I previously wrote that Christians aim to live a life that is centered on God, but you can also avoid one. I want to discuss this by looking at the life of Jonah so that you won’t avoid a God-centered life but cultivate one. You can avoid it for a...
“Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9 NIV).
Jonah is a great case study on “How to Avoid a God-Centered Life,” teaching us that it is possible, even as a mature believer, to spend much of your time avoiding the God that you serve.
But Jonah is also a great case study on how to look to Jesus through our own sinfulness. It is a mark of Jonah’s humility that a prophet who was so remarkably used by God, gave us this honest confession of what was happening in his inner life.
In chapter 2, Jonah really is a model for us. If I had been in a storm, thrown overboard, and then swallowed by a fish, I’m not sure I would have been singing songs of praise in that dark place!
We might well have restrained God’s praise on account of our pain, but Jonah gives thanks because he sees God’s hand at work in his life, and he knows that God will complete the saving work that he has begun. In this chapter, Jonah says, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” I want you to see from the story of Jonah why it is so important that salvation comes from the Lord.
The Bible Talks about Salvation as…
… A Completed Transaction
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8 NIV).
The Bible is full of the language of salvation as a completed transaction: “Therefore since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). It’s a done deal.
How have I been saved? Christ died for my sins. Christ rose for my justification (Romans 4:25). And since I am made one with Christ through the bond of faith, God counts all my sin as if it were Christ’s and all Christ’s righteousness as if it were mine. The completed transaction of our salvation (the Bible calls this justification) comes from the Lord.
… A Continuing Process
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18 NIV).
In the New Testament salvation is not only a completed transaction, but it is also a continuing process. Your salvation has begun, but it is not yet complete. We are not yet what we will be. We still struggle with the flesh and fail in many ways. Yet you are not who you were. You have been born again. You are a new person in Jesus Christ. And you are being saved, and that process comes from the Lord.
We see this in Jonah. He had known the Lord for many years. But sin got a hold in his life, so God disciplines him and saves him through a storm and a fish.
Then in chapter 4, Jonah falls into sin in a different way, he becomes angry, bitter, frustrated, and God is still saving him. Salvation is more than an event. It is a lifelong process in which God is always at work to make us like Jesus. The continuing process of our salvation (the Bible calls this sanctification) comes from the Lord.
… A Future Hope
You… are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:5 NIV).
Our future hope of salvation comes from the Lord. The Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so, we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Then, in the presence of the Lord, God will make his dwelling with men. God will wipe all tears from our eyes. (Revelation 21:3-4). There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. Why? Because the old order of things has passed away and God will say “I am making everything new” (Revelation 21:5).
Our future, final, eternal glorious salvation comes from the Lord. The Lord has saved me, is saving me, and will save me. Salvation comes from the Lord! The future of our salvation (which the Bible calls glorification) comes from the Lord.
How does this help us to know and to believe that salvation comes, not from us, but from the Lord? Let me tell you honestly, I was a Christian for about 20 years before I came to appreciate this truth that Jonah saw so clearly. And over the last 20 years or so this truth that salvation comes from the Lord has become life-changing for me.
The more I think about the mystery of God’s saving work in my life, the more staggering it gets. Salvation comes from the Lord!
How Salvation Comes from the Lord
I want to speak to all those who would say “I’m not sure that I have been saved. I’m not sure I am being saved, and I’m not sure that I will be saved.” If salvation comes from the Lord, what can I do? Doesn’t that leave me without hope? It is precisely the opposite. The truth that “salvation comes from the Lord,” does not close the door for you. It opens the door of hope for you!
How are you going to have faith? And how are you going to love God more than yourself? How are you going to overcome sin and live a holy life? How are you even going to have the desire to change? And how are you going to keep it up? Here’s the good news: Salvation comes from the Lord, not from you!
You can’t do these things. But God can do them for you and in you. The Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross because you cannot reconcile yourself to God. He sends his Holy Spirit because you cannot give yourself spiritual life. He promises his presence and power in your life because you cannot overcome sin yourself.
“Salvation comes from the Lord,” and when you see that, you will find hope in him. You will gather the courage to come to him and ask him to save you. I talk to folks every week who are consumed by their own inability to change. And I urge them: get your eyes off yourself and your own inability to change. Get your eyes fixed on the Lord and his ability to save—that’s what faith is.
The Lord Saves
The Lord saved Jonah. And the Lord saved Saul of Tarsus who was an angry, violent man. His life was completely saved. The Lord has saved scores of people sitting around you. Why should he not save you? Why would you not ask him to save you as well?
Here’s how C.H. Spurgeon ended his message on this great text:
Everybody here has a soul to be saved or a soul to be lost. You will be lost forever unless God shall save you. Unless Christ shall have mercy on you, there is no hope for you. Down on your knees! Cry to God for mercy. Lift up your heart in prayer to God now! May this be the moment when you will be saved. You can have peace with God now. Ask, and it shall be given, seek and you will find. Come to Christ and be accepted in God’s dearly loved Son.[i]