Unity In Times of DisagreementWe are strange creatures. We think that we know everything when in fact we don’t know much of anything. We think we know the right path when in reality we so easily mislead ourselves. We think that God is trying to rob us of life, of really living it up, when in reality we rob ourselves of the abundant life that only God can give. We are some strange creatures.
We are much like the Prodigal Son. He had a good father. His father provided him with love, good home training, three square meals a day, a warm place to lay his head in the winter, a cool place in which to rest during those hot summers, and his dad was so kind to have written his son into his will. Yet, in the boy’s eyes, his father wasn’t cool; he didn’t know how to have fun. The boy couldn’t wait to get away from his dad and call the shots for his own life. You know what happened. The boy almost ruined his life. He wasted his father’s inheritance, he got in with the wrong crowd, and ended up homeless. Well, he wasn’t really homeless if you call living with hogs in a hog pen having a home. In the desperation of his condition the boy came to his senses and went home with his hat in his hand.
The father let the boy go his way and suffer from his own choices. The picture Jesus paints for us of the father and son in Luke 15, is really rooted in God’s relationship with those who refuse to worship and honor Him. In our Scripture for today, found in Romans 1:24-28, we see what I am talking about. Let’s read together.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:24-28 NIV)
This section of God’s Word is not new to me. I’ve been familiar with these verses for a long time and I have to tell you that they get my attention like no other. We have been given an opportunity by Almighty God to worship Him, to learn of His ways, and to choose His ways over our ways as we walk with Him in everyday life. The opportunity is before us, but we can refuse.
You think life would be better if you could get rid of any thoughts of God? You think you would be free to do whatever you want and not feel any guilt if you could only break free from God? You think that God is a hindrance to you really living it up in life? Well, then go your own way, but prepare yourself for what is to come. You may ask, “What do you know about what is to come?” I know because I’ve walked that road and I know that life apart from God is no life at all. It may appear to glimmer and shimmer and shake with alluring sights, sounds, and promises of ecstasy and euphoria, but you will find out. You will learn that all that glitters is not gold.
If you read through God’s Word you will soon learn that the Bible is a story of God’s desire to prevent us from destroying ourselves. We don’t need “enemies,” we are quite capable of destroying ourselves if we are left to our own devices. John MacArthur has written,
Like an untended garden, when man is left to himself the bad always chokes out the good, because that is the inclination of his fallen nature. Man has no capacity in himself to restrain the weeds of his sinfulness or to cultivate the good produce of righteousness. Man’s natural development is not upward but downward; he does not evolve but devolve. He is not ascending to God but descending from God. (MacArthur, John. MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8. The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.)
F.F. Bruce says that there is a “moral law” in the Universe which is not unlike the physical laws God has written into His creation. If you are swinging from a tall bridge spanning the Oklahoma River and you suddenly let go of the rope–what will happen? Is there any chance that you will float up into the heavens? Any chance? Hypothetically could it happen? Not on your life! Why? There is something God has created called gravity and it is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week all over the world. It doesn’t matter if you are hanging from a rope in Moscow, Mexico City, Mansfield, Texas, or Meeker, Oklahoma–if you let go of the rope you will fall like a rock.
