Category: New Life

Repentance Toward God, Faith Toward Jesus

Repentance Toward God, Faith Toward Jesus

Scripture puts repentance and faith together as different aspects of the one act of coming to Christ for salvation. It is not that we first repent and then trust in Christ, or trust in Christ first and then repent. Rather, repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus occur at the same time.

When we turn to Christ for salvation from our sins, we are simultaneously turning away from the sins that we are asking Christ to save us from. If that were not true our turning to Christ for salvation from sin could hardly be a genuine turning to Him or trusting in Him.

Repentance and Faith Must Come Together

Repentance may be defined as “a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.”

This definition indicates that repentance is something that can occur at a specific point in time. It is not equivalent to a demonstration of change in a person’s pattern of life.

Like faith, repentance is:

  • an intellectual understanding (that sin is wrong).
  • an emotional approval of the teachings of Scripture regarding sin (sorrow for sin and a hatred of it).
  • a personal decision to turn from it (a renouncing of sin and a decision of the will to forsake it and lead a life of obedience to Christ instead).

Repentance Toward God, Faith Toward Jesus

Repentance and faith are simply two different sides of the same coin or two different aspects of the one event of conversion.

One who genuinely turns to Christ for salvation must at the same time releases the sin to which he or she has been clinging and turns away from that sin to turn to Christ. Thus, neither repentance nor faith comes first; they must come together.

Paul summarizes his gospel ministry as one of “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21).

Genuine Repentance Involves Faith in Christ

Yes, sometimes faith alone is named as the thing necessary for coming to Christ for salvation. We see this in scriptures such as John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9; Ephesians 2:8-9.

These are familiar passages and we often emphasize them when explaining the gospel to others. But what we do not often realize is the fact that there are many other passages where only repentance is named. Simply because it is assumed that true repentance will also involve faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

The authors of the New Testament understood so well that genuine repentance and genuine faith had to go together. Thus, they often simply mentioned repentance alone with the understanding that faith would also be included. It’s because genuinely turning from sins is impossible apart from a genuine turning to God.

When we realize that genuine saving faith must be accompanied by genuine repentance for sin, it helps us to understand why some preaching of the gospel has such inadequate results today. With no mention of the need for repentance, sometimes the gospel message becomes only, “Believe in Jesus Christ and be saved.”

Preaching the need for faith without repentance is preaching only half of the gospel. It will result in many people being deceived, thinking that they have heard the Christian gospel and tried it, but nothing has happened.

Genuine Saving Faith equals Genuine Repentance

Faith and Repentance Must Continue

It is important to realize that faith and repentance are not confined to the beginning of the Christian life. They are rather attitudes of the heart that continue throughout our lives as Christians.

Concerning faith, Paul tells us, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13). He certainly means that these three abide throughout this life, but he probably also means that they abide for all eternity.

If faith is trusting God to provide for all our needs, then this attitude will never cease, not even in the age to come. But in any case, the point is made that faith continues throughout this life.

Although initial saving faith and initial repentance indeed occur only once in our lives, when they occur they must constitute true conversion. The heart attitudes of repentance and faith begin at conversion should continue throughout our Christian lives.

Each day, there should be heartfelt repentance for sins that we have committed. Also, faith in Christ to provide for our needs and to empower us to live the Christian life.

Reflection and Challenge

Many people say they believe in God, like Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. Although the attributes of these gods are all different. Who is right? They all cannot be right.

I know based on the authority that the Bible is God’s word to humanity. Acts 20:21 proves that Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism are all false religions.

Acts 20:21 also proves that God is knowable and personal, which is the opposite of all far east religions because they have impersonal gods. Why repent to something you cannot know personally? God has revealed Himself to humanity by becoming a man: the God-Man; the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 1:1, 14 says that “the Word was God, was with God, and became a Man.” That is the Trinity in a nutshell. Muslims hate even the mention that God became a man and is Triune. Not to mention, Islam teaches a works-based salvation. But repentance implies surrendering and admitting our inability to save ourselves.

Closing Thoughts

I have heard Calvinists accuse Baptists that repentance is a work. That is just not true. Repentance is just humbly surrendering and admitting our inability to change ourselves and believing Jesus can change us.

This verse even refutes the worldview of dualism. If God is good and evil, why repent to someone no more righteous than we? Obviously, Acts 20:21 is teaching God is holy and righteous. We cannot earn salvation; it can only be given to us through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Many times, I wonder how many Christians are even truly born again. If we all truly humbled ourselves and surrendered our will, our desires, and choices to God, why don’t we listen and apply God’s word to our everyday lives?

Too often biblically solid sermons are heard but are never applied to our lives because we are too proud to think we need to live like God’s Word is true. Nobody is as humble as Jesus, because nobody else is God.

Are we all willing to repent of our pride and request for more humility?


Reference:

Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem 

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Get a copy of my bookLife According to the Truth.”

Publisher’s Description

Do you know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Did you know that God wants to prepare you during this life to live in heaven with Him? Does your purpose for life evade you?

In Life According to The Truth. Disciple of Jesus Christ, Michael Heilman honestly writes about the issues facing the church and how to live the victorious Christian life.

Michael expounds on biblical principles God has applied to Michael’s life and led to God’s blessing in many areas of his life. With illustrations, humor, and most importantly scripture, he explains to any born-again believer who is spiritually wandering through life, how to be spiritually blessed by God as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

In this devotional Bible study, you will be enlightened in regards to:

  • Why God must be the key focus of your life
  • How to love God
  • How to love others
  • How to discern God’s will for your life
  • How to be confident with your identity in Jesus Christ

Life is difficult, but God can enable you to have abundant joy. If you are a born-again believer that needs encouragement, this book is for you.

Is Suffering God’s Judgment?

Is Suffering God’s Judgment?

We often hear people say that suffering is a result of God’s judgment. Who is not familiar with the Great Flood in Genesis 7? We read how God was grieved when He saw the extent of human wickedness on the earth. So, God decided to destroy every living thing that He has created (Genesis 6:5-7).

Can we then conclude that the sufferings people are going through are God’s punishment upon them? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that God is love (1 John 4:8)? That God’s love caused Him to sacrifice His only Son on the cross to save us (John 3:16)?

Yes; God is love but He is also just and righteous (Psalm 89:14).

God Heals a Man Born Blind

In John chapter 9, we read the story of a man who has been blind since birth. As they passed by where the man was, Jesus’ disciples asked Him “whose fault is it that he was born blind” (John 1:2).

Instead of seeing the man as an object of mercy, the disciples saw him as a subject for a theological discussion. The disciples had been trained as young men in the Mosaic law. They learned that “God does not leave the guilty unpunished” (Exodus 34:7, NIV). That “God punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”

The Healing of the Man Born Blind

Note: Some ancient rabbinic writings also speculated on the possibility of sinning in the womb or a preexistent state.

The disciples were sure that the man’s congenital blindness was caused by sin, either his own or his parents. But Jesus disagreed with them (John 9:3).

The Consequences of Sin

Adam’s disobedience brought sin and death into the world (Romans 5:12).

Adam and Eve sinned, and their offspring grew increasingly wicked and rebellious (Genesis 4:1-24). David committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged the death of her husband (2 Samuel 11). David’s children grew up to cause him continual distress through their violence and selfishness.

Only in rare cases, after God’s longsuffering and mercy have been exhausted did He punish His sinful people. We read in 1 Samuel 2:12-36 how God dealt with the family of Eli. Also, God sent Judah and Israel into captivity (Hosea 11:1-8; Jeremiah 25:1-11) because of their idolatry and disobedience.

In the final analysis, all physical problems and human sufferings are the results of our fall in Adam. The consequences of sin that come upon sinners and their descendants are usually natural consequences rather than God’s divine judgment.

