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“God Gave Them Up” (Part 1 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
February 22, 2024 3:00 am

“God Gave Them Up” (Part 1 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 22, 2024 3:00 am

Throughout the Bible, we read of the Lord’s great patience and compassion—that He’s the “God of second chances.” But is it ever too late? Does He ever give up on people? Study along with Truth For Life as Alistair Begg looks to God’s Word for the answer.


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Throughout the Bible, we read about God's patience and his compassion. He is indeed a God of second chances, but is there ever a time when it's too late?

Does God ever run out of patience or give up on people? Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg looks to God's Word for the answer. Romans chapter 1 and verse 16. And he writes, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith.

As it is written, the righteous shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes—namely, his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made.

So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.

Amen. In her book, The World Turned Upside Down, Melanie Phillips, who is an English journalist and columnist, writes as an agnostic but an observant Jew. She observed, then, quotes, society seems to be in the grip of a mass derangement. There is a sense that the world has slipped off the axis of reason.

Thus, pausing the question, how is anyone to work out who has the answer in the midst of such a babble of experts and with so much conflicting information? She then sets out the case that there has been a departure from reason and from logic, because, as she writes, objectivity has been replaced in large measure by ideology. And I started to reread the book this week—I read it some time ago—and I was struck again, and I went looking for this, but I was struck by the absence in her writing.

As I say, she writes as an observant Jew, and many of the points that she makes are profoundly helpful. What is missing in her analysis, as far as I can see, is any recognition of Genesis chapter 3. She mentions Genesis with a fair amount of emphasis, but there is no mention of chapter 3.

And that is a significant absence, because chapter 3 of Genesis actually provides the answer to the question that she poses. How is it that the world that God has made in its entirety and in its perfection, pronouncing upon his creation that everything was good—how is it that within a matter of a few verses in turning to chapter 4, everything has gone haywire? Why is it that now in chapter 4 we have murder, we have the breakdown of relationships, we have corruption, we essentially have madness? And of course, that's the question that people are asking.

People are asking this question all the time. Why is the world the way it is? Why is it that if this good and all-powerful God that you want to talk about at Parkside is actually as good and as powerful as the Bible claims, why is it that all of this chaos ensues? Why the suffering? Why the sadness?

Why the mayhem that has been represented in our news broadcasts even in the week that has passed? And the answer is in chapter 3. Adam and Eve, instead of trusting God, they believed a lie. And as a result of that, the world was no longer as God had made it but now became the world as man had spoiled it by sin. What was it that they had done? Well, they had actually rebelled against God.

They essentially said, by their actions, we know what's best for us. They have made the determination, in accordance with the lie that the serpent gave to them, that somehow or another God wants to deprive them of that which would make them all that they might become. And in believing that, they were banished from the garden, they were alienated from God, they no longer enjoyed God's friendship, and they had no means of reentry into the garden unless, of course, God himself would provide that way of reentry. And, of course, we have the first hint of how God is going to do that right there in Genesis chapter 3 and in the fifteenth verse, where the Lord God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field. On your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Now, Paul is going to address this. In fact, he is addressing this, essentially, in the verses that we are focusing on now. But he puts it succinctly by the time he gets to chapter 5, and right around verse 18 and 19. He writes, For by one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.

Thus commenting on the fall of man into the predicament which is true of the entirety of humanity. That's what the Bible says—whether we like it or whether we don't. Now, with that by way of introduction, look at verse 24 of Romans chapter 1.

Hopefully you kept your finger there. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity—or a better word might be uncleanness—I think that King James uses uncleanness, I don't recall—to uncleanness, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Now, what we're doing here in this second half of Romans 1 is essentially viewing God's world through the lens of God's Word. We are looking to the Word of God to explain the world of God. Or better still, we are seeking to see the world in light of the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ.

We are understanding the world in its predicament in light of God's provision in the person of Jesus for a world that has turned upside down. And that's why we began a few weeks ago reminding ourselves that Paul was eager to proclaim this good news. Because, by way of rehearsal of what we know, he says he's not ashamed of this gospel, because it is a gospel for everyone. For everyone.

And we need to remember this. Why is it a gospel for everyone? Because everyone needs a gospel.

It's very straightforward. It's a gospel for everyone. It's a gospel for atheists and agnostics, for Jews, for Gentiles, for Buddhists, for Hindus, for Muslims, for the lost and the lonely, for the happy and the successful, for those who've figured out their gender and those who can't figure out their gender. It is a gospel for the whole world. Let that truth settle for a moment.

