Ever wonder why God didn’t stop Jonah before he ever even got to Joppa? He could have, you know. But instead, He allowed Jonah to make the 60-or-so mile trip from Gath-hepher to Joppa, allowed Jonah to find a ship that was willing to take him, and allowed Jonah to have the money to pay his fare. Know why? Because God was being merciful to Jonah.
Merciful? Doesn’t it sound instead like God was providing Jonah more than ample rope to hang himself? Uh uh. From the moment Jonah got up and pointed himself at Joppa, the Holy Spirit was prodding Jonah’s conscience:
“This is wrong.”
“Don’t do this.”
…giving him chance after chance to turn from his sin and back to God. Jonah must have heard God mercifully pleading with him with every step he took from front porch to gangplank, yet he hardened his heart, stiffened his neck, and refused to obey. And when you do that long enough, God eventually says, “Fine. That’s the way you want it? Have at it.” He lets go and gives us over to the sin we think we want to live in (Exodus 7:14, 8:15, 19, 9:12; Romans 1:18-28). But there’s always a price to pay. Usually, a high one, as Jonah soon found out.
How about you? Have you ever been to Joppa? If you’ve never taken the pro-active step of turning sorrowfully away from your sin and placing your faith in Christ, then you’re on the road to Joppa, just like Jonah was. Every day, God is mercifully calling you to stop going down that road of rebellion against Him and turn around and run to Him in repentance and faith.
You see, we’re all guilty of rebelling against God (Romans3:23, Psalm 14:2-3), whether we’re “good guys” like Jonah, who grew up in church, or “bad guys” like the Ninevites, doing every disgusting thing we can dream up. We’ve broken His laws, and when you break the law, you suffer the penalty. In our American legal system, that usually means jail time. In God’s legal system those who break His laws (even the “little” ones like white lies, selfishness, gossip…) receive an eternity in Hell. We deserve it. We’re using the life He created for us to spit in His face with every breath He gives us.
But the great news is that God loves us anyway. And just as He didn’t want to do what He was about to do to Jonah, and just as He didn’t want to destroy the Ninevites, He doesn’t want to send us to hell. So, He provided us a “get out of jail free” card in the form of His son, Jesus. Jesus stepped in and volunteered to go to the cross and take your punishment so that God could legally dismiss your case. He got your punishment, you can get His perfection.
But it’s not automatic. You must affirmatively turn from your life of sin, and—fully believing in Jesus’ death, burial, and bodily resurrection— place your faith in His payment for your sin by surrendering your whole heart, life and will to Him. There is no other way to be saved from your sin and go to Heaven—not by doing enough good things to outweigh the bad, not by church membership or being baptized, not by parroting a “sinner’s prayer”, only through repentance and faith in Jesus.
If God is calling you to turn to Him, be sure to do so today (II Corinthians 6:1-2). Don’t put it off, because, while God may be a God of second chances, He’s not a God of unlimited chances. If you continue to tell Him no, He will eventually take “no” for an answer. And, unfortunately, there’s something infinitely worse than a storm and a whale waiting for you if He does.
Are you absolutely certain you are saved? If you are, the way you think and live will show it. The Bible says that we should examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith (II Corinthians 13:5). The John MacArthur Study Bible has a great evaluation tool for testing yourself. Take some time to go through it and talk with the Lord about these aspects of your faith.
The Character of Genuine Saving Faith
I. Evidences That Neither Prove Nor Disprove One’s Faith
- Visible Morality: Matthew19:16-21;23:27.
- Intellectual Knowledge: Romans 1:21; 2:17ff.
- Religious Involvement: Matthew 25:1-10
- Active Ministry: Matthew 7:21-24
- Conviction of Sin: Acts 24:25
- Assurance: Matthew 23
- Time of Decision: Luke 8:13, 14
II. The Fruit/Proofs of Authentic/True Christianity:
- Love for God: Psalm 42:1ff; 73:25; Luke10:27; Romans 8:7
- Repentance from Sin: Psalm 32:5; Proverbs 28:13; Romans 7:14ff; 2 Corinthians7:10; 1 John 1:8-10
- Genuine Humility: Psalm 51:17; Matthew 5:1-12; James 4:6, 9ff.
- Devotion to God’s Glory: Psalm 105:3; 115:1; Isaiah 43:7, 48:10ff.; Jeremiah9:23, 24; 1 Corinthians10:31
- Continual Prayer: Luke 18:1; Ephesians 6:18ff.; Philippians 4:6ff.; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; James5:16-18
- Selfless Love: 1 John 2:9ff, 3:14; 4:7ff.
- Separation from the World: 1 Corinthians 2:12; James 4:4ff.; 1 John2:15-17, 5:5
- Spiritual Growth: Luke 8:15; John 15:1-6; Ephesians 4:12-16
- Obedient Living: Matthew 7:21; John 15:14ff.; Romans16:26; 1 Peter 1:2, 22; 1 John 2:3-5
If List I is true of a person and List II is false, there is cause to question the validity of one’s profession of faith. Yet if List II is true, then the top list will be also.
If you’ve never placed your faith in Christ:
Repent: of your sin.
Request: that God take your old life and give you the new life that comes through faith in Christ.
Seek God: for his direction as you begin to walk as a new creature in Christ.
If you are saved, please pray for the lost who are reading this lesson today, and any other lost person in your life. Ask God to draw them to Himself and open their eyes to the truth of the Gospel.