Thursday, April 24, 2014
Adoption has always been a huge part of the Christian church. In the Roman Empire if a child was born that the father didn’t want to claim, whether because there was a deformity or if the father suspected the mother of infidelity, he could choose to leave the child in the town square to die of exposure. The Christians would often secretly slip in and take the child to raise as their own. In fact, the Christians got a reputation for taking better care of other people’s downtrodden than they did. One of the primary reasons why is because they realized they had been adopted by a gracious heavenly Father themselves.
If you are led by the Holy Spirit, meaning you have been saved, then you are adopted by the Father into His family. You’re not just a slave, but a son, He’s not just your Father, He’s your daddy, and Jesus is not just your Savior, He’s your brother. You are more deeply loved and treasured than you ever dared hope.
“So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:12-13 ESV)
In this letter, Paul is writing to the church in Rome and he’s basically laying out the way salvation works. He spends several chapters describing sin and how man has fallen. We covered a lot of what Paul was talking about last week when we looked at the story of Noah. Then he moves into the Gospel, the fact that Jesus was sent to earth to live the life we were supposed to live and die the death we were suppose to die so that by faith we could be saved. Once we’re saved, He sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and the Spirit changes us from the inside out. Slowly, the Spirit transforms our lives, pushes us close to God and His Word, and convicts us of things we need to repent of. And in the verses I just read, Paul sums up this whole idea of living a life transformed by the Spirit of God.
And here’s basically the point of the whole chapter previous: You are either saved or not saved; you’re either living according to the Spirit or living according to the flesh; you are either a slave or a son.
The Christian life is a battleground and there will always be a struggle between living according to the Spirit, growing in love and devotion for God and falling back into old sins and temptations. Until we are home with Him, we will still sin- the question is whether we are turning away from those sins or embracing them. Are we looking more like Him each day or more like the world?
Assuming that you have the Spirit, that you have been saved by grace through faith, repenting of your sins and confessing Jesus as Lord, you can claim some of the most encouraging words in the whole Bible as your own. Much more than that, you can claim God not only as Father, but as Daddy.
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:14-15 ESV)
The first thing that we are going to look at is this idea that You are not just a slave, but son. Now what does it mean to be a son? And why does it say specifically son, and not children or son or daughter? In some Bible translations, they translate this as children, but it really does say sons in the original Greek. You see, in ancient languages, when you said the word “sons” you could be referring to just male children or you could be referring to your sons and daughters- it all depended on the context. So some translators, worried about being politically correct, just assume it should be children instead of sons. But that’s actually not the case here.
Both men and women are adopted as sons, because sons had a special place in the family in that culture. Females couldn’t own land, they couldn’t participate in government, when the parents died, they didn’t get part of the family fortune. That all belong to the men. When a woman was of age, she was married off into another family and all her inheritance would come from her husband’s family, not her own father. Males were given a portion of the land, they could enter into business deals on behalf of the family- being adopted as a son meant more privilege then being adopted as a daughter. At first that may seem sexist, but when stop and realize that God is talking to both men and women, you realize that it’s the exact opposite. God is telling the women as well as the men that regardless of their sex, they are being adopted as sons, as heirs, with all the rights and privileges that entails. That broke social conventions. This actually lifted women into higher regard then they had previously.
In modern terms, it’s sort of like the difference in being adopted vs. being a foster child. If you’re a foster child, the foster parent takes responsibility for you. They have to feed you and clothe you. And for a time you might be part of the family- but at the end of the day, you belong to someone else. You’re not completely part of the family. You haven’t been adopted.
Now what does it mean to be adopted? Today, you always hear stories about people who maintain family contact with their biological family even though they have been legally adopted. Or you may hear a story about someone doing the research to find out who their biological parents were. That’s a relatively new idea.
In the Roman world, adoption looked a little different than it does today. Several things happened. When you were adopted by a new father, you lost all rights to the old family. You were in no way a part of that family. When you were brought into the new family, you were entitled to all the rights the natural born sons had. If you were the first male in that family and your adopted father had biological male children after he adopted you, you were still considered his first-born. Not only that, but the entire old life was wiped away. All debts that the person had were wiped out. And it couldn’t be undone- you were permanently a part of that family.
