God on mission

What happens when God's mercy clashes with human stubbornness? Dive into Jonah 4:1-11 to uncover a surprising twist in Jonah's story that challenges our understanding of justice, compassion, and divine mission. Where is your heart in this narrative?

Mark Swinerton


Transcript (Auto-generated)

Morning everyone um I'm reading from Jonah 4 1- 11 but Jonah seemed very seemed very wrong and he became very angry he prayed to the Lord isn't this what I said Lord when I was still at home that is what I try to forall by fleeing to tares I knew that you were that you are a gracious and compassionate God slow to anger and abounding in love a God who relents from sending Calamity now Lord take away my life for it is better for me to die than to live but the Lord replied is it right for you to be angry Jonah had gone out and sat down at a place east of the city there he made himself a shelter sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city then the Lord provided a leafy plant and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort and Jonah was very happy about that plant but at dawn the next day God provided a worm which chewed the plant so that it withered when the sun rose God provided a scorching East Wind and the sun blazed on Jonah's head so that he grew faint he wanted to die and said it will be better for me to die than to live but God said to Jonah if is it right for you to be angry about the plant it is he said and I'm so angry I wish I were dead but the Lord said you have been concerned about this plant though you did not tend it or make it grow it sprang up overnight and died overnight and you and should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh in which there are more than 100 and 20,000 people who cannot tell their right hand from their left and also many animals good morning it certainly is a privilege to be here with you today Mary and I have been looking forward to our time here last year there was a gathering of local church leaders in Melbourne there was about 100 people attending this meeting at Crossway Baptist and at the assembly the question was asked how would they rate the effectiveness of the church in doing evangelism and they were broken up into smaller groups some senior leaders there maybe one out of 10 they said another said maybe four out of 10 in one way this is surprising but in another way maybe it's not so surprising when the groups came back together the consensus was somewhere around three out of 10 they did say that there were pockets of ministry where evangelism was very effective is God working in cabure does the church as a whole actually know what it's doing how can we be effective in Mission here in southeast Queensland if you're in one location and you're not seeing God at work it's very easy to extrapolate that across the whole state and say that's what it must be like everywhere is God at work anywhere again last year power to changes church planting leaders from around the the globe actually met in Bangkok 350 people and we knew before the Gathering of stories that God was amazingly at work multiplying churches throughout Indonesia Africa middle and South America and even in the United States so I know that God is at work in the world but sometimes I wonder can he work here what would it take for God to transform Kabula is it even possible are we too secular too Progressive too prosperous for God to actually work in our own community community in our own neighborhood it has been said that Australians are actually one of the most Progressive and secular countries in the world and that the ministry type here is so different so I think again could God work here in southeast Queensland when I moved from keto Ecuador to Melbourne I real realized that I was moving into a new culture and so I did some research and learned some things about this new culture that I was moving into one of the important parts of understanding a new culture is to understand its history I wasn't surprised to learn about the Melbourne Revival when I say the Melbourne Revival some people think of Billy Graham in 1959 but I'm not actually talking about that I'm talking about the 1902 Revival it started in the height of Melbourne's Gold Rush and prosperity if you go to the CBD in Melbourne one of the things I learned is those great classic buildings were all built on the back of the Gold Rush prosperity in the 1880s and so Melbourne was so confident and prosperous it was was known as the wealthiest city in the British Empire but in 1889 John mcneel began meeting with four others to pray for the Salvation of people in Melvin he started Gathering pastors together and at the end of that year he had over 700 pastors meeting together across the state of Victoria just to pray this in ins spired a woman in his church she started her own small prayer meetings across the city and thousands ended up attending these prayer meetings they had heard about the Great American evangelist DL Moody and they sent him a letter of petition with 15,000 signatures inviting him to come and run a crusade in Melbourne the letter arrived just as DL Moody was terminally ill and he passed away before he could actually come but his successor at Moody Bible Institute and the Moody Church was a guy by the name of Ruben Tori and so the invitation was adjusted to invite Tori to come so he came and preached in Melbourne for a month but it wasn't just Tori that came there were actually 50 other evangelists holding Mission meetings around Melbourne and the state during that month and the average weekly attendance of the of these mission outreaches