Jonah 4 Second Chances

Jonah 2:1–3:3

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. (Jonah 2:1)

He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. (Jonah 2:2)

You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. (Jonah 2:3)

I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ (Jonah 2:4)

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. (Jonah 2:5)

To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. (Jonah 2:6)

“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple. (Jonah 2:7)

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. (Jonah 2:8)

But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ” (Jonah 2:9)

And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (Jonah 2:10)

Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: (Jonah 3:1)

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” (Jonah 3:2)

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. (Jonah 3:3)

Title: Jonah : Second Chances

We’ll we’re in the book of Jonah. I love the book of Jonah b/c it’s really easy to understand. It’s about a prophet who runs from God, gets caught in a storm, gets swallowed by a fish, get spat out onto dry land, finally does what God wants, goes to Nineveh, his enemies capital, preaches the message God gave him, the wicked people repent and Jonah is so upset with this that he just wants to die.

But as I’ve told you before, the story of Jonah is also a picture of the life of faith.

Think : Jonah - Prophet / preacher / had faith.

Everything going fine and then his world changed.

God told him to go to Nineveh, which was the capital city of his mortal enemy. And Jonah freaks out.

You could say it like this: Jonah has a certain amount of confidence in God, but when a new danger came, his confidence crumbled. He had a certain amount of faith, but when his world was turned upside down, his faith crumbled. He had a certain amount of humility, but when it came time for him to love his enemies, his humility crumbled.

In other word: Jonah’s level spirituality was fine for his old world but not for his new world.

It was fine for the old situation, but in the new situation, it just crumbled.

And I think a LOT of us, can sympathize with that. That we can live lives that seem perfectly spiritual, as long as everything is fine, but then we find ourselves in a new season of life, and we think ‘Oh crap. I’m not as spiritual as I thought I was.’

Jonah - ‘moment of clarity’.

In this story, you see Jonah smack dab in the middle of what I like to call a ‘moment of clarity’.

He’s running from God, there’s a great storm, he’s thrown overboard, he’s swallowed by a large fish and he’s stuck in this fish for 3 days.

And I just think if there has even been a time for a man to rethink his life, it would be then.

One thing I love about this story is that for some of us, it take something radical to get us to finally think.

And for Jonah, in the belly of the whale, there’s probably not a lot to do in there.

I doubt he has a phone in there.

But for some of us, we live at this frantic pace where we’re looking at our phones every 12 seconds and I think one of the main reasons is we don’t want to have to sit and become aware of our own lives. That’s a terrifying thing to do for some of us. I wonder if you can think to a time that for some reason, maybe you were out in the woods or something and you didn’t have your phone for a few days, that can actually be a pretty scary thought.

Well Jonah is in the belly of the fish and he prays. And you can see by the end of this prayer, that he’s had a spiritual transformation.

God comes and tells him one more time to go to Nineveh, and this time Jonah says yes. This is a big moment for Jonah. This is Jonah big second chance.

He’s had a spiritual transformation, and now he can do what God is telling him to do.

I see a lot of people frustrated by the lack of spiritual growth in their lives. Like they can’t believe that they’re at level ‘1’ when they had imagined themselves being at level ’10’ at this point in their life.

So that’s what I want to do tonight, I want to talk about what happened to Jonah that led him to a spiritual transformation.

The Secret to Spiritual Transformation

What is it in Jonah’s life that transforms him? - It’s Grace.

Now, I understand that that answer might feel disappointing to some of you. Here’s why.

There’s few words in Christian culture that are so overused that they almost stop meaning anything. And ‘Grace’ is a prime example. You look at definitions of the word Grace and it’s come to mean almost everything. I can mean God’s goodness. It can mean his favor. It can mean his empowering ability that allows you to live the life he’s called you to live.

Here’s my attempt at explaining Grace from the book of Jonah.

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. (Jonah 2:8)

But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ” (Jonah 2:9)

I once heard a sermon where the preacher said that this verse ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ - That that phrase is a summary of the entire bible. This is the whole bible boiled down to 5 words.

This is the thing that you have to learn and relearn and relearn and relearn your entire life - That salvation comes from the Lord.

Every good season and every bad season of your life, your story is saying this same thing: “Salvation comes from the Lord."

It’s the thing that makes Christianity unique among all the religions of the world.

I said it last week, there’s 3 kinds of people in the world: Secular, Religious, and Christian.

A lot of people think it’s just secular or religious. And everybody is on that spectrum somewhere. That’s not what the Bible says. That’s not what the gospel says. - There’s a 3rd category.

The secular person says ‘I don’t need salvation. I’m doing just fine thank you.’

