Theme: Refusing the truth in unrighteousness destroys divine order.
Proposition: That post-modern society is perpetuating a continual descent out of God’s divine order. Only society’s understanding of and holding onto the gospel of Christ through faith can/will restore God’s order.
Scripture: Isaiah 40:18-24
Key Text: Romans 1:16,17
I. Introduction and Prayer
Illustration: The Broken Vending Machine
I love basketball and I have been playing it since I was third or fourth grade. Not long ago I was playing pick-up ball with some friends at Kalamazoo College. I was serving them up like Kiki and Mike served me up during our church picnic recently. After leaving the court exhausted physically, and feeling good emotionally I eyed a vending machine that I often passed on my way to the locker room. It was usually filled with a variety of flavors of Gatorade. Something in me ask the question, “Is it in you?” and from then on I wanted a bottle.
As my mouth watered and my muscles cried for energy, the rest of my body pleaded for nourishment so I myself I would get a drink after I showered. While showering I imagined getting my favorite flavor Ice blue. I could feel the ice cold chill of the bottle in my warmed hands. I could see visually taking the lid off the bottle, bringing it to my parched mouth and drinking the cool, crisp blue drink as it chilled my tongue, moistened my pallet, and nourished my body.
I get dressed, exit the locker room and head directly to the machine. They got bottled water galore and every flavor of gatorade imaginable. I put my money into the machine and push the code for my selection and you know what happened, right? The machine told me to put more money in. So I asked a friend of mine for some more change put it in the machine, selected my flavor and awaited my destiny to be fulfilled. The machine again asked for more money. At this point my vision of nourishment was turning to pure torture.
I was tired, thirsty, hungry, and malnourished and yet this vending machine was standing between me and destiny. Needless to say, I read a small not on the machine that read if you have any problems please call such and such number of go to such and such office to make your claim. I didn’t want to go to such and such office. I didn’t want to call such and such number. I wanted a drink badly and I wanted it then.
When you are desperate emotionally, famished physically and disturbed mentally the last thing you need is another obstacle. But my encounter with this vending machine left me just a little upset. There were no warning signs telling me it was broke. There was no covering over the money insert hole keeping me from putting my money in. There was no display anywhere or indications that this machine was out of order. The only way I found out was after I invested my money and got no return - it was out of order.
The machine looked like it worked. It was filled with products indicating it worked. It made noise like it worked. It took my money like it worked and yet when put to the test it really didn’t work. It was out of order.
So it is with many of the people of today. We look like we are well put together. We look like we are functional. We even act in many ways very functional but when God deposits His investment of life into us what is the return He receives that brings glory to his name? When God deposits his trust in us as His creation what is the return he receives that honors his kingdom? When God deposits his purpose and plan for our lives in us what is the return he receives through our worship of Him?
I suggest to you today that when more than 46 million Americans are uninsured; 1.69 million veterans are without medical insurance or regular care from VHA facilities; medical debt is the principal cause of bankruptcy in the US; among all the uninsured 37 million were employment age adults (18-64); more than 21 million work at least part-time; and 36 million are legal residents of the US, yet we can’t make health care affordable for all Americans, we are out of order.
When a protestant denomination (Episcopalians) vote to ordain openly gay bishops, we are out of order. When a resolution is voted and passed 125-4 by the governing council of The American Psychological Association, which clearly states “that mental health professionals should not tell gay clients they can become straight through therapy or other treatments” society is out of order. When this same association understands that some treatment options whether related to spiritual assistance or not could work “urges therapists to consider multiple options, which could include celibacy and switching churches, for helping clients live spiritually rewarding lives in instances where their sexual orientation and religious faith conflict,” society is out of order.
Not only is society out of order in terms of being broken, broke down, dysfunctional and growing ever increasingly irrelevant spiritually but it is out of divine order in terms of our order positionally with God. God has placed everything in its place and have arranged things in its proper place. Post-modern society is bent on being out of place in relationship to God’s ordained placement of order. Another way to say it my brothers and sisters, is that sin has caused humanity to be out of order and every sinner in humanity is out of order.
