Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10) We begin where we ended last time with the prayer of Solomon’s father, David. The word create means to bring into existence something that was not previously there. There’s more here than David...
“Salvation comes from the Lord.” Jonah 2:9 (NIV)
Jonah is our case study for “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. We have been praying like this: “Lord, make me less like Jonah and more like Jesus!”
It struck me that one day I might have the great joy of meeting Jonah in heaven. What if he were to say “I hear you preached on my book and your main point was to tell people not to be like me!”
And perhaps I will meet the King of Nineveh. What if he said “I heard about your series on Jonah! Don’t you think you were a bit hard on him? After all there are 120,000 people from Nineveh here and we all heard the Word through his ministry!”
Some Positive Lessons from Jonah’s Life
It is a mark of Jonah’s humility that a man 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.
Today’s message is called “Reduce God’s Salvation by Crediting Your Response.” Jonah is a wonderful model for us here. We want to become more like Jonah, because he becomes more like Jesus. He gives God all the glory for his salvation: “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9).
C.H. Spurgeon, in his series on Jonah, remarks about Jonah in the belly of the fish:
“Jonah learned this sentence of good theology in a strange college… Most of the grand truths of God have to be learned by trouble;
they must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction,
otherwise we shall not truly receive them.”
We have been talking about “avoiding a God-centered life,” and so I want you to see how utterly God-centered Jonah became. Jonah 2 is a song of praise in which God gets all the glory for Jonah’s salvation:
“From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.
‘In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me.
From the depths of the grave I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.’”
Notice how Jonah speaks directly to God: Notice the words ‘You’ and ‘Your’ in chapter 2:
You hurled me into the deep,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.
I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’ (v3-4)
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you brought my life up from the pit,
O Lord my God.
“When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.” (v6-7)
“Those who cling to worthless idols
forfeit the grace that could be theirs.
But I, with a song of thanksgiving,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
Salvation comes from the Lord.”
And the Lord commanded the fish,
and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. (v9-10)
God saves!! It’s You! I was done for, I was at the bottom of the ocean!
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, it is 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. 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. The Lord is saving me. The Lord 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.
Knowing that Salvation Comes From the Lord…
“All my days were written in your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16).
If you’re a believer, God set His love on you before you were born. I was on God’s horizon not only before I was born, but before the creation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). He planned my days in love.
It’s a great thing to know that God is love. It is a greater thing to know that God loves me. Jesus died on the cross to save sinners. Jesus died on the cross to save me. This personal way of relating to the cross is the language of the Bible. Paul says “The Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
When Jesus came into the world and when he died on the cross, he did more than provide a way of salvation for people in general. He came to save people with names and faces, and one of them was me. If you’re a Christian, one of them was you!
When he was born in that manger he lay in the straw for me. When he died on the cross he hung there for me. The sins that he carried were my sins. When he entered hell, it was my hell he entered.
In my fallen nature I wouldn’t have cared at all about these things. God did all of that for me before I was born. But it didn’t end there. Early in life, I opened my heart to the Lord. How did that happen?
God sent His Spirit: “Go work in that little boy’s heart. Speak to him. Draw him to Christ. Give him life from above. Direct his life, call him, equip him, guard him and keep him, stay with him, correct him (he’s sure going to need that!), strengthen him, show him the truth, help him to pray, and bring him safely home to 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!
There are a lot of believers who lack confidence in what the Lord Jesus Christ is doing in their lives. If my salvation boils down to my decision to follow Jesus, how do I know that I can keep it up? The best I could do is to say “I’ll give it my best shot, and I hope I make it.” Thank God the Bible doesn’t say “Salvation comes from me.”
Salvation comes from the Lord. If God is saving me, I can have confidence in his ability to keep me.
The work which His goodness began,
The arm of His strength will complete;
His promise is ‘Yes’ and ‘Amen’
And never was forfeited yet.
Things future, nor things that are now,
Nor all things below or above,
Can make Him His purpose forgo,
Or sever my soul from His love.
My name from the palms of His hands
Eternity will not erase;
Impressed on His heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace.
Yes, I to the end shall endure
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
the glorified spirits in heaven.
-Augustus Montague Toplady (1740-78)
When you grasp more clearly that salvation comes from the Lord, then your confidence that the Lord who died to save you lives to keep you, and He will never let you go.
…Motivates prayer and evangelism
In have some people on my mind and heart who need Jesus. They are not Christians and they are not interested in becoming Christians. So, if salvation boils down to a human choice, then there is no hope for them, because they have already been making their choice for years.
But if God is free to swoop down, uninvited, and lay hold of a person who is dead in trespasses and sins, and bring them to spiritual life—that gives me hope! If God saves, then I can ask Him to save them. I can’t imagine a more powerful incentive to pray. God can do in the lives of some of your loved ones, what you can’t even imagine possible.
It also motivates me to evangelism, because God saves through the Gospel. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). If God swoops into people’s lives through the Gospel, that motivates me to share the Gospel, to pass on a tract or a book. Who knows what God will do with that?
The sower throws out the seed, knowing that some will fall on hard ground and nothing will come of it, some will get choked, but some will grow and bear fruit—thirty, sixty and a hundred fold (Mark 4:3-8). That’s why he sows.
When Jonah said “Salvation comes from the Lord” (Jonah 2:9), he was saying more than “God makes salvation possible,” he was saying “God saves!” And if you believe in the God who saves, you will be motivated to pray…
How Salvation Comes From the Lord
I want to speak finally 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? We’ve talked about how difficult it is to live a life of faith. 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 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. 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 saved Jonah. 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.
 “Salvation of the Lord” by C.H. Spurgeon, Sermon #131, May 10, 1857
 Ibid, adapted.