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JONAH: House Rules    Jonah 3:1-10

We’re going to be camping out in Jonah 3 today.  Let me just give you a bird’s-eye view of where we’ve been. The book of Jonah is a story of a portion of the life of Jonah, and you sort of need one step and one phase to build on the other.  Hop online to fill yourself in on the blanks I’ll leave out today.

Jonah is a prophet of God who prophesied in roughly the eighth century BC.  He was a contemporary of Amos and Hosea.  They were both prophesying at the same time.  Amos and Hosea had a hard word for Israel.  They said that Jeroboam II was using his militaristic might and power in order to expand the empire and they were not okay with that.  Jonah, however, was just fine with that.  He wanted to see Israel expand at any extent and in any degree and he was happy with however that happened.  This is the book we have of Jonah’s “prophecy;” in many ways the book is more prophetic than Jonah.  We’re going to see that today as it comes to light.

The first chapter of Jonah, we saw that God gave Jonah a call to go as a prophet to Nineveh, which is almost directly east of where Jonah was.  We see that Jonah goes directly west; he goes and runs from the place of pain and brokenness, in Nineveh, to pleasure and tropics in Tarshish.  Week one, we said it’s often easier to run from God than it is to trust God.  When we run, we get the perception of control.  When we trust, we have to surrender.  Jonah is met in his running with a storm.  The storm is harsh and difficult, but rather than being a punishment for Jonah, the storm is actually God’s pursuit.  God refuses to let Jonah continue to run and continue to be disobedient.  He confronts him and starts to call him home.  Larry Boatright did a wonderful job, last week, teaching on Jonah’s prayer in the belly of a fish.  Larry reminded us that it’s often those moments of rock bottom where we start to be reborn, isn’t it?  Where God starts to save when we feel like we’ve entered the grave.  Today we pick up the story after Jonah is “vomited out upon dry land.”

Big idea of the book of Jonah is that a resentful prophet meets a relentless God.  We’re going to see a piece of God’s relentless nature today.  Verse 1, chapter 3 of Jonah.  No shame using the Table of Contents.  Jonah’s small.  He’s buried in the minor prophets; they’re minor not because they’re unimportant, but because they’re short.  Here we go:  Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah the second time, {This is a picture of mercy.} saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.”  So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh.  

Jut a quick time out.  Does this sound familiar to anyone?  Arise and go to Nineveh.  This is almost verbatim, what God said to Jonah in chapter 1.  Remember, we said, week one, that Jonah is both prophetic AND poetic.  It’s beautiful in its literature.  There’s this sort of ebb and flow and this rhythm that we’re suppose to see that yes, this is like a rebirth of sorts that Jonah is experiencing.  Instead of saying no, like he did the first time around, Jonah says yes.  Begrudgingly.  Yes.

So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.  Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days’ journey in breadth.   How many of you have a little note in your Bible, maybe a one, next to “great city?”  If you read the note, a lot of the scholars will say, yeah, Nineveh was a very large city and it took three days to go through it.  Archaeology and archaeological discovery would say that Nineveh was around seven miles in circumference.  Now, unless Jonah is really, really slow, he could make it seven miles in one day, could he not?  A lot of the scholars will say—and I don’t think they’re wrong—that Nineveh was just a large city, which it was by ancient standards, it was also a very influential city.  In an influential city, you had a methodology by which you entered it, especially if you were a prophet.  Day one, you would enter.  Day two, you would be received with hospitality, and day three you would leave.  What we see in Jonah is that he doesn’t have the chance to get all the way into the rhythm of the city of Nineveh before he preaches and before the people start to respond.

Verse 4 — Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey.  And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”   That’s it.  I mean, all this pageantry.  Jonah runs.  Jonah swallowed by a fish.  Jonah’s barfed up on dry land.  Jonah’s finally called to go.  And when he goes, he preaches, in the Hebrew, five words!  Five word sermon!  We’re suppose to go……Jonah….anything else?!  Flip over a few books to the right and look at the prophet Nahum’s prophecy against Nineveh.  That’s how you prophesy against a city!  The entire book is his (Nahum’s) prophecy.  Jonah has FIVE words.  You’re going down!  Scholars have wrestled with this, like, what are we suppose to make of Jonah’s “prophecy?”  It’s fairly lackluster.  It lacks most of what you would assume a prophet of God would deliver.  Who’s the prophecy from?  We don’t know.  What are the people suppose to do?  We don’t know.  What are they on the hook for?  We don’t know.  Five words!  That’s it!

