Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sermon Ideas for Genesis 6

- Daughters of Men - What makes a woman beautiful?

We might say that some certain features of a woman's physical body make her beautiful, or that a woman's personality and charm make her beautiful. But what if a woman doesn't have these physical or personal attributes?

In Genesis 6:2-3, the Bible says that the sons of God (historically understood to be angels) saw that the daughters of men were beautiful and married them.

What I find interesting here is that the Bible doesn't say that the angels saw that some of the daughters of men were beautiful, or that a few of them were beautiful. No, it makes a blanket statement implying that all of the daughters of men were beautiful.

I have my own particular ideas of what female beauty is, ideas that the next man might very well contradict with his own taste in women. One culture values certain aspects of womanhood while another may value the very opposite qualities.

But the angels, and God, have a much fuller understanding of beauty. To them, all the daughters of men are beautiful. God and the angels appreciate all of the variety in women's looks and personalities. They see and admire all that a woman is, much more than men or even the women themselves do.

Women, the next time you doubt your own beauty, ask yourself how God and the angels see you. And men, remember that womanly beauty is much broader than your own preferences.

- Contender - What does the word contend mean to you?

It brings boxing to mind for me. A challenger, or a contender, goes up against the champ. The two men fight. They struggle against one another.

In Genesis 6:3, God says that He is contending against humans - He is struggling against humans - because their hearts are evil.

Now, when a contender challenges the champ, they are both competing, or struggling, for the title. But what is the goal, what is the prize, when God and humans contend against one another?

Well, God, being the loving creator, always has helping us to live a peaceful and righteous life as His goal. Because He loves us, He wants our good and knows that our good is best provided to us when we live the way He created us to live, and ask for and acknowledge His blessings.

What is our goal when we contend against God? We could probably say that it  boils down to seeking our good, just like God seeks our good, but gaining our good, or what we think is our good, through our own means.

The problem is that our means, and our own ideas of what is good, are never as good as God's. Our conceptions and means end up backfiring either on ourselves or by hurting someone else. God, being the wisest and goodest thing there is, always knows how to best provide our good, and always wants to accomplish it.

So, why would we contend against Him?

Think about it in your own life. What makes you contend against God and His will for your life?

Let us not fight against God. If God wants to do and provide good things for us, let's not make Him struggle to do it. Let God give you good, and not just good but the best.

- A Hundred and Twenty Years - In Genesis 6, God decides to put an end to the human race because of the corruption and violence so pervading the hearts of men. In 6:3, God declares that humanity's days will be a hundred and twenty years.

The question is, if God has decided to wipe humans from the earth, why would He wait a hundred and twenty years? Why wouldn't He just do it right then and be done with it?

The same question can be asked regarding any instances of God's timing. Why won't He answer my prayer now instead of making me wait? Why did He take so long to send Jesus? Why is He taking so long to send Christ again?

I think the answer to this last question can give us a hint into all of God's timing. In 2 Peter 3:8-9, we read, "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. Instead He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

Peter explains that God could send Christ again and end this world as we know it at any point, but He is purposely patiently waiting for as many people as possible to repent and turn to Him before it's too late.

I can't help but think that this was also God's motive in giving the people of Noah's day a hundred and twenty extra years. He was wanting more people than just Noah and his family to be on that ark when the time of judgement came.

What about the times of waiting on God in your own life? What do you think God is waiting for? As in the case of the second coming and in the case of the Flood, God's delayed action is always motivated to give us more time to turn toward Him and His purposes in the situation. Often, we are not waiting on God to act; God is waiting on us to turn to Him before He does act.

- Men of Renown, Heroes of Old - When you think of famous people, who comes to mind? When someone mentions the word "hero", what do you think of?

In Genesis 6:4, the Bible says that the Nephilim were men of renown, heroes of old. Historically understood to be the offspring of angels and human women, these Nephilim certainly would have been physically impressive. They were probably handsomely beautiful and more than humanly strong. We are also given to understand that they were taller than normal men. Undoubtedly, they could accomplish great feats of heroism and so win fame for themselves.

But what type of heroes were these men?

As we read further, one theme of the growing evil of humanity was a propensity toward violence (verse 11 and 13). People were attacking one another, and groups of people were warring against others. Seeing that these Nephilim would have been heavy hitters, along with the fact that they are not mentioned as being righteous, as Noah was, we can imagine that their acts of heroism and famous deeds were performed on the battlefield in acts of violence.

The other men of their day would have regarded them as heroes, but not God. God's hero was an old man named Noah. As far as we know, Noah wasn't physically impressive as the Nephilim were and he didn't have any war stories to tell. But he was righteous and blameless and he walked with God.

