to help this church be the light that You've created it to be. And I pray, Lord, that You would bring us all back safely to when we meet again. And, Lord, I thank You for all of the mothers that are here at Grace Community Church.
I just pray, God, that You would be with them today and that it would be an awesome day and that they would truly have a happy and blessed Mother's Day. We thank You for all that You're doing here at Grace Community Church. In Jesus' name, and everybody said, “amen.”