“What Really Matters?“
Sept 20, 2020
-> Have you ever felt frazzled? Have you felt like you were on the perpetual hamster wheel of the busy life with no way off. You just run and run, the wheel squeaks, but you seem to get no where? And the list of things you have to do keeps piling up? Places to go…things to do… hats to wear… Maybe you felt that way PRE-COVID? Maybe the last several months were a nice reset. But now as we have hit the fall season, you feel life getting a bit out of control again? You are maybe starting to feel the pressure again of all the things you could be doing and “should” be doing?
-> I sense that churches have felt the same struggle. For so long, it was about programs, about doing things every night of the week, running ministries for everyone, making sure that there is a busy full calendar of stuff at the church (don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of things that we were doing that was great and needed….) But I wonder if we ever felt like we were just doing and doing, and feeling some satisfaction in all our doing, but knowing somehow that really, we are just running in an hamster wheel and not really going anywhere?
-> If there is one thing that COVID has revealed in churches across North America is our general comfort with status quo in terms of why we run ministry, how we run ministry, and what ministries we run. Are we doing what we think is expected of us, and putting a whole bunch of energy into what we think we need to run because that is just what we do?
-> Have we ever taken the time to ask, in all the things we are doing (whether it be at home or at church) “What really matters?” What is it that I actually should be doing, rather than what is it that we could be doing?
-> As I look at our lives personally, and I look at our lives as the church moving ahead, I want us to ask that question “what really matters?” I also want to look at a passage in scripture that speaks about that very topic.
-> On their way to Jerusalem and stop in Bethany
-> This is the home of Mary and Martha and brother Lazarus (remember him? He
would later die, and Jesus would bring him back to life after being in the grave for
a few days.)
-> Martha welcomes them in, plays the role well of hostess. A role that she would have likely been accustomed to playing. In that culture and time, being invited into a home to share a meal was the ultimate sign of deep relationship.
-> Mary does something strange… out of place for that culture.
-> Rather than be a hostess like it would have been expected, she sits at the feet of Jesus, much like a student sat at the feet of a rabbi to learn.
-> This is an oddity because women generally were not students of the rabbi.
This was a role reserved for males.
-> There she was, sitting in a place where generally only men would sit, sitting in a room full of men, clearly out of place, not serving in her traditional role.
-> Martha was distracted. Martha always gets the bad wrap here… but can you understand why she was distracted?
-> Did she know Jesus and the crew were coming? There was no emails, texts, or phone calls that could be made. At the very most, there may have been a messenger that ran on ahead to say Jesus was coming. But it is doubtful that Martha had much warning (if any). How many of you like surprise dinner guests?
-> She couldn’t just pull out a Lasagna from M&M Meats from the freezer and cook it at 450 for 2 hrs. Or go to the local McD’s to buy 3 dozen Big Macs. There was no convenience available.
-> What all went into prepping food? Did she have to slaughtering animals? Did she have to make bread from scratch with her bare hands? How about building a fire to cook on rather than turning on the gas stove or BBQ?… um no thanks. I cook a lot these days, and don’t mind it, but I wouldn’t want to imagine the stress in front of Martha.
-> She feels more than just a little slighted and abandoned by her sister. Mary has one job to do and will not do it. Ever worked with someone like that? Can you understand Martha’s stress? And now Martha has this huge job to do to make this big meal to honour the Lord, and she is stressing. She needs that extra set of hands…
-> Can you picture the scene in the pantry as she prepares? The heavy sighing, the groaning that got a little bit louder, the self talk under the breath….and she is working herself up to the point that she can no longer handle it.
-> She confronts Mary in front of Jesus, hoping that the teacher will rebuke her and side with Martha, and that Mary will be shamed. It is also a bit of a rebuke to Jesus as in her eyes, He should have known better than to even let Mary sit at his feet when she had a job to do.
-> Jesus doesn’t seem to be mad or angry with Martha. In fact, His response is loving, and filled with compassion – but He does respond.
-> Paraphrasing, He tells her: calm down, take a breath. Stop and smell the roses…. You are too tightly wound.
-> He reminds her that at the end of the day, not everything truly matters. These details are temporary (the making of the meal), and what Mary has chosen (spiritual growth and nourishment) isn’t.
-> I wonder how transformational this encounter with Jesus was for Mary? It is Mary who would go on, at another visit, to anoint Jesus prior to His crucifixion. Is there something during that teaching time that impacted her heart to prepare her for her act of sacrifice and love later?
-> Have you taken an inventory of your life lately and asked “what really matters?” Are you too busy running in the daily wheel doing a whole bunch of good things and missing out on the God things that you are supposed to be doing?