So, to blame a specific disability on a specific sin committed by a specific person is beyond any man’s authority. Only God knows why babies are born handicapped. And only God can turn them into something that will bring good to people and glory to His name.

God brought about suffering in the life of the blind man to reveal God’s work in him (John 9:3). This also happened so that he might become a blessing to the disciples and a blessing to those who would read John’s gospel.

The Consequence of Sin

Does God Carry Grudges?

The concern of the disciples about the man born blind sounds more like the superstitious fear of many in the world.

They think that God holds a grudge against them because they have offended Him in some way. They feel guilty for not acknowledging or confessing their sins. This often distorts their perception of God’s attitude toward them. And they expect Him to bring judgment into their lives at any moment.

Repentance, confession, and acceptance of God’s forgiveness are important ingredients for spiritual peace and good mental health. Inner turmoil caused by a guilty conscience can cause all sorts of fears about divine punishment.

God carries no grudges. If there should be a situation in which God needs to correct our life through suffering, He will let us know. God disciplines us as a godly father disciplines a child. Never will our heavenly Father corrects us vindictively. Rather, He does it in a kindly fashion (Hebrews 12:5-11).

God’s Intent for Suffering

Trials and sufferings are part of life and Christians are not exempt. Some might have expected life to be easy and smooth sailing after becoming followers of Christ. But such is not the case; it’s going to be a battle all the way!

Dealing with the trials of life is never easy. But knowing the promises of God’s love in His Word enables us to experience inner peace and joy.

Suffering is painful and perplexing but we know that God has a purpose for allowing us to experience them. God uses suffering for our spiritual development.

Final Thoughts

When we see other Christians suffering, it is never our place to presume God’s intent for them. There might be instances when people suffer as a consequence of their actions. But oftentimes in the Bible God uses sufferings to enact tremendous good rather than to punish.

God has an infinite capacity to effect goodness amid our pain and difficulty. We see this principle in the life of Joseph, Job, and of course, the Lord Jesus Himself.

Let us love and comfort our fellowmen in their suffering and trust that God will work all things out for their good (Romans 8:28).


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: If God Is Good: Why Do We Hurt? by Randy Alcorn

Out of the deepest hurts of the human condition, Randy Alcorn brings into clear focus our most pressing questions about evil and suffering—including those that wrench our souls when we or someone we love is victimized by evil or assaulted by disease.

He faces these questions with seasoned sensitivity, skillful insight, and a heart of compassion. He dodges none of the difficulties, and never lapses into platitudes, hand-wringing, or oversimplification.

On this troubling but inescapable topic, you’ll find frank acknowledgment of the inherent limitations that set humanity apart from the God who has none. There’s also generous, real encouragement that brings God nearer in our understanding when we need His comfort the most.

And amid our heavy doubts and swirling confusion on this topic, Randy Alcorn points us ultimately toward Jesus as “the only answer bigger than the questions.”

The Power of God in Prayer

The Power of God in Prayer

Do you sometimes doubt the power of God in prayer? Is it because you prayed for something and God did not grant it? Do you know someone who used to be a Christian but quit because God did not give him what he prayed for? Isn’t God a loving God, kind, and generous?

Whatever it is that may have caused us or others to question if God works through prayer, rest assured He does. God is still God. He is enthroned in the heavens above and hears even the silent prayers of our hearts.

When Things Get Tough

More or less two weeks ago, the news about the deadly floods in Germany broke. One headline news read, “Climate scientists shocked by the scale of floods in Germany.” What took place was something unexpected and the cities that were heavily affected declared a “state of emergency.”

I immediately contacted a friend who recently flew there to make sure she’s okay, and thank God, she’s fine. She lives in the southern area which is far from where the flash floods are happening.

A day after, we learned that China’s Henan province was also affected by severe flooding. To make matters worse, several dams and reservoirs have breached warning levels. Flights and trains in many parts of Henan have also been suspended.

Flash Floods

We may not have family, relatives, or friends living in Germany or China. But for sure, every single one of the victims has had somebody grieving for their loss.

You see, it’s hard enough to see the people we love going through difficult times. It’s much harder because there is nothing we can do about their situation. We feel powerless and at times useless, as we watch them go through challenging times

As a result, we can quickly become frustrated, sad, and scared.

The Power of Prayer

Think about how the church at Philippi must have felt knowing what Paul was going through. When they heard of Paul’s imprisonment, they sent Epaphroditus with financial help. But that was all the Philippian church could do. They loved Paul dearly, thus, knowing the struggles he had to endure broke their hearts. They were 4600 miles away and had no political power to change the situation.

But the Philippians knew the power of prayer, so they prayed to God. Paul wrote:

“… Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18b-20, NIV).

What does this tell us? That when God’s people intercede for one another, God takes affirmative action. This principle remains true even for believers today.

Intercessory Prayer

To intercede means to “to come to God on behalf of another.” In other words, when you intercede, you are asking God for something on behalf of someone else other than yourself.

The Bible calls this “standing in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30). We see this in many different places throughout the Bible. For instance, Abraham pleaded with God on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33). Moses interceded on behalf of Israel (Exodus 32:30-33).

In the same way, the Philippian believers went to God in prayer on behalf of Paul. They understood perfectly that there is a direct correlation between God’s actions and the prayers of His people.

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Partnering with God in Prayer

We often hear Christians say that we can partner with God through prayer. God partners with His people to bring about His will and purposes. And the Philippians accepted God’s invitation to partner with Him in bringing to fulfillment His desires for Paul.

Today, God is giving us the same invitation to partner with Him in prayer. Would you accept His invitation?

Now, let me make this very clear. When we intercede, we should first seek to know God’s will and desires for the people we are praying for. This is crucial because not knowing the will of God may lead us frustrated in the end.

To partner with God does not mean manipulating God to agree with what outcome we want. Rather, we must become aware of God’s will and desires for someone and join Him in that.

The apostle Paul was aware that the Philippians were praying for God to help him. And the Philippian church knew that God wanted good for Paul. Even amid trials and difficulties, God is good and He desires what is good for His people.

God Desires Good for His People

It’s easy for us to become discouraged and frustrated when faced with an impossible situation. But Psalm 100:5 (NIV) says, “The Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

1 John 5:14 (NLT) also assures us that God hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.

When we pray God’s will for His children, we can come to Him confidently. But despite knowing this we don’t always feel like we can come to God confidently. It’s because we are not sure if we will pray for the right things.

We may not be able to always discern the will of God perfectly. But we can trust God because He is good. God will not give someone something that isn’t good for them simply because we asked for it.

God Helps Us Pray for the Right Things

What if we run out of things to pray for? Or when we do not know what to pray for? Romans 8:26-27 gives us the answer:

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

Not only that; Jesus who is seated at the right hand of God is also interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

Final Thoughts

There is power in prayer. We see God’s power in action when His people come to Him in prayer. When we intercede for one another, God brings to pass His will and desires in our lives and the life of others.

Let us then boldly approach the throne of God through prayer for ourselves, for one another, for our nation, and the world.

Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence and we shall receive His mercy to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Let us give thanks to the Holy Spirit, to our Lord Jesus who intercedes for us, and to the Father who hears every word of our prayers.

Let us continue to intercede for one another just as the Philippian believers did for Paul.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz

Bestselling author Anne Graham Lotz will teach you how to pray effectively for your nation, for your families, and yourself.

Many people today find that their prayers don’t “work.” And like a broken cell phone, DVD player, or TV remote, they throw prayer out as unnecessary “clutter” in their busy lives.

Anne Graham Lotz has found that while prayer does work, sometimes the “pray-ers” don’t. So she has turned to the prophet Daniel for help.

The Daniel Prayer is born deep within your soul, erupts through your heart, and pours out on your lips, words created by and infused with the Spirit of God quivering with spiritual electricity.

