19 September 2012

Not My Way

by Frank Turk

For those of you who would rather hear the whole Sunday School lesson as one 47 minute lecture, you can find it at my home church's web site.  FWIW, I commend all the sermons there for your edification.

What I first realized about me as a Christian was that I am still afraid of God. Think about that: here I am, a guy who has received only blessing and mercy from the Almighty Creator of all things, and I am still afraid of Him. Now, in some respects, many people would rightly say, "Hey Frank: the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, so good on you." But that's not what I mean at all.

Sure: I have a healthy fear of the Lord in terms of His right and ability to judge me, and in that I know I am still without any merit before Him as a sinner. But what's actually really scary, really gut-turning to me about God is that He's going to ask me to do something which I will hate to do and would refuse to do because it offends me.

You know: it would be great if God would ask me to write a book.  God can’t offend me by asking me to write a book.  But what if God asks me to evangelize someone at work – a client, for example, who leads a godless lifestyle – and give him the Gospel whether or not I get to keep my job after I do it?  What if God asks me to make friends with people who live in the trailer park near my house because they are all lost, all people too lowly to be reached out to because frankly, they are messy?

So look: in Jonah I see a guy who is like me. He wants to be a minister to God the way he wants to minister to people and not necessarily the way God wants him to minister to people, and not necessarily to the people God wants him to minister to. And he's serious about it. He's a prophet to Israel, darn it! He's not going to Nineveh -- Nineveh?! where the King of Assyria lives?!? -- and tell them that God is planning to judge them! God ought to judge them! They're sinners! Let them die in their sin! Look at all the beer cans in their trash, and can't you smell that cigarette smoke?

But there’s more to it than this.  It is not only that God may ask me to do something which offends me: God himself may do something that offends me.  That is: His way will not be my way.  What God intends to do probably doesn’t look like what I have planned in my Outlook calendar.  And the problem comes to a head when there has to be a reconciliation.

It’s easy to teach our children the words, “Jesus loves me, this I know.  The Bible tells me so.”  It’s another thing entirely to remember that God’s love is not like my native idea of love which has a very small circle, and lets very few people in.

That speaks to how Jonah preaches to the Ninevites when he actually goes: "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" Jonah does not say, "Judgment is coming so repent", but only, "Judgment is coming". God's judgment. Because He didn't want the Ninevites to get any bright ideas. God told him to tell them they are under judgment, and that's it: that's all he’s going to do. "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" That way he can be faithful, and he doesn’t have to worry because God going to deliver judgment. He said so.

But God does something else here which Jonah says he knew all along was God’s intention: God spares the Ninevites.

That’s Jonah's complaint to God: "Let me die, because I know you show steadfast love." Listen: Jonah's complaint was not, "God, you promised to smite the evildoer, and you squelched -- you broke your promise! Now that I know God is a promise breaker to Israel, I just want to die!" It was, "I knew it—when I was back home, I knew this was going to happen! That's why I ran off to Tarshish! I knew you were full of love, and grace, and mercy, and patience, and ready to forgive!"

Jonah’s complaint is not about the lack of God’s justice.  It’s about the overwhelming size of His love, and to whom He is willing to show it.









30 comments:

Frank Turk said...

iloveyouonestarhater -BEAT YOU!

Kerry James Allen said...

I wish Frank didn't have to rise and comment at 3:20 AM lest a worm smite his gourd. Good article nonetheless.

Bill said...

Wow Frank, dare I say..."Love Wins"? Ducking as I type :)

Frank Turk said...

Don't stand so close to me, Bill.

Linda said...

Frank this is absolutely excellent! I have struggled as I'm sure with many in what you have described to a tee here..

it helps me greatly when spend time with the LORD. To learn to survey God's tender mercies in my own life- HIS acts of kindness, patience, and goodness.

Actually I've found that God is much kinder to me than I am to myself~

Nash Equilibrium said...

I gave a ten star just to offset the OSH.

Thomas Louw said...

Why, if He is not a portrayed as a whip yielding sadist, He is shown to be an eight legged, spineless octopus franticly searching for something to hug.

Linda said...

I was thinking about this while taking my son to school this morning because you always seem to jog my mind..


there's this pattern I've noticed in my life. God allows something fearful to happen-some obstacle that I cannot change or get past or run from and then I come to what I call the crossroads just like Jonah.

God gently brings me to a point of what I call the impossible. I get to thinking am I going to continue to be miserable and fear whatever the obstacle is more than fearing God? Isn't God bigger than all this? Who is God in my life? How can I move forwards--I can't change this. Obviously it's not going away.

So,I have one of 2 choices Fear God-who is so merciful and gracious or continue to fear the hurdle that is not merciful and gracious to me. How do I move from fear to faith? This thing I fear I've actually raised above fearing GOD.

As a result I'm going to respond to God's goodness in my life no matter what. It's evident God is NOT going to leave me in the same state.

Tom Chantry said...

Must we be readin' the post before commentin' like a pirate today?

Aaaarrrrrrr!!!!!

Jules said...

What God intends to do probably doesn’t look like what I have planned in my Outlook calendar.

Arrrr, matey and that be the rub.

Kerry James Allen said...