And so it is with God’s moral law. If you let go of God’s Word and will, if you deafen your ears to His call to turn around, if you mock His counsel for your life, and set out to call the shots for your own life–prepare for God’s “moral gravity” to bring you down. The descent is as sure as if you had let go of a rope while dangling from a bridge. You will fall. F. F. Bruce has written,
There is a moral law in life that men and woman are left to the consequences of their own freely chosen course of action, and unless this tendency is reversed by divine grace, their situation will go from bad to worse. (Bruce, F.F., The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: Romans, William B. Erdman’s Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. 1985. pg. 77)
Paul makes this timeless truth very clear to us as he writes to the brothers and sisters in Rome. Let’s take a look at our Scripture. Take a look with me at verses 24-25.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:24-25 NIV)
“Therefore” refers us back to all that Paul has written up to this point. What has he written? Paul has told us that God has clearly revealed Himself to us through what He has made. He has made His eternal power and divine nature known to us through what He has made. (Romans 1:20) Because we have tried to suppress the truth about God through our wickedness, God’s wrath is being revealed against all godlessness and wickedness. (Romans 1:18)
The Scripture that we are studying today gives us some great insight into the “wrath of God.” Most of us think of the wrath of God as scenes from apocalyptic books like Revelation or Ezekiel, but here in Romans we see that God’s wrath is giving us what we desire. Three times in this section of Romans we see the phrase, “God gave them over.” In verse 24 we read,
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. (Romans 1:24 NIV)
The next instance of the phrase is found in Romans 1:26 where we read, 26 “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.” Then Paul goes on to describe the “shameful lusts” that he is referring to. The last instance of the phrase is found in verse 28 where we read, 28 “He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.” Paul’s focus is on distorted human sexuality as he describes the wrath of God that is being revealed by His “turning us over” to our desires. Let me show you what I’m talking about by taking a look at verses 24-25. The word that Paul uses for “desire” in verse 24 is the Greek word, “????????” (epithumia.) The word means, “desire, craving, longing, lust, or a desire for what is forbidden.”
Every human being has desires. The ability to desire something or someone is from God, but God has given us responsibility in this area of our life. We are to have godly desires and we are to squash ungodly desires. God’s Word is very clear in teaching us that He alone can fulfill the deepest desires of our heart. In the 103rd Psalm we read,
2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– 3 who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, 4 who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, 5 who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:2-5 NIV)
In the New Testament we see an example of godly desire as Paul wrote to Timothy and said, 1 Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. (1 Timothy 3:1 NIV)
An example of a godly desire is the desire to be a leader in God’s Church. What a blessing it is when we see folks pour their heart out in seeking to bless God’s people by leading them to a closer relationship with the Lord. There are also many warnings in God’s Word about reigning in our ungodly desires. In 1 Peter 1:14-16 we read,
14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV)
We are not to give in to our fleshly desires, to the lust of our hearts, but we are to be holy. Our desires should reflect the desires, and will, of Almighty God for our lives. Paul wrote to the Church in Colosse and said,
5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5 NIV)
We are not to give lust and ungodly desires of any kind any room to work in our lives. If you toy with ungodly desire it will eventually consume you. You may ask, “How do I battle these desires that seem to seize my heart and mind?” That is a great question isn’t it? Sometimes these ungodly desires spring up in our minds and we weren’t even intending to think such thoughts. How do we do battle with them? Paul wrote to the Galatians and said,
16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5:16 NIV)
“Live by the Spirit.” Seek the things of God more than anything in life. Let your desires find their fulfillment in a deep, intimate relationship with Him alone.
God’s Word warns us to squash ungodly desires when they come into our mind and heart. We do this by desiring the Lord and His will for our lives more than desiring to fulfill our ungodly desires. If we choose not to heed God’s counsel then we will pay a price for our decision. God’s Spirit and Word will work together to convict us, to try and turn us away from ungodly desires, but if we choose to habitually entertain ungodly desires then there will come a point when God will turn us over to our desires. That is a scary thought.
In verse 24 we see that God hands these folks over to sexual impurity. I don’t have to share any illustrations with you of this type of immorality and uncleanness do I? You hear stories everyday of perverted sexuality. You read the statistics about the billions of dollars that are spent on pornography each year. You hear of friends and loved ones who lose their marriage because they are unfaithful to their mate. You know about the alarming numbers of children who are born out of wedlock. Those of you who spend time on Middle School, High School, and College campuses each week–you know about the sexual escapades and exploits that are talked about on a daily basis. You know how young people use one another like toilet paper and then kick them to the curb.
I did some reading this past week on the Center for Disease Control website about sexually transmitted diseases among Americans. Let me share with you some of what I learned.
