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“God Gave Them Up” (Part 6 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
February 29, 2024 3:00 am

“God Gave Them Up” (Part 6 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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February 29, 2024 3:00 am

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul listed ungodly behaviors that angered God, prompting Him to give them up to their wickedness. Passing judgment may be tempting—but on Truth For Life, Alistair Begg teaches us how to respond biblically instead.


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When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome, he listed ungodly behaviors that stirred the anger of God. Behaviors that prompted God to give those people up to their own wickedness. It's a list that still rings true in our society today, and while it may be tempting to pass judgment, today on Truth for Life we'll learn how to respond biblically instead.

Alistair Begg is teaching from the closing verses in Romans chapter 1. 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, 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. So you go to the Little League game, and at the Little League game, one of the fathers gets rather steamed up about it, as I've noticed has happened, and he begins actually to exercise his democratic privileges as he understands it by just cussing out at the kids. And somebody says to him, Hey, hey, you ought not to do that. And he says, Don't tell me what I ought to do. I'll punch your nose. So what are you going to do? Because next week it'll be even worse.

Well, what we'll have to do is we'll have to go to the local court, and we'll have to see if we can legislate that anybody who does swears within the framework of the two soccer pitches or whatever else it is is going to be removed from the community. Or you could just do what you ought to do. 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. Well, look at this ugly catalogue.

Twenty-eight, it sets it up, and then twenty-nine all the way to thirty-one. 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. There are a number of lists like this in Paul's letters. This is the longest of them. There are twenty-one aspects in this. We're not going to go through them.

It wouldn't be very good. But let me read it again for you, just so we've got this list clear in our minds. Let me read it in Philip's paraphrase. Moreover, since they consider themselves too high and mighty to acknowledge God, he allowed them to become slaves of their degenerate minds and to perform unmentionable deeds. They became filled with wickedness, rottenness, greed, and malice. Their minds became steeped in envy, murder, quarrelsomeness, deceitfulness, and spite. They became whisperers behind doors. That's pretty good, isn't it? Gossips.

Hey, did you, did you? Whisperers behind doors and stabbers in the back. Slanderers. God-haters, overflowing with insolent pride and boastfulness, and their minds teemed with diabolical invention. We say it humorously, but it's not actually very humorous. We say, you know, if many of the criminals had gone into, you know, becoming policemen, then it'd be a safer place, because they seem to have an unlimited ability to come up with new ways of doing naughty things, of doing really bad stuff.

That's what he said here. 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. Now, the attempts of people to categorize this—I don't think this is… This is a comprehensive statement. It's not exhaustive. It's selective. I don't think Paul would have had to sit around and think about it for very long.

It just flowed right off the end of his pen. But it may well be, as with other, like where in 2 Timothy where you have the list where he says, you know, in the last days, men will be lovers of themselves, and it ends up rather than lovers of God. And then you've got this sandwich in between loving yourself instead of loving God, and then all these other things fit in between.

So, unrighteousness here, variably translated wickedness, might be regarded as the genus, if you like, of the entire list. I mean, you can read it on your own and make your own decisions, but without working your way through it and you can diagram it in any way you choose, he is simply pointing out that the thing is broken. Broken. That the beautiful world that God has made is broken by sin. Legislation can't fix it.

Education can't fix it. Morality is entirely rooted in God. And so when God is removed and he in his wrath, responding to rebellion, gives a society over to his own endeavors, then this ought not to be a surprise to us. And there is nothing new in this.

The 60s was supposed to be the great transformative era, at least in the twentieth century. And I was thinking about it just this week because of the Christmas carols. Because in the early material of Paul Simon, in the Paul Simon Songbook, and then in the early albums of Simon and Garfunkel, you find an interesting selection of music. In the Paul Simon Songbook, he does Go Tell It on the Mountain, Over the Hills and Everywhere. In Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme, he and Garfunkel sing Silent Night.

And they sing Silent Night Straight. Simon was once asked, Was there ever a song that somebody wrote that you would wish you had written? He said, Yes, Silent Night. The person said to him, But that was never a hit. He says, Yes, it was a hit.

1935, Bing Crosby had a number-one hit in America, singing Silent Night. There's a little history for you. And the Silent Night song, Done by Them, was sung over a voiceover by a DJ who was reading the seven o'clock news.

