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Something Greater Than Jonah

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
January 11, 2024 9:00 am

Something Greater Than Jonah

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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January 11, 2024 9:00 am

Pastor J.D. wraps up our study of the reluctant prophet, Jonah, by turning to the New Testament. We’re discovering that Jonah’s whole story is really a sign that’s pointing ahead to something greater!

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Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. There is an appointed time of judgment for you. It might be this afternoon, it might be this week, it might be next year, it might be 10 years from now. I don't know, but I know that there is an appointed time of judgment for you. Do you ever think about that day? Because ultimately, only two days matter. This day, what I'm doing on this day for God, and then that day when I stand before him and give an account.

Do you ever seriously think about that question? Welcome back to Summit Life, the Bible teaching ministry of pastor, author, and apologist J.D. Greer. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. Today, Pastor J.D. begins to wrap up our study of the reluctant prophet Jonah by actually turning to the New Testament. We're discovering that Jonah's whole story is really a sign pointing ahead to something greater. This redemptive message is part of our teaching series called Cast Away. Now, if you're new to Summit Life, I want to make sure that you know you can catch up on previous teaching, download the sermon transcripts, and learn more about this ministry when you visit us online at jdgreer.com.

But for now, here's Pastor J.D. with a teaching he titled Something Greater Than Jonah. Today, I am going to try to bring home the book of Jonah to you.

I'm going to try to land the plane. The book of Jonah is a story about a renegade prophet of God who is given an assignment that he does not like to go to a people that he hates and to give a message to them that he does not want to give them. So instead, he goes the other direction and God chases him and sends a storm after him and causes him to be swallowed by a great big fish and then he's in there for three days and three nights, then he's regurgitated, then he gives the message, and he's got some other personal issues that he's got to work through and deal with. As I've tried to explain to you, there are multiple ways that God intends for you to find your story and the story of Jonah.

Anybody that really walks with God that I've ever talked to can always tell me about some point in their life, multiple points usually, where they have found themselves in situations like Jonah, you are aware that God has pursued you, that in his love, he has made your life so that you would be brought back to himself and so I hope that you have found yourself in the book of Jonah. One guy after the service last night just came up and immediately just began to weep and he said, this is my story. He said, I've been running from God for years. He said, last week, I finally just laid it down.

I said, I can't any longer. And then he said, it's just everything is different now. He said, I'm walking with God again and I know that that story is multiple times repeated over in our congregation here.

But today, here's how we're gonna end. I'm going to end by showing you what is probably the most significant thing about the book of Jonah. The reason I say that is because it's what Jesus said is important about the book of Jonah. Jesus said that there's something about Jonah that is more significant than if you actually saw a miracle with your own eyes.

All right, now what is that? Matthew chapter 12 is where we're going to, where we're going to begin here. Matthew chapter 12, let's begin in verse 38.

Then some of the scribes and the Pharisees answered Jesus saying, teacher, we wish to see a sign from you. They're like Jesus, we want to see some proof that you are who you say you are. Now, I want you to understand, especially if you are the kind of person that is really struggling to believe, that Jesus does not turn away people with genuine questions. And so this is not a group of people who genuinely are confused and they want to know whether or not Jesus is who he says he is. These are people that are inventing reasons not to believe. And I will tell you this, that in the last several years as I've talked to people, I've become convinced that more of the questions that I get about faith are a lot of times generated for this reason, not because people are genuinely confused. Jesus recognizes that their hearts are stubborn and hard.

And it's not that there is not reason to believe, it's that they don't want to believe. And until you want to believe, until your heart is open to believing what God has to say to you, your mind will never be convinced of these things. That's what Jesus perceives here. But I just want to say that in case you're one of those people that has a genuine question, this is not really something that Jesus is saying, hey, don't ask me any questions, just accept it.

We welcome those kind of questions, does that make sense? All right, verse 39. But he answered them, and the evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Verse 41, the men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it. Because they repented, the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. The people of Nineveh, Jesus said, are going to rise up, rise up in the final judgment, and they are going to condemn the generation that listened to Jesus because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, who preached, as I explained to you, a five-word sermon.

