søndag 24. november 2013

Can I trust the Bible?

Christianity is not based on “faith”. It is based on evidence.

That statement will probably surprise many of you. Isn’t religion all about faith? Don’t you just leave your brain at the door when you enter the church? And does it even matter? Isn’t Christianity just about how you live – you know, being nice to people and that kind of stuff.

Now if that’s what you are thinking, then you’re not thinking about Christianity. Because Christianity is based on historical truth. And unlike any other religion or worldview, if that historical truth can be proved wrong, then the whole thing comes crashing down.

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important”. (CS Lewis)

So we’re going to spend some time this morning looking at three questions:

1. Why does Christianity depend on historical evidence?

2. Can I trust the Bible? or How do I know what is written is what actually happened?

3. Did the disciples just make it up?

If Christianity doesn’t depend on historical evidence, then who cares if the Bible is accurate or not. If it’s just an idea or philosophy, then it doesn’t matter. And then we don’t need to bother about the second and third questions. But if it does, then the question “Can I trust the Bible” becomes very important.

1. Why does Christianity depend on historical evidence?

Because Christianity is based on an historical person: Jesus.

This idea seems to have been forgotten in our society, even in some of our churches. But the Bible is unashamedly Jesus-focussed. Open your Bibles to the book of Mark, chapter 1 (page 599). We’re going to read the first verse, which says this “This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God”.

Well, look again at verse 1. The Good News or “gospel” (that is: the message of Christianity – those are all the same things) is about Jesus. It is about a person. An historic person (Jesus) who lived in a real place (Israel, at that time a small part of the Roman Empire) at a specific time in history (around 4BC to 30AD).

Christianity is not a religious ritual, or a collection of laws to follow. Christianity is not about what country you were born in or what your family believes. It is not about friendships, or social work, or counselling, or looking after old people, or looking after poor people, or about being kind, or nice, or polite, or working hard, or even attending church meetings.

Christianity, is about Jesus. The gospel, or Good News, of Jesus.

It is about a relationship with the living God.
If you are a Christian without Jesus, then you are not a Christian.

So Christianity is about Jesus. Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God.

“Messiah”, by the way, is his title. Messiah is Hebrew, Christ is Greek. You may have heard “Jesus Christ”. Christ is not his surname! It’s his title, like King or Judge, and what Messiah or Christ means is he is the Saviour of the world, promised in the Jewish Scriptures, our Old Testament: he is the great Warrior, Prophet, King who would be a blessing to all nations, and fulfil all of God’s promises. He is the King of the world.

That’s who he is – and we can’t change that because he’s a real historical person. We can’t change Jesus into whatever we want, although people keep trying. Like he’s an empty jar we can fill with our own ideas – a design-your-own Jesus, like those design-your-own teddy bear things. No. He’s very clearly described, revealed to us in the Bible.

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God

This is who Christianity is about. A person. A real person who lived and breathed in history. If you had a time machine – maybe a silver deLorean that you need to get up to 88 miles per hour (anyone seen “back to the future”?) - you could travel back to AD30 and see him, hear him, touch him, and exclaim “Great Scott, Marty!”.

The Bible itself makes this very clear. There’s none of this post-modern nonsense: “you just have to have faith”.
You have to have faith, yes, but faith IN JESUS. In the historical Jesus.
Having faith is useless if what you believe in is a lie. I may have faith that I’m a brilliant footballer. But that doesn’t make me a brilliant footballer. But if I have faith that my wife loves me – I know it’s true, based on the evidence of our relationship.
And when we come to religious truth, the same rules apply. Faith doesn’t magically make a lie into truth, no matter how much you believe it. Nonsense is still nonsense, even if we are talking it about God!

And so God, in his grace, has revealed himself in a way that is based on evidence. It is not blind faith. Christianity is the only religion or worldview to open itself to evidence. It stands unique above all other religions and philosophies.

In 1 Cor 15:17-19 (page 692), The Apostle Paul says this: [I]f Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. 18 In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! 19 And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.

[I]f Christ has not been raised (historical fact), then your faith (religion, worldview) is useless.

But if Christ has been raised, ah well that changes everything. Because if he was raised from the dead, then he is who he claimed to be: the Messiah, the Son of God. He is God, the Creator of the Universe and Lord of everything – including you and me. And he demands a response.
You’ve probably heard John 3:16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. But did you know it continues in v18 like this There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.

There is no neutral ground with Jesus. You either stand with him – or against him. And if you stand against him, you – you personally are already judged guilty and you will face the anger of God at your rebellion.

So, well done for coming today. For you understand that this question “Is the Bible true?” is vitally important to answer, not just in an abstract philosophical way – but in a deeply personal this-will-change-my-entire-life kind of way.

So, did Jesus really die and come back to life? Did he really do all those miracles? Is it true, or just made up?

2. Can I trust the Bible

Is what is written what actually happened?

Well, the people writing the Bible certainly thought so. They are very clear that what they are writing is historical, eye-witness facts. In 1 John 1:1 the Apostle John (apostle means a close friend and follower of Jesus), writes We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He [Jesus] is the Word of life.

In the gospel of Luke, Luke writes to his sponsor, Theophilus “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. 2 They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, most honourable Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.”

Now you might just dismiss that and say “well, they’re believers, we can’t take their testimony seriously. That’s not evidence.”

Well, historians do. They account for bias, of course, but no historian disregards the Bible. To quote the historian Dr. John Dickson “Professional scholars approach the New Testament as they would any other first century text. They do not treat it as the word of God, of course…but they do regard [it] as the earliest, most plentiful, and most reliable source of information about the Jesus of history.”

That doesn’t mean they all believe it, of course. But this nonsense about Jesus never existing, or being a fairy tale made up by someone in later centuries is exactly that: nonsense. We can know with pretty great certainty that what we have translated in our Bibles is what was written by Luke, Mark, John, Paul, and others in the first century.

Also no scholar believes in the “broken telephone” argument either (that it’s been changed so much, so who can know what was written). We have ways of matching independent textual fragments together from totally different parts of the world, which, if they match, tell us exactly what the original said.
Like if I sent two identical letters, one to Rjukan and one to Kongsberg, and asked people to copy it out and then pass it on each day for a month. After one month we could take one of the letters from Kongsberg and compare it to an independently copied letter from Rjukan – and when we compare the two we get a pretty accurate idea of the original. If we find another, we have even more accuracy, and so on.
We have MANY independent copies of the New Testament documents.