-> What has God called you to do that you are too busy to do? For example, how are you pouring into your family? Are you too busy to pour into your spouse and children? Is your life out of balance because of all the demands you think you need to meet? Are you spending time mentoring someone and being mentored? How about your own personal spiritual growth? Is there time to spend with God?
-> What are the ‘God things’ He is calling you to that you are too busy to do because you are doing good things?
-> What matters for us as a church? What are the ‘God things’ we are called to that we have forgotten? Are we too caught up in the details of who we think we need to be and what we think we need to do based on what everyone else is telling us that we have forgotten that it comes down to only one factor? Jesus!
-> At the end of the day, as a church we are called to be all about Jesus. The church was created to ultimately make Jesus known to the world, and help people grow in their faith in Christ. It was called to be Christ to the world. The church is all about Jesus.
-> So are we all about Jesus? Is He all that matters to us as a church?
-> Last week I said we were going to talk this year about disciple making. We were going to talk about intentional spiritual growth in you, and then you going and investing that into the life of someone else, who then does the same thing.
-> In order for us to be a disciple making church, Jesus has to be our focus. Following Him needs to be our game plan. Being like Him needs to be our identity. Growing in our faith in Him needs to be our passion.
-> What really matters to us as a church? Are we ready?
I AM… Who are you?
September 13, 2020
-> If you are anywhere within the sound of my voice (whether it be in person, or at home online, or it is now Saturday night and you are watching on TV), hold up your hand in front of your face, and take a close look at your finger tips… have you ever taken time to see the complexity in your fingerprints?
-> Fingerprints identify you as you. Apparently, the exact design is unique to you. Which is why crime scene investigators try to lift fingerprints from a crime scene. It can point to who was there (when we had our theft last year, the police took stuff to be fingerprinted). It is why when you go to Disney, you have to put your index finger into a fingerprint reader to validate your pass every day (to make sure you aren’t giving your pass to someone else). It is how I can determine when my boys have been digging into some messy food in the fridge when they are not supposed to between meals (because they leave messy fingerprints behind on the fridge door / handle, and sometimes a wall nearby. Anyone else know what I mean?
-> Here is the truth this morning… your life is a giant fingerprint.
If you follow Jesus, your life is a giant fingerprint
-> Jesus has left a fingerprint on your life. You are the image of who Jesus is (or so we should be).
-> Everything we do (as followers of Christ) is because the fingerprint of the Gospel message (the good news about Jesus) has so impacted our lives. The Gospel message has left its fingerprint on our heart, on our words, on our thoughts, and on our actions. Our whole life is a giant fingerprint.
-> Next several weeks (all the way up to the first Sunday of advent) going to be talking about our direction and vision for this fall. We are talking about you and I intentionally allowing the fingerprints of the gospel message to go deep into our lives, and impact us in a way that we daily reflect more and more who Jesus is and what His message is about so that we can have these fingerprints make a mark on whomever we have a relationship with. And those fingerprints hopefully will take root in their lives, and the cycle continues.
-> We call this discipleship and disciple making. It is where we are intentionally heading in all of our ministries – the driving direction behind all we are doing starting this fall.
-> This is nothing new. In fact, it is just the next step in our vision and mission statement as a church:
VISION STATEMENT: Generations Following Jesus Together (who we want to be)
MISSION STATEMENT: Gather, Grow, Give, Go (how we get there)
-> Last year, we focused a lot around the “Gather” piece. We recognized the importance of being a community and gathering as a community together. The idea of family and belonging was important (and needs to continue to be). We have strived to build community in our Sunday morning services pre-COVID, at the Midweek Meal, through Mom’s and Tots, at Young @ Heart, with G2G groups, One to One groups, Youth, Warming Centre, etc… “Gather” is a particularly important part of our identity and function.
-> Many of these events were also for the purpose of growth – which is great. But as I have been praying these last few months and asking God for His heart for HMC, I have felt that this is the season where we need to take the next step. “Grow” needs to be more of a clear foundational driving force. We need to embrace the fact that the fingerprint of the Gospel is on our lives and it seeks to change us, develop us, grow us. And as we do, we seek to pass that fingerprint on to others so that they will change spiritually, develop, and grow as followers of Jesus who have had the fingerprint of the Gospel impact them.
-> As we press into this idea of “Grow” this year, there are a couple central questions we need to ask as we move along:
->What does “Grow” look like? Everyone has a different idea of what it looks like to be a disciple (follower of Jesus). What does it mean to have the fingerprint of the Gospel on your life? What does it mean to be a follower of Jesus who makes other followers? Is this just another catch phrase the church uses, or is their substance behind it?
