The Prophet Jonah was commissioned to preach repentance to the people of Nineveh during the reign of King Jeroboam II (782-753 BC). As the story goes, Jonah was reluctant to do as God commanded because he hated these people and feared that God would show them mercy (Jonah 4:1-3). The Ninevites were the enemies of Israel, and Jonah wanted nothing but judgment for them.

Because of his hatred, Jonah ran from God’s calling (Jonah 1:1-3). The Lord, however, was able to get the prophet’s attention (see ch.1:17-2:10), and Jonah ended up preaching God’s message after all (Ch.3). By the grace of God, the people of Nineveh took heed to Jonah’s message, believed God and turned from their wicked ways. As a result, God spared the city (Ch.3).

It was an incredible thing—an entire nation turned from evil and to the Lord. If this happened today, we would call it a revival. But, unfortunately, it wouldn’t last. The next generation of Ninevites didn’t follow suit. We know from biblical testimony and extrabiblical accounts that Assyria (where Nineveh was located), just one generation later, would lay waste to Northern Israel and take the people of God into captivity (732 BC). Then, about one hundred years after that, Assyria would fall at the hands of the Babylonians, receiving the judgment God promised through Jonah a century and a half earlier.

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Interesting history lesson, but what does this have to do with me?” If you’re a Christian, this has everything to do with you; especially if you have children and/or grandchildren. The lesson to be learned here is that God’s grace wasn’t automatically passed down from one generation to the next. When Jonah preached, the people of Nineveh repented and received the salvation of God. But the very next generation went astray and fell back into evil, as was evidenced by their destruction of Israel and taking the people of God into captivity. As previously noted, God brought judgment upon the people of Nineveh for their actions.

Bottom line, the generation of Ninevites that believed God failed to disciple their children. This is proof that if we don’t witness to the next generation, they too will fall away from God and receive His judgement “Salvation isn’t transferred from generation to generation” says Pastor Erik Reed “except by faithful witnessing.” Our kids will not become Christian just because we are. God’s grace doesn’t work that way.

I remember when I bought a car a few years ago. The salesman was really nice. When he asked me what I did for a living, I told him I was a pastor. I then proceeded to ask him if he went to church anywhere, but he immediately went on the defensive. “My grandparents started the Catholic Church here in town. They were charter members” he said. “That’s great” I told him “but do you go to church?” It was clear what he was trying to say. “I don’t need you to evangelize me, preacher. My family is very religious. I am good.”

But friends, I hope you see that salvation doesn’t work that way. The Bible says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Every man and woman will stand before God on his own, and we will either be condemned according to our actions or saved according to our faith in Christ. No one will be able to piggy back on the faith of their family members. It doesn’t matter if your uncle was a deacon or if your daddy is a pastor, salvation is personal.

So, are you discipling the next generation? Are you passing on your faith to your children and grandchildren? Or are you being complacent and hoping that your faith somehow will be counted as their own? Friends, never forget, no one ever got into heaven because their mommy or daddy was a Christian but only those who personally call upon the name of Lord will be saved.

Thanks for reading

(This article was adapted from a message preached on Jonah Ch4 by Erik Reed, pastor of the Journey Church. https://tjclive.com/category/messages/Jonah/)

Brandon Sutton (Pastor2334@gmail.com) is the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge CU Church and New Life Church. Check out both at Blueridgecuchurch.com and Newlifeshelbyville.org.