Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. The insertion of ourself in the center rather than God has affected every single part of our lives. Our rejection of God at the center of our lives has corrupted every other part of our lives. Literally every dimension of our lives is affected by the disorder that comes from putting ourselves in the center instead of God. Welcome back to another week of solid biblical teaching here on Summit Life. As always, I'm your host, Molly Vitovich.
You know, we often look back at our country's history of slavery, oppression, and racism and think, how could they have been so blind? And yet we continue to practice the same kind of idolatry today where we reject God and His Word as the center of our lives. Today, Pastor J.D. Greer shows us why, thank God, it doesn't matter what kind of center we have been because of what kind of Savior Jesus is. The text this week is from Romans chapter one and it has some very mature content as Paul gets into some pretty raw stuff.
So buckle up for a bumpy ride. Pastor J.D. calls this message how the fall affects us all. In Romans chapter one, Paul is demonstrating to us that every single person, Jew or Gentile, religious or irreligious, all of us have essentially the same problem. And that problem that all of us have turned away from the knowledge of God that was made known to us in creation and in our consciences. God has sufficiently revealed Himself, Paul says, to all people.
He's revealed Himself both to us in creation and in us from our consciences, at least enough for us to respond to that revelation with humility and awe. The problem was we didn't want to know the truth about a glorious, all ruling, holy God and that's because we wanted to be glorious, all wise, and all ruling. And so we suppress the knowledge of God that was evident in creation and from our conscience. So when it comes to the knowledge of God, I told you, we all know.
We all know, but sometimes we don't know because we don't want to know. That suppression of the truth, Paul explains, takes two forms. One is an irreligious form, an irreligious expression of suppression. Think atheism or agnosticism where you just deny that God exists. Paul is saying the only way that you can arrive at that conclusion is to have a heart that is biased against the obvious evidence of an all-powerful, creating, all-ruling God. And I will just say from my own experience, if you listen closely to an atheist, you will almost always hear that their disbelief is driven by some implication that comes from their being an all-glorious, all-wise God.
And that implication drives how they interpret the evidence in creation. They'll say, well, if there really was a God, then why is there so much suffering? If there really was a God, why are there so many different religions?
Why don't more people know him the way that you say that he is or something like that? That's the irreligious expression of suppression is that we just deny that that God exists. The religious version of suppression, Paul explains, is that we substitute out knowledge of the true God with a version of God that we can control. I've pointed out to you that throughout history, mankind in different cultures has worshiped all kinds of different gods, but they've all had one thing in common, and that is they were conceptions of God that we could control and conceptions of God that existed to serve us. This is what Paul means when he says in verse 25, they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and they worshiped and served what has been created instead of the creator, who is praised forever, amen. I explained to you that this kind of worship occurs whether you are formally religious or not. Anthropologists say that we are teleic creatures.
Teleic is just a fancy word that means we are a purposed people, which means we always find some greater cause to live for. We find something to which we attach ultimate value, something we feel like without that one thing, life would not even be worth living. Even if you grew up as a Christian, I explained, chances are there was something besides God that took the ultimate central place in your heart. Maybe it was even while you were growing up in church, it was getting the approval of your friends. It was accomplishing your dreams.
It was getting married, having a boyfriend, having a family one day. Something mattered more to you. You gave more glory to that created thing than you did to God. By the way, the word for glory in Hebrew is the word kabod, and it literally means weight.
When you give something glory, you are giving it a weight, a God-like weight. God was supposed to be the one that made life worth living. He was the one, His will was supposed to dominate your thinking. Pleasing Him was supposed to be your focus. Fellowship of Him was supposed to be your life.
Instead, you found something else to give that God-like weight to, the approval of your friends, material success, romance, whatever you put in that category. That's the natural shape, Paul explains, of every human heart, even if you grew up in church. In some of my travels overseas, I'll go into these temples that are erected to a foreign God. I remember being in one of them a while ago over somewhere in Asia. I go in this temple, it's this gigantic, beautiful temple. Right in the middle of it is about a 25-foot statue of a goddess who has multiple breasts and multiple arms. You'd watch these worshipers come in, and they would prostrate themselves before this statue.