was 250,000 people in a state that only had 1.2 million people at the time thousands of people became Believers during this revival this revival led to the establishment of many Bible conferences in Bible schools across Australia the legacy of this revival has lasted well over 100 years the Christian Legacy in Australia is incredible of course 60 years later Billy Graham arrives in Melbourne 1959 was three years after the Melbourne Olympics Graham preached during his time here to about a third of the City's population it was also transformative and the final event of Billy Graham's Crusade was held in the MCG and it still holds the attendance record of 130,000 some estimates actually go above 143,000 and this just 3 years after the Olympics closing ceremony was held there but that was 70 years ago and so the question is isn't it time for that to happen again how do we see God's work and Mission in Australia I can't think of a better place to turn in scripture to read about a Citywide Revival than the Book of Jonah it's a carefully crafted story that we often use in children's ministry and yes I did show my kids Veggie Tales videos and specifically the one about Jonah and you may have done the same I actually helped dub veget Tales into Spanish in Ecuador when I was there but the Book of Jonah also Bears mature reflection I can't cover the the four chapters of Jonah in one message today well I could but you'll be leaving home for home halfway through it but so I'm just going to skim over the first four chapters and and I want to outline it in this way and I'll pick out some highlights as we go through in the first chapter we see that God's pursuit of Jonah reminds us that God is committed to reaching a hostile secular people whose hearts are far from him Jonah's reluctance does not undermine God's commitment chapter 2 chapter 2 highlights the connection between Mission and in prayer the third chapter emphasizes the Turning of the city and their experience of God's Amazing Grace in response to what is an uncomfortable but necessary message don't we have a message that is equally uncomfortable and yet necessary and the fourth chapter emphasizes one of the main points of the book at least as it relates to the prophet and that is that God wants not just Jonah's obedience he wants to see Jonah's heart conformed to his heart for the lost and the perishing so let's have a look in Jonah you can turn with me chapter 1 if you have your Bibles ready verse one where it says the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of amiti who is Jonah his name actually means Dove dove in the Old Testament is a symbol of peace of reconciliation with God and God's provision if you think about it in the Noah's Ark Story the dove is is sent out over the waters and returns with an olive branch in its beak and that symbol has actually been picked up by the United Nations as a symbol of its function in the world today what was Jonah's career well outside of the Book of Jonah there's only one other place in the Old Testament that Jonah is mentioned and that's in the book of 2 Kings chapter 14 and I'll be reading veres 23- 27 that's 2 Kings 14 verses 23- 27 in the 15th year of amaziah son of joash King of Judah jeroboam son of jehoash king of Israel became king in Samaria and he reigned for 41 years he did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jobo son of nabat which he had had caused Israel to commit now those sins were actually uh building an alternate place of worship other than the temple in Jerusalem uh he was the one verse 25 he was the one who restored the boundaries of Israel from lioth to the Dead Sea in accordance with the word of the Lord the god of Israel spoken through his servant Jonah son of amiti the Prophet from gath he the Lord the Lord had seen how bitterly everyone in Israel whether slave or free was suffering there was no one to help them and since the Lord had said he would not he would block out the name of Israel from under Heaven he saved them by the hand of jeroboam son of jehoash do you pick up what's happened here Jonah is serving as a prophet in the northern kingdom the Kingdom of Israel which is in conflict with the southern Kingdom of Judah the northern kingdom is characterized by every one of its Kings being evil so Jonah is a prophet in a hostile Empire in a hostile environment but unlike his contemporaries like Amos or mic who prophesied judgment and destruction over his people we are not told what the content of Jonah's preaching is but the result of Jonah's preaching is that Israel actually expands its borders it becomes more prosperous it's through Jonah the Dove's message that God's compassion for his people are expressed in blessing them God used Jonah to bless the people despite the fact that they served an evil King Jonah knew that Israel deserved judgment but he knew that God had used him to bring prosperity to the city so what was Jonah's call chapter one again of Jonah verse two says go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it because its wickedness has come up before me but Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for taras God called Jonah to go and preach to a people who are different to him another Evil Nation he's already in one nation that's evil and God is sending him north and east to Nineveh to preach to another Nation God is sending a dove a messenger of Peace bringing blessing and prosperity to this northern kingdom Jonah instead of heading north and east actually flees West to Tarsus Jonah did not want to bring God's blessing and prosperity to Nineveh why because he knew the way