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"Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens" (Hebrews 12:25-27).
We think we're secure. We feel secure with our investments, as our dollar plummets for the past two years against the Euro, against gold. We think we're secure with Social Security and other things and the 401k and retirement plans, government funded or not. We feel secure. Don't you know that the lesson of last Sunday (A reference to the Tsunami that killed over 300,000 people on Sunday morning, December 26, 2004) is that God is in the business of shaking the world? And he's going to shake it again. That wasn't the last of the tremors that's going to occur. Indeed, those tremors will come with greater intensity and greater regularity as we move towards the end of the age, if we read what's implicit in Jesus' words in Matthew 24.
What does this earthquake tell us? It tells us several things. First of all, it happened according to a divine plan. Secondly, that it happened according to a plan that God has foretold is going to happen. Thirdly, it happens because of a divine purpose that is saving. And that's what Acts tells us, as we'll look there again in a moment.
First of all it happens by the hand of God. "If God is good, he is not God. If God is God, he is not good," says MacLeish in his play, JB. I tell you this: If you reserve to yourself the right to sit in judgment of God then you have to say: "God isn't good."
Will you -- mere man in your autonomy, in your quest for self-authority and self-realization and self-assertion, in your rebellion -- will you sit in judgment of God? The God who is, is beyond your judgment. Whatever God does is right for one reason only. Not because it conforms to our scheme of right and wrong, but because God does it. And there is no authority beyond God, above God. There is no authority but God. And whatever he ordains is right.
Do I like this God? Not always. Were I to entertain the error and hubris that whispers up in my soul at times and vomits itself into my conscious mind and says, "Well, if I were God, I wouldn't do that." Do you know that I have to do with all that? I have to say this: "You know, what happened last Sunday is nothing compared to people burning in Hell forever." Lives were snuffed out in a moment last week. They were crushed and mangled and broken and drowned, and most people died within a matter of seconds. A few survived a few minutes, and very few, more than an hour. But I want you to understand that the Bible teaches -- and the one who teaches it is the Lord Jesus -- there really is a place called Hell. It's called the Lake of Fire. It's where people continue to exist in eternal torment and woe and conscious agony, dying in flames and yet never completely dying. That's what the Bible teaches.
And I tell you: If I want to sit in judgment of God in terms of a tsunami that wipes out hundreds of thousands of people. It's nothing compared to what God is going to do, is doing now, with the bulk of the human race.
Untold millions of people are burning in Hell right now. What do you think of a God like that? I don't like him very much. Being honest, but you know what? He's the only God I've got. He's the only God that is. He's the only God that's spoken of in the Bible. "He is the Lord, and there is no other." And he's the only God who is consistent with what we see in history. This namby-pamby God who winks at sin and never judges sin and never brings calamity on the world, that God doesn't exist. He's a figment of the imagination of people. Why do people believe in such a God? Because they want to believe in such a God. A man's a damned fool who can look at the universe and conclude there's no order behind it, no supreme intelligence, no reason, no Creator. A man's a damned fool who can look at that and say, "There's no God." Everybody that's honest concludes there's a God.
So where does Atheism come from? You know where it comes from? People hate the God of the Bible. People hate the God who is. They don't like him. So they say in their minds, "I choose not to believe in him." But it's not a matter of intellect. It's a matter of the will, rooted in deep-seated antipathy to such a Sovereign because we live in the days of the final outworking of the bastardization of the democratic ideal, and we believe that everybody is equal, including God. And so we have a right to sit in judgment of this God and call him to account. But the God who is, is the God of the Bible. And the God of the Bible, according to Psalm 47, is terrible. "He is a great king over all the earth." And our response to him is one of fear and trembling.
So as I hear of these disasters like last Sunday and more disasters that will occur this year -- as they will -- for disaster is decreed. As I look at the portents that are around us already and portents of things that are coming and terrible times to come on nations and the shaking of the very powers of the air as well as the earth, I've got one of two responses I can give: I can join with the whole corrupt cacophony of the crowd of this world and I can say, "I hate you, God." And understand that. That's atheism. Atheism is not intellectual. I want to say it again. Atheism is emotional, and it's an act of the will. "I choose to reject God because I hate such a God." That's the heart of man. That is what you have to deal with today because things are not going to get better. Things are going to get worse.