Romans is Paul best treatment of how many can get back to right relationship and right-standing with God even though we are sinners out of order.
Paul’s witness of His Call (Romans 1:1-5)
The apostle Paul in his letter written to the church in Rome around A.D. 57 addresses both the Jewish and Gentile Christians of his day. Paul in his introduction first declares by what authority he hails his apostleship. He is first and foremost a servant of the Jesus Christ. A slave or bondservant to the Son of God. Paul the former persecutor, a former murderer and turned-around man has been called by God to be an apostle and not only that he has been set apart by his call for the “gospel of God.”
God called him from darkness to His marvelous light. Jesus caught Paul in his tracks and by divine authority called him to a new way of living. Paul the highly educated Pharisee. Paul a Hebrew of the Hebrews. Paul, in terms of the law blameless and yet when called by God tamed and set apart for His holy work. No matter where you are in life God has a plan and purpose for your life. No matter who you are God has a call for your life.
Paul’s call to the gospel of God came by way of the grace he received. Understand my friends that Paul didn’t ask to be called. Paul didn’t plan on being called. Paul didn’t seek to be called of God as far as he was concerned he was closest to God when he lived as a Jewish leader before God. But it wasn’t until he saw God that he truly understood his call from God.
You can’t be called of God unless you have had a life changing encounter with God. People can look saved, try to talk saved, dress saved, eat saved and still not be called of God because they lack a personal experience with God. Paul’s encounter with God through the person of Jesus Christ brought about “grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith.” Watch this! Paul goes one step further and tells the church in Rome not only have I been called but you too. By God he says, “you also are the called of Jesus Christ..” and we are “beloved of God, called to be saint.” God wanted Paul and he wants every believer possible. Can you say amen?
Why Rome, Paul (Romans 1:8-13)
Paul moves from the witness of his call to why he desires to go to Rome. In this young vibrant church he testifies that first of all their faith “is spoken of throughout the whole world.” Second was his desire as a preacher to “impart some spiritual gift, so that you may be stronger” in the faith. Third, he didn’t want to just encourage them in the faith but he was looking likewise to be encouraged in the faith too. Last of all and certainly not least of all, Paul was an evangelist and his m.o (modis operandi) was to “have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles...to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.”
Paul knew his gifts, his god-given purpose and his ministry. What God gave him to do that was what he did. If he was on God’s assignment then he didn’t have an assignment. Too many people miss the move of God because you are not doing your assignment. Perhaps you don’t know what your assignment is, or what your gift(s) are? But to be just doing life is to be just doing you. When you know your god-given purpose and your assignment you don’t have time to be bothered with other things.
Paul was a preacher and was looking to bear fruit in his assignment. I wish I could be totally in the place and plan of God for my life that I may bear fruit. Oh I am aren’t I? Maybe you’re not. Jesus told his disciples “go and bring forth fruit,” in their own lives and in the lives of others (John 15:16, 4:36) Are you bringing forth fruit?
Paul wanted to go to Rome because that was his hearts desire and God’s assignment for him.
Which Paul is coming? (Romans 1:14-16)
Paul informs the church that not only is an apostle of Jesus Christ coming and a preacher of the gospel, but one is in indebted is coming. Today there is no telling what kind of ministry or preacher, prophet , bishop or what have you, you may find in the church. But Paul was clear which Paul was coming to Rome. It wasn’t a tent maker per say although that was his trade. It wasn’t a carpenter per say though he worked for the master carpenter. It wasn’t the Pharisee or persecutor of the way, although that showed up in his criminal background check. It wasn’t a free-loader or gospel pimp, although he had been called worse. The Paul that was coming was a debtor both to Greek and barbarians, both to wise and unwise.
It didn’t matter who Paul found in Rome your were a person who needed God and belonged to God. No matter what you looked like, where you lived, what you did or didn’t do, you were a child of the living God needing a Savior. For Paul his debt was too great to ever repay but he would spend the rest of his life indebted to the great God who saved, redeemed and restored him to life-everlasting. He was a preacher of the gospel and this gospel was God’s power to salvation and this gospel was for everybody, everywhere, for every time. Y’all didn’t hear me.
