Key verse: Genesis 6:22
Big idea: In the beginning, Noah obeyed God.
Last week, we had the Mark Trammell Quartet come and sing at AMBC. One of their songs has a chorus that says: "Your walk talks and your talk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks." Their emphasis in that song is on evangelism, but the point stands in many areas. You can tell me what you believe, but your actions will reveal the truth. There were probably many people in Noah's day who claimed they worshipped God, but their wicked lives revealed the truth. Noah, who had experienced the grace of God, proved it by obeying.
It was no easy or rational task. Build a giant ark? There was nothing that Noah could see with his eyes or touch with his hands that suggested this was a good idea. But God told him to do it, and that was enough. He didn't need to understand or see the whole plan. Because he had been saved, he had a heart that yearned to follow God. And he did.
I think it would be a little hypocritical for me to try and spend a lot of words explaining the importance of simple obedience to you, so let me leave you with the words of Jesus (John 14:15 (CSB)): "If you love me, you will keep my commands."
Discussion idea: Why is simple obedience sometimes so hard?
Prayer focus: Lord, give me the wisdom to know what to do and the strength and courage to do it.
Key verse: Matthew 5:20
Big idea: The reign of Jesus the King is not on the surface but in the heart.
What does it take to be good enough? The Pharisees were professional do-gooders. They not only kept the Old Testament but added hundreds of additional requirements through their oral law. They were continually making displays of righteousness with scrupulous obedience, public prayers, and acts of charity. Yet, in the first chapter of the Sermon on the Mount (which will continue through chapter 7), Jesus told His disciples that it was not enough. If their righteousness did not go beyond the purity of the scribes and the Pharisees, they could not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
How could their righteousness go beyond people like that? Obviously not by doing more good things than they did. Their righteousness did not need to be broader but deeper. Through the beatitudes at the beginning of the chapter, Jesus taught His disciples that they could not just make minor adjustments to the way everyone else lived; their entire value system needed flipping upside down. If they hated, their heart was the heart of a murderer. If they lusted, their heart was the heart of an adulterer. Simple external obedience was not enough. The only righteousness that matters to God is the righteousness that goes all the way to the heart.
It goes beyond, “thou shalt not.” Our vows (whether the marriage covenant or our ordinary life) should not be about looking for technicalities, but a basic posture of honesty that needs to elaborate justification. We should be quick to go the extra mile, even to the point of loving our enemies. If you want to make a superficial change in society, this is overkill. But if the people Jesus was calling were going to be salt to preserve the world and light to guide it, they would need to go beyond the typical ideas of holiness. I can apologize to my wife while fuming on the inside, and maybe even convince her that I am genuinely sorry. But the benefits to our relationship would be short-lived because my heart would eventually leak out. I can fool people, but never God. The reign of Jesus is so complete that it must touch every part of us. Accept no substitutes.
Discussion idea: Why is doing the right thing for the wrong reasons an especially dangerous form of temptation? How is heart-centered righteousness greater than external obedience?
Prayer focus: Pray for God to reveal an opportunity to go the extra mile and serve someone beyond any outward expectation.