Well, my name is Micah. I’m one of the leaders around here, and I get the pleasure to continue this series called Jonah. So we’ve been studying the book of Jonah. And so, let’s recap what’s been going on and the life of this runaway prophet. Jonah was a prophet of God who was reluctant to obey God. And so we see in Jonah chapter one, verses one and two.
Jonah Flees From the Lord
1 The word of the Lord came to Jonah, son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”
Jonah 1:1-2 NIV
Now, Nineveh was a great city. It was the capital of the Assyrian empire, and these people were known to do horrible things to their prisoners. In week number one, Carla talked about this. Carla talked about what they would do to their prisoners, that they would rape the women, that they would murder their children, that they would take the men, and they would skin them alive. These people were awful, and they showed no mercy.
So God told Jonah to go there and to speak out against all the wickedness that they had been doing. But instead of hopping on to the next camel to go to Nineveh, Jonah hopped onto a ship. He flew 2000 miles in the opposite direction. Now, while he was on the ship, God sent a huge storm. And in this storm, he was about to break up the boat. And before it did, Jonah came to the sailors and said, “It’s my fault. Throw me overboard.” And so, with reluctance, the sailors finally threw him overboard. And Scripture says that the Lord provided a great fish to capture Jonah. And He spent three days and three nights in the belly of the fish.
Last week, we got to examine the prayer of repentance. While he was in this belly for three days and three nights, Brooke told us that whatever our situation, and the situation you find yourself in, it is not too far from God. There’s always hope in the midst of your trial. And at the very end of chapter two, it says that the Lord spoke to the fish and the fish vomited him up on the shore. And today, that’s where we’re going to pick up.
Today, we are going to see the most beautiful picture of God’s grace. A grace of second chances, the grace of God to those who don’t deserve it. And so let’s read in chapter three and verse one, it says,
Jonah Goes to Nineveh
3 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:
Jonah 3:1 NIV
Now, if you have a pen or you’re on your Bible app, would you circle or highlight it a “second time?” This phrase literally means he came to Jonah a second time. He came to him again. And he came to Jonah to someone that didn’t deserve it. He was told to do something by God. And he completely rejected, saying, “I don’t want anything to do with these people,” and he went in the opposite direction. But God came to him again. You know a lot of people that I know won’t give people a second chance. If you mess them over one time, that’s it. You’re done. And it’s so prevalent in our culture. We live in a culture where we cancel people out of our lives. We cancel relationships over and over because of one mistake, or one sin against us. But like I say God is a God of second chances. I don’t know about you, but because Jonah came because God came to Jonah a second time. I’m so glad God came to me a second time, a 10th time, 100th time, over and over. No matter how often I reject God and what I reject, God’s calling for my life, what He’s telling me to do, and what my next spiritual step is. He continues to come back to me and gives me another chance.
I remember very clearly when God gave me a second chance in my freshman year of college. But I also remember the first time God came to me during my freshman year of high school. And so I was in high school. I was a freshman. And I remember I felt like I was checking off all the right boxes. I was going to a church at the time in Winchester. I was going to their youth group. And any time that they had an event, I was always there to help out. And so I thought I was doing everything right. Until one Sunday morning, we sang a song called “How He Loves Us,” and we just sang the song just last week. And I was so happy to hear it because I knew I would add this to my message. It says,
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking
And Heaven meets Earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
And so, at this moment, I felt God speaking to me and telling me, Micah, you need to get baptized. And so the next few weeks go by, and finally, I get baptized in a nice cold pool. But after being baptized, things started to change. My circumstances started to dictate how I thought God loved me, and I ran from God. I used to blame it on people in my life. Like it’s that person. It’s because they did this to me or because this church kind of shut me out. And I used to blame so many people. But deep down, I ran because life was happening. Things were changing. Relationships were ending. I was being disobedient to God, and I knew I was. And so, I let my life circumstances tell me how God felt about me. So because I was experiencing my parent’s divorce or moving from one house to another. Relationships that I had had for so long were now ending. And because I was sinning against God, and I knew I was, I thought, there’s no way he could love me again. There’s no way he wants me back.
So listen, I want to tell you this morning. Life is going to happen. Good things, bad things. People are going to hurt you. You’re going to hurt people. But my encouragement is that you don’t let life circumstances dictate how God loves you. You see, I continued to run from the Lord until, like Jonah, I came to my end. Now, for Jonah, Jonah was swallowed up by a fish for three days and three nights. For me, I came to my end. When I started doing things, I swore I would never do. And this is one guy who came to me a second time.
