As many of you know, our son’s entry into this world was quite eventful. I (Kimberly) am so thankful that I journaled through that experience. The following is what I wrote on one of those days. I should say that at the time, I had been in the hospital on bed rest for 13 days with no date scheduled for us to leave. Baby wasn’t due for another 6 weeks.
“Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007
In my reading of 1 Peter today I couldn’t get past this section:
5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith-more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire-may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. – 1 Peter 1:5-7’
It seems from this that going through a trial will allow me to praise at Jesus’s coming. My faith must be tested in order to get to that point. Our human emotions say, ‘I don’t want this trial.’ But our spirit should say, ‘I welcome this trial because it will increase my faith so that it will be found in praise, glory, and honor one day.’
It is also amazing that God through His power is guarding my faith and I can rejoice in this despite what is going on in my circumstances. So as I think about this situation and how right now I am ‘grieved’ over not being able to take care of my household, I am reminded of the Psalm I also read today:
5 Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! 6 He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. – Psalm 126:5-6
I am ready to go home and take care of my family. But there’s not really anything I can do about that. I know it is God’s plan for me to be here this amount of time, and I want to learn and see what He wants me to while I am here.”
As I read 1 Peter today, as part of the Foundations reading plan, my mind went back to 2007, as it does each time I read it. We were blessed to watch God do amazing things in our family!
A pastor’s calling is to teach sound doctrine again and again. 3:1 says remind them. There’s no need to come up with something new and profound. I’m thankful for this! I’m thankful for the historical orthodoxy from which we teach. I am thankful for the richness of confessions of faith. I think it is extremely important for a church to be confessional. We know where the fence is! The fence helps us know where our unity should be and who is outside the fence.
It is very clear that Paul always weaves the gospel into his instructions about good works lest we forget that our relationship with God depends not on what we do. Paul never leaves that in question.
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. – Titus 3:4-7
Paul also reminds Titus to help those he is teaching to remember who they once were. It really changes how you treat others when you can easily relate. “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” – Titus 3:3
Why does Paul want Titus to speak confidently about the gospel and good deeds? So that they might be fruitful like the picture above. Notice this clear statement: The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. – Titus 3:8
These things are excellent and profitable…fruitful! Yet, for the church to remain fruitful there must be something done about those who are unfruitful and want to remain unfruitful. A contrast follows verse 8. “But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” – Titus 3:9-11
There are things to be avoided that are worthless and unfruitful. Verse 10 uses the singular “man” or “person.” It only take one among you to stir up division. The one person will recruit. The foolish man will gain some followers. It will grow if left alone. I have not seen this done very well in my lifetime. I’ve had discussions with other pastors who have that one person and his group who are continually harming the church and her witness in the community.
You invite someone to come but they bring up so and so’s name. They want no part of it. Upon investigating, you find out he’s been doing this for years. The church family just makes excuses for him. “He’s always been that way.” “We just overlook him.” “It’s no use.” “He gives more than anybody else.” “If we do something about it, what will the community think?” “We haven’t done anything for years, why do something now?” I could go on but that should be clear enough.
I have wept many tears over this. You feel so helpless and alone. Especially among churches that follow the single pastor model instead of a plurality of pastors. You can teach. You can get agreement. But you cannot move anyone to action. They will often choose the community over what is right. And in choosing the community they didn’t choose the community. They chose the foolish man who keeps the community cut off from them.
I’ve said too much even without being very specific. It is so sad. Many churches cannot reach their community with the gospel because of the influence of one person. And it’s generational, too. They pass it on to others. How do you fix it? You either stand up for the truth and cause a huge fight and then get fired. Or you leave and go somewhere else. And this cycle never seems to end.
I don’t know the answer. The best option is to teach sound doctrine for years and years. You pray earnestly for other mature believers to join the work. You hopefully win some along the way. And then maybe after several years and some have passed on there will be some glimmer of hope. A new identity emerges for your local church. You may never see it come to fruition. But you labor. You train up leaders to carry on the work. Be faithful. Be patient. Love the Lord and love people. And maybe the church will be healthier someday due to God’s amazing grace and your faithful labors.
For the one who left and didn’t stay. I know your pain. If you need someone to talk to, I would be glad to do that. It might help me too. Just know that Jesus loves. Do not lose heart.
