1-24 Given Over, But Not Given Up
MBC - 8/1/2004 - Pastor Doug Thompson
“Given Over, But Not Given Up”
ROM 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
ROM 1:19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.
ROM 1:20 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.
ROM 1:21 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.
ROM 1:22 Professing to be wise, they became fools,
ROM 1:23 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.
ROM 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
ROM 1:25 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.
I read this quote this week:
Ø “The civilization of the western world, including the particular civilization of the United States of America, is not a civilization in danger of contracting a fatal disease. That civilization has already contracted a malignant and fatal cancer through its unbelief of the message of God in Christ. It is now hurrying on with increasing speed to final climactic destruction. Civilizations do not die because of violence, crime, immorality, and anarchy. These things are the evidences that death already is at work, a death brought on by disobedience to the revelation of God.”
I want you to think about how many decisions you have already made this morning:
Ø All of you obviously decided to come to church this morning, because here you are!
Ø You made decisions about whether to watch the morning news or read the Sunday paper; instant coffee or fresh ground French roast; what to eat for breakfast, and what to wear to church--some of you apparently made that decision in the dark. . .
But there is a basic overarching decision that each of us has to make, that affects every other decision we make: “Will we obey or disobey the revelation of God?” Will we obey God and do what pleases Him, or reject God and please ourselves?”
There is no middle ground--in every decision, you and I choose one or the other. We either act in faith and obedience, or we act in unbelief and rebellion. You might think that you can straddle the fence and partially follow God, but partially do what you want, so that God is kinda happy, and you are kinda happy--but God’s Word says otherwise. God’s Word says that there are two choices: you are for Him, or you are against Him:
Moses laid it out to the Israelites as they were about to enter the Promised land:
Ø DEU 30:19 "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants,
Ø When Elijah was on Mt. Carmel standing before the wishy-washy Jews who were waiting to see who was going to win the contest between God and Baal, he said, “How long will you hesitate between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” I.e., “Get off the fence and choose!” And of course, to wait and see is to choose against God.
And when we come to the Gospels, Jesus said:
Ø MAT 7:13 "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.
Ø MAT 7:14 "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
Jesus said that you enter the one right gate, or you enter the wrong gate, and you are either on the way that leads to life or the way that leads to death.
But this section in Romans is not just about the choice that confronts us, but about the consequences of the choice we make. We would love to think that we can choose what we like without having to accept the consequences--right? Haven’t you seen that with your kids--and yourself? But Scripture tells us, “Don’t be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, this also will he reap!”
Ø And as Paul builds his case for the gospel, he says that mankind is suffering the disastrous consequences of disobedience to the revelation of God.”
We’ve seen that God’s wrath is being continually revealed from heaven against men who know the truth about God, but they suppress that truth, they refuse to give God the glory He deserves. As a result, God allows their minds to become darkened, they become fools, they devise stupid theories to explain life apart from God.
As the darkness deepens, they trade the truth for a lie and substitute false gods for the true God. We saw that all false religion is man running from God and rebelling against God! This morning we’re going to see that the gravitational pull of sin keeps sucking people further and further down into the sewer of depravity. And we won’t hit bottom until the end of the chapter.
But can I lighten things up a bit? Scripture also teaches that when we choose to follow God and believe in the gospel of His Son, there is an upward pull on our lives. God promises that He will change our hearts and our desires; He wills and works for His good pleasure; He sanctifies every situation in our lives to shape us into the image of His Son--
I.e., for the person who seeks to love and obey God, there is a gravitational pull away from this earth, towards heaven--an upward spiral:
Let me describe what happened in Wales back in 1904. It’s the opposite of what we read in Romans 1! It happened during a great revival there. Edwin Orr wrote a book on this revival, and he said this:
“Many were the evidences of the Spirit of God working in Wales. Long standing debts were paid, and stolen goods returned, while striking cases of restitution were made. IN Maesteg, a tradesman received a live pig in payment of a debt which had been outstanding since 1898. Other notable instances of open restitution were reported.
“Stocks of Welsh and English Bibles were sold out. Prayer meetings were held in coal mines, in trains and trams and places of business. The work managers bore testimony of the change of conduct of their employees. The magistrates in several places were presented with white gloves, signifying that there were utterly no cases to try.
