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Romans 1:18-32

At our September 28th Sunday Night service (6:30pm at the Risen Life Fellowship Hall), we'll be looking at Romans 1:18-32.

So often this text is used to explain the state of the fallen world.  This is a section of Scripture that shows the depravity of man as he or she turns from God and runs after all manner of lust and rebellion.   Verse 24, which opens "Therefore God gave them up. . . "  has generated tremendous debate and discussion. Verse 26-27 has been bantered around in the American debates when the topic of same-sex marriage is on the table.  And in the earlier years of the Church, this entire section of text became fodder in understanding if sinful man is inherently good and becomes sinful by choice or inherently evil and redeemed by God's sovereign choice.

The truth of the matter, is that his text should not so much serve as ammunition for debate, but serve as a warning.  It is possibly the saddest section of the book of Romans.  (Thank God Paul is so committed to the Gospel that he repeatedly proclaims the remedy and path to salvation!)  When we read it, we should weep in light of the depravity of man's sinful desires to reject his creator.  We should feel anguish and pain for our lost friends and family. This is a stark reality check.

Verse 28 says "And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done."  SINCE.  Since. . . that's hard to hear. Verse 26 says "For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions."  FOR THIS REASON.  Another sad thing to read.  It's even sadder to observe in the world, among our friend, family, co-workers, and neighbors.  As we look at what led to this, we must go back up to verses 21-23 which read,
"For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory for the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (ESV).
We get a picture of sinful man running after other things and forgetting to honor or give thanks to God.  Only slightly before this text, Romans shows that what is known about God is plain to them.  Furthermore, many people have heard the gospel or even read the God's Word, the Bible and then openly, proudly, defiantly say, "No, I won't believe it."  Instead they choose other things to worship. They hold other things are more worthy of honor and thanks.  And as they do this, their hearts grow dark by the death that is gripping their souls.  To those things they worship in place of God they says, "Yes, I'll put my faith in this thing as my chosen god.  I'll try to find life in this other thing over here even though the Bible says God is the source of life."  And eventually God gives them what they demand.  He gives them over to their own desires.  He let's them have their way.   (Then those same people will often declare that this same God that gave them what they want is evil, mean, and a monstrous dictator.  They say he is unjust.  The irony is tragic.)

This text is very sad. It's also a reminder.  It reminds us of verse 16 and 17.  Verse 16 shows us the way of salvation--the gospel!  Verse 18 then says the righteous shall live by faith.  Romans 1:18-32 shows us what rebellion to the gospel looks like.

The warning however, is not to those given up to their own desires; for they've already rejected the truthfulness of the Bible.  They just won't hear it.  The warning is for those just headed down this path.  And the the warning is for the believers.  The warning is for us!  Look how it starts.  First we stop giving honor and thanks to God.  We stop worshiping our Risen Lord in spirit and in truth.  This, Romans says, is futile thinking.  And as soon as we give up acknowledging and thanking God, our foolish hearts grow dark and our desire shift to worshiping idols.  Death begins to take hold again.

It's amazing how much sinful man still falls for that first lie in Genesis 3.  We think we can be like God.  We don't trust God or believe God is being truthful with us.  We think it's best to go our own way.  And it starts so small.  Ministry goes well and suddenly we think we've done something great. . . forgetting to acknowledge or thank God.  We forget God when work goes well.  Or when things seem to be going really good at home.  Or even when we have opportunities to share the gospel.  Oh how easy it can be to forget to acknowledge or thank God!  We've be saved from death yet we seem so quick to want to go back.  Let this text be a warning!

In what ways are we most tempted to go back to our old ways?  Where are the distractions?  In what areas are you quick to forget God?  How is this thing so sneaky?  It's crafty and we often don't see it when it starts. How, as a family can we help one another to see and be cautioned by the warning God has shown us through this section of Paul's letter?  In what areas can we stop to acknowledge and thank God?

It's my prayer that we are mindful of the consequences, and at the same time remember and celebrate that our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. May our joy-filled lives be a witness of the love of our good Creator.  May we never forget to acknowledge and thank God!

Soli Deo gloria!
Pastor Bryan

*Image comes from the Le Petit Journal, December 1892, and is in the public domain.