“A Counter-Cultural Faith” – Genesis 6 (sermon audio/notes)

This is message #2 in our present teaching series, The Faith FULL Life.

Here are the notes:

In our present sermon series, we are talking about what it would be like for us to live lives that were FULL of faith in God’s faithfulness, having a God-awareness at all times. The Bible calls this walking with God, knowing that he is with us and for us. This is what Noah desperately needed to know in Genesis 6. The same is going to be true for us, especially when we feel ourselves running on spiritual fumes. That is why the purpose of this sermon series is for us to fuel up on trusting God. So, let’s get ready for Genesis 6. But first, let me pray for us.

Chameleons are fascinating creatures. The Oxford dictionary defines a chameleon as “a small, slow-moving Old World lizard with a prehensile tail, long extensible tongue, protruding eyes that rotate independently, and a highly developed ability to change color.” It is a chameleon’s ability to change color that I find so amazing. Regardless of their surrounding environment, they are able to blend in. Rather than stand out, they can hide.

We can totally relate to chameleons can’t we? As disciples of Jesus, we’ve all felt the pressure to blend in to our cultural surroundings, whether in the dorms or on a date. We can all be tempted to play the cultural chameleon in the workplace, in civic clubs, or on a junior high sleep over.

What if being a disciple of Jesus calls us to abandon our chameleon tendencies? What if living by faith in the wisdom and ways of God requires us at times to stand out, even if standing out is socially and emotionally uncomfortable, vocationally risky and in some contexts, physically dangerous? Are we willing to not change colors, but to wear God’s truth and grace – following Jesus’ Lordship, everywhere, at all times, in all environments?

Don’t answer too quickly. Remember, it was Peter, Jesus’ right hand man who said, “I’ll never betray you, Jesus!” And then, just hours later. Face-plant! I want to emphasize that living with a full faith is not something that is the result of merely trying harder or being more committed. What fuels our “faith tank” is not our faithfulness to God, but his faithfulness to us. This is why everything changed for men like Peter after Jesus’ resurrection, when they finally understood the eternally redemptive implications of the cross.

What I want to do in this message is to challenge the cultural chameleon in all of us. In other words, I want us to consider what it will look like for us to live a counter-cultural faith, where we will stand out, and in standing out, make a difference.

In Genesis 6, rather than live as a cultural chameleon, God called Noah to stand out among his peers. By the way, Noah was a real man, and the events surrounding his life as recorded in the Bible are real history, not a myth or allegory. It is granted that the events in our passage took place a long time ago, just before the flood. Not just a flood, but this is the flood, the global, cataclysmic flood that covered the earth and destroyed all life upon it, except that which swam in the sea or was saved on the ark. Some of you may be tempted to check out, thinking that Noah and the flood is just an archaic legend. However, not only did Jesus and the apostle Peter considered Noah and the flood  historical, but modern archaeological and geological scientific evidence supports the biblical account of a massive, devastating ancient flood. For a survey of the evidence, you can check out a recent post on my blog.

But our focus today is not proving the historical veracity of the flood, but to learn about a counter-cultural faith from Genesis 6. The first thing I want us to see is…

I. The Cultural Context of Noah’s Day (vv. 1-7)

1 When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” [By the way, we are not sure whether this 120 years refers to a shortened life expectancy, or the years until the flood would come – both are possible meanings, although I lean toward the later] 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward [The name Nephilim is a direct transliteration of the Hebrew word, and is often translated as “fallen ones” or “giants.”] —when the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown. [not an ethical evaluation, but stating their fame.] 5 The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. 6 The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. 7 So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.”

There are some issues in these verses that theologians have been debating for a long time. For example, who were the “sons of God” and “daughters of men?” What about the Nephilim, these “heroes of old, men of renown?” Although conclusive evidence is elusive, it is my opinion that these sons of God and Nephilim were men in positions of power who, while possibly under the influence of or under possession of fallen angels, or demons, were driven by an intense sexual lust that drove them to see women merely as objects who existed to fulfill their sensual appetites.