It was the start of winter and 2014, my freshman year of college. I was pumping gas in my car and getting ready to work that Saturday. And as I’m pumping my gas, I see this flock of birds. And they’re mostly black and only some white. And this may sound completely crazy, but God gave me a vision of how I could get help. And I started to think, what if these white birds were there for a purpose? What if they were like God’s people? They were there to encourage. They were there to be trusted. They were there to be leaned on by these other birds. And I thought about this throughout my shift while working at Little Caesars, cutting pizza. Making pizza. And finally, I was like, okay, I need to text my friend Michael. I knew Michael was a Christian, so I reached out to him and said, “Hey, Michael, I need to meet with you tonight. Things are going terribly wrong in my life, and I don’t know why.”
So I texted Michael, and we met at McDonald’s at 1:00 in the morning and started talking. And he continued to say, “Michael, I want you to come to church with me.” And I would say, “No, dude, there’s no way I can come to church. I must make money.” Because, at the time, I lived by myself and needed money, because the weekends were the only time I could make it. Throughout the week, I was going to school at EKU as a dietitian, then I later changed it to communications. And that’s another story. But so yeah, so here I am. I am fighting with Michael, and he’s continued to tell me, “Hey, you need to come to church with me.” And I said, “Nope, I need to work and make money. This is my number one priority.” And he did not let that excuse go by him. He continued to ask over and over until about 2:00, 3:00 in the morning. I finally was like, okay, man, I’ll go. And so the next morning, I wake up, and I get to work around 8:00 and making pizza, making the dough. And at 10:00, I look at my manager, Kenny, and I say, “Hey, Kenny, I’m going to go to church.” And to my surprise, you just said. “Okay.” I was pretty shocked by that. He didn’t argue or ask “why” or say no, that I couldn’t leave my work. I couldn’t leave my shift.
So I went to church that morning and came in my Little Caesar’s outfit covered in flower sauce and smelling like pizza. And after church. My friends just loved on me. They took me out to eat and continued asking me questions like “Micah, how are you doing? What’s going on in your life?” And time passed, and I finally said I needed to return to work. And so I get to work at 3:00, 5 hours from the time I had left. And the whole time I’m driving back, I’m thinking, “Man, I’m going have to stay all night to make up this money. I’m gonna have to stay later. I’m going to have to see if I can get another shift. Like there’s just money I need.” And so I get back in and go to the computer where I clock in. And as I’m clocking in, my manager, Kenny, comes back up to me, and he says, “Micah, I figured you could use the hours. So I kept your clock down this whole time.” And that song that turns and it turns violently inside my chest came back to me. You see, I knew God was speaking to me. A second time, I knew God was saying to me, “Micah, if you say yes to me, if you say yes to pursuing me, to pursuing all in life, I will provide every step of the way.” And so, I didn’t have time to ponder. I just said “yes.” And things started to change in my life. And for Jonah when God came to him a second time, he didn’t ponder. He didn’t do it. He didn’t wait to think about it. And in verse two, in chapter three, it says,.
Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
Jonah 3:4 NIV
Now, there’s one thing I want you to pay attention to, or actually two things in this verse. And the first thing is to go now. Not just go, but go immediately. Go urgently, go. Suddenly. You see, whenever God comes to you a second time, a 10th time, 100th time, and gives you another chance, you must go now and say “Yes, Lord, immediately. Whatever it is, I’ll do it.” Because if not, you will take the time and talk yourself out of whatever God’s calling you to do.
You see, there are some of you if you would just listen to the Spirit of God, you will recognize that there is something that God wants you to do. Whether that is to reach out to someone or to apologize. To give something away or to repent of some sin. Or to make something right in your family or in a relationship that you have. It says, do it immediately. Don’t let the sun go down without obeying God today. You see if God is prompting you. It means he is at work in your life, and that should be rejuvenating. That should be so exciting in your spirit because God has not given up on you. See, the thing is, we think because we cancel people out of our lives who think God does the same thing. But there is no quit in God. He’s relentlessly pursuing you every day, every moment, every second of your life. Giving you one chance after another.
