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Faith that Condemns the World

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Introduction

Introduction

Context of Hebrews
In the context of the Book of Hebrews, we find the writer encouraging his readers to stand strong in the face of suffering and persecution. His thrust is that our certainty of the future will help us through the present. Each of the Old Testament saints that he mentions shows us a different aspect of this kind of faith and how it was instrumental in their perseverance.
“Don’t touch that, it’s hot”
One year when I was a kid our family was getting ready for a Christmas party at a neighbor’s house. I had been looking forward to it all day. It had snowed recently and there was still several inches on the ground – a lot for my hometown. My mother was making peanut brittle on the stove, which she did every year. It was my favorite Christmas candy. Of all the years I had eaten it, I had never seen how it was made. This year was my first to watch and I still remember with great awe as she poured cups of pure sugar into the saucepan to melt. The sight of that much sugar, I’m sure, made my eyes grow wider than ever. As I watched in sheer fascination my mother said, “son, don’t touch that, it’s really hot.” I remember hearing her say that. I think I even responded. But my wide eyes remained fixed. As she turned her attention away for just a moment, my hand started to hover over the pan until my finger swiped through the tasty-looking melted sugar for a sneaky bite.
I never knew there were so many home-remedies for second-degree burns until that night. As my tears began to subside and I took the stick of butter off the tip of my finger, it seemed it had grown half an inch in length from the rather large blister growing on the tip of it. The snow that I had expected to be a source of great fun took on a new purpose – pain relief. It was a sadly memorable evening.
Why do we do such stupid things? How is it that hearing and listening can be so far removed from each other? I heard the warning. I even believed it; at least I didn’t have any reason to doubt it. And yet my rational thought process never connected with my willful actions. This condition describes many people today when it comes to their belief in God. Most people believe that he’s there (it is hard to find a true atheist), and yet so few listen to what he says. Either we don’t believe what he says is really true or we don’t think what he says applies to us.
It was much the same in the time of Noah. Noah stood in stark contrast to the people around him. God spoke and Noah listened in a way that no one else did. As a result, he survived the flood.
Because God warns, we must listen. The writer of Hebrews invites us to look at the kind of faith that doesn’t just hear God, but listens too. It is a faith that fears God, condemns the world, and inherits righteousness.

I. Feared

The writer of Hebrews begins a lot like my own story with the melted sugar, with a warning.

7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.

“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household.”
A review - Faith supported by evidence
A review - Faith supported by evidence
The difference, however, is that Noah heeded the warning. The warning was that God was going to destroy the earth with a great flood. The key factor in his listening was what the writer calls “reverent fear.” It was fear that led to his faith. It is an element often missing from faith today. I want you to see how different this kind of faith is to what we looked at a few weeks ago. We say that it is faith that gives understanding of the universe. Back up in verse 3 we read that “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God.” This kind of faith is not without supporting evidence. As we look around at creation, exploring its complexity and majesty, we find that believing God created it provides us with the best explanation for it. While the writer draws our attention to the fact that our faith is in something unseen, the seen things support that faith.
Faith without evidence, motivated by fear
But when we come to Noah’s faith, we see a faith that isn’t supported by anything visible at all. God says he’s going to bring a flood to destroy the earth. But as Noah looks outside to try and find supporting evidence there isn’t any. From where would a flood come big enough to destroy the earth? It’s never happened before. The sun is still shining and people are going about their merry lives. () There has never been such a flood before. God’s warning was not just unsupported, but seems contrary to people’s experience. So what was it that caused Noah to believe in spite of the contrary evidence? His reverent fear.
God told Noah that he was going to destroy the earth for a reason. If you turn in your Bibles back to , starting in verse 5 we see the condition of the world,

5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. 6 And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 7 So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”
And we come to God’s warning to Noah in verse 13,
And we come to God’s warning to Noah in verse 13,
And we come to God’s warning to Noah in verse 13,

