Monday, February 27, 2017

Running From God - Jonah 2

Do you remember the dreaded lecture? You got caught doing something wrong and instead of your parents just spanking you and getting it over with, they had to lecture you. The purpose of the lecture was to create guilt for what we’ve done and enough shame so we would never even think about doing it again. For many of us this was our earliest experience with condemnation.

Condemnation isn’t one of God’s tools when He is dealing with us.

Jesus said: The Holy Spirit, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; (Jn 16:8)

The Holy Spirit exposes our sin, points us to God’s expectations, then reminds us rebellion has consequences. But instead of condemning us, pushing us away, He is drawing us back toward God.

I’ve sat through sermons where the preacher thought it was his job to condemn folks with regard to their behavior. We don’t need condemning lectures. God’s Spirit awakens us to the fact that we have left God’s best and need to return to that best.

So visualize Jonah. He just got upchucked out of a big fish. He’s standing on the beach all wet, slimy and humbled. He has already returned to God in his heart when he was still inside the fish. He renewed his vows to go with God. Why would God lecture him?

Instead, God says, “Jonah, now that I have your attention, are you ready to go where I want you to go and do what I want you to do?” A simple question—no emotion, no yelling. No shame.

Jonah didn’t need any more shame. He needed to know if God was done with Him or if God would give him a second chance. And of course a second chance is what God did.

Jonah 3:1-3

If Jonah had run away from God with the assumption that God would just give him another chance, it is unlikely God would have offered it. That’s called presumption. Presuming on the grace of God.

In the Middle Ages, the church presumed upon the grace of God. Knowing God would forgive sin, they created a money-making arrangement of selling forgiveness in advance of the sin. Sort of get out of jail free cards called indulgences. Indulge in sin because your second chance awaits you. Or choose whichever way you want to go, God will forgive you.

The Holy Spirit was sufficiently clear in His convicting: sin is wrong, righteousness is right and consequences are to be expected.

Daily we face multiple choices of what direction we want our lives to go. Some of those choices have no significance in our Christian fellowship with God, but occasionally, there are life-affecting choices.
Imagine a hexagon represents a slice of your life at any given moment. Imagine each side of the hexagon is a choice at that very moment. Within those six choices, God is calling us toward His best. Whatever choice we make, we move into another hexagon to live out that choice until, within that new hexagon, we face other choices.

If we choose God’s best, we discover an open door of blessing.
If we choose against God’s best or simply go with our own will, what happens?
·                              Conviction of sin and righteousness and the consequence of our choice
·                              Persistence of God’s grace
o   By grace God will let us run.
o   By grace God will use whatever it takes to get us to return.

Remember Isaiah 49: But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me, and the Lord has forgotten me." Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me. (Isa 49:14-16)

Each side of this hexagon is a wall continually before the Lord. He knows the blessing of choosing His will and the consequences of choosing against His will. He also knows the sequence of choices that will result if we run away from Him. And the blessings we will discover if we do not.

In whatever choice we make, God meets us there within that hexagon and offers us the direction of His will. If we reject that, and go a different way, He meets us there and offers the way to reconnect to His will.

If I choose God’s best, blessings await.
If I choose another direction, consequences await.
But in each choice, God meets me there with a new best.

Jonah 3:4-4:4  - Jonah’s journey

You are not in charge of the outcome, yet you are angry because I am and I chose a different outcome than you hoped for?

Please don’t insist that for God to be a good God He has to do our will instead of His.
Please don’t insist that for God to be a good God His will has to agree with us.

Oh no, they aren’t happy with what I’ve done. I have to change this to keep them happy. Our happiness isn’t God’s agenda. Doing what’s best is God’s agenda.

He is not a man who changes His mind. Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind. (1 Sam 15:29)

Why do we change our minds?
1.                        What we chose didn’t work as we expected.
2.                        What we chose is making things worse.
3.                       We found something we hope is better.

God sees the beginning and the end. He knows and does what’s best.

But within His will He includes variables according to our response.
Yet even now," declares the LORD, "Return to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, weeping and mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments." Now return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent and leave a blessing behind Him… (Joel 2:12-14)

Conditional statements: If you/then I – “If My people, called by My name, will humble…
Jonah only heard the first part: I will destroy/but God always includes a silent if in case they repent.
He is not changing His mind, He’s working within variables.

Chemistry – add two element together and you get a result. Add another and you get a different result.
God + Sinful man = perishing
God + Sinful man + repentance = forgiveness
Outcome is changed because a different element is added.

Grace is at work within the conditions God sets.

A prophet with no compassion forgets Grace – When we judge ourselves, we often forget about Grace. Easy to write other people off. Easy to write ourselves off.

Even when we have run away from God, through the condition of repentance, because of Grace, God offers second chances

            1. God never writes off His children.
            2. Even when we are unfaithful, He remains faithful.
            3. Though He doesn’t remove the consequences of our sin, He will offer us a
second chance to return to fellowship with Him.

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