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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:Even though it's so bad, God will defeat sin
Text:Genesis 6:5-8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2023
Added:2023-07-05
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 29

Psalm 38:1-3 (after the Law of God)

Psalm 68:1,2

Hymn 70

Psalm 68:12

Scripture readings:  1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 50-58; Genesis 6:1-8

Text: Genesis 6:5-8

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Imagine it’s 5:20 in the morning.  You’re sleeping in bed when suddenly a group of armed men wake you up and drag you out of your house and force you into a van.  That’s what happened to a 26 year old man in Sydney.  After being taken away, the group of six men tortured Peter Vuong horribly.  They demanded that one of his relatives pay $5 million in cash for his release.  Finally, six days after he was abducted, the New South Wales Police found where he was being held and rescued him.  It’s a shocking story.  It reminds us of how this sinful this world is.

It also makes us ask the question:  who’s going to do something about stuff like this?  Sure, the six men will likely end up in prison, but what length of prison term might really be sufficient to address this wickedness?  We live in a wicked world and this is just one example of the wicked people do.  Will it all be addressed in some ultimate sense?

That’s where our passage from Genesis this morning brings God into the picture.  We have to go from being focussed on this earth, on the horizontal, to looking upwards to the true God, to the vertical.  We have to take him into account.  Yes, there’s a sinful world, but there’s also a mighty and good God.  Our planet is populated with sinful human beings like us, but there’s also a holy and just God in heaven.  Our God will not let sin go, but he also won’t back down on what he’s promised for those whom he loves in his sovereign grace.  The theme for the sermon this morning is this:  Even though it’s so bad, God will defeat sin.

We’ll see:

  1. God’s assessment and judgment of a world gone horribly wrong
  2. God’s faithfulness to his promise of victory

The first thing we need to see about God from our passage is that he notices sin.  Some question that.  In Psalm 73, Asaph writes about the wicked who seem to prosper in this life.  They do wicked things and they not only get away with it, but they actually seem to do well.  And so Psalm 73:11 tells us of how the wicked ask, “How can God know?  Is there knowledge in the Most High?”  Clearly God isn’t paying attention and therefore they’re able to live the way they do.  Unbelievers might think that, but Christians might be tempted to think that too.  We might be tempted to think that wickedness flourishes because God is not watching. 

That’s why the first three words of our passage are so important:  “The LORD saw…”  God noticed.  He wasn’t distracted or sleeping.  No, the true God of the Bible doesn’t get distracted and he never sleeps.  We say that God is omniscient.  That means he’s all-knowing all the time.  God observes every single thing said, thought, and done on this earth.  God takes note of every single thing you and I say, think, or do.  If we didn’t have Christ as our Saviour, that might be a terrifying thought.  That’s because the human race God observes is wicked and rebellious, deserving of his judgment and wrath.

So God observes.  He notices what happens on the earth.  And in the days of Noah, what did he see?  Verse 5 tells us that “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  The Bible teaches what’s called total depravity, or as it’s better called, pervasive depravity.  According to the Bible, sin has gotten into everything that makes us human.  By nature, our hearts are dead in sin and closed to God.  If God doesn’t step in, we’re unable to make any moves towards him.  We love our sinful rebellion and we don’t love God. 

That only begins to change with regeneration, with being born again.  Being regenerated or born again means the Holy Spirit comes to our hearts and he makes them come alive.  The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith and then we believe in Christ for our rescue from sin and its consequences.  Then, because of what God has done in our heart, then we can begin to live in God’s ways.

But here in the days of Noah in Genesis 6, there’s very little of that.  Instead, the natural wickedness of humanity abounded.  If we skip ahead to verse 11, we find that the earth was filled with violence.  There were these outward expressions of sin, but they came from within – which is always the way sin works. 

When we sin and rebel against God, it’s because there’s something wrong inside us.  Scripture tells us we have a heart problem.  Verse 5 is actually the first time the heart is mentioned in the Bible.  Like elsewhere, it’s not referring to the fist-sized organ in your chest pumping blood through your body.  Instead, the heart is your inner self and everything connected with it.  In the Bible, your heart is where you think, where you choose, where you love or hate, where you desire.

In verse 5 God looked into human hearts, into the inner selves, and he saw what was happening.  Again, we need to learn something about God here.  His ability to observe everything isn’t limited to the external.  You can hide your thoughts from other human beings, but you can’t hide them from God.  You can put on a good show on the outside, but God observes your heart.  He has x-ray vision.  That’s the truth.  And because we have sin in our hearts, even after we’re born again, that reminds us of how much we need Jesus Christ to cover our sin, not only the outward stuff, but also the stuff only God sees.