It’s really not an everyday type of prayer. It’s a prayer birthed under pressure. Heartache. Grief. Desperation. It can be triggered by a sudden revelation of hope. An answer to prayer, a promise freshly received a miracle that lies just over the horizon.

Join Anne in a thrilling discovery of prayer that really works.

Recognizing a True Church

Recognizing a True Church

There are true and false churches. How do we recognize a true church? But what makes a church true or false? Is it possible that a group of people who claim to be Christians does not exhibit the qualities of a true church?

In the early centuries of the Christian church, the idea of a false church is unpopular. There was only one worldwide church, the “visible” church throughout the world, and that was, of course, the true church. This church had bishops and local clergymen and church buildings that everyone could see. Any heretics who were found to be in serious doctrinal error were simply excluded from the church.

What is the church?

The church is the community of all true believers for all time. It is made up of all those who are truly saved. Paul says this in Ephesians 5:25, “… Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”

The term “the church” here is applied to all those whom Christ died to redeem, all those who are saved by the death of Christ. They include all true believers for all time, both believers in the New Testament age and believers in the Old Testament age as well.

How to Recognize a True Church
Photo Credits: Religion News Service

Metaphors for the Church

Scripture uses a wide range of metaphors and images to describe to us what the church is like. In several passages, Paul views the church as a family (1 Timothy 5:1-2; Ephesians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 6:18). We are therefore brothers and sisters with each other in God’s family (Matthew 12:49-50; 1 John 3:14-18).

A somewhat different family metaphor is seen when Paul refers to the church as the bride of Christ. He says that the relationship between a husband and wife “refers to Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32). He goes further to say that it resembles an engagement between a bride and her husband-to-be (2 Corinthians 11:2).

The Bible uses other metaphors for the church such as:

  • Branches on a vine (John 15:5)
  • A building (1 Corinthians 3:9)
  • A field of crops (1 Corinthians 3:6-9)
  • An olive tree (Romans 11:17-24
  • A harvest (Matthew 13:1-30; John 4:35)

The church is also viewed as a new temple not built with literal stones but built with Christian people who are “living stones” (1 Peter 2:5) built upon the “cornerstone” who is Christ Jesus (1 Peter 2:4–8).

We are also viewed as God’s house (Hebrews 3:6), with Jesus Christ Himself viewed as the “builder” of the house (Hebrews 3:3). The church is also viewed as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Finally, the church is viewed as the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-27).

Each of the metaphors used for the church can help us to appreciate more of the richness of privilege that God has given us by incorporating us into the church.

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The Marks of a True Church

At the Reformation, a crucial question came up: How can we recognize a true church? Is the Roman Catholic Church a true church or not? To answer that question, people had to decide what were the “marks” of a true church. What are the distinguishing characteristics that lead us to recognize it as a true church?

The Bible does speak of false churches. Paul says of the pagan temples in Corinth, “The things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God” (1 Corinthians 10:20). He tells the Corinthians, “You were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols” (1 Corinthians 12:2).

These pagan temples were certainly false churches or false religious assemblies.

What constitutes a true church?

1. The Word of God is Rightly Taught

In large measure, there was an agreement between Luther and Calvin on the question of what constituted a true church.

In the Lutheran statement of faith, they defined the church as “the congregation of saints in which the gospel is rightly taught.” Similarly, John Calvin said, “Wherever we see the Word of God purely preached and heard, it is not to be doubted, a church of God exists.”

It seems appropriate that we take Luther and Calvin’s view on the marks of a true church as correct still today. Certainly, if the Word of God is not being preached, but simply false doctrines or doctrines of men, then there is no true church.

Preach the Word

2. The Right Administration of the Sacraments

This was probably stated in opposition to the Roman Catholic view that saving grace came through the sacraments. Thus, the sacraments were made “works” by which we earned merit for salvation. In this way, the Roman Catholic Church was insisting on payment rather than teaching faith as the means of obtaining salvation.

There are two ordinances of the church: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. An organization that practices baptism and the Lord’s Supper is a continuing organization and is attempting to function as a church. But it is not merely about instituting these sacraments; it’s more about administering them the “right way.”

Groups who do not administer baptism and the Lord’s Supper signify that they are not intending to function as a church.

True and False Churches Today

People often ask, “Is the Roman Catholic today a true church?”

We cannot simply decide for the Roman Catholic Church as a whole because it is far too diverse. Some Roman Catholic parishes certainly lack both marks. And some view participation in the sacraments as a “work” that can earn merit with God. Such groups of people are not the true Christian church.

On the other hand, there are many Roman Catholic parishes in various parts of the world today where the local priest has a genuine saving knowledge of Christ. They also have a vital personal relationship with Christ in prayer and Bible study.

JW's and Mormons: Are they False Churches?

What about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

We might have difficulty determining just how much wrong doctrines can be tolerated before a church can no longer be considered a true church. But there are many clear cases where we can say that a true church does not exist.

The Mormon church does not hold to any major Christian doctrines concerning salvation or the person of God or the person and work of Christ. Clearly, it is a false church.

Similarly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses teach salvation by works, not by trusting in Jesus Christ alone. This is a fundamental doctrinal deviation because if people believe the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they simply will not be saved. So the Jehovah’s Witnesses also must be considered a false church.

Bottom Line

When the preaching of a church conceals the gospel message of salvation by faith alone from its members so that the gospel message is not proclaimed, the group meeting there is not a church. When a group does not administer baptism and the Lord’s supper the right way, they are not a true church.

We can distinguish between a true and false church by using the Word of God. A true church has Christ not only as its foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11) but also the cornerstone of that foundation (1 Peter 2:7). One last thing, the true church governs itself by the authority of the Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Are you in a true church?


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Reference Material: Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

Recommended Resource: Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith by Wayne Grudem and Jeff Purswell.

Bible Doctrine takes a highly commended upper-level textbook on systematic theology and makes it accessible to the average reader. Abridged from Wayne Grudem’s award-winning Systematic Theology, Bible Doctrine covers the same essentials of the faith, giving you a firm grasp on seven key topics:

  • The Doctrine of the Word of God
  • The Doctrine of God
  • The Doctrine of Man
  • The Doctrine of Christ
  • The Doctrine of the Application of Redemption
  • The Doctrine of the Church
  • The Doctrine of the Future

Like Systematic Theology, this book is marked by its clarity, its strong scriptural emphasis, its thoroughness in scope and detail, and its treatment of such timely topics as spiritual warfare and the gifts of the Spirit.

But you don’t need to have had several years of Bible school to reap the full benefits of Bible Doctrine. It’s easy to understand–and it’s packed with solid, biblical answers to your most important questions.

Life Lessons from Jonah

Life Lessons from Jonah

Each of the chapters in the book of Jonah records a significant lesson the prophet had to learn. These parallel in many ways the life lessons God consistently and patiently tries to teach each of us along the way.

Overview of the Book of Jonah

Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah that nothing in it surprises them anymore. But what’s the book of Jonah all about?

It’s not simply about a great fish (mentioned only 4 times), or a great city (mentioned 9 times), or even a disobedient prophet (named 23 times).

It’s about God! Do you know that God is mentioned 37 times in these 4 short chapters? And if you eliminate God from the book, the story wouldn’t make sense.

Jonah’s Wrong Attitudes

I’m pretty sure most of us can relate to Jonah. He is one of the characters in the Bible who cause us to sigh and think, “Well, if there’s hope for Jonah, there’s hope for me.”

But then we must understand that the Bible was written for us so that we will not make the same mistakes they made.

You see, in his story, Jonah got into trouble because his attitudes were wrong.

What about our attitudes? Can we honestly say that we have become better people since God recreated us? 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”

Becoming a New Creation

You see, to be a new creation is to be changed. There has to be a change in character, change in viewpoints, change in our motivations, goals, and priorities. This is what we call sanctification, or becoming more and more like Christ.