->Also, how do we take someone who is not yet a follower of Jesus, or is not as deep as we are, allow the fingerprint of the Gospel to rub off on them, and help them grow spiritually to a point of maturity and reproduction? In other words, how do we “make followers of Jesus who make followers of Jesus who make followers of Jesus?”
-> The best place to figure out the answers to these questions is by following the example Jesus set for us by His life and ministry. So over the next several weeks (until Advent), we are going to each week unpack an “I AM” statement of Jesus where He reveals more of who He is. And we are going to look at how that impacts us (how His fingerprints can be made real in our lives), and how that shapes how we share that fingerprint with others.
-> But first, some background theory….
-> Why does this matter today? Why should we care about the “Grow” part? Why grow deeper in our faith? Why share the fingerprint of the Gospel on our lives with others?
-> Simply, because Scripture commands it. Jesus calls us to make disciples / followers of Him. And truthfully, if we are His followers, if the fingerprint of the Gospel is on our lives, that should be enough of a reason. Let me look at a few specific verses that back up what Jesus calls us to:
2 Cor 5:19-21 God has made a way for people to be made right with Him, for relationship to be restored. A way for people to receive mercy and forgiveness and freedom from their broken and sinful past and be given a new hope, a new future that is marked by wholeness. And He leaves a fingerprint on our lives (the message of reconciliation) so that we can share that fingerprint of the Gospel message with others and invite them as well to be made right with God through Christ.
Matthew 28:18-20 These are some of the last recorded words of Jesus. Jesus tells His disciples (followers – those who had been impacted by His personal fingerprint while on Earth) a message bookended with “All power is under my control – so go in my power, and I will be with you forever so don’t fear.” Then says “spread the fingerprint of the Gospel message that has impacted your life with others. Share with everyone what you have learned from me, and let that fingerprint impact their lives so that they too follow me like you are.”
Acts 1:8 My Holy Spirit is going to come on you, give you power, give you boldness, speak through you, guide you, and help you. And when He does, consider that your commissioning to go. Consider that your cue to go in the authority that I have that I am placing in you to share that message, that fingerprint of the Gospel with the whole world. Out of the message of what has happened in your lives, make them followers of me.
-> We are told to make disciples. We know that we are given a mission by Jesus to actively share His fingerprint with the local and global community. Obedience to the call of Jesus isn’t up for debate (or at least it shouldn’t be).
How does this shape us?
-> So how is HMC doing at this? Are we passionate about our faith? Are we growing in our faith? Are we looking to share the fingerprint of the Gospel in the life of someone else? Are we making followers of Christ? What do we hope someone looks like who is growing as a follower of Christ through the disciple making that happens through HMC? My mind naturally goes to the “Way of Jesus” model as created by the EMCC. In years past, we have not been overtly intentional in using this as a criteria for evaluating what we are doing as a church, but that needs to change. Moving ahead, it gives us a solid framework of what a growing and dedicated follower of Jesus looks like.
-> This is not a program. It is not some new fancy philosophy of ministry that is trendy. It is not something we do. It is who we are. It is a natural way of life that should impact everything we do, what we say, and who we are. It is a model that reflects the fingerprint of the Gospel message.
-> As I look at this model, a few character traits stand out to me:
1) They know and love God’s Word.
2) They have clear convictions on how God is calling them to live as followers of Jesus in their everyday life. Their faith isn’t just a Sunday thing, but an all-week lifestyle.
3) They have a growing dependency on prayer.
4) There is an eagerness to get involved, serving within the church community.
5) They know how to share faith and are wanting to do so.
6) The church family is their second family. They are connected with each other deeply.
7) The fruit of the Spirit is evident in their lives.
8) The work and leading of the Spirit is evident.
9) They have a spiritual mentor, and they are spiritually mentoring someone.
What does this mean for HMC?
-> The last few months especially, I have been feeling burdened about things that I long to see happen at HMC. I feel like we are doing a lot of excellent things, we have a great foundation, but at times it feels like we are spinning our wheels and stuck a bit in status quo rut. We want to be a church that is characterized by “Grow” but sometimes, like any church, we struggle.
