By Stephen Wang
10 Feb. 2013 Sunday
|Sermon: God's Concern||video||audio||ppt
|Worship song: Down From His Glory||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: He Will Carry You||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: I Sing Praises To Your Name||video||audio||lyric|
|Worship song: It Is Well With My Soul||video||audio||lyric|
Presider Jessica’s welcome and introduction
Yesterday is Chinese New Year’s Eve and today is the first day of the New Year! We are so happy to gather at the church on the first day of the lunar calendar. Actually, last night, we had a special service and gathering with some brothers and sisters. How about letting us watch a video to see what we did last night.
How about letting us stand up and say “hello and Happy Chinese New Year” to our neighbours. You know in Chinese culture, spring festival is very important for each one of us. It is an important day for us to get together with our family. Sometimes, if we could not stay with our family at this important festival, we might feel disappointed or sad. But when we watched that video, we found out that was not true, because we have brothers and sister for different reasons, who could not get home to be with their parents and family. When we get together in Jesus Christ, and we are a family, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. Because of the love of Jesus Christ, we can get to know each other, and we can love each other, and we become brothers and sisters in Jesus.
How about letting us bow down our head and pray together?
Dear Lord, thank you for your love, mercy and power. We want to praise your name, your Holy name, because you are the one who forgives our sins, because you are the one who heals our illnesses, our bodies and our souls. Dear Lord, we want to praise and worship your Holy name because you satisfy us so deeply. Lord, thank you so much for your love so we can have this great family together in your Holy church. Thank you for your love and salvation so that we can become your children. Lord, today, we just want to give thanks to you for whatever you have done in our lives in 2012. Today is a new day, the beginning of the Chinese New Year, and we want to say that Lord, we love you, and we want to worship you, we want to praise you, and we want to glorify your name through our words, and through what we do in our daily life. Lord, I want to lift up all my brothers and sisters in your hands, and please keep watching over us and blessing us, and be with us always. We also want to lift up your servant Stephen into your hands, please anoint him, and let all of us feel your presence through the worship and your Word. Be with us, and let us feel your Holy presence. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Albert’s worship leading
Wish you all a Happy Spring Festival. During this Chinese New Year, it is really not easy to assemble a worship team on Sunday. And we are very grateful for these brothers and sisters who make it possible for music and for us to worship together. We want to thank God for this. We also want to thank Meng at the keyboard. She made herself available to play the piano. Actually, we did not have a pianist this morning. We also have Shirley, Vicky, Selene, backup singers; and we have sister Colince the guitarist; and we have our faithful Noel, who is always at the drum site. And of course yours truly, Albert, standing here to lead the worship.
We are very privileged to worship God, and we have chosen a few songs to help us, and to enhance our worship this morning. Let us first read Colossians chapter three verses 12-17, which is actually a very good passage to help us enter the new lunar year. God’s Word says,
“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
This is also a great encouragement as we enter the lunar year.
“15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
So, may this New Year, 2013, really help our Christian life to be enriched, to do something good for Jesus everyday, and every moment. Amen.
Our Father, we want to give you thanks. We can come to your house this morning to be able to worship you on the first day of Chinese New Year. We want to give thanks to you because we cannot live without you. And when we come into your presence we are filled with gladness and joy. And we worship you. And Lord, we pray that you prepare our hearts to listen to your words this morning. We know that you are all powerful. You are all knowing. And you are always with us. And Lord, may we depart from this place with this assurance that our God will see us through in all circumstances. Bless Steven as he brings your words to us, because we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Worship song: Down From His Glory
|Verse 1||Down from His glory, Ever living story,
My God and Savior came, And Jesus was His name.
Born in a manger, To His own a stranger,
A Man of sorrows, tears and agony
|Verse 2||What condescension, bringing us redemption;
That in the dead of night, Not one faint hope in sight,
God, gracious, tender, Laid aside His splendor,
Stooping to woo, to win, to save my soul.
|Verse 3||Without reluctance, Flesh and blood His substance
He took the form of man, Revealed the hidden plan.
O glorious myst’ry, Sacrifice of Calv’ry,
And now I know Thou art the great “I AM.”
|Chorus||O how I love Him! How I adore Him!
My breath, my sunshine, my all in all!
The great Creator became my Savior,
And all God’s fulness dwelleth in Him.