13 And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Two things leading to reverent fear
Two things leading to reverent fear
What led to reverent fear in Noah were two things: 1) that God is going to judge the evil in the world and 2) that people in the world are evil. These are the same two things that we must see today if we are going to understand reverent fear before God.
God will bring judgment
The first is that God’s judgment is inevitable. He must bring judgment. The purpose of judgment is to wipe out evil. Some want to argue that the God of the Old Testament is horrible because there is so much death and judgment. What they forget is that we all cry out for justice. When someone hurts you, does your heart not cry out for the wrong to be made right? We want a righteous judge. We need a righteous judge. Without justice, evil prospers. Tim Keller says it like this, if there is no judgment then we have no hope.
People are evil
The second is one is that people are evil. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t look out at the world and notice evil. Even the atheist Christopher Hitchens calls out evil in the world. The problem is not that we don’t see evil in the world, but that we don’t see how pervasive that evil actually is. We want to limit evil to specific acts. The events of 9/11 were evil. The holocaust was evil. Ethnic cleansing is evil. When we look at God’s description of the world, it is not actions that he points out. It is hearts. He describes the condition of everyman like this, “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Man’s heart as a whole is bent on evil. It isn’t just those who have done the really bad things, but you and me too. You must see that this is a shared heart condition and that no one is exempt from it. So we conclude, if there is a judgment then we have no hope.
So, if there is no judgment then we have no hope and if there is judgment then we have no hope. Like Noah we must regain real reverent fear.

II. Condemned

Noah’s faith was moved by reverent fear, we look to see what it did. He constructed an ark and as a result, condemned the world. That sounds like a harsh thing. We don’t like the word condemned. But it wasn’t that Noah went around telling everyone that they’re going to hell. What it says more specifically is that he constructed an ark. It must have seemed like a silly thing to do. Where was the rain? In fact, the Scriptures seem to imply that it had never rained before at all (Back in when the creation is being described we read in verses 5-6, “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground”), making it even more of a crazy thing to do.
To put it in perspective, the ark would It stretched from the Sanctuary nearly to the far side of the property. Can you imagine seeing someone building a boat, without motor, oars, or sail, in the middle of our parking lot? It would certainly get people’s attention. You couldn’t miss it! People would be confronted with two choices – listen to Noah and join him on the ark, or roll their eyes and stay away from the crazy man.
Do people ever say that about you? Is your faith in Christ so evident that people can’t miss it? I admit, that’s a hard place to be. There is such a great pressure – especially in a place like Katy – to conform to the way of life that surrounds us. To value the things the people around us value and live the way people around us live, and yet somehow convince ourselves that we’re okay because we still believe in God.
How do you live like Noah did? How do we let our faith in God lead us to live in such a way that people know that God is real and that a judgment is coming?
“Leap of Faith” or not?
Some people have called it a “leap of faith.” What Noah did wasn’t built on visible evidence. In fact, it seemed to be contrary to everyday experience. But the “leap of faith” isn’t a leap. It’s a logical step. The universe confirms our faith in God as it continues to show itself consistent with a grand designer. We understand by faith. But if we believe in God, the next logical step seeks to find out about this God – to seek him out. We saw in our first look at faith in Hebrews that faith in God leads to understanding. In the next look we saw that if God really exists, then it makes sense to seek him out; to find out, is there more we can know beyond his creation? Does he speak to us? Does he reveal himself? And if we indeed find that he can be found – not just found, but walked with – then hearing what he has to say has significance. When God speaks we are hearing from the designer of the universe, the one who has all of the answers regarding the mysteries of life. How should we treat what he has to say? Just like one among many nuggets of advice? Should we weigh God’s words and obey only when we can see the benefit in them?
Examples: purity, pro-life, parent-discipleship
Let me give you a practical example.
The Bible tells us to keep the marriage bed pure. But when you look at our culture (including those who claim to be Christian) you find promiscuity and pornography to be commonplace. There is little regard for this word from God. Teenagers choosing to remain pure set themselves up to be ridiculed and perhaps even rejected.
The Bible tells us to defend the helpless and seek justice for the oppressed and yet abortion is rampant and the poor are marginalized. There is little regard for this word from God.
People who stand up for the rights of the unborn are painted as women-haters.
The bible tells us that parents are to raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. We try to do that here by encouraging parents to take back the primary role of discipling their children. But people don’t like that. It’s hard and it is much more comfortable to go find someone that will take that role off their hands, like a youth worker. We’ve put that message out there and, as a result, have seen some families shy away from joining us because they wanted someone else to do it.
The ark was visible, so to speak, and reminded them of their other choice. Choosing to remain pure in the case of a teenager; choosing to stand up for the unborn in the case of a politician; choosing to promote parents as disciplers of their children in the case of the church are all good things. But to a world that doesn’t want to hear those choices it speaks condemnation. Faith that condemns the world is simply faith in action – obedience to God’s Word – that stands out like an ark in the desert. Does your faith stand out like that? Where do you find the pressure of culture pulling you away from the Word of God?