“The police rejoiced in the revival. One day in Holyhead, in the island county of Anglesey, the solemnity of court proceedings was broken by songs of praise in Welsh. The police guard outside hurried in, but stayed to add his bass to the jury’s choir of praise over a sinner repenting.
“Cursing and profanity were so diminished that several slowdowns were reported in the coal mines, for so many men gave up using foul language that the pit ponies dragging the coal trucks in the mine tunnels did not understand what was being said to them and stood still, confused!”
Ø Let me ask each of you a question this morning--and I want you to be thinking hard about this as we look at God’s Word: “Which way are you being pulled this morning? Toward holiness and sanctification or toward darkness and degradation? Are you being pulled up toward heaven or down toward hell?”
The answer will be determined by whether you are obeying or disobeying the revelation of God (in this Book). What happens when a person continually rejects what he knows of God? He is eventually--
I. Abandoned by God.
Ø ROM 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
Ø ROM 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural,
Ø ROM 1:28 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,
Don’t make the mistake of seeing God as passive in this. He doesn’t just turn and walk away from people who reject Him, He hands them over to their sins to punish them. He hardened Pharaoh’s heart. He darkens the minds in v.21. This is an active, judicial abandonment.
But do you notice that God is giving them over to what they want! Or at least, what they think they want. Oscar Wilde, who was put in prison for his homosexuality in Victorian England, said that when the gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers--and what Paul says here is that God punishes people by turning them over to their own sinful desires. They say, “I don’t want Your way, I want my way!” And God says, “You’ve got it!”
And they run off, thinking that they will be happy, wild, and free, but the opposite happens: they end up miserable and enslaved.
Ø It’s just like the Father in the story of the Prodigal Son. The son had the nerve to dishonor his father by asking for his inheritance while he was still alive. His father gave him what he wanted, and he stuffed the money in a suitcase took off in his new jaguar, cigar in his mouth, blonde at his side, headed for the French Riviera! [paraphrase!] He didn’t want his father, he wanted his sins, and he got what he wanted, but he also got the consequences of his sins: he ended up broke, working for a pig farmer and eating with the pigs. But it was all you can eat!
Now think with me here: The fact that it is a punishment for fallen unsaved man to get what he wants tells us something about the nature of man: he is not basically good, he is basically evil. His nature is innately bent toward sin and away from God. “There is none righteous, not even one . . . there is none who does good, there is not even one . . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:10,12,23).
We are born with the bent--it is a congenital defect:
Ø PRO 22:15 Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
Ø PRO 29:15 a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. [lit., “a child left”--left to its own sinful bent].
Ø When man is left to himself, he is like an untended garden. The weeds always choke out the flowers. And man has nothing in himself to restrain the weeds or to cultivate good produce. He is not evolving toward greater goodness and morality, he is devolving into greater depravity and corruption.
This is why it is a fitting punishment from God on those who reject Him: He is just allowing them to reap the consequences of their rebellion against Him--they reap what they sow, and it is always, always a downward spiral into more sin and more slavery, and eventually death and destruction--always.
Someone I was reading said it’s not like taking a porcelain bowl and releasing it into outer space where it would just drift. It’s like releasing a porcelain bowl here on earth, over cement. The minute you take your hands away, gravity pulls it to earth and it smashes. And when God removes His restraints from us, we might be thinking, “Yeehaw, party time! Onward and upward, dude!” But it’s downward--dude.
1.) In vv.18-21, Paul says that God has literally illuminated the truth about Himself in creation--it’s a flashing billboard that displays His glory. But man says, “The light is too bright, it hurts my eyes!” So God says, “If you prefer darkness, then darkness you shall have!” and in v.21 it says, “Their foolish heart was darkened.” They hated the light, so God turned out the lights. And then, the more they looked at the light of creation, the more blind they became--they came up with the theory of evolution--“All of this beauty and infinitely complex design came about by random chance with no meaning or purpose--yeah, that’s it!” Professing to be wise, they became fools.
Why? Because God abandoned them to the consequences of their own sinful desires.
2.) V.21 says that even though they know God deserves honor and thanks, they withhold it. They’re not going to give God thanks before they eat, they’re not going to waste a good Sunday morning in church. So God says, “Then you will worship whatever you want, however you want.”
Ø ROM 1:23 [so they did, and in their depravity 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. (Birds? Look at the top of the totem pole across from Hardesters).