Worship song: He Will Carry You
|Verse||There is no problem too big God cannot solve
There is no mountain too tall He cannot move
There is not storm too dark God cannot calm it
There is no sorrow too deep He cannot soothe it
|Chorus||If He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
I know, my brother that He will carry you
If He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulders
I know, my sister that He will carry you
|Bridge||He said，Come unto to me, all who are weary—y,
And I will give you rest
Come unto to me, all who are weary—y,
And I will give you rest
Worship song: It is well with My Soul
|Verse 1||When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
|Verse 2||Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
|Verse 3||And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul
|Chorus||It is well, with my soul,
It is well,
It is well, with my soul.
Scripture Reading: Jonah 4:1-11
1 But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry.
2 He prayed to the LORD, “OLORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.
3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4 But the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”
5 Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city.
6 Then the LORD God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine.
7 But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered.
8 When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”
9 But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”
“I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”
10 But the LORD said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.
11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”
Good morning. Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, you are precious to us, you are our creator, you kneaded us in our mothers’ womb. You knew us before the creation of the world. You loved us, you planned for us, you brought us forth into the new day, and you pursued us, saved us, sealed us, and you are sanctifying us to become more and more like Jesus. Father, we thank you that it is all about you. We thank you that you know every single person here in this church. And you love them. And you know every single person in the city, and you love them. And you know every single person in this nation, and you love them. We pray, O God, that you will send your Holy Spirit to fill our lives, to fill this church, to fill this city, and fill our lovely nation with your holy knowledge, with your holy glory. May everyone come to a saving knowledge of Jesus, so they can experience you from this day forth and forever more. Lord, as we open your Word today, speak to us, teach us, train us, transform us, that we will be more like Jesus. And that we will fall in love with Him forever more. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Review of Jonah 1-3
Today we are continuing our adventure in the book of Jonah. Let us look back at what has taken place in the last three chapters of Jonah.
Our first chapter, the seventeen verses, reminds us that God’s word came, and so God issued a commission to Jonah. Jonah was very reluctant and so God pursued Jonah to the sea. Jonah ended up drowning. In his drowning experience in chapter two, he cried out a confession. At the end of this confession, he said,
“God, I will do what you want me to do?’
And God, in chapter three, re-commissioned him. As the result of this commission, His re-commissioning, Nineveh was converted. And now we find ourselves in chapter four in God’s compassion.
The theme of Jonah 4
The question that begins our chapter is about “anger”. Do you ever get angry? What makes you angry? Is it because something does not work out? Or is it because you do not get your own way? Who makes you angry? Is it your neighbors,who are too noisy? Is it your colleagues, who are too lazy? Or is it God? Oh God, could you be angry with God? Perhaps you will be able to understand what was going on in Jonah’s mind, because today’s study is about an angry prophet in the hands of a compassionate God.
We are going to divide our chapter four into three divisions. The first division we are going to call “Patience”, verses one to four. The second division we are going to call “Providence”, verses five to nine. And the last division we are going to call “Pity”, verses ten to eleven.
Proverbs 16:32 tells us a little bit about anger,
“Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.”
Essentially the Bible is telling us that anger is a sign of weakness, a sign of immaturity. It’s easier to conquer an enemy external to us than to conquer an enemy internal in us. It is much more difficult to conquer.
Alexander the Great was great. He conquered half of the known world at a very young age. But anger conquered him, leading him to sly, to murder his best friend. Anger is a sign of weakness, a sign of immaturity and sin.
First division “Patience”
Our first division, we will call it “patience”. In verses one and two, we have Jonah complaining. And this is what Jonah essentially says,
“God, I am very displeased with you! Something evil has happened. And this is why I did not want to obey. I wanted you to destroy my enemies. They are not worthy to be saved. They hate us. They hate you. They are going to destroy us. But you save them?! God, if you do not destroy my enemies, you have destroyed my reputation. If you do not destroy my enemies, destroy me.”
That was Jonah’s anger toward God. “You did not do what I wanted you to do.” Anger is sin when we express anger as hatred towards someone. Jesus says that is subject to judgment. It is right to have anger towards sin, towards disobedience, towards injustice. But we must never ever have anger towards other people, towards God.
Principle for the first division
The principle in this particular section is that “the heart of every problem is our own heart”. The problem is not people, the problem is not circumstances; the problem is our heart. We are wicked, we are evil, we fall short of God’s perfection, of God’s holiness. And we can see even Jonah, the most successful prophet in recorded history, every one that Jonah spoke to was converted, they repented, they were converted, and they worshipped God. The most successful man, prophet, recorded to bring an entire city to their knees, and to worship their God. And yet he had anger. And the root, it is our heart.
Who can heal the heart? There is only one doctor, one solution, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why our hope is in God, and nothing else. Because we have no other problem but a heart problem. Everything that we experience in life is not a problem larger than our heart problem. And the only person who can help us with our heart problem is Jesus Christ. That is why He must be your only hope.
