RIGHT KNOWLEDGE = RIGHT LIVING? NOT IN JONAH’S CASE!

“But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was angry. And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, ”Do you do well to be angry?”  (Jonah 4:1-4)

Jonah has returned to his old ways it seems, because he’s angry that what he knew would happen, happened.  He knows God is merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love, and because of this he tried to run away to Tarshish by boat.  Rather than rejoicing in the fact that over 120,000 people have just repented and come to the true God, Jonah says, in prayer to God in 4:3, that he would rather die than continue living.  It’s interesting that when Jonah’s life was saved and rescued by God a few chapters ago he praised God for His great salvation, but now when Jonah’s enemies are rescued by God, Jonah gets angry.  Well, God responds to Jonah’s foolishness and asks Jonah a question that we all know the answer to in 4:4, “Do you do well to be angry?”

These first four verses of chapter four are alarming to me, and I want them to be alarming to you too.  You see, Jonah had all the right things in his head about God, and yet when it came down to it, his right thinking didn’t lead to right living.  This means that knowing the right things about God in your head doesn’t cut it before God!  When I graduated seminary my friends and family threw a party for me, and they allowed me to preach at my own party.  So I preached on James 2:19, which says, “You believe that God I one; you do well.  Even the demons believe this – and shudder!”  I know that what demons believe is not the usual subject of most graduation parties, but it was and is still very pressing to me right now as I reflect on seminary.  Since most of you don’t know seminary’s like I want to give you a window into its world.

The goal of a good seminary is to teach you right things about God, and to teach you how to think about those right things well.  Now, seminary taught me a lot of things about the Bible, about God, and about man; seminary taught me to know God rightly.  It was a very academic setting, and though I loved being in that setting, seminary opened my eyes to a massive reality: knowing God rightly is not the way God is fully glorified.

Some of you may be thinking – “Wait a minute, a bunch of students studying about God, going into major depth regarding the nature of all things in the Christian faith, aiming to get those things exact and correct, is not how God is fully glorified?”  No.  Don’t get me wrong, knowing God rightly is a huge part of the whole picture, but it is not the whole picture.  Did you notice in that verse in James that the demons knew God rightly?  James makes it clear that the Satan and his demons have a correct knowledge of God.  Seminary students and demons have this in common.  This reveals that seminary is a dangerous place, because it can produce demons as well.  This is not an over statement because Joseph Stalin was once a seminary student.

So, what’s the difference between the seminary students and demons?  Demons and seminary students (Christians) both know God rightly, but what separates the two groups is that where demons only have knowledge about God in them, Christians have knowledge and a love for God.  Christians treasure God more the more they get to know Him where demons only carry empty facts about God.  You see, Jonah brings this issue up for us because we see that people can know get facts about God exactly right while not having an ounce of spiritual fire or love for God inside their souls at all!  You can know about God while not knowing Him at all.

So, many of you claim to be Christians, almost all of you.  And by claiming to be Christians, you put yourself in Jonah’s camp.  I want to ask you a question, do you only know right facts about God?  Or do you know God personally?  One way to find out is to examine your treasures, so ask yourself, “Would I be happy, in this life or the next, if I had everything I’d ever wanted without having Jesus?  To which I reply, if you’d be happy without Jesus, you don’t know Jesus because if you did, all those treasures would be seen as what they really are, lesser treasure.  God is the treasure of the Christian, He is what the Christian longs for and looks forward to having forever throughout eternity.  So God is fully glorified in two ways: 1) by being known rightly, and 2) being treasured robustly above all things.

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