A Call To Commitment
Pastor Darden Caylor
In honor of the Winter Olympics, we'll be having our traditional "opening ceremonies party" at our house, to which, you are all invited. And even if you don't care about the Olympics, we'd still love to have you join us, since it's really just an excuse to get together and celebrate the life that God has given us.
In fact, honestly, I'm not that interested in the Olympics. Sure, I'll watch them if they are on, but it's not something I'd turn on myself; because I'm just not that interested in bobsledding, curling, downhill skiing, figure skating, luge, skeleton, snow boarding, speed skating, or dare I say it, hockey. I just don't care that much those sport; but I will watch ski jumping.
That's a sport I kind of enjoy watching. Though I'm not entirely certain why, I think it has something to do with the commitment of the jumper. After all, unlike the athletes in every other winter Olympic sport, once a run has begun, a ski jumper cannot stop.
I even searched the internet for videos and information on how a ski jumper could stop before a jump, and I couldn't find anything, because it simply doesn't happen.
In a sense, it's like skydiving. Once you start, the only thing that can stop you is the ground below. As a result, the ski jumper has to be fully committed before starting their run, because once they've started they are all in.
Though a skater could stop their routine, hockey players could pull themselves out of a game, or even a bobsled team could stop their run if with the pull of a hand brake, the ski jumper, has no such option. Once they start moving down the ramp, they're all in. They couldn't stop if they wanted to, so they must be fully committed before they start; and when it comes to our faith God calls us to have the same kind of commitment.
God calls Noah to be totally sold out for him. Totally dedicated to his service. Totally given to his glory, as we see in today's passage; and God expects the same of us. In fact, Jesus said if a person wants to be his disciple they must take up their cross and follow him, indicating a life of total, radical commitment to him. That’s what God expected of Noah, just as he expects of us today.
God calls us to be fully committed to him, not as a requirement of salvation, but as a result, because of his promise to save us. Just as he did with Noah.
If you recall, verse 9 told us that "Noah was a righteous man." Moses, who authored the book of Genesis supports this claim with two details. The first is that Noah was "blameless in his generation."
It's important to note, that Moses, did not claim Noah was blameless before God. He later says that God called Noah "righteous," but "blameless" it refers to the way he lived his life among others. He wasn't perfect, but amid the corruption and violence that filled the earth according to verse 11, Noah was righteous or good, "in his generation." Comparatively, he was blameless. Why? Because he walked with God. More accurately, God walked with him.
While it's no doubt Noah participated in the relationship, meaning he was faithful, devoted and true, the statement "Noah walked with God," like the previous time it was used of Enoch, implies that God has condescended to walk with his people.
It relates back to Genesis 3:8 which talks about God walking through the garden where Adam and Eve lived, implying that God is the one who does the approaching in our relationships with him.
Noah was "blameless in his generation," or among his people because he walked with God and maintained a close relationship with him. That's why God promised to save him.
Noah was fully committed in his faith. He was wholeheartedly willing to trust God and do whatever he was called to do. While today's text doesn't give all the details, Genesis 6:22 and 7:5, tells us that "Noah did all that God commanded him to do." He demonstrated faith.
You may recall, the author of Hebrews reference to this faith, in Hebrews 11:7, where he wrote, "By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household." This just a few vs after explaining that, "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen."[i] I.e. faith is believing.
We see Noah's faith not just in his obedience, but also in the fact that God declared him righteous in verse 7:1.[ii] It would seem that just as he would do with Abraham many years later, so too God does with Noah. He counts Noah's belief as righteousness.[iii] He saves Noah's through his faith.
As Paul explained many years later in his letter to the church in Ephesus, we're saved by grace through faith.[iv] In last week's passage we read that Noah found "favor" God's eyes. "Favor" being another word for grace. Grace is God's unearned favor. Therefore, despite how it seems, God didn't save Noah because of his works. He save him by grace through faith as he does with us.
God doesn't save us because we have faith in him. He saves us because he is merciful and gracious. He saves us through our faith that demonstrates our belief and trust in him.
What's more, it's is because of our faith that we obey him. .
God call us to be fully committed in our obedience.
In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a 1st faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.”
That's the reason Noah, "did all that God commanded." He trusted and believed. His obedience was evidence of his faith.[v]
To be sure, the Bible never really mentions faith absent obedience.[vi] Rather, it treats them as opposite sides of the same coin. Whether explicitly mentioned, or implicitly demonstrated, the two are always linked together. To have faith in God is to trust him, and indeed, love him enough to obey.
While it's true that people can be compelled to obey out of fear, such obedience never lasts; because obedience out of fear leads to resentment. It leads to bitterness toward the one who is feared. Like guilt, fear might produce a desired response for a while, but it is not endlessly sustainable. Inevitably, such obedience will fail; and ultimately, it's not what God wants of us.
In his book, Transforming Grace, Jerry Bridges explains: "There is no question that obedience to God’s commands prompted by fear or merit-seeking is not true obedience. The only obedience acceptable to God is constrained and impelled by love, because “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). God’s law as revealed in His Word prescribes our duty, but love provides the correct motive for obedience. We obey God’s law, not to be loved, but because we are loved in Christ."