As you think about your heroes and those people of renown in our culture, consider what it means to be a hero in God's eyes. Good looks, athletic prowess, business acumen, a brilliant intellect, and artistic talent are nothing compared to a heart turned toward God.

- Every Inclination of the Human Heart - Genesis 6:5 tells us that "every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time". What does this mean? Should we take it literally and suppose that the people of Noah's day were utterly evil, that they never had a good or generous or loving thought in their heart?

I think the key word here is "inclination". It's not that the people never had a good thought, but what were they inclined toward? What was their gut response, their initial attitude? The Bible tells us that they were inclined toward evil.

How did they get this way? What happened to make their first thought toward anything be the wrong response?

The way I understand it, there are three possibilities of how their, and our, hearts can be inclined:
  1. We can be inclined toward neither good nor evil, but have free will to choose either
  2. We can be inclined toward evil
  3. We can be inclined toward good

In the beginning, Adam and Eve had perfect free will. They had not yet sinned and could choose either to do so or not to do so. When they sinned, though, the choice became a little more one-sided. Their very nature became sinful, and in their sinful nature, they became inclined toward evil. One sin led to another. Eating the forbidden fruit led to hiding from God and blaming each other. Later, Cain's refusal to give God his best offering led to jealousy of his brother, which led to deceit, which led to murder, which led to lying to God.

The people in Noah's day were inclined toward evil because of their sinful nature and because they continued to reinforce that sinful nature by adding sin to sin to sin. They conditioned themselves to react to each new situation with evil thoughts.

The third direction in which a human heart can be inclined is toward the good. When we accept salvation and allow God's Spirit to cleanse our hearts, we are once again given the opportunity to choose either the good or the evil, just as Adam and Eve could freely choose. If we listen again to our sinful nature, we will fall away from Christ, or at least not grow in Him. But if we listen to the Spirit, by practice and repetition, we will train our hearts to incline toward the good. This is spiritual growth. This is discipleship. This is allowing God to give us a new heart.

So, where are you on that scale of heart inclination? How do you respond to things? What is your knee-jerk reaction? Is it toward evil or is it toward good? Maybe you're somewhere in the middle. Gauge your thoughts and ask God to continually cleanse and train your heart toward Him. The people of Noah's day would not listen to God's Spirit when He tried to contend with their spirits. Let us not be as hard-hearted when God speaks to us.

- Living Like Noah - God regretted making humanity because they were evil. They had only evil in their hearts. But Noah was different. Noah was righteous, blameless, and walked with God (verse 9).

What about you? What's in your heart? Would God say that there is only evil there all the time (or most of the time), or would He find hope in you like He did in Noah? What is your attitude usually like? What are your goals and ambitions? How do you react to people and situations in your daily life?

God always loves us, but He's not always proud of us. Evil things that we do or think break His heart. Let us strive to be high points in God's life by being like Noah: righteous, blameless, and walking with God in all we do, say, and think. Hate sin, ask God to purify your heart so that your motives are pure, and maintain a constant conversation with God as you walk with Him throughout your day. Then God will see you as a source of hope in this dark world and will look with favor on you.

- Noah was a Righteous Man -  What does it mean to be righteous?

Genesis 6:9 tells us that Noah was a righteous man, and then it tells us what that means - "blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God".

A lot of times we think of righteousness as only having to do with our relationship to God. But this verse shows us that righteousness involves two things - being blameless among others, and walking with God.

What does it mean to be blameless among others? It means that no one has anything against you. No one can accuse you of anything. No one can say that you've hurt them or cheated them or looked funny at them or made a joke at their expense or failed to help them when they needed it. You're blameless among the people. The people can put no blame on you for anything you've done but shouldn't have, or haven't done that you should have.

Before we go further, pause and ask yourself, is there anyone in your life who might be blaming you for something in their heart? Is there anyone who could have something against you?

What can you do to make that right, and so become blameless among the people once again?

The second part of being righteous is walking with God. How do we walk with God? What does that look like in your life?

I imagine two friends walking on a long journey together. Because they have so much time before they reach their destination, they have plenty of time to talk, and they talk about everything. They talk about small things and they talk about big things. Their friendship grows as they continue to discuss new subjects, deeper subjects, and they question and challenge each other when they disagree.

That's how God wants us to walk with Him in life. He wants us to discuss everything with Him and let Him challenge our hearts and our thinking when He deems it necessary. As we continue to open up to Him, and allow Him to open up to us, we will grow closer to Him until one day we reach our destination, where even though He walked with us the whole way, He'll also be waiting for us at the end.