* There are over 19 million cases of sexually transmitted disease cases reported annually in the United States.
* Almost half of these cases are reported by young people age 15-24 each year.
* Each year one in four teenagers contracts an STD/STI.
* Half of all new HIV infections occur among adolescents.
* There are an estimated 65 million people living in the United States who are infected with an STD.
These are alarming statistics. Folks today talk about “hooking up” for casual sex, but they have no idea that they are hooking themselves up to a disease for the rest of their life in many cases.
Remember God’s wrath is expressed as He gives us what our wayward heart’s desire. These are the things we choose over worship and faithfulness to Almighty God. God desires that we give ourselves to worship His glory and majesty, but we desire to give ourselves to sexual fulfillment with no limits. If that’s what you want God will let you have it, but let me assure you–you don’t really want what you think you want. Let’s move on. Let’s take another step down the moral spiral of our desires by taking a look at Romans 1:26-27.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. (Romans 1:26-27 NIV)
Do you see the little phrase at the beginning of verse 26? Paul writes, “Because of this.” Because of what? Because of what is written in verse 25. Take another look at verse 25 with me and we can see why God gave them over. Paul writes,
25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:25 NIV)
When we trade out God’s counsel for living life for our own way of living, then we are “exchanging” the truth of God for a lie. It is only when we recognize that God’s way of living is the only way to truly live in freedom that we will fall at His feet in worship. As long as we deny this truth about God we will continue to be pulled deeper and deeper into deception concerning life.
I mentioned that Paul’s discussion here in Romans 1:24-28 is a downward spiral of immorality. Let me show you what I mean by that statement. In verse 24 Paul said that God handed them over to “sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” In verses 26-27 Paul says that men and woman exchanged “natural relations for unnatural ones.” “Sexual impurity,” sex outside of marriage, is sin. God created sex and He intends for it to be His wedding gift to a bride and groom, only to be shared with one another. Anything outside of this design by God is sexual impurity; it is sin, plain and simple. Even though sex outside of marriage is sin, it is “natural” from the standpoint that it is between men and women. God has given us sexual desire, but we allow our desires to be misused. Men allow their natural desire for intimacy with a woman to become sexual impurity when that desire is directed towards anyone other than the man’s wife. Women allow their natural desire for intimacy with a man to become sexual impurity when that desire is directed towards anyone other than their husband.
In verses 26-27 we see that men and women “abandoned natural relations” and became inflamed with lusts for one another–men for men and women for women. Paul calls homosexuality, “unnatural,” because it is not God’s design. I know that society tells us something altogether different today, but this is what God’s Word says. We talk about how things are different in our day and yet you need to know that in Paul’s day homosexuality was not only accepted, but it was praised by some in the Greek and Roman world. Paul lived in this world. He grew up in this world and yet he rejected societal “norms” because he heeded the counsel of the Word of God. In Leviticus 18:22 we read,
22 “‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” (Leviticus 18:22 NIV)
During the past twenty years in America we have experienced great change. Today there are gay and lesbian churches that try to explain away Scripture that relates to our responsibility to live sexually pure lives. A few years ago there was a movie that came out called, For The Bible Tells Me So which was praised by many movie critics. The entire focus of the movie was to try and reconcile homosexuality with the Bible. It can’t be done.
Rev. Mel White worked as a ghost writer for Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, and Pat Robertson for many years before he announced that he was gay. He has wrote a book called, What the Bible Says And Doesn’t Say About Homosexuality. In the opening of his book he writes,
Many good people build their case against homosexuality almost entirely on the Bible. These folks value Scripture, and are serious about seeking its guidance in their lives. Unfortunately, many of them have never really studied what the Bible does and doesn’t say about homosexuality. We gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Christians take the Bible seriously, too. Personally, I’ve spent more than 50 years reading, studying, memorizing, preaching, and teaching from the sacred texts. I earned my master’s and doctoral degrees at a conservative biblical seminary to better equip myself to ‘rightly divide the word of truth.’ I learned Hebrew and Greek to gain a better understanding of the original words of the biblical texts. I studied the lives and times of the biblical authors to help me know what they were saying in their day so I could better apply it to my own. I’m convinced the Bible has a powerful message for gay and lesbian Christians–as well as straight Christians. But it’s not the message of condemnation we so often hear. (White, Mel. What The Bible Says And Doesn’t Say About Homosexuality.)