We will go on to Jonah 4, the second half of verse 2, where he describes God, he says,
“OK, you are a gracious God, compassionate God. Slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity.”
When we talk about God’s grace, we understand that God gives us something that we do not deserve. What has He given us? Everything, including salvation, and eternal life through His son Jesus Christ. He makes the deaf hear His voice, He makes the blind see Him, and He makes the dead alive. When we were totally helpless, utterly hopeless, God saves us. That is grace.
Jonah also tells us that God is slow to anger. This is God’s patience. Grace curbs God’s justice. Mercy limits God’s judgment. God’s patience controls His power. There is a Bible verse that tells us a little bit more about this patience. It is in our principle, 2 Peter 3:9,
“The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
This is patience. God is faithful. God’s grace can never fail. God’s promises can never fail. God’s will shall never fail. Absolutely guaranteed, God will never ever fail. But the timing for us sometime is difficult. Why so long? It is so hard to wait. When will you heal me? When will you give me a good job? When will you give me a spouse? When it seems slow, but God always has perfect timing. He always comes on time. He never fails. He is slow in our eyes to give us room to repent, to grow, to become the people who He wants us to be, to receive that promise.
So God was talking to this angry servant, and He was saying to him,
“My agenda, my purpose, my nature is to show grace, mercy, compassion and love to those undeserving enemies, to those people you do not like.”
And so Jonah ended up saying,
“Oh, kill me. If you do not kill my enemies, kill me.”
Question from the first division
The question that I have for you is that: Are you dealing with your anger biblically? Or are you just hiding it well when people are looking? How real is God’s tenderness and graciousness to you? And if we know God’s tenderness and graciousness, how can we express His loving kindness towards others?
Second division “Providence”
And we move to our second division, which we called “Providence”. Providence declares God is sovereign. God acts as He pleases; God acts only as He pleases, and God acts always as He pleases. God does what He pleases. Whatever God does is always wise, always loving, always kind, always perfect. So you want Him to be sovereign, and He is enthroned above the universe, over the universe. He is working in all things, He is working through all things, and as a child of God, you have great security of knowing that everything He does is not by accident, not arbitrary, but by divine appointment. God knows what He is doing, and something good is going to come out of it. Something good, something beautiful, something lasting will come through.
The way we see God’s sovereignty, God’s providence is in the word “provides”. If we look at the passage for this particular section, we will see in verses 5-9, the word “provides”. The LORD God provided a vine, and then the next day, the LORD God provided a worm. In earlier chapters, we know that He provided His Word to Jonah; He provided a storm with a very strong wind; He provided a fish to rescue Jonah to transport him back to the land; He provided a missionary to the Ninevites; He provided the right heart for the Ninevites; and then He provided the opportunity (for them) to repent and to turn back to Him. He provides, He provides, He provides…. God is in every detail of our lives, providing, providing, providing, providing, providing….
Now you may say I do not like all His provisions. I do not like storms; I like the sunshine. I do not like suffering; I like the prosperity; I want the good things. But God in His love does not just want to provide you with the good things of life, He want to provide you life, true life, abundant life, a life that never ends with Him.
Principle for the second division
How does He do that? It is through His providence. That is why in our principle, it says, “God is concerned about His servant as He is concerned about his service”. God’s purpose is for us to be more like Jesus Christ. He is going to use His Word, His Spirit, the circumstances, the people around us and all these opportunities to let us get to know Him better and to be transformed into the likeness and beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ. The more we are like Jesus, the more we can experience God, the more we can experience the abundance, fruitful and eternal life that God has. If you want a real life, you should say, “God, make me more like Jesus (Amen!) no matter the cost. I want to be more like Jesus (Amen).” Because that is eternal life, knowing God, and knowing the One He sent, and being like Him. If you are holy as He is holy, then what you do will be holy as He is holy. So “being” is extremely important, as that is where your “doing” flows out of.
Question from the second division
So my question to you then is “Are you currently experiencing God’s discipline?” I know it is hard; I know it is difficult. But remember we said “God has a plan”. So when you seek to respond more Christ-like to His discipline, do not complain, do no rebel, submit, surrender willingly and joyfully because you are becoming more like Jesus – that is when you can truly experience the eternal life, the abundant life, the fruitful life that God designed for you.