The religious person says ‘Salvation is up to me.’ - I have to obey the Bible, and I have to try and live like Jesus. I have to go to church and take lots of notes when David Eiffert preaches. And when I do all those things, then God will bless me. Then God will help me.’

The Christian says ‘Neither of those.’ ‘Salvation comes from the Lord. It’s a free gift. And there’s nothing I can do to earn it and there’s nothing I can do to deserve it.’

And that’s not only true when you first come to God, that’s true through your entire relationship with him. Salvation comes from the Lord.

Understanding Grace is the key to spiritual transformation.

…The gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world—just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace. (Colossians 1:6)

So that’s classic Paul. It’s a little confusing.

It’s talking about spiritual transformation. And it happens not when you get your life all together and start doing everything perfectly, no your life starts changing when you understand God’s grace.

And this is what’s happening in the belly of the fish for Jonah.

And of course Jonah understood God’s grace to a certain extent, but not like he understands it now.

And so I think that might tell us all something about Grace. That’s there’s something else for us to learn too. Like if Jonah didn’t truly understand Grace, is it possible that you have something to learn too. OF COURSE.

How do you get a revelation of God’s grace?

3 Ways: Learn about Grace (mind) / Love grace (heart) / Live Grace (life)

By the way, that’s not me, that’s Martin Luther and his outline of faith - Knowing, Consenting, and Life Committing.

1. Learn Grace (mind)

2 pieces:

Grace is an undeserved gift from an unobligated giver.

Let me give you 3 examples:

1. Imagine you’re the parent of a rebellious, ungrateful, disobedient teenager.

What do you do with them? You still help them. You still get them out of their mess. Why? They are undeserving yeah, but you’re still obligated. Why? B/C you’re a parent. And to be a parent is both a moral and a legal obligation.

So it’s a good analogy of God’s love, but it’s not a perfect analogy b/c even though they’re undeserving, you’re still obligated.

2. Imagine you have an amazing pastor who just turned 35 years old.

And so the people say ‘Let’s all chip in and buy him a really nice gift.’

So in that case, you’re not obligated, but the pastor is deserving (I just realized what a stupid analogy this is). So let’s pretend it’s some other pastor who’s turning 120. Ok, so you’re not obligated, but the pastor is deserving.

So again, not a perfect analogy for God’s love.

3. Imagine you have a next door neighbor that is absolutely obnoxious. They play music too loud, and they never clean their yard, and their dumb dog barks at all hours of the night. - Then they get sick, and you run errands for them and bring them meals.

So here you clearly have someone who is undeserving, and I’m sure all your neighbors would agree, you have absolutely no obligation, but you do it anyway. That’s Grace.

Lot of Christians - 1 of 2 elements - missing.

And I think for a lot of Christians, one of these 2 elements is missing. And as weird and as nitpicky as that sounds, it’s a big problem.

Some people don’t see themselves as undeserving.

They think ‘I’m not really that bad.'

Other people don’t see God as unobligated.

They think ‘Well Jesus dying, yeah that seems like a pretty reasonable thing to do.’ - They don’t realize how over the top gracious God has been to humanity and continues to be.

So you have learn more about grace with your mind.

And I think this is actually harder for people who have been following Jesus a long time.

Do you remember how it felt when you first came to God and his grace and love and peace were just overwhelming? Well you have to get back to that. You have to go back to the scriptures you’ve read a hundred times. You have to go back to them and reflect on them and stir yourself back up about how great and loving and kind God is and how undeserving you are.

By the way, that can be kinda painful. It can be like having surgery where they forgot the anesthesia. It’s painful to be honest about yourself, but without that, I really think it’s difficult to understand how great God’s grace really is.

2. Love Grace (heart)

It’s not just a mental thing. That it has to be something that gets into your heart. That you love it.

And that’s one thing that’s difficult about Jesus - he goes after your heart and a lot of us don’t want that.

What we want is to work for him.

“I’ll do this, I won’t do that. I’ll open my house up to a small group. I’ll throw 2 bucks at the homeless guy, just leave my heart alone.

What’s amazing is that God is always attacking right action that’s not done from the right heart.

Right action without the right heart is in no way pleasing to God.

Ex: Isaiah - God calls - day fasting & worship /// ‘Hate your fasts’.

And these people are thinking ‘Wait a minute, I’d rather be eating! I’m only here cuz you told me to come and fast and now you say I hate your fasts?!’ It’s a little confusing. God comes and clarifies it : “Because your hearts aren’t here. You do not esteem Me.”

But it’s really easy especially when you’ve been following God for a long time, to just make it a head thing and it stops being a heart thing and you don’t even notice.

