22 July 2009

When a nation turns its back on God--Romans 1:18-32

The message I preached this past Sunday, on the heels of the Episcopal church's continued slide into the spiritual abyss.

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When many people think of the restraining hand of God, they think that by holding them back from fulfilling their every desire, God is simply getting in the way of their good time. When in fact, by restraining them, He is actually doing them a favor. Just like when you parents go running after your child so they don’t run out into the road. You're not trying to keep them from having a good time; you are keeping them from getting killed. And when God holds us back from doing all the things we want to do, He is keeping us from doing something that would bring a far greater punishment. But when the people rebel against such restraint, God pulls back His hand and allow those people to fall as deeply as they want. There are stages—it is a downward spiral; some people call it “circling the drain”—that a nation goes through when they tell God they don’t want any part of Him, they want God to go away and leave them alone—and He says, “OK.”

Romans 1:18-3218 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

C.S. Lewis once said, “The last experience of the sinner is the horrible enslavement of the freedom he desired.” Think about that: people become slaves to freedom. In this country, we think slavery was wiped out after the Civil War. Satan would like you to believe that. But whether you know it or not, we are all slaves. And there are really only two masters we can serve. We can serve Christ. Or we can serve Satan. That’s it. We are either a slave to our own desires and wants. Or we devote our lives to serving the Lord Jesus Christ who bought us with His blood. But it’s not just as individuals that we serve our master, whoever it may be. Even a nation, serves one of those two masters. And right now in this country, there is a war being fought over who we as a nation will serve. The real war is not over in Iraq or Afghanistan. The real war is going on right here inside of each and every person. And it will decide the fate of this country. Because sometimes little by little, sometimes by great leaps, this nation is turning towards serving Satan.

And what happens to that nation that decides they no longer want to be servants of Almighty God? What happens to that nation that wants the freedom to indulge in every sin and every vice they can imagine? They become the objects of God’s wrath. And they experience “the horrible enslavement of the freedom they desire.” But you see, when we think of God’s wrath, we think of things being destroyed. And cities being wiped out.
  • Not long after God created man, He was sorry He ever created the lot of us.So He sent a flood, and wiped out the whole human race, except for 8 people.
  • Not long after that, men built a tower in the land of Babel, to worship angels and stars.So God destroyed the tower, confused their languages, and scattered them abroad.
  • Not long after that, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were filled with homosexual lust, and all other kinds of sexual perversion.So God rained down fire on these cities and destroyed them.
  • Not long after that, as Moses was on Mt. Sinai receiving the Law that would guide us to Christ, the people at the bottom of the mountain were having a drunken orgy, worshipping their golden calf.So God opened up the earth and swallowed them alive.
I think you get the idea. Time after time, man rebels against God. And time after time, God pours out His wrath and destroys them. If you want to see this pattern displayed over and over again, read the book of Judges. But sometimes, God shows His wrath by giving the people everything they want. In the book of Numbers, in chapter 11, we read about the people of Israel who had been in the desert for forty years. And God had fed them every single day. Every night at sunset, all they had to do was go out, gather up the manna, and they eat for the next day. But, are we humans ever satisfied with what we have? Being the selfish creatures we are, always want more. So the people cried out to Moses, “We miss the onions and the garlic and the melons we enjoyed freely in Egypt!” They had forgotten that in order to “enjoy them freely,” they had to suffer under the yoke of bondage to Pharaoh. So God told Moses to gather the people together; and that day the people gathered. And all of a sudden here come all these quail—all the meat they could want. And in Numbers 11:31-33--And the people rose all that day and all night and all the next day, and gathered the quail. Those who gathered least gathered ten bushels…While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD struck down the people with a very great plague. In other words, while they were still chewing, the meat turned to poison in their mouths, and they died. They got what they wanted. God gave them what they wanted. Be careful what you wish for.

