This is an excerpt from a message I preached at Fairview Baptist Church. You can watch the whole thing here.
God offers to transform our lives with grace. This simple truth is the bedrock of redemptive history. This truth is also fully evident in Jonah 3:4-5.
Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God.
It is a strikingly simple, yet an eternally significant message. With 7 words Jonah brought the great city to its knees.
The word translated overthrown/demolished is the same verb used for God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis. This is a serious call.
The people of Nineveh – going about with their hectic lives, consumed with the pressing needs of the moment – were met with the eternally significant words of the prophet. And it seems from the outcome that these 7 powerful words stopped every Ninevite in their tracks. For 3-days Jonah walked across the city, saying the same thing over and over again, until everyone heard.
There is something about God’s word that always engages people with eternal issues. It lifts our eyes from the immediate interests of our lives to the imminent and overwhelming reality of either everlasting destruction or eternal life.
“Whatever you are doing now,” Jonah was saying, “you need to realize that you will soon face the judgment of God—and that day is nearer than you think.”
And look who God sends to proclaim this eternally important message. God uses imperfect servant.
In my last church I taught a class on evangelism. In one of the classes I asked everyone to tell me why they have been anxious about evangelism in the past. Two of the answers I received were:
Once I have it all together, I’ll share. If you are able to fully get it together you wouldn’t need Jesus in the first place. We are all imperfect sinners who are trusting in, staking our eternities on a perfect savior. Our message is that God shows grace on sinners like you and I.
There are some people that I just done think would ever come to faith. If this narrative is about anything it is about a God who loves the most religious (Jonah) and the most pagan (Ninevites). God is powerful to save.
God used Jonah – a rebellious prophet in the streets of Nineveh. He will certainly use you and I in our neighborhoods, workplaces, and among our friends to proclaim the perfect message of salvation.
The message of God is simple: God intends to overthrow this broken world through His saving grace.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it (Jonah 3:10).
God doesn’t just pass over sin. He takes it serious. Christ consumed on the cross the sins of the world. God looked forward from Nineveh, looks back from wherever you are at this moment. Thankfully, as Richard Sibbes once said, “There is more mercy in God than sin in us.”
God offers to transform our lives with grace.