These are some reinforcements to the last couple of blog posts!
for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. – Proverbs 3:12
8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. – Proverbs 9:8-9
A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. – Proverbs 13:1
A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise. – Proverbs 15:12
A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. – Proverbs 17:10
Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear. – Proverbs 25:12
5 Better is open rebuke than hidden love. 6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. – Proverbs 27:5-6
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. – Proverbs 29:1
Sound doctrine shows up again! I discussed the importance of reproving in the devotion yesterday. I think the reproving was correcting those who were intentionally deceiving and upsetting others in the church in chapter 1. However, the theme of reproving continues and it seems to be for preventing false doctrine from ungodly practices. And we should be aware that ungodly works will lead to the dishonor of God’s word and God Himself.
When we come to Christ, he forgives us completely and counts us righteous (in a right legal standing before God though we are ungodly) by faith alone. Our relationship is completely dependent on the person and perfect work of Jesus. But this faith results in fruit. We are saved by faith alone but faith is never alone. Faith in Jesus produces good works which are one of the purposes of salvation. When we are justified and forgiven, the process of sanctification begins.
We understand this process as discipleship. In discipleship, we learn and unlearn a lot things. Teaching is a huge part of discipleship. We all start in the same place when we are born again. Whether you are old or young or male or female we must all learn to walk with Jesus and learning to walk with Jesus involves unlearning the way we previously walked.
Chapter 2 continues the theme of teaching sound doctrine but it is set off by “bookends.” Verse 1 and 15 are very similar. It’s a great description of how discipleship is supposed to look. But I might stop and ask what should be used for teaching sound doctrine and discipleship? If you thought the Scriptures then you are right.
Let’s be reminded of this:
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for trainingin righteousness, 17 *that* the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
(2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Titus 2 are instructions to Titus to “speak things which are fitting for sound doctrine” to older men and older women. Sound doctrine teaches them to be “temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, [sound] in love, [sound] in perseverance” in older men and also “reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips, nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good” in older women SO THAT “they may encourage the young women.”
And something I haven’t noticed before in the next section on younger men (and by the way, younger can mean new…like new disciple). The emphasis is on the teacher or discipler rather than the new believer. The one who is young in the faith is to work on being sensible. The way that happens is by listening and watching those who are older in the faith by example. Did you see that?
Notice: (Tit. 2:6-8) 6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible (self controlled or sober-minded); 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, *so that* the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
I think the “yourself” is Titus not the young men. The easiest way to prove this from the Greek because it’s hard to know sometimes in English. The Greek pronoun is singular and cannot refer to the plural “young men.” I thought that before looking at the Greek just from the context. I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit giving me eyes to see that this morning.
Why? Why does Paul instruct Titus to speak things which are fitting for sound doctrine? So what? In the words of how my young kids might say it…’cause why? 🙂 Here it is…
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
Let’s make disciples who make disciples. Let’s make disciples by teaching sound doctrine that they might be sound in faith. Because the grace of God has appeared to us! God saved us from sin…why would we want to remain in it? God saved us that we might walk with Him not in the ways of the world. God saved us to bring Him glory by becoming like Him. The grace that saves is also the grace that transforms us. May we not remain as we are but mature in the faith for the glory of Christ!
A profound theme among the pastoral epistles, is the call to sound doctrine. Over and over, Paul instructs Timothy and Titus to preserve, teach, and entrust sound doctrine. Because, as 1 Timothy 1 makes clear, that wrong teaching does not lead to sound faith. “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” – 1 Timothy 1:5
In this letter to Titus, Paul had sent him to set things in order in the office of overseer. The overseers/pastors/elders (same office with differing descriptions of the role) are the primary teachers among the church family. Therefore, so goes the teaching of the leadership so goes the church. If the pastors teach sound doctrine then the church will likely believe and practice sound doctrine that aims to love God and others from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
However, as you may be fully aware, the teaching of sound doctrine doesn’t always happen. Indeed, the churches Paul had sent Titus to were already experiencing problems with the teaching. “For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party.” – Titus 1:10 This comes on the heels of the qualifications for the office of overseer who is expected to teach and maintain sound doctrine and correct that which is in error.
He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.
– Titus 1:9
So, one of the roles of the pastors is to instruct in sound doctrine but also to rebuke (reprove and expose) that which contradicts sound doctrine. What’s the result of unsound doctrine? In verse 10, it says these people deceive and their talk is empty and worthless. They upset whole families. The things these deceivers focus on leads to being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.