III. Became

So how do you get this kind of faith? Reverent fear isn’t enough by itself. The text tells us that Noah feared God and obeyed God. But it says something else even more crucial.
Became an heir
It says Noah became an heir of righteousness. That means he did nothing to earn it. Noah’s heart was no different from those judged in the flood. After the flood, when the only people remaining are Noah and his family, God says in ,

“I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.

In other words, Noah wasn’t exempt from God’s description of mankind. His heart was evil too. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, Noah became an heir of righteousness. Do you know what an heir is? An heir is someone who gets from someone else something he didn’t deserve. Let me give you an example. The wealthiest woman in the Netherlands is a woman named Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, who is worth more than $7 billion dollars. She didn’t earn it. She inherited it from her father, Alfred Heineken. Not only did she inherit his wealth, but also his premium beer business!
In other words, Noah wasn’t exempt from God’s description of mankind. His heart was evil too. As the writer of Hebrews tells us, Noah became an heir of righteousness. Do you know what an heir is? An heir is someone who gets from someone else something he didn’t deserve. Let me give you an example. The wealthiest woman in the Netherlands is a woman named Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken, who is worth more than $7 billion dollars. She didn’t earn it. She inherited it from her father, Alfred Heineken. Not only did she inherit his wealth, but also his premium beer business!
Why did Noah inherit righteousness?
Noah inherited righteousness that allowed him to stand before God. He didn’t earn it because his heart was evil. Why did he inherit it? He inherited it because of two things: 1) God found favor with Noah. 2) He got into the ark. In so doing, Noah became an example for all of us.
How can you inherit righteousness?
You see, the flood didn’t fix the condition of men’s hearts. As we read, the condition of man’s heart after the flood was no different from before. God goes on to say,

11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

When God promises not to destroy the earth again he doesn’t say it is because the problem is fixed – it clearly isn’t. He also doesn’t say that he won’t bring judgment again. He simply says it won’t be by flood. The judgment of God is still to come. It is a judgment that the flood only typifies. It will be just and it will be great. How can you get through it? Like Noah, you must find favor with God and get into the “ark” that will get you through it. The real ark isn’t wood. It’s flesh. The ark that will get you through God’s judgment is Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

How about you?
Have you found favor with God? Here’s how you can know if you’ve found favor. The favor Noah found with God manifested itself in the form of a warning. “Noah, a flood is coming. Build an ark.” Is God speaking to your heart? Are you hearing him when he says, “there’s a flood coming. It’s waters are going to sweep everything away.”
Have you gotten into the ark? Have you put your faith in Christ? Have you put your faith in Christ in such a way that the world sees the way you live and listens to the words you speak and sees their own condemnation coming? We live in a day when the door of the ark is open. God is calling to come inside. But a day is coming when God himself will close the door and all who are not inside will be swept away in God’s judgment. Where are you? Are you inside? Have you put your faith squarely in Christ? Like Noah we must be moved by reverent fear.
Thomas Manton, a puritan preacher, said it like this.
This is the difference between the godly and the wicked; the one trembles at the judgment, the other trembles at the threatenings - ' He trembles at the word,' (Is 66:2). Wicked men do not consider the threatening, till, by all circumstances of providence, it is ready to be accomplished. The wicked tremble in hell, or at the hour of death; but the godly tremble in the church at the word of God. So did those in Noah's time, when they ran from the bottom of houses to the top, from thence to trees, from trees to mountains, but Noah trembled when God did but speak of these things. (Thomas Manton, Sermon 36 from Sermons on Hebrews.)
[1]
[2] Back in when the creation is being described we read in verses 5-6, “When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground—”
[3] Thomas Manton, Sermon 36 from Sermons on Hebrews.
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