-> For example, when is the last time that we have heard a testimony or report of someone being impacted by the fingerprint of the Gospel through the ministries of HMC and as a result, choosing faith in Jesus? When is the last time that we have heard about someone publicly identifying with the fingerprint of the Gospel on their lives by going through the waters of baptism? When have we heard stories about how you are growing in your faith and growing as a follower of Jesus? As a pastor that burdens me because I get excited thinking about the potential that is here at HMC! And I see so much potential for HMC sharing the fingerprint of the Gospel message all over Grey Bruce, and ultimately all over the world, coming from a place where we are growing in our faith because we are so greatly impacted by the fingerprint of the Gospel on our lives. I long for us to be driven by discipleship.
-> What this means is that all ministries of HMC will be planned, organized, and operated with your spiritual growth and the spiritual growth of our community in mind. We are unapologetic and unashamed that our goal is to share the fingerprint of the Gospel message that has impacted our lives because: If you follow Jesus, your life is a giant fingerprint. And you and I are called to let that fingerprint permeate our lives so deeply that we reflect that. And we are then called to share that. We call that discipleship. We call that “Grow”. And we need to be about making all our ministries here reflect that goal.
-> It also means that you will be hearing a lot about opportunities, and encouraged to take opportunities to own your own spiritual growth. It isn’t the job of the pastors to make you grow. You aren’t a growing disciple by virtue of just showing up in person, or tuning in online to our services once a week. Grow happens because you are impacted by the fingerprint of the Gospel message, it becomes personal to you, and it drives you to take ownership of your faith and pursue “Grow”. If we are going to be a church that is driven by “Grow” – by us being a disciple making church, it needs to start in us. We need to be deeply impacted by the fingerprint of the Gospel message on our lives.
-> You know what is a blessing about COVID? It has forced us to re-evaluate what we do as a church family. We can’t do programs and ministries like we used to (which by the way, staff are actively planning out a fall line up of opportunities that will be launched for October 5th – watch for details). But in this new normal, we are reminded that programs in themselves don’t make the church grow. We are reminded that gimmicks don’t make the church grow; neither do new philosophies, methods, and fads. Jesus is all that matters. It is about you living your faith, spreading the fingerprint of the Gospel message is what changes lives. It is you and I, practicing “Grow”, being disciples who make disciples that causes HMC to be vibrant, life giving, and grow.
Jonah: Lessons From The Runaway Preacher
105 – God has mercy, even on our enemies
August 30, 2020
-> Is there anyone right now that you can think of, that you would have a big problem seeing mercy extended to? Think about that for a minute – think of all the people in the world who have committed crimes or horrid acts – who is the worst of the worst? If they called out to God, were to be given grace and mercy right now in some time of need – or if they were to repent and God forgave them, how would you feel?
-> Is the grace of God this morning limited to the ones who seem to have their lives together and only make minor mistakes, or can people much like (Fill in the blanks with the worst of society – the ‘monsters of humanity’) have the opportunity, if they would so receive it, to stand shoulder to shoulder with others who have put their hope in Christ as equal recipients of God’s forgiveness? Is that a comfortable thing to think about?
God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I.
-> Remember the three central themes behind Jonah? i) God can do whatever God does. ii) Jonah needed saving as much as the Ninevites (as much as he reflects Israel, he reflects Ninevah) iii) Jonah is about the grace of God on people who don’t deserve it.
-> By definition, grace is free and unmerited favour…. So, something that we don’t deserve. And if God has given you grace this week, it is because you didn’t deserve it either. Grace and mercy are shown to people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I.
-> Turn to Jonah 3:10-4:11. Going to finish off the book of Jonah today.
-> Quick recap… Jonah, after seeking forgiveness from God, is restored as a prophet, and goes into Nineveh and preaches a message of judgement. The people hear the message, and all the people, right up to the King are humbled by it, and grieve their sin… they put on sackcloth, sit in ashes (out of humility), fast, and cry out to God for mercy. There is an official edict to stop living in evil, and cry out to God for mercy. And it seems like everything is finally working out for Jonah.
1) Jonah was intensely furious that the people of Nineveh were spared. (4:1)
-> Jonah was more than just a bit disappointed with God. He was a prejudiced and judgemental prophet who couldn’t see past his own resentment and hatred.
-> God does something here absolutely praise worthy, wonderful, and gracious – He spares a large city and its inhabitants from certain pain and destruction because of their sin because they repent. God’s message of destruction was a wake up call. God then (like He does with us so often) didn’t give them the punishment they deserved but showered them in grace and mercy. This is the climax of the book, and should have been the end… yet it wasn’t.
-> This is a message that we would think would have pleased Jonah (or any servant / prophet of God). Something totally absurd happens! While Jonah went to Ninevah, and by all accounts, it looked like he repented of his past behaviour, his bitterness still held on to his heart, and it seems as if he went to Ninevah preaching with ulterior motives: that the people would be destroyed and would not seek God.