Now, the second thing is, this city was a great city, it says. It was a great influence. It was great and powerful. It was great in culture. This ancient population had about 120,000 people. This was where everybody went to go learn. It was like New York City. It was like a concrete jungle. It had a fortress, a wall that was seven and a half miles long. And he was telling Jonah to go now, go immediately, “Go to these people you despise, or do what you do not want to do. Go now and proclaim the message I’m going to give you.” But for Jonah to go and preach this message to the Ninevehites, to these people that he thought hated him. He had to do something. And we see that in the next verse. And it’s found in Jonah 3:3 it says.
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Nineveh was a huge city; it took three days to go through. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.
Jonah 3:3-4 NIV
This is what Jonah had to do. You see this word in Hebrew means to loosen, to let go. So, Jonah had to let go to go through the city, one day’s walk, crying, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.”
What do you think Jonah had to let go of? For me, I started to think of these different things. And here’s what I believe, Jonah, how to let go of. He had to let go of his hatred toward the Ninevites. He had to let go of his false beliefs, his distorted views of God and mankind, and he had to let go of pleasing people. He could have went to Nineveh and preached an easy, happy sermon, which probably would have looked like this.
He probably would have told the Ninevehites, “Hey, there are three steps to a happy life. Step number one is you stop being mean. Ninevites, you guys are harsh. You guys are evil. Like stop being mean, chill out. Step number two, think happy thoughts. Happy, happy thoughts. And number three, don’t worry, be happy.” And he could have summed all this up in a beautiful, funny story or a poem, but he didn’t. You see, the message that he spoke was direct. It was offensive. And he had to let go of all these things so he was obedient God. You see, there is a cost for you and me. That we have to pay in order to be obedient to God. Some of you need to let go of something in your life so that you may be obedient to God and receive salvation or be born again. There’s a cost.
Now, when I say a list, you’re probably thinking of a list that’s probably never-ending. Right? A naughty list that this continues to go on, and you continue to fill out in your mind. But see, no matter how long you think your list is, there’s always a root issue. And this one root issue for all of us is your trust in yourself rather than God. What does trusting in yourself look like? How does this play out in your life?
Well, number one, you trust in your own wisdom and intelligence. You say, know better than God. So I’m going to do everything according to my own knowledge, according to my own power, according to my own wisdom. Number two, you trust it by building up this huge bank account. Think that if I work more, if I work harder and spend my time working and building up this bank account, then I’ll feel safe. Then when an emergency comes, I’ll have enough money to pay for it. Not realizing God can take all of that away in just a snap. Number three, you trust in yourself by investing in your own time with selfish ambition. You don’t care about spending time with other people. It’s all about you.
You say that you have talents, but really they’re gifts, and you say that they can’t be gifts because I’ve built up my own talents. I’ve built all of these things. These are things that I’ve created. But they’re gifts given to you by God. And you think that they’re yours to use for your own glory. And lastly, you try to make your reputation impeccable. You try to make everything on the outside perfect. I have the ideal house. I have the perfect wife. I have the perfect family. Everybody knows who I am. I have this great reputation.
Can I just tell you everybody in this room has the same reputation? We’ve all blown it. We’ve all messed up. We’ve all hurt people. We’ve all been hurt by other people. It says in Romans that we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. We have this same reputation. And so, for you to be obedient to God, receive salvation, or be born again, you must let go of trusting in yourself and trust God.
But how do you do this? How do you receive salvation? How do you be born again? How do you have your sins forgiven? How do you get your name written in the Book of Heaven? Well, you look at the words of Jesus and John, chapter three, he says, “I’m telling you that I’m telling you the truth. No one can see the Kingdom of God without being born again.” You see, this born-again term is not an eastside term. It’s not a Catholic term. It’s not a program turn. It’s not a church term. Jesus literally tells us that we must be born again. And the question you have to ask yourself is, am I born again? Have you ever been born again? And how does this happen?
We give you A, B, and C. It’s simple. The A stands for that you admit that you’re a sinner. I must be honest with God, and you must tell him, ” Hey, God, I have this condition, and it’s called sin.” You can’t fix it. Your own self-discipline can’t fix it. You’re your pastor can’t fix it. Your parents or grandparents. A program. Nothing can fix this sin issue that you have. And because of this issue, God came up with a solution. And it was to be born again. And how do you fix the sin issue that you have? You believe that God is the son, that God sent his son, to fix this sinful issue that you have. So he got a solution to send his own son to be murdered, to be beaten, to be rejected, to be killed for you. All the punishment that Jesus went through, and the weight of the sin fell on him, not on us. And he did that so we could have a relationship with him again. He gives us his righteousness and goodness in exchange for our shame, guilt, and pain. And lastly, we say you confess Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Romans 10:9-10 instructs us to confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior and to believe that He died for our sins and that he was raised back to life.
