We began this series on revival with 1 Peter 4:17 ~ For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God's household. And if judgment begins with us, what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God's Good News?
We began by defining sin & the purpose for which God’s law was given. We acknowledged that all have sinned & fallen short of the glory of God. [Romans 3:23] Redemption from our sin was the purpose for which God sent His only begotten son; He loved the world that much. We then looked @ the reason for the Holy Spirit & His purpose for coming into the world, His role in the life of the unbeliever & His role in the life of the believer.
This brings us to our study of the first great revival recorded in the bible. As judgement begins with the household of God, so too does revival for we must acknowledge our sin when it comes to our unbelieving neighbours before we can move into our rightful position of helping the Holy Spirit bring in God’s harvest. If nothing else motivates us to share the gospel of Christ surely this should: what terrible fate awaits those who have never obeyed God's Good News?
We don’t like to think about hell & there are plenty of people, good people, even Christian people, who will tell you there is no such place, that a loving God would never condemn His creation to an eternity in a place of torture. Scripture teaches otherwise. I will give you 3 references though there are plenty of others.
· Psalm 9:17
· But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.” Revelation 21:8
· They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might
2 Thessalonians 1:9
God did not create Hell for mankind but for the fallen angels [Matthew 25:41] However those who choose to give their allegiance to satan will find themselves there by their own choice & despite what the songs say there is no partying in hell. It is a place of torment & gnashing of teeth. We were created by God to reflect His image & enjoy Him forever but those who choose satan & this world neither reflect God’s image nor can they enjoy His presence, therefore they cannot abide in the presence of God.
So come with me to one of the minor prophets: Jonah. I love Jonah. He so reminds me of God’s people! Here is this man of God ~ & let’s be clear; he was a man of God. He came from Gath~Hepher, a few miles north of Nazareth, so he was a Galilean like our Lord Jesus, a country bumpkin, like our Lord, & he came from a region, as we have discussed before, that was passionate in its allegiance to God’s Torah. He was a Torah observant Israelite & he lived @ a time when the byword for immorality & cruelty was Assyria. Jonah didn’t have much time for the Assyrians.
Already he is more like us than is comfortable. He was doing the right things according to the Torah ~ & he was self~righteous because of it. This is true of many Christians. We do the right things, live moral lives ~ & become self~righteous because of it!
He was passionate, as many Christians are, but like us He forgot that God’s love is not limited to those who obey Him because God wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth [1 Timothy 2:4]
I want to deviate briefly here because so many of us have the wrong idea about what love is because biblically speaking love is not about how you feel about someone or who you have sex with. It is about who you are prepared to die for. There is no greater love than to lay down one's life for one's friends. [John 15:13] That is how God showed His love for us [John 3:16] For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
Hebrews 10:2 says But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honour at God's right hand. That sacrifice can be claimed by anyone but there is a proviso in Hebrews 10:26: Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins.
So let us not be confused.
On our salvation we receive the Holy Spirit & He sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts [Romans 5:5] but this is not a snuggly, cuddly, woozy~doozy feeling but a robust call to the action of self~sacrifice where we become willing to be seen as fools for Christ’s sake in order to share the Good News For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. [1 Corinthians 1:18]
It is here the gospel becomes a stumbling block for so many Christians, just as it did for Jonah. Jonah knew the truth. He understood God’s requirements. He knew the voice of God but when push came to shove his reaction was: They don’t deserve it!
And he was right! They didn’t! The people of Ninevah were bloodthirsty Assyrians. They invented & practised the most barbaric of cruelties. They were hated & feared by every nation they had contact with. They were idolaters ~ they were the worst of the worst. Going to Ninevah, warning them, was obviously not Jonah’s idea of justice.
Jonah 1:1 The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai: There was no confusion. Jonah was a prophet of the Lord. He got the message ["Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me."… 2]; He understood the message ~ & he didn’t think much of it. In fact he thought so little of it he got up & headed as far in the opposite direction as it was possible to go!
There is no confusion in the New Testament either: Matthew 28:19~20 “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
As Jonah ran so has most of the church. Somehow we have got hold of the mistaken idea that this command was only for the select few. It is not. It is for every disciple of Jesus Christ. Somehow we think it refers to missionaries who go into foreign countries. It does not. It refers to every nation, every state, every suburb, every street, every household. Their blood is on our hands. Ezekiel 3:18 says If I warn the wicked, saying, 'You are under the penalty of death,' but you fail to deliver the warning, they will die in their sins. And I will hold you responsible for their deaths.
We know the truth; why are we so reluctant to share it?
One reason, though not the only reason, is very much like Jonah’s: We believe sinners deserve what they get! We don’t care that they are perishing. We don’t want God to care. We don’t want them to repent [It would make us look foolish for saying God was about to destroy them, just as Jonah felt] Ultimately this is an issue of the heart & Jonah reveals the hardness of his heart when he admits: This is why I ran away from Tarshish, I know that you are a merciful & compassionate God, slow to get angry & filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. [4:2]
Where is your Ninevah?
· It is the people who make you uncomfortable
· Ninevah is the place God calls you where you don’t want to go.
· It is the people that God tells you to Go & give them my message that you don’t want to speak to.
· Ninevah is those that God loves deeply, that He died for just as He died for you, whom you do not care for.
· Ninevah is the crossroads of obedience & choice.
When it comes to sharing the gospel every believer has a choice, just as Jonah had a choice. Jonah ran & he went down! He went down to Joppa, down into the hold of the ship, down into the sea & finally down into the belly of the great fish. The further he ran the further down he went ~ & God let him run! Be warned. Satan will always supply *a ship to Tarshish* when we are disobedient. We can probably even convince ourselves God supplied the ship but it will do us no good.
Here is the first great challenge for every Christian: Are you willing to go to Tarshish?
Romans 2:4 says this: Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
We often speak lightly of the Grace of God but we need to understand grace does not sit in the heavenlies, far away & out of the reach of men. Grace came down to earth. Grace walked amongst sinners. Grace did not partake of those sins. Grace did not condone those sins but God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.
As God’s grace reached down & plucked us out of satan’s hand so too does he desire to save others. We have been given a huge responsibility; a great privilege, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? Romans 10:14
Jesus paid the same price for others that He paid for you & me. He shed His blood upon the cross. As we look further @ the story of Jonah next time we will find some principles for sharing our faith under the power & anointing of the Holy Spirit.