-> Jonah is arguably the most successful (120,000+ conversions in 3 days) evangelists in history, yet also one of the strangest – only evangelist who would be mad that the message he is giving was received and acted on.
-> Our translations don’t do it justice here how Jonah was feeling – “Greatly upset / displeased exceedingly’. There are actually two words used here to qualify his exceeding anger:
Ra (root Ra’a): bad, evil, unpleasant.
Interesting note: How many times is Ra used in Jonah, and in what context? (Jonah 1:2, 1:7-8, 3:8 examples – anywhere that ‘evil’ is mentioned, Ra is used)
Wasn’t just that Jonah was mad, but that in his anger, he was committing evil!
Charah: to burn, be hot, be scorched, be charred
Intensity right here. Wasn’t just that he was a little ticked… he was mad…
-> He was so filled with hate, evil thoughts, and unpleasantness towards the Ninevites that when they found mercy, that hate was causing him to be filled with bad emotions and evil thoughts in great intensity towards this situation, and respond in anger.
2) Jonah responds to God by saying “I told you so…” (4:2)
-> Jonah then does the figurative “told ya so”. Who here likes a know it all? That is what Jonah did here. “Guess what God? I told you so… back before I even left for Tarshish… this is why I didn’t want to come here! God, you don’t live up to your promises. You have a flaw – You can’t possibly bring yourself to give people what they deserve” forgetting all the while that he himself was spared not that long ago from a death he fully deserved. “God, I know You better than You know You”
3) Jonah begs God to take his life. (4:3)
-> If we go back to the original, we see that he is actually begging God to take his life – Same word used here as when the sailors in the storm (1:14) called out to God to spare them before they threw Jonah over. There is an urgency, and a pleading as Jonah would rather be dead than see this message of doom and gloom not come true. Rather than see God’s amazing mercy at work, he would rather be dead.
-> We can sit back and point fingers at Jonah this morning, but can we identify with him?
4) God asks “is it a good thing to get mad when I do good?” (4:4)
-> I love how God replies to Jonah’s temper. He waits for Jonah to finish his explosive rage. Then He asks Jonah if it is right to be mad. God has just done something amazingly praise worthy! Yet Jonah in many ways reminds me of when we see others pout when they don’t get their way (Caleb and his stink eye…) Jonah is pouting here, and God is asking something maybe a bit deeper than what we see on the surface: “Is it a good thing to get mad when I do good?” In essence, He also asks us: Is it a good thing for us to get upset when God does something good?
-> Everything God does is good. Last, we looked at the idea that God is a God of an infinity of second chances. Part of God being merciful and giving another chance is that He will also give a second chance, or 2000th chance to someone we don’t think deserves it. Are we truly okay with that? Does everyone truly have equal access to God’s mercy? Can we get upset when God does something good?
-> Jonah doesn’t answer God. Goes off to pout and gives God the ‘silent treatment’. Jonah wanted to get away from it all, succumbing to total selfishness.
5) God specifically prepares, for that very moment, a leafy plant and a worm to eat the plant. (4:6-7)
-> God here gives Jonah a physical example to help him understand the heart of God.
-> The weather is hot as Jonah is sitting in his world of anger and revenge. Ever been in the store and seen a kid have a temper tantrum right there? Why do they do it? Because they think they can change the parent’s mind just to keep them quiet. He somehow thinks that maybe his little outburst and temper tantrum has magically changed the heart of God. He is sitting to wait and see if maybe God has now come to His senses (sense the sarcasm here?) and will destroy Nineveh as promised. Leaves us with an interesting thought: Do we think that if we get mad with God, somehow that may change His mind? Does any amount of getting mad and demanding change the good that God wants to give someone else?
-> God arranges for a leafy plant to cover Jonah and provide shade for the day. He also arranges though for a worm to eat the plant at dawn and cause it to die. It grew hot as Jonah was sitting in his self pity and misery. Jonah became even more bitter – and angry for the plant, that it had to die. And again, Jonah wants to die!
6) God, once again says “is it right for you to be upset?” (4:9)
-> God confronts Jonah yet again with a simple question: Is it right for you to be upset? Jonah’s answer was straight forward – he was bitter enough and upset enough that death would have been warranted. Does anyone else see a bit of a problem here?
7) Jonah allowed himself to get bitter over God’s undeserved mercy. (4:9)
-> Jonah has allowed himself to get so bitter over God being gracious to people who didn’t deserve it in Jonah’s eye that he is totally consumed by bitterness, prejudice, and revenge. All he wants is the people of Nineveh to die. How many of us have ever gotten so bitter about something that it consumes us?