They became the laughingstock of the universe. Their worship was degraded and disgusting, because it reflected the sinful darkness in their hearts--
Ø The Canaanites sacrificed to Chemosh and Molech by burning their children alive. Prositution and homosexuality were part of their religion.
Ø The enlightened philosophical Greeks were no better. They sacrificed virgins to Artemis--the goddess of the Ephesians. And the ancient temple to Aphrodite in Corinth employed 1,000 prostitutes for worship.
Ø The Romans basically copied the Greeks. They had a god for every occasion, but at the top of the pantheon was the Emperor who was worshiped as the supreme god. Domitian, who murdered Christians named himself “Kurios kai Theos” = Lord and God. But historians tell us that 14 out of the 15 Roman emperors were depraved homosexuals--they worshiped corruptible man.
Ø In India, the Hindus worship 30,000,000 gods, they worship rats and drink cow’s urine, while they ignore starving children because “That’s their karma.” And these people have nukes? Yikes!
Ø But idolatry is in our own backyard. I went to the website this week for BAPA: Bay area pagan assemblies! It’s a website for pagans, it advertises classes in witchcraft, spells, god and goddess worship--they even have a calendar like our website where you can go to see when the next pagan picnic is!
Ø And we’re just scratching the surface: the worst--most depraved--things people have done throughout history have been done in the service of false gods.
But believed, this is not just a display of how dumb people are. It is a display of God’s wrath--He has actively abandoned them to this foolishness that they might increase their guilt and deepen their damnation!
It even happened with Israel--
Ø PSA 81:11 "But My people did not listen to My voice, And Israel did not obey Me.
Ø PSA 81:12 "So I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, To walk in their own devices--
Ø ACT 7:39 [Stephen preaching to the Sanhedrin] "Our fathers were unwilling to be obedient to him [Moses], but repudiated him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt,
Ø ACT 7:40 saying to Aaron, 'Make for us gods who will go before us; for this Moses who led us out of the land of Egypt -- we do not know what happened to him.'
Ø ACT 7:41 "At that time they made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.
Ø ACT 7:42 "But God turned away and delivered them up to serve the host of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets, 'It was not to Me that you offered victims and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness, was it, O house of Israel?
Ø ACT 7:43 'You also took along the tabernacle of Moloch [the one that demanded infant sacrifices] and the star of the god Rompha, the images which you made to worship.
Why? Because God abandoned them to the consequences of their own sinful desires.
And the natural heart of man will never lead him to worship the true God. If God doesn’t grant us a new heart, we will always be idolaters. And I want you to remember this if you are still struggling with that poor heathen stuck on that island, thinking that God is unfair for sending him to hell. Beloved, his heart is no different than yours or mine! If God hadn’t supernaturally intervened and opened your eyes, you would still be in darkness, and if you’d been born on a remote island, you would be worshiping the stars and bowing down to a rock--or a volleyball named Wilson!
As God’s continues His abandonment in v.24. I want you to see--
II. Where lust leads.
Ø ROM 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
How is God’s wrath revealed against this sin? He let’s them have what they want, more and more immorality, until they become like animals instead of men created in God’s image. Doesn’t that describe our society?
The church in Corinth was right smack in the middle of a society that had sunk to this level. The Corinthians had come up with a bumper sticker for their chariots--
Ø 1CO 6:13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food,
“Hey, look how well this big old Corinthian-style pizza goes with my big belly!” It’s only natural to satisfy your appetite! But they weren’t just saying this about food, they were saying it about sex: sex is for the body and the body is for sex. It’s only natural to satisfy your appetite, anytime with anyone.
But Paul responds, “Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.” Paul says, “You aren’t just animals, you know better! God created your bodies, they belong to Him, they should be consecrated for His use and His glory.
You see Paul was dealing with Greek dualism here, the belief that, “spirit is good, matter is evil.” It’s what is inside that counts, it doesn’t matter what you do with your body. That’s exactly what New Age Gnosticism teaches today. But Paul says, “God if for the body--God is “Pro-body!” And He proved it by sending His Son in a physical body and raising Him up in a physical body after His death--and He is going to do the same to you. Your body is a gift from God! It is precious to Him! For you Christians, it is the living temple of the Holy Spirit of God!”
Sex is a good gift of God and it is fulfilling and God-honoring--within marriage. But to abuse sex is to dishonor God, to dishonor marriage--which is a holy picture of Christ and His church--and to dishonor the body God gave you to worship and serve Him! So God’s punishment for those who thumb their noses at Him is to let them live out their lusts. And where does lust lead?
