Published November 24, 2005
Related Sunday School Lesson, Family Bible Series, Dec. 4
The first chapter of Rick Warren's groundbreaking book, The Purpose Driven Life, begins with these words, "It's not about you.
"The purpose of your life is far greater than your own personal fulfillment, your peace of mind, or even your happiness."
Though millions of people have purchased this book and read these words, this idea has yet to truly permeate our thinking.
So many people today have developed a man-centered theology that is focused on self-fulfillment rather than fulfilling God's purpose and mission in the world.
For instance, when asked why Jesus died on the cross, many Christians would reply, "To save me from my sins." While that is true, we must look beyond our personal benefits of salvation. Jesus' death and resurrection were about God's purposes of reaching all the nations and reconciling a lost world to Himself.
The question that we all encounter at one time or another is this: "Why should I care whether all people hear God's message of salvation?"
Because of what Christ has done in our hearts, we should be motivated to share His love with everyone, everywhere. God desires that His people share His passion for reaching the nations.
This study is designed to help you be passionately involved in fulfilling Christ's missions mandate by identifying and removing the barriers that hinder you from being passionately involved in reaching the nations with the love of Christ.
God's Love: Bigger Than Our Borders, Jonah 4:1-3
The book of Jonah provides a powerful example of God's passion to show His love and to share his truth with all people. Initially, God called Jonah to a task but instead of responding obediently, Jonah sought to run from the presence of God and ignore the call of God.
He boarded a boat headed in the opposite direction of God's calling. But God got Jonah's attention in a miraculous way through the means of a great fish and Jonah finally responded obediently to God's command. He preached the truth of the Gospel to a city doomed to destruction and they responded in repentance toward God.
The book of Jonah can be summed up in this way. In chapter 1, Jonah is the prodigal prophet. In chapter 2, Jonah is the praying prophet. In chapter 3, Jonah is the preaching prophet. And here in chapter 4, Jonah is the pouting prophet.
It would be nice if we could say that the book of Jonah provides us with a "happily ever after" ending. But sadly, it's doesn't.
After being used by God in the greatest revival in recorded history, Jonah is not happy with the overwhelming response. Verse 1 says, "It greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry." Jonah was not pleased with the grace and mercy that God extended. Instead, Jonah was angry with God for extending His love to Israel's enemy.
But God's love is greater than our personal preferences or prejudices. It's bigger than our borders. The foundation of missions is not based upon our feelings or emotions, but it's based upon God's all-encompassing love.
God's desire is not just for some people to hear about Him or a few people to experience His grace. 2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance." God wants for people of all nations to experience His mercy and compassion.
God's People: Confused Priorities, Jonah 4:4-9
Remember, it's not about you. The truth is, it's all about God! But many of us have completely confused our priorities. We spend countless hours and dollars on plans, products and priorities that will never last or have any significant impact for the purposes of God.
Jonah's response to God's grace shows that his priorities were completely out of place. God revealed Jonah's warped priorities by showing that Jonah had more compassion for a plant than he did for the people of Nineveh.
His selfish concern for losing the plant that provided him comfort stood in sharp contrast to his lack of concern for a city of lost people.
The truth is that God's people sometimes lose sight of what matters most. We take our eyes off God's Kingdom and His work in the world and place them on our own personal agenda or preferences. And sadly, our values often stand in sharp contrast with God's values.
Lost World: Should I Not Care?, Jonah 4:10-11
What does God really care about? Unlike us, He doesn't care about money, popularity, possessions or fame. God cares about people! He cares so much about people He paid the highest price to reach us. Therefore we should show the same compassion and concern for people who don't know Christ.
In verses 10-11, the Lord responds to Jonah's poor perspective and improper priorities. God says, "You had compassion on the plant ... should I not have compassion on Nineveh ...?" God shows how foolish Jonah was being by calling into question Jonah's heart and motivation.
He reveals that Jonah's motivating factor in life is his concern for his needs and his desires. He exposes Jonah's self-pity and rebukes him sharply for not caring for the people of Nineveh.
It's easy to be critical of Jonah when you see the way he responded to God's grace to Nineveh. Most of us would say without hesitation that we love people and want to reach them. But we are to love the lost as God loves them.
A passion to see people come to Christ must overwhelm our personal desires and biases.
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