Thursday, March 7, 2013

Urban Voice : Loving the city - Part 1

This message was delivered by Steve Oliver on the March 3, 2013, in Mumbai.  

This message is about being a voice in your city which comes with cultivating a love for the city you live in. We are not placed there by chance. God places us there to influence that place.

Now, Jonah is the story of a man whom God raised up. Today, I want to explain to you what God’s heart is for the cities. Jonah lived 800 years before Jesus and was raised up as a prophet to go to the nations.

The story starts with God Almighty, calling to His servant, in Jonah 1: 1-2, to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.”, but the response was that “Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. ”(v. 3)

Why did he run away?
Jonah gets onto a boat to Joppa and goes in the opposite direction. So, God sends a big storm. How often does God do that to get our attention? But the storm was about to break up the ship. Then Jonah tell the mariners in verse 12, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”
As the mariners throw him into the sea, God saves Jonah by sending a great fish that swallows him. He is inside this whale. This is not just a story, it is true; because God commands everything.

In Jonah 2, we see that, inside the whale, Jonah cries out to God.  “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me. Out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and You heard my voice.” When we cry out to God, He listens. Every time you speak to Him, you have His fullest attention. He hears you. When Jonah cries out, God says- “spit him out!” What an amazing story!

In Jonah 3, God asks Jonah a second time- “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and preach to it the message that I tell you.” This time he goes. He has learnt his lesson. He went into the city and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The King of Nineveh hears this message regarding the anger of God with the city and did as God commanded them to do. Then, in verse 10 ‘God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.’   

What we are starting to see in Jonah 4 is that Jonah’s heart for the city was different from God’s heart. God teaches him. He explains to Jonah, His heart for the city of Nineveh in Jonah 4:11 where He calls it “THAT GREAT CITY”. God brought you to the city that you are in because He wants to put in our hearts a love for the city. God is a God of nations and wants to fill the whole world with His glory.

About cities- where do they come from?
-Some truths to understand God’s heart
The Gospel loves cities. But cities were not always around. The first city which came into existence was before Jesus’ time. Rome had over a million people. For the first time, because of a strong army, such a large number of people were able to live within the same borders. For this reason, people from all over went there. But with all the different people, different religions, idol worship, different cultures also came.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is tailor-made for cities. 400 years after Jesus, more than half the people in the major cities of the world were disciples of Jesus Christ. When the gospel comes to cities, it is like a wild fire. When the Romans established cities, they divided it into different sections and allocated them to different kinds of people. This was done so that the strong do not oppress the weak. But, when the gospel came, it went right through the city and for the first time in history, everyone was following the same God. It cannot be contained, because at its heart is a God who loves cities.

The leader of Rome- Caesar, Juliannus, gathered the whole city leaders in the Roman Senate and said about the church- “These religious Galileans! They are not only feeding their own poor, but also our poor!” the church of Jesus Christ turned the city of Rome upside down. This is what God wants to do with all the cities. This time (of Rome as a city) was chosen by God as a time for His son to live and be crucified so that the gospel would come and sweep through the city.

Who knows what God has in store for us in the future? We have been raised for such a time as this. It is not about Dubai or Mumbai or Chennai. It is about the cities of the world! The call on your life today is to change the cities of the world. Nothing is impossible for God and God is looking for us to become a voice to our city. We need to love our cities. The love of God is for the people of the world and most people of the world live in cities, so it is important that we love our cities. Jonah did not have that love. Are you willing to ask for this now?

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