In this article, I would like us to look at the life of Jonah and use his responses to God and the world around him for self-evaluation. If we find ourselves living out the same worldview as God’s resistant and reluctant prophet, then we are definitely in need of an attitude upgrade.

1. Wrong Attitude toward the Word of God

First of all, Jonah got into trouble because he had the wrong attitude toward the word of God, which is also the Will of God.

When the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, what did he do? He consciously and deliberately disobeyed God.

The Lord asked Jonah to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). But instead of going 550 miles northeast to Nineveh, Jonah attempted to go 2,500 miles west to Tarshish (modern-day Spain).

Jonah Deliberately Disobeys God

As we can see, God’s instruction to Jonah was crystal clear. It’s not as if God was speaking in ambiguity or uncertainty. He wasn’t speaking in parables or some figurative speech either. We must understand that God does not tell us one thing and expects us to do another thing.

Yet Jonah decided to disobey God. Now, why is that?

Jonah’s wrong attitude toward God’s word stemmed from a feeling that the Lord was asking him to do something impossible. Alright, what was God asking Jonah to do exactly?

Well, God told Jonah to go to Israel’s enemy, Assyria, and allow them to repent.

The Great City of Nineveh
Photo Credits: Jesus Way 4 You

Note 1: The city of Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and was also a large and prominent city in its day.

Just a quick refresher, when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the Babylonians conquered Judah and the Assyrians conquered Israel. And the Assyrians were very abusive toward the Jewish people. Just read Nahum chapter 3 to see how wicked they are.

Jonah’s Patriotism Gets in the Way

For Jonah to preach God’s message of repentance to the Assyrians would be like helping Israel’s enemy. It’s like working with the enemy of your country that wants to destroy your people. Anyone who does that today would be considered a traitor and will be tried for treason.

In his patriotic zeal, Jonah put his country before his God. Jonah didn’t want the notoriously cruel Assyrians in Nineveh to escape God’s judgment. He would much rather have seen the city destroyed.

Note 2: We need to understand that there is a divine order that God has put in place with regard to submission to authorities. God is the one who sets up kings and rulers and we are commanded to submit to them.

But when the governing authorities hold to a position that is in clear and direct violation of the Word of God, we must choose to obey God rather than men (the same way Peter and the other disciples and Daniel’s friends did).

God’s Challenging Commands

What are some of the things God commanded us that we find very difficult to do?

1. Love your enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44, NKJV).

To love your enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who hate or abuse us is easier said than done.

2. Forgive those who have hurt or offended you.

This command is incorporated in the Lord’s prayer.

“Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12, NLT).

Take note that this is in the past tense. It means before we even come to God in prayer, we should have already forgiven our offenders.

Forgive your offenders

The Sovereignty of God

When the word of the Lord came to him, Jonah thought he could take it or leave it. That whether he does what God asked him to do or not won’t matter to God. And that God would leave him alone.

As it turned out, that’s not exactly what happened. God used a creative series of counter-measures to accomplish His desired result.

Lesson 1

Jonah learned the lesson of God’s patience. We can run far, but we can’t run away from God.

Jonah attempted to run as far away as possible from God. But before reaching his desired destination, God took a hold of him. We can see in the next events that took place that God was very patient with Jonah (Jonah 1:4-17).

Although God was no longer speaking to Jonah through His Word; He continued speaking to him through His works. God used the sea, wind, storm, and even the huge fish to carry out His plans. Notice that everything in nature obeyed God, except His servant Jonah.

In the beginning, I said that Jonah got into trouble because his attitudes were wrong. But his disobedience to God also brought trouble to a boatload of pagan sailors.

God had called the Jews to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3) but whenever they were out of the will of God, they brought trouble instead of blessings.

Self-Reflection

Are you a blessing to others, especially to those who do not yet have a relationship with God? Do unbelievers see God’s glory in you? As the saying goes, “You may be the only Bible some people read.” The idea behind this phrase is that Christians should live the “Christian life” for everyone to see.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are Christ’s ambassadors. Matthew 5:13-16 says we are the salt and light of the world. Are we living our calling and commission?

Going back to Jonah’s story, Jonah found himself inside the belly of a fish and stayed there for 3 days and 3 nights. He then cried out to God for deliverance and the fish vomited him onto dry land.

Christian Jewelry and Wall Decors - Lord's Guidance

Lesson 2

Jonah learned the lesson of God’s pardon. God forgives those who call upon Him. See Romans 10:11, 13.

While inside the belly of a huge fish, Jonah cried out to God for deliverance. And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 2:1-9).

But it didn’t end there. God gave Jonah a second chance. He gave him the same commission – go to Nineveh and preach the message of God’s upcoming judgment. And Jonah eventually obeyed God.

Think about Jonah’s experience. He had to experience getting stuck inside the belly of a huge fish for 3 days and 3 nights before obeying God.

Do we realize that oftentimes we find ourselves in deep trouble because of our wrong attitudes? We always like to blame Satan for our misfortunes and failures because it’s convenient. It takes away the accountability from us.

But if we would just look deep down, we would discover that we are as much to blame. Our blessings are often delayed because of our disobedience. We often get into trouble because of our rebellion.

When God commands us, we must listen and obey. In the ministry that God has entrusted to us, our part is to obey. In our partnership with God in accomplishing His purpose through us, our part is to obey. Disobedience is NOT an option!

God Gives Jonah Second Chance

What was the message that Jonah preached to the great city of Nineveh?

On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4, NLT)!

After hearing Jonah’s message, the people believed God, a fast was proclaimed for everyone from the greatest to the least of them and they put on sackcloth, including their animals. The king of Nineveh also got off his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

“For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Everything they did was a sign of repentance, humility, and surrender. But they did not stop there. They also cried out to God, prayed earnestly, turned from their evil ways, and violence (Jonah 3:5-8).

This is perhaps the greatest revival of all time as the entire city of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and cried out to God.

Lesson 3

Once again, Jonah learned the lesson of God’s pardon and forgiveness to those who call upon Him. But then, he also learned the lesson of God’s power as he saw a whole city humble itself before the Lord.

In the end, the Lord’s will has prevailed and Jonah’s efforts to thwart God’s plans were pointless.

This is a powerful reminder not only to Jonah but to us all of the sovereignty of God in every circumstance.

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9-10, ESV).

2. Wrong Attitude toward Circumstances

Jonah also had a wrong attitude toward circumstances; he thought they were working for him when they were really working against him.

Let’s break down what happened here in Jonah 1:1-5.

So, Jonah decided to disobey God and run away from Him. He fled to Joppa and found just the right ship waiting for him (ship heading to Tarshish).

He had enough money to pay the fare for his long trip, and he was even able to go down into the lowest part of the ship and fall into a deep sleep that the storm didn’t awaken him.

Hey, look at that! Everything seems to be working out perfectly for Jonah.

Stephen Prado, Jesus is Alive CMNV Monumento

Clearly, we can be out of the will of God and still have circumstances working on our behalf. We can be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep.

Could it be that it’s the devil who is going out of his way to help us disobey and escape from God? Of course! But most of the time we don’t see it this way. It’s because even when we are out of the will of God, things seem to be going smoothly.

3. Wrong Attitude toward the Gentiles

Instead of wanting to help the Assyrians find the true and living God, Jonah wanted to abandon them in their darkness and spiritual death and he wanted them to perish under God’s mighty hand.

Why do you think Jonah disobeyed God when he was first told to go to Nineveh and announce God’s judgments against it? It’s because he already anticipated what would happen.

Jonah knew that the Assyrians would repent and call out to the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness. And God, being merciful and compassionate, would relent or change His mind about destroying Nineveh. And that was the last thing that Jonah wanted to happen.