Now, that’s not to say that the Bible is without errors. You may have heard scholars say that there are many errors in the Bible texts. And that’s true. But also know that these scholars define as “errors” things like full stops being left out, or a word substituted (like “cap” instead of “hat”). Where there are real doubts about what was originally written, your Bible will tell you (for example the end of Mark’s gospel is not found in the earliest manuscripts, and you’ll find a note in your Bible telling you this).

So, what we have here is pretty much what they wrote down about 2000 years ago.

Now you may still be thinking “but what if they just made it all up”. After all, they’re believers. Can I really trust the Christian sources?

And the answer is – yes. Because the non-Christian sources, most of them very anti-Christian, confirm the major facts that we find in the gospels.

Just from non-Christian source, we know this:

The name Jesus. His mother’s name, Mary. That he ministered in Palestine sometime in AD26-36 when Pontus Pilate was governor and Tiberius was Emperor in Rome. We know he had a brother called James, that his birth was unusual, that he was a famous teacher, and a famous miracle-worker, that some called him the Messiah or Christ, and also a king;
we know that he was executed by crucifixion during Passover by the Roman and Jewish leadership together, that at the time of his death, there was an eclipse (darkness) of the sun;
we know that his followers claimed that he had risen from the dead, that they worshiped him as God (not a god, but God, singular),
and that his followers grew very rapidly in number extremely quickly, and the church (or as Tacitus the Roman historian calls it: the “deadly superstition”) had spread “even to Rome”.

This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1) based on our eye-witness accounts. This is reportage, interviews with those who were there, just like you would read about those lived and fought in World War 2.

Think about that. That happened here, right outside these walls, less than 70 years ago. People here from Notodden died to defend this country from the Nazis. I read about it in Telen a few months ago. As hard as it is to believe now, with the sun shining, and the lake glistening and us at peace what has to be one of the most beautiful towns in one of the most beautiful countries in the world – there was war here 70 years ago.
And in Judea, in Palestine, 2000 years ago, there was a man who claimed to be God, and proved it publically with mighty works, a predicted death, and a dramatic resurrection from the dead.

3. Did the disciples make it up?

So, we know that Christianity is based on historical evidence because it is founded on an historical person: Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of God.

We know that the Bible we have today is what was actually written down by the original authors. And that what they wrote down was, in their own words, eye-witness accounts, first-hand experiences of this man Jesus.

But how do we know they didn’t just make it all up? What if Mark and Luke and the others are just the first century’s version of JK Rowling. You know, the Harry Potter author.

In Harry Potter, there’s ordinary London – and then this other fantastical world of magic seamlessly woven into ordinary life. Couldn’t the stories about Jesus be like Harry Potter?

Sounds reasonable enough – except for the fact that the modern way of writing believeable stories, with real historical detail mixed in with fiction, made-up stuff, that way of writing hadn’t been developed yet. It was totally unknown. Myths were myths and written like myths. History was history and written like history. No-one would ever, or had even thought of, writing myth like history.

CS Lewis, in his capacity as Cambridge professor of Mediaeval and Renaissance Literature, says this: “I have been reading …myths and legends all my life. I know what they are like. And I know none of them are like…these gospel texts…The reader who doesn't see this simply hasn't learned how to read."

There’s also the problem of motivation. We human beings, we tend to do things only if we’re going to gain by it. Haha, you might think, look how powerful the church is. It’s all about money. Like the Catholic Bishop who spent 14 million euros on his house, or the TV evangelists who preach about God wanting you to be rich – and they get rich, while their listeners get poor.

But you’re reading today’s reality back into history. For the disciples, the gospel of Jesus was a death sentence, not a pathway to riches. They were arrested, tried, beaten, left for dead, stoned, mocked, ridiculed, spat at, caused riots, wherever they went. Early Christians lost their homes, their jobs. They were marginalised from society, and even thrown to the lions for entertainment in Rome. This went on for 300 years. And in many parts of the world, still goes on today.

They were convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah – and that to know him is to know Almighty God himself.

So, they didn’t have the skills to write modern fiction. They had no motivation to make up a story – all they gained was suffering and hardship. And, in their stories, they look like complete idiots.

If you were going to make up a story of a new religion, would you write one where you get everything wrong, act like a coward, and deny your God? No, you’d write one where you look good.

But as you read through the gospels, you see the then church leaders making complete fools of themselves. Not the way to win standing and influence and power, is it.

And, the critical point of Christianity: the resurrection – they don’t even believe it. The women go to Jesus’ tomb on the Sunday morning with burial spices for his corpse. Burial spices! Not a six-pack of beer, party balloons, and a big banner saying “Welcome back Jesus”. They didn’t believe him when he said “I’ll be back”. Who would?

Jesus meets two other disciples on the road outside Jerusalem, and they don’t even recognise him – while telling him about his death and that his tomb is now empty and no-one knows what happened to his body. They didn’t believe. They weren’t gullible, easily swayed. They were just like you and me. But they believed when they met the risen Lord Jesus. When they spoke to, saw, touched, the man who they had seen die – and was now alive, just as he had said. No wonder they fell to their knees and said “My Lord and my God!”

You know, these central truths of Christianity are hard to believe. One God in control of everything, the resurrection, God taking our punishment, swapping places with us (grace)). And our culture is familiar with these truths – over a 1000 years they have been with us. But to the Romans and the Greeks in the 1st century: they were laughable. Completely idiotic. This was no popular religion, no internet meme that swept the world because of the right fertile cultural soil. No. It clashed with the culture – and yet still spread like wildfire. Why? Because it was, and is, the truth.

The church grew massively, not by the sword, like some other religions, but in the face of the sword. Because it’s truth.

1 Cor 15:3-7 3 I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures (Old Testament) said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of the brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.

Christianity is the only religion or worldview to depend totally on historical evidence. Because it is founded on an historical person: Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, the Son of God.

We know that the Bible we have today is what was actually written down by the original authors. And that what they wrote was truth, true truth, about this amazing man Jesus, who revealed himself to be God.

These events did not happen off in corner, like in a magic show where you can’t see behind the curtain. But in full view of everybody. This happened. Jesus lived, ministered, died, rose again.

So what are you going to do with Jesus?

What are you going to do with Jesus?

søndag 17. november 2013

Genesis 9-10. A new hope: Humanity on the silver screen

Genesis 9-10.



