I’m going to give you the super short version of a different angle of a well-known story of the Bible…..
God asked Jonah (you know, the guy in a whale!!!) To head to the City of Nineveh to warn the people of His coming judgement. The people there needed someone to come and show them how wrong they were and how far they had turned from God, and Jonah was His man. When the people heard Jonah, they saw the error of their way and repented. God saw their humble plea for mercy and their desire to be forgiven and His heart softened for the Ninevites. (Jonah 3)
The best part of this story isn’t the whole part about the whale, but instead it’s a part that we often forget when we read Jonah’s story in kids Bible books.
The people of Nineveh had strayed so far. In their day, they were one of the strongest and most feared enemies of Israel, and their whole culture was seeping with deeply embedded sin.
The further each of us gets from God, the enemy rejoices because he doesn’t have to work NEARLY as hard to get us on his side if we lose our sight on Jesus.
These people had definitely lost their sight
When I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of our own country and all of the division, hatred, judgement and finger-pointing that has seemingly become normal for our culture. Every time I get online I see stories or murder, sex crimes, drug-related death and so many other awful things that are becoming commonplace. It’s almost to a point where if we aren’t careful, we can become numb to it.
This is where Nineveh was. Their country felt so strong and powerful, but they were on the brink of a judgement by God that would have been so severe, He would have destroyed them.
Jonah goes to the city and says “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned”. The Bible says that the people believed God as soon as Jonah spoke, and it drew them to action!
The end of chapter three (verse 10) tells us that when God saw what the people did when they heard, and how they had turned from their evil ways, He had compassion on them. He actually changed His mind and did not destroy them as He had threatened.
When we acknowledge our sin and turn from it, everything changes
There was nothing special about Jonah. As a matter of fact, if you read the beginning of this whole story, you’ll realize that even when God chose him for this really important task, he chickened out and tried to run away! He doubted his own abilities. His disobedience had consequences and when he realized this and admitted his fault, God sent a whale to save him.
Even after messing up, God could still use him because he admitted his wrongdoing and turned from it
The key to any kind of forgiveness, whether you are asking someone who you wronged for forgiveness, or even if you hurt yourself, is to admit what you did and make a decision to not do it again. Nineveh’s collective repentance changed the very heart of God toward them!
What Jesus did on the cross gave us the ultimate forgiveness, once and for all.
When Jesus uttered the words “It is finished” before His death, He knew that once His earthly life was over and His life was sacrificed for all man-kind that forgiveness would never again look the same. (John 19:30)
What He did for us that day gives us the amazing gift of grace, which is always there when we need it. No matter how many times we screw up, when we approach the throne of grace with a sincere and repentant heart, it is truly finished. The Bible tells us that it’s as if the sin never happened, that God never remembers it again.
(Read Jeremiah 31:34 and Psalm 103:12)
Our sins are offensive to God, but a repentant heart that truly hates what it has done and turns away from that sin pattern will change everything.
What does it truly mean to repent?
True repentance is acknowledging that you’ve done something wrong and making a decision to not do it again. It’s a life altering revelation of your shortcomings. It shows you that you are a source of pain or shame and offers you a chance to change your life and start again. And the promise that God makes in Colossians 1:22, reminds us that a truly repentant heart is pure and Holy in God’s sight.
This may mean that you’ll screw up again. God understands we aren’t perfect. But the difference between repentance and false remorse is the heart behind it. If you are sorry you got caught, apologize but continue to do the thing you apologized for with an “oops, my bad”, that isn’t repentance.
But if you acknowledge your mistake and are truly sorry to a point of being moved to want to change, that is repentance. If you slip up, you will feel guilty and will likely go through the process of repentance again. But that’s ok!
God knows your heart.
Perfect or not, if you are moving your life in a direction that honors God and looks more Christ-like every day, He sees that. Even after all that God and Jonah went through together through this book of the Bible, God had a little work to do on Jonahs heart at the end of the book. Even after Jonah witnessed the repentance of a very large and evil city, he still felt sorry for himself. Jonah was upset that God let the people off without any judgement. Their repentance followed by God’s forgiveness didn’t seem fair to him. To Jonah, those people were so wicked and awful that he didn’t want to play a part in seeing them overcome their sin.
But God knew the hearts of those people and in His all-knowing way, He knew they would repent.
So remember, that even when you think that what you’ve done is beyond forgiveness, nothing is beyond God’s forgiveness. His blood covered it all.
A life of repentance brings the ultimate reward
Are you ready for the very best part?!?!?
Repentance doesn’t just make your life better in the here and now. That’s just a little instant gratification that God built in to this whole process. The ultimate reward is what comes next…Eternity! A life lived for Christ and a heart that accepts God and believes that His death and resurrection on the cross are enough to cover even the WORST of sins, is guaranteed life after death.
We all know that life here on earth is full of pain and disappointment. But God promises us that this isn’t it! He has so much more planned for us. (read all about it in John 14!)
If you are ready to repent, now is the perfect time!
Before you can work things out with those who you’ve hurt here on earth, I want you to take some time to get right with God. It might sound difficult, but I promise you, He’s made it pretty easy! He is always there listening to you. You can talk to Him anytime. You don’t have to have fancy words or a well-written prayer to get Him to understand you. Just talk to Him like you’d talk to your best friend!
But if you need help getting started, write out this prayer, then pray it back to Him, adding your own words if you’d like to. No one else needs to hear you, it’s just between you and Him ♥️
(Based on Genesis 6:5-6, Philippians 4:10-13, John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 11:1, John 14:2)
Father, I know that I’ve been falling short. I know that I’ve hurt people and worst of all, I’ve hurt you. My sins have had consequences in my life that have hurt me, and I’m tired of living this way. You said in your Word that you sent your son to die so that I could have eternal life. His death and resurrection was a gift that you gave to me, and I want to accept it. Lord, I don’t want to continue on this path. I want to live a life that honors you and looks more and more like you each day.
Lord mold my heart and tear down all of the walls I’ve built up.
I need to be saved from myself, and I can only do that through your strength.
Lord I ask you for that strength.
Thank you Lord for your promise of eternal life. I know that you have a place for me and I want to live a life expressing my gratitude.
In your Holy Name I humbly pray,
Did this post today speak to your heart? If it did, I’d love to know! You can either comment below, or if you prefer to talk privately, you can contact me here. If this is the first time you’ve committed your life to Christ, I’d love to hear about it so that I can celebrate with you!! And if you’ve discovered areas in your life that needed repentance, I celebrate that discovery with you as well.