So many times we read about God actively displaying His power and His wrath with fire and destruction and death. But God displays His wrath in an even more severe manner—a manner which brings about consequences that are, eternally speaking, even more devastating and destructive. I'm talking about when a nation turns its back on God…and He turns His back on that nation. In His wrath, God does not always simply wipe people out. Sometimes, He will just let them have what they want. And let IT destroy them. Look at Romans 1:18-20. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. There is nothing living that does not believe there is something greater than they are. There is no living creature that does not believe they were created. But in the foolishness of wisdom, they forget that truth. Isaiah 1:3-4“The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider…They have forsaken the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged.”

We like to think of the human mind as a great thing. But in fact it is also a not-so-good thing. Because it allows us to come up with methods of explaining things in such a way that we can leave Almighty God completely out of it. You young folks may be learning in school—or will learn in school—about a little thing called “evolution.” It’s a fairy tale that says that monkeys turned into men, and that lizards turned into birds. That’s one way that people who are too smart for their own good can explain how we got here without having to believe in God, and without having to think that they will one day be accountable to Him.

And because they do not want to stop living a life filled with ungodliness, they suppress the truth, and they toss it under the couch and forget about it. Or they come up with something else to worship, some other “god” that is more to their liking. Romans 1:22-23. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Many people don’t like the image of God they read about in Scripture, so they make up a “god” that suits their liking. They don’t like to think that God would send people to an eternal, fiery Hell. So, they think of God as being like them, with all their faults, and having a human sense of “fairness.” If you drive down Cumberland, go under Alcoa Hwy, just a little ways down Kingston Pike you can find all kinds of places where people come together to worship the “god” they have created in their own mind. Mormons. Christian Science—which is not Christian, nor is it Science. Seventh-Day Adventists. Unitarian-Universalists. All these cults which ignore the truth of Scripture and invent, a “god” that allows them to live however they want to live—without any eternal consequences.

They say something like, “Well, the god I worship would never send anybody to a fiery Hell.” Yeah, probably not. But that’s because they don’t worship the true God. But when they stand before Him, they can tell Him all about what they don’t believe. It may surprise you to learn that it’s not just these cults that believe such rubbish. It may surprise you to learn that the majority of Americans believe that Jesus sinned, that there is no such thing as Hell, and that we can be “good enough” to “deserve” salvation. It may surprise you to hear such things—then again, it may not. And every day in this country—this country where nearly 90% of people claim to be “born-again Christians” simply because they were born in a Christian nation—every day this country slips closer and closer to incurring the wrath of God.

But God won’t necessarily pour out His wrath by raining fire and brimstone on us. He may simply just let us have what we want. Romans 1:24-25. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. The “creature” that we serve in place of the Creator is our own flesh. We don’t want to be told what to do; we don’t want to live by a bunch of commandments; and He says, “OK. Don’t obey My commandments. See where it gets you.” God takes His hand off, just a bit, and gives us a little more freedom. So we get what we saw in the 1960’s, when so many people threw off any kind of restraint and gave up their bodies to the worship of the flesh. They called it “Free Love.” How many of y’all know it ain't free?

And when you have so much sex, what is the natural result of sex? It’s called “a baby.” But what if you don’t want to be tied down with a baby? What if you don’t want to give up the lifestyle and the partying and all the fun you're having? And what if you don’t want to go through the nine months of gaining weight and stretch marks and labor and all that other stuff that goes along with pregnancy. Well, you have to kill that child. So, directly on the heels of the 1960’s and the sexual revolution, the Supreme Court made it legal to kill your child while that child was still in the womb, and they legalized child murder. And called it “abortion.” And then along came disco, with its emphasis on sleeping with as many people as you could. And all the while, the people in this country grow more and more infatuated with more and more sexual gratification.

And especially today, if someone wants to go into the music business, if they want to sell any records, they have to make music videos. And what do they have to have in their music videos? A lot of sex. So this nation, where so many people claim to be “Christians,” and so many people who say they're going to heaven when they die—even while they are living a life that is filled with all kinds of things that are opposed to God—this nation continues to turn more and more away from God. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man…Therefore God gave them up to uncleanness to dishonor their bodies.

