Jonah had a message of judgment to deliver to the Ninevites, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown (Jon. 3:4)!” This sounds like really bad news, and to be sure, it is really bad news! But, don’t miss the grace that is here. Think about it. God is about to destroy the Ninevites because they are wickedly sinful people. God is under no obligation to give any advance notification of the coming judgment. God can justifiably destroy the entire city without even the slightest warning, but he doesn’t. Rather, God is gracious, and he gives the Ninevites forty days notice! The Bible then says that they “believed God,” and they turned from their sin.
The biblical word that is used for this “turning” is a word that is very unpopular in the church growth books. It’s a word that many preachers avoid, as though it were the plague. It’s a word that is often avoided because it is offensive. In fact, it is very offensive. To use the word implies that the recipient of the word is sinful, is wrong, and needs correction in their lives. It implies that they are headed in the wrong direction, and that there needs to be a turning around. It is the word, repent.
It is easily understandable why many preachers do not use the word. Who wants to come to church to hear that they are wrong and that they need to change? Many people come to be encouraged, and to leave feeling good about themselves. The Bible does not provide that sort of message though. Rather, the Bible teaches that a day is coming when God will judge the wicked for their sin. The Bible consistently teaches that a Day of Judgment is coming. The good news is that God is graciously giving advanced notification of the judgment that is to come. The good news is that God is graciously giving opportunity for repentance, opportunity to turn from sin. This is the simple gospel message that Jesus preached when he began his public ministry: repent and believe.
"but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he sees that his day is coming.” (Ps. 37:13)
But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Pt. 3:7)
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mk. 1:14–15)
There is much to rejoice in, but it is not within self. Rejoice in the blood of Christ that cleanses from sin. Rejoice in the grace to turn from sin and turn towards Christ. Rejoice in the power of Christ to forgive sin and to restore relationship with the Father. So when the preacher uses the word, repent, the congregants don’t leave feeling good about themselves; but rather they leave feeling convicted about their sin and feeling good about the grace of God and the cleansing blood of Christ.
Will you repent of sin today? Perhaps you are a long-time believer in Christ and you feel as though your life is fairly clean with no sin to repent of? Spend some time reading through the Gospels, or the Pauline Epistles, asking the Spirit of God to reveal sin in your life? I promise you he will show you the sinful areas of your life. Maybe you can take a notebook, and make three columns. Write down some appropriate Scripture verses on one side, then the sin in your life that it identifies in the middle column, and finally how you plan to turn from that sin in the third column. Take your sin seriously! Repent!
You can watch the sermon, When God Redeems, here: