The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
What does the Gospel do for us? I know The Gospel Story tells me how I can be forgiven of my sins and go to heaven, but is that it? What does the Gospel do for me today? Does it have anything to say about my present reality and struggles that I face every day?
The Gospel Story is the most powerful and profound story ever told. This story removes every excuse we have ever given for all the bad decision we have made and continue to make. When we seriously consider the full Gospel story we have no excuse for living defeated or defined by sin and destructive life styles. When we trust in Jesus that is simply not an option, it is not part of the Gospel Story.
Paul tell us in Romans 6 that when we are baptized into Jesus (when we accept Him as Lord of our life and truly believe He died for us and rose again) we are like Him in death and in life. What Paul means is that Jesus died the death we couldn’t and lived the life we couldn’t so we might finally be able to be set free and live how God created us to. When Jesus died on the cross for us He broke the power of sin in our life and when He rose from the grave He made it possible for us to live a new and different life.
Paul uses some pretty strong words. He says, “When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires. Do not let any part of your body become an instrument of evil to serve sin. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life.” There are not more excuses – only Jesus.
We might want to argue back and say but I am not Jesus! I can’t do that! You are totally right. You are not Jesus and you can’t do that. Which is exactly why Jesus has done it for us and given us the Holy Spirit. As followers of Jesus we are not living in our own power but in His power. We are living in the power that created everything, that defeated Satan, and that rose Jesus from the dead! Sin has no say and we have no excuse. Live in the power of The Gospel Story! Live in Jesus!
In the beginning there was no life. Everything was dark, formless, and void. Then, one day God spoke and creation took shape. Light broke through the darkness, order out of chaos, and something came out of nothing. He took humanity and breathed life into us. Giving us all we needed to survive – food, space, community, and purpose. But, it wouldn’t be long before we started to doubt His goodness and stop trusting in His sovereignty. We wanted more – He wasn’t good enough anymore. We fell for an alternative story, a lesser story, a lie. What story are you living by today?
The lesser story led to pain, suffering, guilt, shame, broken relationships, and death. We died relationally, spiritually, and physically. When we chose to live without God we learned quickly that life without Him is painful. In fact, there is no life apart from the one who breathed life into us. We tried to hide from Him, in our guilt and shame, but we failed. He quickly found us. We could see the hurt in His eyes and hear the compassion in His voice. He wanted us back. We started to wonder – how can we ever get back? Who will ever be able to save us?
God didn’t leave us in this death for long before He started working on His plan to redeem us and bring us back to the good He originally created us for. We failed and continued to turn from Him, over and over and over. But, He is persistent and continued to pursue us. Even saving us from our own sin and chaos time and time again. Eventually He sent Jesus, His only Son, to die for us and put an end to the death. Jesus was the One we have been waiting for. He is the one to save us. God isn’t just our creator, now we know Him as our redeemer.
This redemption wasn’t just from death but it was also to life. All along the way we can see where His redemptive plan was breaking through and His grace was at work. That time our enemy became our friend. That mountain that got moved. The wall that got knocked down. The chains that fell off. The freedom we found. The countless victories He won for us. All this gives us hope that one day we will be in His good presence fully and be back with Him walking in that good and perfect garden. One day, we will be back in chapter 1. We just need to trust Him again. We need to hold on to His story.
Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which came up overnight and perished overnight. “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
The last chapter in Jonah leaves us wanting more. We want to know how Jonah answered that question. I for one would really like to know where Jonah went from here. All we really know about Jonah is that he did not want God to act in His compassion, that we was rebellious, and apparently loved the plant more than he loved his fellow humans. But, in this story we learn a lot about God. We can clearly see that God is gracious and compassionate with all of His creation.
In this final question to Jonah God also says a lot about Himself. Jonah looked at the city of Nineveh as evil. He looked at this city and these people as a threat, someone that needed to be destroyed so his way of life could be preserved. Jonah put limits on the very same gracious compassion that God had just showed him (an underserving, rebellious prophet). But, God didn’t see a rebellious prophet or an evil city full of His enemies. God saw a man who was struggling with God’s grace and who needed to be saved. He saw a city full of people who were lost and needed some direction to find their way. In both cases, they were His creation, whom He loved dearly.
