Jonah 4:10-11 - Living In A World That Doesn't Kno

Steve Viars March 14, 1998 Jonah 4:10-11

- We live in a culture awash in moral and ethical confusion.
- Would you agree with that statement?
- Would you having any trouble this morning saying that the world in which we live has great difficulty knowing right from wrong?
- our culture has great trouble knowing how to determine truth.
- it is a culture described in the OT where many times good is called evil, and evil is called good.
- it is a culture also described in the OT with the words....”every man does that which is right in his own eyes...”
- It is a culture described in the NT with words like....
In the last days, perilous times shall come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power....
- we see evidence of these sorts of descriptions each and every day.

- the question I’d like to pose to you this morning is....
- How does a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ, react to that kind of a culture?
- How do you respond to that kind of a world?
- How do you please God as in individual in a society that is wicked?

- would the answer be....to become proud?
- is the Christian response one of smugness....being aloof...indifferent.....self-righteous?
- is the proper response to become proud?

- Would the answer be....to become hateful?
- is the Christian response one of anger....and being antagonistic.....and agitated?
- are we supposed to go around with a frown on our face and a curse on our lips?
- is the proper response to become hateful?

- Would the answer be.....unconditional acceptance?
- I’m OK...you’re OK....
- whatever works for you is fine.....
- lowest common denominator morality.....
- we’re all going to get to heaven, just in different ways....
- is the proper response unconditional acceptance?

- Now, assuming for the moment that you would say that all of those answers are incorrect, then that leaves us with the question....what is the answer?
- How does a Christian properly live in a culture that is, to use a politically correct description, a culture that is morally and ethically challenged?
- and not just that.....not only what is the answer to the question.....
- but how does that answer “play out” in everyday life?


- we don’t need any pious platitudes here....
- we don't need any vague generalizations.....
- we don't need any fuzzys....
- you and I face this issue every day...and we need solid answers that can stand the test of daily living.

- the good news is....the Bible speaks to this issue very directly...and we have a passage of Scripture to study that “nails” this issue as clearly as it can be nailed.
- the good news is that God’s Word speaks clearly and powerfully to this matter.

- with those thoughts in mind, let me invite you to turn to the closing verses in the book of Jonah.
- I had toyed with the idea of concluding this series last week but there are some nagging words at the end of the book that I believe we need to study.

- Jonah is a book about a man that was facing the exact same issue we are raising this morning.
- he was one of God’s prophets to the nation of Israel.
- but the Lord came to him at the beginning of this book and told him to go to the city of Ninevah...because their wickedness was great...and God wanted someone to tell them to repent of their sin and place their faith and trust in Him, the true God of heaven and earth.
- Jonah didn’t like that idea at all...because Ninevah was in the country of Assyria...and the Assyrians were known for their brutal treatment of other nations....

- and it wasn’t’ that Jonah was afraid to tell these people about God....he just didn’t want them to hear the message.
- so he ran from God, went down to Joppa, got on a boat and tried to get away.
- of course that never works....God sent a storm on the sea....the sailors threw Jonah overboard to calm the storm....
- the storm miraculously stopped....the sailors instantly repented and believed in God, and God sent a fish to swallow Jonah....
- three days later Jonah came to his senses...repented....God had the fish spit Jonah up on dry land, and the process started over.
- God told Jonah to go to Ninevah....this time Jonah obeyed....
- he told the Ninevites that they had been living in a wicked fashion, and that if they didn’t repent and believe in the true God, their city would be destroyed in 40 days.
- Amazingly, the Ninevites repented...God stayed his hand of judgment....
- and Jonah got mad.
- so he went out to the edge of the city and set up a temporary shelter...hoping the Ninevites would change their mind about repenting....
- and then maybe God would change His mind about forgiving...
- and maybe he would get to see God destroy the Ninevites after all....

- while he was waiting it got hot...so God sent a plant to shade Jonah, which the Bible says made Jonah deliriously happy
- then God sent a worm to destroy the plant [just like Jonah wanted God to destroy the Ninevites] and the Bible says that that made Jonah very angry....

- all of this is about Jonah’s inability///or unwillingness to properly respond to a culture that was sinful.
- Now let’s see what God says about all of this to conclude this book.
- read Jonah 4:10
- in other words --- Jonah, why are you upset about something that didn’t belong to you anyway, and why are you so passionate about something as temporary as a plant that grew up and died on the same day?
- Read verse 11.

- Did you clearly hear the way God described the Ninevites...
- it is not said with pride....God cannot be proud.
- it is not said with hate...God cannot hate.
- it is not said in sinful anger...God cannot be sinfully angry.

- it is simply a statement of fact.....the Ninevites did not know their right hands from their left.
- now, you understand that God was not talking about their intellect.
- It was not that they couldn’t literally tell their right hand from their left.