That’s what Paul meant when he said you have been adopted as sons. Listen, if you are saved, you no longer belong to your old life. You are part of new family with a new Father. And you have an inheritance waiting for you in eternity greater than anything this world has to offer. When you are adopted, God has wiped out your debt through the blood of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. You truly are a new person.
Now notice something really important, before we move on to the next verse: All of this is done on your behalf, you don’t earn any of this. The little baby adopted by new parents doesn’t do anything to make the parents love them. It’s not like the adopted kid somehow make the parents obligated to adopt him. This passage isn’t telling you to go act more like a son, it’s telling you that you are a son, and that gradually changes your life. Adoption isn’t a goal held out to children; its not the result of genes. It’s a change in legal status that’s gradually reflected in the your identity, your characteristics, and your actions. It’s not something you earn, but something you receive as a gift that changes everything about your life. It also changes how you relate to God.
Which is the second point- You don’t have just a Father, but a daddy.
“But you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”’
Paul uses some really intimate words here to describe our new relationship with God. Not only is God called, “Father,” but He’s also called “Abba,” which essentially means daddy. It’s a familiar term. Listen, this is something that we miss so often in our relationship with God.
Some people have a hard time relating to the Father. It can seem easy to relate to Jesus in some ways because He’s not only God, but human as well. He walked a mile in our shoes. The Holy Spirit lives within us as Christians, guiding us and speaking as God in our hearts. But the Father is often seen differently- some people have a really hard time accepting God as Father- they see Him as harsh or distant. Sometimes they see the Father as a hammer, as if Jesus was the softy and the Father is the hand of Justice.
But really that’s a misunderstanding of how God works. You see, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are three persons, but they are all in perfect unity. There is no disagreement among them. The Gospel of John tells us that they are all one in unity, they’re of like mind. It’s not that the Father sent the Son to be tortured on a cross without any agreement from the Son, like some would teach. It’s not as if Jesus is the one that always gives grace and the Father always gives law. In fact, some of the harshest words in the entire Bible come from the mouth of Jesus. The Father sent the Son to save us, He choses us, He adopts us and He love us. And He had to watch His only begotten Son suffer and die to save us.
I think where the problem comes from is not with the heavenly Father, but with our earthly fathers. A lot of us, especially today, didn’t have great dads. In a society where most marriages end in divorce, the majority of kids grow up without their fathers. Their fathers are distant; often times they abandon their kids. They have midlife crisis’, ditch mom, get cheesy hair plugs, and drive sport’s cars. They go get younger women and leave their old family high and dry. They practice the exact opposite of adoption- they abandon.
Still others are harsh, cold, or even abusive. I remember reading a story a while back about a young woman attending a very liberal seminary who insisted on referring to the Father as “God the mother.” A lot of people would argue with her, picking apart her theology until one smart young lady started asking some probing questions. Come to find out she had had an abusive and neglectful dad. She had simply projected her feelings towards her dad on the Father. She couldn’t change her earthly father so she decided to change her heavenly Father into someone she could related to- a mother. Of course, twisting God into someone you can deal with is a really dangerous thing- it’s idolatry.
We have to realize our heavenly Father is not like our earthly fathers. Our heavenly Father doesn’t fail us. He doesn’t leave us. He doesn’t abandon us. He doesn’t abuse us. Listen, everything your earthly father should have been, your Heavenly Father is, and so much more.
And He’s not just our Father, but our daddy as well. The word “Abba” is Aramaic, it’s an intimate term for a father. Now the Jewish people, while they would sometimes call God the Father, they would almost never refer to Him as Abba, as daddy. For them, the relationship between God and man was never that intimate. And frankly, that kind of intimacy wasn’t even possible without Jesus’ death on the cross to make a way for us to be reconciled with God.