After all, when Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he didn't reply, "Obey God." He replied, "Love God." The greatest thing we can do as Christians, is love God; and while it is true that he later said, "If you love God you will do what he commands," his point, is that obedience flows from love, which itself flows from our faith in the 1 who loves us.
In that sense then, we too are responsible to do all that God commands, and was must depend upon his Spirit to do so.[vii] For we cannot do it alone, so we must obey by the power of his Spirit, because our daily experience of his love depends on it.
It's not that our obedience is a condition of God's love. That would be legalism. Nevertheless, our ability to experience the fullness of his love depends on our willingness to obey what he commands,[viii] and give up our sins of bitterness, greed, envy, etc.
After all, when we hold on to such things, they take our focus off God. Like turning off a football game in frustration when you're team is losing, only to learn the next day they won. I did that when TX won the national championship many years back.
That's what sin does with our experience of God's love. It shifts our focus to itself; and it interferes with our reception of it, the way severe weather used to interfere with TV reception before TV went digital. Sin makes us feel disconnected. It keeps us from loving God and fully experiencing his love for us.
IN contrast, A.W. Tozer explains, “If we cooperate with Him in loving obedience, God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Xian life and a life radiant with the light of His face.” [ix]
Nevertheless, "We must not think that obedience leads to an easier life, nor should we assume that when things fall apart it is always a sign of our specific disobedience – God’s ways with us in the Christian life are usually much more intricate and complex than that!" Just as we see in the life of Noah.
As we discussed in community group last week, Noah's life certainly didn't get easier because of his walk with God. On the contrary. It required a great deal of sacrifice for him to do so., because that's another aspect of being fully committed go God. Sacrifice.
Just consider how much time, energy, and resources Noah devoted to building the ark. Though few specifics are given concerning what went in to build it, there are a few things we can glean from the passage.
E.g. Since it's believed that a cubit was about 18 inches, we know that the ark was about 450 feet long, 75 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Suffice to say, it was a big boat; and though some people argue that Noah may have had help building it, even if that is true, it still would have been a daunting task, with nothing but hand tools.
What's more, it would've been an equally daunting task, collecting and herding all the animals.
Besides that, considering the fact that the wickedness, evil, and sin was so great on the earth that God felt it best to wipe it out, it's difficult to imagine any scenario where those around Noah, other than his family, were willing to help him. After all, if indeed, the "wickedness of man" was so "great" that "every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," as Genesis 6:5 claimed, then helping a neighbor would have been the last thing on their mind.
More likely, they abused and mocked him for his massive endeavor, not to mention his faith in a God they could not see did not revere. As a result, there is no doubt Noah sacrificed a lot to obey God, which is exactly what we are called to do.
Of course, when we talk about sacrifice, our hearts, which are often sacrifice averse, are quick to recall passages like Psalms 40:6, Proverbs 21:3; Hosea 6:6, or Mark12:33 which seem to say that isn't interested in our sacrifice, but in our mercy, compassion, and love. I.e. he's more interested in our obedience, which is true. However, before we get to comfortable with this claim, we must consider what that really means.
Indeed, it is true that God desires our obedience more than our sacrifice, after all, had Adam and Eve obeyed, there'd be no need for sacrifice. So clearly, obedience stemming from love is what God always wanted. But since man's obedience is marred by our failures to do so, sacrifice was still required.
Of course, Jesus took care of that for us through his perfect obedience and sacrificial death, meaning we no longer HAVE TO sacrifice to earn his forgiveness, we just have to love him. However, in doing so, we still must sacrifice.
After all, what is a sacrifice? It's nothing more than giving up something important to us, for someone or something else. Though sacrifices in the Old Testament were things like animals or the 1st fruits of crops, from the New Testament on, it's our lives. For the fact is, any time we chose to do one thing, we give up doing another.
E.g. If I am driving down a road and I come to a stop sign at a "T" intersection, I have a choice, I can either go right or I can go left, but I cannot go both directions. OF course, one might argue that I could first go right and then turn around and go the other way, but even so, in doing so, I am choosing one over the other and thus, sacrificing the option of the one that I do not choose.
That's how it is with sin and obedience. Every day we have to make multiple decisions about whether we will obey C or not. If we chose sin, we are sacrificing our obedience to Christ. If we chose obedience, we are sacrificing our sin. Either way we must make a choice that requires us to sacrifice something.
God calls his people to be fully committed to him, and that commitment requires sacrifice. A sacrifice of pride for humility, bitterness for forgiveness, greed for generosity, and self for Christ.
[i] Hebrews 11:1
[ii] See also Genesis 6:9
[iii] Romans 4:3; Galatians 3:6; James 2:23
[iv] Ephesians 2:8-10
[v] Piper, John, Brothers We Are Not Professionals, 110
[vi] Tozer, A.W., Leadership
[vii] Jerry Bridges Trusting G, 1988, p. 197.
[viii] Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness, 154
[ix] A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God