-58 Million children have been killed in the US by abortion since Roe v. Wade
-Last year in the US there were over 700,000 victims of child abuse and neglect…more than 4 children die every day as a result of child abuse.
-762 murdered in Chicago last year…one city.
-20th century: 260 million killed in wars
-600-800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year…50% are children.
-There are 20-30 million slaves in the world today.
*Africa is a continent at war with itself…from North African countries to South Africa and all places in between sin ravages and takes the lives of millions.
*NY Times Columnist Matthew Parris, an atheist wrote in a widely discussed article
-“As an atheist I truly believe that Africa needs God: missionaries, not aid money, are the solution to Africa’s biggest problem.”
*He grew up in Africa and he says that it troubles his own worldview to realize that in Africa, Christianity changes people’s hearts.
*He wrote: “It brings spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is real.”
*It is astounding to hear a non-believer saying that the hope of a continent at war with itself is Christian missionaries.
*He says not just bringing hospitals and schools but bringing heart change.
*Its odd because he doesn’t really believe the heart change is a work of God…since there is no God.
*But at least he admits…humans without even the “idea” of God…don’t do well…at least not in Africa.
*Humanity as a whole is not getting better with time…not really.
*WWI was not called that until the beginning of WWII…before that was it called the “Great War” and was seen to be the “War to end all Wars.”
*Clearly it wasn’t…our current war is the longest in our history.
*Slavery was outlawed in the UK in 1833, in America 32 years later…yet there are more slaves in the world than ever before…about 15,000 humans (slaves) are trafficked in the US each year.
*People are better educated, have more health care, more cell phones, more TV channels, more AC, more of everything it would seem…yet the numbers that reflect evil…continue to rise.
*All these gloomy stats are metrics that support what Paul wrote to the Romans in the first century…that our need for God is acute…as seen in our sin
*Matthew Parris was right…Africa does need God…as does America and every other country…but not just “God” a transformational idea…but God the transformational being.
*In Romans 1:18-32 Paul is going to jump from the good news to the bad news that makes the good news necessary.
*The first step of the 12 step AA program is to admit powerlessness over alcohol.
*This is first because an honest awareness of need precedes any real help.
*In order for Paul to show that salvation is equally available to all…he must show that all are equally in need of it.
*He is not just piling on guilt here…he is driving us to a conclusion regarding our true condition…in hopes that people will accept the cure.
*One of the great barriers to living in the freedom of the gospel life…for the non-believer looking at it from the outside and the believer living it from the inside…is a lack of understanding of how we are utterly ruined without God.
*Starting in verse 16 Paul unfolds his argument tying together his thoughts with the word translated “because” and “For”
*Here’s a summary of the flow from verse 16 to verse 20.
Paul: I am not ashamed of the gospel.
Q: Why not Paul?
Paul: Because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes
Q: How so Paul?
Paul: Because in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, that is God’s way of justifying sinners.
Q: But why is this necessary Paul?
Paul: Because the wrath of God is being revealed against all the godliness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness
Q: But how have people suppressed the truth Paul?
Paul: Because what may be known about God is plain to them…God has made it known…for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities…have been clearly seen.
*So he has given the good news…the gospel
*But for the good news to look good…we must see our ruined condition apart from God.
*That is what he will do in 1:18 through chapter 3.
*Today we will look at 1:18-32
- The revelation of God’s wrath
- The reason for God’s wrath
- The results of God’s wrath
- The Revelation of God’s wrath (1:18)
Rom. 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
*After Paul’s cheerful announcement of good news we would expect him to begin to outline the blessings of salvation.
*It’s a bit of shock that he jumps to God’s wrath.
*But as we discussed…we cannot appreciate the good news…until we understand the bad news.
*What do you think/feel when you hear the phrase “God’s wrath”?
*What do you think many people hear or feel about that?
*British Humanist bus campaign…signs on buses…”There’s probably no god, now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
*First, its not super comforting to hear…”There’s probably no god (which means there might be) but go ahead, roll the dice on the most important decision you will ever make…after all, there might not be anything to worry about eternally.”
*Second, its super sad that the reality of God would be perceived as a)Worry producing, b)Stealing joy from your life.
*For me, the exact opposite has been true.
*But I think what is behind this is the fear of the wrath of God.
*For many God’s wrath sounds like God is really mean…and he is really strong…that’s scary.
*If so…I spend my life worrying if I might tick him off…so it would be hard to enjoy life being watched by all-powerful, angry being…he probably doesn’t like what I do…and he can make a lot of trouble for me.
*But God does not wake up on the wrong side of the bed.
*He doesn’t experience a rise in stress chemicals that cloud his judgment.
*God is not fickle…he is not “mean”…his wrath is his settled disposition against evil.
*The opposite of wrath is not love…it is passivity…and passivity is the opposite of divine love.
*God’s wrath is not cruel, or evil…but it is dangerous.
*That’s why this bad news is so important in order to understand how good, the good news is.
*The bus should read…”There is a God, his wrath real is real…so stop worrying by believing the gospel.”
*Prov. 9:10 “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom”
*Fear is the anticipation of harm…to live outside of relationship with God is to put yourself in harms way in an absolute sense.
*Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom because to not “worry” about God wrath just isn’t smart.
*His settled disposition against evil is dangerous for us…apart from the gospel.
*Now remember where this line of thought started…with the good news of the Gospel…God’s righteousness offered to all as our only hope.
*So he began with the cure…now he must convince of the curse
*I had a friend who had a treatable form of cancer…he was young man but he went many months without seeking treatment, even though he had many symptoms…by the time he did seek the cure…his cancer was no longer treatable.
*It was very important for him to acknowledge his need…his refusal to do so cost him his life.
*The wrath of God is a description of a reality of God’s nature…some rage against this idea… and say…”My God is love.”
*God is love, and God has revealed his wrath against evil…his very nature is a settled disposition against evil in all forms.
*It is important that we see our dangerous condition apart from the gospel
*Electricity is not mean, but it is dangerous if not understood and dealt with appropriately.
*God’s wrath is not his meanness…but it is dangerous for us to think we can fail to take it seriously.
- The Reason for God’s Wrath (19-21)
19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
*In verse 18 Paul spoke of people “suppressing” the truth.
*We don’t suppress what we do not know…the implication is that people have access to the truth.
*Why would anyone willingly suppress the truth?
*Because they don’t like it.
*I have seen small children lie, or deny what is obvious…”Please pick up your coat you just threw on the floor.”
*”I didn’t throw it” (it happened like 3 seconds ago in front of you)
*”That’s not my coat” (you bought it, they were just wearing it)
*Small children are not really good at denying the truth…adults get better, more sophisticated.
*But the reason is the same…they deny the truth…because they don’t like it…they don’t want it be true.
*I remember reading of a university professor who when challenged about his view on God and evolution replied…”I don’t really believe I have proof that there is not God, or that life is undesigned…but I want it to be true because belief in God does not fit with my lifestyle.”
*He liked to sleep with different woman…the truth of God would have been very inconvenient for him.
*Human beings have always known there is a god and have had some level of understanding of what he is like.
*Augustine: God being God offends human pride.
*The historian of AA titled his work “Not-God” because, he said, that stands as the most important hurdle an addicted person must surmount: to acknowledge, deep in the soul that they are not God…they must quit playing God and allow God himself to play God.
*General Revelation (natural revelation)
*Term used to describe the fact that some of who God is can be known from what he has made in the created universe.
*General revelation…because it is available to everyone, everywhere, always.
*And it is non-specific…it is not going to tell us how to live, how to be saved.
*We need the scriptures for that.
*But it is there for all to see…
Psa. 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. 3 There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
*The point here is that God has revealed himself sufficiently in what he has made so that we are without excuse when we suppress this truth.
*Stephen Hawking is the world’s most famous living scientist…he has suffered for decades with ALS.
*In his book “The Grand Design” he challenges belief in the divine creation of the universe.
*He argues that the “Big Bang” was the inevitable consequence of the laws of physics.
*Thesis statement: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing.”
*If that sounds confusing…it is not because it’s so profound that we cannot make sense of it…it is because it is nonsensical.
*John Lennox, a Northern Irish philosopher of science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford addresses Hawkins statement in his book “God and Stephen Hawking”
- Lennox writes that…Hawking says that philosophy is dead (only science is real) and then makes this statement…a non-scientific, philosophical statement.
- Lennox asks…How does a “law” do anything? Laws describe things that occur regularly in nature, they do not have actual powers themselves.
*Like doing math sums in order to add to your bank account…laws describe…they don’t do anything.
- Saying the universe can create itself is a statement of nonsense.
*The universe must exist before it exists in order to create itself.
Lennox wrote: “What all this goes to show is that nonsense remains nonsense, even when talked about by world-famous scientists.”
*Smart people sometimes deny the existence of God because it does not fit with what they have decided they want to be true.
*When Anthony Flew, a world renowned atheist philosopher started believing in God in his 80s precisely because it became clear to him that the universe was created…it had design.
*His followers turned against him in outrage…never mind that the facts took him there.
*I don’t want to get too far into this today…but what we see over and over is that when the facts veer in the direction of divine design, the response from some scientists is unscientific.
*It is emotional, visceral.
*Humans suppress the truth…because they don’t like it.
- The Results of God’s Wrath (22-32)
22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 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. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 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.
Three stages in this death spiral:
- They had knowledge of God (21, 25, 28)
- They rejected that knowledge in favor of idolatry: (21, 25, 28)
- God gave them over to the results of their rejection of him…they became like what they worshipped. (24, 26, 28)
*In each case people cast off the truth of God revealed in nature and replaced it with their own ideas of what is good and valuable.
*They valued what is not valuable…and experienced ruin as a result.
*This is pure tragedy here…
- Exchanging the glory of God for images of what God has made
- Exchanging the truth of God for lies
- Exchanging the way God has designed human relationships to work for ways he has not
*The consequence…God gave them over to their demands.
*They demanded to cast off all knowledge of him…in an attempt to be wise…became fools.
*This “giving over” by God…is partially “passive” in the sense that if a person is running towards a cliff you need not push them off you need only fail to stop them…let them run to their own ruin.
