Jonah Part 2: Nineveh Repents

Click the link to read the first post in this series, Jonah Part 1

Have you ever seen someone’s life totally turned around? Do you have a friend who has come to Christ and it is like a 180 degree turn?  It is always amazing to me to hear the stories of these amazing testimonies of these people.  God has truly done the miraculous in their lives.  We might not always have such a radical testimony, but they are encouraging to hear none the less.  The people of Nineveh are a people with that sort of testimony.  The whole city makes a 180 degree turn when Jonah comes to preach the Word of the Lord.

Jonah Goes to Nineveh (Jonah 3:1-5)

Jonah gets a second chance at obedience.  After deliberately disobeying God and going to Tarshish, God calls Jonah a second time.  He tells him to go to Nineveh again.  God intends to use Jonah to deliver this message to Nineveh, whether he wants to or not.  God is going to use him.  Jonah goes to the city of Nineveh.  It was a big city.  The Scripture says it was three days in breadth, meaning that it took him three whole days to preach his message to the surrounding areas of the city.

What was the heart of Jonah’s message?  In 40 days, Nineveh will be over thrown.

Although I’m sure Jonah’s message was more lengthy than this one sentence, but this one sentence does reveal a little bit about Jonah’s heart.  Notice Jonah preaches the condemnation of the people without calling them to repentance.  Jonah doesn’t invite them to turn away from their wicked deeds, he just tells them.... You’ve got 40 days.

Jonah continues to remain apathetic towards the people God has called him to minister too.  He didn’t care for the pagan sailors on the boat, he doesn’t really care for the Ninevites.  He wants God’s wrath to be poured out on the people.  In some twisted way, Jonah desires that the city perish.  We don’t see that fully here, but in chapter 4 Jonah reveals to us his true heart and motivation.  The wretched hate in Jonah’s heart is despicable and describes the same hate in our own hearts.  We look at people who are different than us.  Who are maybe of a different skin color or a different nationality.  We see those who live in open flagrant sin, and we hate them.  We don’t want them to repent.  We don’t want them to turn to God.  We just want them to burn.

If we are really honest with ourselves, many of us think more like Westboro Baptist Church than we would like to admit.  We refuse to cross the rail road tracks to share the Gospel with another ethnicity.  A heart of racism runs through many Christians.  Although none of us would claim to be racist, many of us live that way.  We joke about racial stereotypes.  We segregate ourselves at our schools.  We even segregate our churches so often.  At the end of the day, we find ourselves wanting God to bring down his wrath on them rather than God’s kindness leading them to repentance.  Westboro Baptist Church is just like Jonah.  They preach condemnation and wrath, but the do not desire repentance.  The do not desire this nation come to Christ.  They hate this country and they hate the people who live here.  You and I must not be like this.  We are not to hate the very people God has called us to reach.  If God shows his love to wicked idolatrous people, so should we.  We shouldn’t hate them, but love them and share with them about Jesus in hopes that they would repent and believe the Gospel!

Yet, even though Jonah wishes ill on the city.  God does the miraculous.  Jonah preaches his fire and brimstone message of coming destruction, and the people begin to repent!  Verse 5 tells us that the people of Nineveh believed God.  The fasted and put on sackcloth, which is a sign of humble repentance.  And this wasn’t just the poor and lowly people who were repenting.  All of them, from the greatest of them to the least of them.  The whole city began to abandon their evil ways and trust God!

The People of Nineveh Repent (Jonah 3:6-10)

The word of God eventually reached the king of Nineveh, and something amazing happens.  He repents too!  He coveres himself with sack cloth and ashes.  The King of Nineveh publishes a proclamation that everyone in the city, including the beasts, fast and be covered in sackcloth.  He commands them to call out to God.  So the whole city, down to the animals fall on their face calling out to God to mercy! Imagine how extravagant this scene must have been to watch!  Seeing a whole city repent and believe God!  Imagine of something like that happened in your city. What kind of transformation would happen?  Can you picture the thousands and thousands of people falling on their face calling out to God. The whole city turned from their evil ways.  They pray that God might spare them from His wrath.  They do not want to perish!