I wrestled with this, and I think we have two options.  First, I think this could be, what we could term, prophetic sabotage.  Jonah’s barfed up onto dry land and he goes, God, you’re going to send me again?  Fine! If we have kids, we know this face, don’t we?  I will do what you say, but I won’t like it, and I will do the minimum requirements.  I’m not going above and beyond.  I will begrudgingly drag my feet, and I will do it….check, it is done, thank you very much, give me credit!    That could be one way of reading it and to be honest with you, I read it that way for most of my time studying this text, until I started to see….I don’t know that the narrative arch of this account demands that we only read it through the lens of Jonah, which I think that reading does.  What if we start to read it through the lens of Nineveh?  What if, instead of this being the worst sermon that was ever preached, which it might have been, we see the greatest repentance ever offered?  The greatest turn ever made.  What if there was way more to Jonah’s sermon, and the Ninevites just said, “We’re in!”  You’re right!  And he’s like, I’ve got four more points about how wrong you are.  We know we’re wrong!  We’re in!  So here’s the takeaway:  If you repent during the introduction of the message, the message will be shorter!  You’re welcome!  So option one is it’s prophetic sabotage, but option two is it’s the Ninevites just going well, yeah, you’re right and we’re wrong!

So here’s my question:  Could that have actually happened?  Could a foreign prophet stumble into the Red Light District of Amsterdam, give a five word “you’re wrong” sermon, drop his mic, walk out, and have the entire district go, “You’re right. We repent and our whole nation repents also.”  Could that actually happen?  Yeah! Yeah, it could.  Let me give you one sort of scenario.  What if Jonah—I’ve read this in a few books and have heard it from a few people—is like bright white because he’s covered in bile from a large fish?  And he walks in and delivers this message, and they’re like, we are scared and we hear you.  I don’t know, that’s an option.

What if….    he Assyrians were spiritual people.  They were not followers of Yahweh, but they were spiritual people.  So a lot of scholars who write about Jonah say well, maybe God was sort of tilling the ground for Nineveh.  Maybe there was an ecstatic sign in the sky.  Maybe there was an eclipse.  Maybe there was a famine.  Maybe they were attacked.  The Assyrians would have attributed all of those to signs from God.  In fact, June 15, 763 B.C. there was an eclipse, around the same time Jonah’s prophesying probably.  So he delivers his message, maybe on the heels of this eclipse, and they go well, sure.  What’s really interesting is if you read through ancient Assyrian texts, when they talk about one of these omens being declared following an eclipse, they mandate mass repentance.  Including the animals, they are called to repent.  In their own texts!  Is it possible?  Sure.

We’ve seen it happen before.  In 1907, there was a Bible conference in North Korea.  The preacher, at this Bible conference, spoke this word over this group of people that the way they’d been treating the Chinese was wrong.  It landed on them with this weight.  Collectively, they said, “You’re right.”  Everyone that was at this conference went home, and the story goes that they started going neighbor to neighbor to neighbor repenting of the wrong that they had done.  It changed the spiritual landscape of that area.  You can look at 1730-1740 in the U.S., in what we would call the Great Awakening.  In our country, for two decades, there was this repentance that led to life.  We saw something like this happen in our own country.  Lean in for a moment.  Anytime revival takes place, repentance always precedes it.  That’s what we saw in the Great Awakening.  That’s what we start to see in this book of Jonah. 

Look at the content of this sermon with me.  This really, really short sermon.  Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!  This isn’t the kind of sermon that draws a lot of crowds, is it?   This isn’t the like, you’re a snowflake, you’re unique, you’re amazing, you’re awesome, Jesus loves you.  All those things are true, but this isn’t that sermon, is it?  This is a sermon of what we would call judgment.  Judgment is just simply saying something is right and something is wrong.  We make judgments every single day.  We make judgments when we’re writing…..Do we use the Oxford comma or not?  Please, use the Oxford comma!  Should the National League adopt the designated hitter?  No, absolutely not!  Should you put pineapple on pizza?  NO!  This is a word from the Lord—NO!  And it’s a judgment against everybody that wants to!  Should God have created cats?  NO!!!