I mean, a terrible sermon, right? And from Jonah, who was by every estimation a terrible witness, right? I mean, everything that you would tell somebody not to do, Jonah did. I mean, he hated the people, he was a racist, he was a hypocrite.

I mean, this was a guy who just, I mean, if there's anybody that would turn you off, it'd be him. I mean, his message, five, he didn't tell them to repent at the end. He didn't tell them about God's compassion. He just says, you have 40 days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.

Right, yet that generation repented. And what Jesus says is, look, you are listening to, and you are seeing the ministry of one much greater and much more convincing than Jonah, and you're not repenting. So you got three questions, I think, that come out of this text. Here they are, number one, how was Jesus' message similar to Jonah's? How was Jesus' message similar to Jonah's? That's our first question. Secondly, how was Jesus' message greater than Jonah's?

Because he alludes to that there. And that's gonna lead us to a third question, and that is, are the people of Nineveh going to condemn you on the day of judgment? Are the people of Nineveh gonna condemn you on the day of judgment? Nineveh responded, if you recall, by putting on sackcloth and ashes, which was a symbol of their inward repentance. Sackcloth was when you tore your clothing, and that was indicating that your heart was torn with grief or the decisions that you made. Covering yourself with ashes was a symbol of the destructive nature of the choices that you made.

That's how they responded. You see, in the Bible, whenever somebody repents, whenever somebody comes to God anywhere in the Bible, there's always an outward declaration that goes with the inward decision, always. In this story here, it's sackcloth and ashes. In the church that I grew up in, that symbol was walking an aisle and coming forward and kneeling at the altar. Anybody grow up in a church like that? You had this altar, and you had like five or six steps that kind of went all the way around, and at the end of the sermon, you would walk up, and that's how you trusted Jesus. Now, it's a great symbol, all right? I don't mind you, but let's just be real honest with each other, it's not biblical. That's not, you don't ever find in the Bible the whole walking the aisle thing. In the Bible, in the Bible, the outward symbol, the outward symbol, which is important, is not walking an aisle, it's baptism.

Baptism is the symbol, it is the outward declaration of an inward decision, all right? Okay? All right, so let's get right to it. Question number one that we are going to deal with.

Here we go. How is Jesus' message similar to Jonah's? How is Jesus' message similar to Jonah's? So let's start with Jonah's message. Jonah's message, again, was just five words in Hebrew. Yod, Abayim, Venenavah, Yom Nepaket, translated into English as eight words, yet 40 days and none of us shall be overthrown.

Now, let's be honest, there's not much in there to look at and to analyze. But there are two words that stand out to me. The first is 40 days, and then the second is overthrown. 40 days, in the Bible, 40 is the number of judgment. 40 means an appointed judgment, it means an imminent judgment.

You will see it all throughout the Bible. 40 days of flood, 40 days of famine. Whenever you see 40 in the Bible, that's usually a very bad sign, which is why. I turned 39 this year. I've decided this is the last birthday I will ever celebrate. So from henceforth, I am 39. You'd be like, how old are you? You'd be like, the last birthday I celebrated, I was 39.

So that's just gonna be my age from now on, because 40's bad, all right? So 40 days, 40's the number of judgment, overthrown. Overthrown is a war term.

Overthrown is a war term, and it's used because God is going to do war against the people of Nineveh and put down the rebellion that they have, they have enacted against him. And that's very important because it shows you the true nature of sin. A lot of times we think that sin is morally devious behavior that is wicked because of the effect on others. So sin is adultery, it is drugs, it is cheating, it is lying, and it has a wicked effect on how it harms others, and that is certainly true. But make no mistake that the greatest evil of sin is not its effect on others, it is an affront to God. And so he is saying, I'm going to come and overthrow you because your sin is ultimately rebellion against me. There are two roots to every sin that we commit.