Have you ever heard the expression a“Hollywood ending”? A Hollywood ending is an ending that has an unlikely, positive outcome; Like in most films where the nerdy boy gets the pretty girl, or where the superhero saves an oilrig, the planet, and the pretty girl.


However, some films do have the complete opposite ending, like “James Bond on her majesty’s secret service” Where James Bond saves the world, the girl, and marries her in the end. During the last 40 seconds of the film she is shot dead, during a drive by shooting.


Last week we witnessed a real life Hollywood ending of chapter eight when Noah, his family, and the animals finally could exit the ark. They came back to a world from which the evil men and women had been washed away. Noah built an altar to the LORD, and sacrificed the animals and birds that God approved of. The smell pleased the LORD. It actually pleased God so much that He said to Himself in chapter 8:21-22:  

“I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. 22 As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

Chapter 8 leaves us with a promise, and to this day, God keeps his promise. Not for the sake of us. He does it for the sake of His awesome grace, ultimately expressed through the cross!

This is where we’re at when we start in Genesis 9. I am going to go through todays text under the following headings:

1. Restoration

2. The human condition

3. A new hope


God’s righteous anger ceased when the creation’s punishment was fulfilled, and the wicked had been washed away.


Some of you who followed the whole series might have noticed that God blesses and instructs Noah and his sons, as he blessed and instructed Adam and Eve. It is just like the story of Adam and Eve all over; we bite our fingernails and think to ourselves “will Noah and his sons be a better Adam than Adam?”, “Cain wasn’t the saviour, is it Noah? Is he the serpent crusher?”

God says to Adam and Eve in Gen 1:28:

“Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground”

God says to Noah and his sons in Gen 9:1-2:

Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth. 2 All the animals of the earth, all the birds of the sky, all the small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the fish in the sea will look on you with fear and terror. I have placed them in your power.


Wow! Creation is restored, Noah has saved us. This is brilliant I’m getting the champagne… Hold on for a second, something seems strange.

There’s a difference between Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 9:2, did you notice that?

In Gen 1:28 God told Adam and Eve to reign over the animals. In Gen 9:1-2 God tells Noah and his sons that all the animals will look on them with FEAR and TERROR!!! This could be an ominous sign!

Noah and his sons are told to repopulate the earth; they are given the authority to rule over the creation. They are given a fresh start; the good order of GOD is restored.


Do you remember the good order? God created the animals; God created Adam, and from Adam God created Eve. God set man to rule the creation with the authority given by Him, and He set Eve to be his helper. The Good order is: God the ruler of everything, man the ruler of creation, woman his helper, and the rest of the creation.


After presenting God with a pleasing offering, God established a covenant with Noah.

Noah and his family are under God’s protection from wild animals and humans. As I mentioned earlier, the unique thing with this covenant is Gods promise. God will preserve the creation from complete destruction, as long as the earth remains. [Gen 8:21-22]

Have a look in your bibles at verses 8 – 11:

8 Then God told Noah and his sons, 9 “I hereby confirm my covenant with you and your descendants,10 and with all the animals that were on the boat with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals—every living creature on earth. 11 Yes, I am confirming my covenant with you. Never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth.”


Did you notice that God’s promise applies to us? Does anyone see where in the text we find that God’s covenant applies to us?

It’s in verse nine, the last word “descendants” we are the descendants of Noah and his sons! If we fast-forward for a minute to chapter 9 verse 19, we can read: “From these three sons of Noah came all the people who now populate the earth.” We are the descendants of Noah and his family, therefore that covenant applies to us. As long as the earth remains, life will go on in spite of our sin.

God seals His covenant with Noah and his descendants by placing a visible sign in the “clouds” His rainbow is our promise, life will go on as long as the earth remains.


After being the “savior “of the world Noah retreats to a quiet life as a farmer and plants himself a vineyard. It seems like a beautiful finale doesn’t it? The hero that saved humanity has done his duty, he is going to cultivate the ground and live a quiet life from now on. The mood is set for a heartwarming finale, a real “Hollywood ending” The music is swelling, the string quartet is getting, ready to play. The Kleenex man is handing out tissues, we are waiting for the six final letters T-H-E E-N-D, THE END.

2.The human condition


Sitting in front of the cinema screen waiting for THE END to appear, something happens...BOOM.. Like a fist to the face we are hit with the sudden realization that there is more. We get up and start running, are we going to be able to outrun the truth? The truth catches up with us, and as we are pierced by its sword, we fall to our knees screaming “Noooooo”

We remember Genesis 9:21: “One day he drank some wine he had made, and he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent” We remember Genesis 9:24 - 25: “When Noah woke up from his stupor, he learned what Ham, his youngest son, had done. Then he cursed Canaan, the son of Ham: “May Canaan be cursed! May he be the lowest of servants to his relatives.”

Just as the final 40 seconds of “In her majesty’s secret service” everything goes to pot, (Although James Bond’s wife isn’t killed in the bible as far as I remember).

Noah the man that had great promise of being our “saviour” has done a 180. He has gone from being the saviour of the mankind; to being so drunk that he loses consciousness, inappropriate, naked and cursing his family. What happened???

Was Noah not meant to be the new Adam, did he fail as well? Did he not bring mankind, and the animals back to a restored earth? Was he not the saviour we were waiting for, the saviour God told us would come in Genesis 3:15 is he not the serpent crusher?


Well, look at verse 5 “And I will require the blood of anyone who takes another person’s life.

We realize that the world after Noah isn’t restored after all, a restored world would not need laws against murder! We’re pointed back to before the flood, Adam and Eve rebel against God in the garden [Genesis 3:6]. Cain murders Abel [Genesis 4:8], and Lamech’s disproportionate act of retaliation against the man who hurt him [Genesis 4:23-24]. Sin is out of control, and wickedness is so great. So God must do the only just thing ,He has to judge the world, killing all of mankind, except Noah and his family.


So Noah has failed to save the world from sin. Why? Because Noah himself is a sinner! Just like Cain and Abel, Noah inherited the “DNA” of Adam and Eve. Noah’s rebellion against God is their rebellion against God. We face the same problem with Noah as we did with Adam and Eve, as we did with Cain and Abel, as we did with Lamech. The problem is that the sin has not been dealt with. We need someone to deal with our sin, but how?

