Runaway world Romans 1:18-32

Riots. Inflation. Global warming. Droughts and floods. Unemployment. Murders and so many other types of terrible crimes.
Did Louis Armstrong really say to himself, “What a wonderful world”?
Of course it was a wonderful world when God created it. And not everything which God saw was good has been spoilt. But so much has gone wrong. So much has been tragically damaged by what the Bible calls sin. So when the apostle Paul is writing down the gospel he preaches to send to the church at Rome, this is where he must start – with the problems we are all caught up with in this runaway world, and with God’s anger towards mankind’s rebellion.
God’s anger against godlessness
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness,
In the nineteenth century it seemed that all the church preached about was fire and brimstone and the judgment of God. Over the last hundred years the pendulum seems to have swung to the opposite extreme. The church today seems to play down the anger of God against the godlessness and wickedness of human beings. Many churches and so called Christians now deny the judgment of God and the reality of hell altogether. This is strange when we remember that Jesus’s preaching contained so many warnings of judgment – think of the parables of the tenants in the vineyard, and of the wedding banquet, or of the wheat and the weeds, or of the wise and foolish virgins. The truth is that we can never hope to understand the way the world is unless we take seriously what the Bible says in so many ways and places, that the world which God created perfect is now marred and infected and polluted by man’s rebellion and disobedience. And the gospel of Jesus Christ only makes sense when we see the world as God sees it, completely lost, and when we realize just how angry the holy and righteous God is with human sin.
God is not just angry with wickedness – all the hurting and killing and selfishness and immorality. The root of the problem is godlessness – men and women rejecting God and trying to make sense of life without the One who gives us life and gives that life its meaning. We live in a “runaway world” full of people running away from God, and that also makes God so angry.
Would you swap a new Rolls Royce for an old and battered Mini? Of course not! But that is what human beings have done when they reject the very best God has created us for, and swap it not for second best but for the very worst.
they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images. ….
25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie,…
26Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones.
So we read in this passage three ways that human beings have exchanged, swapped, traded in, the best for the worst. So Paul goes on to spell out
Four results of rejecting God
1 Foolishness and idolatry
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools
The Psalms tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but human beings have rejected that wisdom.
23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
In earlier days human beings made false gods of their own – idols of wood or metal looking like animals and birds. Some cultures still have those kinds of idols today. Here in Western Europe our false gods are more abstract, but just as damaging. False gods like “power” or “reason” or “success”. But these are just as much idols when they replace the one true and living God for men’s trust and allegiance and worship. And we must never forget that all these false gods can be manipulated by principalities and powers and demonic beings.
2 Sinful desires and materialism
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.
This explains how the world which God created perfect has been spoiled by human sin. People sometimes ask, if there is a God why is there so much suffering in the world. Why has God allowed things to get so bad? And the answer is – because that is the kind of life and the kind of world human beings have chosen – and God has let us have what we wanted.
Romans 1:24 “God gave them over”. God handed them over.
J.B. Phillips translation, they gave up God so God gave them up.”
The Message “So God said, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.”
We have the same phrase three times.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.
he gave them over to a depraved mind,
Sinful desires, shameful lusts, depraved minds – because that is exactly what human beings have chosen!
25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

The sin of materialism, worshipping and serving created things rather than the Creator. Lifestyles built on greed, extravagance and waste, amongst other things the exploitation of poor producers in the Third World by consumers in the rich West.
Colossians 3:5 says “Put to death greed, which is idolatry.”
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus Himself warns us that “No-one can serve two masters. You cannot serve God and Mammon,” the false god Wealth, or Money.
Philippians 3:18 For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
3 Shameful lusts and perversion
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

The rejection of God’s perfect plan for sex and family life. Here is the clearest statement in the New Testament condemning homosexual practices. God’s design is that sexual activity should be the natural expression of love and commitment and intimacy between husband and wife in marriage. This passage is not talking about homosexual tendencies or desires or homosexual orientation. But Paul is talking about homosexual acts and he makes clear that such acts are unnatural and indecent and expressions of lust, not of love.
4 Depraved minds and the breakdown of society
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
Because people rejected God, he gave them up. So we have this catalogue of evils leading to the breakdown of family and community and society. There are so many examples of these sins around the world but even in our own country. Even today, as Paul says, “people invent new ways of doing evil!”
Four results of rejecting God: Foolishness and idolatry; sinful desires and materialism shameful lusts and perversion; depraved minds and the breakdown of society. But let’s make sure we don’t become proud and self-righteous about all these things. Because the righteous anger and the judgment of God is directed just as much at each one of us as it against the worst murderer. There but for the grace of God go you and I! Apart from Christ and the salvation He brings, we are just as rebellious and sinful and guilty as anybody else! Even with Christ, we are all a very long way from being perfect! But here is the point Paul is making!
They are without excuse
Some people say that it is unfair of God to judge human beings for their sins. That people are simply sinning because of ignorance. People just don’t know any better. Paul is contradicting that idea. Paul is saying, they are without excuse.
The old Anglican Communion Service included a prayer of confession – that we have all sinned against God and against our fellow men though ignorance, through wickedness, and through our own deliberate fault. Human sin is not all ignorance, it also includes willful rebellion!
People choose to suppress the truth about God
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

There is a whole other sermon here on the philosophical arguments for the existence of God which we must leave for another day. But Paul is absolutely clear that the Creator is revealed in His Creation. That God’s eternal power and divine nature are visible to everybody, believer and non-believer and atheist alike. People like Richard Dawkins who refuse to see God in creation are not merely blind and misguided – they are actually deliberately suppressing the truth about God.
More than four hundred years ago, the great Reformation theologian John Calvin put it this way. “Surely nothing is more absurd than that people should be ignorant of their Author, especially people who have been given understanding principally for this use. … God has not darkly shadowed His glory in the creation of the world, but He has everywhere engraven such marks that even the blind may know them.”
Message: So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives.
People deliberately choose darkness instead of light. So they are without excuse!
People deliberately choose to ignore God
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.
28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
Why did the burglar not see the policeman? Because he was too busy running away from him. C.S Lewis said that amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about ‘man’s search for God.’ They might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat.” It was Winston Churchill who said that Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened. People suppress the truth about God. They deliberately choose to ignore God. And
People deliberately choose to disobey God.
32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
Even though the age of Christendom has passed, most people still know the essence of God’s Law. Even if they can’t list the ten commandments, most still know that murder and stealing and lying are wrong. It’s not that they don’t know right from wrong – we all have consciences, we all know good from evil and we’ll think more about that in a couple of weeks time. The fact is that human beings so often simply choose to do wrong instead of doing right.
The Message sums it up so well: 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. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!
So here is the problem. A runaway world, separated and alienated from God, suffering the consequences of selfishness and sin, but much worse than that, facing the just judgment of a holy God. The Creator God who is rightly angry with all the the godlessness and wickedness which are man’s own deliberate fault. We are lost souls in a lost world – that’s humanity’s problem!
And what is God’s solution. As we said last week – God’s solution is the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. The gospel which gives us a way of getting right with God based not on any good works but instead on simply accepting by faith the gift of forgiveness and eternal life which comes to us through Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This entry was posted in Romans.

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