Scriptures – Genesis 7-8, Ephesians 4
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Did the flood change the condition of the human heart?
“The Lord smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of human beings, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.” (Genesis 8:21)
What is God’s response to the human condition?
We know that it is Jesus Christ. God in the flesh. He is the one who will give us a new heart. He is bringing new creation:
“17So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.
20That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)
Discipleship, following Jesus, can become a really long list of things you do and don’t do. Sins to avoid and commitments to keep. Social occasions to avoid, and social occasions to attend. We reduce discipleship to a different social calendar with the avoidance of vices and embracing of virtues.
All of it is nothing, if the inclination of our hearts aren’t changed.
You are being made new, created to be like God in what is truly righteous and holy. That’s Paul’s message, to those who remained living in the old ways. He says, “put on the new self.”
When God arrives in Jesus, suddenly what’s on the inside really matters. The Pharisees are condemned, even though they appear to be righteous by their lawful activities. Jesus knows their hearts, and despite their best appearances, they are far from God. And those who traditionally are viewed far from God, Jesus draws nearer to them, sometimes declaring their faith greater than any he found in Israel.
Ephesians is written after the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. So Paul writes with the luxury of knowing something special about the world. It’s possible now, in light of Jesus life, death and reign, to live a new life. New creation has come, and Paul wants to let everyone in on what God has done. For Paul, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Eph. 4:4-6)
Jesus does what the flood can’t do. The flood cleansed the outside. It did nothing for the condition of the human heart. So old ways stayed the same. Yet the cross cleanses us through and through. The Lord descends and ascends. And in His ascension He gifts us, graces us with His Spirt, with Spirit-filled people, to build us up and build us together. To fill us up in every way, to fill the earth with the glory of God.
Today’s a good day to ask God for him to search our hearts, to know our anxious ways, and lead us to the way of everlasting life. (Psalm 138)
Today’s a good day, to remind ourselves of the condition of our hearts, and what Christ has done, at the cross, to make us new.
You are new, through the cross, through and through.
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.