- He was talking about their ability to know right from wrong.
- see, this books ends in the same place it started.
- what was it that motivated this missionary assignment in the first place?
- Jonah 1:2 - "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city, and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me."
- one writer said it this way....The best understanding of this text is to recognize that the Lord is referring to an entire city of morally and ethically naive individuals.

- We’re talking this morning about “Living in a World That Doesn’t Know its Right Hand From its Left”.
- in the time we have remaining, let’s think about three principles that will help us do that well.

I. Remember, if You Know Your Right Hand From Your Left, It is Only Because of the Grace of God.


- Now, earlier I think you would have agreed that the culture in which we live is evil in many ways.
- I hope you would also say....and I am seeking to live a life that is different.
- I want to please God with my life.
- I want my source of truth to be His holy Word.
- I have an approach to ethics....and approach to what is right and wrong...that is systematic and well reasoned.
- you would probably say this morning...I don’t think I fit the description.....”doesn’t know his right hand from his left.”
- Great...for sake of argument, we will assume that that is true.

- then let me ask you this question....why is that true of you?
- why are you a Christian and your neighbor is not?
- why do you have a biblical approach to right and wrong and the person in the next cubicle doesn’t?
- Is it because, fundamentally speaking, you are better than them....you were made constitutionally strong and they were made constitutionally weak?
- was that it --- that you were made with the right stuff...you are just fundamentally better?
- Is it because you are smarter than them?
- they’re dumb....you’re smart.....
- they lost....you’re saved....would that be it?

- if you are a person who knows your right hand from your left....your view of right and wrong closely approximates the view of the God of heaven....then why is that?
- the answer is....because of the marvelous grace of God that has been shed abroad in your heart.

- John 15:16 - "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.
- Ephesians 1:3-8 - Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.  In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished upon us...

- Now you might say, I thought I chose to trust Christ....
- well, if you’re saved, you did.....
- but the reason you did was because God was working in you.
- He worked, and you responded to that work....

- now you might say....PV, if I push that out logically there are facets of that that are troubling to me....its hard to understand.
- listen, the appropriate balance between divine sovereignty and human responsibility is something theologians have wrestled with for centuries......

- but the bottom line is....the Scripture speaks to both sides of the issue....
- an analogy that has helped me is thinking about salvation like the threshold of a doorway...
- on one side is written the words “whosoever will shall come....”
- but on the other side, after a person has trusted Christ, they look back at the doorway they’ve come through and see the words from god’s perspective....chosen before the foundation of the earth.
- both sides are true......

- and the point for our purposes this morning are.....
- people who have had a definite time in their life where they have trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and as a result have a new approach to right and wrong....
- they have the Holy Spirit resident inside of them....
- they have the ability to study and comprehend and apply God’s sufficient Word...
- they have the Holy Spirit leading them....energizing them to obey His Word....
- Christians who now know their right hand from their left....have absolutely no reason to look around at those who don’t with PRIDE.

- if you are unlike the Ninevites described at the end of the book of Jonah....or if you are unlike the Ninevites in 20th century America.....it because of the wonderful grace of Jesus Christ.
- so how do you live in a culture that doesn’t know its right hand from its left?
I. Remember, if You Know Your Right Hand From Your Left, It is Only Because of the Grace of God.
- now, a second principle we need to add to this is:


II. Be Willing to Say About our Culture What God Says.


- please remember that this phrase “not knowing their right hand from their left” is not a quote from some right wing, red-neck, conservative social theorist.
- this is a quote from the mouth of the God of heaven and earth.

- and why would God say this about the Ninevites, or why would he say it about anyone?
- the answer is....
1) The Ninevites did not know Him, the true God of heaven and earth, and so instead they worshipped idols.....
2) Secondly, because they didn’t know God, they also didn’t have His Word.
- the Jews had the 10 Commandments....
- the Jews had the Torah....the law....
- they had a clear and comprehensive explanation of right and wrong from the mouth of the Creator God....the Ninevites did not.
3) Thirdly, these people had no concern for true righteousness, and certainly not the power to attain it.

- so whenever a person, or a nation rejects God, and rejects His Word....mark it down, that will always result in ethical and moral confusion.
- you cannot know right from wrong apart from an objective standard of truth....and you cannot derive an objective standard of truth apart from someone a lot bigger and a lot smarter than you or me.

- human beings were never designed to know right from wrong, and act on right from wrong...apart from a personal relationship with their Creator....and it only required a short time in the garden of Eden to prove that fact.
- therefore, it was very fair for God to say about these Ninevites that they didn’t know their right hand from their left.

- the point for you and me in 20th century America is....you must II. Be Willing to Say About our Culture What God Says.
- Jonah was wrong for hating the Ninevites....but he would have been just as wrong if he ignored the depth of their sin...
- if he would have ignored the terrible condition that their ignorance of God and His Word had placed them.