He was reluctant to preach God’s message because he didn’t want to give the Assyrians a chance to repent!

Now, think about that for just a moment. Jonah was God’s messenger, a representative of the God of Israel to the Gentiles. But he certainly didn’t act like one. When his one-sentence sermon brought in incredible results, which can be said to be the most responsive evangelistic effort in history, Jonah was displeased.

And when God did not destroy Nineveh, Jonah became angry. Read Jonah 4:1-11.

God’s Love vs. Jonah’s Anger

In the 4th chapter of Jonah, we see God’s love and grace contrasted with Jonah’s anger and lack of compassion. So, God used a plant, a worm, and a wind to teach Jonah a lesson in compassion.

In a humorous but meaningful account, Jonah was forced to see that he had more concern for a plant than for hundreds of thousands of people (120,000). He just didn’t care if the Assyrians perished.

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city (Jonah 4:10-11, NLT)?

That’s a huge contrast with Abraham who pleaded with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33).

God is compassionate and gracious

Lesson 4

Jonah learned, perhaps the most important lesson of all. Here, he had to learn the lesson of God’s pity, that God has compassion for lost sinners like the Ninevites and His servants must also have compassion.

We may have always thought that God’s desire for the salvation of the Gentiles only came up in the Gospels when the Jews rejected His message.

But the book of Jonah, unlike other Old Testament books, revolves exclusively around a Gentile nation. We see here that God is concerned not only for His covenant people Israel but for the Gentiles as well.

The story of Jonah is one of the clearest demonstrations of God’s love and mercy for all mankind in the entire Scriptures.

How is our attitude towards those who are still in the dark? How do we treat people who do not know the Lord, are hostile to us and are in danger of facing God’s judgment during the Tribulation?

Conclusion

As I said from the start, the book of Jonah is all about God. First, it is about the will of God and how we respond to it. Do you see yourself in Jonah’s shoes? How do you respond to God’s commands? Jesus said this in Luke 6:46.

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?”

To know God’s Word and His will is a privilege. But doing the will of God makes us grow in grace and become more like Christ. We may think it’s hard but God will enable us. We just have to allow God to work in us and He will transform us into His image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB).

The book of Jonah is also about the love of God and how we share it with others. Incredibly, Jonah brought a whole city to faith in the Lord, yet he didn’t love the people to whom he was preaching. Jonah took God’s repeated pity on his own life for granted while he expected extinction for the sinners in Nineveh.

How often do we expect God to treat us one way while we pray He will treat others according to an entirely different standard? Let us apply Jesus’ words to Jonah’s situation and ours.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NASB).

In other words, the grace we expect from God, we ought to ask Him to give to others.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy by Timothy Keller.

An angry prophet. A feared and loathsome enemy. A devastating storm. And the surprising message of a merciful God to His people.

In The Prodigal Prophet, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller reveals the hidden depths within the book of Jonah.

Keller makes the case that Jonah was one of the worst prophets in the entire Bible. And yet there are unmistakably clear connections between Jonah, the prodigal son, and Jesus. Jesus in fact saw himself in Jonah.

How could one of the most defiant and disobedient prophets in the Bible be compared to Jesus?

Jonah’s journey also doesn’t end when he is freed from the belly of the fish. There is an entire second half to his story – but it is left unresolved within the text of the Bible. Why does the book of Jonah end on what is essentially a cliffhanger?

In these pages, Timothy Keller provides an answer to the extraordinary conclusion of this biblical parable – and shares the powerful Christian message at the heart of Jonah’s story.

How to Dwell in the House of the Lord

How to Dwell in the House of the Lord

No person can claim to be a Christian and say attending church is not necessary. Every follower of Christ goes to the house of the Lord at least once a week for fellowship. We go to church not only to meet with fellow believers but more importantly, with God.

Bible Verse: Psalm 27:4 (NKJV)

“One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”

Learning from David

King David had been on the run, not just once but several times. It was during those times that he wrote most of the hymns and poems we read in the book of Psalm.

But what made David feel safe and secure despite the circumstances he was facing? The secret of David’s public confidence was his private obedience to God. He took time to fellowship with the Lord and get directions from Him.

David knew that the most important part of his life was the part that only God could see, and this was one priority he would not negotiate.

Longing to be with God

Being in God’s house on Sunday is refreshing. Entering the place where other believers have come to worship and sing praises renews our spiritual walk. It also refocuses our thoughts on God.

But we do not have to be in a {church} building to dwell in worship with the Lord. Psalm 84:2 addresses dwelling with God anytime, anywhere. In this verse, the psalmist says that his “soul longs for the courts of the Lord.”

Longing to be with God

David longed to build a temple for the Lord to dwell in, but for some reason, God allowed Solomon to build it. God promised to dwell with the people of Israel if they would keep His laws.

After Solomon prepared the temple with a special place of the ark of the covenant, the ark was placed inside. And the Shekinah glory of God filled the temple and the priests could not continue with the service (1 Kings 6–8).

“I have surely built You an exalted house; and a place for You to dwell in forever” (1 Kings 8:13).

How to Seek God’s Presence

To experience God’s presence, we need to seek Him and His will all the time.

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 13).

We can talk to God anytime – in church, in prayer, and in the Word. If we seek Him, we will find Him. God also promised to give us the strength necessary to get through troubled times (Psalm 84:5). When our life hits a dry spot, God will “make it a spring” (Psalm 84:6).

There is a special blessing and protection for anyone who earnestly seeks God. It may not be a promise to prevent all trouble, but to give security and blessing even in the midst of it.

Beholding God’s Beauty

There is beauty in the nature and presence of God; David knows this very well. He says we can perceive God’s beauty by faithfully seeking Him. King David could not think of a greater occupation than to fill his mind and heart with the goodness and greatness of God.

As Charles Spurgeon said, “The character of God is attractive, and fitted to inspire us with love for Him, and to make us, as it were, run after Him.”

Don Stewart also says this of the beauty of God:

“The beauty of the Lord can be defined as God possessing everything in His character that is desirable. Everything good and righteous has its ultimate fulfillment in God.”

A Doorkeeper in God’s House

In Psalm 84:10, the psalmist made no apologies. He wrote, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”

In effect, he told Satan that he was not interested in serving him. The doorkeeper was a lowly servant, but even this position in God’s house would be a place of honor.

The writer of Psalms 84 calls God a “sun and shield” (Psalm 84:11). The sun warms and causes fields to grow, and the shield protects. God is the great Provider and Protector. He promises to bless those who trust in Him, withholding “no good thing” (Psalm 84:11-12).

We are God’s Dwelling Place

With the birth of Jesus, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory” (John 1:14). Jesus promised to prepare a dwelling place for us with the Lord.

“In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2).

For us to go there, we must have Jesus dwelling in our hearts. We read in 1 John 14:15, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Don’t just dwell with God on a Sunday morning or Wednesday night pilgrimage. Seek His presence every day through prayer and Bible study. Find the time to celebrate the joy of being a Christian. Let the Savior know how thankful you are for what He has done for you.

Closing Words

Does Jesus dwell in your heart? When was the last time you longed to dwell with the Lord? Are you willing to be a doorkeeper?

May we have a heart like David’s; a heart that always seeks after God above anyone or anything else. When we delight ourselves in God, He promises to give us the desire of our hearts (Psalm 37:7).

This desire will be the Lord Himself.


Recommended Resource:

Adoring Christ: Beholding God’s Beauty and Becoming Like Him by Kori de Leon

Adoring Christ and becoming like Him is the most fundamental and crucial aspect of human life. We long for love, beauty, power, security, and fame because these things describe God, who is majestic and beautiful. And He has designed humanity in His image to participate in His glorious likeness.