Now notice in verse 5 the way the situation is described.  The wickedness is great.  And “every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”  Those words -- great, every, only, and continually – they tell us how bad the situation really was.  Unbelief and its consequences ruled the day.  According to verse 8, God only found one exception with Noah.

What does God see when he looks upon the earth today?  Does he see it as the same as in the days of Noah?  Better?  Worse?  Our inclination might be to say that it’s the same or worse.  There’s certainly no shortage of observable wickedness and violence around us.  However, we do have to be careful because we’re not God.  Moreover, God hasn’t revealed to us what he observes in our own day.  It’s certainly possible that the world is worse today than in the days of Noah.  Scripture tells us that before Christ returns there will be much wickedness on the earth – but it also tells us that we don’t know when Christ will return.  Could the world be more wicked than it is today?  Yes.  Could it grow in wickedness for another few hundred or few thousand years?  Yes.  Human beings seem to have an endless capacity for evil.  You see, loved ones, we have to be careful with our speculations about what’s in the mind of God about these things.  We can only work with what he’s revealed to us.

He has revealed what happened before the Flood.  Let’s focus our attention on that.  Unlike earlier in Genesis when God saw his creation and declared it very good, here he observes it and sees it as corrupt and wicked.  He assesses humanity in moral terms as evil.  God has a standard.  God measures humanity by a standard that never changes:  himself and what he’s like.  By the objective standard of God’s own righteous character, the human race is radically depraved, radically in rebellion.

That leads to God’s regretting that he created human beings.  It grieved him to his heart, says the end of verse 6.  He was sorry that he made them, says the end of verse 7.  That kind of language is found elsewhere in the Bible and it often raises questions for people.  The Bible teaches that God is immutable – meaning he doesn’t change.  If God is immutable, then how can he regret that he did something?  It sounds like God changed his mind.  If he changed his mind, then God isn’t immutable. 

So what does it mean that God regretted creating human beings?  It doesn’t mean God thought he’d made a mistake in creating human beings.  The Bible simply uses this language to help us understand how God relates to human beings and how he reacts to what they do.  The Holy Spirit is using language about God we can grasp.  The Holy Spirit wants us to understand how God changes his stance towards the people who rebel against him and reject him.  What’s in view here is how God interacts with human beings in time and space.  There’s a real relationship.  There’s real interaction.  And in this relationship, God is grieved by what his creatures have done in the good world he made.

That grief leads him to issue his judgment.  There will be consequences for human sin.  God is going to blot out, wipe out, all the human beings dwelling on the earth.  They were an offence to his holiness and he could not and would not put up with it.  “The wages of sin is death” – so we’re told in Romans 6:23 and here the wages are about to be paid out.  Judgment is coming and from what follows we know the judgment will involve a global flood.

Someone might be wondering why it’s not only humanity, but also all the animals that will be destroyed with this judgment.  Verse 7 is explicit about that, referring to “animals, and creeping things and birds of the heavens.”  Every living thing on the earth is collateral damage when human beings fall under God’s judgment.  When Adam and Eve fell into sin, their evil choices affected every living thing.  They brought death into the world.  So now when God’s judgment comes on the descendants of Adam and Eve, it’s going to come in a way that will wipe out every living thing from the planet.  In other words, this will be a cataclysmic judgment. 

Some argue that the story of the Flood in the Bible involved just a local flood.  It was just a small area of the earth that was flooded, not the whole planet.  However, here already we can see that the text doesn’t support that kind of thinking.  God regretted that he made humanity – not just the people living in one corner of the planet.  Not only that, but when he reveals his judgment, he says it’s going to come on all the animals he created as well.  This will be a global judgment – it’ll be a global flood. 

So the coming judgment is going to be catastrophic.  It will result in the erasing of all life on the planet.  Loved ones, there are two important things for us to learn from this. 

The first is that sin is a serious matter that God notices and God acts on.  We have to take the sin in our lives more seriously than we do.  Pray and ask for him to work in your heart with his Spirit so that you wouldn’t be indifferent to your sin.  Pray and ask him to help you to take sin seriously, so that you’d hate it and flee from it.  Sin was what brought judgment on the world, and your sin was what brought God’s even more fearsome judgment on Christ as he hung on the cross.  Brothers and sisters, don’t be glib and casual about your sin – because God isn’t.

