Summary: God is ready for us to be dead and reborn rather than just “made over.”
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV) Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
I had the verse put above the signature line on our checks. I had heard it in a song. It hits home with me. The Message paraphrase puts it this way:
Proverbs 4:23 (The Message) Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.
Sure enough, every time I make a mess of things, or someone else makes a mess of things, I can trace it back to this basic principle. Your heart is worth guarding, because that’s where life begins. What’s going on inside there is what’s eventually going to surface on the outside every time.
This series “Changed Hearts, Changed Lives” is a look at the way individuals are changed when they encounter God. In other words, I want us to see how God’s word gets personal. It’s not just something that’s “good for certain people to hear,” or something that’s “nice for us to read.” It’s not just a checklist that you apply to what you do and don’t do.
It’s something that’s living and active and that cuts through all the external garbage we have to get right to the center of our being. It has the power to change us on the inside – to change our hearts, so that the lives we live will be shaped by God’s truth. Yeah, that’s my goal here. I think that’s the order in which it works. If you want your life to be what God wants it to be, you have to start by letting God’s word get to heart of the matter – your heart and my heart.
To kick this all off, we’re jumping into a very familiar story from the Bible. Most people who don’t know anything else about the Bible have at least heard the story of Noah and the ark. We’ve already had a visual just to get us thinking about the whole thing again.
So, just right at this moment, what does the story of Noah mean to you?...
It may just be a cute story. It’s a great theme for a nursery, or a preschool, or a Vacation Bible School. It’s a great way to involve toddlers in learning the names of animals. And it’s a fun story for them to think about. So there are Noah and the ark toys, Noah cross stitches, Noah story books, and Noah songs. Is that where it stops for you this morning?
Joke - A little girl was sitting on her grandpa’s lap listening to the Bible story of Noah’s Ark, asked "Were you in the Ark, Grandpa?" He laughed and said, "Why, no I wasn’t." There was a pause, and she looked up at him, confused, and asked, "Then why weren’t you drowned?"
It may just be a legend to some – an attempt to try to explain something about human history, although I don’t know what it would explain. Please, the earth bears a lot of evidence for a global flood. We don’t need to try to explain it all away. It’s less work to simply look at the evidence and accept that it happened at one point. Or maybe it’s less work still to not even care about it at all. About 10% of the buster generation (1963-1977) believe that Noah’s wife was Joan of Arc.
For some, it’s one of many flood stories from ancient cultures – some 270 different flood stories from around the world – from Babylon, Greece, Egypt, Persia, Syria, Italy, Wales, Scandinavia, Russia, India, China, Mexico, Indonesia, New Guinea, Melanesia, Polynesia, Micronesia and Australia, to name a few. Isn’t it a remarkable coincidence that many of these places, long before the Bible was even compiled, had stories of a huge flood and some kind of vessel? It’s a thing that makes you go, “Hmmmm…”
Still others recognize that the story of Noah is a historical account of something that really happened, and that within that account is also a foreshadowing of something even more spectacular than preserving humans and animal life through a global flood. There is, in fact, a symbol of baptism and our new birth into Christ, and a model of the place that Jesus should hold in our lives.
Most everyone has heard of the show “Extreme Makeover – Home Edition.” That’s where they find someone with a hard luck story, whose house is just a mess, and they come in a re-do the whole thing. The idea of a makeover isn’t new. They’ve been doing makeovers on people for years. I’ve never been terribly excited about those because of what they imply. In some ways I think it’s neglecting what really matters. I suppose, being a guy and all, that I just don’t get it, right? But, then again, if a person is a mess on the inside, no matter how you change the way they look, it doesn’t solve the problems inside. That’s the problem with a “makeover” – that ‘s the problem with every surface level life-change – it’s superficial.