The contrast between Jonah and the Ninevites could not be more stark.  The Ninevites do not want to perish, and Jonah could care less.  He did the same thing with the sailors on the boat.  Jonah is only concerned about number one.  He doesn't want himself to perish by being tossed into the sea, but when it comes to lost people, Jonah doesn’t want to see them saved.  He is completely apathetic towards them.  Then we see something even more amazing.  Not only does the whole city repent, but God shows them mercy (v. 10).  When God sees how the city of Nineveh turned from their evil ways, God has compassion on them.  He spares them from his wrath.  As we will see in chapter 4, Jonah isn’t going to respond to well to this!

Jonah Points us to Jesus

Despite Jonah’s failures, his life points us to the greater Jonah, Jesus.  Jesus succeeds where Jonah fails.  You see, Jesus the jewish Messiah, brings the nations to repentance and faith.  Jonah who has figuratively been raised from the dead after three days in the belly of the fish calls out to the pagan people and they come to repentance and faith.  Jesus who was literally raised from the dead after three days in the tomb calls out to the nations of the earth and they come to repentance and faith.

You see, a major theme that runs throughout all the Bible is God’s passion to bring every nation and people group to praise his glorious name.  He wants all the nations to worship him.  He says in Psalm 46, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth”.  So when God chooses the children of Abraham, the nation of Israel as his covenant people, God never intends to isolate his love and mercy only on them. The people of Israel were supposed to be a nation of priests interceding on behalf of the nations of the earth to the great and powerful God. However, Israel’s election as the people of God bolstered them with pride and ego.  They began to despise the very nations God had called them to interceded for.  They began to look down on all the other sinners, and feel self-righteous and confident.  The tragic mistake of Israel is that they would not repent of their idolatry.  They continued to become like the nations rather than reaching the nations.  The contrast between Israel and Nineveh is astounding.  Nineveh repents and turns to God at the word of the prophet Jonah.  Israel rebels and disobeys God.  The pagan nations repent, Israel rebels.

Israel fails all through out their history.  They are condemned because the do not repent.  This is why in Matthew 12:41 Jesus says, “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”  What is Jesus saying here?  He is telling the Jews that the Ninevites put them to shame.  The pagan nations repent, but the chosen people of God do not.  Jesus tells them the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and Jesus tells them “I am the greater Jonah and you, Israel, do not listen to me and repent”.  This stiff-necked people refuses to believe the Prophets of God.  Indeed Israel rejected their own Messiah.  They mocked him.  They tried him.  They crucified him.  They rejected THE prophet of God, Yet Jesus tells us that the stone that the builders rejected has become the corner stone.  The rejected Messiah of Israel is the Messiah for the whole world and now invites the nations, pagan, gentile sinners like many of us, to repentance and faith.

Jesus is the greater Jonah. I know the temptation for us is to look upon Israel with disgust.  How could the people of God refuse repentance?  How could the people of God reject their prophets?  How could they become so self-righteous and filled with pride?  How could they hate the people God asked them to reach? Be very careful Christian, your thinking indicates that you might very well be like the nation of Israel.  In fact, those of us who grow up in the church have a tendency to be far more like the people of Israel than we may know.   You and I have the Word of the Lord.  We have faithful pastors who preach it to us week in and week out, yet we deliberately disobey.  We look down on others because we think that we are more moral and superior.  We refuse to share the Gospel with others, and do not desire to see our friends come to repentance and faith.  You and I are much more like Israel than we care to admit.

May we be like Nineveh and respond to our sin with incredible repentance!  May we fall on our face and be humbled.  May we turn from our wicked ways and turn to Jesus and be saved!

The Reward of His Suffering - Matt Papa

Matt Papa release a new song a few weeks ago called "The Reward of His Suffering".  Matt Papa is a fantastic artists who loves Jesus and loves missions.  All the money towards the purchase of this song goes to missions and spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  I've been listening to this song for a few weeks now, and I really recommend it!  You can go to iTunes and purchase the song by clicking here.  It is worth checking out, and the music video is posted below.  Buy the song, support missions, and pray for the nations! [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/47923874 w=500&h=281]

Take Refuge in God, and Exalt Him Among the Nations

Before you read this blog go read Psalm 46 then come back. Psalm 46 is a beautiful Psalm describing the gracious protection of God as our refuge and strength. This Psalm teaches us that God is a rod of stability in an unstable world. In the time of ancient Israel, there was great political instabilitiy. At any moment a nation could rise and conquor the known world. Their was great unrest and the people lived in great fear of unsuspected attack from a pagan empire.

