David Jeremiah - The Performance of Faith
There is not a social, political, or religious privilege that we enjoy today that was not purchased for us by the blood and tears and patient suffering of the minority. Great men, especially great men for God have always been lonely men. Looking back through the pages of the Bible, we discovered that Noah built the ark alone. Abraham wandered and worshiped alone. Isaac offered himself on the altar alone. David faced Goliath alone. Elijah stood before the 400 prophets of Baal alone. Daniel dined and prayed alone. Jeremiah prophesied and wept for Jerusalem alone.
And I could go on through the New Testament and all the pages of the Scripture. Just about everywhere you turn, you see men and women who believed in what they believed in so much that, if everyone else turned against them, they stood strong for their faith. And I'm convinced that, if we will be faithful, especially in these days in which you and I live, there will be times when we will know what it means to be alone. And that was true of the next hero we're going to discuss, who's mentioned in the 11th chapter of the book of Hebrews, the Hall of Faith. In verse 7, we read these words: "By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith".
Now, as in the previous messages on Abel and Enoch, if we're to understand the words of Hebrews 11:7, we will have to go back to the book of Genesis, where the story of Noah is told, and we learn a great deal about this man's faith and his courage when we remember the story that is given to us in Genesis chapter 6. Here, we learn, first of all, that Noah had faith that was expressed during a very wicked time in history, during a wicked generation.
Listen to what the Word of God says in Genesis chapter 6 and verse 5: "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and he was grieved in his heart. And the Lord said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and the birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them".
Noah and his family lived in that generation. They were among the dwindling number of true believers who stood for the things they knew were true. Nowhere in the Bible is there anything described like the generation in which Noah was asked to serve. First of all, it was a world of rampant iniquity. Notice what it says in verse 5: "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually".
Now, if you had my Bible, you would notice that often I underlined words, and sometimes I color-code things. I can't give you my Bible. I need it, so I wanna show you up on the screen how that verse plays out. Notice Genesis chapter 6, in verse 5, and notice the words that are highlighted by color. "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great, that it affected every intent of the thoughts of his heart and was only evil continually". There may be a verse of Scripture someplace in the Bible that describes a culture and its wickedness in more detail than that verse, but if there is, I don't know where it is, for here we are introduced to what the Bible speaks of, what theologians speak of as total depravity. But notice, secondly, the divisions of this wickedness in the same verse.
Before we look at the verse, let me explain something that most of us already know if we've been to school, we've been to college at all, maybe had a course in psychology. You know that the psychologists and those who have studied humanity tell us that we're made up of three basic parts: We have our mental or intellectual part, we have our emotional part, and we have what they call the volitional part. Basically, it's your mind, your heart, and your will. Those three things basically are the personality of a man. What is man? He is intellect, emotion, and will.
Now, look at the verse again, and look up on the screen, and notice, "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent", that's his will, "and thoughts", that's his mind, "and heart", that's his emotion, "that all of man was corrupted in that day," that he was affected totally by the disease of sin. Now, before we go any further, let me explain that "total depravity" is not what most people think it is. Sometimes you hear people talk about somebody who's "totally depraved," and what they mean by that is they're as bad as you can be.
There's no way to be any badder than they are. But "total depravity" is not every man as evil as every other man. It is not every man being as evil as he can be. It is not every man lacking any virtue. "Total depravity" simply says that man in his totality is affected by sin in every part of his life: in his mind, in his heart, and in his will. And we're all sinful, the Bible says, and we're capable of things that really surprise us on occasion, and the Bible says that, in Noah's generation, in the time when he lived, the world was a world of rampant iniquity, and it was also a world of riotous violence.
Genesis 6, says, "The earth was corrupted before God. The earth was filled with violence". Should we be surprised that, when sin takes control in the lives of people, that violence is the result? Lust and unbridled desire causes people to do things you would never believe, and, ultimately, it involves violence. Murderous assaults we're bathing the world of Noah's day in blood, and nowhere was there immunity from this. It was a world that had gone crazy and was functioning with wild violence.
Now, the Bible says that that generation in which Noah was placed was the most evil generation of all time. Take everything that you're upset about in this world in which we live and multiply it a hundred times over, and you probably haven't approached what it was like for Noah. I mean, it was a bad time in the world when Noah came on the scene. The worst part of it wasn't the iniquity or even the violence. The worst part of it was the indifference these people had to anything relating to good and to God. Noah's faith was expressed in a wicked generation. Here's the second thing about Noah: Noah's faith was established on grace. Notice what it says in Genesis 6:8, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord".