The second thing to learn is that while the judgment described in Genesis 6 was fierce, it doesn’t compare to what awaits those who don’t repent from their sins and believe in Christ.  If we don’t turn away from our sins and turn to Christ, what awaits is eternal conscious torment of body and soul in hell.  Drowning is relatively quick.  The people who died in the Flood would have lost consciousness within about two minutes.  But hell is not two minutes.  It’s eternity under the punishment of God’s wrath.  God’s judgment here in Genesis 6 is meant to remind us of these truths so we’d hate our sin and turn to Christ.  If you don’t, you’re going to be blotted out forever in hell.  Since it’s rebellion against the infinitely good and holy God, that’s what sin deserves.

Our passage also reveals how God remained faithful to his promise of victory over sin.  Here we’re looking at verse 8.  Verse 8 says, “But Noah found favour in the eyes of the LORD.”

To understand the importance of this, we need to remember something about the history of salvation promises in the Bible.  In particular, we need to remember the first salvation promise.  It’s found in Genesis 3:15.  God promised that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent.  God would do something about sin and Satan.  It would result in rescue and life for believers.  He would send his Son to save us. 

But here we are in Genesis 6 and there’s all this great wickedness.  And now God has pronounced a verdict of judgment and death on the whole creation.  So how will it be possible for God to fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15?  How can a seed of the woman deliver a death blow to Satan and deal with sin if the whole human race has been wiped out?  How could Christ be born of a woman in the fullness of time if there are no women left on the earth?      

That’s where verse 8 comes in.  While the overall picture of the human race is grim, there was one exception.  One man.  There was Noah.  He found favour in God’s eyes.  Why?

One commentator I read said that Noah was “just lucky.”  I guess you could say Noah won the Ark lottery.  It’s appalling that a Christian commentator would say stuff like that.  Luck had nothing to do with it.  There’s no such thing as luck.  God is sovereign and he has his purposes in everything.  There’s nothing random about what he does.  There’s nothing random about Noah finding favour in God’s eyes.  It all has to do with God’s faithfulness to his promises. 

In his faithfulness, he saw to it that there was one man who believed.  In his grace, God sent his Holy Spirit to work faith in Noah’s heart.  Noah believed in God and followed him.  Because of God’s work of sovereign grace in his heart, Noah also pursued righteous and holy living.  He lived much differently to those around him.  It all traces back to God.  All of this is why Noah finds favour with God – it’s because of God’s gracious work in his life.  So there is one righteous man left on the earth – one through whom the human race will be saved.  God’s promise for victory over sin will be fulfilled.  He will not be thwarted.

Loved ones, God is faithful to all his promises.  He works everything out accordingly.  In the face of widespread death, he ensured that there’d be life.  Because Noah lived, Christ would come.  Christ would live and die and we would find life in him.  Because of that, we can look forward to the fulfillment of all God’s promises at the end of the age.  In our reading from 1 Corinthians 15, the Holy Spirit tells us God will have the victory.  Death came into this world because of sin.  But God will deal with and defeat both.  “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” – he says that in 1 Cor. 15:26.  Later in the chapter, we’re told that God gives us victory over death through our Lord Jesus Christ.  God kept his promises about these kinds of things in the past and you can be sure that he’ll keep them in the future too.  God can be trusted to always keep his word.  Brothers and sisters, continue to place your trust in our faithful God.

Right now, the world is a wicked and evil place.  God knows that.  He assures us that he’ll address it.  He’ll make it right.  God will ensure there’s justice.  But as you look at your own heart and life, you know that it can be a wicked and evil place too.  God knows that as well.  He assures us that as we look to Christ as our Saviour, as we turn from our sin to Jesus, there’s forgiveness.  God ensures there’s grace for every repentant believer – because God has defeated our sin with the judgment Christ took in our place.  If you have Christ, even though you live in a world of death, a world facing judgment, you have life in all its fullness.  AMEN.

PRAYER

Faithful God and Father,

We praise you as our good, just, and faithful God.  You have been faithful to all your promises and we adore you for that.  We’re thankful that you preserved the life of Noah so that Christ could come to save our lives.  Father, you observe every human act and every human heart.  You know our every thought, even before we think it.  Father, we acknowledge that our hearts are still far from where you want them to be.  We ask you to please forgive our sins because of Christ and also continue to work with your Holy Spirit in us.  May we, like Noah, always find favour in your eyes, also as the coming judgment awaits.  Father, we do pray for your justice to come upon the earth.  There’s so much wickedness going on around us, so much violence and death.  We pray for you to make it right.  We pray for the final judgment to come quickly with the return of our Lord Jesus.  Until then, please keep us in our faith and help us with your grace to follow Christ as his disciples.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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