Discipline and Deliverance–Jonah 1.17-2.10

is-jonah-historical-fact-or-fictional-narrativeJonah, chapter 2, is about repentance. Jonah is being disciplined by being cast into the ocean according to the will of God (v. 1.15) and being swallowed by the great fish (v. 1.17). He who ignores discipline despises himself, but whoever heeds correction gains understanding (Prov 15.32). God is trying to give Jonah, through discipline, understanding of His plan. Through discipline we gain understanding of God’s plan for us and if we are wise, we will act in accordance with that knowledge. To ignore the knowledge which comes from discipline is stupid (Prov 12.1). This chapter of Jonah outlines the stages of repentance beginning with God’s acknowledgment of the one who is in sin, the role of grace and the solution to the discipline.

God reacts to Jonah’s sin in two ways, through discipline and by expelling him from His sight (v. 2.4). This does not mean that God was ignoring Jonah. On the contrary, God was watching Jonah very closely. The reference to expulsion has to do with Jonah’s ability to enter into the throne room of God. Jonah could not come to God in prayer until his heart was free from sin. “If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear” (Ps. 66.18).

God uses discipline to bring Jonah to repentance so that he can be restored. Jonah’s rejection of God’s plan was so great that he was brought to the point of death before he was willing to repent (v. 2.5). A speculation on logistics says that Jonah was cast into the ocean (v. 1.15), he was engulfed in the waves and the seaweed (v. 2.5), he sunk to the depths of the sea (v. 2.6) and at this point cried out to God from the depths of Sheol (the brink of death) and was swallowed by the great fish (v. 1.17). It is clear that artistic license was taken in chapter 2 by the author since verses 1.17 and 2.10 contradict the events as outlined in 2.1-9 as is often the case with Hebrew poetry. It is at this point, when Jonah was “fainting away” to death (v. 2.7) that his heart reflects a true desire of repentance. As a result, he was not only saved physically from the discipline, but he was also restored to fellowship so that his prayers could reach God (v. 2.7).

We see a glimpse of Jonah’s understanding of the doctrine of grace when in the midst of discipline, he says, “Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple” (v. 2.4). This is brought to fruition in verse 2.7, “And my prayer came to you.” NIV puts this perfectly, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (v.2.8). Jonah was idolizing his own self interest and his pride for his nation (as we will find out in further studies). He recognizes this as worthless idolatry. Anything that is put above God is idolatry and anything that is not for God is worthless and is sin, deserving of death. Jonah deserved death at this point, but through grace he was able to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God. Had he not repented, he would have forsaken faithfulness to God (NAS v. 2.7) and died when grace could have been his.

As part of his repentance, Jonah takes vows and sacrifices to the Lord (v. 2.9). When you are being disciplined it is not simply enough to ask forgiveness. Forgiveness has already taken place at the cross. Even for Jonah, forgiveness was taken care of through the foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice. In addition to asking forgiveness, we are to praise God for his forgiveness repent of our wickedness and take vows to do His work (remembering that all we do is either for or against the kingdom of God). The last step is to remember who is in control. Often we deny that our discipline comes from God. Similarly it is easy to forget who delivers us from discipline. Jonah does this when he says plainly, “Salvation is from the Lord” (v. 2.9). For Jonah, this deliverance comes after he has been in the belly of the fish for three days, readying his heart to do God’s work; God commands the fish to vomit Jonah out onto dry land.

In conclusion, this chapter in Jonah gives a very practical explanation of the principles of discipline and repentance. When we are disciplined, we must recognize that it is God’s hand upon us, acknowledge our sin before Him, repent of our sin, and take vows to return to the path and plan of God. It is in this way that we are restored to fellowship with God.

Image Credits: Brent Nelson, flickr.com

Forming Convictions

A person is made up of three primary elements: heart, mind and body. The body is the outward appearance. The body is everything that you do or do not do. The mind is everything that you think. It is man’s knowledge and ability to reason, logic. Your heart is your attitude and your feelings. Man has the ability to control his body in order to not appear in sin. The Pharisees, where they misunderstood sin, made great progress in this area, as do many professed Christians. We can appear on the outside to be free from sin. But, it is not enough to be free from sin in body, but we must also be free from sin in mind. Christ said that if we are angry with someone, we are guilty of murder (Matt 5.21,22). This is still not enough. Christ said that the root of our sin is in our hearts (Matt 15.17-19). Not only that, but if we recognize sin in our hearts, then God turns his ear from us (Ps. 66.18). He will not act on our prayers if we are harboring sin. How do you know if you are harboring sin? You know by your convictions.

Defining Conviction

The most common use of conviction is used in a legal sense. It is a declaration of guilt or innocence made by a court. It can also be described as a strong belief or something that you have become convinced of. To convict is to declare blame and to condemn. Based on these definitions, conviction can be summed up as, ‘An action which a person is convinced will result in condemnation.’ The Bible is consistent with this definition. Proverbs says, “The guilty are convicted” (Prov. 24.25) and the guilty are convicted by the Holy Spirit (John 16.8). Therefore, when we form a conviction, we should become convinced that the Holy Spirit will condemn us for an action. Moving forward, remember that the most important part of forming convictions is becoming thoroughly convinced that something will result in God’s condemnation. For most, ‘because the Bible says it’s sin’ will not be adequate to be thoroughly convinced.

Why form convictions?

The obvious response is to avoid God’s condemnation, but there is a bigger reason. It is a reflection of our heart. God is more concerned with our hearts than with our actions. Romans 14.22,23 gives an accurate answer to this question.

The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God.

Our free will cannot be a reason to sin. All are at liberty to sin, but as Christians, our faith in Jesus Christ should be demonstrated to God through our forming of convictions, our agreement on what is sin.

Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.

The idea is that we will find joy in Christ if we do not approve of things that are sin. Notice that it says ‘approve’. Convictions are not just a list of don’ts, they are also a list of dos. Do not be solely concerned about what not to do, otherwise you live fearful, timid lives. Instead fill your life with what you should do, what you approve of, which with proper convictions will result in joy.

But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin

This passage has to do with the context. Gentile Christians were eating meat which was sacrificed at the temples of Pagan gods. This is not a sin, but the Jewish Christians believed it was. What Paul is saying here is that if they eat the meat, they are sinning by eating the meat from the temple if they have not formed a conviction on the matter, even though eating the meat is not sin. The application is that we cannot simply assume something is sin simply because Mom said so or because our Sunday school teacher said so. We must form a conviction, in order to be absolutely convinced, so that we can exercise our liberty without condemnation.

In summation, we must form convictions in order to not sin. We cannot avoid sin accidentally. Why? God knows the heart. If our hearts do not reflect a desire to follow Him, then our actions are immaterial. For example, honesty can be a sin if it is done out of pride rather than faith. God desires that we have a heart to obey Him, that we form convictions about His will, then our minds and bodies follow suit.

Forming Convictions

As discussed earlier, it is not sufficient for most to read God’s word and call something sin, because scripture suggests it is. It’s like this:

A man opens the Bible to find God’s will. He opens his Bible and reads of Judas, “Then he went away and hanged himself” (Matt 27.5). The man then flips to another scripture and reads, “Jesus told him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10.37).

There are many areas which people argue as to the meaning of a scripture and ultimately what conviction should be derived from it. There are also areas of scripture that seem to contradict values (Ex. Story of Rahab in Joshua 2). There are other factors which must be taken into account, namely, the Holy Spirit and general revelation. God has provided us with multiple sources which will guide us to form convictions and we should make use of them all.

Before forming a conviction, we have to be presented with a situation. This can be a ‘what do I do’ or a ‘what don’t I do’. For example, a conviction can be, ‘I am convicted that lying is evil’ or it can be ‘I am convicted that God wants me to become a missionary.’ In reality we should be forming both types of convictions, dos and don’ts. Scripture is a great place to start for either type of conviction since “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3.16,17). All of these elements are related to dos and don’t, but the purpose is to do God’s work and that is our ultimate goal.

