SERMON FOR APRIL 19, 1998 FROM ROMANS 1:28-32
The past two weeks, we have examined the work of Christ in his triumphal entry, atoning death, resurrection and ascension. These works are at the very heart of the gospel. This week, we return to the apostle Paulís teaching on the glory of Godís grace in the gospel as we see it in his letter to the Romans. We have seen that Paul begins his treatment of the glory of Godís grace in the gospel with a discussion of the terror of Godís wrath. As we have said, this is the logical starting place to begin a presentation of the gospel. Without Godís wrath against sin, Godís grace is not necessary. Paul begins his treatment of the wrath of God in verse 18. ďThe wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men...Ē We could break down this section on Godís wrath into two major questions. The first is WHY is Godís wrath revealed and the second is HOW Godís wrath is revealed.
Paul indicates two root expressions of the reason for (or, the WHY of ) Godís wrath. All other expressions of unrighteousness come from these two evil roots. The first is that the unrighteousness of men causes them to ďsuppress the truth in unrighteousness.Ē Paul tells us that God has revealed himself through the creation in such a way as to compel humanity to believe that He exists and to worship Him. Based on what God has revealed to humanity, every person is accountable to know God and worship Him as God. The unrighteousness within people however, causes them to try to blot out the evidence of Godís existence and glory. This root expression of unrighteousness we said leaves people in the pitiful condition of being accountable to know and worship God, but unable and unwilling to do so.
The other root cause for Godís wrath or, the other root expression of unrighteousness within people is their sinful desire to worship other godís other than the true God. These false godís serve their own selfish desires. That is Paulís explanation for the WHY of the Godís wrath--people suppress the truth of the true God and run to worship false Gods. Every other sin can be traced back to those two roots. Having examined the WHY of Godís wrath, three weeks ago we began looking at the HOW of Godís wrath. Most think of Godís wrath in terms of hell fire and brimstone after a sinner dies. Paul indicates the wrath of God is being revealed right now in this present life against those who are not in relationship with Him.
Last time we saw from verses 24, 26 and 28 HOW God is revealing His
wrath against sin. In each verse it says that God in His wrath ďgave them overĒ to something. It is this ďgiving overĒ which reveals Godís wrath in this life. We saw that when God gives someone over to something, what He is doing is he is simply allowing the person to pursue the darkness of sin and to discover the painful consequences of that sin. He refuses to break the power of sin with all its destructive force in their lives. He gives them over to it.
We briefly looked at the horrors of being given over to sin and its consequences. We noted that sin, in spite of its promise of pleasure, gradually consumes a personís soul and destroys them bit by bit. We also saw that when God gives someone over to sin, He is also giving them over to the author of sin, Satan. He gives them over to Satan who acts as their cruel father, bottle feeding his helpless children the poison of sin. The most repulsive thing about this picture of Godís wrath is that the people involved are utterly oblivious to the fact that they are in the dressing room of hell. They are drinking the fuel of sin which will ignite forever in the fiery cauldron of hell. When God gives people over to sin, it is a horrendous thing. It is an anticipation of Godís final outpouring of wrath in the fires of hell.
As we moved from a more general understanding to the specifics of the text, we saw God reveals his wrath in this life by giving people over to insatiable desires within them which lead to sexual sin and perversion. We looked at the terrible distortion and cheap counterfeit sexual sin is from Godís beautiful design for sexual intimacy within marriage. We saw that this sin ďdegrades the bodyĒ (verse 24). It turns the human body which is given the sacred purpose of being the dwelling place of God, and twists it into being nothing more than a vehicle for the dispensing of moral filth. It reduces the human body to the level of an animal, controlled NOT by reason, but driven only by glandular lusts.
We saw the expression of Godís wrath in giving people over to homosexual sin. Paul calls it ďperversionĒ in verse 27. He calls it an ďexchange of the natural for the unnatural.Ē We looked at what Paul means by that. This area of sexual sin and perversion is but the first two expressions of HOW God reveals His wrath. A third expression of wrath in this life is seen in verses 28-32. Paul writes, ďFurthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.Ē
The third expression of Godís wrath as it is being revealed in this life is God giving people over to a ďdepraved mind.Ē What is a ďdepraved mind?Ē When we think of a personís mind, we tend to think of that which does their thinking for them. We think of it primarily as the analytical organ of the body. It takes in data and processes it. The New Testament understanding of the mind means more than that. The mind as Paul conveys it is much more than simply the intellectual organ of the body. It is also the organ responsible for ďmoral reasoning and making decisions.Ē The mind is not simply analytical, it is willful. It determines the direction of the person. In Romans 12:1-2, Paul says we are not to be conformed to this world. We are not to be squeezed into its mold--we are to be different, as morally different from the world as God is from Satan. Paul says the way we become different in Romans 12 is by the renewing of our mind. As our mind is renewed, as it is brought into conformity with Godís, that will keep us from being conformed to this worldís pattern of sin and evil. The mind is the steering wheel of the personís life. Whatever direction the mind is turned, the whole person will be turned.
