Everyone wants a changed life but most people are not willing to do what it takes to have one. Most people know what they have to do to lose weight or to become a runner or even get more schooling but the reason many people do not achieve those things is because to make a lasting change in your life it takes dedication and work. I am sure there are a few exceptions but the majority of people do not become what they are by accident. Many of us have developed patterns in our lives that have become habits that for us are very difficult to break.
Christianity is not just lifestyle change for behavior modification but a transformation that takes place inside of a person through the power of the Holy Spirit. Many people think that behavior modification is what God is seeking and everyone believes that if they try harder or do more good than bad that God will be happy with them. A changed life in God’s view is much more than you starting habits of good works although that will be the result of a changed life but the results of a God changed life will produce something in you that goes beyond any habit forming changes you make to your life.
In this part of the book of Jonah we will see what God is looking for from everyone in the world and we will see what it takes to have a changed life that is acceptable to God. Jonah’s simple message of God’s judgment triggers the heart of the people and a drastic change in the lives of the people of Nineveh takes place.
1) Change in Beliefs
“The People believed God “ The people heard the story of doom and believed what they heard God was saying. Changing what someone believes is difficult and if you have ever been in a discussion with someone who strongly believes something you know the difficulty of getting them to change their thinking. The first thing we see in having a changed life that God approves of is to believe God. They did not try to explain away the message from God but they accepted it as true and it led them to change their previous thinking and believe in God.
Many people in our society are trying to explain away the message of God because it is not a God they want to believe in or a God that fits their lifestyle. We want a God of our choosing not the God who has been revealed in God’s word. Many people think that if they are decent people and do some good works then they will be accepted by God but that is not what the Bible tells us. Jesus is either the way to Heaven or He is not but it cannot be by your good works and the death of Jesus on the cross for your sins. (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:8-9)
“Forty Days and Nineveh will be overthrown” was Jonah’s only words and they turned knowing that the prophet was speaking the words of God. God cared for the people of Nineveh or He would not have given them any warning but with the warning they were given they repented.
Luke 11:32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.
Jesus was rebuking the religious leaders for seeing the miracles He did and hearing the teaching He professed and they still did not believe in Him. We are blessed to have so much information about God and His word at our disposal but we tend to ignore it just like the religious leaders of Jesus day because it does not fit our thinking. When you read the Bible do you take it as God’s Word or do you twist and manipulate the scriptures so they fit your lifestyle? To Believe in God is to believe in His Word and to believe in His word means we change what we believe which leads to a change in actions.
James 2:18-20 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
The People of Nineveh showed that they believed the message by changing how they acted because how you act shows others what you really believe. If you say you believe that eating correctly is important but you are constantly eating unhealthy food then you do not really believe that eating healthy is important. How you live shows what you believe.
This was a miraculous event that took place one of the many miracles that took place in the story. Some believe that word of Jonah being vomited up by a fish was seen by people on the beach and the story spread throughout the region. Some believe that Jonah’s color of skin was bleached confirming the story they heard about him being inside a large fish. There was a full eclipse that took place in 763 B.C. and they could have thought they made one of the many gods they worshiped mad as well as a national crisis because of famine, enemy attacks and division in the city. God was preparing Nineveh for the news they would receive and they received it and believed it because God was preparing their hearts before Jonah even arrived on the scene. Tragedies and supernatural events cause us to question what we really believe and are you going to believe the way you believe or are you going to see if what God says is really true. You have one life to find out the truth and then eternity but if you want to have a changed life that God accepts then you have to change your beliefs.
2) Change in Position
“The Word Reached the King of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, “ Although God used Jonah the message seems to reach the King independently of Jonah. The reason many people do not want to change their beliefs is because to do so you have to change your position of being ruler of your own destiny. The temptation to be our own gods goes back to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were tempted to be equal with God.