In the midst of this, the Psalmist writes that God is a refuge for those who are suffering. He is a refuge in times of hardship. As a result, we do not fear (v. 2). Why? Because God reigns supreme over all the nations. Even in the midst of political turmoil and constant war. The nations rage, the kingdoms totter. God utters his voice, the earth melts (v. 6). God is our protection. He rules over the nations. He is not threatned by them.

However the really amazing thing is what happens starting in v. 8. The Psalmist gives an invitation to the quarreling nations to come and behold the works of the Lord. Through a first read of the Psalm you might wonder, why in the world would this Psalm turn into an invitation to the nations? What does this have to do with God as a refuge? Never the less, God invites the nations to, "Be still, and know that I am God".

You see, this section reveals to us one of God's purpose for hardship and tumoil. Our trusting in God in the midst of suffering serves as a visible invitation to a lost and dying world. As we trust God as our refuge, we invite the quarreling world to come take refuge in God as well. We invite them to exalt in God. Trusting God in suffering serves as a visible evangelistic call to the world. We invite them to behold the works of the Lord. We tell them that God will make the wars cease. We tell them that God can be their refuge as well.

You see, God "will be exalted among the nations" (v. 10). God wants to fill this whole world with his worshipers. He proclaims that His glory will be spread across the earth to every tribe, tongue, and nation! You see God isn't our refuge so we can escape from the world, but so that we can invite the world to take refuge in Him too.

As we trust God as our gracious protection and fortification, we invite others to find protection in the arms of God. The Lord of Hosts is with us. His name is Immanuel. His name is Jesus. In his arms we rest, and under his gracious protection we invite the nations to join us in his loving embrace.

Amendment One and the Christian Mission

The following is a letter I wrote yesterday to our local newspaper the Wilson Times.  Since it may never make it in the black and white, here is a copy.  At the time of this writing, voting on NC amendment one was still taking place. At the time of this writing, it is voting day in NC.  As we all know, one of the most controversial items on the ballot was Amendment One.  As I’ve read the editorials of this  Wilson Times and have watched the vigorous debate over this issue it seems to bring out the worst out of both sides.

As a pastor and a Christian, it has been very intriguing to watch the Christians in the city of Wilson as they handle this controversial issue.  Although I personally supported the amendment, I think some of the zealous passion Christians have shown over this amendment has been misguided.  Christians must indeed stand firm on the truths of Scripture despite the cultural milieu of the day.  However, I am terribly afraid that through this vicious debate over the marriage amendment, Christians in our city have indirectly tarnished the mission Christ has called us to do.  Our task as Christians is not necessarily to create a Christianized American but to proclaim the hope the everyone can find in our Lord Jesus Christ.  As Christians we want people to realize the treachery of their sins so that they can find peace and forgiveness at the cross of Jesus.  At the cross, Jesus absorbed the wrath deserved for our sins and as Christians we believe that forgiveness comes through the perfect son of God, Jesus Christ.  The message of Christianity is the good news that salvation is found in and through Jesus.  That is the center of our message and that is the purpose of our churches existence.

My fear as a Christian is that through the commotion of this amendment, our enthusiastic passion has indirectly communicated to our city that our churches care more about a Biblical definition of marriage than people finding hope and joy through Jesus.  As Christians, we must share the good news of Jesus to both the heterosexual and the homosexual in Wilson and pray that all would repent and believe.  Because no matter what NC or the United States will ever decide on the issue of marriage, it never changes the centrality of that mission.  Even though we might disagree with our neighbor, we still must love our neighbor and point them to the hope and joy that can only be found in Jesus.  May we fight to spread the good news of Jesus in our community with the same passion and ferocity we had with the marriage amendment.

Thoughts on Our Trip to D.C.