I would agree with Mel White that the Bible has a powerful message for any people who have exchanged “natural relations for unnatural ones.” It is not a message of condemnation, it is an invitation, an invitation to turn around, repent, and desire the Lord more than anything in life. If we do not heed this message then God will turn us over to our desires and our unnatural desires will destroy us.
Let’s take a look at the last downward step described by Paul in verse 28. In Romans 1:28 Paul writes,
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (Romans 1:28 NIV)
If we think giving our time to worship the Lord is a waste of time, then there are consequences for that decision. If we think that serving the Lord, heeding His counsel, and walking in obedience is worthless then our thinking will become worthless. That is the true meaning of the word, “depraved.” The Greek word, “????????” (adokimos) literally means, “not standing the test, not approved.” It was oftentimes used of metals and coins. John MacArthur writes in his commentary on Romans,
The basic meaning of “????????” (depraved) is that of not standing the test, and the term was commonly used of metals that were rejected by refiners because of impurities. The impure metals were discarded, and “????????” therefore came to include the ideas of worthlessness and uselessness. In relation to God, the rejecting mind becomes a rejected mind and thereby becomes spiritually depraved, worthless and useless. (MacArthur, John. MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8, Moody Press, Chicago, IL.)
In Jeremiah 6:27-30 we see an excellent example using “testing metals” as a metaphor for God’s people failing the test. God says,
27 “I have made you a tester of metals and my people the ore, that you may observe and test their ways. 28 They are all hardened rebels, going about to slander. They are bronze and iron; they all act corruptly. 29 The bellows blow fiercely to burn away the lead with fire, but the refining goes on in vain; the wicked are not purged out. 30 They are called rejected silver, because the LORD has rejected them.” (Jeremiah 6:27-30 NIV)
The people of Jeremiah’s day rejected God, so God rejected them. This is the last rung on the downward spiral of human immorality. When God hands us over to a depraved mind our thinking becomes totally corrupt to the point where we believe that what God calls “good” is actually “bad,” and what God calls “bad” is actually “good.” Look at Romans 1:32 with me. Paul writes,
32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (Romans 1:32 NIV)
You and I need to know that it is not God’s desire to “hand us over” to our corrupt thinking and desires. God desires that we offer our bodies to Him, to be used for His glory and honor. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul writes,
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God– this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2 NIV)
Do you hear the heart of God this morning? Can you hear Him calling you away from destruction, the destruction that you and I will bring about by our own hands? Can you hear Him calling you to Himself in order that He might transform your thinking, lead you by His counsel into godliness, and prevent you from destroying yourself? I pray that you’ve listened closely this morning and that you hear the Lord calling you to turn from seeking to fulfill your desires that are ungodly and look to Him to fulfill you in every way. Ezekiel lived among a rebellious people, no less rebellious than us, and yet God told Ezekiel,
23 Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live? (Ezekiel 18:23 NIV)
“Turn, turn from your wicked ways and live!” This is God’s desire for you and me. The first step in turning is to recognize the error of your ways, the error of your thinking. Is your thinking all messed up this morning? Have you been seeking that which you thought would make you happy in life, but it has proven to leave you feeling more empty than you’ve ever felt before? Confess it to God and ask for His forgiveness. He is faithful to forgive us for all of our sins if we will only ask. Won’t you confess your sin this morning and ask Jesus to come into your heart and fill you with His everlasting, abundant life?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
May 7, 2013