The Erosion of a Nation - Part Two
Scripture: Romans 1:18–32
The Erosion of a Nation-Part TwoRomans 1:18-32
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Pastor Randy Smith
Two weeks ago I began by asking you a question. "What has happened to our country?" The decline in television morality. The indoctrination of liberal values in the schools. The growing absence of church involvement. The acceptance of so-called gay marriage and abortion. The rise of divorce, delinquency, dishonor and dishonesty. We are definitely not the country our forefathers established or envisioned. "What has happened to the moral fabric of our nation especially in recent years?"
No doubt many factors contribute to our present reality, but I believe the underling root of the situation, as I said two weeks ago, is found in the Word of God, specifically, Romans chapter 1. In verse 18 we read, "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven." I submit to you that our present levels of depravity not only bring about God's wrath, but more importantly are itself undeniable proof we are presently under God's wrath.
That is a whopper of a statement, so allow me the remainder of our time to prove that statement using the Word of God. We already learned that God's wrath is His righteous indignation against all that opposes His holiness. Or as verse 18 continues, "Against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men." God is obligated to take sin seriously. When humans willfully disobey His Word, He will not sit back uninterested or unconcerned as a jolly and indifferent grandfather. He must, as His nature demands, respond. And the wrath we are talking about here in Romans 1 is what two weeks ago we called the wrath of abandonment - a passive wrath. There comes a point when God simply pulls away and lets us go our own way.
Let's back up. God reveals Himself in creation. Verse 20 says His "invisible attributes" and His "eternal power" and His "divine attributes" "have been clearly seen." Fingerprints of His existence are everywhere! That is why Psalm 14:1 declares: "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God.'" So as verse 20 says, therefore all people are "without excuse." Because, verse 19, "that which is known about God is evident."
So God has revealed Himself. He has made Himself known and humans have gladly humbled themselves before His presence. Right? Wrong! Verse 18 says we have done just the opposite. We have taken that revelation and have done all we can, verse 18, to "suppress [that] truth in unrighteousness." The excuses are legion. The lengths we go to avoid submitting to His lordship living under His accountability, allowing Him to reign supreme in our lives. It becomes a battle of the wills. Whose will will win? And as the Bible documents it all the way back to the Garden, most will shake their fist at God and pridefully choose the will of self. Logically there is no greater sin! A vote of no confidence for the living God!
Verse 21, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks." My friends, it is not hard to see! Everything in this world is about self! When do you hear individuals genuinely seeking to honor God, thank God and obey God, especially when it comes at the expense of their own egos? Strip away the thin veneer of religion that most people wear, and you won't have to dig very deep to see that most people have rejected the living God for the god of self. It is all about me! I am king! What a tragic decision!
Verse 21 continues, "They became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Verse 22, "Professing to be wise, they became fools." What do you expect when people reject the greatest reality in the universe? Can there be anything else but folly when the One who created them to be satisfied only in Him is cast aside? Oh, they may appear wise to the world, but in the eyes of God they are fools. After all doesn't Proverbs 9:10 declare, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding?"
And where does it go from there? Verse 23, "[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." Today our idols have become more sophisticated. In our natural need to worship, most in our society have exchanged the glory of the living God and turned to fame and self-worship and possessions and money and pleasure which results in gambling and chemical addictions and excessive spending and sexual perversions and eating disorders (only to name a few). Instead of giving God all of our hearts, we depend upon and cling to and serve these artificial gods of our making.
So God makes us for His glory. He clearly reveals Himself to all humankind. We observe the truth about Him which is evident. We suppress that revelation in unrighteousness and turn to idols instead. Shall we expect the living God to observe this rejection and sit back unmoved?
The new material. Verse 24, "Therefore God gave them over." "God gave them over." We see the same three words in verse 24 and verse 26 and verse 28. As men or a nation persist in abandoning God, He simply abandons them. And this abandonment is the wrath spoken of back in verse 18. You see, there is a common grace that God places upon all of humankind. But the more humans reject God, the more He gives them over to the wicked desires of their hearts.
I am close to having three teenage daughters in my home. They are all good kids that profess to love Jesus. But what would happen if Julie and I did not promote unrighteousness, but simply let them do whatever they wanted? Most likely they would run into trouble.
Think of it this way. All of our hearts are filled with sin, but we are not as bad as we can possibly be. Why? Because if we are in Christ we have a new heart and are restrained by the Holy Spirit and if we are without Christ there is a lesser restraint called common grace that still in a general sense keeps people from spinning from total depravity to utter depravity. But once that restraint is removed, watch out! People will pursue ungodliness in the deepest and most perverse of proportions.
Picture it like a watering can. There's a gallon of water just waiting to blow your petunias right out of the pot. But when the can is tipped, the water is gently sprinkled on the flowers because the water is governed or filtered or restrained by a head with little holes screwed to the spout of the can. Yet remove the head and the full fury of that water is instantly released.
Likewise, Romans 1 teaches that God restrains even those who have not bowed the knee to Christ. But the more they reject the clear evidence about Him, the more He slowly unscrews the head of the watering can. Within time all the wickedness of one's heart bursts forth in its fullest capacity with it deepest expressions of ungodliness. You see, without God we harden our hearts, sear our consciences, live in the flesh and lay defenseless to the devil's assaults. The extent of depravity reaches its lowest levels.
This is what it means for God to reveal His wrath (verse 18) by giving people over (verses 24, 26 and 28). And this, if I can make application right now is the reason for the downward spiral of our nation's ungodliness. Sin is running rampant like never before as people are empty shells living without peace, meaning, purpose and hope, seeking self-reformation but never finding victory or satisfaction, going "bad to worse" (2 Tim. 3:13) because God fails to be part of the equation.
