Be the Gospel by Pastor Abidan Shah

BE THE GOSPEL by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Be The Gospel.jpgIntroduction: Sometime back I was fishing at a friend’s pond with the boys and one of them wanted to use a spinner bait. I thought I knew what I was doing. So I tied it and decided to give it a shot. I did catch a fish for about 10 seconds before the fish took the bait from me. Just like a good dad, I blamed them for tying the wrong knot. In today’s message we will learn how a fish caught a man. It’s not a hoax. The message is about Jonah in the Old Testament and it is titled “BE THE GOSPEL.”

Matthew 12   38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For 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. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.

Context: Many of you may remember that 3 years ago I preached a series of messages on the Book of Jonah called “Running from God.” (You can still access them on my blog site and podcast.) The most amazing lesson for me in that series was not that Jonah was still alive after being inside the great fish for 3 days and 3 nights. God can do any miracle. The most amazing thing for me was that the people of Nineveh repented after Jonah preached only 8 words to them (at least in English) – “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” Wow! Jonah must be some preacher! What was so powerful in his message that the people were willing to believe God so quickly? What was so radical in his sermon that even the king would decree that every man and beast would fast, seek God and repent? The answer is very simple – “Jonah became the gospel.”

Question: Before we see what that really means, have you heard the old adage – “You are the only Bible some people will ever read”? Let me tweak that a little – “You are the only gospel some people will ever see.” Meaning: It’s not enough to preach the gospel. We also have to live it out. We have to demonstrate in our lives the death, the burial, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. People around us need to see the gospel of salvation in us. Can the people around you see the gospel of Christ in you? Have you ever responded to the gospel in your life? Are you a witness of Christ?

This morning we’re going to focus on how Jonah became the gospel to others:

I. It began with a wakeup call.

Jonah 1   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” The word for “arise” in Hebrew is “qum” meaning “up.” Jonah was comfortably asleep when God came to him. I believe that there is a double meaning here. Jonah was not only physically asleep but he was also spiritually asleep. The reason we can say that is because of his reaction to God’s call. 3 “But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.” People run from God when there is sin in their lives. Case in point: Adam and Eve hid from God after eating the forbidden fruit. What Jonah didn’t realize at that time was that this wakeup call was not just for Nineveh but also for him.

Principle: When God awakens you to do something, don’t see it as something you are doing for God. Primarily, it’s for you.

II. It unleashed a storm of troubles.

Jonah 1:4 “But the LORD sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship was about to be broken up.” Jonah made the same mistake that people make today – I know what God expects of me and I don’t like it. I’m going to take a break from God. I’m going stop coming to church for a while or I’m going to try some other churches because I feel like Pastor Shah is singling me out. I’m going to move to another city/state because I feel like I need a fresh start in my life. Sometimes it’s not physical relocation but mental relocation like a makeover or a new hobby or a new set of friends, anything to keep me from facing God. Jonah believed in the old cliché – “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Principle: God may be out of your sight and out of your mind but you are never out of his reach.

III. It brought discipline from God.

Jonah 1:12 And he said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.” Jonah knew right away that he was the reason for the storm and that God had come to deal with him. But please don’t misunderstand – Jonah was not committing suicide. If this were the case, he would’ve just jumped overboard. Jonah was a prophet of God who knew the ways of God. He knew that God did not punish his children but he disciplined them. By the way, there is a big difference between punishment and discipline. In punishment the goal is the past but in discipline the goal is the future. God’s purpose in Jonah’s discipline was to change his mindset about the gospel. The reason Jonah ran from God was because he didn’t want to go to Nineveh. He felt that God had no business saving the pagans. God had to change Jonah’s understanding of the gospel. God was about to give Jonah a glimpse in the coming death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • To start with, Jonah did not just jump overboard. Instead, he asked the sailors to throw him into the raging sea. So also, Jesus was taken by lawless hands and nailed to the cross.
  • As the great fish nose-dived into the deep, Jonah cried to God “For You cast me into the deep.” (Jonah 2:3) So also, Jesus was not a victim of the cruel and the evil. He was “delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God.” (Acts 2:23)
  • Jonah felt abandoned by God and cried, “I have been cast out of Your sight.” (Jonah 2:4) So also, Jesus, at the ninth hour from the cross, cried out with a loud voice – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
  • Jonah described his physical condition inside the great fish as, “The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.” (Jonah 2:5) So also, Jesus felt the death grip of sin rising around him. And what did he have on his head? A crown of thorns.
  • Jonah described how he was cut off from the earth – “I went down to the moorings of the mountains. The earth with its bars closed behind me forever.” (Jonah 2:6) So also, Jesus was “cut off from the land of the living…” says Isaiah 53:8
  • How long was Jonah inside the great fish? 3 days and 3 nights. How long was Jesus in the grave? 3 days.
  • What happened to Jonah after that? Jonah 2:10“So the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry” What happened to Jesus on the third day? God raised him up “having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:24) Just the way God told the fish to spit out Jonah, God told death to spit out Jesus.

Can you see how Jonah got a glimpse of the gospel in his discipline?

