The Exchange of God
This week we continue with Pastor Keith Welton's sermon series guiding us through the book of Romans.
In 2018 Apple shares hit a historic $1 trillion market cap value, becoming the first publicly traded U.S. company to ever reach the milestone. For employees and workers it was a historic day full of celebration. But for a man named Ron Wayne the day was not as exciting. You see Wayne is the third and lesser known founder of Apple. While Wayne is the creator of the Apple logo, the reason he is lesser known than the other co-founders, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, is that in 1976 Wayne had growing concerns for the financial state of Apple. While Jobs and Wozniak were young guys in their 20s and were sinking everything they had into the company, Wayne was a responsible 40-year-old adult with a house, a mortgage, and an increasing realization that financial responsibility for the company could fall solely on him. So he sold his 10% stake in Apple for a whopping $800. If you are a mathematician, you can realize that 10% of 1 trillion is $100 million. And that is why this business deal is known as the worst trade in history, sports, business included.
Wayne gave up a $100 million-dollar business for just $800. He didn't have the foresight and vision to see where the company was going. Well, there is a much greater trade people make every day, and it is to exchange the glory of the immortal God for things that perish and bring them to ruin. This is the height of bad decisions. It is the epitome of sin. And it is the reason so many things are broken and wrong in the world.
This chapter of Romans shows us that God’s wrath is being revealed in the world’s ungodliness and unrighteousness, which is quintessential their trading of God for the things of the world, and God’s wrath is revealed so that people might turn from their terrible trading.
The Wrath of God is Revealed
Earlier in the book of Romans we saw that through Jesus there is good news that God’s righteousness is revealed.
But now we see a corollary.
These verses may seem surprising. The letter began with the announcement that God’s righteousness has been made known through Christ. But now there is a section on the pronouncement of judgment. What is going on?
This is part of a larger section in which Paul expounds on the gospel and how we can be made right with God through Christ. But this section prepares us for the good news by showing what we need to be saved from. In Christ salvation has come, but you have to know what we need saving from. We need saving from the wrath of God.
God has revealed the cure, but you don’t know you need a cure until you know you are sick.
God’s wrath is revealed in judgment on all the godlessness and unrighteousness of people. There is evil in the world, and God’s wrath is seen upon it. It is evident and plain to all.
General Revelation. Special Revelation. God has spoken his word to us so we can clearly know how to serve him and be saved. If you want to know God, read his word. But if you never read his word, you can still know him. God reveals himself in creation so that we can know and see him. His invisible attributes or made visible in creation. Oxymoron. Two truths that seem in conflict.
Plain. Self evident. Manifested. Made clear. Make clear.
One of the best expressions of God’s invisible attributes being made known in creation is in Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Eleonora. Might not expect that. Brilliant writer, one of best paragraphs in all of literature.
Poe paints a beautiful picture of two love lost teens frolicking through the beautiful countryside, he mentions the many colored grasses, the fragrant flowers, the river with its “many dazzling rivulets that glided deviously” through it. He paints a beautiful picture of the countryside and then he says of this scene, “that it’s exceeding beauty spoke to our hearts in loud tones of the love and of the glory of God.”
Do you see beauty in creation? Then you see the glory of God. You see his might, his power, his goodness, his eternality and majesty, and transcendence. His eternal nature and divine attributes are plain for all.
But his wrath is also seen. It is revealed in all the godlessness and unrighteousness. Hamas and Israel. Rape and violence. Sexual immorality. We are going to see that all humanity is under judgment. His wrath is witnessed in these. That is his justified anger for people who do what displeases him.
It is the things you don’t like other people to do. When we do them we think it is acceptable, or God should pardon us. When others do them to us we are mad and offended.
His wrath is being made known.
Suppression of Truth
People suppress the truth of God’s word. They are active in rejection of God.
Suppress is to hold back, detain, prevent. You don’t let it out. You oppose it. You suppress lawbreakers by putting them in jail. You suppress drug dealers to prevent them making deals. This says people suppress the truth of God’s word. Truth can be inconvenient. -Label it misinformation or hate speech.