 

This past weekend I had the privilege and honor of taking my wonderful wife Kaitlyn to Washington, D.C. to celebrate our anniversary.  While we were there, we did our best to travel the city like a local.  We took the metro and got to see everything the city had to offer.  From our small town in Wilson, NC it was like walking into a different world.  Cities are the melting pots of our civilization.  Within one car on the subway you can find people with all different nationalities and backgrounds.

I love people watching, and so I enjoy observing all the city folk hurrying along their way while Kaitlyn and I try to not to look like tourists.  It was amazing to me that although the city was full of life and maintains an incredible population, it seemed to be one of the loneliest places I've ever seen.  From the isolated commuters marching along with headphones in their ears to the disconnected homeless guy on the street that everyone ignores when they pass by.  Cities are places where strangers are always near by, but no one seems to interact with one another.  Not saying that everyone in the city doesn't have any friends, but just that outside their exclusive tribe or clique of friends, for all practical matters everyone else doesn't exist.

As we explored a major metro area it makes glad to know that there has been such a recent emphasis on Christians taking the Gospel to the cities.  The cities are a lost place in desperate need of the Gospel.  Evangelical Churches seem in short supply as we walked through the streets.  Not only are cities in need of the Gospel, but they are strategic target areas for the spread of the Gospel.  There are so many cultures and nationalities all in one central location.  In cities, ideas are spread and culture is made.  As Christians, we need to continue to try to reach the cities of the world.  It is a missions strategy that was started by the Apostle Paul.

The apostle Paul would make his way into an urban area, plant a church, and then through that local church Christianity would spread into the surrounding areas.  That same strategy Paul used to spread the Gospel to the nations, is still and effective strategy of reaching our world today.

So be praying for the evangelization of the cities.  Pray that God would raise up men to go plant churches in these tough, hard to reach urban areas.  Pray that churches and maybe even your own could begin the process of sending out a church plant to a city that desperately needs the Gospel.

The fields are ripe for the harvest.

 

The Story

Here is an exciting new tool I discovered for Evangelism from my Evangelism Class at SEBTS from Dr. Alvin Reid.  It is called "The Story" and it's an amazing way to share your faith in Christ with other people.  It is a theologically profound yet a simple explanation of the Gospel in view of the whole meta narrative of Scripture.  To read "The Story" booklet, check it out here. You can purchase booklets to give to people or send them to a web address where they can read it for themselves.  There is even a way for people to leave feedback and questions if you create a free account.  We are going to begin training our students at Forest Hills Baptist Church to use this incredible tool in sharing the Gospel!  Check it out and let me know what you think.

What the Kingdom of God is Not

One of Jesus' most popular teachings was on the Kingdom of God.  However many have a misguided understanding of what Jesus means by Kingdom.  Here are a few things that the Kingdom of God is not in hopes that we might better understand what it is. 1.  The Kingdom of God is not an Earthly Nation

Few people would ever actually say it, but through their actions many believe it.  In western society nationalism runs so deep in our culture that many of us equate the United States of America as the Kingdom of God.  For the future hope of the world, many look to America for its realization.  Many have a false few that America is the center of Christianity, despite that the center of Christianity is shifting to the global south.  Christians beg and petition for America to go back to its so called Christian roots.  For many the Kingdom of God is falsely connected to a particular nation.  The Kingdom of God is bigger than any earthly nation, it is the coming of true King, God Almighty, as he is establishing his Kingdom in Jesus Christ.  He is establishing his Kingdom through the proclamation of the Gospel and is not desiring just one particular nation, but people of all nations to come under His kingship through the atoning work of Christ.

2. The Kingdom of God is not a particular Ethnic Group

Its a shame, but if you walk into a Christian church in America today you will notice that the church is one of the most segregated places in our society.  Again, no one would ever say that the Kingdom of God is only for white Americans, but if you go into many Southern Baptist Churches (that's the circle I run with) you will notice that there are very few Hispanics, African-Americans, or people from eastern descent.  Our churches are failing to reach people who are different from us, and through our actions we show that we've reduced the Kingdom of God to a certain ethnic group.  We cluster together with people with the same skin color and culture and pray for the best.  God's desire is that all nations and ethnicities might hear and know the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  All Peoples need to hear this message and must be reached.  God's Kingdom is not just for a particular tribe, but for all people to know and cherish this great God we worship.

