Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. (Jonah 1:4)
All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship. But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. (Jonah 1:5)
The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.” (Jonah 1:6)
Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah. (Jonah 1:7)
So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?” (Jonah 1:8)
He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9)
This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the Lord, because he had already told them so.) (Jonah 1:10)
The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?” (Jonah 1:11)
“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.” (Jonah 1:12)
Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. (Jonah 1:13)
Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” (Jonah 1:14)
Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. (Jonah 1:15)
At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him. (Jonah 1:16)
Title: City of God
Well we’re in the book of Jonah.
Shooting – 10:20am / 1st Baptist / Sutherland Spgs
When I’m doing any sort of teaching series, I just try and immerse myself in the story and the themes of the book. And one thing that I’m so grateful for when it comes to the Bible is I’m always just amazed at how timely the spirit can be in speaking into exactly what I’m going through in my life.
The things that we’re talking about tonight is very real to me, and where I am in my life right now.
I’ve been on 2 cruises in my entire life, one for my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary. And another for mine and Jordans honeymoon.
And I always find myself amazed at the mechanics of a boat. How the this multimillion pound, in fact this past week I read about the new Royal Caribbean ship that weights 220,000 tons. – That’s 440mil pounds. And that before I get on it.
And if you’ve even been on a cruise ship you know this very strange feeling of looking out and there’s nothing but water as far as the eye can see in every direction. And thinking about if something were to ever go wrong and the boat starting to sink, how terrifying that would be. And that’s even today with planes, and SOS calls, and wifi and all that, but I can imagine in times of history when there wasn’t anything like that and how you’d be out in the middle of nowhere and no way to call for help. If your boat began to sink, doubly so if it was the middle of the night, how terrifying that would be.
Well in the book of Jonah, we find this prophet named Jonah, who is running from God, running from who God has called him to be on a boat with heathen sailors and a great storm, and they all starting thinking that they’re all gonna die.
“All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god.” (Jonah 1:5)
Now if we were to stereotype (not that that’s a great thing to do), if we were to stereotype sailors, what would you say about them? They don’t tend to be very saintly.
But when I storm comes, what do they all do? They all start praying.
Mark Twain, probably the most quoted man in the history of the world, he has some hilarious quotes, but he also has some really gut wrenching stuff too. At one point in his life, one of his family members was sick and he said: “I prayed. I prayed like a coward. I prayed like a dog.” Sounds weird but Mark Twain was very outspoken in his criticism of Christianity. He had deep doubts about the existence of God, but in fear, he prayed like everybody else.
It was like he couldn’t help it. It was like an involuntary muscle.
Skeptics would say “So what? When people get scared, they pray. That doesn’t prove that there’s a God.” And of course that’s true. That doesn’t prove there is a God.
The involuntary reflex of people in times of darkness and trouble to pray is not evidence for skeptics for the existence of God; it’s evidence from God against the existence of skeptics.
What he’s saying this: Our tendency to pray when we’re afraid doesn’t prove there’s a God, it proves that there’s no such thing is a skeptic.
Like if someone is an atheist 364 days a year, but then when they’re get really scared, they pray. Well then we have to doubt how ‘atheist’ the person really is.
Paul says in Romans 1 that there is no real skeptic. No matter how convinced you think you are, and how many people you tell, that the human heart has built into it a belief that there’s a God.
“If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding.” (C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity)
So he’s saying that if you want to know what your basement is like, you have to sneak up on it. You can’t just slam open the door, turn on the lights, announce you’re coming in, slowly make your way down the steps and then look around. No, you’d look and you wouldn’t see anything and say ‘Everything’s fine down here.’
No if you want to know what lurks in your basement, you have to sneak up on it.
A storm shows you who you really are. It’s not in a normal time when you’re deliberately acting in the way you want to act, or acting how you want to act in front of other people.
No, in a storm you get your gut reaction. Who you really are deep down. And Storms reveal that we are people who need God.
I want to talk about these sailors.
What happens to people when they get scared? – Answer: Almost always, they get religious.
Tragedy strikes and then all of sudden out of nowhere the president and the mayor and the governor come on TV telling us to pray. Which is hilarious in so many ways.
Sentimental time. I used to play in a band 1000 years ago called ‘Old Man Shattered’ well after 9/11 when all of a sudden everyone and their mom was praying and coming to church, we wrote this song that basically said, from the perspective of God, that he needs more than just our sentimental time.
