It is so good to be back with you today. I thank you for the opportunity to explore an entire book of the Bible. I also appreciate the opportunity to explore a book with an eye that has gone a little more life experience – if you know what I mean. While getting older has its challenges physically, it also comes with an experience and a wisdom that is helpful. Many times we wish we had the wisdom we have when we are older to live life as a young person. We wish we could turn back time and use our wisdom as young people. However, it was those life experiences we have as youth that give us our wisdom.
Jonah, a man of God, a man who was accustomed to hearing God’s voice, a man of God who was accustomed to being a speaker of God’s message, he ran from God! I titled my message Absent. Christians run from God. Christians disobey God. You disobey God, I disobey God. You run from God, and I run from God. So if you are going to be harsh with Jonah, you need to harsh with yourself.
We saw last week, how when we run from God, God is going to pursue you, and do what it takes to get you to turn back. We also saw that when you run from God, others are hurt by our sin. They are caught in the consequences of your sin, and they are lost for the sake of the gospel due to our disobedience. Jonah turned his back on the Ninevites, and the sailors. He did not care, it was all about him, and not about God’s plan and God’s will. How many of you, knowing that we are talking about this fantastic story, invite your neighbors, co-workers, and classmates to come to church this week to complete the story of Jonah. The story of Jonah is “In” right now. Just this past week, I saw on my satellite dish the Veggie Tale version of the story. My mother just returned from Branson, and she told me that in the spring season, they are performing the story of Jonah in the Sight and Sound Theater. So, since you did not invite anyone to church, are you just as guilty as Jonah? I have brought additional people to church with me. Can you say the same?
It is so easy to be absent from God and his mission. We do it all the time. We don’t want to offend. We don’t want to be laughed at. We don’t think we have anything to say. Could it be that we are ashamed because we know that they know of our sin, and our unchanged life, and we know that we have been absent from God in our lifestyle.
But Jonah, is the story of second chances. God is a God of second chances. And that is where we start today.
1. You Are Still Usable By God
3:1 Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time: 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh, and deliver the message I have given you.”
I do not care what you have done in your life. I do not care how badly you have sinned. I do not care how badly you have blown it, God still has a plan for your life.
I have had so many people say to me, I cannot be used by God because I have been a terrible person. I have or have had a problem with chemical addiction. It may be beer, or whiskey, or other type of alcohol. It could be pot, meth, crack, or some other chemical. I do not care where you have been. I do care about where you go from here. If someone says to you that God cannot love you because of your chemical abuse, it is a lie from Satan himself. God is a God of second chances, and God says not only do I want to love you, I want to save you. I want to dwell with you for the rest of your life. I want to dwell with you for all of eternity. I want to see you do amazing things in my name.
I have had others say to me, I have been married, divorced, and have made a mess of my life sexually. I have produced children out of wedlock, I have aborted children because I did not want the bother of children. I have abandoned my children. God is a God of second chances. He wants you to know that He loves you, wants to save you, wants to dwell with you for the rest of your life, wants you to dwell with Him for all of eternity in heaven, and wants you to do amazing things in His name. He wants you to win at life and with family.
I have had others say to me, I have been to prison because of a terrible crime that I have committed. I have had those tell me of murders they have committed by hitting someone as a drunk, or are overcome because of the horrible experiences they had at war. God wants you to know that he loves you, wants to save you, wants to dwell with you for the rest of your life. He wants you to dwell with Him for all of eternity in heaven, and wants you to do amazing things in His name. He wants you to win at life.
Moses was wanted for murder. David committed adultery and murdered. Solomon committed polygamy. Paul killed Stephen. Peter constantly struggled with disbelief, and Jonah ran away from God. All of these people are in the Bible, and all of these people accomplished amazing things of God. The world would say to each of them that you cannot accomplish anything, but God says you are still useful to Me.