Example: It is not enough to read the book of Acts and decide that it is God’s will for you to become a missionary simply because Paul was a missionary. If you read Acts and are challenged to become a missionary, it is likely the work of the Holy Spirit which is calling you to it. In order to form a conviction on your calling you have to spend time in prayer over the matter and ask God to confirm it for you. This brings up another dilemma though. How do you know when and how it has been confirmed?

Sometimes the confirmation is easy, because doors open and God makes it really obvious. Sometimes it’s not so easy. This is where general revelation comes into play. General revelation is our ability to discern good and evil, whether an action is in accordance with God’s will or against it. General revelation is the knowledge of good and evil that was obtained by Adam and Eve when they ate the fruit in the garden. So when we are making a decision, we can look at our evidence and use our God given discernment to begin to form a conviction. Back to the example: if you are trying to confirm whether or not to become a missionary, you have to look at God’s work in creation in order to determine if that work is confirmation or not. If God opens all the doors to go into missionary work, then your natural ability to discern should tell you that is His will for you. If there is no feasibility in it, then your discernment should tell you that it is not your will.

Three main elements are required in order to discern God’s will, but there is one other of vital importance. The “gospel [the message of salvation through Jesus Christ] did not come to you in word only, but also…with full conviction” (1 Thes 1.5). We should always form convictions based on the benefit of the gospel. By nature, a Christian should do this since this conviction was put in us at the time of salvation, but it is an important tool in discerning God’s will. Specifically, you can ask, “How will this benefit or discredit the Gospel?”

Sin is only sin because it’s against God’s will. Similarly everything which is against God’s will is sin. So we are not so much looking to figure out what is sin, but what is for or against God’s will. Let’s return to the story of Rahab. She had a choice to lie or to go against God’s plan to have the Israelites conquer the land of Jericho by giving up the Israelite spies. Since Rahab recognized God’s plan, she hid the spies and God’s plan was done. It is uncommon that we will be faced with such a paradox, but the principal remains the same. Seek God’s will to form convictions.

Result

Without convictions we condemn ourselves out of ignorance. If you do not form convictions by faith them you sin, even if that act is in accordance with your liberty. To obey God’s commands blindly and legalistically without forming convictions based on faith is to bring eternal condemnation upon you. But to discern convictions through scripture, by the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of expanding the Gospel is the hearts demonstration of true faith in Jesus Christ by which we are saved from condemnation.

Proverbs – The Deceiver, The Proud Man and The Elderly

proverbs-the-deceiver-the-proud-man-and-the-elderly

martinno, www.sxc.hu/photo/1095906

The book of proverbs addresses many different characters. Three of those are The Deceiver, The Proud Man and The Elderly. All three of the characters appear periodically throughout the book.

The deceiver is first found in chapter one. In these accounts the deceiver is out to lure someone into a trap where they will (Proverbs 1.11) ambush him or (Proverbs 1.14) sweet talk him out of his money. Chapter 2, verse 22 gives the punishment for the deceiver, that he will be uprooted from the land, cast away because he is an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 3.29,32). The wisdom comes in chapter 4 where the deceiver is told to cease deceit and devious speech (Proverbs 4.24).

The proud man comes up periodically. We can see him in chapter 16 where we are warned that pride is the precursor to destruction (Proverbs 16.18). The wisdom then is to sacrifice wealth and comfort for humility (Proverbs 16.19). Chapter 18 puts this clearly when it says that the man whose heart will be destroyed is first prideful. This wisdom is contrasted by the idea that an honorable heart comes from humility (Proverbs 18.12).

The elderly play a very big role in many societies as the wise men and are therefore recognized for their wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Chapter 16 suggests that righteousness can produce longevity and therefore the elderly are glorified because of their righteousness (Proverbs 16.31). Chapter 17 puts it similarly when it recognizes the father or grandfathers role in the lives of their grandchildren (Proverbs 17.6). Chapter 20 also recognizes the glory of being elderly when it contrasts it with youth. The wisdom here is that the elderly have wisdom, where the young have strength (Proverbs 20.29).