In other words, worthless teaching leads to a worthless life…worthless impact in the community and the world. I think I see a lot of that these days. What is the remedy? It’s simple. Pastors that hold to sound doctrine and are able to expose the errors among them. So, to neglect the role of reproving is to allow worthless teaching to take root and result in churches that are dying or will die. Their light has gone out. In some cases, the lampstand has already been removed even while they still meet.
It is unloving not to reprove. It is unloving not to reprove. It is unloving not to reprove.
Not to correct is to care nothing about the health of the church.
Not to correct is to lie about who God is. And if our mission is to make disciples of Jesus and false doctrine is allowed to remain then are you really reaching people with the true Jesus and the true gospel? And if you reach them with this false Jesus and false gospel where will they end up in eternity?
Teaching and maintaining sound doctrine have eternal consequences. If you love the Lord and if you love the church and if you love and want to reach your neighbors, then be cautious about the doctrine taught in the church. It has eternal consequences.
And there is a right and wrong way to do this. Here is the right way:
24 And the Lord’s servant must *not be quarrelsome but *kind to everyone, *able to teach, *patiently enduring evil, 25 *correcting his opponents *with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. – 2 Timothy 2:24-26
What’s amazing about this story is not the fact that a man was swallowed by a fish and survived. The surprising thing about it is that God had mercy on Jonah, indeed His steadfast love. I don’t mean to say that we should be surprised that God is merciful. But rather, the very idea of mercy is knowing we do not deserve it.
Jonah did not deserve it.
You and I do not deserve it.
Therefore, we are exceedingly thankful towards God when He chooses to show us mercy.
What am I hoping we all will see from Jonah 3? I hope you will see what path you are on today and that you will run into this amazingly loving God who is surprisingly merciful. I want you to know the love of God and worship Him forever!
Before we read the text, I would like for you to pause for a moment and think. If you need to bow your head and ask the Lord to open your eyes…clear your mind…remove any distractions…take a moment to do that.
In just a moment, I am going to ask you to remain in that prayerful position as I ask you some questions.
Now, I want to begin by saying that so far in this story, Jonah attempted to go to Tarshish.
By God’s amazing grace, he did not make it to Tarshish. He ran from God and while on the way Jonah ran into God. He seems to be everywhere and knows everything.
As do many stories in the Bible, we leave God out as the main character in the story. This story is not about Jonah being swallowed by a fish but rather it is about the mercy and love of God!
So, I want to ask you…are you headed to Tarshish? What path are you on this morning?
Okay you aren’t a prophet like Jonah. But if you are Christian, you have been called, like Jonah and here it is:
(Matt. 28:18-20) 18 And Jesus…said to them…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations
Every Christian…every follower of Jesus is called to go make disciples. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them about Me.
Some of us are like Jonah on the road to Tarshish.
It’s very possible that there are some among us who are on the road the sailors were on. They believed in God…indeed many gods…but they didn’t know the One, true and living God. By God’s good grace, these sailors ran into the merciful God!
I hope you run into Him today
Others among us might be like the people of Nineveh. You are in need of hearing about this merciful God who alone saves.
You’re on a path that leads to eternal death because you have sinned against the holy God who created you. He has sent me to tell you about His Son Jesus. He sent him to pay the just penalty of your sin for you on the cross and be raised that He might forgive you and set you free.
You are on a path heading somewhere. Some of you know very well that you are fleeing God’s call to make disciples.
I know your struggle. It’s almost a daily battle for me. I have planned my escape to Tarshish and headed out many times only to run into the mercy of God.
I have gone to Nineveh and yet the words would not come out.
I have headed to Nineveh only to find myself on a detour heading to Tarshish.
But…maybe most importantly I lived in Nineveh and God sent one of His disciples to tell me about Jesus.
And now I am here telling you. Let’s see if you run into the same merciful God…the Son of God as I did and Paul did on his way to Damascus.
Read the text and pray
I believe there are four points to be seen in this chapter
The mercy of God Pursued Jonah again…
Jonah proclaims the LORD’s message
Nineveh repents and believes
God relents from judgment
The main overall point is…The Surprising Mercy of God
Point 1—The Mercy of God Pursued Jonah a second time
The main difference between Jonah 1:1 and Jonah 3:1 are the words “a second time.”
If I may say it this way, “Have you come to expect a second chance from God?” When I read the first verse of this chapter it moved me to worship! When I see God doing this for Jonah I can relate. I have experienced the love of God coming after me many times.
Not one time have I ever deserved it and nor did Jonah.