How many of you here today have found grace? I don't mean a girl. I mean, grace. You have found grace. How many of you have found grace? You know what it means to have the grace of God in your life. Grace is God's undeserved favor in your life. Grace is totally undeserved. If you think you deserve grace, you haven't got it 'cause grace is something God gives you. You don't deserve it at all. It is unmerited favor. Mercy is just the opposite. Mercy is God withholding from you what you really do deserve. Grace is God giving you what you don't deserve. And we're all, as Christians, were the result of God's grace and his mercy, are we not? Hallelujah for the grace of God.
Now, notice what it says about Noah. Living in this generation, this antediluvian generation of wickedness, the Bible says, "Noah found grace". I don't know how he found it. God gave it to him. There's no explanation of how he found it, but if you wanna know the secret to Noah, here it is: "He found grace". The unmerited favor of God was extended to Noah, and Noah became the man that he was. He didn't deserve grace because of his good works. If that were true, he couldn't have had grace, for grace doesn't come to those who earn it. Grace is the result of God's arbitrary bestowal upon his children of that which we don't deserve.
Noah became a good man because of God's grace. He didn't become a good man, and then receive God's grace. But the Bible puts it this way for all of us: "For by grace you are saved through faith". What's the rest of it? "That not of yourselves. It's a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast". So we all have somethin' in common with Noah today if we're Christians. We have found grace. God has given us his amazing grace. Now, we look at Noah in this generation as God's man. He's there not because he received anything from his parents. Remember, his grandfather was Methuselah, his father was Lamech, both of whom seemed to have been somewhat godly people.
But how many of you know God doesn't have any grandchildren? He just has children. You don't get to go to heaven because you were born into the family of good people. You go to heaven only because you have a relationship with God. You can't become a Christian because your parents are Christians. And Noah wasn't a man of grace because he had godly parents and grandparents. Grace is unmerited favor. There was nothing Noah could have done to earn it. It's true when we're saved, that God gives us grace, changes everything about who we are, but it's also true in other occasions in our life. Could I just insert something here that I've been discovering in recent months and just thinking about? And that is, as recipients of grace, we must also be providers of grace.
The story of the unfaithful servant in Matthew 18, illustrates how easy it is for us to receive grace, and then deny it to other people. In fact, I've made a little discovery that maybe some of you have made, and that is that often those who have received the most grace are the very ones who refuse grace to other people. Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. Now we have a picture of what that meant. He found grace. And because of the grace of God in Noah's life, he became the champion that he was, the man who lived by faith. Noah's faith was expressed in a wicked generation, and it was established on grace, but thirdly, Noah's faith was effective in his family.
Now, I know you didn't come to church today to get a study in your ancestry, but I wanna tell you something: I know who your ancestors are. I know who they are. Every one of us in this room today is either the ancestor of Shem or Ham or Japheth 'cause that's the only possibility there is. The Bible says God wiped out the whole world and only three came out, and it actually says in Genesis 9:19, "These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the whole earth was populated".
Now, Noah's faith was not transferable. His faith wasn't because of his grandfather's faith, and his children did not become godly people because he transferred his faith to them. His faith wasn't transferable, but it was contagious, and while it is true to say that Noah preached for all these years and nobody was converted, it's really not true to say that because there were some who were converted. The Bible says all of Noah's family were converted. Noah's sons and his sons' wives, they all went into the ark, and they were saved.
You know, I hear people say all the time, "Pastor, my family's not saved, but I don't know how to talk to 'em because, every time I talk to 'em, they just say, 'I don't want any more that God talk. Don't give me any more of that religious stuff.'" And let's face it: Talking to our family about Jesus Christ is maybe the hardest thing we can ever do. And I like to share with people every time we get a chance that, oftentimes, when we talk to our parents, especially, about their faith, what they hear from us is that we don't think they were good parents, and what we need to do is say something like this: "Dad, you were the greatest dad I could ever have asked for. You were the most wonderful father I could've wanted in every way, and we did so many wonderful things. There's just one thing I wish we could share together, and that's my faith in Christ. Dad, I wanna spend eternity with you, and I'd love for you to be able to know Jesus as I know him".
Sometimes, when we affirm them as people, they'll open their hearts to let us share with them the faith that we have. Noah's faith was effective in his family, and then Noah's faith was evident to his neighbors. Here's what we learned about Noah's faith. It was evident to his neighbors. He worked by faith. He was a just man, but he also witnessed by faith. The Bible says he was, "perfect in his generations". What that means is that the generation in which he lived wasn't perfect, but as far as God was concerned, God looked down at Noah and saw in him a man who would be willing to stand for whatever it is that was important even though nobody else was following. And then Noah's faith also was exact in its obedience.
In fact, there's a lot of exactness in this story. I mean, everything about it is exact. Remember when God said, "Noah, I want you to build an ark"? He had no clue what an "ark" was. There had never been one before. And, "Noah, here's the blueprint, and here's the instructions, and I want you to do it exactly like I tell you". And the Bible tells us that Noah did what God told him to do. He did everything the Lord told him to do.
