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Costly, Messy, Beautiful Obedience

Finding favor in the eyes of the Lord


The key word in the title of this message is "obedience." When I did a Google search on obedience, the most popular sites fell into two categories: dog obedience or the Stanley Milgram experiments.

In the early 1960s, Milgram, a PhD student at Yale, started a series of experiments called Obedience to Authority. Participants included a learner, a teacher, and an experimenter. The experimenter represented the voice of authority. The teachers, who were ordinary people like you and me, were supposed to administer electric shocks to the learners whenever they answered a question incorrectly. The teachers didn't know it, but the learners were actually paid actors. When they received the shock, they would cry and groan, but in Milgram's experiment, most of the teachers obeyed the instructions of the experimenter and kept increasing the level of the shock. Ultimately, over two-thirds of the teachers kept obeying the experimenter in the white coat until they punished their learners with the maximum shock of 450 volts.

Based on this little survey, apparently obedience is a nasty word. We're suspicious of obedience. It's something that you do for dogs but not human beings. It's also mindless, scary, and hurts people.

Or is it? Our text, Genesis 6, tells the story of messy, costly, beautiful obedience from an ordinary man named Noah. It's not what we might expect about obedience. Through his story, we learn it's when we're loving God, knowing God, and experiencing God that we're living a life of active obedience to God.

God makes the first move.

To begin with, the story of Noah's obedience—like every story of obeying God—does not begin with Noah; it begins with God. In the midst of the human disaster of Genesis 6:5, ...

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Matt Woodley serves as the Editor for and the Pastor of Compassion Ministries at Church of the Resurrection in Wheaton, Illinois. He is also the author of God With Us: The Gospel of Matthew (IVP).

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Sermon Outline:


I. God makes the first move.

II. The radical obedience of an ordinary guy

III. Obedience is costly.

IV. Obedience is messy.

V. The beautiful side of obedience.