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Limiting Our View of God

Romans 1:29-31

Jim Davis

I have noticed, the older I get, the more important focus becomes. An introvert may see no one's problems but her own, as the tendency is to look inward; an extrovert may see everybody else's problems but his own, as the tendency is to look outward. One is no better off than the other is. Life can get all out of focus for both. An old song says, "Life is all out of focus, with no way to keep it in line." Sometimes there seems to be no way to keep life in balance. We seem to live at extremes achieving balance only occasionally as we swing from extreme to extreme.

Romans 1:29-31
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (NIV)

The foregoing verses describe lives out of focus, lives, which have swung to extremes with no human way to achieve balance; lives so extreme they think they are balanced. "Almost every term used to describe this society springs from a selfish life which exploits others for personal advantage." (Richard A. Batey, The Living Word Commentary, The Letter of Paul to the Romans, Sweet Publishing Company, Austin Texas, Pg. 31) These lives are so out of focus words like love, commitment, selflessness and fellowship are no longer in their vocabulary. A society so extreme community living has died. Lives so dead isolation is the only option for living with the stench. God has given up on them. They are reaping the due penalty for their extremist lifestyle.

These verses in Romans describe the condition of the world when Christ came. In 2 Thessalonians Paul indicates the same condition would arise again. We can only wonder if today we may be living in time frame of which Paul speaks.

2 Thessalonians 2:9-12
The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. (NIV)

Both passages deal with societies unashamed of immoral behavior. Societies so extreme, antisocial behavior is the standard by which to live. They are not only engaged in these behaviors, they also approve of those who practice them. (1:31) A world unable to blush. When a society reaches such an extreme, you can rest assured Satan is having his finest hour.

When the Bastille, a castle-like prison in Paris, was about to be destroyed in 1789, a convict was brought out who had been confined in one of its gloomy cells for many years. But instead of joyfully welcoming his liberty, he begged to be taken back. It had been so long since he had seen the sunshine that his eyes could not endure its brightness. His only desire was to die in the murky dungeon where he had been a captive. In the same way, some men continue to reject God until they eventually become so hardened in their sin that they prefer the way of darkness and death.

How can a society get so far of course?

No doubt you have occasionally seen an apple with a wormhole in it. But did you ever wonder whether the worm began to bore from the inside or from the outside? Well, scientists tell us it began on the inside! They say that the egg is laid in the blossom, and after the wiggly, undesirable little creature hatches in the core, it eats its way to the skin. The worm of sin operates the same way--from the inside out!

It begins with suppressing a sufficient knowledge of truth. (1:22) Eve began it all in Eden. It looks good. It tastes good. It will make me wise. It will make me God. Immediately, as you read the first six chapters of the Bible, you understand the end of Seth's descendants who sought truth and Cain's descendants who sought themselves. Seth's descendants are saved and Cain's descendants perish. The flood in Noah's day is testimony to where this kind of reasoning eventually leads.

It is a refusal to be educated. Ignorance exists in two forms. There is ignorance, which exists through lack of education and there is an ignorance, which comes through refusing to be educated. What could have been known about God had been made plain to them. (1:19) God's eternal power and divine nature had been clearly seen and understood. They willingly suppressed the truth.

Intellectual honesty and integrity are gone. The truth has been abandon. Paul describes a world suppressing the truth because of its wickedness. This is not a world gone awry struggling with its weaknesses in search for truth. It is a world abandoned to its wickedness. Futile senseless minds bent on serving their lusts.

Truth was exchanged for lies. Suppressing truth begins subtly and ends with thinking the knowledge of God is not worthwhile. The erection of idols was a testimony of their belief in deity. However, they endeavored to recreate God. Moreover, they decided to make themselves God. They " . . . exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles." (1:22)

We limit our view of God. Today most people believe in God, but they have a limited view of God. The danger is not that they don’t believe in God, but God is recreated into their own image of him. This is usually done as we try to fit God into our own desired lifestyles without having to conform our lives into the true image of God. Church doctrines may give us a limited view of God by stressing certain attributes of His nature to the exclusion of all others. Too often, this is done to serve our own self-interest. We formulate a doctrine that makes us comfortable with ourselves as we are or desire to be.

Philippians 3:18-19
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. (NIV)

Suppressing truth becomes so real we began thinking wrong is right. We ask questions like, "If it is so wrong, why does it feel so right?" It feels so right; we begin to believe we were born that way. It seems so first nature. We begin to believe it is the way we should live. When we reach this point, the worst thing possible happens. God abandons us.

