Jonah set out on the first day of his walk in the city and proclaimed, “In 40 days Nineveh will be demolished!”Jonah 3:4 (HCSB)
Those who know me will be astounded at how short Jonah’s sermon is compared to my own! In Hebrew, it is only five words long: short and to the point. It is a message full of damnation, but hidden beneath this prophetic proclamation is the hope of mercy—indeed we later learn that the reason Jonah ran away the first time was that he suspected that God would forgive the Ninevites if they repented.
This five word sermon reminds us of the first sermon of Jesus. Jesus, the paragon and height of love, mercy, and all things beautiful had an odd and jarring word to begin His ministry: “REPENT!” Essentially Jesus began His ministry by telling everyone that they were sinners who needed to repent and turn back to God or be lost. “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near!” (Matthew 4:17). The kingdom of heaven coming near meant that crunch time was approaching. History was now heading inescapably towards its final conclusion before the judgement seat of Jesus at the end of time.
The time for turning to God is now because only this life has been given to us for turning to God—when we die we are judged there and then, our fate is sealed (Hebrews 9:27). There is no promise of a second chance after death. In our ‘politically correct’ society it seems that to tell anyone he is a sinner without even knowing him seems unfair and ‘just not cricket’. But that is what the Bible proclaims. The Good News of Jesus is that we can be forgiven our sins, have perfect fellowship with God. An eternal life of joy and peace with God on the New Earth is only ‘Good News’ because it comes after the ‘Bad News’ that we are sinners who have offended a perfectly holy God and for our sins deserve an eternity of torment in hell.
If the church today is to grow and revival break out then people must recognise the horror and deepness of their sin and repent. This has always been the way: in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, in every single Revival since. Revival always starts with conviction of sin and the truth of our deserved destruction before a glorious realisation of the mercy and love of God.