I’m spending quite a bit of time working through and thinking about the book of Jonah, as I prepare to preach it at Cross of Christ Fellowship.
Here a thought I’ve been considering lately: A believer’s growth in godliness can often follow the pattern seen in Jonah.
Though a Christian is indwelt and strengthened by the Holy Spirit to walk in obedience of God, a believer does not live a life of perfect obedience in this life; we still struggle with indwelling sin and still fall into sin: there are times when we are ‘out of step with the truth of the gospel’ (Gal 2:14) and need to be reminded to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ (Gal 5:25), which means repenting and walking in holiness.
God in His grace leads us to holiness. I think the process of a believer sinning and then repenting has a similar to pattern to what we see in the life of Jonah:
1. We hear the call to obey God and grow in godliness or obedience: like Jonah 1:1-2.
2. We disobey or partially obey (or obey, but not from the heart): like Jonah 1:3
3. God brings about discipline or correction by Spirit and often through situations or consequences of our own sin. We come to an end of ourselves and are humbled: like Jonah 1:2-2:10 [storm, almost drowning]
4. God mercifully brings about a fresh kind of saving or deliverance from the effects of sin (not saving from penalty of sin, which has occurred at our salvation and is a free gift of justification by faith), whereby we come to a new conviction of our sin and cry out to God in prayer, recognizing that ‘salvation belongs to the LORD’: like Jonah 2.
5. God grants a fresh opportunity to obey Him, and by his grace through the Spirit there is some measure of further obedience: like Jonah 3 [Jonah does preach to Nineveh]
6. We still struggle with sin in our heart and life, but God continues to pursue us and work in our hearts, using situations and His Word to expose sin and bring about increased spiritual immaturity: like Jonah 4 [God comes to Jonah and uses situations and His Word, and we assume (rightly I think) that Jonah did eventually come out of His sulky state—some think that writing the book of Jonah was itself an act of repentance].