The Erosion of a Nation - Part One

October 28, 2012 Preacher: Randy Smith Series: Miscellaneous

Scripture: Romans 1:18–32


The Erosion of a Nation-Part One

Romans 1:18-31
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Pastor Randy Smith

What has happened? The changes have been subtle, but in the span of our lifetimes they have been dramatic. Mike and Carol Brady first sharing a mattress in 1969 seems like nothing when compared to bedroom scenes filling the popular shows during prime time television today. Today, two out of every three shows on TV include sexual content, most often this content is not between a married husband and wife and 90% of the time the risks and responsibilities are not mentioned.[i] Children are exposed to 14,000 sexual references on TV each year. Add in the soap operas and you'll take in an average of 15 sexual references per hour. [ii] How did we go from "Leave it to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best" to "The New Normal" depicting the so-called positive lifestyle of two professing homosexuals and the "The Simpsons" where father is always the bumbling fool? The average US home watches 6.75 hours of television a night and during that time the average US child by the age of 18 will have been subjected to 200,000 violent acts and 16,000 murders. [iii] Children and youth see, on average, about 2,000 beer and wine ads on TV each year. [iv] What has happened that our culture not only tolerates this mentality, but also finds pleasure being entertained by it?

Television is only one example. The moral erosion of our nation is seen everywhere. When I was growing up in the Midwest you were the oddball if you did not go to church on Sunday mornings. Now it is just the opposite. On a given Sunday morning you see the shopping store lots packed, golf courses full and the children's athletic fields occupied. It's a great day for a walk, bike ride or a Lazy-Boy rocker with the morning paper and a cup of coffee. But church? What is your problem?

From a society that was founded on teaching children to read from the Bible, we have filled our school curriculums with evolution and homosexual indoctrination. Teachers are afraid to even say God's name in the classroom in fear of being fired unless of course it is used as a vain expression of speech.

Our politicians are untrustworthy. Our marriages are temporary. Our teens are disrespectful. Our neighbors are greedy. Our schools are a warzone and our children are confused.

It wasn't always like this. What has happened?

Today, using the Word of God, I would like to provide an answer. Some of you will greatly rejoice at what I am about to say. Perhaps there will be others squirming in their seats. Yet we can all agree there is an undeniable reality as it relates to the decline of our nation's morality. Much has contributed to this reality. All I ask is that you prayerfully consider what I believe God's Word has to say in regards to the root of this reality. Let's just walk our way through Romans 1.

In verse 18 we read "the wrath of God is reveled from heaven." Perhaps I stunned you already! Like it or not, our God is a wrathful God. Due to His perfect holiness, He must display anger to all that opposes Him. If He failed to do this, He would not be worthy of our worship nor would He be just in dealing with evil. God's wrath is not an uncontrollable, irrational, emotional anger provoked by malice or revenge (like us). It is a settled disposition that refuses to compromise and tolerate sin. What bring on God's wrath? Verse 18 tell us, "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." God must oppose "all" that opposes Him. And when put this way, all humans are under the wrath of God until we flee to the One who took God's wrath in our place, Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross.

Now when we talk about God's wrath it is important to note that the Bible categorizes the manifestation of His wrath in at least five different ways. First there is eternal wrath. That is hell, the place where all will go who die in their sins without the blood covering of Christ. Second there is cataclysmic wrath. That is the miraculous use of the natural order to bring about the display of God's anger - the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc. Third, there is consequential wrath. We covered this recently with "sowing and reaping." Disobey God's moral laws as recorded in His Word and you will reap consequences. Fourth there is eschatological wrath. That is what we are waiting for (well beyond the fury of the hurricane) spoken of in Revelation, just prior to the return of Christ. And fifth (and often least spoken of) is the wrath of abandonment. That is when God simply abandons a nation. Unlike the others, this is a passive wrath. This is the type of wrath under consideration here in Romans 1. And this is probably best witnessed three times in this section (verses 24, 26 and 28) which simply says "God gave them over." There is a common grace that God places upon all people. But when a nation rejects God, God simply lets them have what they want - a nation without God!

And what happens then? We'll see as this message unfolds.

I remember visiting the Southernmost Point Monument in Key West Florida back in 1995. I was reading the plaques that gave remembrances to the hundreds of the Cubans who died in their attempt to make the 90-mile voyage across the Gulf to our great country. And on the bottom of one the final words read, "God bless America." Actually, it read, "Bless America" because someone took considerable effort to scratch out of the metal the word, "God." That is what we want. We want the blessings without having to be accountable to God. It simply does not work that way. When we abandon God, God abandons us. There is then no possible room for blessings.

