WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary students began a new academic year with a challenge to “run with God, run with God, run with God,” by Jerry Vines, pastor of First Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Fla. in a convocation address at the Wake Forest, N.C. campus, August 21.
Vines urged almost 500 new seminary and college students in a crowd estimated at over 1,200 people, to “arise, go and preach.”
Preaching through the book of Jonah, Vines contended that the message of this Old Testament book is not about a reluctant prophet or a great fish, but about a compassionate God.
“You know the great lesson of the book of Jonah is you can’t run from God,” said Vines.
“As you read through these four chapters in the book of Jonah, you will discover that, in one way, the Lord put Jonah into seminary and gave him a rather interesting seminary training. He went to a ‘whale of a school,’ you might say. He got into some deep theology along the way,” Vines said to a packed chapel.
Paralleling the successive stages in the life of Jonah to the life of seminary students, Vines cited the importance of running with God.
Vines described Jonah in the first chapter as an escapist because he ran from God.
“Now the will of God was very clear concerning Jonah,” said Vines. “Arise, go to Nineveh, the great city, and preach against it. God’s will really shook Jonah up and he arose to flee.”
Vines reminded the seminary students that God has a special plan for their lives.
“You have a will. You can choose to obey God or disobey God. The ease or difficulty of a matter does not necessarily prove you are in or out of the will of God,” he warned. “Some of you have come to this school today and things don’t seem to be working out, and you seem to be having a hard time, a difficult time. If you want to run from God be sure the devil will always provide transportation as he did with Jonah.”
Vines explained that after Jonah ‘arose to flee,’ the Lord sent him “to a very interesting seminary for three days and three nights.”
Jonah then began running to God. It is in chapter two that Jonah turns from being an escapist and becomes a biblicist, said Vines.
Vines pointed out the importance of how Jonah prayed while in the belly of the fish.
“But as you read this second chapter in the prayer of Jonah, you will discover that he prayed Scripture,” explained Vines. “In fact, there are eight to ten direct references to the book of Psalms in the prayer of Jonah and what Jonah is doing is turning Scripture into a hammer to bang on the door of God’s heart.”
Vines encouraged the students to have a prayer closet and to have a time and a place to read the Bible.
“The Bible and the prayer go together. The Bible activates the prayer and prayer applies the Bible,” he explained. “Ladies and gentlemen, when you can pray God’s Word back to Him, you are on praying ground.”
“In verse four Jonah prayed, ‘I will look again to thy Holy Temple.’ He made the best decision of his life in the worst possible place, the belly of a whale,” he said.
“Where are you going to get your theology? I am not so much interested in whether or not you are a Calvinist or whether or not you are an Arminian, I am far more interested in if you are a biblicist,” said Vines.
In chapter three, Vines pointed out that Jonah became an evangelist, “something I hope you all become … . He is now running for God.”
Jonah went to Nineveh and revival swept all over the city. Everyone seemed to get right with God.
“The revival reached all the way to the king and the king became a believer. This is the greatest miracle in the book. The miracle is not the fish. The miracle is that an entire city was won to God,” explained Vines. “Don’t get caught up in minor miracles. When a soul gets saved, that will last forever, forever and forever. Stay in the business of the main miracle.”
Vines continued his address with chapter four, declaring that Jonah was now running into God.
“Now you would think Jonah would be rejoicing,” he said. “Here is a man who has seen a whole city come to God and he is having a pouting party. The prodigal son turns into the older brother,” he said.
Vines warned the future ministers that seminary is a good place for a prodigal son to turn into an older brother if the student is not careful.
“Jonah didn’t want a John 3:16 God,” he said. “What kind of God do you want, ladies and gentlemen?”
Concluding his address, Vines explained that he felt Jonah finally understood God’s message and “became an Apologist, running with God.”
“Young women and young men, I encourage you today, to be an Apologist for the love of God, take John 3:16 and run with God, run with God, run with God.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SIGNUP, COLLEGE STUDENTS and SEMINARY GIRLS.