Genesis 3:5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
One of the reasons many people will not accept Jesus Christ is because it means He will be King of their life. Jesus lost many followers when He began telling them what it would take to be His disciple and it was at that point that many of them left Him. (John 6:66) When Jesus calls people, He calls them to follow Him but so many people want a Jesus who will follow them. In fact some of the false teaching I hear is that if you pray by faith God has to do what you are asking. The reason the false preachers say that is because they want to be in control of God and not the other way around. It is easy to follow Jesus for the miracles and the great teaching but when He ask us to not be the King of our own lives then we have an issue with it. When Jesus is not going to make us healthy or rich then we leave Him just like those did in John chapter six. Many people who call themselves Christians are not really followers of Jesus because they have made a Jesus that they want to follow not a Jesus who says “Follow Me”
Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
We do not like denying ourselves anything but that is exactly what Jesus says we will have to do if we are going to be known as His disciples. When the King sat on the throne it meant that he was the one who was in charge and the one who would make the decisions as to what took place in the kingdom. The King of Nineveh knew that he had to step off the throne and surrender himself to God. What the king of Nineveh did was not easily done by someone of his stature and when he stepped off the throne it showed that he was no longer in control of his kingdom.
Who sits on the throne in your life? Have you stepped off the throne of control? Have you relinquished control of your life to God? Some of us have not stepped off the throne of our lives and we want to be in control of what Jesus can and cannot rule over. We do not say it that way but our lives reflect that we and not Jesus are in control.
Do you worry about tomorrow? (Matthew 6:34) Jesus tells us not to. Do you have fear? (1 Timothy 1:7) Do you have peace in the midst of trouble? (John 16:33) Do you worry about who is in charge of the nations? (Proverbs 21:1) Do you worry about your needs? (Matthew 6:26) Do you worry about the direction for your life? (Psalm 37:23) These are just a few verses that represent areas that people struggle with in this life. God tells us how to live but we do not live that way because we are not content with how He is running the world. Our lives reflect the world because we are still trying to sit on the throne that Jesus should occupy. We need to change positions with Jesus by stepping off the throne and surrendering our lives to Him.
3) Change in Attitude
“Removed his royal robe and put on sackcloth” The Robe the King wore signified that he was someone special or someone of importance. When a King or Queen walked into a room it was the robe that signified who they were and that everyone should bow down to them. We live in a society where people want others to bow down to them. They do not say it that way but many people believe that if people will just do what they want then their life will be happy or at least better. You do not have to watch the news to see that there are many people who are protesting because life is not going the way they want. There are appropriate times to protest and appropriate ways to protest but some of what we are seeing is people who are complaining because life is not going the way they want it to go.
The King took his focus off himself and put it on God and he did this by putting on sackcloth so that he was indistinguishable from the rest of the kingdom. If you wore sackcloth it meant you were poor and a common person so the King was saying that he was no better than anyone else in the Kingdom.
Philippians 2:5-8 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus, God in the flesh, laid down His royalty to come and save us from the sin we could not save ourselves from. If we are going to be Christ followers then we have to lay down our robe of importance and humble ourselves. We are called to serve others the same way that Jesus came to serve us by dying for us. To serve others or to be a servant to others means that we put them above ourselves and make them and their needs a priority above our own. Have you laid down your robe of importance? Have you become a servant to others? Is the world about you or about others?
“He sat in ashes “ It was not enough for the king to step off his throne or to remove his royal robe; he humbled himself even more by sitting in ashes. To sit in ashes was a sign of complete humbleness. The King no longer cared what other people thought of him, his only concern was God and what God thought of him. We live in a society that is all about self-promotion but the Bible tells us that we should humble ourselves under God and allow Him to do the exalting.
James 4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you
1 Peter 5:5-6 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
We are to clothe ourselves with humility because it is something we are to put on but it also means that the other clothes are still available to put on. Every day you have to decide if you are going to be a follower of Christ by putting the will of God and the needs of others above your own life
Notice the progression of the King. He stepped off the throne (Control), removed his robe (importance) and then humbled himself (Made himself nothing). To be a follower of Christ you will have to mimic the King of Nineveh and do the same thing. To follow Christ without doing these things means you are not following Christ but asking Him to follow you.