God was going to use him God was going to strengthen Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire and that they were Israel's Jonah's own people their greatest threat but God wouldn't let Jonah Escape his calling he sent a wind in a storm that terrified the unbelieving Pagan Sailors and these Pagan Sailors called on their gods what gods would they have called on they called on the god of yam the sea god who in later cultures would be called Poseidon or Neptune we love to name our Gods over forces that we can't control they would have called on B the storm God who in later cultures would have been called Zeus or Jupiter or they're stressed they're in crisis and they're calling on their small gods their gods over those particular areas of responsibility and meanwhile God's Prophet is asleep in the boat do you recall anybody else sleeping in a boat during a storm do you really care that we're going to die we still live in turbulent times don't we we Lurch from one Global crisis to the next we have a pandemic and then we have the Ukrainian War then we have a spike in energy crisis which leads to Rapid inflation and then suddenly interest rates rise and the secular neighbors are turning from one small God to the next to solve each individual problem we look to our medical research to solve a pandemic and we look to the un to solve a war and we turn to our Central Bankers to solve problems with inflation and it's not just our secular neighbors but we also have things in our own life that we turn to our small gods to we have our small gods when it comes to retirement planning or wealth creation we have our small gods for marriage counseling for parenting tips we have our small gods for own plans or mortgage brokers but you know there are too many problems and too many small gods to keep them all happy but when Jonah is awoken he proclaims in chapter 1 verse 9 I a Hebrew and I worship the Lord the god of Heaven who made the Sea and the dry land Jonah doesn't serve a small God Jonah serves a big God in fact the biggest God the God who created everything and that's the God we serve as well we serve The God Who is Sovereign over everything he is the one that we trust and then Jonah in response to the crisis actually introduced a concept that actually runs throughout the Bible the idea of substitution Jonah says you threw me overboard in order to save your lives substitution is a concept we're very familiar with Jonah offers his life in place of the sailor's lives just as ultimately Jesus did for us but God continued to be gracious to Jonah and he provided a great fish to rescue Jonah three days and three nights in the belly of a fish if you've been reading the gospel you'll know that Jesus actually references this in Matthew chapter 12 it's while he's in the belly of the fish that only then do we see Jonah pray in Chapter 2 now I don't have time to explore or unpack Jonah prayer in Chapter 2 but let me just make a couple quick points here the first is that Jonah uses the language of the Psalms the Psalms are the prayer book of God's people and they have been throughout the ages and the second point is that every great mission is founded in prayer prayer is the foundation of God's Mission it's one of the reasons why in our ministry we send out a regular prayer update inviting people who partner with us financially and prayerfully to pray for what is going on and another part of that is actually accountability because whatever happens in mission is founded in prayer it was the foundation of the 1902 Revival it was the foundation of the 1959 Billy Graham crusade it's the foundation that we must lay today at that meeting last year of Melbourne church leaders they were discussing what we need to do to see multiplying churches across Australia and one group was actually wrestling with how do we stir up a movement of fervent prayer you know perhaps there's someone in the room today who will be the Catalyst to inspire others to pray at the end of Jonah's prayer in chapter 3 we see him go to Nineveh God sends Jonah and this time he obeys Jonah goes to this the great city of Nineveh and he preaches a message and In Jonah 3 verse4 he says this 40 more days and Nineveh will be overthrown now when I listen to that message I think that's the only content of Jonah's preaching it sounds pretty harsh imagine if I stood up and said that and then sat down that would be pretty devastating however let's think about it 40 days is a lot of warning the message produces a Citywide repentance in the course of those 40 days they engage in fasting they put on sackcloth the king sits in ashes and these are all symbols of death the king and all the people choose to die to themselves now rather than experience God's judgment for what deserved death let me say that again the king and all the people choose to die to themselves now rather than to experience God's judgment for what deserve death and as it say says In Jonah verse three uh chapter 3: 10 and they called out to God when God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened now I think about this if the Book of Jonah was a story about God convincing Jonah to go to Nineveh on Mission then it should end at the high point of chapter 3 right if there's a Citywide Revival as a result of Jonah's misery you would think that the climax you know the end they live ever happily ever after God had called Jonah Jonah fled God forced Jonah into Mission by sending a storm and a fish Jonah prayed and preached and Nineveh repented that's the story line but surprisingly we have this awkward appendage chapter 4 at the end of the the book