Now, let me set the stage for this: Noah and his family lived in the center of Mesopotamia, about as far away from any body of water as you could ever be. The Tigris River wasn't near. The Euphrates River wasn't near. Here he is, kind of, like, in a desert place, and God says, "Here's what I want you to do. I'm gonna destroy the earth by a flood, and I want you to build an ark". And this ark wasn't some little boat. It was a monstrosity of a construction, built kind of in the shape of a coffin, and if you're gonna have two of every kind of animal of the world in it, then it's gotta be a big place.
God gave him the dimensions, God gave him the instructions, down to what he should put on the inside of the ark and on the outside of the ark, including the door and the window, and all, and the Bible says Noah did exactly what God told him to do - that God told him to preach the Gospel to all those who would listen. So, every day, I look at Noah. He had a hammer in one hand and a Bible in the other. Oh, no, there weren't any Bibles back then, but he had... you know what I'm saying. He had the Gospel in one hand and, he was building the ark, and he was preaching the Gospel. Building the ark and preaching the Gospel.
The Bible says he did it for 120 years, 120 years. Every day, he preached the Gospel, and he built the ark. He did exactly what God called him to do, exactly what God called him to do. And then God told him exactly what was gonna happen. God said, "At a certain time, it's gonna rain, and there's gonna be a flood, and the whole earth and all of its inhabitants and every beast is gonna drown". Now, stop with me and think about this: It had never rained before. Noah did all the things God asked him to do, and there was no precedent for it whatsoever - none. It had never been done before.
Can you imagine how foolish he must have felt, in the middle of the Mesopotamian desert, building a boat when nobody had ever heard of "rain" or a "flood"? And, every day, they'd come by and ask him, "Hey, old man, what're you doin' today"? "Well, I'm buildin' the ark, and if you don't get saved and get in this ark, you're gonna die in the flood". "Sure, sure we are". But he kept building, and he kept preaching. Every time I preach and nobody gets saved, I think Noah, and I feel a lot better. That ole boy preached all those years. The only people that got saved were his own family, but he kept preachin', didn't he? What that teaches us is this: We're only responsible to do what God has said. He's responsible for the result. We can't make it, I can't ever preach and make anybody come to Christ.
I know some guys try to do that, and they try to shanghai people into heaven. I've never been given that instruction. I preach the Gospel the best I can and leave the results to God, and I know he's able to do it, and what's happened over the years, by doing that, we've just had a steady stream of people comin' to Christ all the time in God's own time, in his own plan, his own way. That's what we do know. Noah preached the Gospel for 120 years, and the only people that got saved were his own family, but he did what God called him to do. He was a man of faith. What is "faith"? "Faith" is taking God at his word and doing what he asked us to do, even when it may not make sense to us or anybody else. We just do what God calls us to do, day in and day out. And you know when the payday came?
When Noah shut the door of that ark, and all the people he loved were on the inside, and all the people who rejected the Gospel were on the outside. Noah looked at his family and said, "You know what? Sometimes I wondered if it was worth it all, but here we are. God had saved us, and we're gonna be okay". I'm often intrigued by the fact that the Gospel isn't just a New Testament doctrine. Isn't it interesting? We've talked about Cain and Abel, remember? Cain and Abel, two ways to God, one way that works, and one way that doesn't. We've talked about Enoch, who walked with God in such a way that God took him, for he was raptured right to heaven.
And now we have Noah, and I believe Noah is the earliest and most perfect illustration of the Gospel you will find in the Bible. It is a visual aid that we can never forget. Here's a world that has rejected God and has fallen into incredible evil and sin, iniquity and violence and indifference to God, and here is God and his man preaching that, "If you will trust me, if you will come and get in to Christ, you will be saved". Here's the ark, and one day, those eight souls got into the ark, and God shut the door, and the day of opportunity was over.
Can you imagine the screams of desperation that came from the men and women of that generation when they finally understood that what that old man had been preachin' for all those years was true? But it was too late, and the rains came down, and the floods came up, and the ark was the salvation of those who believed the message that Noah preached. And today, the Gospel is just the same. The world is filled with people who are indifferent to the things of God. They don't wanna become Christians.
One guy said to me one day, "It'd be downright inconvenient for me to become a Christian. I'd have to stop doin' all the stuff I'm doin'". And they just go on with their life as with nothing is goin' on, nothing's happening, but just as surely as there came a day when the ark was no longer available to those who wanted in, there will come a day when, if we don't accept Christ, we'll be left behind. And just as the ark was God's plan of salvation for the generation of Noah, Jesus Christ is God's plan of salvation for us today. Noah and his family got into the ark, and the Bible talks about us being in Christ Jesus. So let me ask you to take this picture from the Old Testament and transport it right up into your own life and say, "Jesus Christ is my ark. Have I come to Jesus"? And if you haven't, this would be a good day for you to do that.