Here they are, number one is pride. Pride, pride says I wanna do what I wanna do because I know better than God. I'm smarter than God, I'm a better Lord of my life than God is, so I'm going to reject God's counsel and I'm going to follow my own. That is an affront to God, because it says that you are greater than God and smarter than God. The other source of your sin, as I have explained, the Bible explains, is idolatry. Idolatry is when something matters more to you than God. It is when something takes on greater weight than God has in your life. I've explained to you that the core of the Hebrew concept of idolatry is the word chabod.

Chabod literally means weight. An idol is something that takes on more weight than God. It's not usually a bad thing, it's just something in your life that has become more important to you than God and controls your behavior more than God does. It might be your career, it might be money, it might be reputation, it might be marriage, romance, whatever, but it becomes so weighty to you that it dominates your behavior and it matters more to you than God does. Now, how do you figure out what your idol is?

Well, you've probably got multiple ones of them. John Calvin said that the human heart is an idol factory, which means it just constantly is making new idols. It's almost like there's a lot of sickness going around now. You get around somebody that's sick, you don't want them to breathe on you, because everything that's coming out of that poisoned body of theirs, that sick body, is poisonous.

You don't want any of it on you. Out of the human heart comes continual idols. At various points in your life, you're gonna give something more weight than God.

When you're retiring, you gotta differ your idols than when you're 19 years old, but it is the same all through your life. There's things that you're giving more weight than God. The ultimate idol for us almost always is what we want. And what we want and what God wants, we give more weight to what we want than what he wants.

There's nothing wrong with wanting things. It's just that these things take on more weight than God does. And ultimately, they begin to control your behavior. So behind every sin is pride and idolatry, and this is cosmic treason.

At some point, the rightful king comes, and the rightful king overthrows all false claims to rule. This is Summit Life with J.D. Greer. You know, our goal on this radio program each day is to keep you saturated in the truths of the gospel. But did you know that we have other resources available that have that same goal in mind? One of our most strategic and powerful ways we can keep the gospel front and center is through our daily email devotional from Pastor J.D. Couldn't we all use encouragement first thing in the morning or after work to remind us of God's love? I know the busyness of life can quickly choke out any joy we feel in our walk with God, so let's remind ourselves moment by moment of His love and devotion to us and engage with His word even more. And the best part, it follows along with our teaching here on the program, so even if you miss a day, you can catch up quickly and easily. Sign up for this free resource at jdgreer.com slash resources. That's J-D-G-R-E-E-A-R dot com slash resources.

Now let's return for the conclusion of today's teaching on Summit Life. Once again, here's Pastor J.D. Now, whenever I explain this, some people object here and they're like, well, why doesn't God just mind his own business?

Here's the problem with that. Just think about this logically for a minute. If there is a God and He is the creator of all that is, right, then there's no like your territory and His territory, it's all His territory. That air that you're breathing right now, that's His air that He created for His purposes. Those molecules that make up your body, those are His molecules that He created and you are a usurper to the throne and you are in possession of stolen property. So there's no like God mind His own business, it's all His business, right? The second thing I always say to people when they make that kind of statement to me is you don't understand that God created you for Himself and He created you so that you only thrive when you are in relationship to Himself. God created you so that you would be most alive when you're in fellowship with Him. Now I've compared it before to imagine a fish who looks around at the ocean and says, I hate you ocean, I am sick of you and I'm rebelling against you and flies up out of the water and flops on the land.

Now yeah, good luck with that, right? I mean you can rebel against the water if you want to but you will die. Well in the same way, see God created us for Himself and we will only thrive, we are most alive when we are in proper relationship to Him. So Jonah's message was one of appointed judgment. Now Jesus did not give His audience an actual calendar date like that and I don't have one for you either. But don't think of 40 days as a set calendar day, think of 40 days as a symbol for a prescribed moment of judgment. 40 in the Bible is symbolic and it just means when the time is fulfilled. I don't know when that time is for you but I do know this, Hebrews 9, 27, it is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment. Which means that there is an appointed time of judgment for you, it might be this afternoon, it might be this week, it might be next year, it might be 10 years from now, 50 years from now, 80 years from now, I don't know but I know that there is an appointed time of judgment for you. Do you ever think about that day? Because ultimately, it's like Martin Luther used to say, only two days matter, this day and that day.

