Monday, August 1, 2011

Inescapable Grace - Part Four

"But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry." Jonah 4:1

So Jonah brings the message of God to the evil Ninevites and they repent. How does the messenger feel? Well, chapter four of Jonah begins with the answer to this question. Take a minute and read it.

Wow. What an ugly statement and yet it makes me wonder, who could repent and cause me to be angry? A terrorist? Hitler? A serial killer? Kathy Griffin? Nancy Pelosi? Jon Stewart?

What about John Lennon?

I read on FOX NEWS this past week that there is evidence that John Lennon was enamored with Christianity in his later years. It's been reported that he was in contact with Billy Graham, as well as Pat Robertson, and that before he died he told someone that he didn't believe in Darwin's evolution.

Do these facts add up to a closet evangelical Christian, as the article suggests? Well, I wouldn't go that far, but I've got to tell you - I wasn't a John Lennon fan and the thought of his possible conversion didn't cause me to leap for joy.

So is there really any difference between Jonah and me? Sadly, we're more alike than I want to admit. I'm really glad that the book of Jonah was placed in the Bible as a reminder of just how twisted sin can be.

And I'm even more grateful that Jonah doesn't drive the story - God does. His loving, pursuing, patient and reasonable conversation with Jonah shows us the heart of a Father who doesn't just spank and walk away. As He draws the disobedient Jonah to Himself, He reasons with him:

"It broke your heart when this plant that provided you shade was eaten, though you didn't plant the seed, water the ground or cause it to grow. Why shouldn't I have compassion on this city that is filled with children, created by Me, in My image, let alone on all the livestock that would needlessly suffer if I destroyed their owners?" (wisen paraphrase)

Jonah doesn't deserve a glimpse into the mind of God. He is selfish and self-centered and like Dave said on Sunday, deserves to be gobbled up by a land shark. But instead, the Father explains to him why compassion comes natural to Him - why He can overlook the sin and love on a repentant heart.

The gospel starts with recognizing our sinful state. In order to do that we have to quit comparing ourself to our sinful neighbors and compare ourselves to a holy God. Jonah didn't think his sin was even a blip on the screen compared to the Ninevites, but compared to God, his sin was immense. When I compare my life's choices with John Lennon's, I can get pretty puffed up. But in light of Jesus Christ's righteousness, my puffiness gets popped and I quickly return to worm status.

That's what makes salvation such good news. God saves sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.

Well, John Lennon is not imagining that there is no heaven any longer. He knows that God exists, that heaven and hell exist, and that living for the day doesn't work in the long run. Is he in heaven? I can honestly say that I hope he is, because he, as well as myself, would simply be an eternal reminder of God's inescapable grace.

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