Principle: When God disciplines his children, his goal is not pain but progress. He doesn’t leave you bruised and battered. He leaves you resembling the image of the crucified, buried, and risen Savior.

IV. It led to a great outpouring of salvation.

Jonah 3   1 Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” Before we jump to the reaction of the Ninevites, we need to say a word or two about Nineveh – It was one of the most ancient cities in the world. Its name was from the Sumerian logogram NINUA, which is fish. There was another town with a similar name “NINA” which worshipped the fish goddess Nanshe. More than likely, the people of Nineveh also worshipped the same fish goddess. Her symbol was a “fish.” Also, a Greek historian by the name of Berossus tells us that the Assyrians had a myth that a half-fish, half-man god called “Oannes” or “Uanna” had come up out of the sea and brought them wisdom, sciences, and art. An archaeologist from the 19th century tells us that outside a large chamber in Nineveh there was a bas relief of a half-fish, half-man being.

The text doesn’t tell us but I can only imagine what Jonah looked like when he approached Nineveh. They say that whales have a multilayered stomach like cows, sheep, and deer. In the first stomach, food is crushed and in the second stomach, the gastric juices break it down. I don’t know how far he made it. I picture him as totally bleached from top to bottom. He looks creepy to say the least. Plus, people must have seen a big fishing floating to the shores. As they got near, they see this man being vomited out! I believe word got out that this Jewish prophet had just come out of a big fish. He goes to a city whose very name is dedicated to the fish god. Imagine their shocker when they ask him – “What’s your name?” Jonah. Sounds very much like “Uanna.” Are you god? “Of course not. I am a prophet of the Living God. My God told your god what to do. He put me inside the big fish to show me that one day He is coming and he will be face death and sin for all, including you. You have 40 days to believe in him and if not “Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Someone might say – “That’s too much speculation.” Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 11   29 And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, “This is an evil generation. It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so also the Son of Man will be to this generation.

Do you understand now that it was not 8 threatening words that turned Nineveh around? Jonah represented the gospel through his very life.

Invitation: We do not need a big fish experience to become the gospel to others. Everything we go through in life should testify to the watching world of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and our obedience to the Word of God, we become a sign of the gospel of Christ to the lost world around us.

Have you received this gospel? Are you running from God?

WHY I BELIEVE THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR AMERICA

WHY I BELIEVE THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR AMERICA by Pastor Shah, Clearview, Henderson

Running From God  (1)We are in our series on the Book of Jonah, called, “RUNNING FROM GOD” and this morning we are in Jonah 3 for our message titled “WHY I BELIEVE THERE’S STILL HOPE FOR AMERICA.” One question that I am frequently asked is – “Is God through with America?” Or “Is America under God’s judgment?” This morning’s message is very critical for all of us.

Jonah 3:3b-6, 10 3b Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city belonging to God, a three-day journey in extent. 4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes… 10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Overall Background: We are at that point in our study of the book of Jonah where the focus has shifted from God working with Jonah as an individual to God working with the Ninevites as a people. So far we’ve seen how God disciplined Jonah when he disobeyed Him. Now we will see how God dealt with Nineveh because they disregarded Him.

This morning’s message is very critical for us to hear. In some ways, America is where Nineveh was 2700 years ago. We are in the middle of an economic, moral, and spiritual bankruptcy, just like the Assyrians. God is speaking to us today just as He spoke to the Ninevites of Assyria. He is giving us the answer to our problems as a nation. The question is – “Are we going to listen?” Before we get into the message, let me ask you this morning – “Do you care what’s happening in our nation?” Sadly, many people – young and old – think that as long me and mine are okay, I don’t care. Hopefully, this message will make you aware of what is at stake. If you do care, this message will give you the hope you are looking for our nation.

There are 3 things we will see in this message: First, the Morality of Nineveh; Second, the Message of Jonah; and finally, the Mercy of God.

 I. THE MORALITY OF NINEVEH.

Listen once again to verse 3…Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, belonging to God. Four times it claims that Nineveh was a great city. It even adds that it belongs to God. Why did He say that? Let me give you 3 reasons for that:

#1.It was great in size.

It took 3 days journey to walk through this city. It was not just one city but also a conglomerate of two or three cities, like RDU. Altogether it was a distance of 60 miles. The walls were 100 feet high and broad enough to let three chariots ride side by side. The city was big enough to have large spaces for farming and pasture. This would keep them self-sufficient in case they were surrounded. It had beautiful palace for the king. It is claimed by archaeologists that the population was somewhere over a million people.

#2.It was great in sin.

They were cruel in their treatment of their enemies. They did things that I cannot describe to you. All that we know of torture techniques fails in comparison. Historical records talk about pyramids of human heads after the defeat of the enemy. Boys and girls were burnt alive. Listen to how Nahum describes Nineveh – Nahum 3:1-5a 1 “Woe to the bloody city! It is all full of lies and robbery. Its victim never departs. 2 The noise of a whip And the noise of rattling wheels, Of galloping horses, Of clattering chariots! 3 Horsemen charge with bright sword and glittering spear. There is a multitude of slain, A great number of bodies, Countless corpses—They stumble over the corpses— 4 Because of the multitude of harlotries of the seductive harlot, The mistress of sorceries, Who sells nations through her harlotries, And families through her sorceries. 5 “Behold, I am against you,” says the LORD of hosts.” Not a place that you and I want to go on a vacation.