This day when I'm doing it and this day for God and then that day when I stand before Him and give an account. Do you ever seriously think about that question? The way Jesus said it was this, He said what would it profit a person if he gained the whole world and then lost his soul?

What would you give in exchange for your soul? Would you think for a minute about the logic of that? You don't even have to be a religious person to understand the logic of that. If there is an afterlife and 97% of Americans, I saw this in a recent survey, 90% of Americans believe in an afterlife. Only 92% believe in God. So I'm not really sure how you put those two together. Well what do you think is out there? Right, you know, what's that 5%?

What's wrong with it? Here's another one. Only 4% of Americans believe in hell. So 97% believe in an afterlife, 4%.

Isn't that just like a great picture of our culture? We're Americans, we're positive. Somebody's going to hell but it's not us, you know? So 4% believe in hell. But 97% believe in an afterlife.

So I'm assuming that I'm talking to just about anybody in the room that believes this, all right? What's it profit you if you gained everything that you hoped? You married the love of your life. You got the job that you'd always hoped for. You got higher in that job than you ever dreamed you could get. You made millions upon millions of dollars.

Your kids grew up to love you and sing your praises. You died at a ripe old age peacefully, painlessly, in a bed with your family, adoring, gathered around your bedside, stroking your hands, singing Kumbaya, telling each other how wonderful and awesome you were as you drift off. What's it profit you if you gained all that, everything that you'd ever wanted and then lost your soul? If you could, from this point, look beyond and just look into those last final breaths and see that everything that you had worked for and gained was gone, is there any fool that would say, yes, I would trade something right now for my soul?

Of course not. What would you give in exchange for your soul? I mean, imagine if I could come up to you and say, hey, this afternoon, I can give you several million dollars. It is yours, you can have it, several million dollars, but here's the price.

Tonight at 12 o'clock, you die. And then at that point, all the money comes back to me. You can't give that money away, right?

You can't pass it on to your family. It just all comes back to me. Whatever you can spend in an afternoon, you can have it. But then it all comes back to me and the price is you die. Nobody would take me up on that offer, right? Because what good is an afternoon with all the money in the world to then die and lose your soul? You see what Jesus is asking there? You ever think about this? The problem is not that we don't believe this, the problem is we never think about it, right? We just never really think about it. What Jonah is saying to them is look, and what Jesus says to you is you gotta think about it. Because it's coming, it is coming.

Again, it might be today, it might be next week, it might be next year, but if the only two days are important, this day and that one, are you ready to stand before God? You know, Jesus, in one of the other statements he made, he says, think about it, just to use the logic on a little bit, he says, he said, the one who saves his life will lose it. You realize how much we do that are life-saving techniques? We buckle our seatbelt. We eat healthily.

Many of you men know a cardiologist by name. You have insurance, you set aside money for a rainy day. Those are all life-saving techniques, but no matter what you do, no matter how healthily you eat, no matter how much you exercise, no matter how much you go to the doctor, you can eat all vegetables. You can take vitamins until they're coming out your ear.

You can become a vitamin. And you're still gonna die. The one who saves his life will lose it. Do you ever really think about that? Last week, I told you, and I will refer to this, ninth grade kid, planning to come to our church that night, killed, you just don't know when it's over. And it might be today, and it might be next week, and it might be 10 years from now, 50 years from now, but it's coming. That's how Jesus' message is similar to Jonas.

There's a weightiness when I get up here, because I just look and I'm like, do you understand that some of you are trading your soul for something you can never hang on to? That's how it was similar to Jonas. Let me give you now how the message is greater than Jonas. How Jesus' message is greater than Jonas. Give you three ways. One, the surety of it.

The surety of it. Nineveh, Nineveh got ripped off, didn't they? They got a very truncated message. It wasn't a good message. Jonah was like a little kid obeying his parents who didn't wanna obey his parents. He's just obeying out of spite. So he goes, and he gives the letter of the law.

