- Love and Liberty
As The Days Of Noah
The Lord Jesus said: “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.”
As the days of Noah were, so would be the days prior to the Lord’s return. The world was in a state of shameless depravity. For centuries God’s Spirit had been striving with men, but they had been resisting God’s call. They scoffed at God. They were content with living in sin. The result was God’s judgment. God’s grief led to his decision to destroy mankind. Only one hundred and twenty more years and God would act.
This is how things were before God acted in judgment. This is how they are now, and we are expecting that God is soon going to act again. The result then was the Great Flood. God was grieved, and he regretted that he had made mankind. What a statement. God’s heart ached over the wickedness of mankind. He had created human life and now he was going to destroy it. Calvinism teaches that God was not really grieving, it is only a figure of speech, so in truth, God was not emotionally affected. Though the Bible says that God grieves, gets angry, has compassion, experiences joy, etc., the influence of Greek paganism has led people to teach that God is immutable (1) and impassible (2), but neither of these concepts are scriptural. Some say God knew all along that mankind was going to collectively rebel; if so, why did God call his creation “good” in the beginning? Why wasn’t God grieving all along instead of just now in the narrative? Many Christians rightly say that the condition of mankind as a whole did not exist to be known at the beginning of Creation (though of course God knew the possibility), that God moves along with us in time, that God saw the wickedness of man as it happened, and he truly grieved and regretted creating mankind. How dare we believe what the Bible actually says, that God was experiencing genuine grief.
Mankind was going to be destroyed, but Noah “found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” How does a man find grace in the eyes of the Lord? How does a person come into God’s favor?
“Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” (James 4:4-10)
The proud are those whose hearts are lifted up toward God and man. The humble man is willing to take his proper place before God. He is willing to submit to God and live life under his authority. Hebrews 11:7 tells us of the faith of Noah:
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house;”
We see that faith is no mere intellectual assent to the words of God, but obedience to the words of God. Noah heard the truth, he believed the truth, and he obeyed the truth. Noah was a faithful man. He was “a just man and perfect in his generations” and he “walked with God”. He was “without blemish” in a morally corrupt world. He was blameless - there was nothing in his life that would cause people to find fault in him.
Noah was a righteous man, but everywhere else God looked he saw immorality. God was going to destroy mankind, but through Noah, God revealed his plan to offer a way of escape to all. Noah was to build an ark and offer a way of escape from the coming judgment that doomed that generation. God’s Word, his message, his generous offer, was rejected. Many are doing the same today.
Being in the ark reminds us of what it means to be “in Christ.” Those who answer the call and commit to Christ, are shut in Christ, and the person that abides in Christ is secure in Christ. Jude wrote: “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” Only the person that is abiding in Christ is safe. Only Christians are secure.
What is a Christian?
When the rich young ruler asked the Lord what he needed to do to be saved, the Lord didn’t tell him to just say a prayer or accept forgiveness or accept salvation; he said you must follow me. He was called to surrender his life to Christ.
The most frequently used invitation of the Lord Jesus is found in the simple words: “Follow me.” Some have tried to remove the demands of the Lord for salvation out of the gospel. Is it any wonder the Lord gave us the warning recorded in Matthew 7:13-14?
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
Few there be that find it. Satan has been spreading his destructive lie that men can do what is right in their own eyes and live in rebellion against the commands of the Lord, and yet be saved, because Christ died. The Bible warns us that in the last days, in their teaching, people will be turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, using God’s grace as a license to sin, using God’s grace as a covering for their immorality, and they are going to be condemned (Jude 1:4).
There can be no following without a forsaking.
To follow Christ is to renounce all lesser loyalties. In the days when he was walking the earth in the flesh, this meant a literal abandonment of home and work. Simon and Andrew left their nets and followed him. James and John left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him. Matthew left everything and rose and followed him. Today, the Lord still says, “follow me”, and adds, “whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Some people try to soften this demand of the Lord by making a distinction between a Christian and a disciple. You can be saved, some say, but not a follower. You can have the Lord’s salvation without being a disciple. The disciples are a higher tier of Christian, they say. The Lord Jesus laid down his condition in the incident with the rich young ruler, and it lines up with his other words: “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.” This doesn’t mean for the majority of Christians that they must literally leave their home or job, but it does imply an inner surrender of both, and a refusal to allow sin, or self, or even family to occupy the first place in our lives.
