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  • Matt Beaney

#725. GO TO THE GREAT CITY (10/1/23)


‘The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.’ (Jonah 1:1-3)

Summary: God saves sinners and so sends us with the gospel to people and places that are wicked.


You can watch this devotional at:

I can fall into the trap of thinking that those who are good are more worthy of God’s love and my efforts to help them. Like Jonah, we all struggle with this and need the Spirit to fill us with God’s gracious love for others. Many people want to change their jobs or change their circumstances because of difficult people. However, perhaps you are there because they need your influence and the gospel from you!


It was shocking that God would send a prophet to Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian empire. Assyria, was renowned for cruelty and wickedness and was a long-standing enemy of Israel. It’s common to think that we should only do good for those who deserve it. It’s common to think of religious people as keeping their distance from sinners. Like many of us would be, Jonah is confused and angry that God should want him to go to such a wicked place. Jonah is like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day who rejected Jesus because of his work among sinners. Jesus' parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32) illustrates the self-righteous rejection of sinners by the Pharisees.


The Pharisees and other religious leaders are likened to the older brother in Jesus’ parable. The older brother is angry that his father (who is God in this story) should welcome back his prodigal and sinful brother.


Like Jonah, many of us can fall into the trap of thinking that those who do good are more worthy of God's love and those who do bad are less worthy. This tendency to judge and differentiate between people based on their actions or circumstances is a natural human flaw, and it can be especially easy to slip into this attitude if we have experienced some level of success or respect in life; if we develop in prayer, Bible reading, being generous, time management, being tidy, budgeting, fitness… we can, without great care, become proud and disdainful of others.


RESPONSE

Are we willing to go, serve, and share the gospel with difficult people and in difficult places as God directs us? Do we get easily offended or outraged when we feel disrespected? If we do, we will not be able to fulfil God's mission to save sinners. Let's consider the example of Jesus' ministry, which exemplifies the humility Jonah lacks at the beginning of the book:

‘As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. But go and learn what this means: “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”’ (Matthew 9:9-13)

May we all learn to be like Jesus who came to seek and save the lost.

 

COMMUNITY GROUP NOTES AND STUDY


1. NOTICES

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.

2. ICEBREAKER

Share your ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ from the Christmas and New Year season.

3. RECAP OF SUNDAY’S MESSAGE - PLEASE SHARE IN YOUR GROUP


WHICH WAY AM I RUNNING?

On Sunday we began our series is the book of Jonah which we’ve entitled ‘I AM JONAH’. The Subtitle of this series is ‘Learning to run toward rather than run away from God's mission’. Through this book, God wants to re-commission us for His mission to bring the gospel to our communities - our ‘Nineveh’s’. He wants to put His Spirit in us so that we don’t run away but run toward His mission.


‘The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.’ (Jonah 1:1-3)

BIG IDEA: God calls all of us to His mission. We have to choose whether to run toward or run away from God’s call.


On Sunday, we talked about SIV: Serve, invest and invite is a simple strategy of building relational bridges in order to bring our friends to Jesus. We serve real needs, we invest time to deepen relationships with people and invite them into church community and events such as alpha. We love to invite people to come to know God through the gospel but this will usually occur after we have invested in a relationship. You might find it helpful to watch this interview with Brenda together:


4. DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • What are the various communities, outside the church, that God has put you into?

  • Do you find yourself running away or running toward sharing your faith with people? Please give reasons and examples for your response.

  • Why do you think Jonah ran away from God call?

  • How do you Serve, Invest and Invite in your communities?

  • How will the power of the Holy Spirit help us in our mission? (See Acts 1:8)

  • Let’s now pray for specific people that God has put on your heart and in your life.

  • Let’s pray for each other that, by the Spirit’s empowering, unlike Jonah, we would run toward God’s commission to share our faith and the gospel with those in our lives.

  • This week, lets each make a list of non-believing friends and pray for them daily.

  • Next week, come ready to share how God has used us to Serve, Invest and Invite.




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