A Divine Change of Heart

Life Notes—January 19, 2012

“Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk.  And he cried out, ‘Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’  And the people of Nineveh believed God, they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth…When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”  Jonah 3:4-5, 10

I believe God is my rock, the never-changing foundation on which I build my life.  It is because God provides a solid center from which to live that we can weather the storms of life.  It is a constant source of comfort, repeated throughout the Psalms and other books of the Bible, that our God is unchanging and rock-solid.  And I love that about God! 

But the Bible also documents situations where God has a change of heart.  The book of Jonah tells of God’s decision to destroy the city ofNineveh. God sends Jonah to warn the people. Even though Jonah takes a circuitous route (through the belly of a big fish), he eventually goes and proclaims the warning.  And the people ofNinevehactually listened!  They repented and fasted and God’s mind was changed about destroying the city. Ninevehwas doomed, the people turned from their evil ways, God took note and the city was saved. God’s mind was changed. And I love that about God! 

There is a discrepancy between the preceding descriptions of God.  The first describes an unchanging God, one known by the staunchness of a firm, unchanging nature.  The second describes a God open to influence—one that may have a divine change of heart, depending on the circumstance.  The initial description of God is what I need when the everyday goings and comings are turbulent.  The second is the God I need when I have been hurtful and less than faithful and, well, sinful.  The fact is I need both Gods.  And the good new is, they are the same God!  The first without the second is a harsh, cold, unresponsive God.  The second without the first is undependable and flakey.  Together, they are the perfect combination of strength and grace. 

You see, if God is not open to influence through repentance and the turning of hearts, then we are doomed to a life apart from God.  Our prayers fall on deaf ears because nothing we do is going to bring an intervention.  And nothing will save us from our sin—not Old Testament law, not New Testament grace.  Fortunately, our God is vast enough for every situation, and compassionate enough to bend to meet us in our need. 

Tom’s sermon downtown is “Stop & Go Christianity.”  Life worship begins at 10:00 AM in Brady Hall, downtown.  Traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the downtown sanctuary.  Mitch’s sermon at our west campus, where contemporary worship is at 9:00 and 11:00, is “What’s My Motivation for Acting Like a Christian: Gratitude.” 

Come home to church this Sunday.  Which side of God do you need to turn to today?

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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