How We Should Speak

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juliaf, sxc.hu

Believe it or not, the way that you speak says more about you than everything else you do combined. James 3:5 says “the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts” (NIV). For this reason we should adhere to Paul’s advice; “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV). Our speech should build others up not tear them down. It should be a demonstration of everything we believe, everything that Christ taught. Here is a collection of scriptures intended to encourage us to speak in a way that would honor God.

as long as I have life within me,
the breath of God in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak wickedness,
and my tongue will utter no deceit.
Job 27:3, 4 NIV

My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long.
Psalms 35:28 NIV

He whose walk is blameless
and who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue,
who does his neighbor no wrong
and casts no slur on his fellowman…
He who does these things
will never be shaken.
Psalm 15:2, 3, 5 NIV

Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.
Proverbs 8:6 NIV

He who walks righteously
and speaks what is right,
who rejects gain from extortion
and keeps his hand from accepting bribes,
who stops his ears against plots of murder
and shuts his eyes against contemplating evil-
this is the man who will dwell on the heights,
whose refuge will be the mountain fortress.
His bread will be supplied,
and water will not fail him.
Isaiah 33:15, 16 NIV

So the spies questioned him: “Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.
Luke 20:21 NIV

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29 NIV

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, 8but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
James 3:1-12 NIV

For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech.
1 Peter 3:10 NIV

What is a Proverb? | Proverbs’ Role in Society

What is a Proverb? | Proverbs’ Role in Society

What is a Proverb?
Proverbs play a big role in most societies whether we recognize it or not. What is a proverb? American Heritage Dictionary describes a proverb as “A short pithy saying in frequent and widespread use that expresses a basic truth or practical precept.” These are anything that people say that demonstrate some sort of truth about their society or morality, but they usually incorporate literary devices such as metaphor, alliteration or rhyming in order to make them ‘catch phrases’. Here is an example of an American Proverb.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

This means it is better to keep the little bit you have than to risk it all for something more.

What does the Bible have to say about the usefulness of proverbs?

To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, To receive instruction in wise behavior, Righteousness, justice and equity; To give prudence to the naive, To the youth knowledge and discretion, A wise man will hear and increase in learning, And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel, To understand a proverb and a figure, The words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:2-7 NAS

The proverbs of the Bible are for wisdom. They are instructions on how to live that are in accordance with God’s wisdom. Here is an example.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, But he who hates reproof is stupid.
Proverbs 12:1

This proverb is a contrast. It says that you must love discipline if your seek knowledge. Reproof is criticism or conviction on a matter. Stupid in this context means without knowledge. So if you are not disciplined, then you do not wish to be convicted of your iniquities and also hate knowledge. The wise man is disciplined, open to reproof and will be intelligent because of it.

Clear the Threshing Floor | Winnowing

The act of winnowing is used several times in the Bible. Usually, the word is used figuratively to describe a sort of judgement. (Except in Ruth 3:2, where the literal act is referred to). Acccording to The New Manners and Customs of the Bible, winnowing is the process by which grain is seperated from the inedible parts. “The stalks are thrown into the air with a wooden shovel or a wooden fork having two or three prongs and a handle three or four feet long (also called a “fan”). The wind blows away the chaff and the straw, letting the heavier pure grain fall back to the ground. As a rule this was done in the evening or during the night, when the west wind from the sea was blowing, which was a moderate breeze and fittend for the purpose” (404).

American Heritage Dictionary
winnow

1. To separate the chaff from (grain) by means of a current of air.
2. To rid of undesirable parts.
3. To separate or get rid of (an undesirable part); eliminate: winnowing out the errors in logic.
4. To sort or select (a desirable part); extract.

Other verses where “winnow” is used figuratively:
Prov. 20:8
Prov. 20:26
Isa. 41:16
Jer. 4:11
Jer. 15:7
Jer. 51:2

Probably the most recognized verse is in Matthew (Also in Luke 3:17) where John the Baptist is addressing the Pharisees. “But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matt. 3:11-12). He describes Christ as a farmer who will come and harvest the grain, seperating the wheat from the chaff. It is clear that John is describing how Christ will gather some men unto himself (wheat) and seperate them from the wicked men (chaff), who will be consumed with unquenchable fire. John is speaking of the judgement of Christ.

Righteous Service

“Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:2, 3)

There is a contrast in these verses. On one hand we have the Lord. On the other we have man. (more…)