Contemplate the following two questions:
- Would you ever intentionally keep someone out of heaven if you had the ability to admit them?
- Would you ever resent God for forgiving and admitting someone you would send to hell if you had the ability to do so?
While we clearly do not have the ability to send anyone to anywhere for eternity, we may have more influence than we think. People love to condemn God for whatever injustice they perceive he’s guilty of regarding heaven and hell, yet most never challenge their own responsibility and culpability. Let me explain.
Take Jonah, for instance. Jonah was called by God to share the good news of God’s grace to a very sinful people, the Ninevites. To say he’s reluctant is an understatement. You think his reluctance is due to the fact that he fears their condemnation. We can understand this. It’s a difficult assignment. Sinful people don’t like being told they’re sinful people! Yet, as soon as he tells them of their sin, God’s potential judgment, and then of God’s forgiveness, they immediately repent: in sackcloth and dust and fasting. Broken. Convicted. Contrite. Convinced. You cannot help but marvel at their responsiveness. Talk about immediate obedience. It’s stunning.
What comes next? Jonah’s got to be over the top relieved, right? He’s got to be beside himself with joy at the outcome. Yes? He’s got to be on cloud nine with God…certainly!
Here’s what it says in Jonah 4:1-3:
“But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. He prayed to the Lord, ‘Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing 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. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.’”
What? You’ve got to be kidding! He resents the fact that they were forgiven by God for their wrongs. He wants them to have to pay for their sins. He thinks GOD has a problem because he is gracious. It never occurs to him that his attitude towards others might be the problem. Never.
I am so glad that I am not like Jonah! I would never keep someone away from the grace of God! Or would I?
In a recent message I shared a finding from Lifeway Research. Here’s what they discovered: 82% of all non-believers said they would attend church with a friend if they were simply invited. 82%! Now, just because someone attends church, there is certainly no guarantee they would listen, hear, accept, or believe. Agreed? But here’s something to chew on… the chances of them listening, hearing, accepting and believing just went up 82%! And all it took was just a little bit of courage to invite them to church. A simple invitation has the potential to impact someone’s eternity!!! You have far more power than you think!!!
So, why not ask? Why not invite them to church with you? As we begin our journey this next week through The Story, no one is asking you to travel to Nineveh to tell someone about God’s love for them. Nope, you just need to walk across the street. Cross the aisle. Visit the cubical or office next to yours. Folks who need to hear of God’s grace are that close. It’s that easy. Will you do it? Someone’s eternity hangs in the balance. Odds are 82% in your favor you can make a huge difference.