Aaron’s sons didn’t get another chance when they offered strange fire on the altar.
Uzzah didn’t get another chance when he reached out to steady the ark of the covenant.
Ananias and his wife Sapphira didn’t get another chance when they lied about the property they sold.
May I ask again, “Have you come to expect a second chance from God?”
It was His kindness that saved you.
He sent his Son because He loved you.
He pursued you by His grace.
You have resisted. You have fled the other way. But at every turn He was the God who was there. He was the loving Father coming after the one He loves.
Do you know how much the Lord loves you? Did you know that God loves you so much that He will not let you make it to Tarshish?
I think we need to consider something. Did Jonah run because he thought that he could actually flee His presence? Did he run because he thought God was no longer all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present?
We all believe a lot of things and know a lot of true things yet we just simply don’t think about them.
The Bible calls that suppressing the truth or calloused heart or even hard-heartedness. Let me explain how easy it is to suppress the truth.
We have been suppressing the truth when we were in Louisville dropping Lydia off at Boyce College. It didn’t hurt and we fought off the tears if we could manage not to think about leaving her on Tuesday. But the time came and so did the tears.
We often suppress the truth by not thinking about what is true. That’s how Jonah got up and went the opposite direction.
I think it’s easy to read this story and see Jonah’s error quit plainly. We might even say, “Come on Jonah! What’s wrong with you?”
Well, his problem is our problem. I want you to pray as we move along that you would see where you are as clearly as you see where Jonah was. You need to think. Stop suppressing the truth. The Lord is standing in your path with abundant mercy.
Ask the Lord to do what He must to save you. If you need to be taken to the bottom of the ocean then whatever it takes. Plead with Him not to let you go your own way.
(Jon. 3:1) Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time
You might have thought my sermon title only meant to say the mercy of God towards Nineveh because you have read the whole story. However, I mean the mercy of God towards the sailors, Jonah, Nineveh and all of us.
This word from God comes a second time after God pursued Jonah and he responded in repentance…THEN…the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time.
There are conditions. No repentance, no second time. God pursues in His grace. He shows us great patience. But He is the LORD…Yahweh. And He will have mercy on whom He has mercy. It’s His decision. He is not obligated to do anything for you. He might stop you from going to Tarshish by way of your death.
We have seen the mercy of God towards Jonah but that mercy was not merely for Jonah. It was also for Nineveh…and us. Jonah proclaims the message of His merciful Savior.
The Lord says in (Jon. 3:2-3) 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” 3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.
I think it must be said that God didn’t need Jonah. He’s not the only person on the planet. Nor does God even need “believers” to do it.
Listen to how Rahab who lived in Jericho had heard: (Jos. 2:8-10) 8 Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof 9 and said to the men, “I know that the LORD has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. 10For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.
Jesus doesn’t need you but He invites you to join His mission in calling sinners to repentance.
And without question, when God decides to send someone to Nineveh, someone is going to Nineveh. As Job declared… (Job 42:2) 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
Let’s see God’s plan coming about! (Jon. 3:3-4) Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
It appears that it took three days to walk through the city of Nineveh. No doubt it was a walled city of more than 120,000 people…souls.
This city was exceedingly evil. Can you imagine entering a walled city of 120,000 wicked people? It doesn’t seem that Jonah was afraid for his life.
So, Jonah walked 1/3 of the way into the city and began to proclaim the judgment of the LORD. “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
It’s a merciful thing to hear this. They have obviously heard more than this before…maybe similar to that of Jericho.
Many of the prophets spoke judgment against many nations. The LORD gives Nineveh a specific timeline. Most of the time we don’t have any sort of length of time to consider what God has said.
We often think we have all the time in world. But listen to me. Today is the day of salvation. Today. You have right now. Respond. You shall be overthrown, too. But you do not know if you have 40 days or not. Repent and believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.
What will they do? Stone the messenger and throw him out of the city?
We have seen the mercy of God towards Jonah. We have seen the response of Jonah to God’s mercy. Now let’s see the response of this great, wicked city Nineveh to the message.
(Jon. 3:5) 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God.
I don’t know about you but this seems miraculous! If you have shared the gospel any length of time, you know how amazing this is. There’s a story that always sticks out in my mind.
We were in the border city of Acuna, Mexico. We were walking the streets sharing the gospel. A fellow student was my interpreter and we stopped to speak with a lady who was at home working in her house/grocery store.