Well this story shows us that that’s not good enough.
You can actually see this funny progression with these sailors that in the beginning of the story they’re casual polytheists, then they become devout polytheists, then when that doesn’t work, they end up becoming monotheists.
Essentially you could say that there’s 3 types of people: Secular people, religious people, and Christians.
1. Secular people are defenseless against fear.
Just briefly, so these guys were polytheists, so that means they had many Gods. And there were God’s for everything. And since you couldn’t worship them all, you had to choose.
So some people worshipped the business God, some worshipped the sexuality God, same people worship their families God, or their cities God, or their nations God.
So you can see that in a way, it’s not exactly spiritual. You just found what you held the most dear, and there was a God there, so you worshipped that.
And as weird as it sounds, that’s not all that different than a city like Albuquerque.
Even though polytheism sounds super primitive, it’s actually not that different from the way a modern person lives. A modern person even if they don’t admit it, has things in their life that they hold most dear. Maybe success or sex or money or family or nation. And in a sense, you worship that God.
The problem with worshipping something other than God is when you’re in a storm, your God sinks with you. It’s on the boat with you.
You cry out to it but it makes no difference because it’s sinking right along with you.
Let’s say you’re a musician and music is very important to you.
Now let’s say a storm comes.
Well the music God can’t help you.
If music is the main thing in your life, and you’re in a storm, it can’t help you, b/c it sinks along with you.
Let’s say you’re a business man or woman and you being ‘successful’ in business is really important to you.
Now let’s say a storm comes.
Well the business God can’t help you.
If business is the main thing in your life, and you’re in a storm, it can’t help you, b/c it sinks along with you.
Same thing, let’s say family is the most important thing to you (and I mean more important than it’s supposed to be).
Now let’s say a storm comes.
Relationships are broken, or someone moves away, or someone gets sick.
Well the family God can’t help you.
If family is the main thing in your life, and you’re in a storm, it can’t help you, b/c it sinks along with you.
Nation – Wrong person – elected / law passed
Same thing, let’s say nation is the most important thing to you (and I mean more important than it’s supposed to be).
Now let’s say a storm comes. The wrong person gets elected, or some law gets passed that you totally disagree with or something,
Well the nation God can’t help you. If nation is the main thing in your life, and you’re in a storm, it can’t help you, b/c it sinks along with you.
Any earthly thing is susceptible to storms just like you are. Circumstances come and take that away from you, well that God can’t help you, b/c it’s in the boat with you.
You’ll be devastated, you’ll have nothing left. And that’s why secular people are defenseless against fear. Having a pole to hold onto isn’t that helpful in a storm if the pole is on the boat. B/C it’s gonna sink too.
2. Religious people are ALSO defenseless against fear.
After these guys pray to all their misc Gods and it doesn’t work, they start praying to the one true God.
But just b/c they’re scared and they want him to bail them out.
They start bargaining with God.
“God, we don’t want to throw your man in the water, wouldn’t that be murder. Maybe you’ll forgive us just this one time…?” See, it’s bargaining.
Gosh, this is so easy for us to fall into. You really need God to come through for you and all of a sudden, you’re praying, and fasting, and reading your bible.
You give God your sentimental time.
Religious people say “I’m gonna start going to church, and praying, and tithing, and reading my bible.” Really what they’re saying is they’re going to MAKE God protect me. I’m gonna be so good, he’s going to have no choice but to protect me.
You’re trying to control God with your goodness.
But it doesn’t stop fear. In fact a lot of times in makes it worse, b/c it’s still on you.
Faith in your own faith —- legalism.
B/C it’s still about you. The pressure is still on you.
Word of Faith Movement And this is something that people like me who have come out of the word of faith movement have to always be on our guard against. – It’s so easy to just start saying ‘Yeah bad stuff happened to them, but it’s not going to happen to me, b/c I’m so much more holy than they are.’ – That’s not Christianity, that’s the faith oh the pharisee. ‘I obey all the laws, so God will protect me.’ Does help with fear though, because the pressure is still on you.
Theologian Richard Lovelace says that of the 3 types of people: Irreligious, religious and Christian, religious people are the worst. – They’re the most fearful and they’re the most dangerous, which is another sermon.
But think about it. A religious person will come to church every week and hear a sermon about what they need to do. They’re come hear a sermon about money and think ‘Wow, I need to give more.’ Then they’ll hear a message on forgiveness ‘Oh man, I need to forgive more.’ And then they’ll hear a message on prayer and they’ll think ‘Oh man, I need to pray more.’