- You will never please God in the pagan culture in which you live if you have concluded in your heart that the culture in which you live isn’t really that bad.
-Again....Jonah was wrong for hating the Ninevites....but God was right for calling them what He did.
- the first step to solving any problem is right diagnosis....
- the Ninevites were a people who didn’t know their right hand from their left.

- Now let me ask you...what about the culture in which you and live?
- I’d like to take a few minutes now and try to illustrate why the phrase we find in this text so aptly describes the conditions of our day.
1) Let’s begin with the story of Emily Lyons.

- Emily was an employee at the New Woman All Woman abortion clinic in Alabama that was the sight of a bombing several weeks ago.
- An article by the Associated Press recently said “A tear streamed down Emily Lyon’s scarred right cheek from her remaining eye, closed tightly against the bright lights.  She held up her right hand, mangled and red.... 
- Four weeks after nearly dying in an abortion clinic bombing that killed an off-duty police officer, Lyons quietly posed a question for the bomber whose homemade handiwork ripped apart her body.
- “What were you thinking?”, Lyons, a clinic nurse, said from her wheelchair...”What were you thinking?”
- the article is accompanied by a large picture that graphically portray the extent of Ellen’s injuries.

- now, you understand that we are totally opposed to this kind of violence.
- making a bomb and setting it off at an abortion clinic is a wicked thing to do.
- Most of us learned that lesson in Ethics 101 on our momma’s knee...two wrongs don't make a right.

- however, I’d like to ask you a hard question about the way our culture handles such stories.
- Is there anything missing?

- where was the media the day before when a couple of dozen defenseless babies were murdered?
- Why a picture of Emily Lyons.... why not a picture of the results of a partial birth abortion, a procedure that is so vile that if I described it in detail this morning few of us would be able to eat our lunch]

- Do you know that this year marks the 25th anniversary of Roe Vs. Wade....the landmark verdict that legalized abortion in this country?
- where has the media been the last 25 years as millions of defenseless infants have been slaughtered in our country?

- I’m terribly saddened by what happened to Emily Lyons....but let me just point out....
- the babies murdered in her clinic will never be able to call a press conference....
- they’ll never be able to speak, at least on this earth....
- Sitting in a wheelchair would be a step up from their fate, humanly speaking.

- and see, maybe its time to return the question.....
- Emily....and everyone else involved in the industry....and those who argue for the validity of the industry.....
- what were you thinking?
- we live in a culture that is very much like Ninevah....we don’t know our right hand from our left.

- by the way, a parallel issue to this one is our community’s recent emphasis on Shaken Baby Syndrome.
- we’ve had award winning features on this subject....
- new laws have just been passed in our State Legislature.....
- and again, of course we’re opposed to a person selfishly and sinfully shaking their babies in a fit of rage...
- but  why is it that many of the same people who have led the fight against shaken baby syndrome are the same ones who fight for a woman’s right to kill her baby in the womb.

- our culture seems to be suffering from the syndrome of selective self-righteousness.

3) Isn’t that what we see happening with the current assault on the Tobacco Industry.
- and you know I’m not advocating smoking....
- but what is missing from the debate?
- what about alcohol?

- if we’re going to get so self-righteous about tobacco, wouldn’t we be equally upset about alcohol.
- in fact, couldn’t the argument be made that we ought to be more concerned about alcohol....because the last I checked...people didn’t have one last smoke for the road....then get in their cars and go out and take someone else’s’ life.

- see, when an individual denies God, and denies His Word....ethical and moral confusion always results....not knowing ones right hand from ones left.

- it gets worse, doesn’t it?
- what about the confusion in our land about sexuality?

- this is where your view of God and His Word really shows.
- it is critical that a person believes in the early chapters of Genesis if he or she is going to have a right view of sexual ethics.....
- of what is right and wrong sexually.....

- it is critical that a person understand and believe that he is created by God...
- and that his sexuality is to be enjoyed only within the confines of monogamous marriage....
- within those parameters, sexual relations are holy and undefiled as the book of Hebrews says....
- that’s why God brought Adam and Eve together....not Adam and Steve, by the way, Adam and Eve....
- and when God brought and Eve together within the confines of monogamous marriage, the Scriptures were able to give that wonderful description that Adam ad Eve were naked and not ashamed.
- they were able to express their sexuality in a way that honored God.

- now, what happens if a person, or a governmental agency...rejects God and His Word....especially about matters like creation...or the existence of God, or the authority of the Scriptures?

- two very important answers....
1) They will incur the wrath of God....
- Any believer who wants to properly interact with his culture needs to be thoroughly acquainted with Romans chapter 1.
- let me remind you of these verses.....
Romans 1:18-32 - For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.  For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.  Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.  Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.  For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.  And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and, although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.