Not everyone gets to call God daddy. Not everyone has that type of intimate relationship with God. And this is a fundamental difference between Christianity and other religions. Islam teaches that God is simply a judge who looks at your good deeds verses your bad deeds, and if your good deeds outnumber your bad deeds you go to heaven- if your bad outnumber your good, you go to hell. Other religious see God as nebulous power or an uninvolved, distant parent. The Bible teaches about an Abba, daddy that is intimately involved in our lives and desires to dwell among us. If you are saved, you have more than just a Father, but a Daddy.
And because you have more than just a Father, but a Daddy, you also more than just a Savior in Jesus, but a Big Brother.
“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:16-17 ESV)
Hebrews 2:11 tells us that because of what Jesus has done for us, He’s not ashamed to call us His brothers. We have been so fully accepted into God’s family, that we are called “heirs with Christ.” That makes us His younger brothers. When you look across all of Scripture, Jesus is often compared with other people who don’t quite live up to the mark. One of the places we see that most clearly is in the story of Cain and Able. Cain, the older brother becomes jealous and kills his younger brother. When confronted by God, he asks God, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Jesus is the older brother Able should have had – He says “yes, I am my brother’s keeper” and sets out to rescue us from Satan, sin, and death. Instead of taking life, He gives it. At every point of failure recorded in Scripture where man screws something up, Jesus got it right.
But it also means that we will suffer with Him. Sharing the sufferings of Christ leads to sharing his glory. When we read this passage it’s easy to sort of just slide over that last phrase, “provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Jesus said John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” He also said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” in Matthew 10:24.
Listen folks, we serve a tortured, crucified Lord who died penniless and abandoned by His followers. The God of all creation was spat on, beaten, abused, ridiculed, pierced for our iniquities, crushed for our sins. He was mocked, despised, and cursed. Why should we expect to be treated better than the God of all creation?
Today, there is an obsession among a lot of Christians with being liked, with being cool. You see megachurches with pastors who brag about learning to preach from Chris Rock. Who play AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” as their opening song on Easter. Who compromise on the truths of the Bible for the sake of being accepted, for being cool. Acceptance by society has become a god; it’s become an idol. Too many Christians worry more about being accepted by a pagan, godless society than being accepted by holy and righteous God. We have to ask ourselves which is more important?
If you have been adopted into the family of God, if the Father has made you a son and a co-heir with Christ, then you don’t belong to this world. And this world will hate you because of that. The world in general hates those that don’t play by their rules. The very nature of the Christian walk is against the rules.
Do you realize that in the majority of the world today, Christians are being persecuted and executed for their faith in Christ? In Iran, there sits a pastor who is awaiting execution for converting to Christianity. In Egypt, Christian churches are being burned on a regular basis. Just across the border in Canada, pastors are arrested if they say the phrase, “The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin.” In Africa, in the Sudan, what most people don’t realize is that conflict is about genocide against Christians. In North Korea, Christians are thrown in Nazi-style concentration camps. And it doesn’t take long for political winds to change to start seeing it our own country.
But we are adopted in the family of God. And Paul goes on in the book of Romans:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39 ESV)
That is what it means to be adopted by the Father. It means nothing can separate you from His love, nothing can separate you from His protection, nothing can separate you from His salvation. We may be persecuted, we may be tormented, we may ridiculed or mocked of slandered, we may even die horrible deaths, but we are never out of God’s hands, if we are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ.
These are words of great encouragement, but they’re not words that everyone can claim as their own. These verses are statements of fact, but the facts don’t apply to everyone. Not everybody is saved. Not everybody can claim the Father as Abba, daddy.
For those that can, rest in the fact that your dad in heaven has you in His hand and will never let you go. Know that you have been more loved than you ever dared hope. Know that you don’t have to earn your Father’s love; it’s already freely given. You have been declared His child, His son, and His heir. And nothing the world can throw at you, even death itself, can change that.
But this begs the question, am I saved? Are you saved? 2 Corinthians 13:5 says “ Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Many people who claim to be Christians have lied to themselves. They think that because they go to church or they’re generally good people or even that they got emotional at a Christian event that they’re saved. But what happens over time is that they instead of looking more like Jesus, they look more like the world.