Okay? Now, what were they doing? Well, actually, they were acknowledging this strange reality—that humanity has the capacity to be an angel and an ape. Without being unkind to the apes, you know. That the same ability that we have to take our advances in technology and do things that are amazingly good, we have the same capacity to take and do the reverse. And that is the point that Paul is making here at the beginning of Romans. He's saying straightforwardly, impiety, ungodliness, leads to idolatry, and idolatry leads to immorality, and when immorality is given free rein and it takes hold, there is no saying where it will go.

And in that context, a whole host of other dimensions will be seen for what they are. So man rejects God, and he replaces beauty with ugliness. I have to resist the temptation to illustrate from contemporary life. You think about the artwork that was done here in Ohio in the last two decades—the absolute filth by any standards at all, you know. The graphic art of the homosexual fellow who had all kinds of dreadful things.

How do you get to this? Whoever said that was a nice thing to do? Were you thinking?

Yeah, I was thinking. Did you acknowledge God? God?

I don't acknowledge God. What are you talking about? You see? So it is a debased mind that gives rise to these things.

Radmacher wrote a book many years ago, probably in the sixties, Modern Art and the Death of a Culture. You realize that they are the expressions of these things. Melody and harmony are gone.

Discordancy is gone. I don't care what you really think about Keith Moon and the Who, but, I mean, do you really think there's something wonderful about getting to the end of your concert and then smashing your guitar into smithereens and kicking the things that make the sound come out, where all these things are? And then I've got something else we're going to do. We're going to go back to our hotel room, trash it!

We're just going to throw all the bed linen out in the street and say, Like, what the world happened to you? And since they did not seem fit to acknowledge God, he gave them up to a debased mind to do what they ought not to do. But we're not finished. Look at verse 32. Here is a final culminating indictment, if you like. Those that are characterized by what is in that list of twenty-one, Paul says they're not acting in ignorance. This is a recapitulation of what he said already, remember? That although they knew these things, they chose not to pay attention to it, though they know God's righteous decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die. They know this. Conscience reveals this to them. He's going to mention this about verse 15 of chapter 2, where he's speaking about the fact… He's speaking now to the Jews in chapter 2, and he says, you know, if you think about it, you have the law, and you've got a responsibility in relationship to that, but what about the Gentiles? And then he says, But they show, verse 15, that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Jesus Christ.

Now, what he's saying is very straightforward. They know God's righteous decree. After death comes judgment. They know God's righteous decree.

In the day that you eat of this, you will surely die. They know that. But the knowledge of that is not sufficient to cause them to step away from it. Even when their conscience is at work, nevertheless, they continue to do it. Not only do they do it, but they give approval to those who practice what they're doing, and they join in. In other words, they're committed to creating a society in which these things are accepted and these things are approved. Isn't that what it is? They say, Not only are we going to do them, but we're going to make sure that others do them too.

Not to dump back into 26 and 27, but to come back to the sex education issue. The people that are at the forefront of doing that with our children in schools are coming from a worldview that has already embraced the legitimacy of that which the Scriptures say is entirely unnatural and illegitimate and ought not to be done. But you see, if you are a naughty boy—like, say, you're stealing pears—the best thing you can do is get other people to steal pears with you. That way you feel a little bit better about yourself, because now you've inculcated them in your own wickedness.

And that's exactly what he says is happening. They know that those who practice such things deserve to die. Not only do them, but they give approval to those who practice them. Murray, in an uncharacteristically full-on statement in his commentary, says, Not only are they content in damning themselves but in congratulating others in doing these same things that they know result in damnation. So what's our posture to be? Let's stop. What's our posture to be?

In other words, not if I use posture in terms of hard expression. Well, I think the first response is confession—that we need to confess self-righteousness, we need to confess that we are often on the wrong end of this. But it's not to be in terms of speaking to our friends and neighbors admonition, just decrying what's going on all the time in the culture. And one of the ways in which we can help ourselves with that is by paying attention, again, to Paul, where he reminds those to whom he writes—reminds Titus to remind his congregation, We ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. He says, That was us.

That's what we were like. What's the distinguishing factor? But when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared… Isn't that interesting? The goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared? He doesn't say, But when the wrath of God was made clear to us… Because we've already established the fact that they know that this is wrong, they know it deserves judgment.