We see this all around. The problem is not in regards to a lack of education or knowledge. The problem is in the will. His truth is resisted and opposed.
We see this happening today. God’s ways are opposed. People don't want to acknowledge or receive God’s word.
Director Woody Allen once said of his romantic relationship with the young daughter of his former girlfriend, “The heart wants what it wants. There is no logic to it.”
People suppress truth to justify wrong acts. They also come up with more sophisticated explanations. The truth is plain but they defy it, suppress it.
Philosophy, articulate unbelief. Thoughts and beliefs. Braced with support. Entire philosophies systems of thought. Existentialism, Postmodernism, Epicurean, Stoicism. People try to explain life without God. Philosophies, religions (Buddhism, Hinduism). Don’t have to look far to see people suppressing truth.
Science, methodology of observation and proving hypotheses but has basically become a religion. Become more than a methodology and now referred to as a codified system of belief. Nacho Libre, “I only believe in science.” Would see the governing presuppositions when the entire premise of only believing in observable, repeatable, facts when you take a giant leap of faith and say, life spontaneously occurred. Never seen it done, cannot repeat it, but we are going to say that is what happened. Science defies its own requirements.
Felt like this went to a new level in the Covid pandemic when policy was coming faster than research could be done, and at times policy made despite observation of evidence, and people began saying, ideology trumps methodology. Suppression of truth. Heart wants what it wants, and truth has nothing to do with it. We know the evidence says that, but we are going to do this anyway. Presuppositions.
Science is a tool and is only as good as the hands that hold it. Science needs a commitment to something bigger than itself for it to be good.
Truth is suppressed. In many different ways. One thing I have noticed after years of pastoring, is that if people don't want to change, they don't. They make theology conform to their desires rather than their desire to conform to God’s word.
Sin makes things very complicated.
It is not a lack of education on truth, but a lack of want for truth.
Exchange truth for a lie. Worship creation. All manner of evil comes from it.
God gives them over to their desires. He gives them what they want. Watch out what you pray for. God just might give it to you. Want life without him. You can have it.
The Progressive Inversion of the Created Order
Suppressing truth leads to an inversion of reality.
Inversion is to change things upside down. If your back is out of order an inversion table may create space between vertebrae and alleviate pressure. For a short period it is good. If you stay in that position for long you will die. Your body can't pump blood upside down. It cannot work upside down.
The inversion is they exchanged the true and living God for created things, things that perish. They traded truth for lies. They served the creature rather than the creator.
This inverts the order of life. God is to be worshiped. Worship the made rather than the maker problems occur. It's like listening to the company’s summer intern rather than the CEO. That CEO knows the business, he knows what needs to be done. That inversion will cause you problems in your career.
There is a progression of inversion. They knew God. Didn’t honor him. Didn’t give thanks. Thinking becomes futile. Hearts are darkened.
Progressive inversion is the snowballing of sin. You create a snowman by making a small snowball in your hand and then rolling it around on the ground. More snow sticks and the ball gets bigger and bigger. When we turn from God, turn from his design for creation, we drift further and further from him. The issues compound and grow, unless something restrains it.
Ungratefulness is a powerful omission.
Luther “The sin of omitting that which is good leads to the sin of committing that which is positively evil.”
Degeneration often hides itself as progress. Many sinful things are touted as progress today. Get God out of the schools. Remove religion from society. Immorality that comes from that.
CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters. “I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of "Admin." The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid "dens of crime" that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.
The fruit of the sinful nature. The moment Eve at the forbidden fruit she knew something was wrong. She sought after progress, but progress that was other than what God wanted for her. Her progress led to regress. She became less human. She found herself in shame, fear, and isolation. Sin takes us away from God and his purposes.
