2011 06 19

God’s Secret Identity

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

June 19th, 2011  http://FirstPresTucker.org

at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker

Father’s Day Sunday 2011

Jonah 4:2  English Standard Version

2 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.[1]

Jonah was commissioned twice by the Lord to prophesy the glory of His name to the Ninevites. Jonah didn’t want to tell God’s enemies of His love, so he fled to Tarshish – 1500 miles in the opposite direction.

Jonah tries to abandon His evangelistic commission as many churches try to abandon the Great Commission given by Jesus who said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.

God wants His message proclaimed. He will do whatever is necessary to get that message proclaimed.

But Jonah tried to flee that responsibility.

So God sends a storm that disrupts the whole community. God often does that. When the church of Jesus Christ is derelict in their evangelistic duty, the whole community suffers. I believe there are social storms in our community today as a direct result of the church not fulfilling it’s God given commission. There is poverty of faith. The moral foundations of the family and of a good and noble culture are crumbling.

Our community will not turn around until we as the church stop acting like Jonah. We must take up the call to speak evangelistic words to our neighbors.

This is why God commands the church to repent before God asks the community to repent. If we who are called by God’s name will humble ourselves, and pray, and seek His face, and turn from our wicked ways, then God will hear from heaven, will forgive our sin and heal our land. This is a promise to address our failing schools, our increased divorce rate, and the culture of crime and drugs. We repent first and we live Spirit enabled holy lives. The community follows us to Christ and the social welfare is enhanced. This is still God’s plan.

But Jonah wasn’t willing to speak about God’s love to his enemies. That’s also still true in the church today. Race, economic barriers, and cultural divides keep the church from speaking about God’s love to their neighbors.

Like Jonah, sometimes we only speak about God’s wrath to people we don’t like.

So God sends the storms. And if we could draw lots today, we would suffer the same fate as Jonah. The social storms within our world still fall at the feet of the church, not the drunken sailors.

So God, in His great mercy, provides a fish to swallow Jonah. God protects the message of the Gospel even though it comes through less than perfect people.

And after three days in the belly of a fish, Jonah finally proclaims God’s message to the unconverted peoples of Nineveh.

There is a great lesson here. No prophet and no church can ever thwart God’s gracious and eternal purposes of making His glory known. Psalm 19:1-2 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.

Yet, while the glory of God is revealed within the creation, the love of God must be verbally proclaimed. Romans 10:14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

God’s glory is preached every day by the creation. God’s love is a secret until we share it with our neighbor. And if we fail to proclaim that God is Love, then the true identity of the Father remains a secret.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

We must ensure that our message about God is filled with love, and not just the warning of judgment.

Jonah kept five traits about God’s true identity a secret.

First, the true identity of God the Father is that He is gracious. Grace is being given something we do not deserve. When we break the law we deserve to be punished, not forgiven. We deserve the penalty of the law. But (G-R-A-C-E) God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense are gifted to us because of God’s love.

As soon as the Ninevites repented, God forgave their transgressions. God’s true identity is filled with grace. Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

Second, the true identity of God the Father is that He is merciful. Mercy is not giving us what we do deserve. While we receive the goodness of God that we don’t deserve by grace, we don’t receive the judgment of God that we do deserve by mercy.

God would have been righteous to give the Ninevites the judgment they deserved. God’s mercy held back judgment to provide more time for the people to repent. God is merciful to His enemies.

God would have been righteous to give Jonah the judgment he deserved. God’s mercy held back judgment to provide more time for Jonah to repent. God is merciful to the lazy church.

Third, the true identity of God the Father is that He is slow to anger. God is simply being true to Himself when He does not immediately destroy His enemies. The Ninevites were the enemies of God and the enemies of the people of God. Jonah wanted God to stop dillydallying around and destroy these enemies.

And God had promised to destroy His enemies eventually. 2 Peter 3:9 reminds us why God delays: The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God delays His judgment to provide extra time to repent. We do not live in the Day of Wrath, but the Day of Salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

But God’s judgment doesn’t get delayed forever. There is an end to His patience. Revelation 2:21 I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling.

Have you been unwilling to be embraced by your heavenly Father? God isn’t tingling with delight with the prospect of judging you for your sin. He is ready to give you the riches of Christ (grace), to withhold judgment by His mercy, and He slows His anger to provide more time to repent. What are we waiting for!?

Fourth, the true identity of God the Father is that He is abundant in loving-kindness.

God loves the drunken sailors. God loves the wayward prophet. God loves the Ninevites who trouble His chosen people. God even loves Jonah when Jonah becomes angry at God.

The loving-kindness of God even extends to the animals. God loves everybody.

And God derives no pleasure from the death of the wicked. God doesn’t execute His wrath irresponsibly. God doesn’t carpet bomb the world with senseless suffering.

God is a God of life. God preserves life. God cares and loves all His creatures.

I know this is hard to believe, but every action of God in your life is supported by His abundant loving-kindness.

Let me explain what this word means in the Hebrew. There are many words the Spirit of God could have used to describe God’s love.

Sympathy is when you look out your car window and see someone begging for money. We feel sorry for them and wish them good luck. We might open our window and give them money. That’s sympathy.

Loving-kindness is looking out your car window and seeing your mother begging for bread. Our heart breaks. We stop the car. We go get our mom and we meet her needs.

God looks out the window and sees His children in need of a loving Father to take them into His strong arms and hold them fast.

God feels that way toward His enemies. God opened the door of heaven and sent His only Begotten Son to trade places with His enemies.

God loves people we don’t love. God even loves us in our loveless moments. God loved this world so much that He gave His Only Begotten Son to die for the sins of the world. Don’t be angry that God loves people you don’t like. God loves you too.

Finally, the true identity of God the Father is that He delights in withholding punishment. We already touched on this when we said that God was slow to anger. But even God’s anger eventually boils over and payment for sin must be made.

God’s anger boiled over during the time of Noah. God flooded the world killing everyone in it. God’s anger boiled over on the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

When God’s anger boils over the debt must be made. There is a day of accountability. The wages of sin is death. It is appointed unto all men to die, and after that there is judgment.

But God doesn’t want us to pay that debt on the day of judgment. God delights in withholding punishment.

Like a loving Father, God pulls out His own money and pays our debt. God paid our debt on Mount Calvary so that we could go free. God withholds punishment for us by placing our punishment on Jesus.

Our good works can’t save us. The sailors couldn’t get clear of the storm. Jonah couldn’t get out of the fish. The Ninevites couldn’t free themselves from God’s judgment. But God’s love rescued them all according to the good purposes of His sovereign will.

Friends, the world needs to know the true identity of God.

We will not be spared God’s discipline if we act like Jonah and stay in our home country, praying that God will hasten the day He destroys the unrighteous.

And we will be no better than Jonah if we go to tell the world of God’s pending judgment, and yet keep God’s love a secret.

Like Jonah, we are commissioned to tell the world God’s full message. Judgment and mercy. Blessing and curse. Wrath and grace.

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

God will be angry with us if we sit idle on the hillside and wait for the exciting fireworks of Divine wrath. As Paul puts it, God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).

God doesn’t want His church more worried about our comforts than the lost children in the city. Speaking to the people of God, Jeremiah said, Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the LORD your God. Then the LORD will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you, (Jeremiah 26:13).

If need be, God will send worms to eat away at our comforts to propel us back into the Great Commission: winning the lost for Christ. Financial discomfort and waning membership are the work of God motivating us back into the work of the Great Commission.

May God bless the church with more time to repent that we have kept the love of God the best kept secret of our time.

Joel 2:13, Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Let us turn back to the Lord.

[1] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.


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