Chantry, don't you have something better to do? Like clean a poop deck?

Scott Welch (formerly Scooter) said...

Ouch. This one hurts (in a good way).

Tom Chantry said...

You'll be walkin' the plank soon, KJ!

Tom Chantry said...

(If blogger decides I'm a robot, can I be a pirate robot?)

Frank Turk said...

NO PIRATE ROBOTS!

The Blainemonster said...

It’s another thing entirely to remember that God’s love is not like my native idea of love which has a very small circle, and lets very few people in. Hey! That hurt!

Kerry James Allen said...

Frank, is there some connection to Talk Like A Pirate day with a maritime themed post today? Is this a test? Did I pass? Don't pirates talk like Somalians?

Tom Chantry said...

Call me crazy, but it seems that if our coming Robot Overlords were plagued with an infestation of Pirates within their own ranks, that would ultimately be a good thing.

So put me down as proPirate-Robot!

Nash Equilibrium said...

i hate to derail the meta from pirate talk, but I have a question about this passage:

"You know: it would be great if God would ask me to write a book. God can’t offend me by asking me to write a book. But what if God asks me to evangelize someone at work – a client, for example, who leads a godless lifestyle – and give him the Gospel whether or not I get to keep my job after I do it? What if God asks me to make friends with people who live in the trailer park near my house because they are all lost, all people too lowly to be reached out to because frankly, they are messy?

Now at one time I would have agreed with this, and even today, at first I did agree with it. Now that I had time to go take a walk and think about it, I'm not sure it really applies in the present age. As an internet student of TeamPyro I now tend to think that God isn't going to "ask" me to do anything quite as specific as any of these things, aside from his Word, since he talks to us only in that way, these days.

Put another way, either He has already told us to do the things listed above in your quote, or He isn't going to. Serious question: Where am I "off" in my thinking about this? Or am I?

Solameanie said...

I needed this today, Frank. More than you know.

Johnny Dialectic said...

Indeed, how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Unlimited and unbounded, which for some terrible reason can turn certain Christians into modern-day Jonahs.

Frank Turk said...

Nash: While I have been known to bash you for being obtuse, THAT is a good question.

I think the answer to the question actually makes the whole paragraph far worse for us that it already is.

Here is the answer:

In his word, and in his instruction to us, by equipping us for every good work, God has already asked us to do these things.

How's your conscience now?

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Ouch.

To assuage my guilt (or at least defer it until later...) I'm distracting myself by translating the whole blog into pirate speak. Here. http://www.syddware.com/cgi-bin/pirate.pl (Tom may be amused.)

I know, I know... off the rails.

Julie G

Nash Equilibrium said...

Frank, I wondered if that's what you might say. If I may say so, it would have been less "obtuse" of you to just say it in the article! (BTW, obtuse is not a pirate word).

In seriousness though, my conscience is fine but I go away challenged to look harder for opportunities to step outside my comfort zone. I think that must be the true point of this article.

Thanks for the reply, appreciate it!

Frank Turk said...

Julie:

You just made my day.

Linda said...

Oi, or is it moi @ Tom Chantry? Savvy mate ~Commodore

Aaron Snell said...

I love it: Frank starts teaching Sunday School, and his posts start getting more pastoral :)

Aaron Snell said...

And this post beautifully illustrates why the Christian life is a prolonged excercise in learning humility. May the bones which you break rejoice, O Lord.

Andrea said...

I'm afraid of God, too. Only my fear is not that he will show mercy to people who don't deserve it. I know all too well how undeserving *I* am, so God's compassion and mercy is a quality that makes me very happy.

No, my fear is that God will force me to accept that the people I love and pray for may not ultimately be saved. No matter how hard I pray or witness or set a good example, they may reject Christ. They may not be elect. I may by grace get to heaven and not find them there.

But the problem is ultimately the same of God offending me by not being what I would wish him to be. I want God to love those who I love enough to save them. He reserves the right to have mercy on whom he has mercy and harden whom he hardens. And this fact I have to acknowledge as Good because it comes from God. To do otherwise would be to render the word "good" frankly meaningless by making myself the standard (ridiculous) rather than God.

Worse (from my sinful human viewpoint, at least) he commands me in scripture to continue to love, pray for, and do all the good I can for these people, with no assurance possible as to the ultimate effect. God commands me to do what seems impossible, and he has every right to do so.

And this is a God of Love. Not a Love that I can fully understand, but I know and believe with all my heart that any love I can come up with humanly speaking is a pale imitation at best or at worst a perversion of Divine love.

Curious, is this line of thought too far afield from the point of your post, or am I in the right ball park?

By the way, I don't do star rankings, but lest you think yourself unappreciated Mr. Turk:

"Good post."

Linda said...

Aaron Snell,, that's beautiful what you said because it's so true..

Humility is a very fearful thing, and very misunderstood as weakness and yet it is the most peaceful, joyful, safest and secure place to be because you're truly Fearing the Lord.

I find myself like a trembling bird in the hand of GOD and verses such as "Let him who thinks he stands take HEED least he fall" suddenly scare me to the point that I don't want to have too much confidence in myself but always acknowledge that it is GOD whose power is made perfect in my weakness