#3.It was great in history.

The first time we hear about Nineveh is in the Book of Genesis 10. Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Shem’s son Asshur founded the nation of Assyria. He left Babel and moved out and obeyed God. But the sons and grandsons of Ham were rebellious before God. Listen to Genesis 10 and verse 8 onwards. Ham’s son “Cush begot Nimrod.” Nimrod = marad (Hebrew) means to rebel. In essence, it means, “let’s do as we please.” “he began to be a mighty one on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD.” It means “rebellious one before the Lord.”Early historical documents tell us that Nimrod was like the first Antichrist. He was a dictator. He tried to turn people away from God and to follow him. He was a hunter – not of animals but of men.

10 And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. In Babylon, he led the people of the world, at the time in the land of Shinar, Babylon, the land of modern day Iraq, to build “a tower whose top is in the heavens.” It was a temple dedicated to the worship of the heavens, the worship of the constellations, the worship of the sun, the moon and the stars (zodiac). This was sun worship. Today, all throughout the world you will find sun worship.But Nimrod did not stop there. 11 From that land he went to Assyria and built Nineveh…” What was his purpose? Maybe he was trying to infiltrate and corrupt Assyria like Babylon. This was how Nineveh got started.But for some reason it says in 3b Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city belonging to God, Meaning: God cared about Nineveh.

In many ways, we are where Nineveh was 2700 years ago. We are a great nation and we are also a sinful nation. CNN did a poll recently on how Americans view morality. If you compare it with a similar poll done in 1987 by Time magazine, it tells us how far we have come. Everything from “having an abortion, engaging in homosexual behavior, looking at pornography, smoking marijuana, and living with someone before marriage” has become more acceptable!

First Landing - Abidan and Nicole

First Landing – Abidan and Nicole

Shah Family - Chesapeake Bay

Shah Family – Chesapeake Bay

There is one area where we are very different from Nineveh. Our nation’s history goes back only 400 years. In fact, last week we were at Cape Henry on Fort Story – a joint expeditionary military base. We stood at the place known as the “First Landing.” This place, by the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay, is where the first English colonists arrived at 4am on Sunday April 26th, 1607. It is now marked by a granite cross, put there by the Daughters of the American Revolution. They did this in memory of the cross that was set up by the colonists on April 29th, three days later. What took them three days to plant the cross? Because the pastor Robert Hunt had called for three days of prayer and fasting, saying, “From these very shores the Gospel shall go forth to not only this New World but the entire world.”

If God cares for Nineveh, a city founded by one who hated God, how much more does He care about America.

Application: There is a great attempt to rewrite the history of our nation. When you study history, it is obvious that our nation was founded as a Christian nation. Does that mean that everyone always acted in a Christian spirit? Of course not. But, because some lived contrary to the Bible does not mean all did. Nonetheless, we are a nation that is turning away from God. We are becoming greater and greater in sin. Unlike Nineveh, Christians are still a strong majority in this nation.

II. THE MESSAGE OF JONAH

4 And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”

Background: Just an 8 word sermon! Actually in Hebrew it is only 5 words! I think Jonah gets the Guinness Book of World Record for the shortest sermon. I call it the turn or burn sermon.

What was the result in Nineveh?

Jonah 3:5-9 5So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.

People wonder how can a nation or city like Nineveh respond so easily? Things were not going too well for Nineveh about this time. They had faced some military and diplomatic losses recently. They were also facing famine. There were some riots and uprisings among the people. Not only that, but they also had faced an earthquake and a solar eclipse in 768BC. Needless to say, God was working on Nineveh for sometime.

6Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?

The formula for revival is there in the Bible.

2 Chronicles 7:14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

Several times in our nation’s history it seemed that we had hit bottom.

  • First time around 1730’s – The American Colonies were going downhill and God sent the First Great Awakening.
  • Second time was around 1790 – People were moving west and the country was going downhill. God sent the Second Great Awakening in the east and west.
  • Third time was in 1857. A man by the name of Jeremiah Lanphier led the prayer revival and countless many were saved. God raised up men like D.L. Moody and others.
  • Again in the 1920s and 1930s it seemed the morals of our nation were gone. God raised up the Billy Sundays and the Billy Grahams and many others.
  • In the 60’s and the 70’s it was the Jesus Movement where disillusioned young men and women turned towards God.
  • Now again in 2014.

Application: What message are we bringing to the world? As a church, are we actively sharing the good news?

III. THE MERCY OF GOD.

Jonah 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.

Background: Some people have a problem with that – “God relented.” How can God change His mind? In the OT, 9 times we hear that God does not change His mind but 27 times it says that He changes His mind.

2 Peter 3:9-13 9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. 11 Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? 13 Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Where do you stand with God? In Christ He has made a way for you. Do you know Him?

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