If I Were God, Jonah Wouldn’t Get into Heaven!

Have you ever damaged a relationship with someone you love by losing your cool in a moment of conflict? Or have you let the love between you grow cold by giving your time and attention to something other than them. Relationships are easy to damage and often difficult to repair. So the question arises, especially for a new believer, can I do something to break my relationship with God and lose my salvation? That was my big worry when I started to follow Christ. Knowing how holy He is and how sinful I am, I worried, “Maybe in a moment of weakness, I’ll sin so badly that He’ll never be able to forgive me!” I knew I was—

What’s God’s remedy for this uncertainty? The changelessness of His purposes. 1 Samuel 15:29 declares, “The Glory of Israel does not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man, that He should change His mind.” Numbers 23:19 adds: “Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?” Because God is not subject to human weakness, His plans are never frustrated. What He sets out to do, He carries through to the very end. What a comfort that ought to be to those of us who love Him! For if salvation originated with us, it would depend on us to keep it. But Jesus is the Author of Finisher of our faith. It was His Spirit who touched our hearts and freed us to believe. Therefore, since it was He who performed the miracle of salvation in our hearts, only He can undo it, and He won’t. Why? His purposes never waver. As Philippians 1:6 promises, “He who began a good work in your shall perform it until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Case in point: Jonah. If anyone deserved to forfeit his salvation, it was he. For when God said, “Go,” Jonah said “No,” and boarded a ship headed as far from where God wanted him as possible. But did God give up on Jonah? No. Romans 11:29 says, “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” So, instead of damning Jonah, God disciplined him by sending a storm to disrupt his rebellious plans, a storm so fierce it caused the sailors to repent and call upon the God of Jonah for salvation. But Jonah was stubborn. Instead of heading for Nineveh, he had the sailors throw him overboard to keep the ship from capsizing. Only then, as he sank like a rock and was about to drown, did he surrender to God’s will. So God, in His mercy, sent a fish to rescue Jonah and carry him to shore. From there, he finally headed to Nineveh where he warned them of God’s judgment.

Jonah in the Whale

However, at this point we run into a theological problem. Though God said He would destroy Nineveh because of its sin, Jonah 3:10 says: “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God repented concerning the calamity which He had declared that He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.” Did God change His mind? If so, doesn’t that contradict what I’ve said about God’s unchangeable purposes? No. What we have to recognize is that “this change” was not an unplanned alteration in God’s plans. For nothing takes God by surprise! When we make plans, we change them in light of our circumstances. Think about the last time you started a diet only to break it when the dessert arrived! But not so with God! Based on His perfect wisdom, God is faithful to complete whatever He begins. In fact, this is why Jonah originally refused to go to Nineveh. He suspected that destroying Nineveh was actually God’s Plan B. Plan A, which wasn’t revealed at first, was for Nineveh to repent, so that God could forgive them. As Jonah complained following Nineveh’s repentance—

 “O LORD, 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.” Jonah 4:2-3

What angered the bigoted prophet ought to be a great source of comfort to us! For we too are a sinful people! Yet Jonah’s God has shed His grace on us as well, not only promising to withhold His judgment, but to save us to the very end. Romans 8:28 promises us who believe, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” What purpose is that? Verse 29: “For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren.” This is comforting for two reasons. First, it guarantees that nothing in this life can undo God’s work of our salvation, for He is working all things together for our good, not our harm. Second, it promises us that we won’t get lost in the process of salvation, for verse 30 adds: “Those He predestined, He also called; and those He called, He also justified; and those He justified, He also glorified.” He finishes with the same number with which He began! Having loved us from the beginning, He will love us to the  end.

However, if you haven’t yet surrendered your life to Jesus, be warned. God’s immutability should be terrifying to those who are not yet safe within His fold. For it means that His judgment never changes either. Sometimes we imagine that God is so loving that after a million years or so, He’ll probably say, “Enough is enough,” and let those in hell “off the hook.” Wrong! Apart from Jesus Christ there is no provision for salvation and forgiveness, which is why it is important for you to give your life to Christ now while you still have the chance.

So let me ask you, in light of God’s unchanging purposes, have His purposes become your purpose for living? Matthew 28:19 commands, “Make disciples of all nations.” Mark 16:15 orders, “Preach the gospel to all nations.” Acts 1:8 adds, “You shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” The question is: Are you praying for and sharing your faith with those who don’t yet believe? And are you doing what you can to make sure the good news about Jesus is preached to the ends of the earth? Like Jonah, He’ll give you the ability to do what might otherwise frighten you, if you lean upon Him in faith. For He is both the One who saves us and empowers us to do the things we could never do before. Bless His name forever!

Next time – Why God Always Keeps His Promises

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