If you are saved, your life should reflect that. The Holy Spirit inside you should be changing you to look ever more like Jesus. And if that is not the case, it’s time to repent and be saved, to turn from sin to Jesus as your salvation. The other point is that if you are saved, rest in the fact that God has adopted you as sons, has placed you in an intimate relationship with Him and given you the right to call Him daddy.
Sunday, April 20, 2014
A video (Warning: Graphic language in video) was recently posted to YouTube of 2 Soldiers confronting a poser in uniform at a community college. Not only was the guy in uniform clearly not a real Soldier (hands in his pocket and no cover [hat] while outside and no ID), but also he was sporting a Ranger tab, E7 rank, 101st unit patch, and an EOD left should patch (the 101st doesn’t have an EOD unit). The real Soldiers, one a Ranger himself, spotted the errors immediately and proceeded to call the fake out in true Ranger fashion. A real Soldier can spot a fake Soldier from a mile away.
This is what’s known as “Stolen Valor.” The real Soldiers were furious with the fake Soldier essentially for two reasons: He was claiming he earned honors he had not earned and was claiming to be something that he clearly was not. Not only can the real deal spot fakes, but also they tend to be furious at those who claim honors that they themselves had to labor hard to earn.
I can relate to the feelings of the 2 Soldiers. Not only because I serve in the Army, but I also see fakes constantly in my profession receive adulation and praise for honors they have not earned. I have written several times on the issue of celebrity “pastors” and their mega “churches,” and have concluded one of the reasons their behavior is so offensive, especially to many pastors, is because it is an issue of stolen valor. These individuals have clothed themselves in the language of “pastors” and “churches” in order to advance into greater esteem and wealth.
There was a time in society that regardless of denomination, a pastor was a trusted individual. One may not agree with what the pastor proclaimed and in fact may have been vehemently opposed for his beliefs. However, it was well understood that the pastor could be trusted to not pick your pocket, tell you a lie, or violently attack you. People may not have agreed with the pastor, but they knew the pastor could be trusted. He stood for something greater than himself and attempted, however flawed, to live up to a higher calling on his life.
Today, the celebrities have co-opted the language of “pastor” and “church” in order to advance themselves. People like Steven Furtick, Mark Driscoll, Perry Noble, Andy Stanley, and Joel Osteen are no more pastors than the fake poser confronted by real Soldiers in the YouTube video. And each time they fall in grand public ways or their corruption is exposed to the light of inquiry, great damage is done to the profession as a whole. But fundamentally, they are not pastors and their organizations are not churches. They are spirituality driven public speakers that run non-profit organizations for the purpose of furthering their causes.
Just like buying a uniform at your local Army surplus store and slapping some patches on it doesn’t make you a Soldier, starting an organization so you can stand in front of people and spout off your ideas doesn’t make you pastor. Just because you call yourself a “Soldier” doesn’t mean you are. The words “pastor” and “church,” like the words “Soldier” and “Ranger” requires very specific sets of identity traits.
The Bible defines “Pastors” and “Churches” in specific terms. If they don’t meet the qualifications or the functions, by definition, they are not pastors or churches. Here are just a few reasons why they don’t deserve that title:
One of the most important qualifications of a pastor is that he not be greedy for gain (Titus 1:7). However, greed defines many of these “pastor’s” lifestyles. Driscoll, Furtick, and Noble have all been caught using church funds to buy a place on the New York Times bestseller’s list by using a shady marketing firm that buys large quantities of their books through various independent sources in order to fool the market trackers. The service costs close to a quarter million dollars and was paid for utilizing untaxed church funds- tithe money. Not only is this grossly unethical, it is a condemned manipulation practice in the publishing world and it has been suggested that it may be illegal because of the use of non-taxed church funds. In essence, they used the “church” as a tax shield to promote their books. It has been estimated by those within the publishing industry that the scheme generated at least a half million dollars for the authors.
