Given up then given over
Last week we began our study of the wrath of God. Romans 1:18-23 shows us the wrath of God is revealed against those who ignore God, and suppress the truth; people who replace the knowledge of God with redefined truth, redefined justice, and redefined morality; people who claim to be wise, but have made themselves fools, idolizing things rather than God.
God's wrath takes 5 different forms in the Bible:
- Eternal wrath – separation from God and the torment of Hell
- Apocalyptic wrath – the judgments poured out against mankind in the day of the Lord
- Cataclysmic wrath – like Noah's flood or the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
- Consequential wrath – natural results of sin (the law of sowing and reaping)
- Wrath of abandonment – when God withdraws from the rebellious soul
Mankind's complete rejection of God can trigger a response where God allows us to see what it's like to be your own god, and make your own rules, which began with His "giving over" humankind to their sin. Theologians call this "judicial abandonment", which some have described in one of two ways. This "giving over" of man to his own sin is not a passive act like giving up. God did not get exasperated with mans continual inclination to sin and throw up His hands and say, "Fine! You want it, you got it!" No, this "judicial abandonment" was an intentional active decision that was meant to accomplish a specific purpose.
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.
Because of mans' ungodliness and unrighteousness they desire unholy things that are perversions of what God originally designed as good. Jesus said, "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For OUT OF THE HEART proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:18-19 NKJV).
If the natural man "follows his heart" it will lead to moral corruption every time. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? (NKJV).
James writes, "But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:14-15 NKJV).
Like fish drawn to the bait at the end of the fishing line, man is drawn to sin by his lustful heart; but inside the bait awaits the hook. When we finally get what we want, we don't want what we get. Striving to satisfy our hunger we end up on Satan's stringer. That which promises pleasure produces pain.
Allowing your sexuality to define and control you is a form of idolatry.
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.
We live in a world where:
- As of 2003, there were 1.3 million pornographic websites; 260 million pages (N2H2, 2003).
- The total porn industry revenue for 2006: $13.3 billion in the United States; $97 billion worldwide (Internet Filter Review).
- Adults admitting to Internet sexual addiction: 10%; 28% of those are women (Internet Filter Review).
- More than 70% of men from 18 to 34 visit a pornographic site in a typical month (comScore Media Metrix).
- More than 20,000 images of child pornography posted online every week (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 10/8/03).
- Approximately 20% of all Internet pornography involves children (National Center for Mission & Exploited Children).
America is essentially Sodom & Gomorrah with internet access!
I've read articles where homosexuals try to redefine morality and marriage. They say "you don't understand homosexuality was different in Bible times, it is only condemned because it was associated with idolatry", but Paul is showing us that giving sexual attraction this kind of power in your life is idolatry. Likewise when AIDs reached the mainstream media some preachers declared it to be a judgment of God against homosexuals, but Paul is telling us the whole culture of sexual sin exists because God has "given then up" to uncleanness and vile passions, so that their own immorality is a judgment against them.
As a result: the contraction of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies are at an all-time high, sexual abuse and rape is ever increasing, marriages are falling apart, and our neighborhoods are littered with child molesters. To say that the unbridled sensual desires of mans' heart has not enslaved him would be to ignore reality.
Paul writes in verse 25, that we have "exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator". The second Commandment forbids the making, the worshiping of idols (Exodus 20). Everything you give control and power to in your life becomes an object of worship.
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;
See the progression after they reject the truth they are given up to uncleanness, then given up to vile passions, then given over to a debased mind; through sexual idolatry man becomes mentally perverted.
The word "debased" means "not passing the test" (unsound). It was often used to describe useless, worthless metals, discarded because they contained too much impurity.
Again, God "gave them over" is simply righteous retribution on God's part as He allows men to pursue, to its fearful end, the path they have chosen. It's as if God said, "Your wish has been granted."
Just as moral perversion produces wholesale sins of sex, mental perversion gives rise to all kinds of wickedness. The apostle Paul concludes chapter one with a categorized list of consequences.
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;
1. Debased (worthless) human character.
Again, there is none righteous, no, not one. Mans' condition has flawed mans' character. He is by nature: unrighteous, sexually immoral, wicked, covetous, and malicious (deliberately harmful); full of: envy, murder, strife, deceit, and evil mindedness. True character is not assessed in public; rather, it is what you are when no one is looking.
2. Debased (worthless) human conduct.
Men are guilty of fornication and murder. They defy authority (parental and otherwise) and treat contractual obligations with contempt (where are the loopholes?).
The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population. But it has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners. With 2.3 million prisoners behind bars, America, leads the world in incarcerations (New York Times, 2008). These statistics should demonstrate that man's problem is not: physical, social, or financial. Mans' problem is spiritual. He is totally depraved! The answer for the world is NOT to "Americanize" different cultures but to EVANGELIZE them. People in third world countries might appreciate some soap, food and clothing, but what they really need is a Savior!
3. Debased (worthless) human conversations.
"they are whisperers, backbiters, …and boasters." We slice and dice with our speech. We twist the truth so much that they make us put our hand on a Bible and swear that we will "tell the truth and nothing but the truth; so help us God" before giving our testimony in a court of law! We curse God's Name. We curse Jesus' Name. James writes that, "5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! 6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell" (James 3:5-6 NKJV).
4. Debased (worthless) human concepts.
"inventors of evil things…"
While not all of man's inventions promote evil, certainly some demonstrate both mans' moral and mental perversion. Some inventions are innocent (like the "Sham-wow"); while others are simply insidious.
Insidious inventions include: abortion (killing babies for conveniences sake), the atomic bomb, napalm, etc. The Roman cross was an evil and horribly cruel way to take someone's life. What man sat down and figured out that if you stretched a person out in that particular position and nailed their limbs to a rugged piece of wood that not only would it be excruciating (a word invented to describe crucifixion) but eventually the victim would die by suffocation (a horrible way to go). Ironically, Jesus humbly submitted to death by this cruel invention. Paul writes in Philippians 2:8, "And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross" (NKJV). One of mans' cruel concepts crucified the Christ.
5. Debased human relationships.
By nature mankind is: "untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful", is there any wonder that we live in a world filled with broken relationships?
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.
Finally a debased standard of righteousness.
Not only do we violate God's righteous law, but we encourage others to do the same and then applaud their actions. Misery loves company; the louder the crowd, the quieter the conscience. This truth is seen in the proliferation of the "homosexual rights" movement. If they can convince society that same sex and transgender relationships are acceptable then their guilty conscience is eased. Just because something is "legal" does not make it right. Mankind will not ultimately be judged by the Supreme Court of his own making; they will stand before the Sovereign Maker and they will be without excuse. How does God really feel about people who serve their own corrupt nature?
1 Corinthians 6
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
I love verse 11, "such were some of you"; God doesn't deny or ignore the corruption of human nature, he redeems it! We are changed from the inside out; the goal of Christianity is not morality. The goal is true worship reflecting the nature and character of God. Morality is a bonus, the outward working of the Holy Spirit living in us.
Questions for discussion:
1. God is sovereign; and everything He does has purpose. What do you think God's purpose was for "giving man over"?
2. After reading Paul's description of mans' depravity in verses 28-32, what does man deserve?
3. What are some of the natural consequences that God allows of mans' sin?