When God awakens us to our sin, we shouldn’t despair

Yes, our sin hinders our relationship with God, but we shouldn’t despair – we shouldn’t feel hopeless. In the beginning of Jonah 2:4, we learn that Jonah feels as if he has been…

“‘…driven away from [God’s] sight;’”

(Jon 2:4a)

The word Jonah uses for “driven” carries the idea of being forced out, to be forced away from. It’s what I do to our dog when he comes in the kitchen while I’m preparing food. I drive him out of the kitchen back to his bed.

As Jonah is sinking down to his watery grave, Jonah felt as if he was forced out of God’s sight. But even though Jonah felt that way, he didn’t despair. In the remainder of verse 4, he says,

“yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’”

(Jon 2:4b)

The reason Jonah didn’t despair, the reason Jonah wasn’t hopeless, even though he felt like he had been driven from the Lord, was because he knew the Lord was a God of loyal love. Because God is a God of loyal love, we can turn back to the Lord through repentance.

The same is true for us. While our sin hinders our relationship with God, we can always turn to Him because He is a God of loyal love. You haven’t messed up so big that you are driven from God’s sight forever. You can repair your relationship by repenting. That’s exactly what we should do when we discover we have sinned against God.

When God awakens us to our sin, we should repent, turning back to the Lord.

We should repent, turning back to the Lord even though we might feel as if we have been driven from God’s presence because God loves us and wants what’s best for us.

Set your mind on the things above to live out your new humanity in Christ

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Col 3:2)

It is easy to focus on the here and now. What is going on around us often steals our attention. It consumes us. The thoughts, actions, ideas, philosophies of the surrounding culture presses in on us. As believers, however, those who have been raised with Christ, we are to set our minds on the things above. In other words, we are to live according to God’s will.

Where is God’s will found? It is found in His Word. We must use God’s Word as our daily guide. If you are a believer, yet you never read God’s Word, you are incapable of setting your mind on the things above and living differently than the culture.

But those who are believers, those who have been raised with Christ, whose life is hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3), you should set your mind on the things above. You should be motivated to do so because Jesus came to die. He didn’t come to die in order for you to continue to be influenced by the culture as you once were.

Jesus sacrificed Himself in order for you to be different. Not just live differently when you feel like, but to literally be different. If you skip down to verse 10, you discover that our self is new. In other words, in Christ, we are a new humanity. As a new humanity, we are to live differently. We are to live according to God’s original design.

The problem with living according to our new humanity is that we live in a world pressing in on us. Since we currently live in the midst of a sinful world, we must set our minds on the things above in order to live out our new humanity on a daily basis.

God Works Through Others to Refine Us

God not only works through circumstances, but He also works through others to get our attention.

I distinctly remember one time when this happened in my life. It was when I was in college. When I moved off to the University of Georgia, I got involved in the party scene. One night in particular I was sitting at the bar with a friend and we were talking about religion. He was an atheist, so I was telling him why he should believe in Jesus. In the course of conversation, I remember him looking at me and saying,

“You know, you’re telling me about Jesus. How He is supposed to change your life and all, but I don’t see a difference between you and I. We pretty much do the same thing, live the same life.”

While I’d like to tell you things changed that night, I can’t. But what I can tell you is that God did get my attention with that conversation and it was the catalyst for future change in my life.

God may be speaking to you through someone else right now.

It might be a friend, it might be a spouse, it might be a church member or someone in the community.
God will use a number of different people to speak into our lives. We need others to speak into our lives. We need everyday relationships with other church members who can hold us accountable and are willing to speak to the truth of God’s Word into our life.

Listen when others speak

When others speak, we need to be willing to listen and then do the hard work of assessing whether what they are saying is right or not, and then make the necessary changes if it is.

When you are assessing whether the person is right or not, don’t do it in the moment of that conversation. Our first reaction to others confronting us with something we are doing against God’s will or loving more than God is almost always to be defensive, so don’t assess right then, unless you are convicted. Instead, assess later when you are out of the moment. Spend some time afterward in personal reflection and prayer. Maybe even ask others you know if they see that in you as well.

God will use others along with circumstances to convict and teach us.

When the gospel is faithfully preached, taught, and lived, its your affections that restrict you

“You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.” (2 Cor 6:12)

When the gospel is faithfully proclaimed, taught, and lived it’s not the person proclaiming, teaching, and living that restricts others from following God’s Word. Instead, it is the person’s affections that restrict them from turning to the Lord.

Affections refer to what we love. They determine what we are drawn to and what captures our attention. When we refuse to turn to the Lord, our affections are captured by something or someone else.

If we claim to be Christian, we must allow Jesus and Jesus alone to capture our attention. We shouldn’t be drawn to anyone or anything else but Him.

When the gospel is being faithfully proclaimed, taught, and lived, that which restricts someone from coming to Christ or following Him in obedience is their own affections. To what are your affections given? Are they given to the world? Are they given to something or someone more than to Jesus? God desires our heart, our affections, our love.

You are God’s Fellow Worker

“For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” (1 Cor 3:9)

What a privilege it is to be called God’s fellow workers. As believers, we have not only experienced salvation but we are also used as God’s instruments to bring others to faith in Christ as well as to help others grow as disciples of Christ. We are His fellow workers.

If God thinks of us as His fellow workers, we must think of ourselves in the same way. We must not shrink back from Jesus’ command to make disciple-making disciples. We must get to work.

While we must get to work, seeking to accomplish the mission Jesus has set before us, as God’s fellow workers, we don’t work alone. The God of the universe, the All-Sovereign, Creator, and Sustainer of all things works alongside us as we seek to work for Him. We work with the power provided us by God Himself.

Do you recognize you are counted as God’s fellow worker? Do you trust God to empower you for the task of making disciple-making disciples?

Are you a responsible and accurate theologian?

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,” (Acts 16:25)

What strikes me about the apostles is there rejoicing in the midst of persecution. Paul and Silas found themselves in prison for helping a poor innocent girl. She was being used and abused for profit by local business men. Possessed by a demon she was able to reveal the fortunes of others. They were content to allow her to continue in this state of darkness for their own gain. Paul and Silas were not. They exercised the demon, freeing her from bondage.

Once these men realized their cash cow was gone, they lied about and slandered Paul and Silas to the local authorities. They had them beaten and thrown into prison. Even though they were wounded and shackled in the inner prison, they prayed and sung hymns to the Lord. Not to themselves but openingly so that all the other prisoners could hear.

  • Would we rejoice in the Lord openly in a situation like they were facing?
  • Would we praise God even as we were being persecuted by Him?
  • Would we continue to be a witness for him as we were being punished by the local authorities for following the Lord?

These are tough questions. Ones we won’t know the answer to until we are in the situation.

That, however, doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for the situation. I believe Paul, Silas, and others rejoiced in the Lord because they knew the Lord. They didn’t just know of Him, but they knew Him. Their relationship with Him was real and intimate. As well as they knew His character and His actions. They were theologians. We should be theologians as well.

No, you don’t need to go to seminary to be a theologian. Everyone is a theologian because everyone has an opinion about God, which means right now, no matter what degree you have or don’t have, you are a theologian.

The question is: Are you a responsible and accurate theologian?

If we are going to stand firm for Christ in the midst of persecution we must be responsible and accurate theologians because what we know about God will determine how we respond to difficult situations.