Do you know of anything that is necessary for the entire world, apart from the air that we breathe? Nobody would make that claim, would they? I don't know of anybody, really. No religious leader would make that claim. That's what the Bible says. And the reason that the gospel is needed by all is because all of us are in a hopeless and a helpless situation. We are, all of us, under God's wrath, verse 18. Now, there are no exceptions to this. Paul is making his case all the way through into chapter 3, and he's going to say, Whether you are an irreligious Gentile or whether you are an observant Jew, it doesn't matter. Here's the problem. God has acted in such a way that the whole world will have its mouth stopped by way of argument or defense.

And it will become apparent that the whole world is accountable to God. Now, this is something that is largely unpalatable. You don't hear much of it in the press.

You won't certainly hear it in many congregations, because everybody wants to be liked and to be affirmed, and that's true of the pastors as well. And so why get into stuff like this? There are many other things that we could talk about. But here we have it, that God's anger is on account of our wickedness. Our wickedness. Whereby, as we've seen earlier, we suppress the truth. We refuse to acknowledge the truth we know.

And we saw that in the last couple of studies, that this has been made known to us. Even the invisible qualities of God—his power and his divinity—are clearly perceived in the things that have been made. Let me just take a brief discourses here for a moment and speak to some of our young people who are increasingly living in a world where the idea of rationality is peculiarly on the side of science, and you are being told routinely that if you want to get into the realm of faith, then you must leave the realm of rationality and move into a strange category. This is challenged on every front, and not least of all, by some who, in the course of their lives, have made the pilgrimage from atheism to theism. For example, Anthony Flew in our generation, a fairly militant philosopher of an atheist. And in the course of thinking, in the course of processing information, he has left atheism behind, and he has become at least a theist, a God-believer.

I don't know. So is it like in a bit the first part of C. S. Lewis's conversion, where he moved from atheism to theism before he actually comes to trust in Jesus? I don't know where Flew is in relationship to that. But Flew makes the point that to hold that reason accounts for everything in the universe—this is him—to suggest the idea that reason accounts for everything in the universe is profoundly unreasonable. He says, The scientific atheists overlook the most important aspect of all—the ineffable mysteriousness of self-consciousness—which is the most obvious and unassailable and the most lethal argument against the materialist worldview. The self, he writes, cannot be explained in terms of physics or chemistry. These cannot explain phenomena in nature such as the code-processing systems of information in the cell, the fact that these have goals such as reproduction or subjective awareness and conceptual thought. The only coherent explanation is that these are supra-physical phenomena, and these can only have originated in a supra-physical source. So he says, It is simply inconceivable that any material matrix or field can generate agents who think and act. Matter cannot produce conceptions and perceptions.

A force field does not plan or think. So, at the level of reason and everyday experience, we become immediately aware that the world of living, conscious, thinking beings has to originate in a living source, a mind. Melanie goes on, But scientific materialism holds that religion can be given no quarter whatever and that matter somehow created itself. Far from upholding reason, science itself has therefore become unreasonable. And so, in the name of scientific reason, many scientists are now departing from their own rules.

Detached from its conceptual anchorage, science effectively turned man into God and decided that truth was only what science declared it to be. Now, that brief discourses is simply to say to some of you who live in a world that I don't inhabit, which is a scientific world, just think and process information, and don't allow yourselves to be driven into a corner under the disguised notion that somehow or another rationality exists only in the realm of scientific endeavor. This is not a matter of irrationality.

This is not a matter of leaping into the dark. This is a matter of leaping into the light, as it were, as the truth begins to dawn. And that's why you can see, he goes on to say, verse 22, behind a façade of wisdom, they became fools. They became fools. It's so foolish, says Paul, to bow down to idols of our own making, to create something, and then take it in your bedroom and then say, Oh, dear little thing, please help me with my exams, please help me with my life, please help me with my MRI, please… Have you lost your mind?

What are you doing in there with that thing? He says it's insanity, isn't it? Idols of our own making, replacing God. Essentially, we replace God with ourselves. Because we don't want God to be God. Why don't you believe in God?

I don't want to believe in God. And here's the grave thing. Here's the gravity of all of this. For those of us who are praying and coming to pray tonight for friends and loved ones who are on a different plane when it comes to these questions, here's the gravity of it. We do not understand or we are unprepared to accept the helplessness of our situation, despite everything that is going on in our world at a macro level between the nations and down at the tiny levels and in the chaos of all that was taking place with this unsolved quadruple murder this week. All of this is there.

