When we choose to reject God and his way, we find meaning and purpose and worship in created things – even things we create. We dance with the devil as our attitude shifts from surrender to self. Today we are who are self-centric are challenged to be God-centric…
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. 17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, 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 people are without excuse.
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 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
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. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual 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 shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 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, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 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.
Paul is proud of the gospel. We don’t normally think of it in this way because he says he is not ashamed of it. He says in a negative phrase, yet he means something definitively positive. Paul is proud and enthusiastic about the gospel and what it means. The gospel is the power of God in action.
The gospel is the path to salvation for every person on earth. The gospel reveals a righteousness for us which comes by faith in God. It doesn’t come from works or human effort. God’s righteousness is from faith from first to last. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. This truth is worth our excitement.
The world does not live in this righteousness apart from God. Rather, God’s wrath is revealed because people ignore God’s plan and God’s way. We often focus on the behaviour outlined in Romans 1, yet today I want to look at the underlying attitude which cause God’s anger. The behaviour flows out of this attitude. We see this in verses 21-32.
Before we are surrendered to God for our righteousness and interested in pleasing him, we ignore him. We don’t glorify him. We don’t give thanks to him for his provision. We slip back into a futile way of thinking when we are left to our own devices. And that way of thinking becomes idolatrous very quickly. The idolatrous life is focused on self. We put self-centric things in between us and God. That’s idolatry. We recognized this from Paul’s introduction to the letter to the Romans.
Paul’s call and his mission is entirely God-centric, yet he is reaching out to a people who are completely self-centric.
When we are self-centric, we (vs. 22-25) exchange the glory of God for idols, worshiping and serving the created rather than the creator. That’s it: when we choose to reject God and his way, we find meaning and purpose and worship in created things, including things we create ourselves. Idols become more important than God because they take on our design and our thinking. We call the shots when we live in that world. And that world is self-centric, God-ignoring, and wrath-inducing.
The behavioural outcomes are a laundry list of things which do not please God. I’m sure you can find yourself in verses 21-32. I can. Everyone dances with the devil when their attitude shifts from surrender to self. Paul’s plea is for us to recognize this and focus on the righteousness which comes only by faith. We will also see as we look into this further that judging others and becoming self-righteous about it is a mistake which will backfire.
No one is immune. This is the human struggle…