In Adoring Christ: Beholding God’s Beauty and Becoming Like Him, author Kori de Leon discusses how adoring Christ sets our hearts free from self-focus and pursuing glory in the wrong way so we can see the grandeur of God and participate in His glory the right way.

Covering a wide range of topics like loveliness, dignity, and spiritual vitality this book specifically geared for women concludes each of its twelve chapters with a section designed to help readers actively engage with the truths presented in the book.

Glory is God’s design for mankind. Together with the Bible, this book will encourage you to get lost in the wonder of God and His character as you enter into an adoration that will lead you to glorious transformation.

Ignorance Leads to Contention

Ignorance Leads to Contention

Do you notice how ignorance of the facts often leads to contention? People immediately react negatively when told that one of the people closest to them is spreading lies about them. They then go on with their counterattack without first getting to the bottom of the story. They never bothered to find out if the report they heard is true or not.

Bible Verses: 1 Corinthians 1:10-13

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.”

“Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas, or ‘I am of Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”

Divisions in the Church Today
Photo Credits: xpastor.org

Problems Among the Corinthians

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians addresses several problems within the church that have come to his attention. One of which is the contentions (or quarrels) reported to him by some members of Chloe’s household.

The church in Corinth had become factious, advocating different leaders: Paul, Apollos, Peter, and possibly a Christ party. Not only was the church divided over leadership types, but also over several moral issues and the use of spiritual gifts. The main point of contention was Paul’s authority.

How did Paul approach this problem of division in the church? First, he pointed to the unity of Christ: only one Savior and one body. Then he reminded them of their baptism, a picture of their spiritual baptism into Christ’s body (1 Corinthians 12:13).

Division in the Church Today

A few years ago, the church was divided into denominations. Now, we aren’t much better off. We have the same problem the church at Corinth had. Many Christians today follow a favorite preacher. Why are so many people naive enough to believe they can be spiritually fed by a preacher? Or that their favorite preacher knows everything about the Bible or God?

I know for a fact that nobody completely understands the mind of God or His word, because He is infinite and we are finite. That fact should humble us all. We should not base all of our knowledge on one or two favorite preachers.

I have learned over the years that different Christians emphasize different aspects of the character of God. Preachers do the same thing. We all have our favorite topics we like to talk about because we all know our knowledge of the Bible has gaps. This is true of the pew-sitters and the pastors.

I wish I understood why this fact does not humble more people including preachers. Does your lack of understanding humble you?

I have heard so many preachers criticizing other preachers. I truly believe that if the Church and pastors were more humble, criticism of fellow believers would stop. Not to mention, why does it matter what the next person or the next pastor says, especially if they are wrong?

Know and Study God’s Word

The only way to know if someone believes something wrong is by getting to know what the truth actually is. How well do you know the Bible?

Since Only God wrote the Bible and no pastor fully understands the Bible, why are you not studying the Bible for yourself? The main reason I was able to write “Life According to the Truth” was God gave me knowledge and understanding after asking God many questions while studying the scriptures.

The pew-sitters do not need to be ignorant. You do not need a seminary degree to know the Bible. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

I would have to admit studying the Bible is not easy. It takes work but is also very rewarding as Psalm 1:1-2 says:

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law, he meditates day and night.”

There is no reason why any Christian should be ignorant or divided. There is no reason to rely on preachers or ministers to spiritually feed you. Just ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and He will. Have you asked Him?

2 Timothy 2:15

Spiritual Authority in the Church

One of the underlying issues in Paul’s two letters to the Corinthians is the nature of spiritual authority.

Why should the Corinthians (and we) listen to Paul’s words? It’s because they were not his opinions or his agenda but God’s instructions. When God’s Word sets up a barrier or sends a change of direction in our lives, are we willing to listen? Or do we look for another opinion?

We can always find someone who will tell us with great confidence exactly what we want to hear. Or we can keep getting counsel until someone tells us what we wanted to do in the first place. But God’s Word has a history of contradicting our wishes.

The Scriptures don’t care nearly as much about how we feel as they do about how we obey. By the way, God never asks us to do something that is not for our own good. Even if that means giving up something that looks innocent and desirable.

Final Words

Reading Paul’s letters, we see that he had tough words for the Corinthian church. Many of these apply almost directly to wandering churches today. They were all true counsel. These instructions from God continue to be practical in the world we are living in today.

Needless to say, God’s Word won’t have the intended effect unless we allow them to transform us. Are you willing to obey God even when what He tells you is painful to hear and inconvenient to do?


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Cultures in Conflict Discovery Guide: Paul Proclaims Jesus As Lord – Part 2 by Ray Vander Laan

How do you live in a culture where the worldview conflicts with Christianity? Learn from Paul as he presents his beliefs to the most powerful court in Athens and settles among the Greco-Romans of Corinth, who valued wealth and class, worship of multiple gods, and decadent pleasure seeking above all else.

Join renowned teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan as he guides you through the land of the Bible. In each lesson, Vander Laan illuminates the historical, geographical, and cultural context of the sacred Scriptures.

Filmed on location in the Middle East and elsewhere, the That the World May Know® film series will transform your understanding of God and challenge you to be a true follower of Jesus.

God’s Will On Prayer

God’s Will On Prayer

I am certain that every Christian knows how to pray. But believers in Jesus Christ must know God’s will on prayer. We may be able to communicate with God constantly and regularly. We can even recite the longest prayers. But not knowing the will of God on prayer often leads to disappointments.

How so? That’s because we may not receive the answers that we’re expecting. In other words, God may not grant our prayers and petitions. But knowing what God wants us to pray about and presenting them to Him will lead to a desirable outcome.

The Christian’s Prayer Life

We often hear people say that the backbone of the Christian life is prayer. That being said, a Christian who spends less time in prayer may not be able to withstand trials and difficulties. On the other hand, a Christian who always takes the time to seek God’s counsel even on the simplest matters will be victorious.

How often should Christians pray, and how long? In this post, we will look at just two of the passages that talk about the will of God on prayer.

The Will of God on Prayer

Encouragement on Prayer

The Bible verse that is often quoted when exhorting and encouraging believers to maintain a healthy prayer life is 1 Thessalonians 5:17. We read, “Pray without ceasing.”

Reading the complete sentence, this is what it says.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Understand that in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11, Paul addresses the believers in Thessalonica concerning the Day of the Lord. He assures them that when this dreadful day comes, it will not overtake them as it does those who are in darkness. He then goes on to encourage them to remain sober and watchful.

In light of this future event, Paul exhorts them to comfort, uphold and be patient with each other (1 Thessalonians 5:12-15). Finally, he gives them three important instructions:

  • Rejoice always
  • Pray without ceasing
  • In everything give thanks

Rejoice Always

Other translations render this verse as “Always be joyful.”

Now, we must clarify that happiness is synonymous with joy. Although most people use these words interchangeably, they are not the same thing. I’d say happiness is always superficial and is dependent on external factors.

For instance, one’s happiness stems from having a successful professional career or having all the money to buy his or her wants. But whenever they fail to reach their goals, their happiness will quickly turn to sadness and disappointment. In short, the source of happiness is worldly possessions and accomplishments.

Happiness vs. Joy

In contrast, joy starts from the inside which inevitably extends outwardly. Joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Thus, it is rooted in God; the source of joy for the Christian is God.

When the Word exhorts Christians to “rejoice always,” this goes to say that we are to be joyful not only in happy times but in sorrows also. And we can do this because our joy is not based on circumstances but on God.

Keep in mind that although circumstances change, God does not!

Pray without Ceasing

It is the will of God for Christians to pray continually.

I know what you’re thinking. Sure, we can’t close our eyes, bow our heads, be on our knees, or fold our hands non-stop. It does not mean we keep mumbling our requests and petitions to God. You see, these are customs of prayer, not prayer itself.

