A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
The terms Christian and Christianity, like well-used coins, have worn thin, and lost their clarity. Let’s consider what being a true Christian is and isn’t. It’s not churchianity or religiosity, but a vital, contagious, Christian experience, through Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Only He can meet our living need and our dying need when on the brink of eternity. This is not a “pie in the sky when you die” but a power on earth while you live!
The Gospel is not good advice but good news. The Greek New Testament word “euangellion” means Good News and “Gospel” derives from the Old English “godspell”, again meaning Good News. It is not just a nice ethical code of conduct, not just an assent of mind to a vague belief in God. We must consider God’s nature and claims in the written Word of Scripture and the Living Word, Jesus Christ, “God-with-us”. Then our personal response to the Good News is required as the only sure foundation for this life and for safely crossing the brink of eternity.
It’s not to be endured but to be enjoyed. Some regard Christianity as dull, anaemic and joyless. What a fallacy! Jesus is not a killjoy but a fill-joy. He said “My joy may be in you and your joy complete” (John 15:11). Jesus does not rob our lives but enriches them. Note the joy of those early Christians even when suffering persecution, who “risked their lives for Christ” (Acts 15:26). Don’t endure empty “religion” so-called. My favourite text from my teenage response to Jesus is John 10:10 in the old King James version, “life more abundantly” in Christ. The Westminster Confession declares that we can “know God and enjoy Him for ever”.
It’s not a supposition but a certainty. The Gospel is not a question mark but an exclamation mark! Maybe there are questions to face, but the heart of the Gospel, when truly embraced and experienced, offers us a certainty. Some say that nothing is certain today and everything is in the melting pot. Not so! The Church through the centuries was not built on supposition but on assurance. Some Christians today will die for their faith rather than deny their Lord. The Greek word behind “martyr” means “witness” at whatever the cost. The word “know” comes seven times in I John 5:13-20 striking the ring of confidence: “Know you have eternal life…know we are children of God… know that the Son of God has come” and other such phrases. Some say, “I suppose so, I think so, I hope so”, but we can “know so” when we are right with God through a personal faith in Christ who died for us and rose again. He alone can assure us of forgiveness of sin, eternal life now and heaven at last. We may sing “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine”, but is He?
It’s not a mere religion but a marvellous relationship with Jesus Christ. “Religion” is an anaemic term really. Some say they go to Church and they may even read the Bible and pray in a fashion. Attachment to a church is good, but not good enough. God seeks true repentance and a personal response of faith. Jesus declared in effect that “Many will say, ‘Lord, Lord, haven’t we done this and that and the other in your name?’ Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you” (Matthew 7:22-23). Don’t just rely on church attendance, but trust and rely on the Lord Jesus alone.
It’s not turning over a new leaf but receiving a new life. We may turn a new leaf for personal reform at the New Year, but it would have been needless and pointless for Jesus to leave the glory of heaven for Bethlehem’s manger and the Cross if our self-effort could bring us salvation. II Corinthians 5:17 states, “If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” We believe, receive and become what we were not before - God’s children in His intimate family (John 1:12). We’re not just patched up or renovated. You can’t grow a daffodil from a tulip bulb, but only from a daffodil bulb having daffodil-life within it, and you can only live a Christian life springing from the life of Jesus Christ within you.
It’s not by drift but by decision - to accept forgiveness and God’s gift of eternal life here and now. What an offer! Sin is no theological ghost. We are all sinners by nature, attitude and action, sinning in thought, word and deed (Romans 3:23). Don’t compare small sins with big sins. Whether 10 or 100 centimetres under water, we still drown! Drift will get us nowhere. We don’t step on to a spiritual escalator and somehow, sometime become Christians. It’s not automatic.
God’s invitation and promise calls for our response to become a new creation in Christ. Don’t neglect it, don’t delay and drift, but clinch it now! The Bible tells of people who rubbed shoulders with Him, argued with Him, sentenced Him and saw Him die. They were so near to Him, yet they missed Him for who He was. We need to submit to God’s terms, admit our sins and need, then commit ourselves to His Saviourhood and Lordship. Then we can transmit the Gospel, sharing the Good News with others.
As in the Parable of the Banquet in Luke 14:15-24, God is saying to us, “Come, for everything is now ready!” Everything is done and is available for you to settle your response and come to Christ now. Let nothing hold us back!