Last Wednesday I wrote to you about the pantheistic mariners and how Christians should respond to non-Christians; today I want to examine Jonah's response. Remember, you can listen to and download my 7-part sermon series on this book anytime at www.paultripp.com/jonah.
When the storm first breaks, Jonah somehow manages to stay asleep. The mariners find him and bombard him with questions: "Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?" (Jonah 1:8)
Jonah responds, "I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land." (1:9) I would call Jonah's response a contradictory confession, because while he boldly declares his religious views, he contradicts his faith with rebellious behavior.
In his brain, Jonah understands who he is (a Hebrew) and he understands who God is (the Lord of heaven who made the seas and the dry land). But in his heart, Jonah doesn't actually fear the Lord as much as he says. If Jonah genuinely feared the Lord, he would be running towards Nineveh, not away from it.
Here's the warning for us: sound doctrine does not always result in a lifestyle of obedience. You and I can have all our theological ducks in a row and live in complete contradiction to what we say we believe. Welcome to the deceitfulness of sin!
I've been a husband, father, and pastor for many, many years. I've written books on all these topics and travel around the world teaching how the gospel transforms everyday life. One would think that my life reflects the theology I communicate!
But sadly, even this week, my heart has betrayed my doctrine. I'm selfish, impatient, and idolatrous, even though my brain knows all the right answers.
Sound doctrine is incredibly important; I would never minimize its significance. But learn from Jonah: never, never, never let your biblical literacy define your spiritual maturity. Just because you know a thing does not make you that thing, and just because you can communicate a biblical principle doesn't mean that you've joyfully submitted yourself to live within its boundaries.
Ask yourself today: where in my life is there a gap between the doctrine I confess and the obedience of my heart? Like Jonah, even though you may have all the right answers, you're still running from God in some way.
Don't deny this contradiction, but don't beat yourself up in needless penance either. Simply confess, rest in the atoning work of Christ, and submit to the One who has written the most life-giving, joy-producing plan for your life.
Paul David Tripp
- Why is sound doctrine and Biblical literacy incredibly important for the Christian life?
- What can you do to learn more about your Bible and the doctrines of your faith?
- Why is it easier to train your brain than it is to submit your heart?
- In what ways this week has your heart betrayed your doctrine?
- What steps can you take to closer align your obedience with your doctrine?