God reveals His wrath in this life by giving people over to a depraved mind--by refusing to realign or reprogram their depraved mind. ďDepravedĒ means useless or worthless. In Titus 1:6 Paul uses this word as he denounces false teachers in the church. He says, ďThe profess to know God, but by their deed they deny him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.Ē Youíve heard the expression, ďthatís about as useless as much good as a screen door in a submarine.Ē A screen door in a submarine is useless--it serves no purpose and in fact makes the entire vessel unfit for its purpose. A depraved mind is like a submarine with a screen door. That which guides their moral decision making, what determines right from wrong, what acts as the compass for their life is worthless. Their main navigational tool for life is completely useless. That is part of the way God reveals His wrath against them--by giving them over to the moral guidance of this useless moral compass. If a personís main decision-making tool--their main organ for determining right from wrong, truth from error, darkness from light--if that is useless, what chance do they have for joy, contentment? What chance do they have for heaven? They are utterly lost and the compass they are using to find their way has been de-magnetized. Its a wretched picture isnít it?
If a person has a depraved mind, unable to determine right from wrong in any clear way, what chance do they, apart from Godís work in their life to savingly choose Christ? The answer is NONE!! That which would enable them to choose Christ is irreparably damaged--good for nothing. The thought that anyone could independently choose Christ, (as if choosing Christ were on par with choosing the pink curtains or the white curtains) would be a laughable notion if so many people didnít hold to it. People only choose Christ as God enables them to do so. Its all of grace by which people are saved.
Because the mind is the organ of the will, Paul is consistent when he says in verse 28, ďGod gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.Ē Your mind determines what you will do and people with depraved, useless minds do things which Paul says are ďnot proper.Ē The remainder of this section is devoted to some 21 things which people with a depraved mind do, think or feel. The first four in verse 29 serve as a general over view of the basic characteristics of a depraved mind. These people with depraved minds are filled with ďevery kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.Ē Those are all general classifications of evil under which more specific ones are grouped. Likewise, in verse 32 I think Paul is giving a summary of what a depraved mind does. ďAlthough they know Godís righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.Ē The specific expressions of a depraved mind are in verses 29b-31 sandwiched in between these two summaries.
Its risky to try to find clear, concrete patterns in a list like this. We need to be careful, but I do think there is some loose organization in these sins that will help us look at them together. As we look at all these results of a depraved mind, letís focus on three main effects having a depraved mind has a people. The first result or by product of a depraved mind is antisocial attitudes and behaviors which are grounded in self centeredness. Look at verse 29b. ďThey are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.Ē All those attributes communicate an inability to get along with other people. They are anti social. God created humanity to live in harmony with one another. The depraved mind produces people who cannot successfully live together in community. Any superficial scan of world history or even the morning paper will bear witness to this. Whether you look at the 40 or so wars which are raging at any given time, or the fact that most of us lock our house when we go to the store, it is clear that the depraved mind of humanity is working just as Paul says it would.
All these attributes are rooted in some way in the first attribute, envy. To envy is to in some way resent someone who has something you do not have but you WANT to have. This is utterly self-centered. People envy other people because they have more money or a nicer home or more talent or higher social standing or a happier family situation. Their envy turns to murder which according to Jesus is nothing more than hate acted out. We see murder connected with envy in James four. Verse two says, ďYou want something but donít get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.Ē Much of the murder that is committed, (whether it is the actual taking of a physical life or the hatred Jesus equates with murder,) when you boil it down to its basic cause, you will often find a form of envy or jealousy. If you have ever hated someone who hadnít hurt you, its probably because in some way you envy them. It would be hard to admit that, but its probably true.
After murder comes strife and again we can see a tie with envy. If you want to meet a person who causes strife, find someone who really wants something but canít have it. People who cause the most strife are often those who are frustrated about something they think they should have, but donít have. This is very similar to the trait of malice also on this list. Malice is the desire to hurt someone. People who donít get what they want take out their frustrations on those around them and sometimes at those people they identify as having what they really want or deserve. People are malicious because they feel they have been wronged in some way. They strike back because they did not get what they deserved. Another related attribute is deceit. People lie for the most part to get what they want but canít have through honest means. They want people to respect them, so they lie about themselves. They want more money, so they lie on the income tax. They want to sell their home at a higher price so they lie about its weaknesses. If you think back to the last time you used deceit, you will find you were motivated to have something you wanted, but didnít think you could get (as least as quickly) by being honest.
