I think I’m right in assuming that most people don’t like to be the bearer of bad news. When I was younger, I took no joy in letting my parents know that I had done something that would cause them to be angry or disappointed. I think we can all agree that telling people bad news is not an enjoyable experience. Yet, that is exactly what God commands of us.
In the book of Jonah, we see that God comes to His prophet and commands him to go into Nineveh and call out against it. We know that Jonah runs from this call and finds himself in a world of trouble. He is confronted with the wrath of God in a tumultuous storm, he is hauled off a ship into the ocean, and is swallowed up by a great fish. However, God pours out His grace on Jonah.
When Jonah is graciously and mercifully expelled from the mouth of the fish, the command from God again comes to the wandering prophet. “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you (3:2).” What a demanding task this was! Imagine being called by God to go into hostile territory to proclaim a message of repentance. Although this may seem like a long shot for many of us, this is a reality for Jonah. He must go into enemy territory and tell them that unless they repent of their sins, they will suffer the wrath of God. Not only must Jonah preach this message, but he must do it alone.
Jonah obeys and something amazing happens-the people believed God! In chapter 3 of the book of Jonah, the reader is confronted with 4 truths concerning the Gospel of God.
The Gospel Moves Us
Every person who believes in Jesus Christ for their salvation is called to proclaim this message to others. As J.D. Greear, SBC president, once said, “believing in the gospel comes with an obligation to the gospel.” Believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ requires that we share the gospel. Following His resurrection, Jesus said, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28:19-20).”
No Christian is exempt from the requirements of the Great Commission. This is not a calling reserved only for the pastors and leaders in the church; this is a command that binds every single person that claims to be in Christ. No exceptions. We must realize that the Great Commission is not a suggestion, but a command, and a failure to be obedient to it is sinful. Are we being faithful to this call on our lives? This is a question that we must answer honestly.
We Must Address Sin
The gospel is the good news of how wicked people can be reconciled to a Holy God. The gospel is good news because of the sad reality of sin. God commands Jonah to preach a message of impending wrath and doom to all in Nineveh. We live in a world today that brushes aside any mention of sin and a need for change. We live in a world that tells us to be accepting of everyone. Any mention of sin and repentance is deemed as hate speech and judgmental. But, without the mention of sin and wrath, the gospel loses its wonder.
It is not unloving to call people to repentance, but it is unloving to be silent in this matter. If what we believe is true that God is Holy and will one day judge the wicked, one of the most unloving things we can do is remain silent about this impending judgment. We must be bold. We must be courageous. Let us not forget the words of Jesus, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” As we go and proclaim the gospel message, we are not walking in isolation, but with the indwelling presence of God through the Holy Spirit. Let us be strengthened with the truth that “If God is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)”
The Gospel Humbles
The results from Jonah’s preaching are astounding. The people believed God, from the greatest of them to the least of them. We see in Jonah 3 that the king arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself in sackcloth and ash, and sat in ashes. Here is a man that possesses great authority, yet looks like an insignificant nobody in mourning. What has caused this great man to behave in such a manner? The realization of his sin. The gospel of Jesus Christ can melt the hardest of hearts.
What we see here is that no one is beyond the saving power of God. The Gospel has the ability to break the pride and power of this world and release us from its bondage. So, if you’re thinking that the non-believer that you know is beyond the reach of God’s grace, take a look at Scripture. Let us be reminded that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation and can soften the hardest of hearts. Was our sin any less despicable in the eyes of God? Yet, for those of us that are Christians, have been graciously saved at the hands of a merciful savior.
Jonah’s message is short. It has been said that Jonah’s sermon is only 5 words in the Hebrew text. How is it that Jonah gets such a response from the people while only employing 5 words? He receives this response because the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Salvation did not depend on Jonah. Salvation is from the Lord (2:9). If you’re thinking that you’re not qualified to go and speak this gospel, realize that it’s not human efforts that change human hearts, but the power of the gospel. Salvation does not depend on us. We are not responsible for the outcome of our message, but we are responsible for being faithful in proclaiming it. We are to be faithful and leave the results to God.
The Gospel Saves
This has already been touched, but we see that the gospel saves. In Nineveh, we see wicked people turn from their evil way and believe God. The same power that was at work in bringing us to repentance and faith is the same power at work today. The gospel has the power to bring the most wretched sinner into a saving relationship with a Holy God. God sent His Son so that His people would have eternal life. The death of Christ perfectly satisfied the wrath of God on our behalf. Jesus suffered the penalty that was reserved for us.
Paul writes, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame (Rom. 10:11).” We are guaranteed that through the gospel proclamation, Jesus’ sheep will hear the voice of their shepherd and will come to Him. There is no other way for one to be saved except through calling on the name of Jesus Christ. Let us be faithful in proclaiming this good news. As Sinclair Ferguson once said, “This power lays waste to its enemies. But its enemies are not foreign nations, but sin and death and Satan and hell. And this power in the gospel…has enormous efficiency. But its efficiency is to save men and women for all eternity (Saving Power of God).”
As we close, let us look at a prayer from the Valley of Vision, titled The Gift of Gifts, which says,
What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
Thine own dear Son, begotten, not created, My redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible, his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp.
Herein is wonder of wonders:
he came below to raise me above, was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace, to raise me to himself.
Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart he united them in indissoluble unity, the uncreated and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
When I was undone, with no will to return to him, and no intellect to devise recovery, he came, God incarnate, to save me to the uttermost, as man to die my death, to shed satisfying blood on my behalf, to work out a perfect righteousness for me.
O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds, and enlarge my mind; let me hear of good tidings of great joy, and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore, my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose, my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
Place me with ox, ass, camel, goat, to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face, and in him account myself delivered from sin;
Let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child to my heart, embrace him with undying faith, exulting that he is mine and I am his.
In him thou hast given me so much that heaven can give no more.
Soli Deo Gloria
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