Summary: The incredible story of Jonah and the depth of God's grace

Pastor Brad Reaves

(c) 2019 Grace Community Church, Winchester, VA

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The Gospel is only 'Good News' in the context of Bad News

A man got a call from his doctor, "I have some good news and some bad news."

"Oh no!" Said the man give me the good news first

"The Good News is you have 24 hours to live," said the doctor.

"What possibly could be the bad news?!" said the man.

"I forgot to call and tell you that yesterday."

Jonah is a story that is far greater about a man who was swallowed by a whale. That's not the point of the book. Too often we get caught up in the miraculous that we forget the real purpose for the Scripture. Such is the case with Jonah. Jonah is a good news / bad news message from God to the people of Nineveh. The bad news is that God will bring judgment to the Assyrian's for their horrific and brutal practices and destroy Nineveh in 40 Days. The good news is that God is a merciful God who will withhold His judgment if the people repent.

That's the gospel. The Gospel is not singly, "ask Jesus into your heart, and you will live forever in heaven." That is the Good News, but the bad news part has been left out. If that is all we teach or preach we are leading people to a false gospel. The other half that must be included is a message of repentance. The gospel without repentance is often called "hyper-grace."

To say, "God loves you, so follow Jesus" isn't a false message; it's an incomplete message. The gospel has a bad news side to it: "If you do not repent and turn your life over to God, you are doomed for all eternity." Faith without repentance is no faith at all. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news, but there is no salvation for the sinner if they do not hear the bad news.

I. A Message of Repentance is Part of Our Obedience to God

10 And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. 1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Arise! Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message that I will give you.” 3 This time Jonah got up and went to Nineveh in accordance with the word of the LORD. (Jonah 2:10-3:3)

Chapter 3 has a familiar ring to it as God extends to Jonah his mercy and a second chance of obedience. God commands the whale were to take Jonah, and God commands the whale to spit Jonah up on the shores near Nineveh. Three days Jonah spent inside the whale. It was dark and wet and he was alone. It was here that Jonah comes back to God. It was here that Jonah repents of his rebellion. And it was here that Jonah experiences the depth of God's sacred mercy.

Now expelled from his underwater transport to the dry shores of Assyria, God once again gives Jonah his commission to go to the people of Nineveh and preach a message of repentance. The was no purgatory to remediation, no slander, no demotion from God’s favor. God provided His lesson, mercy was extended, and now forgiveness. Now, it is time for Jonah to do what God originally called him to do and the commission is essentially the same: “Arise… go… proclaim.”

And can it be that I should gain

An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain?

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay

Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;

Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,

I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;

My chains fell off, my heart was free,

I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

(Hymn: Amazing Love)

God is the God of second chances. So it shouldn't amaze us that God not only chose to forgive Jonah but also restore his prophetic position. God is a God of second chances. When our chains are broken, it is not so we can go on selfishly for our own benefit, but that we can go and let others know. God delights in using people, broken people. People with histories, people with difficulties, people with failures to accomplish his will. He's not interested in a preacher who Looks sharp and sounds sharp. He is looking for people in love with Him, to Arise... Go... Proclaim.

Every person who has confessed Jesus as Lord has the same root calling, to Arise... Go... Proclaim; Repent... Receive; Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me. That is the calling of this church and everyone in it. God defeated death and you have found the received the keys to everlasting life. Now arise, go and proclaim it to whoever you can.

People must understand that God's will is for people to follow Him. That's why there is no salvation without repentance. To offer Jesus to the sinner without this is a damning consequence. It may not sound attractive, but it is the message that saves.

II. A Message of Repentance Leads to God’s Power of Salvation

3 So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. 4 Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" 5 And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

This time when God speaks, Jonah does what God commands, and verse three is careful to point out Jonah’s obedience. He arose and went (v. 3a). There is a break in the narrative to make a side comment about the enormous size of the city of Nineveh. Fourth-century records indicate that it was seven miles long. It would take three days for Jonah to traverse the city while preaching. Compare that to Old Jerusalem where you can easily walk the entire city in a day.