God spoke to Jonah a second time. God gave Jonah a ministry. God gave Jonah a mission. Jonah was still a mess. We left the story off last Sunday afternoon with Jonah sitting on the beach, naked, sores all over his body, covered in fish puke, smelled worse than anyone could imagine, and God speaks to him. God said to him, I am not finished with you yet.
YOU ARE STILL USABLE BY GOD
2. When you obey God others are blessed.
3 This time Jonah obeyed the Lord’s command and went to Nineveh,
5 The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow.
Just as when you disobey God, others are hurt, when you obey God, others are blessed. When Jonah obeyed God, the horrible people of Nineveh listened, repented, and were saved.
It is book selling season right now. This is the time that authors are on speaking tours, and signing tours because they know that people like to give autographed copies of a book as Christmas gifts. A couple of weeks ago, we went and heard Ted Dekker, an author of Christian novels speak. I heard on the radio Brian Kilmeade, a sports radio talk show guy, hawking his new book, not about sports, but about George Washington. Every where I turn these days, book marketing is at its feverish height.
The Bible is still the highest selling book on the market. It keeps on selling, in spite of how worldly we have become. Wouldn’t it be nice to give someone an autographed copy of the Bible? Wouldn’t it be great if you could give a gift of the Bible that has been autographed by God Himself!
There is a song, that states that you are the only Bible the world will ever know. It is not the non-Christians who are buying Bibles. Non-Christians are not reading the Bible. But, when a Christian acts like a Christian. When a Christian follows God plan, it is like having the Bible autographed by God, because you are God’s handiwork. When you are saved and are following God’s will you are God’s autograph.
That is why integrity is so important. By following God’s will, you are an autographed copy of God’s Word.
So great was the impact of Jonah acting out on God’s plan, and being used by God that even the King repented, and changed its ways.
9 Who can tell? Perhaps even yet God will change his mind and hold back his fierce anger from destroying us.”
3. You still have hope
10 When God saw what they had done and how they had put a stop to their evil ways, he changed his mind and did not carry out the destruction he had threatened.
Nineveh was a horrible city. It had 120,000 citizens, and to the core, it hated the Israelites. I told you about the slaughter of Jews, how they would decapitate them, and then mount their heads onto their shoulders to wear as a trophy, and when the head became too uncomfortable to wear due to stench and deterioration, they would pile the skulls up and make pillars out of them. I referenced it last week, but I want to read it to you today, so that you can understand what I am talking about. Nahum 3:1-7.
The book of Jonah is pointedly about Jonah. But in this verse, it steps back, and puts a focus upon the people of Nineveh to give us a glimpse of God and his mercy.
Yes, God is merciful with his prodigal prophets. Yes, God is merciful with those who are Christians and backslide, or even worse. But God is also just as merciful to those who have never approached Him.
The Jews had a strong belief that only they who are Jewish have favor with God. They believe that they are the chosen people, and they alone are God’s blessing. Yet, here are the Ninevites, openly declared enemies of the Jews and anything to do with their God, and God spares them because He is honored by their repentance of their evil.
I do not care what you have done, or where you have been. Your past is the past and God offers forgiveness to you. Romans tells us more succinctly. The message of Jonah was that in 40 days, they would be destroyed unless they repented.
Paul says in Romans 3:23, For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. I do not care how good you are. I do not care how much good you have done in your life. I do not care how much you have volunteered, donated to charity, or done other good deeds. In God’s eye you are sinner.
Later on, in chapter 6 of that same book, Paul states, that the wages of our sin is death. The goal of sin is to destroy you. Sin destroys you physically, emotionally, relationally, and certainly spiritually. But in that same verse, verse 23 of Romans 6 has that word “but” in it (Praise God for that “but”), it says, “but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord”.
It is not something you earn. You don’t perform a lot of good deeds to get it. It is a gift. You do not earn gifts, they are given out of love. You do not have to suffer the consequence of your sin. You need to accept the gift of God’s grace and love and commit your life to Him.
One more verse and we are done. In the 10th chapter of Romans, the 23rd verse says, 13 For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
You have to call upon him.