And what do they do with this money? In the case of Steven Furtick, he bought a house worth over 1.7 million dollars and claimed it wasn’t that great a house. The median house price in Charlotte, NC where his church is located is about $180,000. He lives in a house that costs almost 10 times more than what the average attendee's does. This is shockingly distant from Paul’s practice when he said in 1 Thessalonians 2:9 “For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God.”
Furtick is not alone in this practice. Driscoll has several for-profit corporations registered in his name, which manages his fortunes reaped from unethical business practices. Osteen’s house is valued at over 10 million dollars. Their excesses are plain for all to see.
What about the ministry of the Word? This includes preaching, teaching, study, and Biblical counseling and is a primary function of the Pastor. What is often not realized about celebrity “pastors” is that they have multiple research assistants who do the majority of study in the Word for them. Several years ago, Driscoll created somewhat of a firestorm when he revealed it only took him about an hour to prepare a sermon. Considering that he preaches for close to an hour, it appears that he gives very little thought and hard work in the Bible for these sermons. The role of the research assistants was revealed after certain plagiarizing mistakes were made and the assistants were blamed. In fact, when the plagiarizing scandals broke (which disqualify him for ministry under Titus 1:7 which forbids greed for gain and calls the pastor to be above reproach) he blamed the research assistants. It was recently revealed that not only had Driscoll plagiarized in the last 6 books he wrote (not just a sentence or two here and there, but entire concepts and pages were reproduced without citation or permission), he ripped off Tim Keller sermons without credit as well.
And here’s the hard truth – Plagiarizing is stealing. It is the same as if he had taken money out of the offering plate. And it disqualifies him from being a pastor.
Furthermore, much of what comes from these pulpits is simply wrong or a violation of God’s Word. For instance, Steven Furtick teaches the “I Am” passage in John refers to people (it clearly is a reference to God) which is blaspheme, Perry Noble calls people who want to go deeper into God’s Word“Jackasses,” Andy Stanley berates Christians for exercising their conscience, and Mark Driscoll claims in sermons that God has given him pornographic visions of his “church” members committing sexual sins. All of these things are gross errors in the ministry of the Word, which are rightly condemned.
I could give considerably more on each of these individuals, though what I just mentioned above alone is enough to disqualify these greedy imposters from the role of pastor. But allow just one more which is very basic and easy to understand.
They don’t actually spend time shepherding their congregations. These men practice the unbiblical model of multisite church where their images are transmitted into different locations in lieu of a real pastor preaching. Their tens of thousand who attend these “churches” have no access to these celebrities. They have personal bodyguards who keep the attenders from getting too close. The congregation can’t observe their lives; they can’t see if they live according to Scripture. When their family faces tragedy or trauma, the celebrities don’t visit; they don’t counsel; they don’t care. They live so detached from their congregations as to not be worthy of the title “pastor.”
A real pastor lives with his people, he bleeds with his people, and he suffers with and for his people. Pastor Paul described this in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28 saying, “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” This is a far cry from what the celebrity posers are doing.
Every day, across the globe real pastors are suffering with and for their people. They preach, they teach, they counsel, they care for and encourage. They spend countless hours in the Word, digging, studying, careful to handle God’s Word with respect and reverence, and never daring to use it for ungodly gain. Somewhere right now is a pastor ministering at a dying child’s bedside. Somewhere there is a pastor in dress uniform telling a Soldier’s family that their son won’t be coming home. Somewhere there is a pastor of an old country church staring at his family budget, trying to make cuts so that the church can survive another year. Somewhere there is a pastor praying with a person who has repented of sin and trusted Jesus. These are the things the celebrities know nothing about.
I suggest it is time we stop calling the posers “pastors.” I would also suggest we need some real pastors to emulate the essence of the real Soldiers in the YouTube video, minus the language, and take the fake celebrity “pastors” to task.
Saturday, April 12, 2014
This morning we are continuing in our study of what we call the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In case you missed it, CH Crowley has been teaching the last three weeks on the Holy Spirit and this week and next we are going to look at God the Father. What we’re going to do is look at some of the Father’s overall desires and specifically how they play in the story of Noah. Now, Noah is pretty popular these days with corny new movie featuring rock monster demons and the Noah as an environmentalist- of course its is a good excuse to take a look at the story, because the story of Noah Ark really isn’t what most people think it is. In fact, it’s not really even about Noah. It’s not about environmentalism or rock monster demons- It’s about the Father passionately pursuing a people to redeem- a people just like us, and a people just as sinful as the rest of the world.
