I finish up my preparation for Part 2 of our study in Jonah this next Sunday. Quite frankly, I am deeply convicted. There are so many rich lessons to be learned and truths that are taught by this simple, all too familiar story. Yet, the poignancy of this book as it relates to the church in America today is startling to me.
Not unlike Jonah and the people of the Northern Kingdom of Israel during his time, we are experiencing a period of great affluence and relative peace. Oh sure, we have the threat of the evil terrorists...but so did Jonah. They were called the Assyrians and their version of evil rivals that of those who fly planes into buildings.
Yet, amidst this backdrop of impending evil, we have mega churches, like that of Joel Osteen, who encourage us to "Discover the Champion in You" as his website proclaims. One particular view of his best selling book, "Your Best Life Now" says:
"If you want to read a book in which discontentment is encouraged, a book that shows God to be powerless apart from your power-filled thoughts and words, a book in which sin is minimized and renamed in every conceivable way, and a supposedly Christian book that gives only trivial mention to Jesus Christ, Your Best Life Now is the book for you."
But let's not just pick on Joel. Take some time to browse your local Christian book store and just look at the number of best selling books which all share a common topic...YOU!
We have Denominational Churches and Bible churches alike that mine the truths of scripture. We are blessed with amazing teachers who expound the wonderful truths of scripture. Through archaeological discoveries and years of study, we know more and have more confirmed about what we say we believe than ever before. We are a well fed, highly educated Christian culture that seems to demonstrate a satisfied understanding of the character of God...but so did Jonah.
Yet, if we take all we know and apply it only to ourselves, danger lies ahead! If this happens…if we become so focused on ourselves, we will eventually see an end to evangelism! We will no longer have people raised up from within our church bodies - those who go out to the mission field and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to the Ninevites. We will lose sight of God’s view of the nations and His desire for none to perish but all to come to eternal life.
The Great Commission will become the Great Omission.
Let's not make that mistake. The message of Jonah gives us fair warning. May we have ears to hear and eyes that see.