Repentance is about change. It begins with a change of mind, a change of heart, a turning of your will away from sin and selfishness and towards God and His will. This inner change then leads to an outward change in your words and actions. Repentance is tough because you must first admit that you are wrong, and that your wrongness has hurt your relationship with God and other people. You know you are repenting when you find yourself willing to accept whatever consequences God sees fit to give you for the sin that you are giving up. You don’t care anymore. You just want to change, to stop living in disobedience and be right with your Creator.
Jonah came to that point in today’s passage, and so did the pagan sailors who threw him into the sea. Jonah was a child of God coming home (Chair 2 for those who remember the sermon illustration), while the sailors were totally lost people finding the grace of God for the first time (Chair 4). Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between rededication and salvation, especially with students. Both acts involve turning away from sin and self and turning to God in faith, and they both lead to peace, joy, and worship. Jonah believed he was sacrificing his own life for the sailors, turning back to God in his final breaths like Samson did when he destroyed the Philistine temple (Judges 16:23-30). He was ready and expecting to die for disobeying God, which we know can happen to real believers (consider Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 and old Eli in 1 Samuel 3-4). The sailors also thought they might die and desperately begged Jonah’s God to have mercy on them. They did not want to throw Jonah overboard, which showed a genuine reverence for God and human life. And after they tossed Jonah off the ship and the storm calmed, they worshiped God with sacrifices and vows. They bore fruits of repentance – sorrow over sin and a desire to change and live for the God who had saved them.
Ultimately, there is a huge, eternal spiritual difference between a wandering child of God in need of rededication and a lost sinner in need of salvation. The problem is that to the outside observer, they can look the same. Both live in the world, act selfishly, and walk in the darkness of sin. The children of God, however, like Lot, are never happy in the streets of Sodom. They live in misery because they have tasted the joy of fellowship with Jesus and lost it to the chains of sin. The relationship is still there. Their identity in Christ has not changed, but the backslidden believers have lost a sense of who they really are. If that describes you today, if you are a Jonah, please return to your first love – Jesus. Do it now – don’t let your righteous soul continue to be tormented by sinful friends, media influences, and behaviors. Make a clean break and find the joy of the Lord again. Determine to become a consistent disciple of Jesus Christ, whatever it costs you. At NRCA, you are in a place where we can help you to become mature in Christ – but only if you really want it.
But you may indeed be lost like the sailors. It may be that you never known the joy and peace of salvation. It may be that you have always served other gods – money and stuff, sports, lust, popularity, self-pity, or just your own selfish plan for your life. You have never truly worshiped Jesus Christ in spirit and truth. God has never given you a new heart through a saving faith in His Son. The application of today’s passage to you is plain and urgent: Run to the cross while you can still hear the Savior’s call! Don’t be like Lot’s wife, a person of the world who rejected salvation, looked back to Sodom, and died on the spot. You have teachers who are always willing to make time to counsel you about your relationship with Jesus Christ. Such an opportunity may never exist for you again after you leave NRCA, especially if you already don’t go to church and plan to attend a secular university. Turn to Jesus now, be saved, and then testify like the sailors to God’s mercy and grace in your life!
The Text (Jonah 1:11-16)
11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you that the sea may be calm for us?”—for the sea was growing more tempestuous.
12 And he [Jonah] said to them, “Pick me up and throw me into the sea; then the sea will become calm for you. For I know that this great tempest is because of me.”
13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to return to land, but they could not, for the sea continued to grow more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they cried out to the Lord and said, “We pray, O Lord, please do not let us perish for this man’s life, and do not charge us with innocent blood; for You, O Lord, have done as it pleased You.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows.
Questions to Think About
- Have you ever had a rededication experience? How was it both similar to and different from your salvation experience?
- Can you think of a recent time where you experienced the harsh consequences of your sin even after you confessed it to God? Can remembering those consequences help you to avoid those sins in the future?
- If your parents are Christians, have you ever asked them about their salvation experiences? How about if they ever had rededication experiences later in their lives? This might be a great topic for a family devotion in the car or at dinner!
- Some commentators doubt whether these sailors truly got saved and became believers. I think they did based on what the text tells us. They felt sorrow over the sin of basically murdering Jonah (or so they thought), showed fear of God, did what God obviously wanted (by throwing Jonah overboard), and then spontaneously broke out in worship after the storm stopped. Honestly, I don’t know what else the Bible could have told us to show us that these men really got saved!
- Jonah did not know that God was going to send a fish to rescue him. Jonah expected to die and resigned himself to his fate. This should be a strong warning to backsliding believers who are ignoring God. You cannot lose your salvation if you are truly saved, but God can make your life miserable with His hand of discipline until you repent. Believers should actually take our sin more seriously than lost people because we KNOW what it cost our God and Savior – the blood of His own Son. And we know what hardships sin might cause us in this life if we refuse to resist and kill it.