3.  The Kingdom of God is not a particular Denomination

Denominations are a great thing.  They serve as a partnership between like minded churches for the advancement of the Gospel.  Although Denominations are beneficial to the church, no particular denomination can call itself the Kingdom of God. Churches tend to make an enemy out of another church that loves Jesus and the Bible that is right down the street from them.  They tend to view them as competition and not partners for reaching their community with the Gospel.  In fact many churches develop a church growth strategy of sheep stealing from other congregations rather than evangelizing to the lost.  If a church loves Jesus and preaches salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone, they are not our enemies but our partners for the Gospel.  Sure that partnership might be limited by differences, but that doesn't mean they are not apart of ushering in the Kingship of Jesus.

The Kingdom of God is brought by Jesus through the cross.  People are then brought under the authority and kingship of Jesus.  This means that all nations and all Peoples need to hear what Christ has done for them.  Dr. Alvin Reed says, "Christianity is not an institution to be maintained, but a movement to be advanced." Let us then advance the Kingship of Jesus.  Let us share the Gospel with our neighbors, coworkers, and friends so that they might be apart of this Kingdom that is coming and will be established at the return of King Jesus. So in the words of Jesus let us preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17)

Social Networking and the Gospel

Over the past several days, I've done my best to increase my presence on the social networking world. Social Networking is rampant in our society today, and over the past several months I've slowly fell off that wagon. To be honest, the constant narcism of social networking can often be a drag, because there are far to many status updates and tweets that just aren't worth reading. My hope is to better use social networking not for the promotion of my name or reputation, but for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. My desire is to pack as much Gospel truth into 140 characters as I can for the encouragement of the church and the advancement of the Gospel. Now by no means will I be consistent in this or even succeed. Don't get me wrong, status updates concerning whats going on in your life can be good and beneficial, however I don't want to find my updates centered around the mirror of individualism, but centered on Jesus. I know how sinful I am and how easily I can become consumed with myself, but hopefully by God's grace, this is not my motive and desire in the age social networking.  My desire is to glorify Christ. In this pursuit of using Social Networking for God's glory, I hope to begin to blog regularly here at justindeeter.wordpress.com. Feel free to subscribe it to your RSS Feed. You can also follow me on twitter @justindeeter. Here is to joyful, God glorifying social networking!

The End is Near

I was just looking at facebook, being a stalker (come on you know you do it too), checking out some pictures of what my old high school classmates were up too, and what I found was painful.  Here is a one word synopsis... Disturbing.  I found the same clique of friends still hanging out together who are miles apart, drinking, partying, and 'living it up' as you could say.  It's sad that they can't get any more satisfaction than wild parties and drinking binges.  They are blind to the reality that there is so much more in Jesus Christ.  My heart is broken for them and I'm ashamed of the missed opportunities to share the Gospel with them.  It must be such a miserable feeling living in the moment completely unaware or rather apathetic to the reality of the spiritual eternity.  It hurts even more to know that this group of people were raised in church and have heard the gospel.  I wish they could see that there is more to life. For some reason this pains me to the core.  My gut wrenches at the thought of my old friends, and my heart goes out to them.  But the thing that feels the worst is a sense of remorse and regret.  I wish I could have made a bigger impact in their lives.  I feel like I missed a huge opportunity to see the love of God change their lives, because I was to hesitant and afraid to ask them the tough questions.  Sure I lived my life as an example, and kept myself separate from their sinful culture, but if only I reached out to them more.  I've lost touch and our relationship is pretty much non-existent, and I am limited to just prayer.  Prayer is still powerful, but I long to have a chance to influence them once more.  Instead I live with the pain of not seizing the day when I had the chance.

If anyone is reading this, do not put off reaching out to those you care about.  You will never know when the sun on the relationship sets, and you no longer have the opportunity to share the Gospel.  Seize the moment; seize the day.  May we live in a since of urgency.  The end is coming; The end is near.