Do you hear how self centered all this is? Its all about what I want, what I deserve. How DARE you have something I donít when its clear that I deserve it much more than you. The depraved mind is useless in that it is self-centered, not God centered. Envy is a basic expression of self-centeredness and has many closely related children. Two other anti-social behaviors related to this are gossips and slanderers. These are two more outgrowths of self-centeredness.
The rest of verse 30 gives us another by-product of the depraved mind of unredeemed humanity. It says, ďThey are...God haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents;Ē
A depraved mind results in rebellion against authority which is rooted in self-deception. God called Adam and Eve live under his authority. In their unrighteousness, they rebelled and passed on to humanity a depraved mind which is constantly bucking authority. The fruit of the depraved mind is so clear today. Whether you look at feminism, Marxism, Socialism, humanism or many of the other ďismsĒ of our day, most of them draw their energy from a strong distaste for authority. Although the Bible is not absolute in this area, the overwhelming response God calls people to with respect to authority is, SUBMIT. As weíve said before, when Paul wrote Romans 13 calling people to submit to the government, he was calling on his immediate audience to submit to Nero, not exactly a girl scout.
Godís prescribed general response to authority is humble submission, but the depraved mind rebels against it. They are God haters because God is the ultimate authority and since they canít run God off His throne, they hates him. To be insolent is to be insulting or disrespectful. Generally, this is aimed at authority. Instead of submission and respect, the insolent person shows disrespect and hurls insults. To be arrogant and boastful is to be a person who feels they are better than anyone else. This brings an immediate clash with authority. Who is going to submit to a person they consider to be inferior to them? The depraved mind, when new authority structures are established, invent new ways to rebel against them. The internet is fueled by pornography. This influential new tool of communication was born defiled by those depraved minds who invent new ways of doing evil. These people are disobedient to parents, the most basic authority units in society. Depraved minds rebel against authority.
A final result of depraved minds is seen in verse 31. Paul says, ďthey are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.Ē Depraved minds bring isolation and detachment from God and man. We see this separation in these words. The word translated ďsenselessĒ means ďsomeone who cannot comprehend the will of God.Ē They are spiritually without discernment--they are in a different orbit than God--they are detached from Him. They donít get Him. To be faithless literally means ďto refuse to abide by covenants and treaties.Ē The depraved mind causes people to be cut off from the norms of society and its standards. The word Paul uses for ďheartlessĒ is probably a specialized word which means to lack affection for family members. The person who has allowed their mind to wander a long way down the path of depravity finds they cannot even love their family members well. They are isolated even from their own family. Finally, to be ďruthlessĒ is to be detached and separated from other peopleís pain. The depraved mind is not compassionate. It does not feel the pain of another--it is indifferent, even hardened against the pain of others.
The reason for this detachment is that the depraved mind is self-oriented, not God oriented. The more and more self oriented you are, the less need you think you have for other people. Other people exist to make your life easier--they are to be used to further whatever your agenda may be. This brings detachment and separation from others. A depraved mind results in a self-centered, antisocial person, a self deceived, anti authority person and a person who is further and further separating themselves from God others.
The person with a depraved mind (and that includes all lost people) are really pitiful. That which they rely upon to give them moral guidance is irreparably broken. The only thing worse than being lost without a compass is being lost with a compass that you think is correct, but is in fact taking you further and further into oblivion. That is the ultimate picture of futility. This explains why sinners do the things they do. They are under the wrath of God who allows them to follow the inclinations of their depraved, useless minds. In the process, they keep racking up sins and piling up for themselves more and more judgment in hell.
This is the plight of the person under the wrath of God. What are we doing about it? Paul in verses 18-32 lays out what is wrong with them and what it is to be living under the wrath of a holy God. Do we see the futility of their lives as Paul lays it out here and fall on our face before God pleading for their souls? Do we share the truth with them? Do we invite them to evangelistic crusades? Let me briefly give one more point of application. The sinner has a depraved mind, unable to steer them in the right direction. The believer has been given a new mind, the mind of Christ which enables them to follow a holy course of life.
Given this, why is it that so many so called Christians allow their minds to be polluted by the world? Why is it that so many Christians whose minds God has reprogrammed take their minds and fill them with the fallen values of the world? Virtually every popular secular television program, every movie, every secular book and every other secular media outlet in some way corrupts these precious minds which act as our moral compass. What are we putting into our minds? Are we so arrogant as to take our minds, that which God has cleansed with the precious blood of His Son, and before His face plunge them back into the moral sewer of this world? Is it any wonder why so many so called Christians are drifting morally?--the blacks and whites are getting pretty gray for so many in the church. Why? Because they are not only not renewing their minds, they are allowing the filth of this world to permeate them.
Are you guarding your mind? Are you keeping your moral compass clean? Are you renewing your mind by soaking your head in the word and God-centered fellowship? May God give the church grace to protect that which He has made new and to be his agents of mercy to those who are lost in the depravity of their minds.
Page last modified on 12/31/2001
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