The word reform denotes a change from one way of life to another way of life. The book of Jonah depicts the true nature of reformation in the most universal sense. There may be a few preachers who talk about reformation, but they do not appear to take reformation very serious. When they do talk about reformation they are often concerned with constraint and circumscription’s that limit reformation. Let me make it clear that when I use the word reformation, I have biblical reformation in mind. Biblical reformation is the discovery or either the recovery of biblical truth. Since reformation is the recovery of biblical truth, we should hasten to bring it about. Recovering the truth of the law and gospel is ultimately important for the survival of the church, because such recovery integrates dignity and moral standards.
Look at the little ones among us. While some of us are getting ready to die, they’re getting ready to live. What will we devolve on the shoulders of our children and grandchildren if we do not seriously and sincerely seek reformation in the church, thus affecting every area of life including our religious, familial, social, economic, and political lives? An insincere reformation is no reformation at all.
The book and life of Jonah reflect the principles necessary for reformation in the church that will lead to reformation in the culture. Being reformed by the Word of God is necessary to grasp the substance of life and eternity. To ignore reformation is dangerous indeed, because without reformation God’s wrath will be provoked.
Deuteronomy 4:25 – “When you begat children and grandchildren and have grown old in the land, and act corruptly and make a carved image in the form of anything, an do evil in the sight of the Lord your God to provoke Him to anger, I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day. . .”
Doing evil provokes God to anger. From 1450 B.C. to 600 B.C. the people of God provoked God to the point that His glory departed from the temple in Jerusalem. It was symbolic of God’s favorable presence leaving the people that professed to believe Him.
The people in Sodom tried neutrality. It didn’t work. When the wicked men of Sodom were told of the eminent destruction they just couldn’t believe it was true. The nearness, the uncertainty, greatness and eternity of God’s punishment and wrath doesn’t seem dreadful or miserable for the unreformed man. Natural man cannot be reformed and wicked men will not be reformed, but those whom God has called to Himself can and must seek reformation. The choice is simple: reformation or judgment.
The reformation in Ninevah was not permanent. Every generation must seek reformation according to the Word of God. It was for that reason that the 16th century Reformation reformers used the Latin phrase:
“Ecclesia reformata semper est reformanda”
“The church (being) reformed (by the Word of God) is always reforming”
Every Christian and every generation must rediscovery the truth of the Word of God, so the beauty, majesty, and dignity of God will be evident in the church.
After Jonah’s personal reformation he went to preach reformation to the whole city of Nineveh or to put it in other terms Jonah preached to a culture unfamiliar with the true and living God. Jonah went through the streets of Nineveh preaching a very simple, but very persuasive sermon: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.” Apparently Jonah’s preaching was very powerful and very convincing, because the whole city repented in sackcloth and ashes.
The repentance at Nineveh was universal and was occasioned by their faith in God. The unexpected, but sudden reformation at Nineveh began with the people and very quickly reached the heads of state. The undeniable truth from the book of Jonah is that the reformation at Nineveh saved that city from God’s impending judgment. “Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them and He did not do it (Jonah 3:10).” The sinful people at Nineveh were about to have the wrath of God poured out upon them. But God showed mercy after the people of Nineveh were reformed.
What we learn from Jonah and Nineveh is that reformation and the people turning from their evil ways averts God’s threatened judgment. Not only from Jonah, God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah and said, “The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it (Jeremiah 18:7).”
God not only calls the church to reformation, but God calls nations to reform. The church should be the light on the hill. Once the church has recovered the truth of God’s grace, the church must then take that truth to the culture. Our present national sins should be of great concern to the church. Today God’s people feel the threats of every international, national, and local crisis that erupts. We sense the coming economic calamity. We see the moral catastrophe that accompanies a form of godliness among so many professing Christians.
The people of Nineveh believed the Word of God. This is the central principle of reformation “they believed the Word of God.” Then they fasted. Like Jonah, you’ll have to experience personal reformation first. Rediscover God’s truth. The light of God’s truth will light up a passion for reformation that will work itself out as a revival.
The well intentioned Christian may say: “We know of God’s impending judgment, but preaching God’s judgment will chase people away and we’ll never get to save them.” It is correct that the church cannot save anyone. God saves and He uses His word to convict sinners of their sins. When the “Lord opened her (Lydia’s) heart to heed the things spoken” she was able to believe and seek reformation from the written Word.
The majority of the church and most of our nation has not given attention to the terrible threats of God. A few sermons have been preached about reformation and the imminent dangers if the church continues unreformed. Those sermons have largely been ignored. God is angry with the gross hypocrisy and the great heresies that plague the professing church. The church will do well to listen to God’s threat of judgment. The church will do well to cut out all the talk about reformation, and stop amusing themselves with egocentric worship. Useless talk and self-worship will find its end in God’s judgment. The present unreformed church simply refuses to preach the simplicity of God’s grace, man’s sinful condition and in particular the doctrine of God’s salvation.
The church must recover the full counsel of God for reformation in the church extending to the culture. Judgment of the unreformed church may be prevented, if the church will:
- Seek God’s counsel from His Word
- Hide God’s Word in the heart’s mind
- Declare God’s Word without shame
- Delight in the Word of God and never forget it
Reformation is the recovery of biblical truth.
Natural man cannot recover biblical truth.
Wicked men will not recover biblical truth.
God’s covenant people are the only instruments of reformation.
Will we do any less than the Ninevites?
Will we believe?
Will we repent?
If so, God may relent from the disaster that is coming upon us!