In this church is gospel preaching and not “name it, claim it”, you don’t need to be converted and live right cheap stuff. In this church is a living God who redeems from the worst depths of hell and restores life to even the most destitute soul. The gospel of Jesus Christ is free but it cost heaven Jesus who didn’t come cheap. I feel that I need to let somebody know that a gospel that can’t save everybody is a gospel that can’t save anybody. Preach brother man, I am doing the best I can.
Let’s Survey the Landscape of Rome (Romans 1:18-32)
Paul, with the power of the gospel in his heart, the conviction of the Holy Ghost in his bosom, and the mind of God before him switches gears from the power of the gospel to a survey of the landscape of society.
How many of you know that the power of gospel can take you to places you have never been before but the reality of your society is not to be overlooked? Rome was not a place to be trifled with no matter how Holy Ghost filled you were. Let’s look at what Paul saw as he assessed his assignment from God.
Romans 1:18 - God is at odds with all who oppress the truth.
The man of God revealed God’s wrath from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Nobody is hidden from God’s judgment who are ungodly and unrighteous. Understand that from Paul’s perspective to “suppress the truth” (NKJV), “prevent the truth” (GNT), “put a shroud over truth” (The Msg), or “hide the truth” (NCV) in wickedness or by wickedness called forth God’s wrath from heaven. In the original language the word here means to “hold back” God’s truth by the perpetuation of wickedness.
When humanity is determined to practice iniquity it is at the same time unwilling to retain the knowledge of a pure and holy God. By doing this truth is not only suppressed in your own heart but it is also concealed from others. Truth is not to be at the disposal of one’s convenience to share it. Truth is not relative nor is it manipulative. It doesn’t change with the weather or with one’s culture, race, color, creed or origin. God’s truth is for everybody everywhere.
Man not only holds back God’s truth through sin but knows that the truth is the truth. Paul tells us that “what may be know of God is manifest...for God has shown it.” God hasn’t played games with His word hiding things maliciously to lead people in error but the devil has. God will not show you all truth until you are spiritual enough and mature enough to handle more truth as your faith grows. However let’s see how God moves man through levels of truth.
Romans 1:19-20 - Knowledge of God is known and plain because God has made it plain.
Creation speaks forth the revelation of God. Brothers and sisters God reveals Himself to man in three ways: (1) by an internal revelation to the reason and conscience of each man (Rom. 2:15; Heb 8:10, 11), (2) by an external revelation in the works of creation (Rom. 1:20, Psa 19:1-3), and (3) by special revelation in the Scriptures and in the person and work of Jesus Christ, which confirms and completes the other revelations (Mark 1:11, John 14:7,9)
Paul affirms that since the creation of the world God’s invisible attributes are clearly seen and understood by the things that are made (you and I). What are those invisible attributes Paul? God’s “eternal power and Godhead” (NKJV), “eternal power and divine nature” (ESV). Meaning my brothers and sisters that we are without excuse. Genesis tells us “in the beginning God created.” This is God’s eternal power and divine nature. When He parted the Red Sea for Israel this is a demonstration of eternal power and divine nature. When He raised the widow of Nain’s Son from the dead, Lazarus from the dead, and even Jesus himself from the dead this was God showing his eternal power and divine nature to man. The ultimate show though brothers and sisters was the salvation of man from the penalty of sin. You didn’t hear me. God gave us through the cross of Calvary eternal life and the promise to receive his divine nature. “Whom He called, these he also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” (Rom. 8:30) In the face of this revelation, we are without excuse for nonperformance of duty and for hindering the truth.
Romans 1:21 - Knowing God didn’t bear fruit of glory or thanks.
The apostles let’s us know that man’s audacity didn’t stop with man just holding back God’s truth but went further by not glorifying God nor thanking Him. Let’s start with the Christian church that glorifies God when they want too and not on God’s Holy Sabbath day when it is suppose too. The church glorifies God the way it wants too not the way He asks us to by being obedient to His will and His word. The church glorifies its culture and not its God when worship is an act for Sabbath or Sunday and not a lifestyle Monday-Friday.
