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“God Gave Them Up” (Part 5 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
February 28, 2024 3:00 am

“God Gave Them Up” (Part 5 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 28, 2024 3:00 am

Freedom. Independence. Choice. For most people, these words evoke happy feelings—a sense of release from limitations, restrictions, or burdens. On Truth For Life, though, Alistair Begg explains how it’s possible to become prisoners of our own freedom.


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What goes through your mind to become prisoners of our own freedom? And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.

They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Amen. We have acknowledged our need of you, and as we come to the Bible, we realize, Lord, that this is a living book, and we seek to understand it in the awareness that it actually understands us.

And it manages in all the nooks and crannies of our rebellious hearts to penetrate and convict us and convince us and assure us of your love. And so we pray that that may be true as we look at these verses now. In Jesus' name.

Amen. Well, we come to the third of these God gave them up statements. We have already noticed that there are three times where an exchange takes place, which we'll note. But on three occasions, Paul uses this particular phrase, God gave them up, to describe a single divine action. We are not to think of this in terms of a temporal progression, but rather, he reiterates this one thing that God has done as it finds expression in these various ways. So we've been learning that in creation, God has made sufficient of himself known to all of us as his creation so as to leave us without any excuse for not honoring him and praising him and giving him the glory that he deserves. We've also discovered, however, that because of who and what we are, we suppress the truth about God. We don't want to actually believe in God. Our inclinations are anti-God. And when we recognize that, we realize that it is simply expressed actually from kindergarten all the way through life—that we don't really like anybody telling us what to do, that we don't really want anybody ordering our lives.

We would like to be the champions of our own destiny, the organizers of all that is before us. And so, the Bible says that on account of our rebellious status, we are inescapably guilty. You'll find as you review the text, he says, and so we are without excuse.

We can't say you haven't made yourself known because you have, and since you've made yourself known in all of this grandeur, we're beginning to recognize that what we're doing is exactly what the Bible says we're doing. So we are inescapably guilty, and God at the same time is legitimately angry. It's some time since we looked at verse 18 and some stumbled over the idea of the wrath of God, and we tried to make sure that we understood this is not some kind of fitful outburst akin to human anger and aggression, but rather it is the settled response of an entirely holy God to all that runs up against his provision and his purpose for humanity. In many ways, it's the kind of anger that a cancer specialist feels against that which is ravaging his patient or her patient.

It's the kind of inevitable anger that a father would feel towards that which was ravaging and destroying his son or his daughter vis-à-vis drugs or whatever it might be—a necessary and understandable revulsion to that which is causing deterioration and sadness. And it's in that respect that all of these God gave them zap as expressions of his wrath are really simultaneously expressions of his love. The worst thing would be if God was indifferent, if God simply said, Well, go ahead and do whatever you want to do.

It doesn't matter to me at all. But it matters very, very much to God. And that is why he has said a day of judgment. And Paul is making clear that that day will come, but he has also executed his judgment in the here and now. And that judgment of God in the here and now is there in the moral chaos of the culture to which Paul writes, which, of course, for him was first-century Rome.

J. B. Phillips, in his paraphrase of verses 25–32, has a heading which I hadn't noticed until this week. But his heading over verses 25–32 is simply this—the fearful consequences of deliberate atheism, the choice that has been made, the exchanges.

Exchange number one, you'll see it there—where is it?—in verse 23, they exchange the glory of the immortal God for things that creep and crawl. It's such a silly idea, isn't it, that you make a little God, and then you talk to the God that you've made, as if the God that you've made could ever do anything for you, whatever the God might be—the God of ambition, the God of whatever. And imagine going home in the evening and saying, Dear God, could you please help me? And then you say to yourself, This is ridiculous. I made this thing. How could it ever do anything?

That's what he said. They exchanged the truth of God, the glory of God. And they exchanged truth for a lie. And that's exactly what happens, isn't it? One of the great lies of our day is that there is really no truth at all, and all we have to do is respect each other's truth. Sounds very enlightened, but of course it's not enlightened at all.