The Father’s desire is to dwell with His people. This is one of the most prominent themes in the entire Bible. God has a deep passionate desire to be able to dwell in our midst, to be a part of our lives, to be in covenant relationship and communication with His people.
Throughout Scripture this theme comes out. In the beginning, after creating everything, He plants a garden and places His people there, in a specific place where everything is provided for them so that He can dwell in their midst. Later He designs the Tabernacle then the Temple as a place where His glory would dwell among the people. He sends His Son to dwell among men and then the Holy Spirit to live within us. And ultimately, He prepares a place for us in His presence in eternity. Throughout Scripture, God’s desire is to dwell among His people, to be worshiped by His people, to live in fellowship us.
When you’re a parent, in a small way you can relate to that desire. When we had our first, it was downright painful for my wife and I to go to work. I know it was a lot harder on my wife than me, but I’ll tell you it was pretty dang hard for me too. I’m not the best dad in the world, but I long to be with my kids, to just be around them- they drive me nuts sometimes, but when I’m separated from them, all I can think about is just being around them again. God has that same desire, the desire to be among His children.
But here’s the rub for The Father. Because He is God, meaning He is absolutely holy, absolutely without sin, as much as He wants to dwell with His people, by our sin we have separated ourselves from Him. The overarching characteristic of God seen throughout the Bible is God’s complete Holiness. Holiness means purity, set apart, perfect. God is righteous in all He does, He determines what good is, and He has a holiness that is so far above us that it is overwhelming to the point where sinful man cannot stand to be in the presence of God. In our sinful state, we cannot approach God and that grieves Him greatly.
Now, you might ask, “Why is our sin such a big deal? Why doesn’t God just let us off the hook, after all we’re only human?”
Here’s the problem with our sin that makes it so bad; All sin, at it’s core is idolatry, which is essentially to worship something other than God. Every time we sin, it’s because we’ve lifted something that we want into the place of God. God has already determined what is right and what is wrong and when we are sinning, we are essentially saying, “No, I am god, I’ll decide what is right for me.”
Idolatry is at the heart of every sin and we see it even in the first sin. The lie that Adam and Eve believe was that they could be like God. They could determine for themselves what was right.
Whether we are committing murder, rape, or robbery, or whether we are committing gossip, lust, or disrespect we are doing something that God has commanded us not to do. So we are essentially snubbing our noses at God and saying I’m not going to live under your rules. I’m going to be god.
It’s sort of like when your teenager tells you “I’m going to do whatever I want!” They are dishonoring you by trying to put themselves in your position.
This is the heart of all sin; trying to put ourselves on God’s throne- it’s us trying to be God. So we see, sin is not as small a deal as we’re tempted to believe. One of the primary ways that we get into trouble in our lives is by thinking sin is not that big a deal.
So here’s what happens leading up into the story of Noah. Man commits this sin of idolatry and things go horribly wrong. Essentially, after the fall, God leaves man to their own devises for a period of time. Man and woman were so set on being gods, determining their own fate that God gives them the desire of their hearts- He lets them play god. What do I mean by that?
Once they fall, God pronounces judgment and gives words of the hope for the future, then He kicks them out of the Garden.
And then silence. The Bible does not record God audibly speaking again until decades later. In fact, to our knowledge, He never spoke to Adam and Eve again, or at least it’s not included in Scripture. They had separated themselves from God through their sin. God speaks again decades later when two of their sons are adults, as Cain is contemplating the first murder. And God shows up to beg Cain not to sin. He begs Cain not to introduce the world to the violence of murder. After Cain sins, God pronounces judgment, and does not audibly speak for around 1600 years. God is relatively silent. Now that doesn’t mean He wasn’t active in people’s lives or that He was somehow absent.