When we presented the gospel to her, she immediately knew that it would cost her dearly. She began to tell us that her husband would leave her. She would lose her family, a place to live, her grocery store and really everything if she followed Jesus.
We continued to tell her how much Jesus loved her and that he was worth losing everything. This went on for quit some time. She kept saying this over and over and we kept sharing the gospel. We were about to leave and suddenly she started praying. Confessing her sins and pleading for Jesus to save her. I couldn’t believe it. So many times, we had left other people who had said no.
Jonah proclaims and the people respond. Praise the Lord!
Obviously, they believed this message was not merely from Jonah. It doesn’t say they believed Jonah. It says they believed God. And their belief was not merely an acknowledging of facts but belief and repentance that changed their disposition to humility.
Jonah proclaimed a message and they proclaim a fast. The hunger in the stomach was to be a sign of their hunger for God’s mercy. They were desperate and needy. They put on sackcloth…another sign of humility and grief over sin.
The extent of this proclamation is from the greatest of them to the least. No age group is exempted. The doom of the city involved everyone; therefore, all of them must repent.
Even social status does not get an exemption. Jonah 3:6 6 The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
When coming to Jesus, you must check your social status at the door. Your position in the community has nothing to do with your position before God. If you come, all are laid low at the foot of the cross. Small or great. Slave or free. Man or woman. Your social status means nothing.
We see this king display humble faith. Notice he arose from his throne and sat down in ashes. He laid aside his royalty and displayed that he was a creature made from the dust.
He removed his royal robe and covered himself with sackcloth. In other words, he removed his pride and clothed himself with humility.
We would do well to see the example of this king and cloth ourselves in humility.
I must stop here for a moment because many people, especially here in the buckle of the Bible belt have said they believe in God. They say they have been saved. They say…they say…they say…
Yet, I don’t see any fruit or evidence of faith. I see fruit and evidence in Jonah and the people of Nineveh and even the sailors. But is there any fruit or evidence in your life?
James points out that Abraham’s belief in God was visible and real when we see him taking Isaac up the mountain for sacrifice. His belief was so sure that he thought that even if he took the life of his son that God would raise him from the dead. Yet, God provided a lamb!
I am so blessed to be among so many who display their faith clearly and boldly.
But not everybody. Look at your feet. What path are you on? Where is your faith?
And dear Jonah’s. You have a relationship with Jesus. But you are going to Tarshish instead of going to make disciples. You are going to run into the mercy of God. Why not today? Why not before the wind and the fish. Why not before being taken to the bottom of the ocean?
True humble faith is serious and never silent. It calls on the Lord. Listen to what the king ordered. Jonah 3:8-9 and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
Another proclamation. Jonah proclaimed God’s message. Two fasts were proclaimed and now all people are to proclaim earnestly to God.
True repentance is a humbling disposition. It sets God as supreme and man as creaturely. It is desperate and sincere. It hopes in the mercy of God. It mourns over sin and wickedness with godly sorrow. You don’t mourn that you got caught but rather that you have offended and belittled the Holy Creator.
The people of Nineveh responded in repentance and faith in God. How will God respond to them?
Jonah 3:1010 ¶ When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
One of my favorite descriptions of God is actually from Hagar, Sarah’s handmaid in Genesis 16:13 “You are the God who sees me,”
WHEN…God saw their deeds. WHEN…He saw their humility. WHEN…He saw their repentance. WHEN…He saw that they had turned from their evil ways. God relented of the disaster he had declared against them.
The chapter simply ends with He did not do it. This is the great miracle of the book of Jonah—God’s mercy towards Nineveh. Wow! Did you see it?
If you will repent and believe in Jesus, He will not destroy you. He will forgive you and adopt you into His family.
I’m going to ask that you bow your heads for a moment.
I want ask you again, “Who are you in this story?”
What path are you on?
Do you see the love of God in this story?
Do you see the mercy of God?
Will you receive the gift of salvation and repent and believe in Jesus?
This blog found its beginning while I was in seminary at Southwestern in Fort Worth. When I started there, my understanding of the nature of Scripture was not very good. As I came to understand, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” But as I began to grow and understand what God’s Word is, this little phrase embedded in chapter 2 struck me in the most profound way–the word is not imprisoned!