And the list of things you need to do to get God to bless you just keeps getting longer and longer and longer.
And there’s a lot of Christians like this. ‘Just tell me the rules.’ Can we throw Jonah over or not?’
There’s a LOT of Christians like that. Good people, kind people.
But the book of Jonah is telling us that being religious is no way to handle fear.
Here’s what’s so ironic: Think of the sentence : “God I’ll do anything if…” – You help me get married, you help me with my children, keep me safe, help me in my career. If you say that, do you know what’s on the other side of the word ‘if’? YOUR REAL GOD.
And that God will sink with you, and you’ll always be scared.
3. Christians are the only people who have a meaningful defense against fear.
Christians are people who know they’re saved by grace. That there’s nothing they’ve done earn it or deserve it.
A strange part of the book of Jonah is when he says ‘Pick me up and throw me into the sea.’
Now here’s a question: Why would he do that?
Well some people would say ‘He’s still rebelling and saying ‘I’d rather DIE than go where you’ve told me to go.’ Others would say ‘He’s finally obeying God and surrounding to his will.’
And I think they’re right, because his motivation is that the sea would become calm for the rest of them.
So here you can see Jonah willing to give his life for the sake of the other sailors. And in this way, he’s a foreshadow of Jesus Christ. Who would give his life for all of us.
And it’s interesting that it’s AFTER the storm leaves is when it says the sailors ‘greatly feared’. The storm is over. Why do they greatly fear then? Well the word here is translated other places ‘Reverence’.
“There is forgiveness with you. You have forgiven me. Therefore, I fear you.” (Psalm 130:4)
Well see the same word in Psalm 130:4, the psalmist says, “There is forgiveness with you. You have forgiven me. Therefore, I fear you.”
God doesn’t come and forgive you and then you’re AFRAID of him. No he forgives you and you revere him. You think ‘Wow, that incredible, that he would do that for me!’
City of God
This past week I was listening to Tim Keller, as I do. And specifically he rereleased his sermon that he preached the Sunday after 9/11. His church is downtown Manhattan, about 1 mile away and he lost congregation members.
And I don’t even know how you get up a speak after that.
Well he talked about a few things but one thing he talked about was Saint Augustine book ’City of God’. I’d love to read it someday, but it was written in the 5th century and it’s 1100 pages. So that will be a ‘read it later in life’ kinda book for me.
But he wrote it just a few years after Rome fell.
In 410, “Alaric the Barbarian” and his armies came up over the wall and just slaughtered tons of people. And then left.
But he was making a comparison to those planes hitting the towers less than a mile away from them. See they used to think that Rome was the safest place in the world. And if Rome wasn’t safe then where is safety?
And the idea of the book is that there’s only 1 city that’s safe and that’s the city of God. There’s only 1 city that can’t be invaded. There’s only one city that can’t be bombed.
And so long as you put your trust in a city other than the city of God, you’re always going to experience fear.
He said this in pre-war germany. It was headed towards war. – Widely considered one of the greatest theologians of the 20th century. – Ended up dying at the hands of the nazi’s. He’s stripped naked and hanged for anti hitler propaganda.
Peace is confused with safety. There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)
Picture a guy with 12 deadbolts on their door, thinking just one more will make them safer. No that’s not safety. That’s fear. But if I’m a citizen of the city of God, then I’m safe.
Why? B/C the things that I value most can’t be taken away from me. Things like the belief that in the fullness of time, God comes and makes everything right.
- That weeping no matter how bitter, for the believer, will ultimately be turned to laughing.
- That sorrow no matter how bitter, for the believers, will ultimately be turned into joy.
And the Taliban can’t take that away. ISIS can’t take that away. Donald Trump can’t take that away. Bernie sanders can’t take that away. (I’m just trying to include everybody). So I’m not afraid of any of that. Doesn’t mean I don’t fight against it. Doesn’t mean I don’t lock my doors, but it means that my life isn’t dictated by fear.
End with one practical thing:
Anxiety is an opportunity you notice what your heart belongs to.
Visualization ONE thing that I love doing when I receive communion is just taking a minute and I do this visualization when I imagine all this stuff that I pick up from the world: fear, anger, resentment. And I just try to picture seeing Jesus face to face and that stuff just falling away from me. To where it’s only me and him. So I’d encourage you to try that as they pass.