Society glorifies itself when “In God we trust” is on the dollar bill but not in the hearts of humanity for the oppress or downtrodden. Science glorifies itself when man’s intellect, wit and so-called wisdom is triumphant over “thus saith the Lord.” or when what you believe must be proven scientifically or at least supported scientifically. Mankind my friends is out of order.
Not only that the apostles says, the neither thanked God “but became futile in their thoughts and their foolish hearts were darkened.” An unwillingness to be thankful to God can only lead to ingratitude and selfishness. Ingratitude hardens the heart and leads men to forget the God to whom they are unwilling to express thankfulness. Is it any surprise that churches are emptying in this day and age while everybody is claiming some kind of spirituality? Does it surprise you that God can be good when He’s blessing and at the same time destructive and evil when events like 9/11 happen? Does it bother you that in order to do evangelism and keep folks in church, churches are becoming more like the world and less separate from the world?
Have you thought about the fact that on the dollar bill we have ANNUIT COEPTIS, which means "God has favored our undertaking." And yet we have taken prayer out of the schools, the Ten Commandments out of courts, nativity scenes off the front lawns of government buildings and “in Jesus name” out of public prayers to be ecumenical or acceptable?
When man sinks so deep into sin and ignorance their hearts naturally become darkened and senseless no longer able to perceive or understand truth. To produce such darkness had been Satan’s purpose in the great controversy. God has given to every man “individuality, power to think and to do” (Ed. P 17) Salvation depends upon the right exercise and development of this power in choosing to have faith in God and to obey His will. For six thousand years it has been Satan’s studied purpose to weaken and destroy this God-given power, that men may become helplessly incapable of recognizing and practicing the truth.
Romans 1:22-25 - A Great Fall.
As mankind clings to self-professions of wisdom and intellect they became fools says the apostle and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man. Look at Paul’s description of the spiritual degradation of man. He starts with God and refuses to glorify and thank God. So he moves to himself and makes an image of God like himself. But this doesn’t suffice either because eventually as man deals with man he sees that other men are just as nasty and unworthy as can be. So he moves to birds or things of the air. This doesn’t suffice or last long either before beast of the earth and later reptiles are worship all in the place of God.
Paul seems to be marking out the successive stages of moral ad intellectual degradation of the heathen. A quit survey of history shows pagan worship centering on these things and worse when you look at ancient Egypt, Israel’s continued course of being like other nations and so forth. Let’s not avoid contemporary society with our worship of big houses, big cars, big bank accounts, many degrees, and prestigious pedigree in religious and educational institutions we pride ourselves on.
Let’s not leave out where we worship, with whom we worship and with what denomination we worship. All the while failing miserably to be in relationship with the One who gave us each and every blessing we have. So as a result of missing God, God gives them up “to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves who exchange the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen.” (Romans 1:24-25).
Ladies and gentlemen what Paul is talking about is heathenism. People who do not worship the God of Israel or people who are unenlightened regarding God. Look at our world today everybody is not a believer of God or believes in the same God. I hear what people say with their mouths and observe what they do with their lives. And the truth be told their are a lot of heathens in our day just as there was in Paul’s.
Look at the great fall Paul illustrates of the heathen; with lusts abounding they are given up to uncleanness, that is impurity or moral defilement. They exchange purity or bartered the truth of God for what was false. And having been made a worshiper by God worshiped the creature another created thing instead of or in place of the Creator who regardless of what they do still remains “worthy of our praise, worship and glory” regardless of whether we give it to Him or not. Somebody say, “mercy!”
Romans 1:26-28 - God’s Response One More Slippery Slope
How many of you know that once you put ski’s on a slippery slope that if you don’t know what you are doing things will only get worse?
When the heathen willfully turns away from God and shuts Him out of their minds and hearts, God leaves them to walk in their own ways of self-destruction. Moving in the text from worship issues to deeper human relations issues, God gives up the heathen to “vile passions” (NKJV) or “degrading passions” (ISV). Women leave the natural use for what is against nature and men likewise leave “the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful.”