God moved in His compassion way more than He moves in His anger. Praise God for that! We understand Jesus to be God’s revelation of Himself to us – God in the flesh, the Word coming to life and living with us. Jesus didn’t come out of God’s anger and Jesus didn’t reveal God’s anger to us. Jesus came out of God’s compassion and came to show us just how much God loves us. He came to reveal God’s grace and compassion.
Jonah had things wrong. In his self-righteousness he cared more for the plant than he did for the people. When we allow our own self preservation to take over and when we are moved by our anger we will put limits on God’s compassion and limits on the compassion we show. Which leaves us with the same question to answer – do we want God to be compassionate or not?
Then the Lord spoke to Jonah a second time
I am so thankful that we serve the God of second chances! God spoke, again, to a rebellious prophet who had run from Him and was even attempting to hide from Him. God then used that prophet to extend a chance to an evil and violent city. Jonah chapter 3 is full of second chances and stands to be the most encouraging chapter in the book of Jonah. Who of us couldn’t use a second chance here and there?
One of the things we can learn from Jonah’s second chance, though, is that they aren’t always easy. Jonah still had a long journey ahead of him as he headed back to the place God originally called him. At this point he had about 500 miles to travel – it would have taken him about a month if he was able to find a camel or donkey to ride. Had he just listened the first time he would have a much easier journey. That is so true for all of us, often times the journey we are on got harder because of a mistake we made.
Despite our mistakes or the length of the journey we know it is always worth it as long as we travel in God’s grace. As a result of Jonah’s obedience, this time, Nineveh is given an opportunity to be saved. This city was destroying itself by the way they were living. At this point things were starting to fall apart, so when Jonah showed up with the message he had from God they jumped on it. They repented and ceased their violent ways. God’s grace was able to save Jonah and the Ninevites. There is nothing God’s grace can’t do and no person God’s grace can’t reach.
I am praying that today you have received God’s grace and that now you embark on a life of obedience. You never know what a life lived in God’s grace will accomplish. Jonah’s saved a city. Maybe God will use you to save a city too? Maybe He will use you to reach your neighborhood, your family, or your friends? I don’t know how God will use you, but I know He will. When we get a second chance and use it to live for God amazing things happen. So, go today, embark on the journey of living obediently in God’s grace and see what happens!
And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the stomach of the fish….Salvation is from the Lord.
Jonah 1:17-2:1, 9
Not much is said in the story of Jonah about this great fish that God had swallow Jonah. We aren't told how big it is, what it looked like, or even what kind of fish it was. Obviously it was big enough to swallow Jonah whole and big enough for Jonah to stay alive in its stomach for three days. We don’t know the details, but I want to give this fish a name – Grace. Grace swallowed Jonah that day, Grace got Jonah back on track with God, and Grace took Jonah where he needed to be.
When you think of grace what do you normally think of? You probably don’t picture a big man eating fish do you? Grace, simply defined, is us receiving what we do not deserve. Which sounds great. But, grace is more profound than that. The grace Jesus came and revealed to us is the gift of a relationship and a life full of purpose. It wasn’t cheap, but quite expensive as it cost Him His life. Grace is salvation from, but also salvation to. In grace we are receiving the salvation we do not deserve while at the same time receiving the transformation (the life) we do not deserve.
Consider Jonah. A failed and rebellious prophet of God lost at sea having given his own life for those of the pagan sailors. He refused to accept all of God, but wanted Him on his own terms. Grace found him though, in the sea, and swallowed him up so God could transform him into the man God knew he could be – a prophet with a life transforming message.
That fish was the crucible of grace Jonah desperately needed. We need those moments, those events in our lives that take us to our bottom so we can receive God’s grace more fully. We need to realize we are unable to save or change ourselves and surrender fully to God, who alone can save us. We need sometimes to not be told how far from God we are, but shown how much we need Him. It is in those moments we realize how precious of a gift grace is and what it is God has done for us and wants to keep doing in us.
Know that God, in His grace, wants to save you and make you into the best version of you – the version He created you to be.
Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship. But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold. So the captain went down after him. “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted. “Get up and pray to your god! Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”
Can you imagine falling asleep during a really bad storm on board a ship? Jonah must have been incredibly tired and a really heavy sleeper. Then, to be woken up with a rebuke – a good solid rebuke is never any fun! But, sometimes we need to be rebuked so we do wake up and start doing what we are supposed to be doing.
Jonah was a man of God, a prophet, and instead of praying he was sleeping. The pagan sailors were the ones praying to their gods, their gods that had no control over the wind or the sea. The one person who could talk to the God who did have control was asleep. I think there are times in life where we are like both of the people in this boat – we are praying to the wrong gods or totally avoiding the One True God who can do something about the storm we are in. Which one are you? Are you hoping a lesser god will answer or are you just avoiding the One who can?
Now, I know no one really likes to be rebuked or called on the carpet when we are doing something wrong. We treat the word accountability like an evil four letter word that we want nothing to do with. But, accountability is a good thing, a healthy thing. Being held responsible for our actions, rebuked when we are wrong, is what keeps us out of the storms and leads us to safety when we find ourselves in one. A rebuke is what Jonah needed. He was no longer interested in listening to God’s Word or to God’s action (the storm) so God forced him to listen to the pagans.
We might not want to hear the rebuke, but we need to hear it. In all of God’s grace and mercy He will make sure we do. Those rebukes can come from other people, can come from storms, and many times will come from the places we least expect it. What we need to learn to do is listen to that rebuke. As hard as it might be, it might just be the only thing that will get us back on track and back into the life God has for us. Jonah jumped off the ship, the storm stopped, and God went to work setting him back on track. Listen to the rebuke, be held accountable – it could be the most loving thing anyone ever does for you.
The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. So he went down to Joppa, found a ship which was going to Tarshish, paid the fare and went down into it to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. The Lord hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.
Jonah was a prophet of God who was called to a wicked people to proclaim God’s judgment. But, instead of heading the call and being obedient he rebels and runs the opposite direction. Perhaps he was thinking he would just get out of dodge and go live a different life somewhere else. Ever wonder why he would rebel like that? Why run from doing the very thing God had called him to do?
In Jonah chapter 4 he says why he rebelled – because he knew God would be loving and compassionate. He had a feeling God would forgive and redeem them. So, instead of giving them the chance to change he decided he would just run away. No way was he going to give such an evil people a chance to come to God. He would rather die than see them change!
Where do you see yourself in this story? It is easy for us to say that’s messed up – no way would I ever treat someone like that or run away from God like that! But, haven’t there been times when we rebelled against God because our agenda wasn’t being met, God wasn’t doing what we wanted so we took things into our own hands. Has there ever been a time when we rebelled because God wasn’t serving our agenda?
What about those times when God asks you to love your neighbor and your refuse for (fill in the blank)? Jonah had a “us vs. them” attitude. They have killed and butchered us for too long, it is time for them to suffer. This wasn’t an attitude of love but one of anger, bitterness, and vengeance.
The amazing thing – despite the rebellious heart and attitude – God still pursued him. The storm was one of mercy. God cared about him too much to leave him in his rebellion. Know today, that even in your rebellion God, in His mercy, is pursuing you and ready to redeem you too.
That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! “Peace be with you,” he said. As he spoke, he showed them the wounds in his hands and his side. They were filled with joy when they saw the Lord! Again he said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit."
Can you put yourself in the disciples sandals that first Easter morning? What must have been going through their heads? The week had been long with lots of exciting moments, but it ended tragically. They just buried their friend, their teacher. Now, Peter and John claim Jesus’ body is no longer in the tomb and Mary Magdalene is saying she saw and spoke with Jesus. The room the locked themselves in must have been full of grief, confusion, and a lot of fear. Ever been locked in a room like that?
In the midst of all that fear the testimony of Mary wasn’t enough. They still weren’t sure what was happening. They found themselves paralyzed. Fear can do that to us. We can all relate on some level – words can’t change or fix a situation. We need action. Sometimes even being told God is with us isn’t enough – we need to experience Him for ourselves. We need our own encounter with the risen Jesus.