-> What God says next is rather profound:
-> You were saddened because something minor you held dear was destroyed. If you could have, you would have saved the plant. You are so worried about this little plant that means nothing! Should not I try and find a way to save something of truly immeasurable value? Shouldn’t I be concerned about the welfare of my dear possession that is about to face destruction? If you are concerned about the welfare of something so trivial and small in the face of eternity, shouldn’t I have the right to be concerned about the ultimate eternity of the lives of my creation (the people who were in spiritual darkness, and the cattle – symbolizing God’s greater creation about to be destroyed)?
God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I.
-> I asked this at the start of the message today: Is there anyone right now that we would have a problem seeing God extend mercy to? Anyone you can think of who never deserves forgiveness? Is there anyone so bad in our mind or so hurtful (community or personal) that if God asked us to forgive, or show His mercy to, we would flinch, cringe, and resist?
God is a God of second chances so that we can be people of second chances to those around us who don’t deserve it.
-> If God has forgiven us, and showed us mercy, He expects us to do the same to others. In fact, the Bible says that if we say we have the love of Christ in us, but we are unwilling to love others (show mercy and grace), then we are fooling ourselves with a falsehood ( 1 John 4:19-21).
-> This means that you and I have no choice but to be gracious and merciful to those who we don’t think deserve it. God loved us first. God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I.
-> How are we doing at extending mercy to those who we don’t feel warrant it?
-> Do we get so bitter that we just see the offence of the other people and feel they don’t deserve God’s grace, yet we are so upset that we fail to see that we are equally undeserving?
-> When it comes to forgiveness, we struggle a bit… especially if it is personal. We say “don’t you know how I have been hurt??” Don’t you see my pain? Can’t you see how bad they were to me?? Don’t you know who they are and what they do? And we also say “I can’t forgive (or don’t need to) because they haven’t asked for it.” Sounds noble… but is totally unbiblical. God tells us that if we first don’t forgive, how can He forgive us?
-> Mercy, by definition, is not fair. It is giving us what we do not deserve. With God being good and filled with mercy, we wont always get our way. People who should get what they deserve wont, and really, it isn’t fair. Being fair is giving us what we all deserve.
-> Mercy will not satisfy as long as we are living with a chip on our shoulder.
God had a plan to forgive all of humanity for all history before they even knew they needed it.
-> What is the good news of the Scripture? (Eph 1:4-5) Before time began on Earth, God knew who you were, knew you needed mercy, and already chose to extend it to you. Back then, He already chose to send Jesus on your behalf to die on a Cross, and rise again so that you could be forgiven – so that you could have mercy. And it made Him happy!
-> The Bible says that while we were yet still sinners, Christ died for us (Rom 5:8). We were undeserving sinners – we ALL were enemies of God at one time (Rom 5:10), yet God offered us mercy.
-> Sounds like God extending mercy on us before we even knew we needed it… before we even asked for it. It sure sounds like God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I. God took people who were enemies, and made them friends – He did it for me, and he did it for you. God has mercy on people who don’t deserve it, starting with you and I. And he expects you and I to do the same.
Jonah: Lessons From The Runaway Preacher
104 – God is a God of Second Chances
-> Does everyone deserve a second chance? Have you ever done anything that you wished you could take back? Or maybe, you have done something where you know your only hope was a second chance?
-> I want to tell you the story of a guy named Michael “Bull” Roberts… He is a 6’5, 500lb, tattoo covered, ex-gangster. I am going to share with you excerpts from an interview a few years back.
“For God so loved the world,” that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Those words are especially meaningful to Roberts, who has gone from hardened criminal and gang member to born-again Christian after finding God while he lay broken and bruised on a hotel floor.
Born into a life of abuse, he suffered daily beatings at the hands of his father and molestation by his older brother and friends, and later his babysitter. From an early age, he was taught that drugs held the answers to his problems: At eight, he was diagnosed with ADHD due to behavioural problems, and was prescribed Ritalin. He soon moved onto solvents, marijuana and a myriad of pills. “By the time I left home I was a full-blown drug addict, snorting gas just to deal with the physical and sexual abuse.” He can’t say how many times he’s been to jail or mental institutions. The abuse Roberts endured domestically carried over into his school life. A sickly child, he was bullied by his peers. Abuse had become second nature by this point — it was all he knew.