Many of them were very emotional. Many had traveled a lot of miles to get to this, very poor, some of them, and taken the little money they had and pointed out an offering before this statue of this God. I remember being in that temple and just at one point, just feeling so overwhelmed at what I felt like was the spiritual darkness and the oppression that I just, I had to leave.
I had to walk outside and to get out away from it. I remember later finding myself just going back over that incident in my mind and feeling sorry for the people there and thanking God kind of in my heart that I wasn't like them. But then in the middle of that thought, it just occurred to me. I had a whole list of things in my heart that have taken God's place just like that statue had. And those things that I had given God-like weight in my heart are just as nauseating and oppressive to God as that statue would be to me.
I have lived in my life, for example, for the admiration of others. I've given that God-like weight in my life, and I've pursued that sometimes even at the expense of pursuing God. And that idol, that statue, that false worship is just as nauseating to God as it was, as that statue was to me. The bottom line that Paul is getting to is that all of us alike, all of us, have rejected the truth that is evident in creation and in our consciences about an all glorious, all ruling God. And we replaced that God with created things, things we could control, our own will, and gave those things the place and priority in our hearts that only God deserves.
All of us. For this reason, Paul says, God delivered us over to disgraceful passions. This was the first wave of God's judgment, I explained.
God just gave us what we asked for. I compared it to if the earth were to say to the sun, I am sick and tired of you being in the middle of the solar system. And all day, every day, I got to rotate around you. Now I'm going to be in the center of the solar system and everything is going to rotate around me. Well, if the sun, you know, were looking at the earth, they wouldn't have to punish it by sending out a nuclear ray of energy. The sun might just say to the earth, all right, have it your way.
The earth is 30,000 times smaller than the sun and would not have the ability to keep all the planets in orbit. And so the solar system would begin to unravel simply because the sun gave to the earth what it asked for. When the same way, what God did to us in the first wave of judgment is he just granted us our wish. And when we put ourselves instead of him at the center of our lives, then our lives and our society begin to unravel. I explained to you that throughout the rest of the passage in Romans, when you read it in Greek, you see a lot of kind of tit for tat, tit for tat, a lot of parallelism in the passage. For example, verse 23, they exchanged the glory of God for an image, so God exchanged them over to disgraceful passions and unnatural sexual desires. They dishonored God, so God let them dishonor themselves. Verse 28, they did not see fit to acknowledge God, so God gave them over to an unfit mind.
What Paul then begins to do now, and this is what we're going to get into today, is he then begins to give examples of what this looks like in our lives, in our families, and in our societies when we begin to come unraveled. Verse 26, their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. The men in the same way also left natural relations with women and were inflamed in their lust for one another.
Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error. Now this is the longest and the clearest passage in the Bible on homosexuality, and let me just go ahead and acknowledge right up front here, I know, I know that historically we in the church have not done a great job in talking about this and maybe even a worse job in caring for those who are going through this, but let's begin by at least looking humbly and open-mindedly at what God's word says about this, and then afterwards we'll talk about what that means for those of us who are seeking to follow Jesus. The Apostle Paul says that one of the results of displacing God in the center of our hearts was that we developed unnatural sexual patterns. We exchanged the truth about God for a lie, verse 25, so God exchanged our natural healthy passions for unnatural ones, verse 26.
In one sense we shouldn't be surprised that this is where Paul turns first. Paul is not picking on homosexuality. He is not saying that it is a worse sin than all the other sins.