But for some people, normal sex won’t do. And so, in Romans 1:26-27For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. Back around 1981, doctors began to notice a strange condition occurring in some of their patients. A strange new virus was discovered. And this virus was unlike any other that they had ever seen, because this virus reproduced itself using the patient’s own genetic material and weaved itself into the patient’s DNA. Not only that, it also used the body’s own immune system to help it avoid destruction and help it spread. They came up with a name for this virus. They called it the Human Immunodeficiency Virus—HIV for short. And the collection of symptoms that spelled the end for anyone with this virus was being referred to as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome—AIDS.

The militant homosexual crowd blamed the spread of AIDS on the government. It wasn’t the government that caused the spread of AIDS. It was men having unprotected sex with other men they had never met before and knew nothing about that caused the disease to spread. But they didn’t want to hear that. They want to blame somebody else other than themselves. "Oh, it's not our fault we got this disease!! No, that can't be! It has to be somebody else's fault!!" They don’t want to accept the fact that maybe, just maybe, the reason they have such a disease is because it’s their own fault. Nah, can't be. Has to be somebody else’s fault. Because in this country, we have become so numb to sin that we think it’s normal. So we get shows like Will & Grace, Queer Eye For the Straight Guy. All these shows celebrating what God calls an abomination. Even in many so-called “churches,” there is an acceptance of homosexuality as being normal and even celebrated.

I remember Ellen DeGenerate—I mean, DeGeneres—when she “came out,” told the world, “I thank God I'm gay!” God didn’t make her gay. And God certainly is not happy with her being a practicing lesbian. But, in this country, “coming out” as a lesbian is far more acceptable and far more celebrated than “coming out” as a Christian. Just ask Kirk Cameron how many offers he’s gotten since he got saved. A nation’s acceptance and tolerance of homosexuality as being “normal” is one of the hallmarks of a nation that is about to go under. When powerful nations and empires crumbled into dust, one thing they had in common was rampant homosexuality. Jude 7Sodom and Gomorrah…having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.

Do you want to know how powerful homosexual lust is? I was listening to a sermon preached by John MacArthur, one of the finest preachers of the last 50 years. He shared the following: “There was a man named Halpern, who was the coroner for the city of New York and he did [between] 26 or 28 thousand autopsies in his day. He said he can look at a corpse that had been murdered and tell you whether a homosexual killed that person by the multiple wounds. [He said] ‘There's something about the passions of that kind of involvement that are not explicable.’” Another example: the night before the city of Sodom was destroyed, the men of Sodom saw two angels, in the shape of men enter into Lot’s house. They called for Lot to bring out the men, “Bring them out so that we may know them!”…sexually. Lot refused, and the men of the city were about to break down the door when the angels grabbed Lot, pulled him into the house, and in Genesis 19:11they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness…so that they became weary trying to find the door. Even after they were blinded, they were still consumed by their lust to have those men. You might even say they were blinded by their lust.

Bringing that story up to date—even after everybody knows that the number one way that AIDS is spread is by men having sex with men, these men are still driven by their lust to commit what is an abomination. God gave them up to uncleanness to dishonor their bodies. God gave them up to vile passions.

Then verses 28-31. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 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, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful... God gives them up to uncleanness. He says, “You want it? There you go! Have at it!” He gives them up to vile passion. He says, “Oh, you want that too? There you go! Have at it!” Finally, He gives them over to a debased mind. The KJV calls it a reprobate mind. The NASB says He gives them over to a depraved mind. It is a mind that is tested and rejected. In the Greek it is a play on words. Even as they tested God and did not approve of Him, God handed them over to a mind which He has tested and rejected. When a nation rejects God, God rejects that nation. When a nation turns its back on God, God turns His back on that nation. Friends, it is truly better to have never known the truth of God, than to know His truth and turn away from it. Because when He turns His back on one nation, He turns His face to another. And He may even cause that second nation to conquer, and rule, and reign over the first.