I think what seems awkward to us actually reveals the main point of the message of the Book of Jonah because this in chapter 4 is where God pursues Jonah again in Chapter 4 verses 1-4 but to Jonah this seemed very wrong and he became angry he prayed to the Lord isn't this what I said Lord when I was still at home that is what I tried to forall by fleeing to tares I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God slow to anger and abounding in love a God who relents from sending Calamity now Lord take away my life for it's better for me to die than to live these verses record Jonah's understandable reaction to God's grace being extended to what Jonah saw as Israel's enemies God's blessing of Nineveh secured God's Judgment of Israel later on Jonah felt like a traitor to his own people and traitors deserve death but God isn't content to bless Nineveh and lose Jonah he continues to pursue Jonah it's not just Jonah's obedience that he seeks it's his heart Jonah declares that God is gracious and compassionate slow to anger and abounding in love but Jonah isn't gracious and compassionate slow to anger and abounding in love are we be gracious and compassionate slow to anger and abounding in love as God's Prophet as his spokesperson shouldn't Jonah's heart align with Gods as followers of Jesus shouldn't our hearts align with Gods that's the question that the story of Jonah challenges us with today because you know I could explain clearly to you that God's Mission as expressed in the Great Commission is his call on your life I can draw on the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation to prove that this is God's mission in the world and that you should be aligning your life to it sadly we hear that 92% of followers of Jesus don't share their faith with anyone 92% prior to change in Australia for the past couple years has been working on a web app Evangelistic tool based on the four which are four symbols that explain the gospel these are videos there's videos for each of the four points of the Gospel done by your choice of three presenters Nick presents the gospel from a guilt innocent culture yalena from an honor shame culture and Pastor scar is a computer gamer and twitch streamer so after the service you can type in the 4.i into your browser and on your phone you can install the web app on your homepage I'll be at our display table afterwards to actually help you with this if you want also we have brought with us a limited number of these wristbands with the four symbols and the URL they actually uh may seem like a gimmick but wearing these have started literally hundreds of spiritual conversations for me so the question to be asked is this how are you preparing yourself to speak to people that don't know the truth in this church and many others there's so many activities plans and strategies that can Propel you into Mission they can help you overcome your objections and help you avoid distractions they can enhance your Effectiveness and unearth opportunities for you to share the good news but that's not the point is it there's so many good resources tools strategies and processes what we cannot change is your heart it's God's work to change your heart it's your heart that God is after your heart shouldn't be like Jonah's sitting angrily outside the city waiting for its destruction and arguing with God about the Injustice shouldn't your heart be like Jesus's who as he crests the hill at the Mount of Olives and sees the city of Jerusalem and anticipates its coming judgment weeps over the city cries out to God for his mercy and Grace to be evident again so allow me to do a little review of the message of the Book of Jonah as it applies to us Jonah 1 Jonah and all of us have received a Great Commission from a gracious God Jonah 2 Jonah and us have had a personal experience of God's gracious salvation and correction Jonah 3 Jonah and we believe that even a place so deeply hostile towards God God and his people as Nineveh SL Australia can experience the salvation of God Jonah 4 what God wants is to have our hearts aligned to his so that we might be compassionate willing to share the news of God's salvation with the Hostile City around us not withholding from others the chance to respond to Jesus but instead Desiring to see those around us repent and receive Grace as we have remembering that God is patient and not willing that any should perish why do we so often feel uncomfortable about witnessing I think it's probably en larg measure due to our thinking that witnessing is something that we do for God not realizing that witnessing is something that God does through us he does it through us as we simply live our lives in surrender to him I'm not sure where you're at in your joury Journey at the moment it may be that some of us somewhere along the way have lost something of a proper perspective on the hope that is ours through the Risen Lord Jesus we know it all up here but somehow it's not breaking into here like it used to let me finish by asking this question where is your your heart this morning let me pray father we believe that you have a heart that is gracious and compassionate slow to anger and abounding in love we've experienced it in our own lives we've seen it in the lives of people here at church we hear stories of what you're doing in other parts of the world and what you've done in this country throughout history and we ask that you would use us to express your grace your compassion your love to the people of this country this state this city right here right now today move our hearts align it with yours we pray in Jesus name. Amen.