God simply does not speak. According to Scripture in this 1600 years, God revealed none of His character other than what Romans 1 says is plainly visible in creation. He revealed none of His Law and He gave no rebuke for humanity’s evil. God gave man over to their debased heart. They so desired to be gods, that He gave them over to their lusts. Listen to how Paul describes this Romans 1:21-25:
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
Darkened hearts, lusting in their hearts, and becoming fools. Have you ever wondered what a world without God’s Word looks like? Look at Noah’s world.
Folks, Noah’s world is a dark, dark word. I want to spend just a minute on this so we understand how far things went with Man playing god. Hopefully that will help us see the Father’s true character a little clearer in how He reacts.
It started with sexual sin. “The sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose.” Genesis 6:2. The Sons of God here are simply the decedents of Seth. After Cain killed Able, Adam and Eve had another son named Seth and the descendants listed here are of Seth. Things were going well for humanity for a while for Seth’s kids. Some of them walked with God. They tried to live according to God being their King. The sons of man are the descendants of Cain. Cain’s descendants continued after their father and were murderous, evil people. The world gets really bad, really quick when the men that followed God started lusting after the hot female descendants of Cain.
How do we know they were lusting and committing a sin by marrying into these wicked females? First, because God had sent Cain and his people into exile because of the murder. Seth’s descendants would have known the story and should have remembered God’s judgment on that family. Second, because this verse uses the exact same words that describe what Eve did in the first sin recorded just a few chapters back. They “Saw” that they were “Attractive” and they “took.” Everything goes down hill from there. Of course, that’s what tends to happen when you stop thinking with your brain on your head and start thinking with the brain in your pants. Lust gets us into all kinds of trouble.
From lust, it goes to violence. Violence is mentioned twice, in verses 11 and 13. When He speaks to Noah, the reason God gives for destroying the earth is their violence. Notice, not because they were polluting, or endangering animals, or social injustice. They were violent. How violent do you have to be as a society that God wipes you out completely? I would think that it had to have been pretty dang violent.
Throughout Scripture, when God enacts divine retribution to the point of total annihilation, the people are committing violent atrocities and there are no or very few people uncorrupted. The people of Canaan were committing child sacrifice, committing genocide. The people of Sodom we not only committing homosexual acts, but we raping and committing acts of extreme violence. All of which goes back to and starts with idolatry.
It also says they were committing continual evil. They were a people that plotted evil as a lifestyle. Genesis 6:6 says the violence, the wickedness; the evil of all men, to include Noah so grieved God that He was sorry He even created humanity. We are a people who continually create new ways to tick off a holy and perfect God.
Some people question how a loving God could wipe out a whole civilization, but never stop to consider just how unloving it would have been to let it continue indefinitely. Some question why a loving God would kill so many people and only save one, but never stop to consider that even the one He saved really didn’t deserve to be saved.
You see, Noah was not exactly the pinnacle of morality himself. Growing up in Sunday school we always had the flannelgraph, you know the 2 dimensional pieces of felt cut outs of the characters that they put up on a board to tell the story. Funny thing is, a two dimensional character was all that was taught about Noah. The stories made Noah out to be this great moral good guy- and that is just so wrong.
The Bible does not point out any act that he did that makes him a good guy, other than believing what God told Him. In fact, we have more negative acts committed by Noah spelled out than positive. We have more evidence for his wickedness than his morality.
9:20-21 tell us that Noah was a drunk. Now, when I was a kid I went a few years to a Christian school and I remember our Bible teacher told us that Noah didn’t really intend to get drunk. The atmosphere had just changed and due to the flood and it caused grape juice to ferment quicker…yeah, right! Noah got drunk. Not just a little drunk- He got passed out naked in a tent drunk. He got what we call stupid drunk. He got the kind of drunk we read about every Monday morning in SIRs, Serious Incident Reports, from when our 19 year old Soldiers go down to Waikiki on a Saturday night and get drunk in front of the garrison commander. He was that kind of drunk.