If you want an example, I give you September 11, 2001. What happened that day was devastatingly tragic. But as tragic as it was, we deserved worse. Because those attacks revealed the true character of this nation. In the weeks following the attacks, you couldn’t find an empty pew anywhere. This nation, that had spent the last 30 or more years indulging their lusts and fulfilling every wickedness they could imagine—and all of a sudden, the cry goes us—“O God, save us!” People started buying American flags and Bibles, and they filled up churches and started taking their kids back to church and doing all these religious things...

But what has happened since then? Romans 1:32. …knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. If anything, this country has gotten even worse. Some people say that 9/11 was a "wake-up call." And it was. Problem is, we hit the snooze button and went back to sleep. The church in America—the church in America—is rapidly rejecting the truth of Scripture. People don’t want to hear truth anymore. So God gives us over to uselessness.

And suddenly, a man like Joel Osteen gains a huge following by preaching a bunch of watered-down nonsense, by not preaching about sin and repentance, by his unwillingness to preach the truth about the cross, and by preaching a name-it-and-claim-it philosophy. We also get someone like Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose-Driven Life, joining his church with Islamic groups, and saying that “Christians and Muslims must work together for the greater good.” I'm sorry. Did I miss something? Is there something greater than the gospel of Jesus Christ? Something greater that requires us to forget what the Bible says about how we are to not be yoked with unbelievers? This same man has also, openly, endorsed a book like “The Shack”—which is one of the most blasphemous books to come out in the last 5 years, but can be found on the shelves of “Christian” bookstores. And now we have elected a president who will do whatever it takes to make sure as many women as possible can kill their child any time during their pregnancy—or even in the days after they give birth. God gave this nation up to uncleanness. He gave this nation up to vile passions. And He has given this nation over to a mind that is useless concerning the things of God.

I shudder to think of the possible consequences. Because when those consequences come, they will make 9/11 look pale in comparison. When lawlessness is the norm; when the police are overwhelmed; when murder and robbery and rape go unpunished and unprosecuted; when the criminal element in this country runs the streets, and there is no one and nothing to protect the innocent—then the people will cry out, “O God, save us!” And He won’t. He won’t even hear their cry. He will have given the people what they want.

So, what can we do to stop this? First, pray. 1st Timothy 2:1-2Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. Pray that our president would open his eyes and see the truth about abortion. Pray that God would give Him the wisdom and the heart to lead this nation in righteousness. Pray that God would give him the wisdom to see that a nation must be allowed to worship Almighty God without restriction.

Second, respect authority. Romans 13:1-4Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. One of the most popular shows in the history of cable TV was The Sopranos. The Sopranos. Think about that. A show where the Mafia were the good guys and the police were the bad guys. And as you sat their watching, you were hoping that the Mafia gets away with murder. Of course, in movies, TV shows, music videos, it’s always the police that are the bad guys, and the pimp, the drug dealer, the guy that holds up the bank—they're the good guys. People in this country approve of those who kill and steal and who sell women’s bodies. And they hate those whose job it is to arrest such people. But when somebody does something to them, who do they call first? …knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Once the people throw off the shackles of the laws of men, it isn't long until they throw off any sense of conscience and restraint, and everyone does what is right in their own eyes as they did at the end of the book of Judges.

I'll close with some more words from Dr. MacArthur: “Your prayer and mine has to be that God would raise up faithful preachers and people who would proclaim His Word across this land. Pray for this generation of young men that God will call and shape and send, pray for pastors everywhere. Pray for us Christians to be bold. There's only one solution and that's the truth...the truth by which God saves, by which God sanctifies, and if this nation will respond and listen to His truth, God will open the flood gates. We might be the greatest recovery story in history. But there's no other way than that people listen to God and walk in His ways.”

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