Right into the sewer. And you know that we are drowning in a cesspool of pornography and filth, and now with the internet, God only knows how many people are addicted to this stuff. Sexual immorality is far and away, a more serious problem that violence or drugs or alcohol. Immorality has wrecked more lives, marriages, families, caused more heartache and disease than alcohol and drugs combined. It is at the root of lying (think of ex-Pres), cheating, stealing, slander--just stop and think sometime, how many of the 10 commandments David broke after his sin with Bathsheba--and even murder--
Ø Immorality is the driving cause behind abortion, which is the murder of defenseless, unborn babies. People want to gratify their sexual desires apart from accepting the consequences, so they kill them. Did you know that 99% of all of the murders in this country are abortions? Think of that the next time you see some movie or TV show or book glamorizing fornication and immorality!
Ø I got this from the home page of PPFA: Statement of Gloria Feldt, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America: “Among many items offered in the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) online store is a T-shirt with the message, “I had an abortion.” The shirt is not a cavalier statement, but a way to challenge the silence and shame around an experience many women have shared, however difficult that decision may have been.”
The irony in all of this is that people who are trapped in sexual sin, indulging their lusts, and experiencing less and less fulfillment, think they are free! But they are anything but free:
Ø In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis said, They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved, forever.”
III. Given over, but not given up.
Beloved, we need to let this sink into our hearts and minds: we reap what we sow, and those who abandon God will be abandoned by God.
Ø 2CH 15:2 "Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.
Ø 2CH 24:20 Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest; and he stood above the people and said to them, "Thus God has said, 'Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord and do not prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He has also forsaken you.'"
And we dare not delude ourselves by thinking that people can just reverse the process and pull out of their tailspin whenever they please.
Ø PRO 1:24 "Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
Ø PRO 1:25 And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof;
Ø PRO 1:26 I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes,
Ø PRO 1:27 When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you.
Ø PRO 1:28 "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
Ø PRO 1:29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord.
Ø PRO 1:30 "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof.
Ø PRO 1:31 "So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way And be satiated with their own devices.
Ø PRO 1:32 "For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them.
So once a person is given over to his sins and he finds himself sucked into the vortex of depravity, is his situation hopeless? Yes--but not for God! If it was hopeless, why would Paul even be writing this letter? If mankind’s situation was hopeless, then God wouldn’t have sent Jesus to earth as a man to die for our sins. There would be no gospel.
When God gives a person over, it doesn’t mean that He has given up! Yes, it is judgment, but not the final judgment! God’s wrath is mingled with His mercy: When God abandons a person to the consequences of his sins, it’s a siren warning to repent before the final judgment, when there will be no more mercy, forever
Ø 1CO 5:5 I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Ø 1TI 1:19 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
Ø 1TI 1:20 Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme.
Do you see what’s happening here? On this side of the day of judgment, the consequences of sin are a God-send. They are meant to be a wake-up call telling you that your sins deserve hell--eternal punishment. And what you are experiencing now is nothing compared to what is coming if you don’t repent! God is showing you His mercy and His patience--don’t miss it! His kindness is meant to lead you to repentance!
Some of you are in the tailspin this morning. It might not show on the outside, but on the inside, you feel the pull of your sins. You know that you’re enslaved! Maybe you’re addicted to some sin, some lust, some idol that you don’t want to give up. It was what you wanted! But you didn’t realize it was a trap.
And now you are suffering the consequences. You are reaping what you have sown, and you will never escape unless God delivers you. Let me tell you this morning that if God has given you the grace to see your sins and cry out to Him, He will deliver you. It’s not too late to pull out of the tailspin!
Ø LUK 15:17 "But when he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!
Ø LUK 15:18 'I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight;
Ø LUK 15:19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men."'
Ø LUK 15:20 "So he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Ø LUK 15:21 "And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'
Ø LUK 15:22 "But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet;
Ø LUK 15:23 and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;
Ø LUK 15:24 for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.' And they began to celebrate.
Does God give Christians over to their sins? Yes, but not at all in the same way or for the same purpose as the unbeliever. God does it like the Father of the Prodigal Son did--
WCF: V:5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave, for a season, his own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and, to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for sundry other just and holy ends.