My friends what happened in Paul’s day is no different than what is occurring today. No matter how you define it or what you call it in the eyes of the God of the Bible, the God of the New Testament and the Old Testament, homosexuality, gay and lesbian lifestyles are not acceptable in the eyes of almighty God. It is against nature, unnatural, it’s a burning lust, and shameful according to the NKJ version. Yet there are Christian churches accepting it in their musicians, singers and clergy.
It’s being forced upon society as an acceptable way of life and a justifiable relationship like marriage between a man and woman. Be careful my friends that you don’t mistake my hatred for sin as hatred for the sinner. Be careful my friends that you don’t hate the sinner and not the sin. Once you are on the slippery slope of sin it’s hard to gain control without God’s will and word in your heart.
On the slopes of sin look at how God responds to the hearts and minds of the heathen, “God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting” (NKJV). Folks a society of debased minded people is a society that is out of order. A society out of order is a society headed for certain destruction. I appalled by the Message Bible’s rendering of Paul’s society. “Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives.”
Look through Paul’s glasses and see the people he saw; “being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God....undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do that same but also approve of those who practice them.” Society then as society is today is out of order.
Brothers and sisters, please don’t see this as a condition which affects only the world because it’s in the church too. Maybe it’s not as bad as the world but in the church all of these characteristics can been seen and even ignored as though they are acceptable for the people of God. The devil is a liar. Whenever there is a departure from the expressed written word of God to accomodate sin the church like the world is out of order.
Illustration: Lutherans to Allow Sexually Active Gays as Clergy
Reading the New York Times yesterday I read an article that said “The nation's largest Lutheran denomination took openly gay clergy more fully into its fold Friday, as leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America voted to lift a ban that prohibited sexually active gay and lesbian people from serving as ministers.”
This my friends is a problem but there is an even deeper issue here. “Under the new policy, individual ELCA congregations will be allowed to hire homosexuals as clergy as long as they are in a committed relationships. Until now, gays and lesbians had to remain celibate to serve as clergy.”
The Christian church as we know it brothers and sister is subtly becoming less and less like God’s Biblical church. And yet there are many people who want to downplay the word of God and come together based upon ecumenical ideology and philosophy. The church is not our church but God’s church and the body of Christ is not the body of a denomination but it is the body of the Savior who gave his life for a particular bride. How dare the bride be and do what the bride wants to do and expect the groom to not be concerned. The body of Christ is becoming more and more out of order.
Is all lost? What do we do? What can we do? There is a light at the end of the tunnel my brothers and sisters. Paul gave us the answer before he gave us the problem. Go back with me to Romans 1:15-17.
“So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
Preach the gospel
There is good news for the sin-sick soul. There is good news for those lost in darkness and on death row because of sin. Jesus paid it all. All to him I owe sin left its crimson stain but he washed me white as snow.
The good news of salvation is to be proclaimed even in a world out of order. Jesus died that we may have life eternal. For Paul the only remedy for a society out of order is the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Christ
Do you know what Jesus did for you and me? Do you know what he did for the world. He died. Notice Paul is not about the gospel of name it-claim it. But the gospel of Jesus Christ. He’s not going to declare a gospel of health and wealth but the gospel of Christ.
I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me!
That’s the gospel my friends that Jesus loved you and me enough to die for us. The Father loved you and me to sacrifice His only begotten Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave. He didn’t take. He gave. He didn’t forget. He gave. He didn’t hide. He gave. He didn’t run. He gave. He didn’t cut us off. He gave. Somebody shout “He gave!” He gave. He didn’t leave us alone. He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever. Drug Dealer. Whosever. Child molester. Whosoever. Murderer. Whosoever. Liar, cheat and thief. Whosoever. Unthankful, unholy, unmerciful. “Whosoever believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God to salvation.
For a society that is out of order the gospel restores order. For a sinner broken, battered and beat down the gospel restores, resuscitates and rejuvenates.
For in the gospel is the righteousness of God revealed to those who by faith receive it and with faith believe it. Someone once said, “I believe in the sun even if it isn't shining. I believe in love even when I am alone. I believe in God even when He is silent." - Unknown
The just my brothers and sisters shall live by faith. Will you live believe Him, and trust Him? Who says amen?