It's just that if God made us in his image, male and female, then it shouldn't surprise us that the effects of our rejection of God in the center of our life would show up in those primary relationships. Paul cites homosexuality, one scholar says, not because it is a greater sin than any other, but because it is the clearest evidence of a rejection of God's order in creation. Now in recent years some have tried to say that this passage, Romans 1 26 and 27, refers only to certain kinds of homosexual acts, promiscuous homosexual acts like prostitution or one-night stands or a master forcing a slave to have sex with him or that kind of thing. And that Paul was just, he was just unfamiliar with a committed, loving, same-sex relationship, the kind that we see in our society today. And if Paul had been aware of that, he most certainly would not have lumped them all together if he saw the friendship and the sacrificial love and the commitment, the union that we see in same-sex relationships sometimes today, then he certainly would have understood that that is a very natural, a very natural thing, but that is not true. Enduring, committed, same-sex relationships were most certainly a thing in the Roman world and Paul most definitely knew about them. Plutarch, who was a contemporary of Paul's, not a Christian, in the first century makes a distinction in his writing between homosexual sex for mere pleasure, which he considered to be unworthy, and homosexual practice that was rooted in a committed relationship, which Plutarch considered to be beautiful and worthy. In one of Plato's works, who wrote about 300 years before Paul, Plato mentions two adult men who were lovers for more than 10 years. As a well-read, well-traveled Roman citizen, Paul would certainly have known about these things.
Paul would have known about a very dominant stream within Roman culture. Yet Paul does not distinguish between kinds of homosexual acts in Romans 1. He identifies all sexual relationships between men and women as a departure from the creator's design for human flourishing. They are unnatural, he says.
Literally in Greek, he says they are against nature. Thanks for listening to Summit Life with J.D. Greer. And before we continue with today's teaching, I wanted to let you know about our latest premium resource. It's Pastor J.D. 's recently released book called Essential Christianity. And with your gift of $35 or more to Summit Life, we'll send you your copy along with a free companion discussion guide. And this book is a practical and approachable look at some of the foundational beliefs of Christianity. And it's perfect for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of the gospel or help someone else explore the faith. Being firm in the essentials of the faith allows us to grow in grace and understanding and bringing freedom to our walk with Jesus. You can give right now by giving us a call at 866-335-5220 or give online at jdgreer.com. Now let's get back to today's teaching from Pastor J.D.
Greer right here on Summit Life. Now again, it is important to realize that Paul is not just randomly picking on homosexuality here. He's just citing it as one of the clearest examples of elevating our desires over the Creator's design. We're in a situation in which we say, it's not about what the Creator wants. It's not about the Creator's design.
It's about what I want. Homosexuality is just one example though. And so Paul goes on to mention the other ways that our idolatry, the other ways that our prioritizing of our desires over the Creator's design, other ways that we see creation unravel. Verse 28, and because they, by the way, they, that is Paul rhetorically building an argument. You're going to see in chapter two that they is we. Paul is going to explain that he's a chief member of this group as are all of us. This is not an us and them, like those sinners and us righteous people.
He's like everybody's they. And because we did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered us over to a corrupt mind so that they do not do what is right. Then he begins to begin to list out things. We saw sexual disorder.
That was the first thing. Verses 26 and 27. Now we've got economic disorder. They're filled with all unrighteousness and evil and greed and wickedness.
You could think of that again as economic disorder. Then you got social disorder. They're full of envy and murder and quarrels and deceit and malice. They're gossips and they're slanders. Again, social disorder, just think Facebook right there.
Then you got spiritual disorder. Verse 30, they're God haters. They're arrogant. They're proud. They're boastful.
They are inventors of evil. That's a spiritual disorder. And then you've got disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. You could think of that as family disorder. You got sexual disorder, economic disorder, social disorder, spiritual disorder, family disorder, and that is not even intended to be an exhaustive list.
It's just a sample. What Paul is trying to show you is that our idolatry, the elevation of our desires over God's will, the insertion of ourself in the center rather than God has affected every single part of our lives. It's what theologians call the doctrine of total depravity. That doesn't mean that we are all as bad as we could be, just that our rejection of God at the center of our lives has corrupted every other part of our lives.
Paul starts with homosexuality, but he goes on to show how every part of our lives, literally every dimension of our lives is affected by the disorder that comes from putting ourselves in the center instead of God. When I was a student in college, I was part of this thing, this extracurricular thing called the North Carolina Student Legislature, where every year each college would send a delegation down to Raleigh here where you would have a team and you would present bills and you would debate the bills and try to pass them. They would put us all up in this one hotel in downtown Raleigh. So you got one hotel filled with hundreds of college students. You can imagine what that situation was like. The first night I was there, I went to bed about 2 30 in the morning, which was about two hours before everybody else went to bed. I had five roommates. I was the only guy in the room. So I'm in bed and that moment right before you go to sleep, that kind of split second. And all of a sudden the door of my hotel room just bust open. One of my roommates, he's got a panda look on his face and he's like, JD, he said, grab your Bible and come quick. That's all he said. Now I just led this guy to Christ about three weeks before.
He's a brand new Christian. I honestly thought somebody was dying and needed to get saved. Like they'd gone into cardiac arrest. So I jump out of bed.
All I had on was a pair of shorts. So I grabbed the first thing that I see, this jacket just grabbed, but it doesn't fit. I grabbed my Bible and I'm running down the hall after this guy. He takes a left into this hotel room.
So I follow him. I go in, I go in this room and there is no less than 35 college students that are seated all over the beds and the couches in this hotel room. And they're all just sitting there. And my friend out of breath, me out of breath, my friend's like, points to me. He's like, here he is, here he is. And I'm like, here who is? He looks at me and he says, they had a question about homosexuality. And I told him that you could answer it.
Now, this is like every speaker's worst nightmare, right? I'm pinching myself. I'm like, is this really happening? Because I'm showing up literally half naked in front of a group of total strangers to address on the spot, maybe the toughest question you could possibly ask in a group of college students. So I'm standing there and I look down at what I'm wearing.
It's this purple like track jacket that again, it just didn't even fit. And I'm just standing there, you know, kind of just there, just me and no shirt on. And they're staring awkwardly at me and I'm staring awkwardly back at them.
And I was like, well, you know, what do you do? So I thought Romans one, Romans one, I know says something about this. So I open up and I literally just read the passage of them, trying to think of what I'm going to say.
And I get to the end of that list. And I said, so what do y'all think about that? And one of the guys goes on the good bed, he said, well, it sounds to me like the Bible is saying, he says only a Bible saying that, that homosexuality is like the worst sin.
It's like the worst form of corruption. And I said, well, I don't know everything there is to know about this passage, but I'm positive. That's not what Paul is saying.
In fact, what you see is that Paul identifies that as one result of a life that is no longer centered on God, but then he goes on to the end of these other things. And did you listen to the rest of that list? And did you identify yourself in almost 95% of those other things? I asked him, I said, how many of you are guilty of 95% of the things that are listed in that list? Let me just go back through them. In fact, I'll do it with you. Let's walk back through that list.
You just put a check above it. If you were guilty of it, they're filled with unrighteousness. There were evil, greed, always one more than they had wickedness, full of envy, jealousy about their friends, murder. You said, well, I never murdered nobody. We remember Jesus said that if you hate somebody in your heart or, or you desire, you delight in their harm, then that is the spirit of murder. And you're guilty of it. Quarreling, deceit, malice, their gossips talk about their friends sometimes, slanderers.
It's a lies sometimes about, about people to gain advantage. They're God haters. You know, I'm not a God hater.
Well, based on how Paul's defined it in Romans one, we kind of all are because we want to be in the center instead of God. So God haters, we're arrogant, we're proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unluffing, and merciful. And just in case, you know, Paul missed you, he just threw this one in for fun, like disobedient to parents. Nobody comes out clean in that list. And so I asked him, I said, how many of y'all are guilty of 95% of that list? What Paul is showing us is that the corruption manifests itself differently in different people. I might struggle more than you with certain things on that list and certain other things you might struggle with more than me, but my heart is corrupt and my heart is full of disorder.