Noah knew God, and God knew Noah. God deemed him righteous and blameless in His eyes. But what did Noah do? In spite of his close relationship to God. In spite of seeing God’s awesomeness and glory what does he do? After building his vineyard Noah get so plastered that he strips naked and, passes out. You’ve heard the story; Ham finds Noah drunk ,passed out and naked in his tent. He tells his brother who covers him up. Noah finds out what Ham has done and curses him, and blesses his brothers. Noah’s inability to enjoy the fruit of his orchard wisely, led him to sin. Just like Adam and Eve’s rebellion against God in the garden of Eden, where them eating from the forbidden fruit led to sin. And the result is the same: naked before the Lord, full of shame, and a terrible curse passed on to the son.

And we are no better. We show God and others the content of our hearts through our actions, and what we see. It’s not pretty, Adam and Eve knew God, they had an unique fellowship with Him, So did Noah. Yet, what they have in common is that they, sinned against God. The first rulers of creation, and Noah the “saviour” of mankind. They failed, they didn’t plan to fail, yet they did.

When Noah, his family and the animals left the ark, they also brought their sin. They brought their rebellious hearts, their desire and imagination for evil, the world still contained people capable of sin.


In the letter to romans, Paul writes:For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard [Rom 3:23]” We don’t need much interpretation to understand that we’re all sinners. That is the reality, we’re living in today, more than six billion sinners on one little planet. There’s no escape from being sinners, not even for Christians, (Well, at least not on this side of death. One day we will be fully restored!)
Just like there was no escape for Noah there is no escape for us. As Christians we are not better than others, but since we are in Christ by his mercy, we receive the same favour Noah received, although he was a sinner. And the word of God says the same about us: We’re blameless and righteous in God’s sight. Amazing isn’t it?

We get to know GOD, we develop deep and meaningful relationships with Him. Just like Adam, Eve and Noah, we know Him, we might actually know God better than they did. However, what do we do? We do what they did, we sin although we know better. Our generation is especially good at twisting the word of God into what we want it to be. Our churches seem quite often to be more concerned with being nice, than sharing the gospel and leading the congregation according to God’s word.

We try to create Christianity 2.0 where we become God’s equal and our own saviours. But if we’re honest with ourselves, we realize that this is hopeless. Just look at the bible. The Bible is filled with would be “saviours”, and they all crash and burn. Adam the first of his kind set to rule the creation messed up, Abel and Cain didn’t work out, Noah didn’t work out, Abraham didn’t work out, Samson didn’t work out, David didn’t work out, Solomon didn’t work out. No matter how bright, rich or gifted they were, they didn’t seem to work out. Why? Because they were all sinners, just like us.

3.A new hope


But is this how it ends, not with a bang but with a whimper? Thank God, there is more. In chapter 10 we see God remembering His promise. The promise that life will go on as long as the earth remains [8:21-22]. We see how in spite of his sin, Noah becomes the ancestor of all of mankind. Just like Adam before him, before the flood. You see, although Noah failed, although he didn’t keep his part of the deal, God in all His glory always does. Life goes on, and so does God’s plan of salvation. There’s 65 more books in the bible after Genesis, and they show humanity as we are, not as we present ourselves. Still after all that time, filled with sin and failure to comply with the will of God. Earth is remaining; God is still acting out His plan of salvation not because of us, because of His awesome GRACE.


We see how from Shem, Ham and Japheth became the fathers of everyone in the world. We see how they had sons; how their sons had sons, and their sons, sons had sons, and so on. We can follow God’s master plan through the genealogies. In chapter 10 we read about the linages of Shem, Ham and Japheth. I have to admit that up to this point I found genealogies being, painfully boring. However, as I was reading about the descendants of Shem, I realized that the genealogies aren’t just a list of hard to pronounce names. They actually point towards Jesus. I am going to show you this by reading a shot summary of the descendants of Shem in chapter 10 verses 21-25, chapter 11:18-26 and Matthew 1:1-17.

The scripture I read is inspired by God, the chronology I read it in might come from my head. My point with reading this to you, is to show you that the genealogies points towards the serpent crusher[3:15]. The only One who’s ever lived a perfect life, the only one who can be the saviour. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

From 10:21-25 we read that Shem had Aram. Aram had Arphaxad, who had Eber, who had Peleg. Peleg we pick up again in 11:18-26. We see he has Reu, who has Serug. From Serug we have Nahor, then Terah, then Abram who was renamed Abraham.
Turning to the New Testament we read in Matt 1:1-17 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac. Isaac was the father of Jacob and so on we go, on and on through the centuries until finally, finally we reach the one we have been waiting for!

Here is the serpent crusher, the one who is born of man, yet not born of man: fully human, yet fully divine. Human, yet sinless. The one who can defeat Satan, defeat death, and destroy sin. v15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar. Eleazar was the father of Matthan. Matthan was the father of Jacob. 16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

Throughout the bible, we see great men rise and fall, we see people that we think might have “saviour-potential” Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samson, Saul, David, Solomon. We know they all fail, there is but one.


There is but Jesus. He is the only one who led a perfect life, He is the sacrifice that is without a blemish. Only His blood can atone for our sins once and for all.

He is a full sufficient sacrifice. The aroma of His sacrifice on the cross is a fragrance God finds pleasing, so pleasing that the aroma unleashes eternal life for all those who turn to Him and believe! Jesus is the reason God promises Noah that life will go on as long as the earth remains. Genesis 8:21-22. Jesus is the new Adam, a better Noah. He is the serpent crusher, He is the only one who can deal with our sin. That is what He is did on the cross, He dealt with our sin. People are born and people die, as long as the earth remains, there is hope. Every day we’re given is a new chance to turn to Jesus and repent of our sins.


1. When Noah and his family, leaves the ark after the flood. They return to a semi-restored world, where sin yet is to be dealt with.

2. Noah couldn’t save us because he is a sinner, and for the same reason we can’t save ourselves. We need someone without sin.

3. There is only salvation through Jesus, He is the serpent crusher, it’s because of Him Adam found favour with God, it’s because of Him we who are in Christ find favour with God.

søndag 10. november 2013

Genesis 7-8 Faith in action

Gen 6:5-8:22

Do you love Jesus? Do you love him?

I don’t mean do you have soppy sentimental feelings for him. I don’t mean do you love him like you love ice cream. I mean, do you love him? Would you die for him? Is he the most precious person in the world to you without whom you cannot imagine living? Is he your personal Alpha and Omega, your beginning and end?