We make judgments every single day about a myriad of different things.  Kelly and I were checking into different hotels during our time in Costa Rica.  Every single one of them handed us a list of rules, a list of judgments, if you will, when we checked in.  Things we were and were not allowed to do.  They all had different rules.  Some of the rules were sort of humorous, like:  You’re not allowed to flush your toilet paper.  That wasn’t all that humorous actually.  One was make sure that the screen door that leads out to your patio or balcony remains locked at all times, because the monkeys are smart enough to get in the doors and they’ll come in and eat your food if you don’t lock it.  I’m like…..Unlock, let’s see this go down!  Here’s what we didn’t do:  We didn’t look at the rules, read them, and say this:  What in the world gives YOU the right to tell ME what to do?!  You know why?  Because it’s not my hotel.  They are allowed to tell me what to do, what I’m allowed to do while I’m there because they own the hotel!  It’s theirs!  Whoever owns the space gets to make the determination about what’s right and what’s wrong.  Since God designed the house, he gets to decide on the rules.

I can say that I really want my car to run on diesel.  I can go over and fill up my 2008 Honda Pilot with diesel over at the gas station.  I can fill it up and get in it and what’s going to happen?  I didn’t know either, but it’s not good probably, right?  It’s not going to run, is it?  I can say my car should run on diesel, but the reality is that I didn’t design my car and I don’t get to decide.  It runs on unleaded, thank you, Mr. Honda.  I don’t get to decide that.

When God pronounces a judgment—this is right, this is wrong—against Nineveh, he does so as the owner of the house. He gets to decide what’s right because he designed it.  Whoever designs gets to decide.  Here’s what he decides, verse 8.  Nineveh gets it.  What are they being judged for?  They’re evil and their violence.  Their wickedness, that we talked about in week one, and violence could be social injustice, the way that they treat their neighbor.  The way that they take advantage of the people around them.  God looks at them and says, “My law is love and my gospel is peace.  Those are my house rules.  You’re not living by my house rules, and you are wrong!”  That’s the content of Jonah’s sermon.

We hear a word of judgment—that’s what this is—and immediately we’re taken aback a bit.  We may start to get a little bit fidgety.  We may start to think, “This is why I walked away from the church.”  Or, these are the types of sermons I’m glad I didn’t invite anybody to come to.  Or maybe, I can’t believe I invited them to come….TODAY.  I started to think about judgment and I think if I wouldn’t have written my outline on a plane and had had a few more days, I think this may have been my main idea:  God’s judgment is not the problem, it’s actually the solution.  The thing that makes us go, “Oh, I’m not sure I like that about God,” is the very thing that we want God to be.  It’s the very thing that we go—if we actually take time to think about it and process it—oh whew!  Oh whew!

But it comes at us and it feels harsh.  Let me show you from Jonah 3:9; here’s what the Ninevites say:  Who knows? God may turn and relent {Repent may be a more accurate translation.} and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.   We don’t love those verses, do we?  They make us feel pretty uncomfortable.  I guess I’ll speak first person, “They make me pretty uncomfortable.”  Here’s the question, right?  We talk a lot about a God of love…..Your love won’t leave me here.  All the earth will praise your name.  You’re amazing!  Every breath….yeah, all that.  So is God a God of love or is God a God of judgment?  Is Jesus what God is like or is God fiercely angry at the wickedness and injustice and evil that he saw in Nineveh?  Which one is it?

One of the major objections I’ve heard from friends and people that I’ve interacted with about God when they find out that I’m a pastor at a Christian church is how can you believe in a God that’s so judgmental?  Is that really what Jesus was like?

In 2009, there was an atheist group in Great Britain that pooled money and ran an ad campaign that appeared on, roughly, 1000 buses around Britain.  Their ad said:  There’s probably no God.  Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.  Like, Jonah 3:9….This angry God?  Probably not there.  So stop worrying and enjoy your life.  Think of all the implications that this little tag line says.  One, if there is a God, you should be worried.  If there is a God, you’re probably going to have a pretty hard time enjoying your life.  If there isn’t a God, things would be so much better.  They looked at it and went man, if God is indeed a God of judgment, we don’t need him and he probably doesn’t exist anyway, so let’s not live under the weight of THAT.  Let’s walk in life.

