By Pastor Glenn Pease
On a Friday afternoon, May 31, 1889 a man by the name of Daniel Peyton came galloping down the road in Johnstown, Penn. Sparks were flying from the hoofs of his big bay horse. He was shouting for all he was worth that the damn had broken. Some believed his warning and fled to the hills. Others thought he was crazy, and they ignored the warning. They said, we have heard rumors for years that the damn might burst, but they were always false rumors. They just laughed and went about their business. Scarcely had Daniel ridden out of town, however, when they heard another sound. It was a dreadful rumble and roar of a flood. Now it was too late, and in moments a wall of water 15 feet high came tumbling down upon them, and hundreds of people were swept to their death.
Warnings are funny things. They are so important, and yet they do not do a thing if they are not obeyed. From the time we are children we have to learn how to obey warnings. When mother tells us the stove is hot, and we do not chose to obey and touch it anyway, we get burned, and suffer the consequences of not giving heed to a warning. We are warned not to play by the river, and not to cross the busy street, and not to get into a car of a stranger, and not to eat or drink anything under the sink. Yet, every year thousands of children die because they do not obey these warnings. Medicine bottles have the warning, keep out of the reach of children, but children die by the thousands because this warning is not heeded. Warnings are one of the best things we have in life, for they protect us from all kinds of dangers.
Millions of people have been saved by warnings. Fire alarm systems have saved many. Warnings of dangerous traffic situations have saved many, and warnings about dangerous poisons have done the same. Let's face it, warnings are wonderful, but we also must face the fact that we hate them. We want to do as we please, and so we despise warnings that tell us we will suffer if we go our way. Adam and Eve were warned not to eat the forbidden fruit, but they did not heed the warning, and the result was the fall of man. Warnings are made every year about the danger of mixing alcohol and driving, yet millions of self-confident drinkers have laughed at that warning, and now they have filled the graveyards of our land.
Warnings are made by the government, and studies from universities support them, that smoking is harmful to your health. Millions consider it a big joke, even though thousands die every year due directly to their smoking habit. Death wins every time we refuse to listen to a warning. Napoleon kept on marching toward Moscow in his determination to conquer the world, even though he had clear warning that he was being foolish. The storks and the cranes were flying South because they knew a terrible winter was coming. God gave the animal kingdom built in instincts to obey the warnings of nature. Man was left free to choose, and Napoleon chose to ignore the warning of the birds. When the storm hit, and he had to retreat, he left a half a million men frozen to death scattered over the countryside.
You would think men would learn from the folly of others, but even knowing the tragic mistake of Napoleon, Hitler did the same thing in 1941. He decided to attack Russia and get deep into it, and then came the cold of winter. He was warned about the deadly cold winters in Russia, but he replaced all the generals who warned him that it was a hopeless situation. Hitler refused to listen to any warning, and the result was the German Army was defeated, and that was the beginning of Hitler's downfall. We can thank God that he was a fool. Fools never learn to like warnings. They refuse to let warnings change their minds and their plans. How does a wise man differ from a fool? The wise man gives heed to warnings.
Noah was not a perfect man, nor was he free from sin and folly. He got drunk after the flood, and brought shame upon himself and his family. Still, he became the greatest and wisest man of his day because he had the wisdom to heed God's warning. God said He was going to destroy the world, and Noah did not laugh and say, people are always saying the world is going to end. He said, I believe, and he got busy and built an ark, and he was ready when the warning came true. Noah was a man of faith, and faith is that attitude that takes God's warnings seriously. God has made it clear that He is going to destroy the world again, but this time by fire. When Christ comes again there will be a final judgment for those who are ungodly. He loves men so much that He delays His coming. He is long suffering, and not willing that any shall perish. But in love He has given us warning, and if that day comes and you are not ready, you will be like those in Noah's day, up a creek without a paddle. You will be written down in eternity along with a list of all the fool's who had a clear warning but laughed and ignored it.
There are those who try to escape the urgency of the warning by saying God is love. What they fail to realize is that nobody hates hell more than God. God has done everything He can to rob hell of its victims. He gave His Son to die for all men that none need end up in hell. Jesus gave His life, and sent His church into all the world to warn men of the folly of going to hell, when He has opened up the way to be forgiven so that all might enter heaven. The good news of the Gospel is that nobody needs to be a fool. Nobody needs to be lost. Nobody needs to go to hell, and be separated from the God who loves them. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Jesus takes no joy in judgment, for He died that men might escape it.
Repent says the Word of God to the sinner. Turn from your wicked way, and put your trust in Me, and I will forgive and cleanse, and make you a new creature. Your whole destiny hangs on what kind of person you choose to be. If you choose to be a self-centered mocker of warnings, who refuses to do anything but that which is your own way, then you will go the way of all warning mockers, and perish in your folly. If you swallow your pride and by faith heed the warning, and put your trust in Jesus, you will go the way of all warning heeders, and you will be forever a part of the family of God.
Do not be a dispiser of warnings. The town of Amyalea was so often alarmed by false rumors that the Spartans were coming that they made a decree that no one ever mention the subject again. When the Spartans did come there was no warning, and they easily took the town. It is foolish to despise warnings. A fire broke out back stage in a theater, and the clown in the show came out to warn the public. They all thought it was a joke and applauded. The world will end with many who think the warnings are all a joke, and learn the hard way that judgment is no joke.
Nobody wants to be awakened in the night by someone shouting fire, but thank God, if there is a fire, someone cared enough to sound a warning. What would you think of a neighbor who saw your house on fire in the night, and said to himself, "I would wake them up if I shouted, and I hate to disturb them at this hour." You would be appalled at such a foolish attitude. Go ahead and disturb them. Throw a rock though the bedroom window if you have to, but give them a warning. It is love that warns. It is because parents love their children that they warn them of the dangers. If no warning is given, that is a cruel indifference.
Why should anyone be angry if someone says repent and turn from your wicked way or you will perish. That is not a cry of one who hates you, that is a cry of love and grace. It is the cry of God to spare men from judgment. You do not have to like warnings to obey them. You may not like your neighbor at all, but if he is crying out, fire, fire, you must recognize it is only wise to respond to it. What would you think of a man who is drowning, who says of the rope being thrown to him, that he does not like that kind of rope, for there is a better kind of rope made by a different company. A man who drowns with such an absurd objection on his lips deserves to drown, and few could be made to weep at his loss.
The Bible makes it clear that men are responsible for how they respond to warnings. If they choose to ignore them and are unprepared, their blood will be on their own head. There is no one to blame but themselves. No one can say it is God's fault, my parents fault, or societies fault, for every man is responsible for how he chooses to respond to warnings. It may be true that your parents never loved you, your teachers never taught you, your friends let you down, and your community rejected you, but the fact is, God loves you and made a way for you to overcome all of the negatives of life. If you choose not to come to Him, and be made whole, and if you choose not to take the way of escape, then you , and you alone, are responsible for your judgment. You can be wise and receive Christ as your Savior, or you can ignore the warnings to those who have no Savior, and be a fool. The choice is yours.