Can you imagine someone actually having the audacity and arrogance to say “I dare God to send an earthquake!”? I wouldn’t! But in the pages of history, you’ll find a time when someone did. I heard it on a Revive Our Hearts program yesterday, and it stunned me what the result was, and what the actions leading up to it were. So I decided to share my thoughts here. But first, the story, as told by Nancy Leigh Demoss-
One hundred years ago Messina was a prosperous, gorgeous coastal city on the Italian island of Sicily, just off the toe of the boot there. This city of Messina had a population of about 150,000, but it had become a wicked and irreligious city. On Christmas day of 1908, a local newspaper in Messina published a blasphemous parody against God. In that article they dared God to make Himself known by sending an earthquake.
Exactly three days later, December the 28th, 1908, at 5:30 in the morning, a huge earthquake and a massive tidal wave came and utterly destroyed Messina and dozens of nearby towns. I’ve read some different estimates as to the number of deaths that resulted—somewhere between 80,000 and 100,000 it appears. It’s considered the deadliest earthquake in European history.
Wow. Talk about frightening!
But Miss Demoss continues-
As you read about a story like that where men just defy God and say, “Show us that You’re God. Prove it by an earthquake.” Three days later the earthquake comes and destroys the city. You ask, “Was this an act of God that was directly in response to the challenge that was issued in that newspaper?”
Well, I want to be quick to say that you and I cannot fathom the heart and the thoughts and the ways of God. But we do know that there is a God, and we know that He is a holy God. And we know that all sin—that’s all sin—must and will be judged.
To get more of the full impact of the power of God’s judgement on sin, and also His indomitable love toward sinners, I would highly recommend that you listen to the whole program at the Revive Our Hearts website. It’s well worth the less than thirty minutes it takes to listen.
This story reminded me of how sin is really a big deal to God, whether it’s lying, sexual sin, or mass murder. I am so glad God is merciful through His Son Jesus’ death, but also how He is a God of justice, who will judge sin. Isn’t it comforting to know that Hitler, Stalin and other evil men have been justly punished for their evil deeds to the millions they slaughtered? Isn’t it comforting that the sins that are committed against God’s laws, that so deeply affect people’s lives, will be judged? Pedophiles, rapists, murderers, gossips, mean-spirited people of any sort- they will be judged!
But I also want to mention that you -a sinner like the rest of us- don’t have to be judged for your sins. Even if you are one of those people listed above, or even just an ordinary Joe or Sally who commits ordinary “little” sins that don’t seem like a big deal and yet are a big deal to a holy and righteous God – still, you can be forgiven! Jesus Christ paid your penalty, so you don’t have to go to “prison” (hell) for you “crime” (sin). The Judge sentences justly, but when Jesus walks in the courtroom, takes you by the hand, leads you to the Judge, and says “Your Honor, this man/woman is guilty. But I have paid the penalty.” The Judge will justly tell you that you are free of your penalty, and you can go free.
That’s how Jesus saves you. Will you accept that payment, or foolishly say to Him, “Judge, I know that He has paid my penalty, but… well, I think I have to pay it myself. I need to work off my debt.”
The Judge will say, “No, the only way to pay this penalty is by death, and only Jesus can do that for you. If you do it, you will go to hell. But the choice is yours. Take it or leave it. Either Jesus pays it and you go to heaven, or you try to pay it and go to hell. It’s your choice.”
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Okay, so say you’ve done that. You’ve believed that Jesus has paid the penalty by His death and resurrection, and you’re headed for heaven. But what if you have sinned once you’re saved (Okay, so how about when– we all sin every day, don’t we?) What do you do so you can get right with the Judge again?
1 John 1:9 tells us what we must do-
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.“
Confess your sins, and be forgiven. Isn’t it wonderful that God is so merciful?
I’m so glad He is such a merciful, and yet holy and just God. Aren’t you?