Well, how does a nation reject God? Verse 18 tells us. In their love for ungodliness and unrighteousness they "suppress the truth in unrighteousness." So the implication at this point is that the truth which is known to all teaches us that God's way is the right way. And while knowing this truth humans intentionally suppress this truth and follow the lie that the unrighteous ways which reject the living God are to be preferred. So all humans know the truth, are continually subjected to the truth, and they deliberately and willingly suppress the truth because they want unrighteousness.

For example, here is the suppression: "The Bible is full of contradictions." Can you name one? "We all evolved." So all this came from nothing! "Every belief is the same." That is theoretically impossible. "God is only a God of love. He would never send anyone to hell." That's not what Romans 1:18 in the Bible teaches. "If I saw Jesus I'd believe in Him!" Then why did most who met Him in person reject Him? Do you see ridiculous claims people make? Do you see the lengths people go to suppress the truth? "This is the judgment, [said Jesus] that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil" (Jn. 3:19).

Suppressing the truth in unrighteousness - I like to compare it to a large beach ball. Ever try to hold a large beach ball under water? You lay on it. You sit on it. You lock it between your knees, but eventually that beach ball frees itself loose and shoots out of the water. Just like the beach ball is forever seeing daylight, the truth about God is forever seeking our acceptance. But we suppress it. We hold it down because we do not want to live our lives in accordance to it. I believe that is why you can talk about almost anything with anyone, but the moment you mention the name Jesus you can literally see the blood pressure rising in the other person! They have worked hard to suppress Him for fifty years and they are not about to let you jar things loose!

Now at this point you are probably thinking (and it is always the same illustration), "Yeah, but what about the man living in the remote jungles in Africa who has never been exposed to the Christian message?" How can he suppress the truth when he has never heard the truth?"

Romans 1:19 provides the answer: "Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them." Stay with the text. God is justified in displaying His wrath (verse 18) because He has clearly revealed Himself to all people (verse 19). Knowledge of who He is and our responsibility to be accountable to Him is "evident" (verse 19). And God has gone through great lengths to make it evident. All humans have no excuse.

Does that mean all people have a knowledge of Him through the Bible? That is not what this verse is teaching. All people do not have what we call "special revelation," but all people do have what we call "general revelation" - the revelation spoken of in Romans 1. And while general revelation is not enough to save, it is enough to show us God's existence and our need to worship Him.

So how has God made Himself evident through this special revelation that is available to all? Verse 20, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made."

Let me see if I can put it like this. Every person has been created in the image of God. Unlike animals, all of us have been hardwired to recognize Him and desire a relationship with Him. So in order for us to know Him, God has revealed Himself to us. And one of the greatest ways He reveals Himself, verse 20, "His eternal power and divine nature," is through creation.

Ever consider the vast distance of space? Ever consider the precision of our earth's orbit? Ever consider how this planet has all we need to be sustained from the right temperature to right food sources? Ever consider the diversity among creatures and colors on the earth? Ever consider how a wound can heal itself? Ever consider how two that are different but of the same kind can reproduce? Ever consider the birth of a child? Ever consider your brain how it can remember and your heart how it can beat and your eyes how they can see? Ever consider the beauty of a sunset and the power of a hurricane and the majesty of a mountain and the serenity of the fall colors?

And it all evolved from nothing! With all due respect, I do not have enough faith to believe that! You'd have a greater chance of Hurricane Sandy blowing through a junkyard and assembling a Rolls Royce than you would having a "big bang" create a universe. The theory of evolution is suppressing the truth. God's fingerprints are everywhere! That is why Psalm 14:1 declares, "[Only] the fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" It is "evident" (verse 19). So as verse 20 concludes, "[Therefore all people] are without excuse." Instead of seeking God so that He may reveal more of Himself, people reject Him in favor of unrighteousness and suppress the truth He has already provided.

And how did they specifically reject Him? Verse 21, "For even though they knew God [not redemptively, but knowledge about Him], they did not honor Him as God or give thanks." Paul now reveals the ultimate reason why people reject the truth about God which is evident. They do "not [want to] honor Him as God or give thanks." The pride of man's heart is now revealed. We would have no problem with a domesticated god, a god that will agree to our terms and play by our rules. As long as we can esteem ourselves as number one and give ourselves all the glory and answer to no one but ourselves for what we have, we will have no problem with a god in our lives. But deep down inside, man knows because of the way God has made Himself known, that he is called to esteem God as number one and thank Him for all that he has. And there is where the conflict erupts! And there is where the fight for supremacy occurs! And there is where the rejection happens!

