“When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.” Jonah 3:10
Repentance moves the heart of God. Think about that for a moment. As children of God, we have the opportunity to touch the heart of God in a profound way. If you are a parent, you have likely been deeply touched by something that your child said…something that truly revealed their love for you. It is easy to say, “I love you, too.” But there are those times when children do or say something that is uniquely “them,” something you know they are not just repeating…something that comes from the heart. These moments stick with us forever, don’t they? They are precious reminders that every parent clings to during difficult seasons.
In Jonah chapter three, God has one of those moments with the people of Nineveh. God sent Jonah to deliver horrible news to the inhabitants of this important city. In forty days, He planned to overturn Nineveh because of the sin of its people (Jonah 3:4). His anger toward them was evident…God was going to punish their sin. But then something happened that touched the very heart of God…
The people of Nineveh repented. There were three main aspects of their repentance that we can learn from today. First, they believed God. Jonah delivered the word of God to them, and on the first day they heard it, they believed that God would indeed destroy the city. Secondly, because they believed God’s message, they grieved over their sin. From the king all the way down, they fasted and wore sackcloth and ashes – a sign of deep sorrow. Lastly, they urgently called to God in repentance.
Verse 10 tells us that God “saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways.” Then something amazing happened…God had compassion on them and withheld His punishment. The word “compassion” here means, “To be sorry, moved to pity, to comfort or console.” True repentance consoles and comforts the heart of God. It sooths His righteous anger toward our sin.
It was not the words they said but the action they took that moved God to relent. Do we believe what God says about sin, like the Ninevites did? And if so, does this belief cause us to mourn and to turn from sin? Repentance that moves God is not lip service, it is turning away from sin and to God.
Father, I desire to love and serve You with all of my heart. That cannot happen when there is unconfessed sin in my life. Please convict me of my sin and give me a heart of true sorrow and repentance. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” Jonah 2:10
We serve a God of second chances…and third, fourth, fifth and sixth chances. I do not mean to imply that God is a pushover. He is, however, slow to anger and quick to forgive, redeem and restore.
As the prophet Jeremiah wrote:
“Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
Today’s focal verse (Jonah 2:10) is a perfect example of God’s unfailing compassion. Jonah cried out to the LORD from the belly of the great fish. It was God’s unfailing love that sent that fish to rescue Jonah from drowning due to his disobedience. And then God, in His grace, gave Jonah a second chance to obey Him. And how does He do this? God commands the fish to spit Jonah out so he can go to Nineveh.
We serve a sovereign LORD. He reigns over all of creation. And yet He is compassionate in our weakness. He is LORD over the wind and the waves. He is LORD over the fish of the sea. He is LORD over Jonah and Nineveh. And He is LORD over you. This holy, mighty, compassionate God has great love for you…and His mercies are new every single morning.
Are you, like Jonah, running from God? Are you in the boat heading in the opposite direction from His plan? Are you in the crashing waves of His discipline, gasping for air? Are you in the belly of the fish, crying out in gratitude for a second chance? Or are you on dry land with a fresh start that you don’t deserve, but want desperately to take? Take heart! For our God is the King of second chances. And today His compassions toward you are brand new.
Father, How do I say ‘thank You’ for Your unfailing compassion toward me? Just like Jonah, You have given me so many second chances when I fail. I want to honor You in all I do. I choose today to joyfully surrender to Your plans. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” James 4:4
What does it mean to be a “friend of the world,” as this verse states? It is an important question to answer, because choosing friendship with the world has serious consequences. James is clear…whoever chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
It is interesting that this verse does not make Jesus the object of our choice. The focus is on how we choose to relate to the world. Affection for the world results in enmity with God. Many people think that if they believe in God, that is all that matters. Not according to this verse. A line is drawn. A choice must be made. We cannot claim to follow Christ and still love the things of this world. To do so, God says, is adulterous.
So, what does friendship with the world look like? It helps to understand the use of the word “friendship” in this verse. It means a familiarity or close association…much like a brotherly love. And by “the world,” James is referring to the world order, not the people of the world. We know from Scripture that Satan and his powers are at work in the world, warring against God and His people (Ephesians 6:12). There is an unseen battle raging, and we must choose a side. Remaining neutral is not an option in this war.
