Perhaps it was all the pizza or too much pepsi, but last night was an adventure in sleep. Thus, my first attempt at hearing a sermon and my last attempt were seperated by two hours of dreaming about playing with other people's kids. Is that important? Maybe.
The first attempt was at the end of The Lutheran Hour, and the host and pastor were answering a question from a listener who was a "former Christian". He asked, "A Christian man falls one night and gets drunk. He ends up hitting a car full of people and everybody dies instantly, including himself. Does he go to heaven or hell?"
Now obviously the questioner has a trouble grasping the concept of grace, and of God's forgiveness of sins past, present, and future, through acceptance of Jesus Christ. If the man had indeed accepted Christ, then he accepted Christ's payment on the cross for ALL his sins, and, yes, goes to heaven. The accident was the consequence of a grievious sin; but the only sin that keeps one out of heaven is rejecting Christ's atonement. As with many who struggle with spiritual matters, the questioner could not get to the concept that God, as the creator of time, is Himself beyond it, and thus Christ's sacrifice once for all truly means Once. For All.
2 hours of fitful sleep later I came in at the trailing end of a similar sermon which allegorized the point in the story of Noah. Noah was a preacher of God; yet in the hundred years it took to build the ark, he brought only seven people to join him in it. This did not mean he failed; rather than go to the examples of why that is cited in Ezekiel, I'll just share the quote the preacher shared to explain this "failure": "The preacher's job isn't to fill the pews; his job is to fill the pulpit." Meaning, his is to expose people to the word; theirs is to accept or reject.
What does the first have to do with the other? Hang on, we're getting there. Two key verses have to be looked at to see where I'm going. The first is Genesis 7:1: "Then the Lord said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation." God didn't say go, he said "come", which indicates that by entering the ark, Noah's family was going someplace where God already WAS. Just as by accepting Christ, we are found "righteous in our generation" (Through no ability of our own, but through Christ's sacrifice) and enter into God's presence. The second verse is same chapter, verse 16: "So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God commanded him; and the Lord shut him in." Get that? God shut them in where He was, and sealed them in. Just so are we sealed into salvation the moment we enter into the "ark" of Christ's sacrifice.
Now our questioner, as the LH pastor pointed out, would no doubt bring up the age-old comeback, "Then a Christian can get away with anything, right?" This is a question that has been answered many many times in many many ways, to the point that one who asks it is generally a smartass trying to scoff at God rather than someone genuinely trying to understand. But this morning I thought of a new way to look at this answer, which I will share with you, as well as help myself understand one of those passages that always bothered me.
At the end of Genesis chapter 9, we run into the story of Noah's son Ham. Noah, for those of you who don't know the story, planted a vinyard shortly after the flood in order to lift a cup of wine to the Lord. But after the flood, the world went through a great deal of physical change; one of those changes made it so that wine was a good deal stronger than before. Thus, Noah got drunk and passed out naked in his tent. Ham came along and found it funny, and ran off to tell his brothers. The brothers were aghast at his disrespect of their father, and walked backwards with a blanket, so as to cover their father without observing his nakedness. And when Noah woke up, he lowered the boom... but not on Ham:
"Then he said, "Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be to his brothers." And he said, "Blessed be the Lord, the God of Shem (brother #1), and may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japeth (brother # 2), and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant." (Genesis 9:25-27)
Who's Canaan? Why that is Ham's firstborn son. Why did he catch the curse instead of Ham? That's what I always wondered, until I heard the analogy made today. You see, Ham had already been saved from the flood and came into the new world beyond death. Just as, we do when we enter the "ark" of salvation. But.... there are consequences to our actions. If we are truly saved, nothing that happens will seperate US from Jesus... but our actions can lead our CHILDREN astray. If we set a poor example, if we do not exhibit "righteousness in our generation." We might still make it to heaven "scorched as if by fire" (I Corinthians 3:15), but what about our children who watch us? Will they follow our good examples, or the ones that lead to their curse?
Was the dream important? Maybe. The person whose kids I played with was a classmate in high school who I knew but didn't hang with. His name was Dan, just like the patriarch (IOW a son of Jacob and brother of Joseph). That patriarch's children founded a city they called Dan after their father, and it became home to a golden bull, one of two made by King Jereboam of Israel for the people to worship instead of worshipping God at the temple. Within 25 years of the bull's placement, the city was destroyed by Beh-Hadad of Syria. So you might say that in giving this message I am "playing with Dan's children", trying to get them to hear and "get in the ark" before their own flood, their own Ben-Hadad, sweeps them away. Whether I am any more sucessful than Noah isn't up to me.