So much so that I named the blog after this amazing statement. I left SWBTS with the understanding that God’s Word was just that…God’s Word. For God to say was for the Bible to say. For the Bible to say was for God to say. The simple reason the Word cannot be imprisoned is because God cannot be imprisoned. If the nature of Scripture were anything less, then it could most certainly be shut up. I mean, our word can be shut up. Only God’s Word is unbound. No cage can contain it. The thickness or height of any wall cannot stop it. That’s very encouraging!
I think it is ironic and somewhat hilarious that 2 Timothy, the prison letters from Paul could not be imprisoned. Paul was locked up but God’s Word could not be locked up. These letters, which we hold to be Scripture, left the prison and accomplished and is still accomplishing its purposes!
Indeed, what follows this profound truth is the source of Paul’s perseverance. He endured all things through the truth of God’s Word and he was certain that whether or not he remained imprisoned that the Word was never imprisoned. And the Word…the Gospel…indeed Jesus/the Word himself was going forth saving his people to obtain salvation and eternal glory!
The Scriptures were the source by which Timothy’s mother and grandmother had been led to faith as well as Timothy himself. The Scriptures are the source from which Timothy is to teach, remember, remind, and preach. They’re all he’s got! They are enough! Why?
(2 Tim. 3:16-17) All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
What do you think and believe about God’s word?
Is it the very Word of God, Himself?
Does it have ultimate authority over you?
Do you regard it as sufficient?
Can it be stopped?
Is it able to teach, reprove, correct, train in righteousness so that you will be equipped for every good work?
Should other words…your word be preached?
Is God’s Word trustworthy?
At the end of all things, what will still be standing?
(1 Pet. 1:23-25) ...since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for "All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever." And this word is the good news that was preached to you.
If you have read the book or watched the movie, you know the story of Eustace Scrubb. If I might sum up his life before encountering Aslan in Narnia it would be one word that sounds an awful lot like his name, useless. Without spoiling the best part of the story I will simply say that Eustace becomes a dragon. However, it was the best thing that ever happened to him because Aslan shows up to perform a miracle in his life!
I share that brief story because something similar happened to someone named Onesimus prior to this letter to Philemon. In fact, it is the occasion from which this letter is written. Even though this letter is short, there’s much that could be highlighted, but let’s see this amazing transformation in Onesimus.
Philemon and Onesimus had some type of master-servant relationship. We don’t know much about it but it seems that Onesimus had left for some reason. Again, the details are minimal but somehow Onesimus runs into the Apostle Paul while in prison for the gospel.
What is clear is that something amazing happened to Onesimus. It was perhaps the darkest days of his life, yet this might have been the best thing that had ever happened to him because he heard and believed the gospel!
Similar to Eustace/useless, Onesimus’s name on the contrary meant “useful” though he was not useful. But that changes when he meets Jesus like Eustace met Aslan. Here’s what Paul says about it.
10 I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment. 11 (Formerly he was useless to you, but now he is indeed useful to you and to me.) – Philemon 1:10-11
For Paul to become Onesimus’s father would mean his father in the faith. It simply means that Paul shared the gospel with him and he believed. This is such rich language that describes discipleship. There is a profound responsibility Paul has for Onesimus and we should see discipleship like that too.
Paul will go on to say concerning why all of this happened:
15 For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, 16 no longer as a bondservant but more than a bondservant, as a beloved brother-especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord. – Philemon 1:15-16
Not only did Onesimus become useful to Paul but also to Jesus and the Kingdom. We hear of him later. See this:
7 Tychicus will tell you all about my activities. He is a beloved brother and faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are and that he may encourage your hearts, 9 and with him Onesimus, our faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will tell you of everything that has taken place here. – Colossians 4:7-9
It is the miracle of the gospel! May you be encouraged and not loss heart! God is transforming us from Eustace to Onesimus by His grace and for His glory!
There are days we feel the battle’s intensity and there are days we are unaware that we are in a battle or maybe some place in between. The battle began when we turned our back on the prince of the air and sin. We had spent our days following the enemy but Jesus rescued us by his grace!
There’s a battle being waged in how we think, how we respond, and how we feel. Some days it seems much easier not to pray. My mind is distracted with everything. I oversleep sometimes and the pressure of the tasks for the day beckon my attention. Even the days when I succeed in prayer, I must begin quickly or something else will have my attention.
Occasionally, I awake with a headache and I cannot even endure the slightest of sunlight and most fragrances only intensify the pain. If it’s not that it’s backpain or some other physical ailment. I could go on and on about these but you know as well as I do how many different things can happen in a week.