Third division “Pity”
Our final division is called “Pity”. The word used in this passage is “concern”. We know it as “compassion”. Everyone knows that Jesus is very compassionate. He wept at Lazarus’ tomb; He wept over Jerusalem on the way to the cross. We know that Jesus spent His days on the earth according to Hebrews chapter five, praying to God with tears and loud cries (Hebrews 5:7). Jesus is compassion. When we read in Exodus chapter three, we find a very good definition of “compassion”. Speaking to Moses, God said,
“I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, Moses, and I am concerned about their suffering. Moses, so I have come down to rescue them…. (Exodus 3:7-8a)”
That is the same God, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob and the God of Moses, and the God of you and I , says the same thing,
“I have seen your misery. I have heard your prayers. I have seen your tears. I am concerned about your tears. And I am coming down to rescue you.”
That is compassion, not just an emotion, not just a movement of the mind, but God Himself comes down in the form of our Lord Jesus Christ. And then, He willingly laid down His life for us; He died for us, not because we were worthy, not because we were ready, not because we were holy; but because we were so unlovely, because we were so unlovable, because we were so dead. God said,
“I will come down and rescue these people, everyone who believes, and everyone who repents.”
Principle for the third division
The principle for this division is “If I have no love, I am nothing” (ICorinthians 13:2). I can do so many things, but if my heart is not right with God, if my motive is not for the love of God, then it is valueless and vain. We do not want to be unloving people, especially since we know that “God is love” (1 John 4:8), “Greater love has no one than this: to give his life for his friends, to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). And Jesus said, “You are my friends.” “I am the good shepherd, and I lay down my life for my friends.” (John 10:11).
So whether we have enemies, strangers, foreigners, neighbours, co-workers, professors, bosses, they are our friends because Jesus Christ died for them.
Conclusion of Jonah
I would like us to look back to our divisions in a different way. Our first division is “Patience”, but we can look at it as “Rejoice in patience”. The second division, we can say “Trust in God’s providence”; and the third division “Live in God’s compassion”.
You know the story of Jonah is actually a story of salvation through Jesus, Prince of Peace, who calms the storm, who is the High Priest, who lives to intercede for us, who is the prophet, the living Word who gives life to the repentant, and He is our provider, who provides for us everything we need for salvation and more.
The book of Jonah has been an amazing blessing. In chapter one, we learned the truth about our God, that God is our creator, He made us and we are His. In chapter one, we also learned that God is a judge, a holy God who says that “the wickedness of Nineveh has come up to me, and you must speak out against its sin”. So chapter one and three tells us that “judgment upon sin is inevitable; God as a holy God must judge sin”.
Chapter two tells us, in Jonah’s prayer, that Jesus is the only source of salvation from sin. And then chapter three, the conversion of the Ninevites tells us that “the only reasonable response is to repent”. When you repent, God will relent.
Then chapter four, it tells us that God is concerned about everyone here at this church, and everyone outside of this church, and everyone who is outside of our hearts, and everyone who is yet to be saved. They need to know the truth about God, the truth about sin, the truth about Jesus, and the need and urgency to respond to the gospel. We talked about anger. We are going through very difficult times.
A dying man’s testimony
I heard of a man, and he was very angry with God. He had cancer, and he only had a short time to live. He said,
“God, if you were God, heal me!”
But his cancer progressed, and his bitterness also progressed. He made life miserable for his wife, his children, and everyone who came into his presence. He was bitter, he complained, and he cursed God, “You were taking me away from my wife; you were taking me away from my children; and you were taking me away from my life. You cannot be the God I want to know.”
Who would reach out to this type of person? Who would love this type of person? Well, as God’s providence will have it, this man in his last week, he came into a church. And you know sometimes it is difficult to meet strangers because you do not know them, you do not know how they would respond to you. There were not many people who came up to this man because they could see the bitterness and darkness on his face. But one man did approach him. He did not say much to him, but he prayed for him, he said, “Let me pray for you.” And he prayed for him. Three days later, he received a phone call from this man’s wife. The man did not know what to think. The wife reported, “My husband, my bitter husband has died.” So the man’s heart sank. But the wife said,
“Do not worry, these last three days were the best days of our life together. When you shared God’s love with him, and you prayed for him, he experienced immediate peace and joy he had never experienced in his entire life. The last three days, we were singing together, laughing together, praying together, reading the Bible together. It was the best days of our life. God did not kill him; but God healed him, because one man shared God’s heart, the gospel is the power of salvation for all who would believe.”
What is your response to God’s calling?
God is asking us, if you are not a believer, will you believe? Will you repent and turn back to God, and experience the eternal and abundant life He has for you? If you are a Christian, will you join God in His mission of compassion, and reach out to the lost before it is too late? I pray that your answer would be,
“Yes, Lord, send me.”
Transcribed and edited by Esther, Colince, Franz and Liu Laoshi with grace and peace from our Lord Jesus!