Jonah 3 – Once I was a Ninevite…

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This week the SheReadsTruth challenge was to write about Jonah 3-4.
I was particularly struck by Jonah 3, so I’m going to focus on that chapter today.

So, when the word of the Lord comes to Jonah for the second time (when he’s looking a bit soggy and smelling of fish), Jonah goes to the giant metropolis of Nineveh to tell them what God plans to do to them because of their wickedness.

Rebecca’s devotional on Wednesday gave some graphic examples of the wickedness of the Ninevites. These were really bad people.
And yet, they hear God’s message through Jonah and they repent so comprehensively that even the cows are included!

This got me thinking… If these super-wicked people could respond so dramatically and be saved, what about the ordinary people of Bournemouth, or Brighton, or High Wycombe, or London?

I don’t like to admit it, but my reflex thought is, “Yeah, but that wouldn’t happen today! You’d never see that many people believe at once!”

Shame on me! WHY EVER NOT?

It’s not down to the power or ability of human beings. It’s not the eloquence of the speaker that counts (Jonah’s preach was only 8 words long!).
It’s all about God. He does it! The Holy Spirit moved so powerfully in Nineveh that no one could remain stone-hearted.

After all, once I was a Ninevite. OK, maybe I didn’t gouge out eyes or sacrifice children, but I was just as lost and doomed as they were.

There are plenty of modern-day Ninevehs. At the moment I’m using a Lent resource from Open Doors called “Live Like A North Korean”. It makes me realise just how free we are, and how much we take for granted our freedom to worship, or do anything for that matter!

If God can change the heart of the King of Nineveh, then God can do the same for Kim Jong-Un and the leaders of North Korea. O Lord, let it be so!
Please bring freedom to that place and build your church in that nation!

Heaven fall down!

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Psalm 38

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This week, as part of the SheReadsTruth Lent challenge, we’ve been reflecting on Psalm 38.

There is an awful moment when the reality of our sin hits our consciousness. The Holy Spirit snaps the word, or deed or thought into sharp focus. At times like this I sometimes feel a deep physical ache in the centre of my chest. Heat rises in the back of my neck and my cheeks. I want to stare at the ground. Shame. Guilt.

In fact, it’s not just the ‘bad stuff’ we do.

Tim Keller puts it this way in The Prodigal God:

What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but if that is all you do, you may remain just an elder brother. To truly become a Christian we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin under all our other sins and under all our righteousness – the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord. We must admit that we’ve put our ultimate hope in both our wrongdoing and right doing we have been seeking to get around God or get control of God in order to get hold of those things.

The load of our sin is far too heavy for us to bear. It runs so much deeper than we even realise.

Those who meet God face-to-face simply fall at his feet. Isaiah cries, “I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa 6:5); Peter yells, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). John just collapses as if dead (Rev 1:17). The collision of His holiness with our sinfulness causes a gut-wrenching, physical reaction.

David groans in pain, his vision dim and his hearing dull. His sin and his pain is constantly before him. Can it possibly get any worse than this?

But David is able to draw breath again as he remembers the source of his hope – God will listen and God himself is his salvation! Confession and true repentance result in true forgiveness and true freedom.

David anticipated the beautiful, life-restoring forgiveness that Jesus brings.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

And the result:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

I think this verse of the famous hymn by Horatio Spafford sums it up perfectly:

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Children of Abraham

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John said to the crowds coming out to be baptised by him, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  Luke 3:7-8

The people coming to John the Baptist thought that the ritual of baptism could save them. John is bluntly direct and cuts to the root of their motives. The people also relied on their Jewish ancestry to claim salvation but John dismisses this also as worthless. He challenges them to repent and then start living differently. The fruit of a truly redeemed and changed life should be apparent. God doesn’t look for any human heritage or self-righteousness when he adopts children. He looks for those who recognise their sin and repent wholeheartedly.

It is so easy to start thinking that we’ve somehow earned salvation through good works, obedience, duty… The truth is, we were cold and dead as stone before God chose us and made us alive in Christ. What fruit of repentance do I produce in my life? Do I show that I truly understand the extent to which I have been forgiven? Does my love for others reflect God’s outrageous love for me?