Use the Correct Map
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Romans 1:16 to 2:1
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith."
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 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, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and 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.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 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.
28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 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.
1 Therefore you are without excuse, every man of you who passes judgment, for in that you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. NASB
Today has been designated as Sanctity of Life Sunday. The preacher at Teays Valley Church of God posted a message this past week on facebook as she does frequently. If you frequent facebook, you may have seen that post. I thought it was very good and I would agree with her. We need to support those who have made the mistake of thinking all life is unimportant to God. We must love one another. We must support one another, and encourage all to consider life to be sacred. God gives and God takes away. He also forgives when we recognize we are wrong and confess our sin. We must offer grace and mercy to those who have fallen into sin no matter what that sin may be. Sin that leads to unwanted pregnancy, or sin that leads to judging others who have fallen victim to the enemy of our souls. We, the church, are to offer grace to anyone who will listen. We are to tell them that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives.
As we look at this passage of scripture, I fear we see what we want to see and gloss over what we do not want to see. This passage has been abused by well meaning people who take a part of the passage and use it to brow beat and push their own agenda; to speak against their own idea of the sin we should condemn in others.
Paul's point here was not to point out any one activity that is more detestable to God than any other. His point was to direct us to the root of all sin. Judging others, condemning others who practice a particular sin and who may even push that sin and encourage others to participate in that sin is one of the sins he lists.
The point Paul was trying to make was that we are all in that boat. How did we get there? How did we become the judgmental, deceitful, unmerciful people who refuse to forgive others?
Paul's point was that forsaking God, refusing to accept Him as Lord and Savior leads us to be godless, sinful people. No matter what form your sin takes, no matter how large or small your lack of faith in Him is, it is rebellion against God.
We practice deceit when we refuse to acknowledge God as God. We fool ourselves into believing there is no Creator who will hold us accountable for our refusal to accept His right to judge us. When we take His place by pointing out and condemning others who have sinned, have we failed to be honest with ourselves about our own relationship with Him? I say, yes, we have failed in honouring God as God as surely as those we write off as people who have gone too far, who, or so we think, cannot be loved by God any longer.
I am not asking you to condone any sin. We need to teach the truth and all sin is wrong and we call people to forsake sin. However, we are not called to be their judge. We are called to point them to the God who loves them so much He came and died to prove to us He loves us.
God will not give up His Lordship. He will allow us to go our own way, ignoring Him and pretending we did not know that He exists and that He is Lord of lords and King of kings. For a time. One day, we will be forced to acknowledge the truth. He will not allow us to take His place on the throne of judgment either. He has the right to judge us. We do not have the right to judge Him, or to judge others.
Paul's point here is that we all sin and we all have fallen short of what God intended for us. We sin because we have refused to believe the evidence that He exists and that He is calling us to love Him and to love one another. He is calling us to give up our pride and sanctimonious judgment of others.
All the sins that Paul lists here, including being unmerciful and judgmental have their root in our failure to love and trust our Creator and Lord.
Three times in this passage Paul says “God gave them over...”. All three times, he is pointing us to the fact that we have forsaken God. We have turned our backs on God. God is just in letting us go our own way. He allows us to slip away from Him if we insist on it.
When we do forsake Him, then we begin setting other things up in God's place. We begin to worship created things instead of the Creator. When we put anything else in God's place, He will allow it. He will give us over to that, but that does not mean He likes it. His heart is broken. He continually reaches out to us and calls us to return to faith in Him.
Three times Paul said He gave them over. It starts in the heart. The throne room of our lives. He allows us to go our own way. We reject Him and we begin to love other things more than we love God. “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity”. Other things take the place of God in our hearts. We begin to move away from our first love which must be God if we are to live by faith in Him. The righteous live by faith. The just live by faith. We stop trusting God and loving Him and He lets us go. He does not stop us. He will not take our free will away.
The second time Paul says God gave them over to degrading passions. Our passions, our desires, our emotions are effected and we begin loving in ways that are not natural. We have no anchor to hold us to the things that God says are right. We begin seeking what we want, fulfilling the desires of the flesh in ways that God forbids. We lose our moral compass when we reject God. He is our source of right and wrong. When we reject Him we are no longer able to see the truth. We begin to deceive ourselves and tell ourselves that if it feels so good it cannot be wrong.
The third time Paul uses the phrase “God gave them over” is found in verse 28. “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.” When we reject God's love and lordship, we lose the ability to think correctly. Our world view is distorted. We begin living out of a distorted concept of the truth.
Imagine trying to negotiate the streets of St. Albans, West Virginia using a map of Sapulpa, Oklahoma. How ridiculous is that? Feel free to substitute the names of any other localities you like. Although some of the towns out west could use the same map. The streets of some of those towns are laid out in a grid and you could just as well label graph paper with street names and use it for a map.
Trying to navigate this world without God as the foundation of all you think, feel, and do is just as silly as trying to use a map of one state to get around in another. It does not make sense. Your world view is based on something that is not true when you leave out God. That will lead you to do and to believe things that are condemned by God.
Whether your sin has to do with sex, or just something as seemingly harmless as gossip it is still sin. You must take it to God, confess it as wrong and forsake it. He will be faithful to forgive you and to help you to clean up your life.
Do not make the mistake of trying to clean up your life before you surrender to His Love and His Lordship. Leaving Him out of the process leads to self-righteousness which, by the way, is just as sinful as any other sin.
Leaving God out of the picture and refusing to accept Him as the rightful Lord of your life and the lover of your soul leads to disaster. God will allow you to go your own way. He will continue to call you back to Himself, to call you to repent of your rebellion. Eventually, even though it will break His heart, He will let you go through eternity without Him.
“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.”
Ungodliness. That means life without God. If you reject Him, He will let you do so. The outcome will not be to your liking. The wrath of God will be revealed, eventually. We pray that you will turn back to God before it is too late.
The righteousness of God comes as we follow Him. The righteous, the just, live by faith. The unrighteous, the ungodly, live without God at the center of their lives. Paul said, the gospel, the good news, is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. This gospel, this good news is that God loves you and He has taken your sin upon Himself. He will forgive you if you return to Him and accept that He is Lord and that He loves you.
This good news, if you accept it as true, will change you and will turn you into the glorious creation that God intended you to be when He made you.
To reject this good news will lead you to hell. You may be experiencing just a little bit of what hell will be like in this life. You do not want to go there. And God does not want you to go there either. He will let you if you insist. He will give you over to that sin, but it will be your choice.
Give it up, turn to God. Seek Him. Love Him, because He first loved you. You can take that to the bank. It is the gospel truth. This is the map you need to negotiate life successfully, according to God's plan. Life without God is life without hope, without meaning, without purpose. Put God at the center of your life and He will help you find the way you need to live. Get on the right page. Use the correct map.