Roberts never retaliated because he was afraid of his father’s punishment if he got in trouble. By grade 7, he reached his breaking point. After a verbal altercation with his chemistry teacher over a detention slip, Roberts says his teacher shoulder-checked him. In response, he broke his teacher’s jaw. Knowing a severe beating awaited him at home, he decided to hit the streets. Between homelessness, foster homes and shelters, Roberts’ life quickly spiralled out of control. As a teen, he transformed from victim to victimizer. By age 16, he was declared criminally insane. When he wasn’t engaging in petty crime or senseless violence, he was in court or jail. He once had 13 assault charges laid against him in one day.
He joined a white supremacist gang and delved deep into a life of organized crime. He quickly advanced in the ranks with his strength and endurance skills. He became extremely wealthy from drug and gun trafficking, and was soon one of Canada’s most wanted criminals. Roberts had money, power and respect among his peers, but his life would soon crumble around him. Roberts and more than a dozen others from his gang were arrested in an undercover sting. But things would come to a head when Roberts was betrayed by his closest friends.
One day, a large group of Roberts’ fellow gang members came to visit. He thought nothing of it, as they frequently came by to hang out. But this time was different. Roberts was brutally beaten. One of his associates had called a hit on him to assume control of the gang. Roberts’ own crew had left him for dead.
Making it to a hotel room for safety, Roberts found himself at death’s doorstep. While stumbling to the washroom, with no one to help him in his injured and drugged state, Roberts collapsed. His broken bones left him unable to move. There he lay for hours in excruciating pain, sure his life was over. After a lifetime of numbing his emotions with drugs and violence, Roberts started crying. He had had enough. He begged God to help him. “I never felt love in my life, but when I reached out to God and asked for just that much love before I died, he hasn’t stopped pouring it out,” Roberts says. “My heart just opened right up.”
“I could never go back to the way I was. Even if I did, I could never, ever, deny God,” he says. “I wouldn’t have a story to tell if it wasn’t for God.” Today Roberts is a different man. He no longer sleeps with a gun; instead, he reads the bible before bed. He’s not a racist anymore; he goes to a Middle-Eastern church. He doesn’t mute his emotions with alcohol, drugs, or body modification; instead he writes, or prays. He no longer hoards weapons in fear of his enemies; he collects stamps. Following his recovery, Roberts discovered Evangelical Christianity through a friend and now dedicates his life to God and helping street kids. He lives in the Greater Toronto Area and speaks at churches, schools and shelters to youth about the dangers of street life and the power of faith.
This true encounter with God illustrates something – our key idea:
Even in the face of judgement, God is looking to show mercy.
-> You may think that you are beyond help, that you have messed things up one too many times, that God could not love you or ever take you back, that your sin is too great, and your failings too deep. If only we could see how dark you are and hopeless, we would understand why God could not and would not love you. Yet, I believe from the Bible that our key idea is true – and as you and I will see from Jonah today, our God is a God of second chances.
-> Please turn to Jonah 3:1-10, and as you are turning there, I want to recap where we have been. Jonah was prophet in 8th Century BC in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He was sent by God to deliver a message of judgement upon the wicked people who lived in the Assyrian capital of Ninevah. Because he knew that God’s message of judgement and destruction could result in heart change in Ninevah, which would then result in God’s mercy instead of judgement, Jonah decided he was not going to go because people he disliked so much because of their evil didn’t deserve a second chance. -> Jonah runs away from his calling from God as a prophet, and tries to hide from God by going on a ship to the farthest city on the opposite end of the known world. God sees him and brings about a storm to get his attention. Rather than finally obey, Jonah opts to be thrown overboard to his death.
-> As he is sinking down to his death, he calls out to God in desperation, is rescued by a sea creature that God prepared for that moment to swallow him. At some point, in his utter helplessness, he realizes his wrong, changes his attitude and actions, and commits to obedience. At that point God arranges for the creature to spit Jonah out on the shore.
Three central ideas to Jonah:
God can do whatever God does.
Jonah is about the grace of God on people who don’t deserve it.
Jonah needed saving as much as the Ninevites (as much as he reflects Israel, he reflects Ninevah)
1) God reaches out to people who have failed Him.
a. God reinstates Jonah without condemnation.
-> God, in keeping with His character (Isa 43:25, Ps 103:12), forgives Jonah as Jonah confesses his sin (2:7-10). At the point where Jonah changes course, and agrees to obey, God causes the fish to spit out Jonah, and he is restored to life and reinstated as a prophet without further condemnation.
b. God personally calls to the Ninevites to follow Him.
-> God is sending a message of judgement on Nineveh. It doesn’t initially sound like an invite to follow Him, but it is. God, in sending this message of judgement, was also desiring that the people of Nineveh would hear the message and follow Him instead.