He is the centre of the Universe. All that was made was made by him and through him and for him – including you (Col 1:16).
Do you love him? Is he the centre of your universe, the centre of your life? Does your life revolve around him: his desires, his will, his words, his calling?

Because that is faith. That is what real Christian faith looks like in practice. That is what we sign up for when we say “Christ is Lord”. I take myself off the throne of my life, and say to Jesus “I apologise for taking your place, your throne is ready, Sire”.

Do you love Jesus?

Today we read the story of a man who had that kind of faith. A man who trusted God enough to let God be God and he the creature, and risked everything: life, money, time, reputation – he staked it all on the word of God. And in the end God was right and everyone else was wrong and everyone - except Noah and his family - died. They lived – and that only by the grace of God. As Heb 11:7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.

Do you have faith in Jesus? Really? How deep does your faith go? How much do you really trust His word?

1. Faith comes from a changed heart.

2. Faith is trusting God’s word

3. Only faith in Jesus Christ is saving faith

1. Faith comes from a changed heart

I want today for us to examine our hearts – the central part of our being: our mind, our desires, our drives, our loves. Because what we do is driven by what we love. Our choices, our will, is determined by what we love. And if we love God, by his grace, if he has changed us from the inside out – then our lives will start to look different. Very different.

For example, I love bacon. Yum. So if I’m faced with the choice of a bacon sandwich or a celery sandwich – which one will I choose? My choices are determined by what I love.

So if you are coming to church hoping for some kind of self-help advice or a support structure to help you achieve your goals – then you are going to be disappointed! Because church exists to replace love of self with love of God, through the gospel of Jesus. We are here to glorify GOD, to help us take our proper place, the place we were designed for, made for, in achieving the purposes of God. In obeying him and achieving HIS goals in our lives. In changing our foolish goals into his glorious and eternal goals.

And the only way we can do that is by a dramatic heart transplant: only by God changing us from the inside out.

Look at the state of humanity in 6:5: The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.
We are in rebellion against our creator. We run against the grain of the universe. We’re like a river trying to run uphill. Our hearts are a torrent of evil, gushing out. Don’t believe me? Think about these two illustrations I heard recently.

The first was about a toddler having a temper tantrum. I’m sure we’ve all seen it or experienced it. The toddler “throwing his toys” as the expression goes. Absolute rage clouds the little face, and then they scream and scream and kick and hit and throw – totally out of control. Often hitting the mother in the face as they try desperately to calm them down. The person telling this story then said “imagine if that toddler had a weapon in their hands”.
In their blind rage they would pull the trigger, hit out with the stick, attack with the knife. In our hearts we are little murderers. We’ve just learnt some self-control.

The second was about a drunk uncle who was saying sexually graphic things to his nephews at a family gathering. The boys’ mother heard what was going on grabbed them and rushed them to the car. In the car she said this: “There is nothing that comes out of a drunk man’s mouth that was not there in the first place”. Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks says Jesus (Matt 12:34). The drink did not put those lewd sexual thoughts in his heart. All it did was release them from the heart to the mouth.

We’ve seen that already in Genesis. We’ve seen how Eve looks at the fruit, disbelieves God’s word, puts her own words in instead and what God calls bad she calls good. And her foolish husband is nice instead of godly and says “yes dear” instead of “Eve, repent!” – and then of course blames her when God questions him. Ah, true love. And men have been following in Adam’s footsteps ever since. Men! Be like Jesus, not like Adam!

And sin grows very rapidly, with great destruction, and Cain soon kills Abel – because of the anger and jealousy and hatred in his heart. What does God say to Cain? 4:7-8 [W]atch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you!

We need a new heart. Humanity is in need of a new heart. Noah himself needs a new heart, a heart transplant. But how? How do we move from 6:5 “only evil all the time” to 6:9 “Noah was righteous and blameless?”

6:8 “Noah found favour with the Lord”. The only way out of this mess is to follow the voice of our Saviour. Faith that comes from a changed heart can only come from hearing and trusting God’s word.

2. Faith is trusting God’s word

Did you notice Noah’s role in the story?
6:22 So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.
5 So Noah did everything as the Lord commanded him.

God speaks. Noah listens and obeys. That’s faith.

Faith is not perfection. Faith is not trying really hard. Faith is not being superhuman. Faith is not something we generate by sheer willpower. Faith is simply believing the words of God, and then living your life accordingly.

Noah believed God’s word in Genesis 6:5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.
Noah believed that. Noah knew that he and his family did not deserve salvation. How do we know he knew he was sinful? Because the first thing he did after being rescued was build an altar to thank God for rescuing him. He knew he did not deserve rescue.
Noah believed God’s word of judgement. How do we know that? Because he built the boat.
And Noah believed God that he can be rescued. When God said in 6:9 and 7:1 “You are righteous” he believed him. How do we know that? Because he built the boat.

Those are the three big themes of God’s message of Good News to us today that we MUST believe. We must believe that we are sinners. We must believe that God will judge. We must believe that, in Christ, we are righteous.

Let’s stop and think about these big themes from this story of Noah and the Ark for a bit.

Firstly, that we are sinners. Many people today don’t believe that we are bad. In Cape Town an eight year old boy stabbed a three year old in the head and killed him. In Bergen a 13 year old killed his brother and injured his father. On the bus an asylum-seeker being deported suddenly turns violent and murders three people. In our own neighbourhoods kids are being neglected, going without food, being left alone, being beaten, abused, and needing protective custody.

Good people don’t do these things to each other. Please can we drop the lie that we are inherently good. Because if we were our world would look completely different. Imagine watching the news where every story was the “happy” human interest story at the end of the news. Can’t? You know that we are in trouble. There is something wrong with the world. There is something wrong with us.

The actress Amy Adams, interviewed about her role in the new Superman movie “Man of Steel” (where Superman is a strong saviour figure) said: “Who doesn’t want to believe that there’s one person who can come and save us from ourselves?”

You know, I do think that those who shout the loudest are often shouting loudly to drown out their own thoughts, their own knowledge, that there is something wrong with them. That they are at their core not the unselfish, loving, kind, generous person they would like to be, but all too often bitter angry, selfish, unhappy. I would love for that to be true of me! But if my thoughts were broadcast unfiltered to the world, I would be ashamed. This me is not the me I am inside.

Many people understand that. Many people seek religion for that very reason. In this country, 32% of people believe in God, and 47% believe in a life force. People are into church, crystal healing, horoscopes, mediums – anything to help them out of the mess they’re in.