So that awareness is not enough to bring them to their senses. Do you realize there's hell to pay for this? But you say, The heck with that! Come on!

No! No, but when the goodness and loving-kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us. See, this is what we have to do, then—not admonition but proclamation. We need to go full circle back up to verses 16 and 17, say to ourselves, and then say to other people, I'm not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to all of us in our ungodliness.

Say to our friends from wherever it is we work or whatever—our sports club, whatever—and they say, You know, I know you go to that church, and I know you've got this God thing going and everything else, but I don't see why you have to be engaged with me. I just want to… I'm just living to my heart's content. That's really all I'm doing. I'm living to my heart's content. Well, push back on that a little bit and say, Well, I haven't noticed you to be particularly contented. Are you contented?

If they're honest, they say, Well, no, I don't think I'm really contented. Remember C. S. Lewis, where he talks about the child? He says, Our desires are pathetic, really. He says, We're preoccupied with drink and sex and ambition and material and so on. He says, We're like children building mud pies in a slum, failing to recognize, to be grasped by the fact that God means for us to have something far greater than that—a life at the ocean. Proclamation is not just what I'm trying to do this morning, but it's proclamation of a life lived. And I conclude with this. This came to me this week from Terry McCutcheon. Incidentally, I could have finished with a book by Rosaria Butterfield, which, if you haven't read it, in relationship to the things we spoke last Sunday, it would be tremendously helpful. Because what happens here in this little anecdote is the exact same thing that happened to Rosaria. It was the expression of a couple's kindness that broke down the walls of her animosity as she was a tenured professor at one of the New York universities and in a committed tenured lesbian relationship.

It was kindness. Terry sent this to me. He said, Reverend Gillies, a retired free church minister, died today at the age of ninety-two.

Well, I said, Okay, good. I didn't know who he was, but thank you. And then it was a text, and then I read on. And he said, I remember when me and a couple of my other drug addict pals were taken to church by his son some twenty-eight years ago. We listened to Reverend Gillies preach, and afterwards we were invited into his home for tea and food. Even though we were doing drugs and we were under the influence, he still welcomed us into his home. I've often looked back now that I'm clean and a believer and thought to myself, That was so Christlike what Reverend Gillies did. He didn't wait for me to get clean to welcome me. He welcomed me in the hope that I would get clean. Our homosexual friends are not our enemies.

They're no more our enemies than a greedy adulterer is our enemy. Listening to Alistair beg on Truth for Life with the conclusion of a three-part message he's titled, God Gave Them Up. Alistair returns in just a minute. Today's message also concludes our series, God's Power for Salvation, Gospel Hope for a Romans One World. All of Alistair's teaching is available online, free to watch, free to listen to or download. So if you have benefited from this study, you'd like to re-listen or share this teaching with friends, the complete study is available on our website at slash salvation. And a quick reminder, if you've not already requested a copy of the book, Death in the City, do so today. It's the last day we'll be featuring this book as a thank you for your donation.

To give, you can tap the book image on the Truth for Life mobile app or visit us online at slash donate or call us at 888-588-7884. By the way, did you know Alistair writes a letter to listeners each month? He shares some of his thoughts about people who have inspired him, ministry updates, experiences from his recent travels. You can subscribe to this letter electronically each month.

It's free, comes directly to your email inbox around the first of every month. Sign up at slash lists. Now here's Alistair with some closing thoughts. Father, thank you that your Word, as painful as it is often to proclaim and to receive, is an expression of your great love for mankind. And we marvel that in your wrath you remember mercy, and that in the gospel you have provided the answer to our own rebellious hearts. And we thank you that when we come face to face with your amazing kindness to us in Jesus, when we realize that in Jesus we don't get what we deserve but we get what we don't deserve—and that is the amazing gift of forgiveness, a clean slate, a fresh start, a new life. Bring this to bear upon our minds, we pray, on our hearts in a life-changing way. And we encourage one another to go to the only place where refuge is to be found. And we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Tomorrow we begin a study that will begin preparing us for Easter by taking a close look at the very core of the Christian faith—the name of Jesus. I hope you'll join us. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-29 07:35:28 / 2024-02-29 07:43:43 / 8

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