Today, God is coming to you a second time. A 10th time. 100th time. To be born again. And this, the second birth, is what happens on the inside. And the great news today is that you can start letting go of trusting yourself and trusting God. Getting rid of that whole list that you think is so long, and exchanging it for God’s love, mercy, grace, goodness, and righteousness. How does this happen? It’s by a prayer. And I want to include you in this prayer in a moment.
And I’m going to ask you to raise your hands and to hold them up high, to be included in this prayer. But right now, I want everybody to bow down. And I believe there are two different people in this room. The first people I want to talk to are the people who have yet to be born again, and yet to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I want to speak to you because I am thinking about the list.
When I was a student, I remember, “God, there’s no way that you could possibly love me. God, I’ve hurt so many people. I’ve hurt you, God. I’ve hurt my own parents. I’ve hurt my own brothers; I’ve hurt my own friends. And I continue to run and run and run away from you.
There’s no way, God, that you could possibly come and ask me to be in a relationship with you.” But there’s a verse that I love so much. And it goes, “I stand knocking at the door, and whoever opens up, I will come in, and I’ll eat with them and them with me. He’s saying, I want a relationship with you. I am standing here, and I’m knocking at your door.” And this second verse that I found was in Zephaniah, which says, God wants to extoll exalt in loud singing over you because he wants a relationship with you. So, so bad.
So right now, speaking to the people that have never said yes to surrendering your life to Christ, to be born again. I ask that you remove, to kick out all your shame or guilt. And if that’s you right now and you want to be born again, you will be included in this prayer. Will you say this? Pray with me.
“Dear Lord Jesus. I believe you are the son of God. I believe that you took my sin, my shame, my guilt on the cross. And you died for it. You faced hell for me, so I wouldn’t have to go. You rose from the dead to give me a place in Heaven, a purpose on Earth, and a relationship with your father. Today, Lord Jesus, I turn from my sin to be born again. God is my Father. Jesus is my Savior. The Holy Spirit is my helper. And Heaven is now my home in Jesus’s name. Amen.”
Now the second group of people. You guys are like me. You’ve said yes to God. You know what it’s like to be in a relationship with him, but maybe you’re white-knuckled about something and need to let go so that you can be obedient to him again. You see God’s coming to you again. Whether you’ve drifted, whether you’ve ran away, stopped pursuing God. He never stops pursuing you. And so he’s coming to you a 10th time. 100th time. 1000th time. Ask him, will you be obedient in your next spiritual step?
You see, some of you,God is speaking to you much like I was spoken to. And it starts to feel violently inside my chest. Like something’s happening, God is speaking to me. And He’s telling you that you need community. That you need people to support you, just like the white birds I had thought about. You need people to encourage you in life. And if that’s you, I will ask you to go straight to the My People Lounge when the service ends. Because there are people there who want to love you, want to encourage you, want to help you get into a group, and to find your people to do life with. For some of you, they are white-knuckled and gripping on to their time and their talents. Again, you think your talents are for you to use for your own glory. But they’re a gift, straight from God. And we use those gifts to glorify him. And if God is speaking to you, I need to surrender my time, my talents, and I need to join a serve team. I’m going to ask you to go straight to the My People lounge. Somebody there, tell somebody, “hey, I want to surrender my gifts to God,” and they will help you.
You’ve been running. You’ve been drifting. But today. You say, God? I’m saying yes. I’m allowing you to do whatever you want in my life. I’m going to do whatever you call me to do. My favorite part about Jonah chapter 3 is found in verse 5 is that it says this.
The Ninevites believed in God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them were put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least.
Jonah 3:5 NIV
What this means is that these people fast and put on sackcloth. This means they were humbling themselves and repenting their sins because they desired to see and hear from God. Will you pray with me?
“Father. Thank you for your Grace. Thank you for second chances and 10th chances and 100th chances. Thank you for coming back to us again and again and again. Father, I pray that we leave here forever changed because of your great love for us. God, we leave here excitedly because we realize that you have been pursuing us this whole time. You’ve never quit. You’ve never given up on us. God forgives us for drifting, for running away, for being disobedient. Holy Spirit, will you help us today, tomorrow, and the rest of our time on Earth to continue to pursue God and God alone. In Jesus’s name. Amen.