The original, literal Hebrew text in verse 2 reads, “these men took [a violent word that means ‘grasp’ or ‘sieze’] as their wives any they chose.” If marriage is good, why did this provoke the Lord to anger in verse 3? Because I don’t think the “marriages” were consensual. What is taking place is a culturally accepted sexual exploitation of women. The text indicates that men just grabbed women for sexual conquest – any those chose. Furthermore, in verse 4 we read that these powerful, lust filled men “went to the daughters of men and had children by them.” This is not celebrating the desire of a man to marry, settle down and raise a family. These men wanted to prove their manliness, not by sacrificially loving one woman, but by impregnating as many as he could, thus “proving” their manhood. This is not romantic, marital love, but more alone the lines of culturally institutionalized rape, which is the reason why verse 7 is the tipping point for a deluge of judgement be sent to cleanse the earth of such insidious defilement.

Can you see how our day is remarkably similar to Noah’s day? A culture in which the daughters of men are not viewed as treasures to value and love, but as objects to use for sexual gratification. If the internet had been available in Noah’s day, I have no doubt that pornography in its many horrid forms would have been as much of a plague then as it is today. And no one is immune. We’ve all been affected to some degree.

What might be most troubling is that studies are revealing how even pre-teen boys and girls are suffering the effects. Even the lyrics of good natured country music, with fun catchy tunes, contribute to this exploitation. I found myself singing along one afternoon, “Hey girl, shake it for me girl, in the back of my truck girl, down by the river in the moonlight, girl.” He doesn’t even call her by name. Shake it for me. Gratify me. This is sexual exploitation. It is the dehumanization of women, just like in Noah’s day.

And it is so pervasive, that women are being training to accept it, and from a very young age. Apparently, it is now commonplace for twelve-year-old boys to text girls asking them to send naked photos of themselves via text. One pre-teen girl interviewed said, “How do you say no without hurting his feelings?”

If we can see how our cultural context is shockingly similar to Noah’s, then we will be prepared to learn from his example of walking by faith. After all, it was into a grievously wicked cultural context that Noah was called to live and raise a family, which is why we need to see, secondly…

II. The Counter-Cultural Call of Faith (vv. 8-14)

8 But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. 9 This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God. 10 Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth. 11 Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood [Actually, we are not sure what kind of wood it was. The literal Hebrew is go’pher, which, again, is just a transliteration of the Hebrew, not the cute little animal.]; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out. 15 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet high. 16 Make a roof for it and finish the ark to within 18 inches of the top. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.

For the sake of time, we are not going to read the entire account. Nevertheless, Noah’s neighbors would have considered him a religious nut. Crazy. While we are not sure whether or not it had rained yet in the pre-deluvian world, we know that it would have been beyond presumption for anyone to build a massive boat on dry land, far from a major water source. And this building project was based merely on the word of God that one day he would send a flood to cleanse the earth.

While scholars debate how long it took Noah and his family to build the ark, we can estimate that it most likely was somewhere between 55 and 75 years.[v] Imagine, day after day, they would be cutting trees, fashioning boards, sawing, straining. No cranes. No power saws or drills. It must have been back-breaking work. All the while, Noah would maintain his position, “The Lord told me that a flood is coming and to build this boat,” only to have weeks, months, years, and decades go by. “A flood, Noah. Really? Isn’t it time to put up the hammer and join us down at the lodge?”

I’m sure there were days when Noah was tempted to join the others. Rather than being called names, ridiculed and scorned, I’m sure he wanted to play the chameleon and just blend in. But the Lord had called him to believe, and to live by that faith. Noah wasn’t to be a follower of cultural wisdom and expectations, but to be a follower of God’s word.

The same is true for all of us who are disciples of Jesus. We are called to follow him even in the face of a culture that pressures us to fit in with name calling and law suits, shaming and intimidation. This is where this passage gets personal and practical, as we now have to discuss…

III. The Decisions We All Face (v. 22)

22 Noah did everything just as God commanded him.

It may be helpful to pause here for a minute to recognize just how staggering this statement is? We may think, “Oh, it was easy for Noah. I mean, he’s… Noah. He has been in Bible movies. And it was easier to follow God back then, anyway. There were not as many temptations or pressures. Right?” Actually, I think we have already discovered just how similar our moral worlds are. We have new technologies. But the inclinations of the heart are the same, as are the pressures to hide from being considered a backward, ignorant, religious nut.