There must be a renunciation of sin.
We cannot follow Christ without forsaking sin, for whosoever practices sin is the servant of sin. Repentance is a definite turning to the Lord, from our sinning. In the apostate days in which we live, some critics say: “Well, no one can ever turn from their sins, no one can ever stop sinning.” It is true that none of us ever come to the point where we are above giving in to temptation, but the Bible also says:
“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
Many professing Christians flatly reject this word from God for their sin-excusing theology. People do not believe the Word as they claim to believe it; they believe what suits them and they explain the other parts away. I challenge anyone to name the sin he or she cannot forsake. No? This shows that people allow theological theories to override the truthfulness of the Word of God.
The Lord Jesus told two people that had an encounter with him to “go and sin no more.” Who is willing to say the “can’t help but sin” theology is true, and the Lord mocked us all with this directive? I know I’m not.
John wrote: “He that abideth in Christ sinneth not.” Again, this doesn’t mean that Christians become incapable of sinning, or that it is impossible for us to give in to temptation, but it means what it says – he that is abiding in Christ is not sinning. We may lack knowledge and may make mistakes (go here to read how all sins are committed willfully), but this is not sinning against God. God holds us accountable to the light we have. Knowledge is a requirement of moral obligation (James 4:17). Sin is an intentional act where we choose self-gratification over obedience to God. I have been guilty of sin in my life when I have done this. To my shame, I have done this since I first yielded to Christ many years ago, but it wasn’t inevitable, it was a selfish choice. Repentance was necessary, for if I had persisted in the sin, I could’ve become a hardened apostate. I thank God for his mercy, and I indeed intend to “go and sin no more.”
Lester Roloff said: “A man has not truly repented until he has said in his heart, Lord, I want to live differently from now on.” People want a Christianity of convenience, an easy Christianity. But the Lord Jesus told his followers to pluck out their eye and to cut off their hands or feet if these caused them to sin. When faced with temptation we can choose to yield to the temptation or to yield to the Lord. May we believe the Word of God, do away with our excuses, and yield to the Lord in all ways and at all times.
There must be a renunciation of self: we must deny ourselves.
“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself.”
To follow Christ is to surrender to him the rights over our lives. It is to take ourselves off the throne and for us to enthrone Christ in our hearts and lives. We are to disown ourselves. Self-denial is not to deny things to myself; it is to deny myself to myself. It is to say no to self and yes to serving Christ.
We must take up the cross.
“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
The attitude to self that we are to adopt is that of crucifixion. Paul used the same metaphor when he wrote that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh” - they refuse to let their flesh control their lives. In Luke’s version of this saying of Christ the word “daily” is added. Every day the Christian is to die. Every day he is to deny self. Every day he is to renew his surrender to the Lord Jesus Christ.
We must lose our life.
“Whoever loses his life…will save it.”
The man who commits his life to Christ loses himself. This does not mean that he loses his individuality or that he is somehow absorbed into Christ and loses his personality. It means that when the Christian yields his life to Christ instead of trying to keep it for himself, he saves his life.
Three men talked with the Lord Jesus about becoming his followers. The first said he would go anywhere with him. The Lord told him that foxes have holes and birds have nests, but he had no safe place to lay his head. A second man said he would follow him but first he had to bury his father. The Lord said to let the dead bury the dead. A third man first wanted to tell his family good-bye. The Lord said that no man who looked back could be his disciple. When we consider how many people make superficial responses to the things of God, we can understand why he took this approach. Many people want to claim the title of Christian, but not many want to meet the terms of being a Christian.
We see that it must be Christ above personal comfort.
On the surface, one man came to the Lord Jesus with what appears to be a genuine commitment. The man said the right words. But the Lord gave the man an unexpected response. It’s not that the Lord did not want the man to follow him, but he would allow for no superficial response, and the implication is that the man did not follow the Lord Jesus. The Lord was not trying to discourage the would-be follower, but apparently, he looked into the man’s heart and knew that his response lacked the required commitment. The Lord knew that this man had no awareness of what his words committed him to be or to do. The Lord wanted the man to follow him in the way of the cross, yet he wanted the man to see that following him meant following someone with no safe haven from danger.
Many people have a made a superficial response to a gospel message, they got caught up in the emotions of a service, giving in to the appeals of some preacher, and it all looked well and good, but in reality, they did not come to an end of themselves and surrender to Christ. They made no real commitment to Christ. Or they made a commitment but have fallen away from it since then. Both are on dangerous ground.
Following Christ means putting him above family loyalty.
The Lord took the initiative in calling the man in verse 59 by offering the invitation, “Follow me.” The man’s response was yes…but. He asked to be allowed first to go and bury his father. This is usually taken to mean that his father was old and that the son needed to care for him until his death. Yet the Lord dared to place following him before his family ties. But how often do we put family ties before following the Lord? (Go here to see what it means to choose Christ over family)
The third would-be disciple approached the Lord. He said: “Lord, I will follow thee.” But!...he had something he needed to do first. He wanted to say farewell to his family. It doesn’t sound unreasonable, but the Lord Jesus denied this request too. Apparently, Christ could look into the hearts of all these men and see that they would always have something they would put before following him. They would not obey his words to “seek first the Kingdom of God.” Therefore, he spoke of the dangers of looking back. The Lord Jesus said that he that puts his hand to the plow and looks back is not fit for the kingdom of God.
The call is brief, and so natural that even a child can understand the words. The first step in the Christian life is that of obedience to that call. The whole pathway of the Christian experience is walked in obedience to that call. There are people who admire what they know about him, who see that he is worthy of being followed, who say in their hearts, I would follow him…but. The call of Christ is so important, that everything in our lives that comes after the word “but” needs to be put out of our lives.
But there will be so many difficulties ahead of me if I follow Christ.
But there will be so many uncertainties in the future if I follow Christ.
But I may have to change my plans and goals if I follow Christ.
It’s true that in some cases following Christ will result in the loss of all things, but years later, after Paul had yielded to Christ, looking back, he said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
We don’t have to be afraid of what tomorrow holds in store if we are followers of Christ, but we have every reason to be afraid of tomorrow if we are not following him. Do we not see that it is much better to be a follower of Christ and to suffer the loss of all earthly things, than it is to be a Christian by name only and in the end to lose our own soul?
As in Noah's day, God has provided salvation, but any person who is not a Christian does not have this salvation. But we can be “in Christ”, as Noah was in the ark, if we will only own him as our Lord and we follow him.
Noah and his family went into the ark and for a full week nothing happened. Surely he was ridiculed by the scoffers as they held to their false sense of security. All that preaching by Noah amounted to nothing after all. They could continue in their immoral behavior. They too could come to repentance and God would shut them in along with Noah and his family, but they were wasting the last few moments of God’s patience.
Then judgment fell. All the fountains of the deep were broken up and the windows of heaven were opened. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights. Every living thing (except for aquatic animals and those in the ark) perished in the Great Flood. Noah and his family were safe.
Notice what God said about Abraham: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD.”
The same could be said about Noah. Most people remember Noah for building an ark. Most importantly, he built a Godly character and a Godly family. That is something that every one of us can do. Noah commanded his household after the Lord, and his family, following his example, kept the way of the Lord. Just like then, God’s answer to the times we live in is people, like you and me, seeking first the Kingdom of God.
As it was in the days of Noah. In Noah’s day, only 8 people were saved. The rest of mankind rejected the Word of God.
No matter what happens in the world, may it be true of me as it was with Noah.
Greg and his family (wife, children, children’s husbands and wives, and grandchildren) were saved.
(1) Immutability is a theological word meaning God cannot change in any way or he would be less than perfect. This is a Platonic doctrine, not a teaching of scripture. It is true that God does not change in his character, but the Bible reveals that God can change his mind, change his plans, and that his knowledge changes in that he gains knowledge that he did not have prior to certain events occurring. For example, when Abraham obeyed God and was willing to sacrifice Isaac, God said: "...now I know that thou fearest God..." (Genesis 22:12; bold emphasis mine). A second example involves Adam and the naming of the animals. "And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” (Genesis 2:19; bold emphasis mine) None of this takes away from God's moral perfection or his almightiness.
(2) Impassibility is a theological word, also derived from Platonism, that says God cannot be affected by man. The Bible shows this to be a false doctrine. God grieves, gets angry, experiences joy, etc.