First day of the holidays and I don’t feel relaxed. I have something very challenging on my mind. So not yesterday’s sermon but the week before Sunday, I had a very challenging sermon, written about Jonah 3. Where Jonah eventually submits to the Lord’s and obeys Him by going to preach judgement to the Ninevites (basically the Nazi’s of the Old Testament) and they repent of their wickedness and God has compassion on them and relents from bringing judgement upon them.
That’s the context for today’s post. The preacher (my student group pastor actually) then said something that just hit me like a punch from an angry gorilla: “Don’t say your friends ‘No’s for them”. Do you get that? Maybe this seems familiar to you:
A number of church events are coming up and the pastor reminds the congregation to invite people to the events, hoping that some would encounter Christ and come into His Kingdom. As you look through the leaflet with all the different events, socials and talks on them, you begin thinking of people you could invite but then you start saying “No, Friend A wouldn’t really like that, Friend B isn’t into this, Family member C would just be bored, etc”. So you don’t end up inviting those people.
We all do that. We do. And in doing that, we’ve said no for them. We have kept them out of the Heavenly Kingdom by saying no for them. And that hit me. Shooooooooowwweeeee that hit me hard. Because I know there are people that I’ve said no for.
And that brings me to last night’s sermon. Jonah 4. Wow. At first, Jonah’s reaction seems quite funny; God shows mercy and compassion on the Ninevites and Jonah throws a hissy fit like a modern-day toddler. It’s funny. Until we dig deeper into this reaction and why Jonah fled. Because he didn’t want the Ninevites to be saved. Jonah went in the opposite direction because he knew the Lord is gracious, merciful and compassionate (Jonah 4) and he didn’t want the Ninevites to be saved. The pastor used that to demonstrate the point of Incurvatus in Se (curved in towards oneself). That’s what sin does. We focus on ourselves and our comfort. We don’t extend the gospel to others. And I know I suffer from some prejudices. There are some people that I struggle to genuinely want God to show compassion and mercy on: school bullies. An ex. Some politicians.
Not saying it’s easy to suddenly just turn that around. But it is something that we need to grapple with. We need to curved outwards. Be open-armed, open-hearted. Not easy, but something that needs to be done. So that’s something I’m currently grappling with, us keeping others out of the kingdom.
But this post is also about us. Believers keeping ourselves away from Jesus. You might be scratching your head and wondering how that works.
So the pastor of yesterday morning’s service (currently at two different churches, one for morning, one for evening) was preaching on John 5:1-10 and he offered some interesting viewpoints and challenges. I’m going to move past some of the surface level stuff to bring up what challenged me. The pastor brought up that we hold stuff back from the Lord. That we have a mindset, this way of thinking, that imprisons us and stops us from achieving true freedom with the Lord. The pastor then said maybe we need to question ourselves, what are we holding onto that is stopping us from coming to Christ fully? Or maybe Jesus is asking us to let go of something to experience Him fully?
These are questions I have. Challenges in my heart.
Grace and peace to all of you, lots of love