-> Message starts out with “in 40 days.” While this could be a literal 40 day time period that God gives, I think 40 could also be a figurative number also. In the Bible, various number sequences hold significance, and often those sequences can pop up all over the place with special meaning (ie. #3, #7 / 70, etc…) and #40. Scripture identifies 40 with a time of testing. For example, 40 days and 40 nights it rained during the flood, 40 days Jewish spies scope out Canaan, 40 years people wander in the desert, 40 days Goliath taunts the people of Israel. I think here God is telling the people of Nineveh “I am putting you to the test”… and then says “you will be destroyed”.
-> What would have been understood was not “40 days and you will be destroyed”, but, I am putting you to the test, and things in Nineveh will turn and change for destruction or for good. God was giving them a way out if they themselves turned.
2) God shows you your sin so that you can be humble and repent.
-> The word “repent” really just communicates the idea of changing directions from a bad choice, to understanding that choice was bad, to seeking restitution for it, and then prompting the person to change their actions from bad to good.
-> God shows everyone here their sin, so that there can be a new attitude of humility and repentance, that leads to obedience.
a. Jonah obeys.
-> After the whole prayer to God in ch 2 where Jonah realizes his sin and makes vows to God, Jonah is given the command to obey God and go into Nineveh. Jonah heads in the other direction to obey this time.
-> He goes through Ninevah giving the message from God: It was a massive city (the inner wall only had circumference of 8 miles, but outer wall had a potential circumference of 60 miles- so 20 miles across roughly). He walks this city sharing God’s message as commanded.
-> Jonah was shown his sin so that he could be humble and repent, then obey.
b. Nineveh reacts with urgency.
-> We see four things in response by Nineveh that shows urgent repentance:
i. Awareness of sin
ii. Acceptance of responsibility
iii. Internal conviction
-> They, out of a place of conviction, fast, and put on sack cloth (garment of coarse goat or camel hair- scratchy and uncomfortable), and, as normal for custom, they sit in dust and ashes. It was a sign of humility brought on by grief, and in this case, over sin. The king puts on sack cloth, removes all his royal garments, and leaves his throne (as a sign of being completely humbled also – putting self under God’s authority, not his) beforehand. and clothed himself in sackcloth. There was internal conviction.
iv. Behavioural change
-> The king, in urgency, calls for a behaviour change… that everyone, and even animals, give up food and drink. Why? Because things were urgent… there was no time to eat and drink because calling on God was the only thing that mattered. Life was in the balance. Living in obedience to God and flinging themselves at His mercy (rather than live in their sin) was all that mattered. Out of the internal conviction, behaviour changed.
3) God invites you to receive mercy, not judgement.
-> In this passage, we see a glimpse of the heart of God… that even when the people of Nineveh deserved destruction, God made a way for the people to throw themselves on the mercy of God and turn from their sin. He invites them to receive mercy instead of judgement.
-> The people respond. They turn from their evil ways, and as a result, God holds back from (better translation than “changes mind” – He knows all things and does not change) the promised destruction and gives the desired mercy.
-> Nineveh was spared.
1) No one is too far from the reach of God
-> What does Isaiah 59:1 say? Is God able to save whoever He wants?
a. How does God respond to you?
-> This morning, maybe you are a follower of Jesus, but you wonder how God could give you a second chance. You are caught in a cycle of brokenness, failure, and sin that seems impossible to break. The harder you try, the harder you fall. And you hear me saying that God is a God of second chances. And you wonder what hope you have because you used up your second chance years ago. You look at your life, feel powerless, feel hopeless, and wonder how God could forgive someone who can’t stop failing.
-> Maybe this morning you are not following Jesus. You have never actually given Him control of your life and begun a personal relationship with Him. But there is no way that God would love you, no way He would want you. Your life is too much of a mess. What would God want with you? How could He love you? How could He show mercy to you? Why would He give you a second chance?
-> A major lesson in the book of Jonah is that God’s love pursues those who don’t deserve it… And today, God’s love is pursuing you so that you can experience His mercy and His forgiveness. God wants to give you a second chance, a 1000th chance.
-> Remember, Jesus died for you, and He died for your sin, your brokenness and failures. He did so in love so that everyone could experience God’s mercy.
-> Because of this mercy, we become good enough to personally come before God. We can live in freedom over sin. We can have hope no matter how hopeless we think we are.
-> Jesus died to give you an infinity of second chances. God is a God of second chances. Even in the face of judgement, God is looking to show you mercy.
-> So will you come to God, through Jesus, to receive mercy today.