You have 40 days, and Nineveh will be overthrown. He doesn't tell them about God's compassion. He didn't tell them about God's love. He didn't tell them about the offer of forgiveness. He didn't tell them how great God was. He just announced that judgment was coming.

You remember how the king responded, chapter three, verse nine? Who knows? Who knows?

God may turn and relent so that we may not perish. Who knows? He didn't know. Why didn't he know?

Because Jonah didn't tell him. Yet they repented. They didn't know if they repented, God would not have them perish.

You know, John 3.16, God so loved the world that he gave his only son that whosoever believes in him would not perish but would have everlasting life. John 6.37, all those who come to Jesus, he will in no wise under any circumstances cast out. Isaiah 1.18, come now, says the Lord, and let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet.

I'll make them white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they will be like wool. Romans 10.13, whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. John 1.12, as many as received him, to them he gave the right, the responsibility, the ability to become the children of God to all those who would call on his name. Matthew 11.28, come unto me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, I will give you rest. You got promises all through the New Testament that give you a promise of surety that the people of Nineveh never got, yet they repented.

Here's the second way it was greater. The richness of it. The richness of it. Nineveh had only the hope that God would relent from the destruction he had promised. The gospel is that Jesus gives us his righteousness and his privilege and his standing before God so that not only does God relent from the disaster, he also makes us sons and daughters of God. Second Corinthians 5.21, God made him who knew no sin to become sin for us so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

What that verse means is that Jesus and I traded places. He became my sin, he took my judgment, he took my condemnation, he died for it and buried it on the cross so that I could literally, in him, become the righteousness of God so that I now possess a position and a status that I did not earn, but he gave to me as a gift. It's what we refer to here around the Summit Church as gift righteousness. God's righteousness given as a gift.

We say that you could summarize the gospel in four words. Jesus in my place, Jesus taking my place on the cross so I could take his position before the throne of God and I would have his record credited to mine. I thought of that as I was praying here for our services.

I think about this frequently and I say something to God like this, I kid you not. I'm like, God, let me tell you why I think you should hear my prayers for that I'm praying about these people. Here's why, because this week, this week I fasted for 40 days and resisted Satan to his face.

Every temptation he threw at me. I had so much faith that I walked on water and fed 5,000. They crucified me this week and when I was being crucified, I didn't give anger back to everybody. I said, Father, forgive them because they don't know what they're doing. Then you're like, wow, you've had a busy week, especially out prepping 40 days of fasting into one week.

I don't know how you did that. Of course, I didn't do those things. Jesus did those things, but his record became mine so that in him I become the righteousness of God. That's the richness of what Jesus offers to me. Jesus in my place, gift, righteousness. See how much richer that is than the message that Jonah gave to those people?

Jesus paid it all. Now we have his assurance and his righteousness. That is definitely a greater message today. You're listening to Pastor J.D. Greer on Summit Life. And if you're new to the ministry, let me be the first to say welcome.

We hope you'll join us as often as possible. Summit Life exists to make Jesus known, to bring gospel-centered Bible teaching and tools designed to help you dive deeper in your walk with God every day and then share that truth with others. And that's why we're offering a resource this month that will help you remember scripture this year and hopefully for years to come. The Bible is our foundation, the most important way we hear from God.

So why not become a better student of the Bible by committing more of it to memory? The good news is we are right there with you in our newest set of scripture memory cards. The scripture memory cards come with our thanks for your generous financial gift of $35 or more. Call right now to make your donation and request the set of cards. The number is 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220.

Or go online and request them when you visit us at jdgreer.com. By the way, if you haven't checked out Pastor J.D. 's newest podcast called Ask Me Anything, you'll wanna do that today. Pastor J.D. gives quick, honest answers to tricky questions and you can find it online at jdgreer.com or through your favorite podcasting app. I'm Molly Venovich. Be sure to tune in Friday when Pastor J.D.

concludes our teaching series about the life of our reluctant and sometimes runaway prophet. See you Friday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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