Paul is not talking about heathens that don't know any better. He is talking about why people become heathen in the first place. They have God's law written on their hearts. (2:14) He is talking about persons who know the truth and suppress it. He is talking about those who know truth and refuse to do it. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." (NIV James 4:10) This is the beginning of heathenism.

When we go the wrong way spiritually, in one sense we do so on purpose. Douglas Corrigan acquired the title, "wrong-way Corrigan ", in 1938 when he took off in his plane from Brooklyn, New York, on an announced flight to Long Beach, California. A little over 23 hours later, however, he touched down in Dublin, Ireland, and asked officials, "Is this Los Angeles?" For years people laughed at his "miscalculations," but finally in 1963 he admitted that his trip across the Atlantic had really been planned. Unable to get official clearance to cross the ocean, he just went ahead and made the flight "by mistake" on purpose. Sometimes this is what we do spiritually. We go the wrong way on purpose.

Where Is Our World Today?

Paul is not giving a teleological argument for the existence of God in the verses for our lesson today. Don't get confused. It is an anthropological argument for the existence of heathenism and depravity. It is not a matter "Can they know God?" It is a matter of why they don't know God. The evidence for the existence of God is plain and simple. Even the heathen understand this concept.

It is much harder for us to accept man's depravity. Don't lose your focus in this chapter. It is about man's sin. Depravity abounds as men deliberately deny God. There seems to be no question about God's existence.

Paul prophesied the same thing would happen in the last days in which we have been living in since Pentecost. (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16-17)

2 Timothy 3:1-7
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. (NIV)

Even today, there is no question about God's existence. This is evidenced when we say, "Well, this is the way God made me." We even build churches around our perversions as we honor the way God made us.

Titus 1:15-16
To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. (NIV)

Our world is out of focus. Paul indicates God abandoned these unbelievers to immorality and sin as punishment for their sin. It is odd. Today we are endeavoring to justify immorality and sin as we deny God. The immorality and sin the world is so caught up in is actually the judgement of God against our unwillingness to believe. A world so out of focus and perverted it can find joy in its own punishment for sin.

Jeremiah 10:23-24
I know, O LORD, that a man's life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps. Correct me, LORD, but only with justice-- not in your anger, lest you reduce me to nothing. (NIV)

The Christian community has even jumped on the bandwagon encouraging others to find joy and fulfillment in the judgement of God. We make God into our image by saying: "I like to think of God as a God of love. I can't conceive of this kind of God sending anyone to hell."

Conclusion:

The question is how receptive are you to the truth you possess? That is the difficulty with the Bible. It always gets personal. The suppression of truth begins on a personal level. Potentially it can plunge the whole world into darkness. Someone had to begin it. It is obvious others have bought into it. Paul indicates it begins with refusing to acknowledge God's truth. The culminating effect perverts our very nature as human beings. The pinnacle of perversion is reached as men and women seek to have sex with their own sex. It culminates in destroying the very purpose for which we were created.

Do you understand your personal need for truth? Are you willing to admit your need of truth? Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick, I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Mark 2:17) The truth can only become relevant to our lives as we recognize our needs. To deny our needs is to deny the truth.

The bad news isn't that we are in need. The bad news is, too many refuse to recognize their needs. We like to think "You're Okay and I'm Okay" just as we are. The consequence of refusing to accept our needs is a rejection of God. "In moral and spiritual terms we are all sick and damaged, diseased and deformed, scarred and sore, lame and lopsided, to a far, far greater extent than we realize." (J. I. Packer quoted in EPA Liaison, Oct 1994, Via InfoSearch Database, Arlington, Texas.)

It is not that they can't be saved. They refuse to be saved.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. 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. (NIV)

Even for a world abandoned by God to dishonor itself there is still hope. The cradle of Christianity began with the world Paul describes in this chapter. There is still hope for each of us. Recognize your needs and God's power to salvage your life through the good news about Jesus Christ. Paul proclaims salvation for everyone as we shall see as proceed in the book Romans in future lessons.

 

Bible Study Questions 

  1. What kind of world does Romans 1:29-31 describe?
  2. What was the condition of the world when Christ came?
  3. How does one come to a point where they become unashamed of immoral behavior?
  4. How did Eve suppress her knowledge in Eden? What does the flood in Noah’s day say about her choice?
  5. What is the between lack of education and willful ignorance? How would categorize those mentioned in Romans 1:29-31?
  6. How does looking within ourselves for answers limit our view of God? (Philippians 3:18-19)
  7. What does Paul say about the last days? (2 Timothy 3:1-7)
  8. What is the source of moral corruption? (Titus 1:5-6)
  9. What is the punishment for their sinful living?
  10.  How receptive are we to the truth?
  11.  What does 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 say about the possibility of such a world being saved?

 


 
 

 

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