And so is yours. In fact, here's a really important question to ask about that list. Are those things, listen, are those things the cause of God's judgment or the result of God's judgment?
Careful. The answer is both. They are both the cause and the result of it. The chief sin, the really wicked sin was rejecting God as the center and the ruler of our life. That's the sin that brought on all the other corruption. And that original sin, that chiefly wicked sin of rejecting God's rule and putting our rule in its place, that's the one that all of us have participated in alike equally.
And see, here's the thing. We don't always get to choose which way that corruption affects us. In some people, the corruption manifests itself as envy or pride or unbridled personal ambition or an out of control temper.
Maybe it manifests as an inability to control your impulses for food or a propensity toward doubt or worry or depression. Those things are all included in that list in Romans 1. In others, it manifests itself in some form of corrupted sexual desire. By the way, all of us in some way have experienced corrupted sexual desire. But the point is that the central sin is the same. We rejected God's rule and substituted our own in its place.
That manifests in different people differently and we don't get to choose our corruption. In fact, let me say something here that I fear might get misunderstood, but I feel like it's important enough that even though it might get misunderstood, I'm gonna say it anyway. In this sense, you can almost think of homosexuality as an affliction and not just a sinful choice. Because for most gay people, they feel like they didn't choose those desires. In fact, here's what I've learned after two decades of pastoring. Almost every person I've encountered, in the church at least, almost every person who struggles with the same sex attraction is almost always dealing first and foremost with an unanswered prayer. God, I asked you to take these desires away and you didn't do it.
So let me say that again, especially for you parents. For if your child one day says this to you, this is what you have to understand. Every Christian I know who's struggling with same sex attraction is dealing first and foremost with the question of why God did not answer their prayer to change them. Which means that people with same sex attraction really ought to be first and foremost recipients of our compassion. That is it makes same sex behavior any less sinful, any more than it would make outburst of temper or envy or materialism less sinful. It just means that we don't always get to choose our weakness or our corruption. And see that means that gay and lesbian people are not worse sinners than other people.
They're not a different kind of center than the rest of us. They just got affected with a different dimension of the curse and that changes how we think about it and how we talk about it. You see there are three ways I see us really going wrong with this in the church at large.
Three ways we can go wrong. Number one, and one we believe that God doesn't really care about this. We believe that God doesn't really care about this.
He does. He is crystal clear in this passage as well as at least five other passages in the old and new testament. Passages like for example 1st Corinthians where honestly he could not get any clearer. Do not be deceived neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanders nor swindlers. Anybody who willfully and obstinately says this is who I am and what I'm going to do, these people will not inherit the kingdom of God. Thanks for listening to Pastor JD Greer teaching on how the fall affects us all here on Summit Life. In this sermon Pastor JD points out that sometimes we exchange truth about God for lies. If you're finding the truth from our series through romance challenging or heart gripping I'd like to encourage you to reserve your copy of Pastor JD's newest book called Essential Christianity.
The book walks you through some of the most difficult and important questions about the faith and it's based on a lot of JD's teaching from this series in the book of Romans. We'll also send you a discussion guide which is great to help you think through the book's content on your own but even better when you use it to help facilitate gospel conversations with a friend family member or neighbor who is exploring Christianity. We'll send you a copy of Essential Christianity and the discussion guide as an expression of thanks when you donate today to support this ministry. Summit Life is funded and fueled entirely by generous listeners like you so your gift truly does make a difference. Get your Essential Christianity bundle when you give by calling 866-335-5220. That's 866-335-5220 or give online at jdgreer.com. I'm Molly Vidovich inviting you to join us tomorrow when we'll conclude our message on how the fall affects us all. Listen Tuesday to Summit Life with JD Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by JD Greer Ministries.
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