We all know what prayer is. It is how we communicate with God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:13-14; 1 Timothy 2:5). Prayer is communicating with God. And we can live each minute of the day in a constant, flowing, conversation with God.

This is not to eliminate the significant value of setting a time when we shut out all other distractions and focus on God in a time of closet prayer (Matthew 6:6). But there is also room – and great value – in every moment-of-the-day fellowship with God.

Give Thanks in All Circumstances

We must understand what this phrase is saying. We don’t give thanks FOR everything but IN everything.

Imagine having to comfort a friend or relative whose loved one just got murdered. How are you supposed to tell them to thank God for what just took place?

There will be times when we have to deal with difficult and impossible situations. God does not command us to thank Him for any tragedy that He allows. Rather, we thank God despite what happened because we recognize that His sovereign hand is in charge. Scripture assures us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Things happen not by fate or chance, as some often claim. God is still on the throne and He is in control. Nothing happens that God does not allow.

Charles Spurgeon quote on prayer

The Will of God for Christians

After each one of these exhortations: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, we are told to do this because it is the will of God.

The idea here is not that this is the will of God so we must do it. Rather, we can do it because this is God’s will. It isn’t easy to always be joyful, pray continually, and give thanks in all circumstances, but we can do it because it is God’s will.

The will of God in prayer and every aspect of life is doable not because we are tough or capable. We can do all things because God enables us to. We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength (Philippians 4:13).

Persistence in Prayer

The story of the widow and the judge and Jesus’ illustration while teaching His disciples how to pray (Luke 11:1-13) are very telling. They give us a very important principle on prayer – be persistent. This means we should always pray and never give up.

In Luke 18:1-8, a widow came to a judge seeking justice in a dispute with her enemy. This judge is described as someone who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. Initially, the judge ignored the woman’s plea. But because she kept bothering him, the judge finally decided to avenge her.

In Jesus’ teaching on prayer, He used the example of a friend who went to his neighbor at midnight to borrow some bread for his unexpected guest. At first, his neighbor refused to help because they are already tucked in bed. But the man kept knocking and showed no sign that he was giving up.

Jesus said although the neighbor won’t do it for friendship’s sake, he will get up and give the man whatever he needed because of his persistence.

Partnering with God

The principle Jesus taught His disciples on prayer still applies to Christians today.

We are to learn a lesson from the unjust judge who rendered a just decision in the end. When we cry out to God day and night, He will surely bring about justice for us and will not delay (Luke 18:6-7).

How to Pray the Will of God

After Jesus’ illustration on the importance of persistence to His disciples, He says this in Luke 11:9-10.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (See also Matthew 7:7-11.0

Now, don’t get me wrong. When we pray persistently, it’s not that we are trying to persuade God to do anything.

Persistent prayer isn’t about convincing God to do anything. Rather, it is about passionately partnering with God in what He already wants to do.

Final Thoughts

It is the will of God for His people to never give up on prayer. Although there will be times when God seems to be ignoring our prayers and petitions, He assures us in the Word that He is always listening.

To make our prayer effective, we need to pray under God’s will.

“Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14).

We pray for the will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 7:10) and realize that God always answers prayers.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy KellerChristians are taught in their churches and schools that prayer is the most powerful way to experience God. But few receive instruction or guidance in how to make prayer genuinely meaningful.

In Prayer, renowned pastor Timothy Keller delves into the many facets of this everyday act.

With his trademark insights and energy, Keller offers biblical guidance as well as specific prayers for certain situations, such as dealing with grief, loss, love, and forgiveness. He discusses ways to make prayers more personal and powerful, and how to establish a practice of prayer that works for each reader.

Dr. Keller’s previous books have sold more than one million copies. His Redeemer Presbyterian Church is not only a major presence in his home base of New York, it has also helped to launch more than two hundred fifty other churches in forty-eight cities around the world.

His teachings have already helped millions, the majority of whom pray regularly. And with Prayer, he’ll show them how to find a deeper connection with God.

Peter’s Vision of Unclean Food

Peter’s Vision of Unclean Food

One passage that is often grossly misinterpreted by some Christians is Peter’s vision of unclean food (or animals) in Acts 10:9-16. Accordingly, this account in the New Testament shows how believers today are free to eat anything and everything. Unlike the OT saints who had to adhere strictly to several dietary restrictions, we can consume all kinds of meat, including the blood of animals.

By the way, this post is not about whether Christians can eat blood or not. It is also not about eating foods sacrificed to idols (1 Corinthians 8:4-13). I have another article that tackled this problem among believers in the church at Corinth.

Peter’s Vision in Acts 10

About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.

Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven (Acts 10:9-16, NIV).

Interpreting Peter’s Vision

The most important principle of Bible interpretation is to do it in the context of the passage. This is because context determines the meaning.

We must always consider the immediate context. What do the surrounding verses say? What’s the overall theme and train of thought of the passage? Or the overall context or theme of the entire book? To correctly assess the meaning, the interpreter should look at all the circles of context.

Hermeneutics: Basics of Bible Interpretation

The church was born on Pentecost as followers of the risen Lord gathered in one place, and the Holy Spirit came to rest on each of them (Acts 2:1-2). Scripture tells us that they were devout Jews from every nation living in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5). We see that the focus of Christ’s ministry was the lost sheep of Israel, the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24).

But when we get to chapter 10, we see a pivotal shift in the book, for it records the salvation of the Gentiles.

The Gentiles Hear the Good News

What Peter saw had nothing to do with food; what’s clean or unclean. Instead, God used a vision about food to teach Peter that the Gentiles were not unclean. Peter was hungry, and a vision about food would certainly speak to his condition. Furthermore, the distinction between “unclean” and “clean” foods was a major problem between the Jews and the Gentiles in that day.

Peter’s Christian friends criticized him for eating with the Gentiles (Acts 11:1-3). Yet, God used this centuries-old regulation (Leviticus 11:1-47) to teach Peter an important spiritual lesson. Peter got the message, loud and clear (Acts 10:28, NIV).

The fact that Peter invited the three men (Gentiles) who came looking for him to lodge with him (Acts 10:19-23) is another indication that the walls were coming down. The following day, He set out with the men and some of the other believers from Joppa. When they arrived in Caesarea, Cornelius and his relatives and close friends met with them.

God Shows No Partiality

Faith comes only through the Word (Romans 10:17) and Peter preached that Word.

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears Him and does what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.

Christian Jewelry and Wall Decors - Lord's Guidance

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how He went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil because God was with Him” (Acts 10:34-38, NIV).

God does not show partiality when it comes to sin and salvation (Romans 2:11; 3:22-23; 10:1-13). He is no respecter of person as far as nationality and race are concerned. All people have the same Creator (Acts 17:26) and all people need the same Savior (Acts 4:12).

The Gentiles Receive the Holy Spirit

As Peter was just getting started in his message, the people believed, and the Holy Spirit came on all of them (Acts 10:44).

“And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. For they heard them speak with tongues and magnify God. Then Peter answered, ‘Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (Acts 10:44-47)?

“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them, as upon us at the beginning. Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If therefore God gave them the same gift as He gave us when we believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God” (Acts 11:15-17).

The witness of the Spirit was crucial, for this was God’s own testimony that He had indeed saved the Gentiles.

With this event, the period of transition in the early history of the church ended. Believers among the Jews, Samaritans, and Gentiles have all received the Spirit of God and are united in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27).

The Same Gift for All: Salvation

As soon as he returned to Jerusalem, Peter was met by members of the strong legalistic party in the church of Judea (the Jewish believers). They rebuked him for fellowshipping with Gentiles and eating with them.

Note: Keep in mind that these Jewish believers did not yet understand the relationship between law and grace, Jews and Gentiles, and Israel and the church.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, no slave nor free

Acts 11:5-12

“I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance, I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’”

“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.

Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house.”

Peter told them the story from the beginning. And when he was finished, the Jewish legalists dropped their charges and glorified God for the salvation of the Gentiles (Acts 11:18).

Closing Words

The vision of Peter shows us that salvation was made available to all who believe (John 3:16). “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).

As Christians, we are to receive one another and not dispute over cultural differences or minor matters of personal conviction.

Some of the Jewish Christians in the early church wanted the Gentiles to become Jews. And some of the Gentile believers wanted the Jews to stop being Jews and become Gentiles. This attitude can create serious division in the church even today. So, we must follow the example of Acts 11:18.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Living By the Book: The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by Howard G. Hendricks (Author), William D. Hendricks (Author), Charles Swindoll (Foreword)

Living by the Book, The Art and Science of Reading the Bible by by Howard G. Hendricks and William D. Hendricks For every person who draws strength and direction from the Bible, there are many more who struggle with it. Some call it a long book with fine print and obscure meaning. Some call it a mystery, a chore to read, or an undecipherable puzzle.

The good news is you can easily solve this problem. With over 300,000 sold, this revised and expanded edition of Living by the Book will remove the barriers that keep Scripture from transforming your life. In a simple, step-by-step fashion, the authors explain how to glean truth from Scripture.

It is practical, readable, and applicable. By following its easy-to-apply principles, you’ll soon find yourself drawing great nourishment from the Word—and enjoying the process! The Living by the Book Workbook is the perfect compliment to provide practical application of lessons.

Psalm 51 Devotional

Psalm 51 Devotional

Today’s post is a devotional and reflection on Psalm 51. In this chapter, we read of King David’s confession and repentance after the prophet Nathan rebuked him of his sin (See 2 Samuel 12:1-14).

Living in a No-Fault Society

We live in a society where most people have adopted the “I’m-not-responsible” mentality. Every time we do something wrong, we say, “Oh no, not my fault!” We blame our parents, others, and even God, but never ourselves.

Picture this scenario after the fall:

Adam was out walking with his sons Cain and Abel. As they passed by the gates of the Garden of Eden, one of the boys asked, “What is that dad?” Adam replied, “That’s where your mother ate us out of house and home.”

See? Adam faced responsibility like a modern man – he blamed his wife.

But isn’t this what Adam did? Oh yeah! When he and his wife were caught in disobedience and God confronted them, Adam immediately pointed his finger at Eve. And Eve in her defense blamed the serpent.

We’ve been living in a no-fault generation since the time of Adam and Eve.

You Are the Man!

In Psalm 51, Prophet Nathan has confronted David with a story of wrongdoing: “King David, a poor man’s lamb was stolen and eaten by a rich man giving a party. What shall be done?” David, reacting instantly said, “The man who did this should die!”

Nathan looked at the ashen face of King David and said, “You are the man!”

Psalm 51: David's Confession and Repentance

Right there and then, King David confessed and repented. The fountains of his soul broke as the pent-up passion of remorse, shame, guilt, and anxiety released the flood of tears. He approached God’s throne sobbing and said:

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your loving kindness. According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions and my sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:1-3).

Taking Full Responsibility

Without hesitation, David took full responsibility. As king, he held absolute power, living beyond the reach of the people. Why confess? There was not a reporter waiting to ask, “Is it true that your subordinate set up a rendezvous with Bathsheba?” No one else knew about this. Yet, David confesses of his “transgressions, iniquity and sin (Psalm 51:1-3).

While a modern man would say, “It’s the woman’s fault for bathing naked in the moonlight on the roof. She should have used a shower curtain. She did it on purpose!” Or turn at the prophet of God and say, “You, Nathan, are out of step with the new morality.”

David claimed the sin as his own without ever mentioning Bathsheba. He never tried to blame Uriah either.

How do you react when a servant of God confronts you with a sin you thought nobody else knew? Do you immediately confess and repent? Or do you harden your heart and point out the hypocrisy of others, especially your church leaders?

David’s Three-Part Confession

David’s confession had three parts, not one thought three times, but three different views of one repentance.

“My transgression” was the open rebellion against God, knowing what he did was wrong, yet he did it anyway. “My iniquity” refers to David’s deception in trying to hide his sin. To conceal the fact that David got Bathsheba pregnant, he murdered Uriah.

There is no such thing as a secret sin. Sooner or later, God will expose all deception and shout it out from the rooftops. “For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light” (Luke 8:17).

“My sin” was David’s murder of Uriah, breaking his fellowship with God. David acknowledged his sin before God and said, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight.” (Psalm 51:4).

Psalm 51 Devotional

To restore his fellowship with God, David cried to God, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me and I shall be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7).

Hyssop was the branch with which the blood of the lamb was applied over the doorposts of Jewish homes in Egypt in the night of Passover. Once the blood was applied, that home was safe from the death angel.

The Bible says, “In Him, we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission from sin (Hebrews 9:22).

A Plea for Restoration

David was a musician since childhood. He had played for Saul and brought gladness to his heart. But because of his sin, he could no longer enjoy music. Sin had destroyed his song and so he begged this of God:

“Make me to hear joy and gladness, that the bones which You have broken may rejoice” (Psalm 51:8).

Sin consumed him like the excruciating pain of a broken bone.

Nathan told David that God would forgive him, but the sword would not depart from his house (2 Samuel 12:10). David suffered deeply for his sin. His first child with Bathsheba died shortly after its birth (2 Samuel 12:15-18). His daughter Tamar was raped by her half-brother Amnon (2 Samuel 13:1-20). Absalom became a rebel who wanted to kill him (2 Samuel 15 – 17).

David first asked God to “blot out his sin” and then to “wash it away” (Psalm 51:1-2). The Hebrew word for wash meant “to trample.” In those days, women put clothes in the stream and trampled them clean with their feet.

There is no English word for the Hebrew word here translated “cleanse.” The closest word would be to “unsin.” It means that when David stands before God, He will say to him, “I find no fault in this man. He is whiter than snow.” God will not say, “Oh, David, you had a great career but you ruined it by committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering Uriah.”

David Looks Ahead

After David’s confession, Nathan said, “The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). David’s sin was gone – forgiven instantly. David continued to be open to the word of prophecy, and as he looked into the future, he saw the millennial reign.

“Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem” (Psalm 51:18).

What a joy and encouragement to know that God will not count our sins against us when we confess and repent. When we cry out to God, He does not retain His anger forever and pardons our iniquity. He will show us compassion and casts our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19).

Concluding Thoughts

We must take responsibility for our lives and stop making silly excuses. When we go astray from the will of God, we must accept that we are “guilty as charged” and confess our sins. God will rush to blot them out, never to remember them again (Isaiah 43:25; Hebrews 8:12).

We must not try to conceal our sins, nor blame them on others. We must, by all means, avoid doing things that we know full well are in rebellion against God.

Each of us must choose the New Jerusalem or the Lake of Fire. Our eternal soul is at stake. When we come before God and cry out to Him, He promises to forgive and restore us.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Praying with the Psalms: A Year of Daily Prayers and Reflections on the Words of David by Eugene H. Peterson

Prayer is both our most human action and our most human language. But, as with any other language, we may find ourselves clumsy and undisciplined in our attempts at it.

Praying with the Psalms can help Christians become fluent in the language of prayer, encouraging us to pray even when we don’t feel like it, and to learn prayers that are both honest and right.

Based on the life and words of David, the Psalms provide insightful reflections on depression, anger, frustration, fear, and insecurity, as well as joy exhilaration, triumph, and gladness.

Praying with the Psalms offers daily readings to guide us in expressing to God the wide range of human emotions. Through this enriched communication with God, we are led to a deeper understanding and a truer following of his will.