That's kinda neat, 'eh?

So, Righteousness = Being blameless among the people + Walking faithfully with God.

- Regret - What do you regret in life? Have your regrets for the past taken away your hope for the future?

Even God had regrets. He regretted making humanity. He was going to throw the whole world away and be done with it.

But then He found hope in Noah. Noah's righteous life gave God hope and caused Him to make some changes; to start over, yes, but ultimately to continue on His mission that He had started in this world.

You may have regrets too. You may have things you need to change. You may need to start over. But if you commit to living righteously, like Noah did, you can also have hope that God will be with you and will bless you in your future as you also become a source of hope for Him.

- His Heart was Deeply Troubled - Our God is a God of passion. He is a God of emotions. He is not a flat, unfeeling observer. He loves, He gets angry, He grieves, and in Genesis 6:6, we see that the sinfulness of humanity deeply troubled His heart.

What an impact we have on the heart of God! To think that He cares for our affairs and the state of our spirituality so much that we can deeply trouble His heart.

But what I notice here is that God isn't just deeply troubled in His heart, and then He moves on. He doesn't feel the emotion and then simply shrug it off or "get over it".

He acts. 

He does something.

When God's heart was deeply troubled, it moved Him to try to correct the situation.

So, the question is, what makes your heart deeply troubled? And what do you do about it? Like God, probably the things that most trouble your heart are the results of sin in the world - children going hungry, people being treated unjustly, people taking advantages unfairly... When your heart is troubled by those things that should not be, what do you do? Do you pretend as if there's nothing you can do about it and move on with your life, or do you take action to correct the situation, like God did?

Injustice deeply troubles God's heart, just as it does ours. And He will not let it stand. He will take action to correct the situation, usually doing so through our actions.

Let the strength of His deep passion move you emotionally, and actively, as together with Him you DO SOMETHING.

- "And the Animals" - In Genesis 6:7, God says that He's going to wipe the human race from the earth because of their sinfulness. Then He adds that He's going to destroy all the animals along with them.

Why would God do this? Why are the animals being punished for humanity's sins? That doesn't sound fair!

But we have to remember that in Genesis 1:28, God made humans the rulers over the animals. And as the saying goes, everything rises and falls on leadership.

In Genesis 1:29-30, God gave humans and animals permission to eat only plants. Everything was peaceful. It was "very good". But after Adam and Eve sinned, creation fell with them. Rather than remaining at peace with one another, the animals began hunting one another, and fighting for territory. The sin of our first parents had consequences for the whole created order. Even the ground was changed because of their sin (Genesis 3:17-18).

Our sins carry consequences as well, and never just for us. Adam and Eve's sins had consequences for the animals and the ground. The sins of the people of Noah's day threatened to destroy every living thing. And our sins affect everyone around us.

Think of the last time you sinned, or fell short, of God's standard. What were the consequences? I'm  sure there was some affect on you, but it did someone besides yourself become upset? Was someone's feelings hurt? If not - maybe if no one knew what you did and so no one else seemed to be affected - think about the good you could have been doing for someone instead of doing... whatever it was you were doing. Or think about the attitude that your sin gave you afterward that colored how you interacted with the next person you saw.

It's not always easy to see, but sin never affects just the person committing the deed. The sin is either committed against someone else directly or indirectly affects them through the loss of a benefit you otherwise could have provided.

At its core, sin is selfishness because it grants your (momentary, fleeting) desires above the good of others. The sins of the people of Noah's day didn't just hurt them, and our sins don't just hurt us.

- "Had Corrupted Their Ways" -  Strangely, this statement from Genesis 6:12 gives me hope.

It tells me that I'm not just a victim of my situation, or condition, or surroundings.

It tells me that I'm in control.

What I mean is that the Scripture doesn't say that all the people became corrupt because Satan corrupted them, or their sinful nature corrupted them, or they were born with no choice but to be corrupted, or that everyone else was corrupt so they had to be corrupt too.

No, the Scripture says that the people were corrupt because THEY had corrupted their ways.

Yes, we face outside temptation from Satan and the demons. We do have an enemy to fight against. Yes, we face inside temptation from our sinful nature. We are prone to selfishness and other sins. Yes, we have disadvantages that we were born with biologically and disadvantages in our surroundings and the people we know.

But we also have a choice as to whether or not we allow those things to corrupt us or not. We can stand up to temptation and we can overcome our conditions and situations. Ultimately, the only person who can corrupt my ways is me, and I choose not to be corrupted no matter what the temptation or situation.

How about you? What choice will you make?

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