And what happens when the human heart consciously makes the decision to reject God? Verse 21 continues, "But they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." Verse 22, "Professing to be wise, they became fools." It is only natural that when we reject the greatest reality in the universe, the One who provides the true meaning, purpose and understanding to life, that our thinking will become warped. Our speculations will be futile (verse 21). And while professing to be wise, in the eyes of God we will be fools (verse 22).

Do you see how society has turned this around? To justify their suppression of God they make the ones who have embraced the truth about God to be the fools. How commonly is Christianity mocked by Hollywood? How often do people respect the atheist college professor? How frequently are teens ridiculed for their faith in Christ? Wisdom to the world comes with the world's definition. Yet when examined under the light of Scripture it is foolishness. Because according to Scripture, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (Pr. 9:10). Do you see the difference?

So maybe there is one person here this morning, perhaps a high school student, who stands up for her faith and is repeatedly ridiculed for placing God at the center of her beliefs. Unlike her fellow students, she has not suppressed the evident truth about God. And repeatedly she hears, "Why do you like church so much?" "There is nothing wrong with 'same-sex' marriage? "Why do you speak so well of your parents?" "Christians are weird!" "The Bible is a bunch of myths!" "A woman should have the right to choose!" And maybe this girl can take solace in the truth of Scripture. She is not the fool. According to God, they are!

When we reject God we may possess a degree of morality and religion, but these are only a thin veneer over a heart (verse 21) that is "foolish" and "darkened." It's a heart that esteems the temporary over the eternal and the trivial over the significant and the wrong over the right. And while appearing sophisticated and in-touch and convincing, the heart of all God- rejecters makes the greatest mistake as it wanders into the most dangerous of all places. You see, God has created all of us to be worshippers and when we fail to worship the true God we will worship false gods. Paul put it like this in verse 23: "And [they] exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures." The glory of the true God was exchanged for idols. Can anything more foolish? Forsaking a relationship with the living God that can result in joy and meaning and peace and purpose and eternal life, the worshipper turns objects of metal and blocks of wood to fill the void in their darkened hearts. This is de-evolution - rejecting the Creator for the creation!

This is the epitome of foolishness!

Listen to how the prophet Isaiah put it: "Those who fashion a graven image are all of them futile, and their precious things are of no profit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame. Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Behold, all his companions will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them together be put to shame. The man shapes iron into a cutting tool and does his work over the coals, fashioning it with hammers and working it with his strong arm. He also gets hungry and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary. Another shapes wood, he extends a measuring line; he outlines it with red chalk. He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house. Surely he cuts cedars for himself, and takes a cypress or an oak and raises it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir, and the rain makes it grow. Then it becomes something< for a man to burn, so he takes one of them and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread. He also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, 'Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.' But the rest of it he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, 'Deliver me, for you are my god'" (Sa. 44:9-17).

"Come on, Pastor, no one in America is doing that!" Today the idols come in different packages, but they are more present than ever! You see, we reject God according to verse 21 because we do not want to honor Him. We want self-worship which is the reason we engage in idolatry. We want to surround ourselves with gods that will glorify me! We will depend upon, cling to and serve anything but the true God that demands our allegiance. In our natural need to worship, we turn to fame and possessions and money and pleasure, which result in gambling and addictions and excessive shopping and sexual perversions and eating disorders. For these idols promise us what we have been created by God to desire, but they never deliver. They promise but these never come through. And all the broken marriages and venereal disease and heartbreak and depression and hopelessness and poor reputations and financial ruin can testify to that fact. We get burned, but in our pride we refuse to turn to God. We simply trade one idol for another.

My friends, there is hope. If you are without God, it is not God's fault. We learned from the Bible that He has revealed Himself, but you have chosen to reject Him. Forsake the idols, acknowledge your sin and run to Jesus Christ right now for complete forgiveness. Thanks to His death on the cross, He has made access to the Father available to all who turn from their idols and embrace Him in faith. Don't be foolish. Allow Him to enlighten your mind to true knowledge and joy and peace.

And as we continue next week we will get to the heart of this passage in Romans. In a sense this was just the introduction. Because we will see next week what happens to a nation that receives revelation from God and then rejects it in favor of ungodliness. The results are obvious and frightening and clear especially when we look at the present state of our country.

[iv] Strasburger VC. Alcohol advertising and adolescents. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2002 Apr;49(2):353-76, vii.