You see, 6:5 applies to Noah just as much as to everyone else. Its what we call total depravity. Our hearts are so full of idolatry that evil is a part of who we are. Listen, there is only Good Guy in this entire book and that’s God.
We know that this applies to Noah and to all of us because Even after the flood, in 8:21 God says “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Even after the flood, even with Noah’s righteousness, Man’s heart is still corrupt
But what about where it says in 6:9 that Noah was righteous, blameless before his generation and walked with God. We have to understand righteousness in the way the Bible talks about righteousness. Throughout Scripture, we see that we are only righteous when we believe God. 15:6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Habakkuk 2:4 But the righteous shall live by his faith. Romans 1:17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith. Galatians 3:11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith”. Hebrews 10:38 “But my righteous one shall live by faith and if he shrinks back my soul has no pleasure in him.” What are the righteous works that Jesus taught us to do? Believe in Him, the one whom the Father sent, Jesus.
To make it even clearer that its not about what we do that saves us, Ephesians 2:8 teaches that even faith itself is a gift from God.
As a result of Noah’s faith, which He received as a gift from God, he was blameless before his generation and he walked with God. He stumbled, he sinned, but he was still righteous because He believed God, He submitted to God, He walked with God.
You see, its not that Noah was this wonderful guy that deserved to be saved. It’s that God is a wonderful God, so loving and gracious that He would even consider saving a wretch like Noah- or you and me for that matter.
As we’ve seen, God is Holy, Just, and Righteous. He cannot abide sin, He won’t tolerate evil, and He abhors violence. And the Father looks out on humanity and that’s all He sees. By our own choices, that’s what we have become: Evil, violent, wicked, idolatrous, and just down right sinful. He can’t find anyone worth loving- so He says, “I’m going to love that guy!” He is sinful, he is disgusting, he is perverted, he is drunk, he is flawed, he is damaged, he is violent, he is undeserving, But I’m going to love him anyway. And that is what God does with each one of us.
So many people get this story wrong, and because of that, they miss the greatness and graciousness of the Father. This is a story of grace and salvation that no one deserves. This story is about a Father saving a people through judgment who would rather not be saved. The Father is holy and just, He is perfect and has wrath for sin. But He is also merciful and gracious, offering salvation from His wrath against sin, through faith.
The Father looks at our helplessness, just like He looked at Noah’s. He sees our sin, our idolatry, our rebellion, how we despise Him because He determines what is good and what is evil, not us. He sees how we covet His power, how we are jealous of His command, and how we lust after His seat of power over our lives. The Father has every right to hate us. We are no better than those He wiped out in Noah’s day, no less deserving of His wrath and no more deserving of His salvation. But instead of simply destroying us all, instead of wiping out Noah along with everyone else, the Father preserved a people that He would move heaven and earth to save. He saved them knowing that He could reconcile sinners to Himself one day by sending His Son Jesus to live the life we were made to live so He could die the death that we deserved as the sacrifice, the atonement for our sin, our rebellion, our idolatry. Folks, this is who our Father is and who we should aspire to be. We forgive, because the Father in Christ Jesus has forgiven us. We love because the Father in Christ Jesus has loved us. We show mercy, because the Father in Christ Jesus has shown us mercy.
If you are not saved, you have made yourself an enemy of God. You are more sinful and flawed than you ever dared imagine. But the Father desires deeply to dwell in your midst, to be in covenant relationship with you, to take you as His child and be the Father to you that your earthly dad could never come close to comparing to. This is what the Father requires of you: Repent- Repent not only of your sins, but also of your efforts to try to earn salvation, as if your sins weren’t really that bad. Believe that God has paid the price for your sins in the death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ. And submit to Him as Lord; stop placing yourself on the throne of your own life.
If you are saved, if you have repented of sin and placed faith in Jesus Christ, then stay humble. When you see the sin of the world; the corruption, the violence, the lust, the death, realize “there but for the grace of God go I.” You did nothing to earn your salvation and that means you are more loved and accepted by God than you can possibly imagine. You have been given a gift you didn’t deserve just like Noah and you are more welcomed in the presence of God than you ever dared hope.