Tag Archives: grace

A Whale of a Story

This weeks reading is the book of Jonah. Most of us have heard the story of Jonah and the whale so often, we can recite it from memory. However, looking closer at the story, the point is more than a rebellious prophet unwilling to obey God. Right off the bat we find that God not only pays attention to the prayers of the Saints, but is aware of the evil going on in the world. The commission of Jonah to go preach was met with resistance and out right rebellion.

Throughout this story we find that God is in control. He sets in motion the “natural” things to accomplish His will. The story is more about the Father’s grace and mercy, than it is about Jonah. Even though Nineveh was wicked, God was compassionate to send a witness to them. The knowledge of Jonah about what God could do, resulted in his running away. Jonah knew that God was compassionate, merciful and gracious. Jonah’s problem was he didn’t want salvation for Nineveh, but judgment. Too often we are like that too. We would rather see the “wicked” get theirs, rather than get mercy. Yet this is ironic because Jonah was the object of God’s mercy, as we are – why shouldn’t we want others to come to know the Lord? Probable because then we have to love those who we love to hate.

In this story we have two groups of “Gentiles” the ship mates and the Ninevites. Gentile people were considered unclean and below the Gospel. So strong is Jonah’s hatred for the city of Nineveh, he would rather die, then preach to them.  On the ship we find Jonah taking his ease in the midst of the storm, which God rose up, Jonah is sleeping  and the shipmates are crying out to their gods. In 1:6 the cry of the gentiles – “call out to your God, maybe He will have compassion on us that we should not perish. This is repeated by the King of Nineveh – 3:9. The Gentiles were hopeful that Jonah’s God would be merciful on them. Jonah didn’t care about anyone else but himself and his own prejudices.  The rebellion of Jonah is come to light, the shipmates ask, How Could You Do This? Still unrepentant, “just throw me in the sea, and all will be okay.” Jonah had no regard for what he was doing to others. 1st a person cannot run from God – He is omnipresence, secondly God is mercy and long-suffering and does not want anyone to perish. Oh that we would be as compassionate about the Lost regardless of how sinful they are and how repulsed we feel about them! Just as God raises up a storm, He APPOINTS a fish to swallow Jonah. This speaks of God’s omnipotence. There is nothing that is not subjected unto His authority. Finally, Jonah prays, weird place to pray, but inside a whale is as good as any I guess. I often thought of 3:1 being an example of God giving 2nd chance, however really, this is God still working out His plan. The plan never changed – go to Nineveh and preach!

Nineveh was a big city of 3 days walk, notice though that Jonah only walked 1/3 of the city [3:4]. He didn’t even walk through the entire city to let all know. Here is God’s love revealed – He will use the meager attempts of obedience to accomplish His will. Just as Jonah feared, the people repented and Nineveh last another 100 years.  Rather than be over joyed at the repentance of the people, Jonah still has an attitude against God and the “wicked” Ninevites. The story about the plant that provides relief and then the boiling heat after it withers, exposes the carnality of Jonah. In the end – Jonah the messenger of God cared less for the Lost and more about the plant that provided him shade. The sailors and the Ninevites both call on God for salvation and worship Him for who He is; yet the one most familiar, was “displeased” with God for saving the scoundrels.

I wonder in our time, are those that we would rather see punished, killed or annihilated rather than redeemed by the Grace that we have been recipients of? Jonah preached against the people, not for the people. He only wanted to indict them with the Gospel, not get them redeemed? Are preachers guilty of the same today. Example are, we more prone to preach against homosexuals and drug addicts; adulterers and the like than we are to reach out to them with the Grace and Mercy of God?

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The Kind Intention of God

Epistle to the Ephesians

Even though not a specific book to the Ephesians, being a circular letter, the contents is valuable to all churches. In preparation for the blog I re-read Acts 19 which tells the story of how the Gospel spread in the city of Ephesus. The pagan rituals and goddess Diana dominated the city. There were magicians and soothsayers in abundance. Paul’s ministry begins with giving a “fuller revelation of the Gospel.” Paul stayed and preached and healing even with a very unorthodox  means of handkerchiefs being used to heal diseases. The Ephesian letter is similar to another circular letter that was being spread through Asia, the Epistle to the Colossians. These two letters hold several like passages.

The first chapter is a remarkable filled passage of revelation of how God was working through Jesus to bring salvation to people. The high christology here is no where else as transparent in the New Testament. The focus is now that we are In Christ, what exactly does this mean? Terms such as lavished, predestined, adopted, and inheritance speak volumes to the believer. God has not only redeemed us from the impending wrath that was due us, but has elevated us to royalty. In Hebrews 1:1-4 passage is filled with the “last days” revelation of Jesus Christ. We can easily gravitate to a minimal opinion about exactly the work of God through Jesus; albeit to marginalization of how great was the Salvation work accomplished by Jesus through His death and resurrection. I find many people think the understand the significance of Christ death, yet fail to live out a faith that reflects the “Changed Person” they are to be. Another problem with marginalizing Christ, it the tenancy to believe that we have garnered something by our actions to please God and obtain for ourselves salvation.

The phrase “IN HIM” is repeated 5 times in the first chapter. The repetitive nature of the phrase should enlighten us to the fact that it is ONLY BECAUSE OF JESUS that we have the standing before God that we do. The Holy Spirit being Promised and the “active agent” in us enables us to know that we are sealed in Christ.

Paul after detailing all that Christ has done for us, he then begins to speak to our condition without Jesus. Being born dead in sin and living a life of sins, we were people with out hope. But is was God’s “good pleasure” and “kind intention” to us, that we have eternal life. If there was any doubt about the riches of God, they are dispelled by reading the first two chapters of this book. Our almost creed position of “saved by Grace” illustrates that there is nothing that we have done to earn salvation and restored relationship with the Godhead. [Eph. 2:8-10] Even the very idea of salvation as a gift and freely coming from the Father is God’s idea not ours. Now take into consideration the highly religious people who have only known the idolatrous worship practices of days gone by; and how this thought of God being personal and desiring fellowship with His creation. Quite a shock to their thought. The word “formerly” is used to draw the contrast from what was, to what is now true. Formerly walking in the flesh and sensuality of pagan worship, we are now redeemed by God to do good works through Jesus Christ. Once we [Gentiles] were excluded, but now we are included into the Salvation Plan of God.

Paul is careful to make sure that both Jews who have the Law and those without the Law have the same salvation and savior. This does counter the Jews who were trying to create a Jews salvation only – requiring all non-Jews to become like them. Paul calls this revelation “the mystery of Christ] that Gentiles are fellow heirs and partakers of the same salvation. Today this is debated from a different position – not salvation, but another salvation through other means, whether that is works or false teaching. Acts 4:12 – no other Name, but the Name of Jesus. John 14:6 – the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

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