I think it was January 31st, this year, this story broke.  The Houston Chronicle revealed that over the last few decades that there had been massive, massive abuse within the Catholic Church.  Priests taking advantage of kids, primarily young boys.  Love or judgment?  As Protestants, we don’t get off the hook, you guys.  They also revealed that within the Southern Baptist Church, over the course of twenty years, over 700 kids had come forward to say, “Me too!”  So is the loving thing for God to do is to say, “Oh well, what a bummer?”  I know that a lot of you guys have walked that road, so the question is more personal for us.  What do we do with that?  Does God look at that and just go what a bummer?  Would you look at that, as a parent, and go, what a bummer?

The truth of the matter is, friends, God is love, God has always been love.  Jesus is what God is like.  He reveals God in all of His fullness, but God’s judgment does not conflict with his love, it actually reveals his love.  The most unloving thing that God could do is turn a blind eye to hurt and pain in the fracture of his creation and the good shalom that he designed us to live in.  So as Elie Wiesel says: “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”  Please hear me.  God is not indifferent.  He’s not indifferent.  He’s fiercely, ferociously, lovingly for his creation.  When God speaks against Nineveh, he’s doing it because he loves Nineveh, and he loves the people Nineveh is abusing.  He loves them both and knows it would be the worse thing for the Ninevites to go on living in the hell that they’re creating, so he calls them out.  And he knows that it would be terrible for the people on the other end of the spear to continue to experience that as well.  God can’t ignore sin.  That would be the most unloving thing he could do.  He judges it because he loves.  {Look up at me.}  You WANT a God who judges.

Jesus made this interesting statement, as he’s walking to the cross, listen to what he says.  John records this for us in John 12:31-33.  We did a whole sermon on this text last year, in our “Four Days That Changed the World” series.  If you want to hop online and watch it, I think it’s “Thursday.”  Here’s what it says:  Now is the time for judgment on this world; {He’s talking about the cross.  The cross is God’s judgment.}  now the prince of this world will be driven out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.  He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.  So God’s judgment has both this confrontational dynamic to it AND comforting dynamic to it.  It confronts, in that it drives out evil.  It comforts, in it draws in people.  That’s what God’s judgment does; it’s two sides to the same coin.  Driving out evil.  Drawing in people.  Love and justice.  Same coin, two sides.  

We can go, oh man, I’m really grateful God judges the Ninevites, and I’m really grateful God judges the devil, the enemy.  I’m grateful he drives him out, them out, their evil out.  But God doesn’t just judge the other.  God judges you.  God judges me.  It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love us.  He judges us because he loves us.  Like a surgeon coming in with a knife, saying this is going to hurt a little bit, but I want to kill the thing that’s killing you. So his judgment both hurts and it heals.  But it doesn’t conflict with his love, friends.  Please put that false dichotomy, that infantile thinking out of your mind.  God’s love is actually revealed in his judgment, it does NOT conflict with it.

Jonah 3:5-9.  And the people of Nineveh believed God.  They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.  The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything.  Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God.  Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows?  God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”

Does anyone else wonder what it looks like for a cow to cry out to God?  Mooo, I was wrong.  It was non-fat milk, I admit it.  I don’t know.  I don’t know what the cows are on the hook for either.  It’s intended to be something that sort of pushes up against us a little bit, and ironically, makes this really, really deep point.  The fracture of sin goes all the way to the very fabric and fiber of creation.  So even the cows go, we’re wrong.  We’re all a part of it.  No one is off the hook.  So notice the Ninevites don’t just say, oh yeah, we’ve got to pray this prayer so that we can be accepted by God.  They go and start putting on sackcloth and ashes, and they change because they know that repentance that doesn’t involve change isn’t repentance.  It’s not just a cognitive thing for them, it’s a daily, it’s a life thing for them.  The reality, friends, is that God’s judgment does not only call something wrong—it does that.  He makes a judgment: this is right, this is wrong.  But it intends to bring about repentance.  {Slide: God’s judgment doesn’t only call something wrong, it intends to bring about repentance.} That’s always, always, ALWAYS His goal.