- the point is...if an individual, or a nation, or some governmental agency denies the existence of God, and the truth of God’s Word....sexual confusion and immorality will invariably be the result.
- the Word of God is crystal clear on this point...
- and Romans 1:18 also makes it clear that God is angry about this matter....
- the wrath of God is revealed against such individuals.

- the second answer to the question, what happens when a person, or nation, or governmental agency rejects God and His Word....especially about matters like creation...or the existence of God, or the authority of the Scriptures?
- is....it would be best for them to be silent on issues of ethics and morality.

- that’s why James says...be not many teachers, for theirs is the greater judgment.

- that’s why our local government should have never gotten involved in the homosexuality debate.
- that’s why our local schools ought to stay as far away from the topic of sexual ethics as they possibly can.
- if you are going to deny the existence of the Creator God and the authority of His Word, it would be in your best interest not to say anything.

- now I realize that the response to this on the part of some might be...PV, you don't understand separation of church and state.
- I wish we had more time to talk about that particular point...but let me just say here that only a person who believes in making up history as he goes along could come up with the conclusion that that our country was built on faith in God and His Word.
1) It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme being, the great Creator and preserver of the universe.
Massachusetts bill of Rights, 1780

2) Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports . . . Let it simply be asked where is the security for prosperity, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation deserts the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice . . . ‘Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.
George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

3) They [the American people] were bound by the laws of God, which they all, and by the laws of the Gospel, which they nearly all, acknowledged as the rules of their conduct.
John Quincy Adams, Secretary of State Oration, July 4, 1821.

- there is no question that our country built its system of ethics on a belief in God and His Word.
- that’s why, on every piece of our money, they stamped the words....”In God we trust”
- don’t you know that the ACLU would love to have that removed?

- that’s why, in early colonial schools, children were instructed out of books like the New England Primer, which taught them rhymes like...
In Adams fall, we sinned all.
Zaccheus he climbed the tree, his Lord to see.

- that’s why our Senate begins its deliberations by asking a man to lead the group in prayer.
- that’s why it used to be the norm in our courthouses all across our country to have somewhere prominently displayed....the 10 Commandments.
- (Indy Star Cartoon)

- I’m very thankful for the many fine people who are working sacrifically in the public school system....
- our son goes to the Indiana School for the Blind, and he has been involved in public schools here in our county...and we have met some wonderful people.
- I have said many times that my concern is not so much with the people of public education as it is with the philosophy of public education....
- but I came across a quote recently by a pastor who was writing about the formation of the first State Board of education in the country.
- these words were written well over 100 years ago....you decide if they have come true....
- “It is capable of exact demonstration that if every party in the State has the right of excluding whatever he does not believe to be true, then he that believes most must give way to him that believes absolutely nothing, no matter in how small a minority the atheists or the agnostics may be.  It is self-evident that on this scheme, if it is consistently and persistently carried out in all parts of the country, the United States system of national popular education will be the most efficient and wide instrument for the propagation of Atheism the world has ever seen.”
A.A. Hodge (1823-1886)
- Friends, God was willing to make an accurate diagnosis of Ninevah....
- it wasn’t mean, it wasn’t proud, it wasn’t hateful.....it was true.

- Are you willing to do the same about the culture in which we live today....one that so often does not know its right hand from its left.

- now, where does all of this leave us?

- we’ve said...
I. Remember, if You Know Your Right Hand From Your Left, It is Only Because of the Grace of God.
II. Be Willing to Say About our Culture What God Says.

- our third principle is this.....


III. When It Comes to How You Respond to a Sinful Culture, Don’t Be Like Jonah, and Don’t Fail to be Like God.


- see, this book presents two clear ditches...and I’d like to ask you to consider which one you might lean toward.
- one the one hand....are you like Jonah...who looked at a culture that was sinful...and responded with hatred.
- he hated these people....he was repulsed by them.....
- his response to their sinfulness was one of anger, and pride.....

- he wanted them to rot in hell....he believed there was no hope for them and he had no desire whatsoever to be used of God as an instrument of mercy and grace in their lives.

- Can a believer develop that kind of hatred toward those who don’t know Christ?
- Friend, do you have any tendencies to be like Jonah?
- have you been running from God’s ministry assignments in your life because your heart is cold?

- what about the other ditch, though?
- what about those who want to keep their heads in the sand.
- they think the culture in which we live is pretty good.
- rejecting God and rejecting His Word isn’t so bad...after all....
- unemployment’s down, inflation is in check, the stock market’s up, and Purdue is winning.....
- what’s the fuss about?

- the fuss is about the fact that men and women all around you don’t know their right hand from their left.
- and if they die in that condition, they will be separated from God forever in a place called hell.
- and God’s compassion came as a result of a proper diagnosis of the problem.
- are you willing to be as honest...and compassionate as He?
[evangelistic thrust]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video