ONLINE CHURCH BULLETIN
Why Not Be a Prodigal
THE FAR COUNTRY WILL TEACH YOU MORE THAN YOU WANT TO KNOW. (continued) There will come a time in the not distant future when you'll be very pleased to look your son in the eye and say, "Son, I'm thirty-five years old and I've never tasted alcohol in my life. If I could do it, you can, too." You'll be able to have a "heart to heart" with your daughter and say, "Honey, your dad and I want you to save yourself for marriage. We were virgins on our wedding night and it was wonderful! We want that for you, too."
Ask Eve about sin as she is escorted from Paradise with no return ticket. That slippery snake said nothing about this "graduation" from Sin's School. Don't hang this diploma on your wall!
THE FAR COUNTRY WILL TAKE YOU FARTHER THAN YOU WANT TO GO. The prodigal boy's itinerary listed "far country" and maybe under that, "beaches, bars, and brothels." But he had to read the very fine print to find "pig farm." His "summer trip" took him farther than he intended to go. Once you board sin's train, it can be awfully hard to disembark.
God told Jonah to go cast to preach in Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire (1: 1, 2). Jonah went west to hide in Tarshish, a city in Southwest Spain 2 (1:3). When he got on that boat, he had no idea how far sin was going to take him. God sent a storm and nearly sank the ship. The mariners discovered that Jonah was running from God and threw him overboard. Stop and think. What was that like? Jonah described it, "For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me" (2:3) . Drowning is a horrible way to die; to nearly drown is one of the most frightening experiences one can have. Why is Jonah in the water? Sin is taking him farther than he wanted to go.
Instead of drowning, though, the LORD sent a great fish to eat Jonah (1: 17). Imagine what it felt like to be eaten by a fish! Why are you in the fish, Jonah? Sin. Down he went to the sea bottom (2:6). Why are you there, Jonah? Sin. For seventy-two hours Jonah was in a fish's digestive system! What did it smell like? What did it feel like? "The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head" (2:5).
Finally God decided class was over and had the whale vomit (God's word, not mine, 2: 10) Jonah out onto land. What did it feel like to be human vomit? What made Jonah the only person to ever find out? Sin. What did Jonah learn? Sin will take you farther than you want to go.
What does Jonah teach us about taking a trip into sin? First, it's easy to book passage. Jonah didn't have to wait for a ship going to Tarshish - the devil had it ready for him (1:3). Satan keeps "boats at the dock" for anybody wanting to sail to "Tarshish" (cf. 2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Pet, 5:8). Sin always lies "at the door" (Gen. 4:7). It is a wide gate that leads to the broad road (Mt. 7:13). If you remain true to God, it won't be because you lacked opportunities to sin; it will be because you had backbone to say "no" to sin and faith to say "yes" to God. What "boats" does Satan keep ready?
Teens heading to "Tarshish" find that being underage is no real hindrance to buying beer or cigarettes-an older friend will get it for them or an unscrupulous business man will sell it to them "under the table" (Prov. 1: 19).
If they want to tell dirty jokes, there are plenty of people who will laugh (cf. Rm. 1:32).
If they want to go places and do things their parents forbid, they find that friends will lie to their parents for them (cf. Eph. 6:4; 2 Tim. 3:2).
If they want to do drugs, it is not hard to find someone who can get whatever they want (for a price). It's easy enough to find drugs that about twenty-five teens start using every hour of every day of every year in America.
If teens want to start a sexual relationship, most don't have to look far to find a willing partner (Prov. 9:14-16);
Second, sin is progressive. It's a slide down a slippery slope that goes down, down, down. We are told to "come on up to Marlboro Country"that's a lie. The road into the "far country" is always downhill. Jonah went "down" to Joppa, "down" into the ship (1:3) "down" into the sea, "down" into the fish's mouth, and "down" to the sea bottom. Think of sin's downward progression:
Walking with the ungodly leads to standing with sinners; standing with sinners leads to sitting with the scornful (Psa. 1:1 Mt. 26:58, 69-75).
Anger leads to violence, wrath leads to hatred; hatred leads to murder (Gen. 4:6, 8; Prov. 27:3; Dan. 2:12; 1 Jn. 3:15);
Jealousy and envy lead to cruelty, slander, and vengeance (Prov. 6:34; 27:4; Song 8:6; Jd. 19:29, 30);
Disobedience to parents leads to lying to parents (Rm. 1:30; Eph. 4:15; cf. Gen. 26:7; Col. 3:9);
One lie leads to more lies (cf. Jn. 8:44);
Covetousness leads to stealing and violence (Jos. 7:21; 1 Kgs. 21:1, 15; Mic. 2:1, 2; Mk. 7:22; Eph. 4:28; 2 Pet. 2:3);
R-rated movies leads to X-rated movies; soft-core porn leads to hard-core (Mt. 5:28; 1 Pet. 2:11); pornography leads to rape and child molestation.,
Lust leads to fornication (Mt. 5:28; 1 Tim. 6:18); dancing and petting lead to fornication (cf. Gal. 5:19-2 1).
Perverted thoughts lead to homosexuality (Rm. 1:26, 27; cf. Gen. 19:5; Lev. 18:22; Jd. 19:22; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10; Jude 7, 10); homosexuality leads to pedophilia (child rape/ molestation);
Smoking cigarettes leads to smoking marijuana (I Cor. 6:19, 20); smoking marijuana leads to harder drugs (Rm. 6:13);
Third, a sinful life is a turbulent lift. Jonah found himself in a storm. It usually doesn't take long for teens who forsake Christ to find turmoil (Prov. 4:19; 15: 10; Jer. 2:19; Rm. 6:2 1).
Part 2, Allen Webster
Glad Tidings of Good Things
Vol. 8/April 24, 2003