When Jesus steps onto the scene, the very first sermon, or message, that Matthew records him giving is this: Repent,  {Turn!  You’re going one direction.  You think one thing.  Turn!}  for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)   What’s really interesting is that Matthew doesn’t say this is the first sermon Jesus preached.  What Matthew says is this is what Jesus began to preach and never stopped.  This was his message.  Repent!  Imbedded within this message is two things: one, it’s this declaration.  Hey, Humanity, you’ve been wrong.  You’ve been wrong about your injustices.  Just go on and read The Sermon on the Mount.  Humanity, which follows this declaration repent, you’ve been wrong about holding onto your anger.  You’ve been wrong to continue to hate your enemies.  You’ve been wrong to live in the way of lust rather than in the way of love.  You have been wrong to live judging and pronouncing condemnation on the people around you.  You. Have. Been. Wrong.  It’s a declaration.

And there’s an invitation: Repent!  Turn!  The kingdom of heaven is here.  It’s here.  God doesn’t just call something wrong, he wants to make it right.  The question is: Do we want God’s right?  Do we want the house rules?  Do we want to play by our own rules?  No, my anger’s justified. The way that I spend my money, that’s justified.  What I do with my sexuality, that’s justified.  God, I’ll take your house rules for the majority of my life, but for these portions of my life, I’m playing by MY house rules.  Do we want His house rules?  There are some who think that God’s house rules—his law is love, his gospel is peace—are like a straitjacket.  I want to tell you, this may be the best news you hear all day, if you view God’s law of love as a straitjacket, the most loving, beautiful news I could announce to you is you’re wrong.  You’re wrong!  Our addictions are a straitjacket.  Our anger’s a straitjacket.  Clinging to vain idols, that’s a straitjacket.  Our false selves that we need to protect at every turn…that’s a straitjacket.  The invitation to Jesus is an invitation to life, and life abundant, and life full.

Here’s what the people do.  I’m praying that God would stir something in us, that we would do the same.  Three things that they do.  One, the Ninevites look at the fracture of shalom their sin has caused and they’re sorrowful over it.  There’s this covering of sackcloth and ashes.  When you walked in, you got a string of sackcloth.  Pull that out.  The reason the king covers himself with sackcloth and sits down in ashes is because it doesn’t feel good.  That’s the point.  When you cover yourself in it, you remember.  You remember the wrong.  You remember the hurt.  It’s not comfortable.  Lulu Lemon’s not coming out with a sackcloth line.  H&M doesn’t have a spring “Sackcloth is Here!”  It’s just not going to happen.  There’s a reason for that.  It’s uncomfortable.  Maybe you tie that around your wrist and you enter into this man, God, help me to see the way my anger…  Help me to see the way that my lust…  Help me see the way that my addiction to preserving me…  Help me see the way that having to get the last word has actually fractured the good shalom that you wanted to create in my life.  Help me see it.

For the Ninevites, there’s this intentional turning.  They don’t just keep walking in the same direction.  When we talk about spiritual practices, it’s us saying God, we believe that you’re right, and we want to partner with your spirit’s work in our life to walk in more freedom.  I love the way that David G. Benner put it:  “Spiritual transformation does not result from fixing our problems.  It results from turning to God in the midst of them and meeting God as we are. {Your love will not leave me here.  It’ll meet me here, but it won’t leave me here.}  Turning to God is the core of prayer.  Turning to God in our sin and shame is the heart of spiritual transformation.”

So there’s this sorrow, not condemnation, but sorrow over the way that their sin has impacted their world, and there’s an intentional turning from it.  Then there’s this third step.  Verse 10 — When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented…  There’s this interesting dynamic in the Hebrew.  There’s this word shubthat’s used over and over again in the Hebrew.  It’s the word repent.  It just means to be walking one direction and to turn the other direction.  What the Ninevites say is maybe if we shub, God’ll shub.  What verse 10 says is God shubbed!  This verse 10 is the death of the platonic, unmoved mover, uninterested God.  It’s God saying I’m not some static person in the sky that doesn’t care what’s going on down there.  It’s a God who says I’m involved, I’m intertwined, I’m interacting, and I respond to you.