So people know. I am in a mess. I am bad. In the dark watches of the night we can be honest with ourselves.

But it is not enough to just believe that the world is evil, that we are “Bad”. It’s not enough: just admitting “I am a sinner” is not enough. It doesn’t get you anywhere, it doesn’t save you.
It’s the first step of course, and without it you get nowhere! But it’s only the first step. The second is just as important:

You have to believe that God is a just and righteous God, and he will judge the world.

You see if Noah had had faith to believe 6:5 (we are always evil all the time) but not God’s judgement – or if he’d though God’s judgement seemed a little excessive - what would he have done? Maybe bought an umbrella. Maybe made a small canoe.

You see, we also get the extent of our sin wrong. We think “I’m bad, but not so bad”. But we are a stench (horrible smell) in God’s nostrils.

Look at what sin, our sin, causes God to do: his anger is immense! God, who is good, he is the standard of good, shows what goodness must do when faced with our evil: blast it out of existence.
6:7 And the LORD said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing.
6:13 So God said to Noah, “I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence. Yes, I will wipe them all out along with the earth!
6:17 “Look! I am about to cover the earth with a flood that will destroy every living thing that breathes. Everything on earth will die

7:4 Seven days from now I will make the rains pour down on the earth. And it will rain for forty days and forty nights, until I have wiped from the earth all the living things I have created.”
7:21 All the living things on earth died—birds, domestic animals, wild animals, small animals that scurry along the ground, and all the people. 22 Everything that breathed and lived on dry land died. 23 God wiped out every living thing on the earth—people, livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and the birds of the sky. All were destroyed.

Do we really believe that we are so bad that the only true justice would be to wipe us out? I don’t. I don’t believe the word of God. I don’t have faith. Praise God that faith is a gift from him, that he can give me that saving faith to believe his Word! Just like Noah, who “found favour with the Lord” (6:8).

So, we need to trust God’s word that we are sinners. We need to trust God’s word that he is good and therefore will judge. And thirdly, we need to trust God’s word that He can save you. Not you. Because if we just believe the first two we will either despair – or we will try really really hard to placate God, calm him down, take away his anger. That’s what religion’s all about: giving God things or doing things to placate God.

But God’s word is clear. There is only one way to be saved.

In this story it was to build a HUGE BOAT, the Ark, in the middle of the desert, stock it full of food for a year, and wait.
For us, our Ark is Jesus. He carries us safely through the flood of judgement. He will deliver us safely home to the new Creation.

I’m sure there were others who sort of believed God. They saw Noah hammering away, building his ridiculous boat, and probably a few thought “what if he’s right?”
Maybe a few of them secretly built little boats, little insurance policies. A few probably said prayers to God, or offered him sacrifices to keep them safe. But they did not go to the Ark.
No, they tried their own way out. Their own little religion.

There are many people in our churches paddling their little canoes, sailing their little man made boats – self-made religion.

But what happened to all these boats? Were any of them prepared for the extent of the judgement? Look at 7:24 And the floodwaters covered the earth for 150 days. then 8:13 Noah was now 601 years old. On the first day of the new year, ten and a half months after the flood began, the floodwaters had almost dried up from the earth. Noah lifted back the covering of the boat and saw that the surface of the ground was drying. 14 Two more months went by, and at last the earth was dry!

12 and half months went by. Over a year! Was anyone ready for that? All their little canoes, their small boats...became little floating coffins full of dead bodies.

That is what we are like if we expect to survive the terrible blast of God’s righteous anger at the end of time. Do you really think your puny good works will be enough to withstand his fire?! Do you really believe that your little religion will be enough? Do you really trust that your efforts, your sacrifices, will be enough to shield you from the fiery furnace of God’s righteous judgement? If you do the Bible has a name for you: fool.

There is only one way to be saved. There is only one shield. There is only one who can absorb the righteous anger of God because he is the Perfect One, the one who died in our place, the one who paid the penalty for our sins, the Perfect Sacrifice, our Ark, our safe place, Jesus Christ the Son of God. Only God can defend us from God. No-one else is strong enough. Only faith in Christ is saving faith.

3. Only faith in Jesus Christ is saving faith

Because only Jesus is the righteous sacrifice provided by God at the right time. And only his sacrifice is sufficient to satisfy God’s wrath, because only his sacrifice is righteous, a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

We see a picture of that in 8:20-21. This is what Jesus does for us. Instead of the stink of our sin, we are covered by the pleasing aroma of the sacrifice.

8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and there he sacrificed as burnt offerings the animals and birds that had been approved for that purpose. 21 And the Lord was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things. 22 As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

The sacrifice, “approved for that purpose” released the covenant (promise) of life and protection from judgement from God.
Jesus, our sacrifice, “approved for that purpose” releases the covenant of life and protection from judgement for us.

It is only in Jesus Christ that our sins can be covered by his pleasing aroma. In him we can be proclaimed righteous. In him we can get a new heart, one that LOVES God, and therefore wants to obey him.

Noah was given such a heart. And so he had the faith which comes from a changed heart. We know that because he trusted God’s word. He believed God’s word about our sinfulness. He believed God’s word about the judgement to come. He believed that God could rescue him – that God could declare him righteous. And that changed his life. Because Noah had faith, Noah risked his life for God. His reputation (look at that idiot building a boat). His time (building the boat). His money (buying stuff to build the boat).

Dear friends, do we have faith like Noah – ordinary Christian faith? Is our life built on the Rock of Christ? Have we staked our reputation to his. Are we willing to give our time and money, everything we are, to the sake of the gospel, the good news about Jesus?

Are you paddling your own little boat – or are you in the Ark? Because only faith in Jesus Christ is saving faith.

søndag 3. november 2013

Genesis 6. Warning! Danger close!

Genesis 6.

It was a normal day at work. My Dad worked in an office block in Manchester at the time, and had gone to work as normal. It was an ordinary day.

But at 20 minutes to three in the afternoon, the sky went very dark, very suddenly. Rain was hammering down. The street lighting was still struggling to turn on, so quick was the darkness.

The wind picked up, howling with great force, and suddenly the windows panes were being battered by thousands of tiny stones. Everyone was afraid. Someone screamed really loudly. Some were crying, rocking back and forth in a foetal position. Suddenly someone shouted “Armageddon! The end of the world” and fled the building.