Thankfully, that is what happened in that room. Jesus showed up. The risen Christ came to them, right in the midst of their fear and all the other emotions and things that were keeping them in hiding, locked away. The risen Christ was there, in the midst of His scared disciples. It is what He promised – to never leave or forsake them (or us). If you are in a room today, locked away in hiding, know that Jesus is there with you. That is what the resurrected Lord does – He shows up.
In that room He offered the disciples exactly what they had been looking for – peace. In fact, He breathed on them and encouraged them to receive the Holy Spirit. To receive was to take hold of, to grasp. Jesus was there, offering them life, all they needed to do was take ahold of it. Right now, Jesus is breathing on you, offering you life, offering you peace, offering you forgiveness, offering you love, or whatever else you might need to get out of that dark room. Will you receive it? Will you grasp Him and let Him lead you out?
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me…
A man named Warren Wiersbe defined a disciple of Jesus as someone who is not simply a sitting and listening to a teacher. They are someone who lives with the teacher and who learns by listening, looking, and living. Discipleship involves more than enrolling in a school and attending lectures. It means total surrender to the teacher and living life with and like the teacher. That definition certainly gives some meat to what it means to being a follower (a disciple) of Jesus. If that is what it means to be a disciple then how do we make one? How do we become one? How do we grow as one?
We usually answer that by saying we need to read our Bible, we need to go to church, and we need to pray. These are great things. But, being and making a disciple cannot stop there because being a disciple is more than learning, it also includes living with. Discipleship is not a solo journey or event, it is team effort, journey with family and friends. Jesus made disciples by teaching them, but by teaching them in life and in relationship.
Paul told the church in Ephesus that God, “makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16) He was making the point that growth (becoming like Jesus) doesn’t happen in a silo, it happens in the Body of Christ, it happens together. To grow and make disciples we need each other and we need each other living in obedience to Christ. The more we do that the healthier, the stronger, and the bigger the body will grow.
“We become a holy people together. We hear the voice of God most clearly in community. Love is superficial until it is lived out in the context of real relationships. The journey of grace is a team event!” (David Busic) When we say yes to Jesus we are saying yes to entering a growing family. We are in this together – struggling, growing, learning, and living together. Let’s be disciples and make disciples together.
One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers—Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew—throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me…
Who do you follow? That is a pretty normal question these days. It seems like the younger you are the more varied that answer it going to be. Following someone today has been reduced to a click of a button. We can be following hundreds of people via social media and not truly be following any of them. Today, when we think of follow them, it means we get their posts on our news feed. We might be aware of their latest thoughts or antics. But, when Jesus invited the disciples to follow Him, He was inviting them into something so much more.
One of the words used a lot in the New Testament and in the Church is disciple. Simply put a disciple is a follower. Jesus, when He invited Peter and Andrew to follow Him was actually inviting them to be one of His disciples. But, as the rest of the story goes, we quickly learn that to be a disciple of Jesus meant a whole lot more than just sitting in on some teachings and knowing about Him. Right from the start Jesus asked them to leave their home, their careers, and their family to follow Him.
In a very similar way God has extended this same invitation to all of us. Revelation tells us that Jesus is standing at the door and knocking, just waiting for someone to let Him in. Jesus is standing at the shore of our lives and inviting us to join Him in His life – Come follow me. So, what will we do with the invitation? Will we go? Will we let Him in? For many of us we get stuck on what that means we will have to give up, what we will have to leave behind.
The disciples left a lot. They left those nets behind for a life of hardship and persecution. So, why did they do it? Why should we do it? Why follow Him if we aren’t guaranteed a life of ease? I think they would tell you they chose to follow Him because they believed the life He was offering them (despite the persecution) was better than the life they had been living or the one they would have ended up living. They believed the Gospel to be enough. The Good News that Jesus had come to usher in the Kingdom through His death and resurrection. He was promising, through the difficulty, the life they wanted. One of redemption, reconciliation, peace, and goodness. No one else could lead them there, but Him. So, will you follow Him there to?
Pastor Matt Huff leads Portland Central Nazarene Church. He loves being in ministry and seeing lives transformed by the power of Christ.