People want to move on from God. The 20th century experienced greater evils than any other century. World wars. Holocausts (7 million Jews). Sexual revolution. Identity thieves. Global Pandemics. 63 million babies aborted since RvW. More Christians killed for their faith this century than any other. Estimated 45 million. Progress is touted.
Sinners are more educated and articulate, but still sinners.
Sin is more sophisticated, but it's still sin.
That brings us to sexuality. What do you make of the sexual promiscuity and confusion that is all around? It is an inversion of God’s design. It is a denial of his created order.
It has a spiritual component. Why so prevalent today? Some sociologist are writing on this:
- Society celebrates sexual liberation as much as anything else. No secret kids recognize that if they “come out” they are heralded and praised. Social construct.
- Fewer models and experiences of healthy relationships. Don’t want what they have seen in parents.
- Chemical imbalances. Food. Toxins. Societal progression. Spiritual.
- Triumph of the therapeutic. Medical and drug companies make lots of money on gender dysphoria.
- Want to cast off all restraints of religion and this is an opportunity. The fruit of decades of teaching on tolerance in school has not made people more loving or tolerant, it has only shifted the lines of what is tolerated. It sought to redefine and reeducate.
We see the progressive inversion of God’s created order all around us. It is plain and evident.
Inversion is the Punishment is the Sin
The wrath God visits on humanity is simply letting humanity have its way. People turn from God and he gives them what they want. They want life without him and they get it.
Sin is the punishment. Reason we need to be renewed in our minds (Rom 12:1-3).
Turn from God and disorder ensues. Reap what you sow. Lazy people come to poverty
Bitter people have no friends
Sexual immorality is a form of selfishness that eats away at a relationship and creates indifference rather than love.
Every action we feel the weight, the shame, the disappointment of trading God for momentary pleasures. And any punishment now is but a taste of what is in eternity.
Ultimate effect is death
Inversion culminates not only in the doing but the approving of it for others.
Many of our societal leaders are champions for a godless society. To follow Christ means going against the culture.
Church: a community of believers seeking to make Jesus known in the world. We make Jesus known by making God's word and will made known. You can't read this passage, and what God requires, and approve of the world's sexual ethic. Sexuality is sacred. One man and one woman in a covenant relationship. Sadly, some of the largest, most influential churches in our area have moved on from God's word. They have rejected Romans 1, saying people just need love and we can't ask them to change. That is not true. You can't live for righteousness and wickedness. You can't live for Christ and the world. You can't have healing and live in brokenness.
One of things that led me to Christ. I was doing things that were not right. It didn’t take much convincing that things I was doing were wrong. I saw the fruit of it.
We have to be faithful to share God’s word. But let's also apply the whole passage, particularly in how we talk about the sins of others: We don’t do it hatefully without love, or pridefully as we are better than others. We don't do so with malice, nor gossip, nor heartlessly or ruthlessly. We don't pursue righteousness in unrighteous ways. We do stand firm with conviction, love and grace.
If you are sick, you hate to hear a doctor come out and say you have cancer, or heart blockage.
Grace does not become grace until you understand judgment. And if God didn't judge he would not be righteous. Rest in him and what he determines.
When you do things against God's created order you cover yourself in darkness, live in futility, trade the natural for the unnatural. You believe a lie instead of the truth. Jesus makes demands of everyone's sexuality.
The reason this passage is here is not simply to condemn people, but to point them to Jesus and how he redeems. He doesn’t just tell you to change. He gives you a better way. A fuller way. He renews you from the inside out. He gives you truth, love, hope.
CS Lewis, “I believe in God as I believe in the sun, not just because I see it but by it I see everything.”
God offers to us light instead of darkness, glory instead of futility, immortal instead of mortal, truth instead of lies, purity instead of impurity, the virtuous instead of the shameful, that which corresponds to our nature rather than what opposes it, healing instead of dying.
Where are your decisions leading you? What will be the outcome in 10 yrs or 20 yrs or 50 yrs. Will you have made a good or bad investment? Make an exchange today. Trade what you are doing for what God wants. Submit to him.