Mercy

Better: Jonah -- Jesus loves his enemies

Get to know Jesus better in the Old Testament

An Armenian nurse had been held captive along with her brother by the Turks.  Her brother was slain by a Turkish soldier before her eyes.  Somehow, she escaped and, later, became a nurse in a military hospital.

One day, she was stunned to find that the same man who had killed her brother had been captured and brought, wounded, to the hospital where she worked.  Something within her cried out, "Vengeance!"  But, a stronger voice called for her to love.  She nursed the man back to health.

Finally, the recuperating soldier asked her, "Why didn't you let me die?"

Her answer was, "I am a follower of Him who said, 'Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.'

Impressed with her answer, the young soldier replied, "I never heard such words before.  Tell me more.  I want this kind of religion."

It’s really hard to be kind to people who aren’t kind to us. When people are vehemently opposed to who we are or what we believe, we’re often tempted to give them a wide berth, or to do them harm. Sometimes, we're even tempted to do this on Jesus' behalf, with those who we think are his enemies.

In this message, we'll discover how the story of Jonah reveals Jesus' heart for his enemies and how he wants us to handle them. The fact is: Jesus has called his followers to a different way of looking at the world than others do, and that includes loving our (and Jesus') enemies.

If you need a refresher on the story of Jonah, go ahead and read Jonah 1-3.

Jonah wasn't so much afraid of the Ninevites though, as he was afraid that God wouldn't destroy them:

Jonah 4: But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Do you do well to be angry?” 

Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Now the LORD God appointed a plant and made it come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort. So Jonah was exceedingly glad because of the plant. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God appointed a scorching east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint. And he asked that he might die and said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” But God said to Jonah, “Do you do well to be angry for the plant?” And he said, “Yes, I do well to be angry, angry enough to die.” And the LORD said, “You pity the plant, for which you did not labor, nor did you make it grow, which came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”

Nineveh was the capital of the nation of Assyria, enemies of the nation of Israel. Jonah figured that, if he avoided giving God's message to his enemies, they would not turn to God and God would destroy them. He tried to force God's hand into getting rid of Israel's problem, but that wasn't what God wanted.

Jesus loves those who hate him and has called you to do the same.

God: saved the wicked people of Nineveh
Jesus: came to earth to save people who had rejected him.
Jesus: died for sinful people
Jesus: asked God the Father to forgive the people who were torturing and killing him.
Jesus: said to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Jesus: said to go into ALL The World and make disciples and to love your neighbour as yourself…even if your neighbour is your enemy.

And if you still think they don't deserve it, remember:

Before you came to Jesus, you were one of those enemies.

How can we follow the call of Jesus? Here's somewhere to start:

Check your attitude and fear at the door and invite at least two unchurched people to our Easter Extravaganza this week!

 

 

Listen to the whole message:

Reconciling the God of the Old Testament with the God of the New

Cima_da_Conegliano,_God_the_Father Creation_of_the_Sun_and_Moon_face_detailHave you ever heard someone say that they feel like the Bible talks about two different Gods? One that is angry and vengeful, which we see in the Old Testament, and one that is merciful and loving, which we see in the New? I have heard some people try to explain this seeming difficulty by trying to say that God changes, but we can't say that because God never changes (see Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, and James 1:17)! I know that each of us only has so much time in our day, so this post will not go too deep. I'm going to try to keep it short and simple, just giving you an understanding of how we reconcile the picture of God we see in the Old and New Testaments. Firstly, there is only one God who exists as three persons in the Trinity (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). God is the same yesterday, today and forever. What has changed is our route to God. One of the reasons it is so important for Christians to read books of the Bible like Leviticus is to give us a reminder of how holy God is. He is so perfect he cannot allow sin to even approach him. He made us perfect, but left us a choice so we could have the freedom to choose to love and obey him or turn away. We chose poorly.

Fortunately, God had a plan in motion from the moment that he created us--because he knows everything (see Isaiah 55:9, Job 28:24, 1 John 3:19-20). I don't know why he chose the plan that he did, but I do know that, coming from God, His plan is a perfect plan. After the Fall (see Genesis 3) the world quickly spun out of control; so God, seeing one righteous man (Noah) cleared the earth of the horrid things that were happening with a worldwide flood (which he promised to never do again). Then God picked a righteous man named Abram (later named Abraham) and made a covenant with him, to make him into a nation that God would personally bless. The intention was that this nation would show God's love and power to the world. Unfortunately, it became an exclusive club.

When we read of God laying out the rules to approach him we get the sense that nothing really makes us quite good enough. In fact, the whole sacrificial system (killing animals as atonement for our sins) was based around the fact that all who sin are deserving of death in God's eyes. Therefore, we see a God who, when the people he revealed himself to turn away, was (justly) a God of wrath and would often wipe out large numbers of people. At the same time, he was a God who loved his people and would listen to the prayers of these peoples' godly leaders.

Come the New Testament, where--it now being the fullness of time--"God so loved the world that he sent his only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Jesus' whole mission is to die on a cross. Why? Because up until that point in time a sacrifice only atoned for past sin, which didn't work so well as people were always sinning. When Jesus (who was perfect) went to the cross God put the burden for all mankind's sin upon Jesus, making Jesus the perfect and final sacrifice for humanity's sins.

All we have to do is believe that Jesus Christ, God's Son (but also the One God), came to earth as fully man and fully God, bore our sins on the cross (because God loves us and wants us to be saved), died, descended to hell and took the keys of life and death from Satan's grasp, rose again three days later, and now lives in heaven again. If you believe that and in the fact that belief in Jesus is the only way to spend eternity with God in heaven, you're saved!

Now, back to our reconciliation of just and wrathful God vs merciful and loving God. They are one in the same and have never changed. God is still just. People that do or think bad things (in other words, sin)--as we all do--justly deserve death for working against their perfect Creator: God. God is justly wrathful at what they have done. God has also always been merciful (saving Lot from Sodom is an Old Testament example) and loving (he desires to be with his children). But now, because of Jesus, those of us who are Christians are now covered over by Christ's blood and our sins are no more. God looks at us and sees his son's perfection. He could justly send us to live an eternity in hell, but his Son paid that price for us. So now, even though we mess up, we're forgiven because we are standing in the identity of Christ.

However, we still live in a fallen world--that doesn't get fixed until all the events in the book of Revelation have taken place. Therefore, the question of "why does a loving God allow..." can be summed up with God being just and the fact that God created a perfect world and handed us its future--which we decided would include imperfection when we sinned in the Garden of Eden. So now we (justly) have what we have until God institutes the New Heaven and New Earth. And I'm looking forward to that day.

In conclusion, we can see that there is no reconciliation of the God we see in the Old and New Testaments. He has never changed, but Jesus' sacrifice for us has changed our approach to him.

We would love to hear from you. Leave your comments below or on our Facebook page!

--Pastor Stephen Valcourt pastorstephen