(Photo: Mars Hill Church)
Pastor Greg Laurie on Sunday shared about the essence of the Book of Jonah, telling his congregation at Harvest Church in Riverside, Calif., that the message that the minor prophet was asked to deliver to the people of Nineveh is what even America needs but is yet to hear.
Laurie's message, titled, "The Message We Must Proclaim," was based on Chapter 3 of Jonah, which contains the essence of the book.
The pastor said the story of the book is not just about a whale swallowing Johan, but about "a man who was given a second chance, and a city that was given a second chance." It's about "a man used by God to bring about a revival, the greatest in human history... a great God who shows a great love."
The book tells us that God gives second chances, and that even one man or one woman can make a difference, Laurie said. "Jonah was called to preach in Nineveh. We have also been called to preach, not to Nineveh, but to our country," he said. "We have our marching orders, as Jonah had his marching orders."
The method is also the same, the pastor said. We go and preach, as the Great Commission also tells us to do. "Am I doing what God called me to do?" he asked.
Laurie said the book has two big lessons for the believers.
The first, he said, is, "To reach our culture, we must preach the Gospel." Jonah was not asked to go and be a good example, the pastor stressed. But you don't have to yell; preaching can be conversational, he clarified. You can even preach through an email or a Facebook page. "The emphasis is on communicating the content of the Gospel… on verbally communicating the Gospel."
But some churches have moved away from evangelistic preaching and biblical teaching, Laurie said. The secret of the first century Church in changing the world was that the believers continued in the Apostles' doctrine. "They offered a theology without an apology, and we should do the same."
When Jesus started his ministry, he was a preacher of the Word, as mentioned in Matthew 4:7, the pastor said. Matthew 10:7 says Jesus also sent his disciples to preach.
Why preach? "Because preaching is God's primary way in reaching people." While God is all-powerful and do anything to reach the world, He has chosen to use "people like you and me."
The second lesson of the book, according to Laurie, is, "We are to preach the message He has given." God asked Jonah to preach the message that "I tell you."
But Jonah first experienced a second chance himself, and then he was to preach that to others, the pastor cautioned. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 11:23, "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you."
"Nothing is going to go through you until it first happens to you," Laurie emphasized. "It is a great thing to go through the Bible, but it is a greater thing if the Word has gone through you."
We don't need to edit the message so that it doesn't offend anyone, Laurie went on to say. "Don't mess with the message of the Gospel. There is explosive power in the essential message of the Gospel... To make the Bible relevant, we need to understand that the Bible is relevant."
It is the job of all believers to preach, Laurie said, as the Bible says your sons and daughters will prophesy. The definition of "prophesy" is to speak for another, he explained. "Jonah was God's prophet to speak to his culture, and you are God's prophets to speak to your culture," he told the congregants.
Who is a true prophet?
God's representative or prophet is usually an ordinary person, Laurie said. "God choses unlikely candidates so that He will get the glory… He is not looking for flawless, fearless... or perfect... people."
God's prophet speaks for someone else, he added. We are like "delivery boys and girls" who deliver newspapers to people's homes – they are not the writers of the news. "If our message is rejected, we don't take it personally. And when the message is accepted, we don't take that personally." We don't take the blame or the credit for the response. A true prophet recognizes the results are up to the Lord.
Our message must be delivered with urgency, Laurie said. Our message must be clear and definite – even a child should be able to understand it.
Jonah's message had a warning, Laurie said. "Whenever God gives a warning, that's a good thing," because he also offers hope.
"Do you think God is warning America to turn back to Him?" the pastor asked, and then answered the question himself, saying, "I believe He is. I believe He is very gracious to us." Is America listening to that warning? "I don't think so."
However, "if God can bring a mighty revival in Nineveh with no better representative than Jonah and no more Gospel than he preached in their streets, the Lord can surely do the same in America," Laurie added.
"My opinion is that most Americans have never heard an accurate Gospel presentation," the pastor said. For if we only tell the people God loves them, we have not given them the full Gospel. If we only tell the people God will judge them, we have really not given them the whole Gospel, he said.
The Gospel should have all its elements, he stressed. We are all sinners, as 1 John 1:8 and James 2:10 tell us, he said. But good news is that Jesus died for us, as Romans 5:6-8 says, he added. And Jesus, who resurrected from the dead, is the only way to God, as mentioned in John 14:6, Acts 4:12 and 1 Timothy 2:5, he said.
Has America heard this message? Most Americans have heard only bits of the Gospel, Laurie suggested. It is the mandate of the believers to deliver the full message, as Jonah did, he concluded.