For me as a church kid, I’ve grown tired on the easter passion sermons that try to point of the gore and the agony of being crucified. I think I’ve just heard too many of them. But I understand what they’re trying to do. They’re trying to get you to have a gut reaction to what Jesus’s love cost him.

And I think you can ‘know’ that with your head, but it’s a totally different thing to feel like and love it with your heart.

Like think about the movie Armageddon. Harry (Bruce Willis) is on the space ship with his team and they need to blow up an asteroid, but the remote detonator isn’t working so one person needs to stay behind. They draw strays and A.J. (Ben Aflecks character) picks the short straw, so he’s gonna stay behind, but instead Bruce throws him into the space ship and pushes the button so now it’ll be Bruce that stays behind.

It’s the same way with Jesus. That he didn’t just save us, he sacrificed himself!!!

Jesus:

“’We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' (Matthew 11:17)

Jesus says something really interesting in Matthew 11 - 11:17 when he’s speaking against the pharisees and what he says when he’s condemning them is: “’We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' - Basically he’s saying the gospel is happy but you don’t laugh, the gospel is sad but you don’t cry.

Happy / sad And I just never want to be the type of person who gets so used to the Christian message that it stops being really happy and also really sad in a way. That God came down b/c he loved us, and so we killed him. Brutally.

In the same way, the picture of the cross should be tied to an emotion in you. That you FEEL that.

Jonah voluntarily throws himself into the sea to save the sailors, and that’s a foreshadowing of Jesus giving up his life for all of us.

But you can’t just have that in your head, that has to be something in your heart.

3. Live Grace (life)

You can see this in Jonah, that only when he understands Grace with his mind and loves grace in his heart is he able to say ‘Yeah, I’ll go to Nineveh.’ But see a lot of people try to start here. At step 3. It’s what we call ‘Behavior Modification’. Modifying your behavior is important, faith without works IS dead, it’s not real. But we start with the mind and the heart and then the behavior follows.

And that’s what’s so amazing that when you understand grace and you love grace, your life starts changing automatically. My old mentor used to say ‘You’ll live better on accident then you ever did on purpose.’

2 results - Spiritual Transformation.

And you’ll notice in the story that there’s 2 results of Spiritual Transformation.

1. The Absence of Fear

But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’ ” (Jonah 2:9)

Please keep in mind that what God has called Jonah to do is really terrifying.

Imagine you’re an American minister in 1942 and God calls you to go preach repentance in Berlin (the Nazi capital). What are your odds of surviving that? Not awesome.

But Jonah is saying that he’s doing it with shouts of thanksgiving. If it costs him his life, so be it. Whether or not his positive attitude sticks around very long is another issue.

But you can see that here in Jonah’s spiritual transformation, there is an absence of fear.

2. The Absence of Bigotry

Bigotry is intolerance for people who believe differently than you do.

“Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. (Jonah 2:8)

So for a long time when I read this verse I wasn’t clear if the idol worship he was talking about was his or the Nineties, (the bad guys). Well it’s both.

He’s comparing himself to them. He’s saying that his self-righteousness is keeping him from God’s love just like the Nineties idol worship is keeping them from God’s love.

But God’s grace is just as much theirs as it is mine.

And that’s not progressive, liberal non-sense, that’s the gospel.

That the people living totally different lives in totally different parts of the world, God’s grace is just as much theirs as is ours.

I personally find it helpful to remember that Christianity came to me from the middle east.

So if anyone deserve to not be invited to the party, it’s probably us.

But the good news of the gospel is that everyone is invited to the table.

Grace ≠ just need once —- constantly.

I’ve told you this before, but I want to say that I feel like the world is changing. I think there’s some good, I think there’s some bad, but I think there’s a whole lot of different.

And I think that no matter how much you pray for the good ole’ days, you just have to know that they’re not coming back. They aren't.

And so a good question is this: Is you current level of spirituality enough for the coming world?

Let’s say you’re on a boat and you see a rock sticking 4 feet out of the water that you’re about to collide into. Well you could pray “God remove the rock.” Which is perfectly fine. Or you could pray “God Raise the water level 5 feet.”

Because again, I think at a certain point you just have to admit that we live in a world that looks different than it did 10 years ago. - I’ve told you this before, but Christianity is certainly on the decline in America. Faster than it ever has been. And so we do everything we can to evangelize and bring people into the Kingdom, but we also make sure that our spiritual maturity is at a place that can handle it if Christianity ever starts being unpopular. What if 10 more years pass and being a Christian in America makes you a minority? Are you ready for that?

Communion

May you grasp the grace of God so you’re fearless enough and humble enough to handle the world, whatever it is.

As pass - Where do I need to grow?

Do I need to spend some time learning about Grace, and maybe I need to spend some time falling in love with Grace again, or maybe I need to actually start LIVING grace.