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Growing Closer to God

Book of Romans   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Removing the Unseen Hurdles That Trip You Up

It is a guarantee in a Christian’s life that you will hit a wall in your walk with God. There will be times where you are walking the road of faith, the narrow road, being watchful not to get caught in traps along the path that you will feel as though you are almost stuck in place—that you cannot budge or take another step. In these times many Christians will begin to exclaim that for some unknown reason God feels distant.
Despite praying, reading the bible, and worshiping there seems to be a gap or a distant feeling between you and God. I find it funny sometimes though how God works though me in sermon prep because I had one of those weeks a few weeks back and then I while studying God speaks to me through the preparation of my sermons.
God and I had been moving along nicely. I could see and feel our relationship grow closer as he revealed more of himself to me through my times of study. But then it happened. Out of left field, like an argument between husband and wife that leaves that woft of tension that seems to create a chasm between you where there was once a closeness, you begin to feel distant from God.
One of my big down time activities I like is playing video games. I grew up in the video game generation and it allows me to unplug from the world around me. I usually play online with other people whom I don’t know. I had been playing this game for a few months with no issue. It’s not a bad game, not pornographic or demonic by any means. I didn’t see it as sinful, but people can have mics and they talk back and forth. I began to notice an upswing in players become very angry and spewing hatefilled words and such and around this time I began to feel distant from God. I didn’t know why—didn’t even make the connection because when they start that stuff you can mute them and I always did, but I couldn’t shake this feeling of distance growing between God and I. For some time I prayed and recieved no answer. I prayed. I studied. I prepared sermons. But couldn’t shake this feeling. It isn’t the feeling that I am sinning and going to hell—you know that feeling when you are premeditated sinning, but almost like a rock in your shoe…it starts of as this annoying subtle feelings and the pain grows worse as you walk and continue to step on this rock.
When I prep sermons I try to read ahead and have preliminary, very basic, outlines done and to which I did with the sermon as well. As I read our main passage today I found the preverbal rock in my shoe. I’m going to give you the verse and then I’ll explain a little bit and hopefully this will all make sense.
Romans 1:32 ESV
Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Most of us, I would hope, understands that to sin separates us from God. Like I stated before I didn’t feel as though I was sinning, but as I read this passage it was almost if the term

Give Approval

was highlighted and as I read on it echoed in my head constantly bringing my attention back to these words. So I began digging. And God began speaking.
The game itself wasn’t a sin. Me playing the game wasn’t a sin. The sin was turning a blind eye and deaf ear to the fact that while playing this game I knew it was causing other people to sin. This morning’s scripture is a difficult one to teach because it will typically head one of two response.
Those who struggle with a legalistic or rule based religion will, in their mind, begin to clean out everything in their lives that might cause people to sin. This will leave you feeling bored and will create an open door for resentment to set in.
This message could also be written off by those who scorn legalism as two self containing or “law” like to be biblically useful, but I want to encourage you to search your heart. Not everything is bad, not everything is good. Some things are amoral—like money. and are left up to you and God.
Paul explains this as permissible and not beneficial
1 Corinthians 10
1 Corinthians 10:23 CSB
“Everything is permissible,” but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible,” but not everything builds up.
Paul uses this statement in light of eating meat offered to false gods, but it can be applied to most things in life.
A few chapters before this Paul tells the church of Corinth
1 Corinthians 10:32
1 Corinthians 10:32 ESV
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,
1 Corinthians 8:9 LEB
But watch out lest somehow this right of yours becomes a cause for stumbling to the weak.
The issue is that we walk a very fine line between freedom and sin—this is why Jesus refers to this path as narrow. So how do we know if we are giving approval or becoming a stumbling block.
First we must understand the term approve.

Approval Means: Agree with, consent to, or sympathize with

It points to the casual enjoyment of the sins of others. This is one of the many reasons why pornography is sinful. By watching you are approving of their sin.
We tend to call these people:


If you find yourself always cleaning up someones poor life choices, IE continuing to bail someone out of jail because they get arressted for public drunkeness over and over.
If you find yourself making excuses for someone anger, words, or actions on a continual basis you might be an enabler.
If you allow someone to utilize your finances, time, or belongings to walk in sin you might be an approver of sin. IE Giving a minor a cigarette, allowing someone to be a poor steward of their finances while paying their bills so their electric doesn’t get shut off.
This doesn’t mean you go to a bar screaming hellfire and brimstone.
This brings me to my second point

It’s Personal

Romans 8:14 ESV
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.
Each one of us is led down different paths. There are some very concrete rules in the bible. Some things concerning sin are very black and white, but others those take a nudging of the holy Spirit. I find it interesting and probably very intended that as soon as he tells us not to give approval to sin he warns us in chapter 2 about judging.
Christians need to understand the difference between sin and their personal relationship. The bible tells us to be sober minded and not to get drunk, but just because we see someone exiting the bar doesn’t mean they were drunk. I know pastors who eat at bars, and I know some bars that have amazing food. I made a decision a while ago that I stay away from bars, but we need to make sure we aren’t using our personal relationship with Christ a rule for everyone.
Hebrews 4:13 ESV
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
God knows our inner most being and what may trip us up he knows the enemies traps and how we are wired. Sometimes God will ask us things for the benefit of our relational growth with him. It may not make sense in the beginning, but typically I can look back and begin to connect the dots. However, even with this new video game dillema Is till don’t know the reason why—I just have to be obedient.
But also if we are attentive and mindful of the move of the Spirit he will allow us to know when we are approving of other people’s sin as well. He will let us know we become enablers.
There is a legal term: guilty by association. It means if you are driving a get away vehicle for a crime and someone gets murdered while the crime is taken place you can be convected just as the one who pulled the trigger despite never setting foot into the building or even weilding a weapon. This warning is the same warning God uses.
Donald Stamps Commentary: It is the highest expression of corruption when sin and sensual behavior become a form of entertainment. Approving and defending ungodliness causes sin to multiply in a society much faster than the sinful acts themselves.
Think about this: Anytime the world wants you to accept sin as normal what happens? They flood our television shows, our radios, our political commentaries, our books with this sin in a hopes to desensitize us effectively numbing our Spirit man and the nudges that this is wrong which opens the door of acceptance as normal.
Think about homosexuality. When I was a kid I don’t remember a TV show ever displaying same sex anything. Now it’s everywhere. I have to monitor what cartoons my kids watch. Why? because if they can get Christians to be desensitized to the sin than we accept the sin, stop fighting the sin and eventually become apart of the sin. We may never commit the actual sin, but by becoming complacent to it we are approving it. In today’s world we have to be very careful with what we ingest, not just food wise, but also in our eyes and hears.
The bible says that food is passed through our system, but our eyes and ears feed a different stomach—our brain which has a direct funnel into our hearts. What we allow to enter our ear gate and our eye gate will always make it’s way to our heart which will either edify our soul or poison it.
What we approve of and allow in our lives will ultimately define the type of decisions we make, howe we act, and what we perceive. This is why Paul tells us that in order to maintain our relationship with God and grow in our relationship with God we cannot even be a willing by-standard to sin.
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