Jonah’s Grace

My early experience of Christianity did not include much grace. Oh yes, I believed that Jesus died for my sins. I hoped for Heaven as my eternal home, but in my mind God was less a friend and more like a Cop waiting in life’s speed trap.  I thought He lurked at the edges of my life waiting to catch me doing wrong! Only later did I come to understand that He is just and holy and full of grace for me. His desire, I discovered, is for my success and salvation. Yes, friend, ”He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  (2 Peter 3:9)  This phrase became mine:  The One who knows you best, loves you most!

On Monday we looked Jonah’s refusal of God’s call. He ran away, a rebel, in the opposite direction from Nineveh.  The Lord God could have dropped the hammer on the guy, stopping him in his tracks. He didn’t.  The grace of our Heavenly Father shines in that story.  A terrible storm threatened to sink the ship on which Jonah sailed.  Knowing he was responsible for the storm the rebel preacher told the crew to toss him overboard. He thought he deserved to die, and he did.

But, here is where we find God’s grace:   “But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17, NIV)   The wayward preacher had not repented, nor had he prayed, but God extended a gift– a great fish. There in the belly of the fish Jonah regained perspective. 

Amazing, isn’t it, that our vision can become so clear a day too late? 

He prayed, repented, and God gave grace again. “And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” (Jonah 2:10, NIV)  The undeserved gifts kept coming. “Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”” (Jonah 3:1-2, NIV)  Yes, God was willing to give him a second opportunity to obey.

That is the God I came to KNOW after my own failure. He is not a vengeful God Who delights in catching us in sin. Yes, He is holy. He knows that sin kills, that rebellion has real consequences. However, when He moves in correction, it is not to punish us. He is redemptive, full of grace, wanting to turn us around to find life to the full. This is the Gospel of Christ!

Fast forward in the Bible to the story of another man’s failure and experience of grace.

Peter was warned by Jesus that he was too self-confident. When he boasted that ‘even if all these guys fail you, I never will,’  Jesus told him he would fail badly in the next hours before the rooster crowed the next morning. And, he did!  When pressed about his relationship with Jesus while standing in the courtyard outside of the place where Jesus was trial, fear overwhelmed him and he denied Jesus: not once, not twice, but three times. The moment the last words were uttered, Peter was overwhelmed by shame.  And why not, right?   That kind of failure would be a good reason to toss him off the team.

But, grace rules. Weeks later, John tells us a beautiful story of restoration. Peter was broken, had returned to Galilee and his fishing boat, full of shame.   The resurrected Lord showed up on the beach early in the morning and called out to the men. Peter recognized the voice of Jesus and quickly went to the beach where there was breakfast prepared.  And then this –  “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”” (John 21:15, NIV)  Restoration! Grace!  

By the way, Jesus asked Peter that question three times, forcing Peter to remember his great failure and to know forgiveness in the depths of his heart.  And we know the rest of the story. Peter went on to become full of the Spirit, leading those first Christians and taking the message of Jesus to thousands.

Oh, how we need to experience grace and give grace.  God loves YOU, friend. Oh, He knows the failures, the secret sins, the hypocrisies, the gaps. And He also knows the cost of willful rebellion, but He has prepared a Way to restoration, holds open the door to the Presence of God, desiring that you will live in the center of His love. Receive His grace with humble gratitude today.

The word from the Word is a passage dear to me. How I pray that these words will become the Word of God for you, real and true in your life, by faith.  We deserve to die “but because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9, NIV)

____________

Goodness Of God

I love You Lord
Oh Your mercy never fails me
All my days
I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
I will sing of the goodness of God

All my life You have been faithful
All my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a father
I’ve known You as a friend
I have lived in the goodness of God

Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down
I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

Ben Fielding | Brian Johnson | Ed Cash | Jason Ingram | Jenn Johnson

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