All that I have mentioned only complicates the issues. But sin harms us in many ways and we do not even recognize it. In chapter 4, Paul said this: (Eph. 4:26-27) Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil…..(Eph. 4:30) And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. Sin affects our capacity to think biblically and live godly. It makes us foolish and gullible. Thank goodness, God gave us the gift of the church.
This passage about the armor of God, is written to the church. It is “plural” throughout. Yeah…you might take it individually but we are meant to do this together. The truth is we are weak but God is strong. We need to be strengthened in the Lord to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
Just how strong is the strength of the Lord? How mighty is he? I think Paul describes it well in Ephesians 1:19-20 “…and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.” Mighty enough to raise the dead! And that is the power with which we are strengthened.
How do I stand against him? Do not ascribe to the world’s mantra that if it feels good do it, if sounds good go for it, and if it makes you happy it must be right. We have been given the armor of God THAT we might be able to stand AGAINST him. In Christ, the devil can now be resisted. You no longer follow him around. You are no longer his toy or project. You are Christ’s! Stand against temptation.
How do I use this armor? Let’s read the text again.
11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, butagainst the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance…
Know the truth (having fastened on the belt of truth)
the belt…the truth holds everything together
Remember that you have a right legal standing before God in Christ and now do what is right before Him (having put on the breatplate of righteousness
the breastplate guards your heart
Go in the peace of the gospel (having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace)
the gospel of peace has prepared your path
Trust the Lord (take up the shield of faith)
the enemy wants you to think that you must be happy now in your current circumstances and that is all that matters but God says to trust me and one day your trials will be over
Think what is true (take the helmet of salvation)
guard your mind by knowing the salvation of the Lord
Stand on the promises of God’s word (take the sword of the Spirit)
speak the Spirit inspired word of God to yourself and to the enemy
praying at all times in the Spirit
This may be the most neglected weapon available to us. Prayer seems to be a waste of time. Couldn’t I be doing something more productive than bowing my head and praying? No.
KEEP ALERT WITH ALL PERSEVERANCE!
The reason this armor is so effective is because it is God’s armor. Satan cannot fight against him. The battle has been won in Christ. Now, he makes war on the saints. Our armor, our protection, is God’s armor. The very thing that does not allow the enemy to fight against him. God is holy. The devil has no weapon in which to battle with God.
Dear saint, bruised and wounded…struggling and doubting…ashamed and broken…don’t give in to the lie that you have gone too far. God loves you. He is gracious and merciful. Do not be deceived by the Liar who is crafty. Come to Jesus.
The “therefore” of verse 1 follows the fact that God has forgiven us in Christ and therefore our way of life will change. Formally, we imitated the world. We walked in immorality, impurity, and greed. Since we have been forgiven, God commands us to walk in His ways which is God’s intent from the beginning of creation.
But how do you imitate God? Normally, we grow up imitating our parents. We see their manner of life and we pick up various things from them. It’s rather natural for us to do this. But we cannot see God physically. However, God has sent His Son not only to pay the penalty of our sin through his death and resurrection but also to show us the ways and character of God!
The nearest context of what we were formally is found back in 4:17 where Paul describes unbelievers as Gentiles. This word simply means “nations” but in the context of the Bible it means more than that sometimes. It means those peoples who do not follow the One, true and living God. They worship idols and other gods. Paul says Gentiles *live in futility of mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the *life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of their hardness of heart.
Because God has forgiven you in Christ, God now considers you “beloved children.” Since children naturally imitate their parents, as beloved children of God we should now imitate God our Father. In particularly Paul says to walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave himself up for us. In other words, Jesus gave his life that you might now have a new life. We were formally darkness. Not just walked in darkness, though that is true. But we were children of darkness.
We loved the darkness hoping our evil ways were hidden. We put our hand beside our mouth trying to hide our dirty jokes, our filthy mouth, and our silliness. We scan the scene to see whose ears are in range of our voice. However, God sees through the darkness. He knows what is done in secret. Our thoughts and motives are not hidden from Him.
What did God say to us when He saw this? Are you ready? Are you sure? It might not be what you think! He said this:
“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”
Now, we no longer tell people our favorite dirty jokes but we speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. We now give thanks to God with our mouths! We no longer have need of hiding our true identity but we are free to agree with who we were formally and who we are now.
Dear Darkness, long had you been my close companion but I will no longer need you. I am a child of the Light. I will not walk in you, darkness, but I will walk in the Light by the grace of God and for His glory.