If God instructed you to go out and evangelize to a group of people, but you had to deliver your message in ten words or less, what would you say? If you are like me, you would spend a significant amount of time trying to craft the perfect message, worrying all the while about whether or not it would be effective.
The prophet Jonah was told by God to go and deliver a message to the Ninevites, inhabitants of the capital city of an enemy nation. Fortunately, God told Jonah to proclaim the message that God would give him, so Jonah didn’t have to worry about figuring out the best message to deliver. God’s word is always going to be superior to any message crafted by man, and this example would hammer this truth home. God’s message for Jonah to deliver was only eight words – “Forty more days and Ninevah will be overturned” – but the impact was incredible. A city of more than 120,000 citizens repented of their evil ways and sought the forgiveness of the one true God.
If you gave me a month to craft the right message, I wouldn’t have come up with the message that Jonah delivered. Culturally, I am too programmed to focus on future benefits such as eternal life and present benefits such as the fruits of the Spirit. I default to having that abundant life that Jesus came to give us. In our culture today, we very seldom discuss hell, damnation and eternal destruction. Yet when God wanted to reach the hearts of the Ninevites, he had Jonah deliver a message of impending doom. Jonah wasn’t preaching the good news of the Gospel. He was preaching the bad news of the human condition. As Paul would later write, “the wages of sin is death”, and these Ninevites understood that their destruction was a fate that they rightly deserved.
The Bible delivers a message of both salvation and condemnation. Indeed, if one is to be saved, they must be saved from something. By not giving weight to the judgement and Lake of Fire foretold in the Book of Revelation (and mentioned in multiple other locations throughout the Scriptures), our regeneration from the baptism of the Holy Spirit doesn’t seem as important. If we don’t spend time understanding the fate of those who don’t come to Christ, we won’t feel the urgency of witnessing to them as Christ commands us. Yet the Bible delivers much the same message to us today that Jonah delivered to the Ninevites. At some point in the future, Earth will be overturned. We just don’t know if that point is one day away, or hundreds of years from now. However, the appropriate response today is the same as it was for the Ninevites – repent from our evil ways and seek forgiveness from the one true God.
Judgement day will be very good for some, and very bad for others. God used the bad news as a way to reach the Ninevites. Perhaps your witness will become more effective if you spend some time reminding people about just how bad it could be. Then will people understand how great the Good News really is.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron