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Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
May 5, 2023 9:00 am

Houston, We Have a Problem, Part 2

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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May 5, 2023 9:00 am

Have you ever wondered what happens to people who have never heard the name of Jesus? In this message, Pastor J.D. turns to Romans, where the Apostle Paul shows us that God has revealed truth to us in creation and in us through a longing for meaning and eternity. Learn why those longings are no cruel joke; they are, as C.S. Lewis said, evidence that we were made for another world.


Today on Summit Life with J.D.

Greer. If you become convinced that Jesus is who He says He is, are you willing to follow Him wherever He leads you? Because if not, you'll probably never know the truth. Because a prerequisite for knowing the truth is a willingness to follow the truth. And we're talking like it's a head problem when Scripture says it's usually a heart problem.

Welcome back to Summit Life. As always, I'm your host, Molly Bidevich. Have you ever wondered what happens to people who have never heard the name of Jesus? Well, today, Pastor J.D. turns again to Romans where the Apostle Paul shows us that God has revealed truth about Himself to us through creation and also in us by giving us a deep desire for meaning and eternity. Learn why those longings are no cruel joke.

They are, as C.S. Lewis said, evidence that we were made for another world. So let's rejoin Pastor J.D.

as he finishes up the message he titled, Houston, We Have a Problem. Doesn't the fact that we all have feelings of guilt point to the fact that you and I are stamped with the image of some divine lawgiver who has implanted into our hearts his sense of right and truth and love? And even if we stop believing in God, you can't shake this idea that you're going to be held accountable one day.

You and I are going to report to a divine lawgiver who has stamped his image and his requirements on our hearts. What may be known about God is evident to us from creation. It's evident in us from our consciences. But we suppress the truth.

We push that beach ball down. We know, but we didn't know because we didn't want to know. For although Paul says they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor did they show gratitude. We didn't want to embrace the truth about a glorious, all-powerful, holy, ruling God. We didn't want that to be true. Why?

Why? Because we wanted to make the rules. We wanted to take God's glory for ourselves. We wanted to use our lives to direct attention toward us, not toward him. We wanted to use the resources of our lives to serve our agenda, not his. So we became plagiarizers.

Plagiarizers are people who take credit for what somebody else has done. We claim God's work for ourselves. We didn't want to acknowledge that all of our talents, our brains, brainpower, every bit of energy we have, that it was all a gift from God. We don't even like to acknowledge how much we owe to the circumstances of our time and birth and what we've accomplished.

I see that all the time here in the triangle. Somebody's like, oh, I'm a self-made man. Everything I've done, I've accomplished. I've pulled myself up by bootstraps.

I'm like, yeah. You think if you were born a poor kid in an Indian village somewhere in Southeast Asia, you think that if you were born in a village in a remote part of India, you think that you would have accomplished everything that you were accomplishing now? You don't realize how much you owe to the place you were born, the opportunities that were available to you, the way that your parents raised you, even the talents they gave you were something that came from choices you didn't even make for yourself. We plagiarize it and we assume that we were the ones who were responsible for all these things. To use a term from that great theologian, Brian Regan, we became gigantic me monsters. You know me monsters, the guy at the party that somehow figures out how to turn every single conversation back toward himself. No matter what you've done, he's done something better.

Oh yeah, well, this is what I've done. I've done me, me. I'm tired of talking about me. Why don't you talk about me for a while now? Me, me, me.

Now you and I may have better social manners than the me monster, but in our heart, we all have something in common with the me monster. We want to be the center of our story. We want to make the rules. We're the point. Our comfort is the priority. We know best.

Our way is better. Our will is supreme. And so, and so our thinking became worthless and our senseless hearts were darkened, claiming to be wise, we became fools. Humanity's suppression of truth, Paul explains, manifests itself in two forms. There was an irreligious form of suppression, and there was a religious form of it. Irreligious suppression was atheism or agnosticism. Listen, I'm not saying there are not people that are genuinely convinced that they're atheists. There are. What I'm saying is that according to Romans 1, atheism is driven by a subconscious desire not to know. We know, but we don't know because we don't want to know.

I'll give you one more illustration of this. Imagine a man whose wife dies. She's like, has been his whole world.

They have one, they have one child together, a son. Man's career is not going very well, so his whole life begins to be about this son. So he puts his son in the best possible school he can get him into. But after his son is there for a year or two, the teacher comes to the dad and says, hey, we got really, really strong evidence that your son routinely cheats and he steals from the other kids. So what does this dad do? Well, the dad goes back and he comes up with another theory that explains the evidence, and that theory goes more like, well, the teachers at this school just have it out for my son.

They don't understand him and they don't like us. So he pulls his son out of that school and puts them in a new school. Six months later, same situation arises, right? And again, it's, well, the teachers at this school are not good. And the teachers are the, by the way, you can probably think of situations like this, right? Oh, it's the teachers in this school. They're the problem. And this pattern just repeats itself over and over and over again with this guy always coming up with reasons why it's not his son's fault.

It's the teacher's fault. He knows, he knows, but he doesn't know because he doesn't want to know because to admit that would see to admit something that would go to the core of what he's based his life on. The same thing, Paul says, happens with us and God. Everybody in their heart knows the truth, but we don't want to admit to ourselves. And we've convinced ourselves that there's no God because we just don't like the thought of an all powerful ruling God.

So we suppress the truth, which is why a lot of the great atheist intellects of the last hundred years who have become Christians, people like T.S. Elliott, W.H. Alden, C.E.M. Joad, C.S. Lewis, A.N. Wilson.

I'll quote one of them, but they've all said something like this. What brought me to faith was not some new argument or some new evidence. I just finally admitted to myself that I always knew there was a God.

And the beach ball kept trying to come to the surface. Eventually I let it come. I had to let it come or to leave the world of academia for a minute. You take a group like the Alca Indians who were that remote tribe in Ecuador that had had zero contact with the outside world for as long as they'd been a people when the missionaries in the 1950s finally brought the gospel to them. Years later, one of the older men in that tribe said this, he said, you people in the Western world, you talk about us like we were out there running around in the jungle naked and brutalizing people and killing our neighbors. We did that because we just didn't know any better. He said, we knew. He said, we knew that there was some kind of divine force, some kind of power. We didn't know what to call it, what to call him, but we knew that he was there. And we knew that whatever it was, was very displeased with who we were and we were offensive. What we were doing was offensive to him.

The beach ball is there under the surface. There's a sense in which we've always known, even if we deny it, we know, but we don't know because we don't want to know. By the way, when I'm sharing Christ with somebody, I often will ask them. I will say, listen, if you come to see that these things are true, if you become convinced that Jesus is who he says he is, are you willing to follow him wherever he leads you? Because if not, you'll probably never know the truth because a prerequisite for knowing the truth is a willingness to follow the truth. And we're talking like it's a head problem. When scripture says it's usually a heart problem. The problem is not that the evidence is not clear enough.

It's that your heart is not in the capacity to receive it. Are you willing to follow the truth wherever it goes? Because if you're not willing pre-surrender to follow the truth, you'll probably never know the truth. Jesus said, John 7, 17, the reason you don't recognize me as true is because your heart doesn't desire to do the will of God.

Right? Do you understand? That's the religious form of suppression. The religious form of suppression is idolatry. Verse 23, they exchange the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles. We change the object of our worship into something that we could control. The false gods that humanity has worshiped throughout time have been very varied by culture and time period, but they've all had one thing in common. Even the gods we worship today, we don't bow down and have gods like they used to have back then, but we have gods, I'll show you in a second, gods that we devote our lives to.

All these gods from all peoples in all places at all times are very varied, but they have one thing in common, and that one thing is they exist to serve us. I've told you that when it comes to worship, we're like the pre-Copernican astronomers who assume that the earth is at the center of the universe and everything else in the universe just revolves around us. That's how we approach God. We worship, but our main question when we approach worship was, how do I get God to God into the right place so that he is orbiting my life correctly so that I can benefit from the blessings that he can bring? You even hear that in our prayers.

We're at the center. God, this is what I need. God, this is what I want.

This is how I want you to fix this. God, you need to smite her for what she said about me. God, if you don't do it the way that I want you to do it, then I'll just be mad at you, and I'll pay you back by not believing in you.

That'll teach you not to put my needs first and foremost. The most basic truth of creation is that God doesn't exist for you. You were created for God and for his glory.

He's at the center. You and I wanted a God who would serve us, a God who would be our divine butler. So what we did, what Paul's saying we did is we reimagined God in that form where he would exist to serve us. By the way, that persistent, unstoppable habit of the human race to worship, that in itself is the result of the knowledge of God that he put inside of us.

That's evidence of that beach ball. Anthropologists have told us that all peoples in all places at all times worship. It's not something unique to one, all of them do it. Mankind is incurably religious. Even if you're not religious here, you're like, well, I'm not religious. You can no more turn off your capacity for worship by not being religious than you could turn off your sex drive by choosing to remain single.

That's just not how it works. Anthropologists say we are telec creatures. There's that word again, telec means purpose. We are purposed people. We have to live for something. One of them says there's got to be something that captures, there will always be something that captures our imagination and our allegiance, something which is the resting place of our deepest hopes, something that we'll look to to calm our deepest fears. Whatever that thing is, whatever's most essential to you, you worship it. It might be money, it might be the approval of people, it might be your talents, it might be your family, but you worship it and you pursue it. It's the one thing you feel like you cannot live without. The one thing that gives life meaning, the one thing that defines and validates everything we do.

And if it's not God, you just find something else to latch onto, something else to replace him with. You're listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer.

For more information and free resources, please visit And while you're there, I want to remind you about a valuable resource that's available to you. It's called the Ask Me Anything podcast with Pastor J.D.

Greer. Each week, Pastor J.D. answers your toughest questions on topics ranging from theology and biblical interpretation to practical questions on the Christian life. And with new episodes dropping every Monday, this podcast is a great way to deepen your understanding of the Christian faith and get quick answers to real questions. You can access the Ask Me Anything podcast by visiting slash podcast or subscribe on your favorite podcast app.

You don't want to miss a single episode. And don't forget our entire teaching library is also available free of charge on our website. So visit today. Now let's get back to today's teaching with Pastor J.D.

Greer here on Summit Life. One of my favorite explanations of this, I've shared this, but I think it's been a while, was from a Jewish atheist named Ernst Becker. He wrote a book called The Denial of Death.

He himself is an atheist and he said, here's what I've known about myself and watching the society around me. When we quit believing in God, it seems like our culture replaced God with the romantic partner. So we began, he noted, to talk about romance in ways that nobody else in history has talked about romance.

Nobody. We began to talk about it in divine apocalyptic terms. You go back 100, 200 years, people didn't talk about romance this way. But now he says, we talk about them as if they are our saviors. We want to know from them that our existence hasn't been in vain, that we are justified.

We want redemption, nothing less. This is the best part. He says, in case we are inclined to forget how deified the romantic love object has become to us, well, just turn on the radio, just turn on the radio and listen to the popular songs. So our priestesses like Taylor Swift or Zane Malik, I don't want to live forever because I know without you, I'll be living in vain. Or Justin Bieber. And I know he's gotten serious about his faith now, but early Justin Bieber, Justin Bieber, baby, baby, without you, I can't even face life. John Legend, you're my end of my beginning.

I give my all to you. Those are religious. You hear the religious kind of worship overtones in that? Now I know. You're sitting there like, well, see, that's the problem with all that newfangled music. It's just idolatry.

It wasn't like that when I was a kid. You're the meaning in my life. You're the inspiration. You give feelings in my life. You're the inspiration. All right?

Late 80s, Chicago, Alabama. There's no way I could make it without you. There's no way that I'd even try. If I had to survive without you in my life, I know I wouldn't even last a day.

Oh, baby, there is no way. That is a great line for a worship song. It is about romance. We deify the romantic object and we worship it.

We have to. We can no more turn off our instinct for worship by not being religious than we can turn off our sex drive by remaining single. That's what Paul is trying to say. The knowledge is there.

The beach ball is there, right? And we're trying to keep it to the surface, but it comes out religiously. It comes out irreligiously, but we suppress it. The point is you say, when you say, what about those that have never heard? Paul's answer is everybody's heard.

Everybody's heard. God showed it all to us and revealed it in us. That's been true of every person that's ever walked the face of the earth. But we suppress that knowledge of an all ruling, all sovereign God, because we didn't want it to be true.

That is the shape of all of our hearts. And for that reason, all humanity, Paul is going to explain, stands condemned. All of it's going to stand condemned. Therefore, Paul says, verse 24, God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. The first wave of God's judgment was just to give us what we wanted. That's what the phrase delivered us over meant. God just gave us what we wanted.

He gave us what we wanted. Say the earth decides it wants to rebel against the sun, S-U-N. It says, I am so sick and tired. I'm sick and tired of you always having to be the center of everything. I have orbit around you every day of my life, and I just hate that.

I'm going to be the center from now on. Now, the earth is 30,000 times smaller than the sun. The earth would never have the gravitational ability to keep anything in orbit. But the sun, S-U-N, if it wanted to punish the earth, it could say, all right, have at it. It wouldn't have to send out a flash of nuclear energy and scorch the earth. They could just be like, all right, whatever you want.

What would happen is that when the earth established itself at the center, all of creation would begin to unravel and the earth itself would begin to die. That's essentially what God did with us. He just let us have our way.

He just let us have our way. Throughout the rest of the passage, when you read it in Greek, and I know most of you are reading it in Greek, there's a lot of tit for tat. You don't pick it up in English, right, which is why you should read it in Greek.

You don't pick it up. Here's what it, because it uses the same words in Greek. They exchanged the glory of God for images, verse 23, verse 26. So God exchanged them over to this graceful passions.

See, we did, he did. 21, they dishonored God, verse 24. So God let them dishonor themselves. Verse 28, they did not see fit to acknowledge God. So God gave them up to an unfit mind.

That's a parallel structure in Greek. Remember, Paul said his purpose in this book was to reveal to you the righteousness of God. What he is revealing is that God's righteousness was simply to give us what we'd asked for.

We can't look at God and say, this is unfair, because God's saying, well, I just gave you what you asked for. You asked to be the center. You asked to call the shots. You asked to be in the middle.

This is what happened. Now, next week, we're going to talk about how this manifests in society, how humanity's hearts begin to darken, how our desires begin to corrupt, how our souls begin to unravel, manifesting in things like skewed sexual passions. And then we'll look at how as societies, we set about as societies to justify and to license sin. But more on that next week.

I just don't want to end this week on too much despair. How was church today? Well, we heard a lecture on eternal damnation and why we all deserve it. So let me leave off with this, okay?

Let me go backwards real quick. Remember, Paul said in Romans 1 16, the key verse in this whole thing, Romans 1 16 and 17, that God in this book was going to reveal his righteousness. And remember I explained to you that the greatest insight into the righteousness of God in Romans, listen, is that the righteousness of God is not a standard by which he judges and condemns you, as much as it is a gift that he gives to you when you receive what Christ has done in your place by faith. That the righteousness of God, when we read it through the lens of the gospel, we see, yes, we are unrighteous.

Yes, God is holy. But God, when he saw us in our unrighteousness, loved us so much that he pursued us anyway. The gospel shows you that even though all of us alike have turned away from God and our hearts have grown selfish and wicked and corrupt, God came coming after you. The gospel shows you something creation never could show you. And it shows you that God is a pursuing father, who even after you had rejected him and spited him and made it all about you, God said, I won't let you choose to kick me out forever.

I'm going to come and I'm going to put myself back in the middle if you will receive me. And when it came time for him to pour out his righteous judgment on our sin, he poured it out first on himself so that he could satisfy his own demands of justice so that we could be saved. You can know the power of God from creation. You can know the justice of God from your conscience, but you will only know the love of God from the cross. That's why Paul said Romans 5, 8, God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. In the cross, I see, yes, God is powerful. Yes, he's holy.

Yes, I'm unrighteous. But he's a pursuing father. And he came after me when I wasn't looking for him and he did it so that he could rescue me. And I began to say with other saints throughout history, and can it be that I should gain an interest in my savior's blood, died he for me who caused his pain, for me who him to death pursued, amazing love.

How can it be that thou, my God, would die for me? I remember hearing, I may have told you this before, but I remember hearing one of the most famous theologians of the previous generation, Charles Ryrie. Shortly before he passed away, I was in a class that he taught. I don't know how old he was. At the time, I felt like he was like 150 years old.

I think he was probably in his late 80s. But the man literally knew everything. Some of you, your parents, had a study Bible called the Ryrie Study Bible. His name was on the Bible. Charles Ryrie, he was going through and he was teaching us through the Gospel of Matthew.

He knew everything about everything. He got to that part of Matthew where Jesus is on his way to the cross. And remember, I was a couple of rows back. Remember, as he's going through this, although he just stops. And for like 30 seconds, he's just silent. And I was like, what's happening?

What's wrong? And I kind of squint my eyes and look up at him. And I see this late 80s man. I see this big tears welling up in his eyes and just rolling down his face. And he just stands there silent for a minute, two minutes. And he just eventually just choked out. He said, God, dying for man, who can understand it? And he just sat there for another minute or two.

And then he got his composure and he went on. And what I saw in that moment was that there was a time when the greatest theologian comes to where the theology stops and the philosophy stops, and suddenly you just begin to worship. And you begin to say, amazing love, how can it be that thou my God would die for me? This gospel is so deep and beautiful and complex that it baffles even the wisest theologians, yet it is so simple that even a child can understand and receive it. Because this gospel tells you that when you, the unrighteous, had spit in God's face and turned your back on him, he would not let you go. And he demonstrated his love for you and that he came after you all the way to the cross.

Here's the question of the book of Romans. Have you received God, the heavenly father, this way? Have you received his offer of salvation? Have you accepted Jesus as your savior? He wants to save you.

He came to save you. But you've got to choose to be redeemed by him. And then what it shows you, watch this, after you do that, it starts to show you the pathway out of sin. If it was false, corrupted worship, Paul says it led us into sin. If it was not glorifying God and putting ourselves in the center that led us into sin, then it is beginning to glorify God and taking ourselves out of the center that will release us from sin. If you worship your way into sin, you've got to worship your way out. And that's what the rest of the book of Romans is about. It's not about filling your head with theology.

It's about filling your heart and your eyes with wonder so that you say, what a mighty God. Have you received Jesus as your savior? If not, we'd love to help you take that next step of faith.

Give us a call at 866-335-5220. And you can always find more free resources on our website, To go along with this series through the book of Romans, we're excited to offer Pastor Jadie's newest book called Essential Christianity as this month's featured resource for our listeners. So Jadie, tell us, how will someone reading your new book, Essential Christianity, feel when they finish it?

Well, hopefully they will be more in love with Jesus and feel more equipped to be able to explain the essentials of Christianity, whether it's to their kids, to a friend, to a new believer, or to somebody that they know is at least interested in what Christianity teaches. The book of Romans is the most important book ever written on the gospel. What I wanted to do in Essential Christianity is go through the 10 most important words, concepts. That's why the subtitle of this book is The Heart of the Gospel in 10 Simple Words. I had somebody read this book along with me as I was writing it who was not a believer.

She said, It's amazing to me how the most fundamental questions of human existence haven't changed in 2000 years. In the course of the writing of this book, she became a believer. I hope that's a good harbinger of what will happen as you read it through with one of your friends, that you will grow in Christ and also they'll grow in their understanding of who Jesus is and what He's done for them. We'd love to send you a copy of Essential Christianity. And to go along with the book, we'll also send you a free discussion guide, which is the perfect companion to your reading, especially if you're wanting to walk through this book with a friend, co-worker, or family member with questions about the gospel. Reserve your copy today with your gift of $35 or more to this ministry by calling us anytime at 866-335-5220. Again, that's 866-335-5220. Or you can give online right now at I'm Molly Bidevich. Don't miss next week as Pastor JD continues his teaching in Romans with a message called How the Fall Affects Us All. We'll see you then right here on Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-05 11:30:01 / 2023-05-05 11:41:14 / 11

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