Friendship with the world involves the details of our lives. It is what we watch on TV, the movies we will pay to see, the music we listen to, how we allow our children to dress, the language we use, how we spend money, how we spend our time, and the list goes on and on. In every life choice, we are siding with either the world, or with God. Are we numb to the blatant disrespect for God that is rampant in the world today, or does it grieve us and move us to take a stand…to pray?
As Christ followers, it should be evident in our daily choices whose side we stand on. Our affection should be for Christ, not for the world that is opposed to Him.
Father, Everything this world stands for is in direct opposition to You. In a world that promotes self, pride, excess and pleasure help me to stand for You, with You and in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“Then Jesus said to them all: If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.’” Luke 9:23
Self-denial. This is what Christ demands. And more importantly, it is what He deserves. Jesus isn’t asking His followers to hate themselves; he is asking them to adore Him. Just as the old hymn says:
“Jesus paid it all.
All to Him I owe.
Sin had left a crimson stain.
He washed it white as snow.”
The choice to deny self is born out of adoration and gratitude, not obligation. It is the response of a heart that is ever-conscience of Christ’s sacrifice, and always thankful for His grace.
To deny yourself means to disregard your own interests for the sake of Christ and His glory. Following Jesus is not easy. There are times when He leads us to places that we do not want to go. He leads to places that are unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and even undesirable. I mean this both literally and figuratively. Loving our enemies is not comfortable. Forgiveness is not always easy. Putting others needs ahead of our own desires is tough. All of these are examples of how Jesus asks us to deny ourselves.
But, when we hold these acts of self-denial up to the cross…they don’t seem so hard, do they? When we choose to consider Christ’s sacrifice, we realize that He has the right to ask for whatever He desires from our lives. After all, we wouldn’t even have life physically or spiritually, if it weren’t for Him.
And as if what He has already given us isn’t enough, He continues to lavish His grace upon us. Whatever He asks us to give up He will replace with His abundant life. What we find is that the more we sacrifice, the more He gives. In God’s kingdom, death to self is the only way to truly live.
Jesus, You have shown me what self-denial really is. Thank You for dying so that I may live. Please help me to deny myself and follow You today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” Jonah 2:8
In this one short verse lays unending implications. It reminds me of the lyrics to a worship song:
“It’s Your love that we adore, it’s like a sea without a shore.
Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid; just set your sail.
And risk the ocean, there’s only grace. There’s only grace.”
Following Christ wholeheartedly will always involve risk…the risk of the unknown; or of what He will demand. Sometimes it involves the risk of personal safety…or of comfort and predictability. It is not an easy thing to do as the writer of this worship song says, “Set your sail and risk the ocean.” But, as the song also says, in the ocean of following Christ, “there’s only grace.”
Ironically, Jonah set his sail, quite literally, and took a different kind of risk. Instead of risking in order to follow God, he risked to run from God. Yet still, in the ocean of his disobedience he found God’s grace. Jonah knew firsthand what it meant to cling to the temporary and forfeit the eternal. He clung to the idol of comfort. He gripped the idol of control. He went to great lengths to avoid God’s plan. And when the winds blew and the waves crashed around his plan of escape, he knew what it meant to forfeit God’s grace.
But even there, Jonah found God faithful…faithful to discipline and to rescue and to redirect. Yes, following Christ is risky, but perhaps, as Jonah discovered, not following Him is even riskier. Life is stormy either way. Wouldn’t you rather be on the side of the One whose voice the wind obeys…the One who can call off the waves if He so chooses?
Are you forfeiting the grace that could be yours today? Are you clinging to the temporary things of this world at the expense of the eternal riches of Christ? If so, take the risk and let go…there is only grace.
Father, I admit that sometimes I am scared to obey You. Sometimes what You ask is so hard. Please help me to believe that following You will never lead to disappointment. You are worth so much more than anything You could ever ask me to give up. I want to risk it all for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.