To my Dad and others in that office block and all around the city of Manchester it certainly seemed like it. As a young Christian – all of four months old – he was thrilled, THRILLED to see Jesus. Others were terrified. It obviously was not Jesus; but it was a freak windstorm which dumped tonnes of sand from the Sahara onto Manchester. But as my Dad writes in “Hey Dad, I missed ya like crazy”: “[It was only] twenty minutes… but for some, those twenty minutes of darkness were an eternity.
Supposing it really had been Jesus coming back in His power and glory?
May I ask a question? What would you do? Try to run? Scream? Sit, head in hand, rocking back and forth, wishing it would go away…?”

Today’s passage is about exactly this. Because judgement will come suddenly, swiftly, when we least expect it, in the middle of our ordinary lives, going about our ordinary business.
Life carries on,
Judgement comes suddenly
But there is hope – because there is a saviour

1. Life carries on

Chapter 5:1 to 6:8 is a bridge between the story of Adam and Eve and their descendants, and the story of Noah. With Adam and Eve we see humans living according to the word of God, humans disobeying the word of God, humans being judged by God, humans given hope and a future by God, even though they don’t deserve it. The story of Noah is the same. Humans disobeying God’s word. Humans judged by God. However, all is not lost, because God has given humans a hope and a future: he chose Noah to be the saviour.

So 5:1-6:4 summarise what has happened, and take us to Noah through the line of Mighty Men, and 6:5-8 are the introduction or movie trailer for the story of Noah and the Flood.

So chapter 5 to 6:4 (which is where the chapter division really should be!) sets the scene. People are being fruitful and multiplying, as God commanded. Some live for themselves, like Lamech (not Noah’s father, the other one in chapter 4) others are faithful and call upon the Lord (like Enoch) and indeed Lamech the father of Noah. He believes the word of God, hoping for the serpent crusher, and maybe, perhaps maybe his son is that serpent crusher. 5:29 Lamech named his son Noah, for he said, “May he bring us relief from our work and the painful labour of farming this ground that the Lord has cursed.” Maybe he can save us.

So, life then was pretty much like life today: people are getting married, having babies, sinning, being righteous...and hoping for a rescuer.

5:1 This is the written account of the descendants of Adam. When God created human beings, he made them to be like himself. 2 He created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them “human.”

At the beginning of chapter 5 the writer takes us back to Genesis 1. God created us in his image, male and female. Humans. Like God. In perfect relationship with Him. But, as we’ve seen, we throw away that privilege – being like God – for a cheap imitation: pretending to be God. We rebel against God. We taste death. But God, instead of destroying us, clothes us in animal skins and promises a rescue. The serpent crusher is coming (Gen 3:15).
After sin, death enters the world – but the first to taste death is not us, but some innocent animals in our place, as they are killed to cover our nakedness and shame: Adam and Eve are clothed with fur. God places the curse of death which they deserve on something, someone else. The seeds of the plot are in place... the plot which finally, finally reaches its resolution on the cross of Christ! The one who takes our place, the one who dies so that we can live.

So that is what God is looking towards, that is where the Plan is unfolding. So while we are waiting for Jesus people continue to live, plant cities and live there, farm the ground. As we saw last week, sin is increasing, brother murders brother, Lamech takes two wives and boasts of his revenge – but there is also repentance, there is a city of refuge – a place where murderers can be protected and receive life. As 4:26 says “people call on the name of the Lord”. Life goes on.

5:32 By the time Noah was 500 years old, he was the father of Shem, Ham, and Japheth. 6:1 Then the people began to multiply on the earth, and daughters were born to them. 2 The sons of God saw the beautiful women and took any they wanted as their wives. (lit: The sons of God saw that the daughters of men were good, and took them as their wives)

Chapter 5 began by reminding us of Genesis 2: that humans were made in God’s image by God. It then takes us through a list of 10 “mighty men” - heroes of old – what v4 calls the “Nephilim”. And ends in 6:1-4 by reminding us again of Gen 2 (creation of Man) - but also Gen 3 (Man’s Rebellion).

It does this by describing men as “sons of God” recalling how Adam was formed from the dirt by God, who breathed life into him. Women are described as the “daughters of men” recalling how Eve was formed from the rib of the man by God who breathed life into her. The sons of God (the Adam’s) marry the “daughters of men” (the Eve’s).[1]
Adam and Eve were joined together in marriage, something the Lord God, remember, called “very good”.
But here in an echo of chapter 3 it is not God who is saying this is very good – but the sons of God, the men. 6:2 “saw the beautiful women” is literally “saw that the women were good”. Like Eve and Adam with the fruit, they saw what they wanted and declared it good. And so humanity continues, looking and seeing and declaring “good” whatever our eyes fall upon and we want.

The world we live in is a mixture of Genesis 2 and Genesis 3: we have the perfection of creation, we have love and life and marriage and sex and babies and joy and laughter and the knowledge of God. But we also have rebellion against God, truth twisted to lies, murder, fighting, adultery, manipulation, sexual sin, gossip, backbiting, greed, and people using and abusing each other to get what they want.

In short, nothing much has changed. We are just like these people. And so God’s judgement upon them is frightening. As Jesus says in Matt 24:37 “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. 38 In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. 39 People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes.
Life goes on as normal - but

2. Judgement comes suddenly

There are two judgements in this chapter. The first is found in verse 3 when we hear God declaring that he will remove his Spirit from humanity. He is our source of life, the Spirit is the life-giver – and so immediately our life expectancy starts to drop.

3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with (or live within) humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years.”

To have the Spirit is to have life. No Spirit, no life. 900 years is ridiculous to our ears now – but not if the Holy Spirit is sustaining you! But now it seems that He withdraws and the life expectancy starts dropping dramatically. From 900 years on average – well, flip over to chapter 11 to see the huge drop in life expectancy. Noah was the last to live so long (he lived 950 years). His son Shem only 600. His son in turn only Arphaxad 438. Shelah 433, Eber 464. Then another drop as Peleg 239. Reu 239. Serug 230. Nahor, Abraham’s grandfather, only reaches 148! Abraham’s father Terah lives for probably 145 years, and Abraham himself lives 175 years (which in 25:8 is described as a “ripe old age” and “a long life”. Not compared to his ancestors! Already God’s limit is being reached. Anything more than 120 is miraculous! Isaac too lived 180 years by the grace of God, but Jacob only 147, and Joseph (the next great Patriarch)? He died at the age of 110 years. God’s judgement has fallen upon us.

