According to Webster’s dictionary a Christian is one who follows Jesus Christ and His teachings, and a church, being a building where the religious service is held. But the initial question goes a bit deeper than the elementary definitions.
The general public seems to have a predisposition or mindset of what Christianity is all about. There is going to church and being “good”, then there is? What exactly does the life of a Christian look like? Is it replete with habits and traditions? Is it a life of reclusive piety? What do we do?
Is it just a matter of accepting the free gift of the grace of Jesus Christ and then continue on? Or is there something deeper and far more significant to this belief of Jesus being our Redeemer, Savior and Perfect offer of our Faith?
The people who were blessed by the presence of Jesus asked this same question of the Teacher in Matthew 22: 34-40 “when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Seems simple enough, just need to love on God and love on people, I can do that. Is there anything else? The typical response is “Let’s see, nope that’s it……well there is that thing about making disciples, but it’s mostly about loving God and people, oh and prayer that in there too.”
So how do we love God and people?
Back to Webster’s (cir.1953) and it says love is ardent (fervent or fiery) affection, care, fondness. How does God himself define it? Looking at the Ten Commandments we can see the first five describe how to love God and the second five detail loving people.
Placing other gods in higher authority, making idols, defaming His name (essence, being) and ignoring Him in worship and rebelling against your earthy father and mother which you were placed for instruction are an offense to God. I suppose we could go on and on for hours about what this looks like but for time sake we will do that another time.
As for the people, we love them by not murdering physically or spiritually, making them inferior or weaker by adding uncleanliness, lie about them, or harbor any angst against person because of their possessions building a barrier between you and them.
John 13:35 “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Again this is a lengthy discussion and honestly these are covered in a ton of detail in the letters to the churches.
The make disciples “thing” seems to be the most overlooked and underappreciated aspect of Christianity. Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
A disciple is a student or one who commits to a learning of the various aspects of a teaching and helps to spread this learning to others. Keeping the consistency of what we know today as being educated there is a time of instruction and then there is a time of testing.
Jesus tells us the parable of the sower or teacher whose instruction is accepted in joy but having no root, or depth to the teaching, when tested they fall away. This is repeated in His warning of the end of the age in Matthew 24: 9-10a “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away”
The relevance of possessing the teaching of God’s word is vital to our growth and maturity in the faith. The vast majority of differences and quarrels within the body of Christ centers on the lack of Biblical knowledge. So many people rely on what one preacher said or what another believer has said and not what the Bible says in context.
This dedication to scripture is essential in the life of a believer for more reasons than we can possibly understand. Reliance upon what another man (or woman) has said, in a way, is putting your faith in them and not in God. Jesus warns us “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”
While people debate whether Jonah was delivered up in a fish or a whale to the people of Nineveh they miss the fact that Jonah was to deliver the word of God to a nation. Having been tossed from the boat it is highly unlikely a papyrus scroll survived the waters. Even if he had the deluxe deer pelt leather bound edition, there is a very slim chance he was clutching it when the boat was tossed around as it is far more likely it would have been a rope tied to the boat. This means Jonah had to have studied and committed these verses to memory.
This made Jonah an Apostle or one who has been trained for a mission. The mission? To tell Gentiles, yes Gentiles, about the grace and mercy of God. Wait a minute this is the Old Testament. Yes, and this is point number two: Jonah was used by God to foreshadow the grace and mercy God would bring to the world through Jesus Christ. Jonah’s mission was to illustrate the three days Jesus would be in the grave for the redemption of all the world.
Lastly, they miss the fact that the people of Nineveh followed a false god named Dagon (see picture below) who claimed deity based on having been birthed of the sky as a merman to be the dew of the earth and the creator of agriculture and fertility. This is the same belief in later civilizations as Triton, Poseidon, and Neptune, as well as today’s culture, as Aqua-man in the comics. Dagon has many other names in history to include Nommo, Oannes, Glaucas, with titles like “Lord of Canaan” and “Father of Ba’al”
This tells the reader that God designed a VERY specific message of redemption for the people of Nineveh. God knew these people had been told a lie, from Satan, in which the creator was a fish-god and he sent his messenger inside a fish to get their attention. Providing the people of Nineveh with the truth in love, going the extra step to meet them where they are intellectually, even amidst their delusion.
In 1 Samuel 5:2-7 we read “2 Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. 3 And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. 5 This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.
6 The hand of the LORD was heavy against the people of Ashdod, and he terrified and afflicted them with tumors, both Ashdod and its territory. 7 And when the men of Ashdod saw how things were, they said, “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.”
This should have been another message to the Philistines concerning their beliefs in a false god. Apparently the fall of Goliath wasn’t enough to get their attention. This all occurs in or around 930 B.C. and the story of Jonah happens in 760 B.C. showing us the relentless pursuit of God to pour out his grace and mercy to his creation.
Are you ready to get back to the classroom? Are you ready to become a disciple? God is ready to use you to reach a nation with His message, what would you have for them?
Because Jonah was a disciplined student the Bible tells us:
“The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water, but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”
WOW! People were saved from the wrath of God because Jonah had delivered the word.
How many more can be saved by the word of the Lord and who will deliver it? Will it be you?