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TURNING AROUND

Date: 
August 5, 2018 
Speaker: 
Rev. Terry Martinson
Reading: 
Jonah 3:1-10

Theme: When our ways are not God’s ways, we need to turn around (repent.)

INTRODUCTION

  • Sometimes I wonder what impact, if any, my sermons have…
  • Do the sermons preached from this pulpit make a difference in the way you live your life?
  • Do the sermons change your behaviors, or your relationships, or the way you respond to God and others?
  • OR do the sermons fall on deaf ears, or go in one ear and out the other?
  • I spend quite a bit of time preparing or crafting our sermons…
  • I work hard to condense my words into a ten to twelve minute message, knowing that the people in the pews get “itchy” if the sermons are much longer than that…
  • I was taught in seminary that preachers should spend two hours of preparation for every minute in the pulpit… in other words, the average sermon should be the product of 20 – 24 hours of preparation…
  • I think Jonah missed that class!
  • Jonah walked into Nineveh… preached a whole sermon in less than 10 seconds – 5 words in Hebrew, maybe 7 or 8 in English – and everything changed immediately!
  • No one asked, “How long do you think he worked on that one?” And only a few asked, “Are there copies of the sermon on your desk?”
  • The people of Nineveh heard Jonah loud and clear!

 

JONAH

  • In last week’s sermon, God spoke to the prophet Jonah a second time… God said, “Jonah, get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message I tell you.” <Jonah 3:2>
  • So, given a second chance to get it right, Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord… as he walked into the city, he cried out: “You’ve got 40 days before disaster strikes!”
  • By our way of thinking, this might have been the worst sermon in history… but Jonah spoke for God, and that’s all God needs today – people who speak for God. <Koshy>
  • Jonah was a man on a mission with a streamlined message…
  • Jonah didn’t start his sermon with a cute story or a powerful illustration…
  • He didn’t try to reason with the people…
  • He got right to the point… he said what he had to say – “You’ve got 40 days before disaster strikes.”
  • Jonah’s message was quite abrupt… these are the briefest words of prophecy in the Bible…
  • Did the people listen? Yes!
  • The ungodly, ruthless people of Nineveh, who were an unbelieving people with no knowledge of God, believed God’s message and responded with repentance… in the hope that God would change his mind and not destroy their city, the people of Nineveh completely turned their lives around.
  • Nice job, Jonah!

 

REPENTANCE

  • You don’t hear the word repentance in church too often today… we seldom preach about repentance… and repentance isn’t a regular topic of conversation at coffee hour… but repentance is an important biblical theme…
  • Every prophet’s sermon in the Old Testament - from Isaiah to Zechariah - called for repentance…
  • John the Baptist came out of the wilderness with a very short sermon, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” (Matthew 3:2) And those who heard John’s message rushed to the Jordan River to be Baptized…
  • Jesus repeated John’s brief sermon, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17) And those who heard the message of Jesus became his followers.
  • Peter cried out, “Repent, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (Acts 2:38) And they were baptized and the church grew by leaps and bounds…
  • Throughout the Bible, God’s people heard the cries of the prophets, and the voices of John, Jesus, and Peter and responded with repentance.
  • The word repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia, which literally means “to change one’s mind.”
  • But repentance is more than just changing your mind, it’s changing your ways… it’s a change of mind that leads to a change of behavior…
  • When our ways are not God’s ways, we need to repent… we need to turn around…
  • To repent is to turn around… to turn away from sin and turn back to God…
  • Richard Trench offers this definition – “Repentance is the mighty change in mind, heart, and life wrought by the Spirit of God.”
  • Something happened to Nineveh that cannot be explained by Jonah’s preaching ability or the receptivity of the citizens… the wind of God swept through the city awakening lifeless souls to judgment… after the preaching of God’s word, they responded with repentance… they turned around… they changed their ways… and God saved the city… God is constant in his mercy!
  • The citizens of Nineveh discovered that God is more merciful than our imagination can fathom… We need only to look to the cross of Christ to see this for ourselves.
  • In the Bible, the Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the great illustrations of repentance… the younger brother, who claimed his portion of his father’s inheritance, took his money and wasted it on “wine, women and song.” When he realized the foolishness of his ways, he turned back to his father and the father welcomed home with arms opened wide.  (See Luke 15)
  • When we turn back to God, we will always find arms that are waiting to embrace us…
  • When we repent, God turns from judge to Savior, from condemnation to acceptance, from separation to embrace, and from wrath to blessing… God is just waiting to bless us…

 

** ** ** ** **

About 100 years ago, a man picked up the morning paper and, to his horror, read his own obituary. The newspaper had mistakenly reported the death of the wrong man. The caption read, “Dynamite King Dies.”  The story identified him as a “merchant of death.” He was the inventor of dynamite and he had amassed a great fortune from the manufacture of weapons of destruction. Moved by this disturbing experience, he radically changed his commitment to life. A healing power much greater than the destructive force of dynamite came over him. It was his hour of repentance. Thereafter, he devoted his full energy and money to works of peace and human betterment. Today he is best remembered as the founder of the Nobel Peace Prize – Alfred Nobel.  (Colaianni #817)  Quite a turn around!

 

CONCLUSION

  • In a Broadway play of the sixties, a young man who has dropped out of school and been estranged from his family is now hooked on drugs. Out of the depths of what he sees as a hopeless situation he cries out, “How I wish life was like a notebook, so you could tear out the part where you’ve made all the mistakes and start over with a page that is fresh and clean.” A new start, a new page, a new opportunity, a new tomorrow – Will love find a way? …. One of the amazing things about the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that God’s love does find a way. Nothing we have done in life prevents God from giving us a new tomorrow. No mistake, no wrong decision, no wrongful act of any kind can defeat God’s will to forgive. Nothing we do can bind us irrevocably to the past because God is always here to show us the way to new life in a new tomorrow – sometimes in the most surprising and wondrous ways.  <Colaianni #822>
  • Our God is constant in his mercy!
  • Thanks be to God!

 

Sermon Seeds:

  • God Wants To Save Whom? – a sermon by Rev. Thomas Hall
  • The Awakening – a sermon from southwoodsbc.org
  • Marks of true Repentance – a sermon by Robin Koshy
  • Upchuck But Not Upbeat -  a sermon by Ed McNeely
  • Sunday Sermons Treasury of IllustrationsJames F. Colainanni

 

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