And life is short. You hit 30 and you start feeling that pressure. I might not be able to achieve all I wanted to. There are dreams which are now impossible. There were plans and hopes that may not happen. Time is running out. It should drive us back to Him who is the source of all life. We need the Spirit of God to breathe life into us. Eternal life. And the Spirit is given only by Jesus. If you are in Christ then his Spirit is in you, and you will live forever. But if you are not in Christ then you will die forever, forever cut off from the Spirit of life, forever lost and without hope.

That is the first judgement.

And the second is worse. God has judged the whole world and it has fallen short. 5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

And so God acts: 6 So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart. 7 And the Lord said, “I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. Yes, and I will destroy every living thing—all the people, the large animals, the small animals that scurry along the ground, and even the birds of the sky. I am sorry I ever made them.”

What is the right thing to do with evil people? Arrest them. Try them before a judge. Find them guilty. Punish them. Doesn’t it make you mad when justice isn’t done? When a young lady is raped and the rapist gets community service? You feel the righteous anger rise up within you. Or when people are badly treated. So many children here living in two homes, or three. People hooking up then dumping each other – and the poor kids get shuttled around. How would you like to move every week between houses? And that’s only the ones who care! So many Dads are just absent. Abandoning their role as fathers and doing… well who knows what. So many hurting people.

And God looked upon this world and v6 it broke his heart. There is no easy answer to the suffering in this world, but one thing we cannot say is that God is distant and uncaring. He does not watch “from a distance” like that incredibly wrong song said. He is emotionally engaged with his people. He is near.

And already at this point we know, from 3:15, that he has the Cross in mind. The sins of this world, the evil things we do to each other – what you and I have done - they did break his heart, literally, as he hung on the cross, after giving that great cry “It is FINISHED” – his heart burst. He took it, took it upon himself. He is with us, right here in the blood and guts and suffering and harshness of life – and he bore it in his own body in order to rescue us.

And because he is a right and a just God, because he is a God of love who cares for his people: he pronounces the only right judgement: 7 I will wipe this human race I have created from the face of the earth. We do not deserve to live. We did not then. We do not now.

5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

This is our state as fallen human beings. We are in rebellion against God, and so even the “good” things we do are evil because they are done in rebellion against God. The Nazi mechanic repairing a tank was not spared in the attack because oh well, he’s doing a good thing (fixing machinery). The baseline is wrong. His good thing has an evil outcome. That’s why being good, being religious, is hopeless. Trying to impress God with your good works is simply running up to God and saying “I’m ignoring your words, ignoring your (costly) way of salvation – I’ve found my own. Accept me”.
Religion which is not based on grace, based only on His action to save us, based on crying out to God “Help me, I am a sinner, I cannot save myself” – any other form of religion is rebellion which just leads us farther away from God.

Unfortunately, that type of religion comes so easily to us. We want to justify ourselves, we want to earn our salvation, even suffer for it, go through great pain. Why? Because then God owes me – I have a hold on him. It’s the same old lie “you can be like God” just dressed up in different clothes, religious clothes. That’s why you get these non-Christian “pastors” and bishops and arch-bishops carrying on. That’s why we love the idea of “free will”, Oh I chose God. My heart reached out to him. There’s something good in me, I deserve to be saved. Do you? Read v5 again. 5 The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

(And if you’re tempted to say “well that was them before the flood, not like us today” read Rom 3:10 and following…. No-one seeks God, not even one).

The Lord looked into your heart and saw every thought was only evil all the time. He looked into my heart, and saw every thought was only evil all the time. Judgement is coming.

3. There is a saviour

We may be evil, but God is good, and still chooses to save. Look at Noah. Here in the story of Noah and the Flood it is Noah who’s been chosen to play the role of saviour. Just listen to the language used to describe him: 9 This is the account of Noah and his family. Noah was a righteous man, the only blameless person living on earth at the time, and he walked in close fellowship with God.

What we like to do with v9 is to use it to justify ourselves, our religion of Doing Good Things. We say: SEE! See! He was righteous – the only blameless person. 9 Noah was a righteous man He earned his salvation.
And if we do that, we haven’t learned to read. Most of us know that 8 comes before 9 – so why do we forget that here. Look at v8. What does it say? 8 But Noah found favour with the Lord.

He is righteous because God declares him righteous. Just like in Genesis 1: the word of God is what determines what is good and righteous and what is not. He is God. He decides. And so he declares Noah righteous, declares him saviour of the world: declares him to be the foreshadowing (looking forward) of His Son upon the Cross, saving the world.

Because Noah is not righteous. He was a sinner. The first thing he does after the flood is get drunk and is naked and ashamed – just like Adam and Eve. He’s not personally blameless and righteous: but Jesus is. And he’s playing the role of Jesus.

And more than that, he’s covered by the blood of Jesus. You see, God can look upon Noah, corrupt, violent and evil Noah, and declare him righteous because his sins have been placed upon his body on the Cross, and there paid for in full.

Noah is righteous in Christ. You are righteous in Christ – if indeed you are in Christ. And how do you know if you’re in Christ? Well, because you obey. You know him, You listen to his words. You love him.

God warns Noah, and Noah immediately listens and obeys. V22 So Noah did everything exactly as God had commanded him.

Noah obeys the word of God. Now, we already know he’s not perfect, not by a long way. He is a fallen sinner. But he “walks in close fellowship with God”. He knows his Father. He wants to obey him. And he’s willing to put his whole life on the line: money, time, energy, reputation – building a massive boat in the desert would have claimed all of these. It is costly to follow Christ. It is costly, it is hard, to obey his Word. But Oh, how much more costly to disobey, to rebel, to face his judgement and wrath. Repent, dear friends, we must repent and turn to Christ.

For life continues as it always has done. People get married, have babies, build cities and live in them. But God’s righteous judgement is hanging just above our heads, and suddenly all will be wiped out. Everything we held so dear, the great works we have built with our hands – will suddenly be washed away, reduced to nothing.

It is a stark warning to us. For we are just like the people in Noah’s day. Life goes on. But a Day is coming, it is set, when we will be tested by fire. And all that we have done will be burnt up – and only that which is done in the power and grace of our Lord Jesus will stand. Nothing else will remain.

We have been warned.

[1] There are other interpretations of this, like angels, great kings, or the “godly” line of Seth marrying into Cain’s line. These all have significant drawbacks.