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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

OT: Brothers, Let Us Learn From Jonah

And he prayed to the LORD and said, "O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my own country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster." Jonah 4:2 The life and account of Jonah is one which people find various themes and application. If you are an open theist, then you would try to explain that God changes (contra immutability), or if you are an inclusivist that God saves people outside covenant (contra faith alone in God through the person of Jesus Christ), or if you are a church growth technician the great success, numerical growth, and genuine revival in the big city of Nineveh. Each one of these can and has been sufficiently challenged, and I want to emphasize something about Jonah himself which has been in my mind in recent weeks. Jonah was a man who knew his God. He knew that YHWH is sovereign, that he works salvation with "a mighty hand and an outstretched arm," and that He is "a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster." Jonah explains that the very reason he rebelled and when to Tarshish was precisely because he knew what God could and would do, and he did not want to have any part in it. He had correct orthodoxy but wretched orthopraxy. Jonah serves as one who knew God arightly but did not impact the way he treated others. He did not have the heart of Yahweh for the peoples of the world. He could give a great exposition of the attributes and qualities of God but failed in exemplification to manifest the truths in his own life. One could have a solidly biblical view of salvation but regard then gospel message the same way Jonah did. You know the power of God. You know the heart of God, but you don't have it, lest you go to your Nineveh. What is worse I wonder: Have all the doctrinal truths down pat and miss the heart and work of God, or be passionate about the souls of men and women regardless of the race, color, ethnicity, status, or religion yet have a incorrect or improper understanding of salvation, sovereignty, and the gospel? One of the charges made against Reformed brothers is the emphasis on doctrinal correctness and theological precision. We believe that the gospel is important enough that we must get it right, that souls are serious enough that we must give them the total truth, that the sovereignty and character of God is so beautiful that we must not malign it with our presuppositions - yet Jonah stands before us as an example of what not to be. We must not be bitter because of God's blessings; we must not despise God's salvation message but not sharing it, and with passion; we must not relegate the gospel to a creed, but "do all for the sake of the gospel, that we should be a fellow partaker of it" (1 Corinthians 9:24). You might ask, "Well, do you believe in limited atonement?" You bet I do. But I believe that it is a LARGE limited atonement (and this should not sound oxymoronic). Another charge forged at us is that since we are exclusivists and Jesus sovereignly saves, then only few will be saved verses the many (I will address later). Yet why can't it be that God could elect many, atone for many (though limited), and we evangelize and see many repent and experience that God is truly gracious and merciful? The gospel is too glorious for us to be spiritual grinch's! The fame of Jesus is too fundamental to our faith for us to fail in the future! Revelation 5:9 and 7:9 speak of a host of people from every nation, people, tongue and tribe so great one cannot count - and this is not resultative of salvation from other religions or other means, but through the graciousness of God to draw many sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus! It is tragic today that in theological thought and discourse that we are dubbed as believing just a few here and there will be saved, and God forbid that we live like it!!! I do not hesitate to stand for the truth, to contend for the faith and the gospel, for the character and person of God (in Trinitarian form), but I hope and pray that you also find me as an ambassador of reconciliation imploring wretched sinners to flee to Christ. With a broken heart and passionate fervor, brothers, we must endeavor to speak of Christ beautifully and boldly to our world. The book of Jonah is not about Jonah or a big fish or Nineveh, but the heart of God - a heart Jonah was hard to. What God did was not because of Jonah but in spite of him. His message was not long, deep, doctrinal, or eloquent ("Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"). Jonah missed enjoying what God had done and being a part of his graciousness; instead of being a conduit, he was a dam. Instead of being a blessing to the Ninevites, he was a barrier. This is our lesson to heed. Tom Wells, in his book A Vision for Missions makes it clear to us all that "those who know the most about God are the most responsible and best equipped to tell of Him." Truly, as Jonah prayed, "Salvation belongs to the LORD!" (Jonah 2:9); therefore, let's be about contending for the faith, the gospel, the greatness of God, the beauty of Jesus Christ - but let us also be embracing the heart of God for the peoples of the world and first to demonstrate in our own lives the power of the gospel to save, and not be ashamed. Let's pray that God will be glorious among us, that his greatness will be evidenced by many souls saved, and that his grace will stagger sinners to behold Jesus Christ as better than what life can offer now and death can take later.

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