Romans 1:18-25 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
What Paul describes here is quite a slippery slope.
Paul alleges here that there has been a Dismantling of Truth, a suppression of truth which is the beginning of a big unraveling of a particular way of life. When you walk away from truth, you walk away from the kind of life it fosters, supports and sustains.
God’s Word is truth. (John 17:17) Unbelievers won’t agree on that reality, but there doesn’t need to be agreement from non-Christians in order for it to be so. God has revealed Truth in a Person, Jesus Christ, whose life is chronicled in His Word which is also Truth.
Verse 19 tells us the truth is plain. God is not playing “hide and seek” with the truth. He is actively revealing Himself. Verse 20 tells us that since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power, His Divine nature are demonstrated here on earth in such a way that no one can plead ignorance. No one can say, “I didn’t know there was a God or that He should have had my attention.”
Here is why I think people have suppressed and sought to dismantle the truth: Truth flies in the face of personal autonomy. In other words, if you acknowledge that truth exists, you have to acknowledge a Creator of that truth. Once you do that, you have to wrestle with submission to Him or running your own life. The suppression of truth is a decision people make to be their own god. To suppress the truth is to turn away from God’s authority in your life.
The next issue Paul addressed here was that there was a disregard for the worship of God. Verse 21 tells us that these people knew enough about God through His creation, they knew enough to worship Him, but they chose not to. Verse 25 says they worshiped created things rather than the Creator.
One truth that gets suppressed is that God is the Creator of all things. If you ascribe to the idea that God did not create you, it makes sense that you would look for something else to worship. We all have an ache in our hearts to connect to something that gives our life meaning, value and purpose. In other words, we all long to be attached to, to worship something, someone greater than ourselves. Satan’s lie is that our worth and value, our fulfillment and purpose, are tied to the things of this world when in fact our contentment and joy come from being connected in relationship to the God who created us, who in an intentional, hands-on way, fashioned us for specific purposes. There is no way we could discover those purposes inside a relationship with money or sex or social media. How could something on the outside of me give my life definition and meaning? Only God, who knows the purposes for which we have been created, as He moves in our souls, as He leads our minds, as He conditions our hearts, can help us discover those purposes.
We really need worship. We need to stay God-centered. We need to stay throne-centered. We need to be fixed on the majesty and power of God. We need to experience the manifest presence of God that descends in the atmosphere of worship. Otherwise, we will be pulverized by our anxieties, fears, and trials. Worship reminds us how big God is and what He can do. Worship keeps our hearts and minds aligned with the will of God and births the desires of God in us, snuffing out our desires for the wrong things. We learn to want what God wants for us as we worship Him. Worship gets our hearts and minds pulled into the realm of faith where we can get supernatural breath and strength to face the world. We absolutely need to be faithful to the worship of God.
Third, Paul pointed out a disappearance of gratitude in verse 21.
Not only did people quit worshiping God as Creator, but they quit thanking Him. You know what happens to people when they quit being thankful? They become negative, cynical, critical, grouchy, irritable, argumentative and zero fun to be around. Besides that, I believe a lack of gratitude stops the flow of God’s blessings in our life.
When you recognize the Source of your daily blessings through gratitude, you are drawing nearer to that Source. When you thank God for what you have and who He is, you are demonstrating humility and humility is the correct heart posture in order to live life successfully. If you believe success in life depends on you, you will live stressed out and will stress out everyone else around you, but if you stay bowed down through disciplines like the discipline of gratitude, you will be raised up, and you will be empowered to do great things.
And verse 21 tells us that a lack of worship and thanksgiving led these people to futile thoughts. What does Paul mean by futile thoughts? A person who has futile thoughts is incapable of producing anything useful. Their thoughts are pointless. That almost sounds like a drug-induced state to me. If your thoughts are pointless, and you cannot focus on anything productive where does that leave you? It leaves you to be led not by the Spirit of God whom you have rejected and not even by your own intellect which you have abandoned, but it leaves you to be led by your impulses, your lusts which Paul highlights next as he described the development of sinful desires.
Look again at verse 24: “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.” Notice where the sinful desires resided. In their hearts. They had abandoned the truth which is an anchor for your heart, for your affections. Truth keeps you spiritually grounded. It keeps you tied to reality when temptation would suggest otherwise. They had also discontinued the worship of God which would have kept them conscious of the fact that God had a plan for their lives, a will for their lives, a destiny for them to fulfill. So, they turned their back on the truth and on the worship of God, and they became their own source as they quit being thankful to God. No wonder sin got ahold of their hearts. No wonder their hearts became dark. They rejected the things of the light with each decision to turn away from truth, from worship and from thanksgiving. Their minds then went dark and the light in their hearts was then snuffed out.
This I know: God won’t stand in our way when we are set on turning our backs on Him. When we turn our backs on truth, when we view worship as optional, when we won’t recognize God by thanking Him for His many blessings and when we move into the kind of spiritual stupor that bypasses our minds and involves the lowest level lustful instincts and we act on them God will not stand in our way. He has given us free will. He won’t stand in our way. He won’t, but we should not be surprised that, verse 18, the wrath of God was being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who do those things. I submit to you that God’s wrath includes Him simply letting you go your sinful way and allowing you to face the consequences that come from doing so.
Many people are praying for revival. I’m one of them. We sure need it, but revival will not come without repentance and a return to the things of God, without a return in our hearts to God as the supreme authority for our lives. Do you need to make a return today? Do you find yourself asking, “How did I get here?” How did I get to the place where I could degrade and disrespect my body and think that that was ok? How could my heart have grown so cold to the things of God? How could my mind have become so confused and unfocused?
Can you trace it back to a low level of gratitude for God’s work and blessing in your life? Can you trace it back to a lack of intentional, purposeful or passionate worship in your life?
Can you trace it back to a wandering from the truth in pursuit of your own preferences and ideals?
What is God saying to you right now?