Objectivity has left town, logic has left town with it in a world where anything goes. And then they exchanged God-ordered sexuality for that which runs counter to God's plan and purpose in natural relationships. And that was last time in 26 and 27. Now, Paul goes on to say that this is not the total expression of God's judgment as it is revealed in a society or in a culture, because the whole picture involves far more than these expressions of same-sex erotic desire, which is 26 and 27. He recognized that that had made a ravaging impact on the Roman culture. And one of the things I think we've discovered is that although this was written to first-century Rome, it is so amazingly up-to-date in twenty-first-century America. That is because it is the Word of God. And if he was aware of that in Rome, we are, if we're honest, aware of the fact that that same kind of preoccupation has a center stage in large segments of our contemporary culture—not least of all in education, in the media, and in various ways as well. Why did Paul actually start with that in verses 26 and 27?

Why did he go immediately there to disordered lifestyles? I think it is probably because, although what he's addressing is not the greatest sin, but it is the clearest expression in a culture of disordered affection. When a culture turns its back on God, turns into itself, and decides, I'm going to do whatever I want to do, then here it reaches, if you like, the bottom line. But the behavior, as we saw—and I need to keep reiterating this—the behavior, as expressed, is not the root of the problem.

The behavior is the result of the exchanges that have been made, and the consequence of making these decisions. And it is to this consequence that we now come, in relationship to a debased mind. Now, as he moves on to this, as I've noticed in listening to people and in reading myself, I realize that in these further expressions of what is essentially a culture in decay, what he's pointing out is that God's response in wrath, his judicial—judicial abandonment, if you like—is revealed equally in the antisocial dimensions as well as in the sensual dimensions. So he has dealt, if you like, in 26 and 27, with human sexuality and sensuality that has gone wrong, that has turned itself literally upside down. And when he goes on to say what he now says in the list that we're about to see, we ought not to think that somewhere or another that is because he wants to deaden the impact of verses 26 and 27, the way some people like to teach it. Well, I know he says something about that, but after all, look at this. And the inference is, look at this means that doesn't really matter.

No, that matters a tremendous amount. And the look at this is in order, in part, to confront us with our own self-righteousness. Because when you look at this list, you realize how it is very easy not only to say, Look at them, Allah 26 and 27, but look at them, Allah 28 to 32. Which is exactly the reaction of the Jewish people, because homosexuality was regarded by the Jews as absolutely abhorrent.

It was regarded as a Gentile problem. And Paul recognizes that. And so if your Bible is open, you can see that immediately then in chapter 2 he goes to the religious people, the people who are tempted to say, Look at that. He says, Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges, for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man, you who judge those who practice such things, and yet do them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?

You see what he's saying? He's recognizing… And Paul knew this, because before he was converted, he was a Pharisee. Before he was converted, he was a religious zealot. Before he was converted, he hated the idea of Christians, hated the notion of Jesus, didn't believe in him at all. When he writes to the Philippians, he says, You know, when it came to keeping the law, I was pretty well faultless, but then I discovered I wasn't at all. So it's not as if he's just laying this down on these people.

He understands it for himself. We have to be very, very careful in reading this, that we don't adopt the position of the Pharisee in Luke chapter 18, whereby we breathe deeply and we say to ourselves, Well, I thank you that I am not like this fellow. I thank you that I am not like that person. After all, look at all the good things that I do, and look at all the bad things that I've stopped doing. I'm just a tremendous chap. Or I'm a supergirl, whatever it might be. Well, hey, hang on a minute.

He says, Let me tell you what we're dealing with here. Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind. To a debased mind. In other words, they decided that they were too high and mighty to acknowledge God in the everyday ins and outs of human activity. Now, that's not a bizarre thought, is it?

You take the general population in which we live. You don't usually go into restaurants and see people bowing down in prayer. The only people that I see at the motorway stops that are having a prayer meeting are actually Muslims, getting out of their coach and kneeling in the grass en masse.

I don't see many Christians doing this. We don't really see the acknowledgment of God in the great benefits that are enjoyed, because we tend to be, by nature, just self-congratulatory. Didn't we do this? Haven't we achieved this?

And so on. And so God says, Well, you know, since you think you're so above me, I'm actually going to make you prisoners of your own supposed freedom. That which you call freedom will become a prison to you. And you will notice, since they did not see fit to acknowledge God—and we didn't want to give them a place. You look back to verse 21. Although they knew God, they did not honor him. They didn't give thanks to him.

Their thinking became futile, and their hearts were darkened. Just unable to take God into the reckoning of things. In other words, a view of the world that excludes God. And a view of the world that excludes God. It's not a Psalm 139 view of the world. Oh Lord, you have searched me, you know me, you made me, you put me together in my mother's womb.