This is a year of disaster. Disaster is coming. Are you ready to meet God? Jesus is coming again. When Jesus comes again, are you ready to meet him? If you're ready to meet him, you'll be spared the worst of the disasters because the trumpet will sound, and the archangel will shout, and those who have come to the Lord Jesus will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, and they'll be spared these terrible, terrible things that are yet to come. For far worse evil is yet to come.
Are you going to take your stand with the atheists -- those who, not because of logic, not because of science, not because of reason, but because of a deep-seated antipathy to the God who is, the God revealed in creation, the God revealed in Scripture -- say, "There is no God." They know there is such a God because the Bible says in Romans chapter one verse 18: "The wrath of God is being revealed...against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness."
That tsunami reminds us that the God who is, is not only a God of love, but a God of wrath. Will you come to that God? Will you come with all of your doubts? Will you come to him with all your fears? Will you come to him with all your uncertainties? Will you come to him with all of your questions that may not ever get answered in this world? Will you come to him just the way you are? Will you humble yourself, or will you take your stand with the billions of this planet that defy that God and tell him, "We will not have this one to rule over us"? Or will you, in spite of not liking all about this God, not understanding all about this God, not fathoming all of his ways, but willing to defer to his judgment and to say that he is altogether just and altogether good, will you bow your knees to this God and come to him? Only two choices, only two choices, to bow your knees to God.
Do you know? I've got to tell you something. As a preacher, a long time ago I came to understand that the God who is, is terrifying. And that forever altered how I preach because I'm going to be faithful to that God no matter what the results. I'm going to faithfully declare his words no matter what that does to people. But, you know, I've got to tell you my heart. My heart for you is this: I don't want one of you to leave this place, to join that corrupt crowd in their cacophony of defiance against God. What I want for every one of you is to bow your knees to this dread sovereign, to know that the God who is, is the only God there is, and to come to him just the way you are, in humility, with all your doubts, with all your questions, with all your fears and come before it's too late because God is in the business of shaking the earth. And I want to tell you: God's going to shake your life this year.
2005 is going to be a year of disaster for you. 2005 is going to be a disastrous year for you in one sense according to Hebrews chapter 12. Look at it. Hebrews chapter 12. What does he say? He says, verse 27: 'The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken -- that is, created things -- so that what cannot be shaken may remain.'
What are the things in your life that hinder God's work in your life? Is it a relationship with somebody? God's going to shake it this year. Is it something you possess or something you're involved in that keeps your eyes off Jesus? God's going to shake it this year. Why is he going to shake it according to Hebrews? So that what is permanent and what remains in spite of the shaking may be unshakable in your life.
See, that's what Paul was saying in Acts 17 to the Athenians. God engineers all these things and creation so that people would seek his face.
Turn back there with me, if you will, as we close. So clear there, Acts 17 . . . God's purpose in history. God's purpose in history is that people would know him. He says there in verse 27: "God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.'" That's what God wants in your life. That's what God wants in Indonesia. That's what God wants in India.
God wants the people of India to turn from their damnable religion of Hinduism with its myriads of false gods. God wants the people of Indonesia to turn from their false god Allah to the God of the Bible and come to him, not in the arrogance of law, but in the humility of grace and faith in Jesus Christ. That's what God wants. And God wants you and me, not only to come to him, but to be part of his plan to save the world. "For God so loved," what? "The world that he gave his only begotten son." There is this profound tension within God, the God of love, the God who reaches out to all men and invites them to come, he is the God also of wrath who is going to shake your life.
Some of you will know suffering in 2005 you've never known before. Some of you will know loss in 2005 you've never known before. But let me tell you this: if you willingly come to God and lay it all on the altar, you will find such a delight, such a security, such a blessing, such a place of peace and security, it's indescribable.
The choice is yours, through the work of the Holy Spirit, whom I pray will come and touch you with his grace. God wants you, whomever you are, to come to him, to bow your knees to him and to receive him as he offers himself to you in the gospel.
And this God, who inflicts so much suffering on our world through the activity of Satan, is a God who himself has suffered in your place. That's the great resolution of this whole thing. This God of love, who is also a God of wrath, demonstrates his love for us and his wrath in the cross.