*There is a sense here that this is what God does…he allows the laws of reaping and sowing…to work.
*But the laws of reaping and sowing work…because God is not merely passive in the world.
*He is active in his opposition to evil…so “giving over” is both the result of a cause and effect world God has made…as well as God’s ongoing involvement in the world.
*This passage has a key NT reference to one of the hot button issues for our day: homosexuality.
*So I will say a few things about it.
- In spite of the fact that some try to read current trends back into the first century and interpret this passage creatively…Paul did believe Homosexuality was wrong…and he was teaching that fact here.
- This is not a passage primarily about homosexuality…it is about the consequence of suppressing the truth of God.
*In verse 24 he is talking about sexual sin of all kinds…not just homosexuality.
*In addition…the first thing he takes aim at first is idolatry…this applies to anything we allow in our hearts that takes first place…jobs, fantasy football, cars, image…you name it.
*Then in this passage after focusing on idolatry and sexual sins Paul may have worried that some readers would conclude that only those two “biggies” are a problem.
*So he gives a long, but not all-inclusive list of consequences of rejecting knowledge of God…a long list of sins.
*We may not worship a statue but do we gossip?
*We may not be engaged in sexual immorality but are we arrogant, boastful?
*So the problem of sin includes all people…enslaves all people.
- The Homosexuality issue is an important one…if you want to do some reading I can suggest some helpful books…or if you would like some personal help, that is available as well.
*This is about a terrible exchange…
*Have you ever gotten a really bad deal?
–Clothes that don’t fit or are not comfortable…can’t take them back?
-Car that was a lemon
-House, job…you regretted obtaining.
*In all those you traded (exchanged) something for something…your time to get money, your money to get something else…one job for another.
*Then you realized…what a horrible trade…my life for this!
*This passage in Romans is a description of the worse exchange ever.
*The truth and reality and beauty and freedom of God…for bondage, and brokenness.
*Idols take our lives…God gives us life.
*Idols are likes sirens calling sailors to their beautiful, sensual song…only to devour them when they draw near.
*It is interesting, and instructive, and sad…that those who pursue these idols of pleasure…eventually lose the ability to be pleased by anything…it is a law of diminishing returns.
*Less and less bring feelings of any kind…it take more and more to bring any emotional or pleasure response.
*Proverbs says the “Eye of man is never satisfied”…like a leech or a fire…how much is enough? More.
*On the other side those who seek to find their pleasure in the life of God are pleased by more and more.
*Gratitude and contentment pursue them as they pursue God…
*PS 23…”Goodness and love will follow me around…as I follow the shepherd around.”
*Idolatry rearranges the entire spiritual and moral landscape…people who wrap their hearts around idols see the whole universe with different eyes.
*They are the center of all things…and the relentless drive to satisfy self, exalt self, obey self…is the engine that drives their existence.
John Calvin: “The surest source of destruction to men is to obey themselves.”
Freud “faith in God is a wish fulfillment…a delusion to help us deal with our problems and fears.”
*This is of course true, if God does not exist. But if God does exist then unbelief is the delusion.
*A German psychiatrist wrote a best selling book “God: A Brief History of the Greatest One.”
*In it he wrote that Freud’s explanation for belief in God works well provided that God does not exist.
*By the same token if God does exist, then it is atheism that is the comforting delusion, the flight from facing reality…it is a projection of the desire not to meet God one day and give account for your life.
*Marx “Religion is the opium of the people”
A Polish Nobel prize author who lived through the horrors of the atheist state in his communist country wrote…
“A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death — the huge solace of thinking that for our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders, we are not going to be judged.” Thus, if God does exist, atheism can be seen as a psychological escape mechanism to avoid taking ultimate responsibility for one’s own life.”
*Well said…many do not see…because they do not want to see.
*Paul talked about a horrible exchange here…a really bad trade…the truth and glory of God for a an empty life.
*No one gets out of this life alive…everyone, everywhere is exchanging theirf…trading it away…hour by hour.
*In the end there is a really bad exchange…a life for a lie.
*Or a really good exchange…a life for the truth.
*One point of application: The whole world believes. Every human lives by faith.
*There are no believers and non-believers…there are believers in nothing…but they believe.
*Spiritual formation is not something just for especially religious people…no one escapes it.
*From the worst human being on the planet to the most selfless, Christ-honoring…all have had a spiritual formation…they have become and are becoming a certain kind of person…as they exchange their lives for truth or lies.
*We are all believing certain things…then in turn we are valuing certain things…and then we go and live in certain ways.
*When you believe a lie…you value what is worthless…when you value what is worthless…you live an empty and ultimately wasted life.
*I’m preaching to the choir here…I know most of you believe Jesus is the Christ…and that knowing and loving him and making his love known is valuable…and you are doing your best to live your lives that way.
*So there is no rebuke here…only encouragement…
*Keep believing what is true, valuing what is valuable, and keep on living with the end in mind.
*Day to day…it feels rather ordinary…but never mind all that…You are on track for a good exchange…a well-lived, well-spent life.
*Be encouraged…be faithful…keep making the good trade.