Of course, all of the ridicule and derision Noah would have faced from his critics would turn to cries for help when his neighbors realized that Noah had been right all along.

This should encourage us when making our own counter-cultural decisions, whether we are facing pressure from friends in middle school or from a boss in middle management.

What IS God calling you to do that is counter-cultural?

  • Maybe it is the way you have decided to raise your kids, or what you have decided to teach your children that runs contrary to cultural demands or expectations.
  • Maybe God is calling you to slay the dragon of pornography in your life. For many if not most men, this will mean at least installing accountability and blocking software on your computer and mobile devices. One tool that I would suggest is 3Xwatch by xxxchurch.com. An indispensable tool for your home is called Circle by Disney. Just google it. I can’t imagine our home without it. If you find yourself addicted, know that the roots of any addiction run deep and need more than external solutions such as content filters and blockers. Nevertheless, a first step for some of us, like an alcoholic removing liquor from the house, will be to begin slaying the dragon by dismantling our ability to access it. By the grace of God, we must turn the tide by fighting this plague. It’s not just about us individually, it is about our children and the next generation of marriages that could be utterly destroyed by pornography if we do not act. That action requires a first step.
  • We can also be counter-cultural by engaging in cultural conversations where we uphold freedom of speech, not only for ourselves, but for others, so that we can listen to and rightly understand the views of others, and respond with reason and civility, rather than the worldly tactics of shaming and intimidation. Remember Noah. If you are living a counter-cultural faith, the cultural masses are not usually going to agree with your religious, social or political views. So rather than either just yelling louder or being a chameleon and hiding, let’s take the approach that Peter commends in 1 Peter 3:15, when he instructs us to engage our critics with “gentleness and respect.”[vii] That’s how to have a counter-cultural conversation. Not to win. Not to shame. Not to intimidate, but to listen and understand, and then to communicate with reason and civility.

We are able to engage this way because our goal isn’t to prove our rightness, but to live out our ultimate counter-cultural distinctive– which is grace.

IV. The Grace That We All Need (v. 8)

The most significant verse in this entire account may be verse 8. I skimmed over it on purpose earlier, because I want us to feel its impact. Verse 8 says, But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

The Hebrew word for “favor” is ḥēn (חֵן). Guess how this word is translated elsewhere in the OT? Grace! The idea is that the one who receives this gracious disposition of God, this favor, does so without merit. This ḥēn is a gift. It is not earned or deserved.

What most distinguishes Noah from his contemporaries is that he had received the unmerited favor of grace. I’m convinced that is a primary factor that influenced his outward life of righteousness. In other words, Noah shows us is that the power to live by an unwavering faith is rooted in being the recipient of unconditional grace.

Through the flood, God’s purpose was to release justice upon the earth. Yet he provided – God provided – a way of rescue for Noah and his family. That rescue was an ark.

Our ark is Jesus, who upon a cross willingly perished in the floodwaters of judgement so that we could experience the outpouring of his mercy. Through the blood of Jesus, we who are deserving of the same judgement that came upon Noah’s generation – we can be cleansed and forgiven of the most insidious sexual defilement.

In Noah’s day, the door of rescue closed. Today it remains open. So, in the name of Jesus, let me invite you to enter the ark of grace today, by looking to Jesus as your sin-bearing Savior. If you are ready to enter now, then let me ask you to pray with me as we close

Prayer. Father, we confess the insidiousness of our sin before your perfect law. We also come now to reaffirm our faith in your indescribable mercy, where you gave Jesus to endure our judgement. May we now, with full abandon, now give ourselves to the one who gave himself for us, asking that we would live a counter-cultural faith, for your glory and our joy. For we pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.

 

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