Cultivating a Heart for the Nations

As we began our study of Jonah on Sunday, we quickly realized that we are not that different than he was. As Americans, we have real enemies. Whether it was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor or Osama bin Laden’s attack on the Trade Towers in New York City, there are people, groups, and nations planning to attack and kill Americans. While God has given governments the sword of justice to punish evil and promote good, including providing the necessary military to protect its citizens, what should the church’s response be? How should Christians think about our enemies?
Well, that was Jonah’s dilemma. The Assyrians were a true terrorist nation. And yet, the Lord called him to go and bring a message of judgment to Nineveh – one of the great cities of the Assyrian empire. Jonah knew that God’s prophetic warnings of judgment were conditional on the response of the wicked. If they continue in their sin, God would pour out the promised judgment. However, if they repented, God would relent and grant them forgiveness. This was Jonah’s concern. He didn’t want Nineveh to receive mercy; he wanted them to receive the justice they deserved.
When we think of American history and the aggression of the Japanese, the Germans, Communists, and radical Muslims, for example, it’s easy to sympathize with Jonah. We too want justice for those who deserve it. Instead, though, God wanted to show Nineveh mercy, so he sent Jonah. The Lord also sends us out to ALL nations. So, while government has a duty to respond militarily to attacks against their citizens, as Christians our response is always missionary. But, how can we cultivate a heart for the nations, even nations that may want to kill us? Allow me to offer five ways:
  1. Rehearse the gospel – the good news of God’s mercy toward repentant sinners.
  • God can forgive sinners and remain just because he has punished sin in his own Son, Jesus. Jesus took on our humanity and lived a life of perfect obedience. But he also went to the cross and received God’s justice on behalf of repentant sinners.
  • The gospel reminds us that God is both holy and loving; he is both full of justice and mercy.
  1. Remember your conversion – the good news of God’s mercy toward YOU.
  • You came into this world deserving God’s just judgment because you were born a sinner, hostile to God and engaged in evil deeds. Instead, God showed you mercy by saving you, in Christ, and forgiving you of your sin.
  • Meditate on the fact that YOU are Nineveh, deserving God’s just wrath.
  • If there is hope for Nineveh, there is hope for you.
  1. Study the doctrine of hell.
  • We may say we believe in hell, but do we understand it? Hell is God’s eternal conscious punishment for unrepentant sinners. It’s what we all deserve, but it’s not what we all receive because of Christ’s work on our behalf.
  • As we study the doctrine of hell, it should move us toward compassion for those who are without Christ.
  1. Learn about the nations – their spiritual needs and God’s work among them.
  • The Lord is doing a great work among the nations and various people groups around the world. You may learn about that work through the Joshua Project and Operation World.
  • As you learn about the nations and their needs, pray specifically for them.
  1. Finally, become involved in the Lord’s commission to go to the nations.
  • Pray for the Lord to raise up workers, for gospel advancement.
  • Give to the gospel work in the nations – this is why we take up an offering each Sunday.
  • Go! Go short-term, long-term, career – we can help you walk through these questions.
  • Go across the street – Practice personal evangelism now.
  • Go across the ocean – Get a passport, take a trip – again, we’ll help you.

May the Lord grant us much grace and give us a heart for the nations!