What is the result? What is the consequence of God's abandonment? Verse 24 says God gave them over "in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them." The first result of God giving people over is sexual sin or as Paul puts it here: "impurity." The result, verse 24, is a dishonoring of their bodies. Our bodies that were meant to serve God become nothing more than the tool to serve our sensual desires. What sells today - God or sex? We go from purity to impurity, honor to dishonor.
And why? Verse 25, because such people have "exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." We see it again. We are created to serve. We will serve somebody. So when we reject the living God, we exchange our highest calling of serving our Creator who is blessed forever, for the base and dishonorable desires of serving created things, especially ourselves. The idolatry takes over which often progresses to this sexual impurity.
Verse 26, "For this reason [our rejection of the Creator for the creature] God gave them over [there we see it again - the wrath of abandonment - and where does it lead?] to degrading passions [now Paul get more specific]; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."
A few months ago Kirk Cameron on the Piers Morgan show called homosexual behavior "unnatural." He was and has been crucified for his comments. Was he inaccurate? Not according to Romans 1 in the Bible which uses the exact same words. Why is homosexual behavior "unnatural?" Because God all the way in the beginning ordained it in such a way that sexual relations are to be reserved exclusively between a man and a woman within the confines of marriage. The concept is reinforced throughout all of Scripture. And why is that so important? Because as Paul expresses in Ephesians 5 our marriages are to be a representation of the marriage between Jesus Christ and His bride, the church. Our marriages are to represent a divine relationship that we have with our Savior of fidelity, permanence, roles, oneness and dedication. The greatest relationship is God sending His Son to pay for our sins on the cross to redeem from their lost condition a bride (called the church) all for Himself. The connection of one man and one woman committed for life.
Tell this to someone without Christ and they will most likely crucify you as well for being unloving and narrow-minded and homophobic. But what are we going to believe? God's Word or the ever changing attitudes of our culture? And why are we surprised? Didn't we already learn that those without God profess to be wise but are in reality fools?
Clearly a sin and clearly an indication that God is abandoning our nation, yet the gay advocates are militant and persuasive. Their success has grown. Our President's platform for the first time in history supports this offense that God's condemns. The percentage of Americans who endorse the so called "gay marriage" is no doubt growing. But according to Scripture, this is not evolving. This is the de-evolving of a nation going in the wrong direction, a nation moving from God's pleasure to His displeasure, from His favor to His wrath. So do we as Christians go with the flow? We can't! Not if we believe the Bible, stay faithful to our calling to proclaim it without shame and want to show our greatest demonstration of love to the homosexual community. To do anything less would indeed be unloving to people and nation and God!
Verse 28, "And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer [still persisting in their suppression of the truth, their love for the lie and dedication to their idols], God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper." Tell me these words written 2,000 years ago do not describe our society and describe it in a way that is getting progressively worse even in our lifetimes! Verses 29-31, "Being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy [a society that wants what others have], murder [abortion], strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God [now infamous moment at the democratic convention when God needed to be re-voted back into their platform], insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil [elaborate], disobedient to parents [epidemic proportions], without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful."
Verse 32, "And although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them."
Again, without excuse because God has made Himself evident. Deep down all people know that our God is not a God to be trifled with - especially if you live in the Northeast over the past two weeks! There is a consequence for refusing to align yourself with His will. People all know this (Rom. 2:15), but they suppress the truth and persist in attitudes and actions which they know demands eternal death (Rom. 6:23) defying what our God requires. Jesus Christ Himself called it: "This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed" (Jn. 3:19-20).
You see, all of us are sinners. There is no denying the fact. Inherently we know this. Add the teaching of Scripture and it becomes crystal clear. You can try to suppress it all you want, but it is still a reality. Our idols won't remove our sin. God's desire is that we acknowledge our sin and run to Jesus Christ as the only acceptable Savior from our sin. He stands with loving outstretched arms ready to receive all who call upon Jesus Christ in faith for complete forgiveness. Do you want the world's approval or God's favor? Do you want His wrath or His blessings? Do you want idols or God as your Father? Jesus is the way!
Yet in our deep rooted desire for self, most will continue rejecting God, processing with their darkened hearts and foolish minds, loving their sin instead of righteousness and even, verse 32, giving hearty approval to those who engage in such sinful behavior. The lowest level of corruption. Not only sinning in private, but publicly condoning and defending sin - being applauded for coming out of the closet instead of cleaning up the closet!
And here we are in America today. Right is wrong. Sin is in. Christians are out of touch. God is irrelevant. And self is supreme. Is it fair to say that when we compare our nation with Scripture, we are witnessing Romans 1 being fulfilled before our very eyes?
I don't know what to make of the future of our nation. I will leave that to the political pundits. But I do know what you can make of your future. If you are without Christ, will you continue to reap His wrath in rejecting the Creator for the creature? Do you think He will idly stand back and allow you to persist in your idolatry? Perhaps you have not experienced God's cataclysmic wrath now but are you and possibly your family experiencing His wrath of abandonment? Is He just letting you go your own way? Here is the question: Is Jesus Christ reigning supreme in your heart and in your homes?
If not, there is hope. The biblical town of Corinth was one of the most depraved cities to ever have existed. But in that city, God called people to Himself from that state of depravity, from darkness to light and from hell to heaven. We read in 1 Corinthians 6, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." And then we read, "Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor. 6:9-11). There is hope for you this morning. Will you receive Jesus Christ?
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