No, this is entirely antithetical to Psalm 139. This is a view of the world that starts time plus matter plus chance. I exist, I don't know why, I don't know where I'm going, I don't know what I'm doing, I don't know if it really matters. The fearful consequences of practical atheism. How did it get like this? Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind, to an anti-God mind.

All right? Sin, you see, doesn't leave our rational faculties alone. This is a very important thing. When we talk about depravity, when we talk about total depravity, we don't mean that everybody's as bad as they could possibly be. The Bible doesn't mean that. What it means is that there is no dimension of human existence that is unaffected by sin.

Sin is a condition before it is ever an action. And so, our minds are affected. And in fact, God says, I gave them over to a debased mind. In other words—and this is something you'll have to think on your own, I don't want to tease it out any further—but the fact of the matter is that all human thought operates from a position of hostility towards God. That's what the Bible says. That a fleshly mind, a carnal mind, an anti-God mind is simply against God. So you shouldn't be surprised when people say, Well, I don't see that God made the universe. Well, of course you don't see. Well, I don't believe that it really matters whether there were ten thousand, quote, legal killings in our North American neighbors in the last twelve months.

Ten thousand people into eternity by means of euthanasia. How do you get to that? Well, because it doesn't matter. You're not going anywhere in any case.

You haven't come from anywhere in the first place. You're not really enjoying being here, so why don't we just get pragmatic about things? And you say to yourself, How does somebody think like that?

How can you put so many pictures on the screens and show how many babies are snarched out of their mothers' wombs? And people say, What's your problem? Why are you so annoyed with people? Why are you so angry about everything? I don't think it's anger. I think it's sadness. He gave them up to a debased mind. The distortions of sin result in the fact that we think crookedly.

That doesn't mean that people are not able to think, but it means that the perspective from which they think is affected by sin. And so, we live in a culture where the only hymn we really sing is, Anything Goes. And anything goes. So if anything goes, who's to say what ought not to be done? Just look at the phrase. He gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. See, when oughtness goes, when oughtness evaporates in a culture or in a society—you understand what I mean by oughtness?

Like, when I was a boy, I'm traveling on the bus in Glasgow, and the lady says, opposite me, Take your feet off the seat. You ought not to do that. Or, Take care of that, you ought to do that, or you ought not to do that. We understand that. But when oughtness goes in a culture, what are you going to do with it?

There's only two ways we can fix it. One is by legislation, and one is by domination. He gave them over to a debased mind so that they would not do what they ought to do. Peterson wonderfully paraphrases this, and I think it comes across. He says, Since they didn't bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose.

And then all hell broke loose. I think that's pretty accurate. What does it look like when we deliberately eliminate God? Well, here's the answer. You can see it.

We've already seen in 26 and 27, now from 28 to 31. Look at this. Essentially, the bottom line is that when a culture eliminates God, standards disappear and society crumbles. Standards disappear and society crumbles. I mean, it's not just a product of being old that we're able to look at the morning news and say, Goodness gracious, how did we ever get here? Children are saying the same thing, actually.

They recognize it. This is not a safe place. What has happened?

Well, look at this ugly catalogue—28, it sets it up, and then 29 all the way to 31. It's not pleasant reading, is it? It's really a social pathology. What it's doing is it's describing the pervasive moral chaos—or, if you like, immoral chaos—that is, an inevitable dimension of a society that seeks to dismantle their knowledge of God.

It's a collective experience, you will notice. They were filled. This is not the description of an individual. They were filled. They, they, they. They were full—or they are full—of envy.

If you like, this is just an overflowing reality. They became… Their minds teemed with diabolical invention. They scoffed at duty to their parents. That doesn't seem like much, but that was foundational in Roman culture.

And it used to be foundational, certainly in British culture and in American culture. But when a debased mind takes hold, parents don't know who they are, children don't care who they are, and there's no saying where it ends up. They scoffed at duty to their parents. They mocked at learning. In other words, they became foolish. They recognized no obligations of honor. They lost all natural affection and had no use for mercy. Wow!

It sounds like I just was watching the news. life and about the world. You can enjoy a daily Bible study along with Alistair when you sign up for Truth for Life's daily devotional email. You can start each morning by reading a passage of Scripture, followed by a brief commentary from Alistair. The daily devotion is a free subscription, and you can sign up at slash lists. If you'd prefer, you can purchase a hard copy of the devotional. It's titled Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions. There are two volumes, and they're available to you at our cost of just $8.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-28 06:47:43 / 2024-02-28 06:56:08 / 8

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