And still, mankind says, No, no, no, no, we'll be able to fix it. Shakespeare was ahead of the game in so many ways, wasn't he? Remember, after Hamlet has learned that he has now been entrusted with the responsibility of avenging his father's murder?

His father has been murdered by Hamlet's uncle. You remember what he says? The time is out of joint. The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, that ever I was born to put it right!

Everything seems to be broken. And we feel, actually, in ourselves, in our self-confidence, that actually, no matter how messed up it might be, there's nothing we can't fix. It's quite surprising, really, isn't it, when you think this was into first-century Rome, and here we are always thousands of years later, and the immediate application of what he's writing here in the twenty-first century proves, unassailably, the fact that we cannot fix it.

The succession of governments, whether Republican, Democratic, Conservative, Labour, whatever they might be, here we are, proving the fact that neither by education nor by legislation nor, actually, by totalitarian domination are we able to fix the fundamental problem that is before us. We're actually like some people who, having a chest cough as I do, decide that they have no interest in going for a scan, no interest in having an MRI, for fear that the predicament is actually more dangerous than as one is prepared to face. So he said, Well, if I don't find out about it, then I don't need to really worry about it, and therefore, it won't really have any impact at all. Incidentally, I'm not remotely worried about this cough, but it just occurs, because I think you're aware of the fact.

So, that wasn't a personal anecdote there. Oh, they don't want to come into the light of God's Word, do we? We don't want to have him scan us. Because we might find out that he's absolutely right. What we're being told here, what we're discovering, is that we are rebels under the wrath of God. Our sins—the things we've done, the things we've failed to do—are simply the outward manifestations of our personal decision to suppress the truth about God and thereby to pursue whatever it is that we have decided to put in the place of God. And therefore, God's wrath—God's wrath—is being revealed in the present. Remember, when we were in verse 18, we noted that there is a day of wrath that is coming.

Paul is not speaking about that. Verse 18, for the wrath of God is revealed. Now, how is the wrath of God revealed? Verse 24 begins to tell us. Here is how God's wrath is being revealed in the present tense. God gave them up.

This is the first of three gave them ups. Verse 24, verse 26, verse 28. The reason for God's retribution—for retribution it is—is because of the ungodliness and the unrighteousness of men. Ungodliness, the vertical axis, we want nothing to do with you, God. Unrighteousness on the horizontal plane, the chaos that ensues all around us.

Now, there's something that's very, very important to notice here. Because there is no question that there is a cause and effect in the implications of responding to temptation and sinning and so on. And so, when you read that, therefore, God gave them up in the lust of their heart to uncleanness, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves. This is not just noninterference on the part of God. The phrase he gave them up—gave them up—is not simply, he left them to themselves.

The phrase actually means being handed over to. Here, a more intensified and aggravated cultivation of the lusts of their hearts. This is so vitally important, we realize, that sin in the religious realm is here punished in the moral realm.

The unrighteousness emerges from the ungodliness. The progression that runs throughout the whole section is impiety, idolatry, immorality. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life with the message he's titled God Gave Them Up.

We'll hear more tomorrow. Alistair mentioned today that everyone needs to hear the gospel. That's why our practice at Truth for Life is to teach the Bible every day and to offer as many free or at-cost resources as possible. We want to provide clear and relevant Bible teaching to anyone who wants to learn more. We're able to do this because of truth partners. These are generous listeners like you who pray for this ministry and who give consistently to help cover the cost of producing this daily program. If you're not already a truth partner, let me encourage you to become a part of this essential team today.

Your monthly giving makes it possible for us to tell the world about God and his amazing plan of salvation. Call us at 888-588-7884 or sign up easily using the Truth for Life app or online at slash truth partner. When you become a truth partner today or if you make a one-time donation, we want to say thank you by inviting you to request a copy of the book called Death in the City. This is a book that connects with our study in Romans and the Apostle Paul's eagerness to proclaim the gospel to those who are helpless to save themselves. Again, request the book Death in the City when you sign up to become a truth partner or give a one-time donation to Truth for Life at slash donate. Tomorrow we'll hear the conclusion of today's message. We'll find out why God's Word is like a light shining into the darkness. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-22 09:59:31 / 2024-02-22 10:07:41 / 8

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