What we see is that God’s judgment isn’t intended to terminate at condemnation, but to lead us to mercy.  Some of you need to hear that again.  When God looks at you and says that’s wrong, that’s off, His goal is not that you would be condemned.  His goal is actually that you would be healed.  Mercy and grace are the very things we know, deep down, our soul longs for.  They’re the things that we know our soul absolutely needs, but you never find mercy and grace if you don’t first accept the reality that we need it.  Nobody finds mercy and grace if they don’t think they need it.  We first MUST accept God’s judgment of us that there are places in our life that we are wrong, that we would then be led to his abundant, beautiful, good mercy.

There’s this king in this passage that just echoes of a better king.  Look at this.  This king, all throughout verses six through 9…..the king removes his robe—the sign of royalty.  He lays it aside.  The king humbles himself and puts on sackcloth.  It was accepting and owning the wrong that the Ninevites had done.  He lowers himself into the ashes and the dirt.  He sheds his robe.  He takes on the sin of the nation.  And he’s lowered into the dirt.  Come on, who does this remind us of? (Phil. 2:6-11) The He…being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped; rather, he made himself nothing {He shed his robe.} by taking the very nature of a servant….he became obedient to death.  Yeah, he was clothed in sackcloth and ashes.  Carrying the sin of humanity.  Not just death, but death on a cross.  ….so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…..and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.    Yeah, he goes down into the ashes and into the direct and he comes up with new life in his hands.  That’s the good news of the gospel, that this king is the foreshadowing of Jesus.  Jesus is God’s judgment.  To accept Jesus is to accept judgment and mercy and grace all in one.  We are wrong, and we are loved, and we are redeemed, and we are led, and we are indwelled with the spirit, that we can start to let go of the evil and the violence and the hells that are in us.  And to be led to the life that Jesus has purchased for us.

Is judgment a bad thing?  No, it’s actually the revelation of love.  It’s the call to repentance.  It’s the invitation to mercy.  Friends, can I just encourage you with three things?  Will you decide whose house you live in?  Is this God’s world, is this your world?  Do you want God’s kingdom or do you want your kingdom?  Just be honest.  He knows.  Whose house do you live in?

Then, will you ask a very dangerous question that Jesus…..my experience has been, He answers it.  Ask Jesus where you’re wrong.  My tendency is to be okay with God judging people like the Ninevites, but less okay with God judging me.  I have a tendency to blame others, or deny, or explain away, or reason away, but in this, as we sort of process and land the plane here, as Jesus starts to reveal, man, there’s some things in your life that are just off.  The way that you’re spending your money, it’s off.  The way that you’re interacting in that relationship, it’s off.  The things that you value, they’re off.  Your hate, your hypocrisy, your pride….it’s off.  As Jesus said, those are the types of things that create a hell on the inside, and he came to get the hell out of us.  Come on!  Ask him where you’re wrong.  May the weight of his words hit us like they hit the Ninevites.  Jonah needs to be pursued by a storm, swallowed by a fish, vomited up on dry land for him to say yes to God.  I think the book wants to ask us: What’s it going to take for you to say I’ll let the words of God hit me in the same way?  Do I need the fish?  Do I need the storm?  Do I need the pageantry, or will I just let the word of Jesus rest on me?

Finally, as your pastor, can I just encourage you, repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.  It’s just one turn away.  This is the beauty of the cross. This is the hope of redemption.  You don’t need to run through and jump through a bunch of hoops and do a bunch of things, it’s a simple turn.  What you see is that the loving arms of God have already turned to you.  My guess would be, that for every single one of us, we can think of somebody that needs to hear this message.  May I gently suggest to you that that somebody is actually you.  That the somebody is me.  And that there are some areas that Jesus wants to judge so that he might free us to move forward.

I want to give you a few minutes to sit with your sackcloth.  Maybe just run it through your hands.  Or you can stick it in your Bible and use it as a bookmark, as a reminder.  As you hold it, maybe just ask Jesus…..Jesus, where am I wrong, where am I off?  Typically, when we ask that, the picture we get of God is God sitting on the other side of the table with a ledger, going glad you asked.  His eyes are a little bit angry.  What if you asked Jesus, Jesus, where am I off?  And you envision him…. instead of across the table, taking his arm around you and going, “Brian, I’m glad you asked.  Let’s talk.”