What is impressive is the main idea of Jonah's message was only five words in Hebrew, "In 40 days Nineveh will be demolished." How is it that Jonah gets this kind of response from this kind of person? The entire city believes God, repents and mourns. The key phrase in this is the people "believe God." This wasn't Jonah's message. It was God. When God moves, and when God's people are obedient to the word, He gives us, people's hearts are changed.

God loved Nineveh. God loved the people of Nineveh. God loved Nineveh enough to send Jonah and make sure that Jonah arrived there. When God changes the hearts in the people of an entire city, we call that revival. As we will see next week, Nineveh experienced a tremendous revival, but it would not happen without God's messenger preaching God's message

An atheist once told William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, "If I believed what you Christians say you believe about a coming judgment and those impenitent rejecters of Christ will be lost, I would crawl on my bare knees on crushed glass all over London, warning men, night and day, to flee for refuge from the coming day of wrath!"

Do you know what God wants? He wants to be believed. He has chosen you, the people of Grace Community Church of Winchester to be the carriers of His message. The Bad News, the Good News, and everything in between. God loves Winchester. Everyone in Winchester. All kinds of backgrounds, beliefs, all kinds of lives. People lost in their sin... and judgment is coming because of that sin.

You may ask if God loves people so much, why doesn't he withhold his judgment? What more could God do to withhold his judgment than to give his one and only son to pay the price for our sins? How much more love does our Father in Heaven need to show? When Jesus came, he preached the message, "Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand." This is our message and it is a message of hope in response to a message of bad news.

Everything we do needs to connect people to that message. We need infrastructure and the infrastructure needs to be great. The building, the music, the classes, the programs. But the infrastructure does not replace the message.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16)

III. A Message of Repentance is Best Understood from Recipients of God's Mercy

And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. (Jonah 3:5)

Before we go, I want you to consider one more important point. Jonah came to Nineveh with nothing. In fact, he came to Nineveh after being in a storm at sea, thrown overboard, swallowed by a whale, sitting in its stomach for 3 days before being vomited upon the shore. What do you think Jonah looked like? Some would say his skin was bleached or burnt from the stomach acids. His clothes tattered, torn and stained. He would have smelled and looked horrible. I think this contributed to the believability of? God's message through him.

I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Corinthians 2:3-4).

If you want people to see the real Jesus, let them see the real you. Often we think that we need to have it all together, look great, sound great, be polished in our looks or presentation. I think that is one of the greatest mistakes of today's church.

What people want more than anything else is to be touched. Emil Brunner says that just as the touch of a King’s sword on the head of a soldier makes him a Knight; so does the touch of the cross on the life of a sinner make him a child of God.

Joseph Damien was known as Damien of Molokai. Molokai is one of the most beautiful parts of the world. But Damien, who was Belgian, came there because he wanted to minister to the inhabitants of that island. It was a leper colony. Here is a land of great beauty contrasted with this dreaded disease and the people were exiled and imprisoned by the world's tallest sea cliffs.

Joseph Damien poured his life into those people. He embraced them. He loved them. He literally gave his life for them. One morning as he was pouring some boiling water into a cup, the water swirled out of the cup and fell onto his barefoot. He was rudely awakened to the fact that when the boiling water fell on his foot he did not feel it. He took some more boiling water, poured it onto the other foot, and there was no sensation at all. He too was now a leper. He got ready that morning, went behind the pulpit. He always began his sermon by saying, "My fellow believers." This morning, however, he began by saying, "My fellow lepers." He was now one of them.

Never forget who you were before you came to Christ. The situation in our world is not very different from that of Nineveh. The warning call is the same too. Our goal must not be to impress but to share the same kind of love that God shares. A message of warning and hope. Bad News and Good News. And let our touch be so filled with love, grace, and mercy that we come with humility, "my fellow sinners."

Joseph Damien was buried in Molokai, but the Belgians wanted their beloved missionary to return home. The people of Molokai loved him so much they requested that if they returned him to Belgian, that his right arm would remain in Molokai. Because that is the arm which he touched us. ((Illustration Credit: Ravi Zacharias)

Take it to the Cross