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Transformation (part 5)
Jonah 2:2-7

 

Charles was one of the lucky ones. He had fine Christian parents who saw that he attended church with them regularly. But when he turned eighteen, his luck ran out. He was hanging out with a couple of younger buddies when he stole a car to take it on a joy ride. Because they were minors, his friends got off easy, but not Charles-the prosecution tried him as an adult and he got jail time. Because it was his first offense, he only got a couple of months, but it was still jail time.

Sitting behind bars, the only thing Charles had was time. He had plenty of it, to sit and to think. As he sat on his bunk staring at the cinder block walls, he thought about what he did, his future, and he thought about the things he learned in Church. He knew he had a decision to make.

"When I had no place to turn," Charles said. "I turned to God." (Fresh Illustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)

Sometimes, that's how it happens. People grow up hearing the truth, but don't apply it to their life, for whatever reason, until they don't have any other options. Then they turn to God.

That's what happened to Jonah. From the belly of the fish, he prayed, "In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry. [3] You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. [4] I said, 'I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.' [5] The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. [6] To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. [7] When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple." (Jonah 2:2-7 NIV)

Jonah's prayer was a prayer of desperation that a person groans when they are at the bottom. Verse 6 says he descended to the roots of the mountains, which to the ancients would mean at the bottom of the sea. From that deep, dark pit, he cried.

The Psalmist wrote, "He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand." (Psalm 40:2)

For the psalmist the phrase "slimy pit" was a metaphor to express what it is like to be bogged down by sin and worry. But for the prodigal son, it wasn't a metaphor, it was his home.

When I was a teenager, my brother, my dad and I ran a few hogs and I spent more time than I'd like to admit in the pig pen. Today, I can't think of a worse place to be than a pig pen. The smell is bad, but after a while, you get used to it. What I never got used to was rainy season.

When it rained, the automatic feeder would get clogged and we'd have to unclog it so the animals could eat. As you know, pigs have sharp, narrow hooves that sink in mud. After a while, they will turn the hard ground into a slimy pit. After a really good rain, we'd sink down to our calves as we walked through the pen to get to the feeders.

Even with rubber boots on, that was disgusting, but then there was the time I slipped and fell, face first into the slime. I looked up at Dad and said, "Well at least now I know how the Prodigal Son felt." 

But really, I didn't. I may have known what it felt like to be knee-deep, face down in a "slimy pit." But I didn't know what it was like to a Jew, knee-deep, face down in a "slimy pit." 

He had sunk as low as he could. To the Jews, swine were unclean animals and they weren't supposed to have anything to do with them. 

Not only was the prodigal out of the will of his father, flat broke in a foreign land, but he was alone, in a pig pen, fighting with the pigs for something to eat. It seemed like a lifetime ago when he told his father to give him his inheritance so he could go out and live it up. Now, more than anything else, all he wanted to do was to go home.

At the bottom, he had no place to look, but up. I don't know why some people wait to reach bottom to look up. Maybe they think the rules don't apply to them and the world owes them something, or maybe they don't really see their need until they are completely needy.

Eric was a popular guy in High School. He was funny, charming and a star athlete, in fact, he was a state champion wrestler. Eric only had one problem-he was ugly. But that didn't keep him from being a "player." The girls all seemed to fall for his charm and before long, he'd use them, dispose of them, and move on to the next conquest.

At the prodding of his father, Todd, Eric's friend, asked him to come to church with him. Todd was surprised by Eric's response, he was happy to come.

The first thing Eric noticed was that there were some good looking girls in the youth group-it was, in his opinion, "a target rich environment." Naturally, he wanted to come back.

And he did. His primary motive was to hit on the girls, but while he was there, he did hear the gospel. He finally zeroed in on who he would ask out and was surprised when she turned him down. "I know the kind of boy you are," she said to him, "and I'm not interested in going out with you."

Eric didn't know how to take rejection. Not wanting to make "no" his final answer, he attended church for another year or two, but never got a date with the girl that turned him down.

One afternoon, Todd got a call from Eric. He was in trouble. "I have no one else to call." Eric said, "I got caught drinking and driving and I need some help."

At the county lockup, Todd looked at Eric through a plexiglass window and talked to him through a tinny speaker. For the first time in his life, Todd shared the gospel with someone and that day, Eric accepted Christ. Eric said, "I'd heard about Jesus being a Savior, but until I was in jail, there was nothing that I needed saving from. That's when I realized I needed a Savior."

It took being in jail for Eric to see his need, and it took living in the pig pen for the Prodigal Son to realize he needed a relationship with his father. Here's what the bible says happened: "When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! [18] I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. [19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.'" (Luke 15:17-19 NIV)

Finally, after hitting rock bottom, the son, "came to his senses." He did just as he said he would. He got up out of the "slimy pit" and took the first step toward home. One step followed another until he could see the old homestead. 

But before he could see his father, his father saw him and began to run to him. The dad threw his arms around the son and kissed him. The boy began his speech-"I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son." But before he could finish, the father interrupted and called for his servants. Look at my son, he doesn't have proper clothes. Get him a robe, and some sandals, and put a family ring on his finger! My dead son is now alive, let's celebrate! (Luke 15:20-24 personal paraphrase)

Eric's jail house conversion was as genuine as the Prodigal Son's pig pen conversion. It changed his life forever. He got clean and sober and sought counseling for his problem of being a sexual predator. He enrolled in Bible College and started working with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Today he is a Christian counselor, helping sexual predators turn their lives around. Eric is no longer a player, he is a devoted family man. Loving his adopted daughter and her mother-his wife. His life forever transformed, by the power of God. 

Oh, did I mention that the woman he married was a rape victim? Once traumatized by a sexual predator, she now is safe and secure in the arms of a man who without Christ would have tried to take advantage of her, but now, because of the transforming power of God, Eric is her knight in shining armor. (Fresh Illustrations http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html

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