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World gone mad – Bible reading: Romans 1:18-32

January 31, 2013

World gone mad – Bible reading: Romans 1:18-32
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31 January 2013
World gone mad

Prepare

Consider what God hates and why. Ask God what he hates in your life. Sit and listen.

Bible reading: Romans 1:18-32

Ignoring God Leads to a Downward Spiral

18-23 But God’s angry displeasure erupts as acts of human mistrust and wrongdoing and lying accumulate, as people try to put a shroud over truth. But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse. What happened was this: People knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand.
24-25So God said, in effect, “If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.” It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them-the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes!
26-27Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either-women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men-all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it-emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.
28-32Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care-worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!

Explore the Bible

Anger at sin
The newspapers again reported Saturday night’s bad social behaviour in the city. I cringed but was not shocked. Such behaviour has become ‘normal’. When did I stop expecting better? Have we excused too much wrongdoing, rationalising complacently until it becomes ‘acceptable’ practice?

God always takes sin seriously (v 18). If God was not angry about things that damage humanity he would not be a good and loving God. He cares enormously. His anger at sin has brought about his salvation rescue plan.

God’s wrath
Yesterday we remembered God’s generous love. God’s wrath is the other part of his righteous character.

Paul explains that, by denying God, people’s thinking has become defiled, leaving them unable to even recognise wrongdoing (vs 22,32). Intolerant of evil but respectful of their freedom of choice, God simply withdraws. He gives them over (vs 24,26,28) to godlessness – a state in which evil is left to run its course. Godless thinking has led to godless behaviour.

The godlessness described in verses 29–32 is too horribly familiar. Choosing self over God is our daily temptation. Surely we need to hate sin also. Which of the sins in the list do you need to tackle? We all need God’s righteousness to rescue us.
Respond

Choose to hate sin. Ask God for his help. If you struggle with a particular sin, make yourself accountable to someone discreet who will support you.
Deeper Bible study

Paul’s focus here is not on bad behaviour but on idolatry. For beneath human wrongdoing is the worship of something other than God. Whether the worship is of physical idols (vs 22,23), money, sex or power, the principle is the same. We allow something in the creation to take the place of the Creator and to shape our lives and our longings.

We cannot plead ignorance. The evidence of God’s existence and nature is everywhere around us, and human beings do know what is right and wrong. It’s when we suppress the truth, embrace lies, and begin to serve and worship something God has created that we lose contact with the true moral shape of human life. Sex becomes dominated by lust and rejection of boundaries, and relationships are damaged by every conceivable destructive motive (vs 29,30). The picture of life without faithfulness, love and mercy is bleak and profoundly disturbing (v 31).

Paul describes God’s judgement on human wrong living, but it is important to understand what that means. Here, God’s judgement doesn’t involve active intervention to punish wrongdoers. More chillingly, he simply leaves them to their idolatry (vs 24,26,28). He lets people have what they think they want. The result is bitter. The universe has a moral structure, and there are inbuilt penalties when we turn our backs on what we know is right or flout the principles God has breathed into creation. Lies distort justice, malice produces reprisal, greed prevents open relationships, depravity destroys lives and promiscuity breeds epidemics of sexually transmitted infections. The phrase ‘God gave them over’ simply spells out the consequences for individuals and society of choosing to go our own way in opposition to God. The challenge for Christians is to live with integrity, so that we can be prophetic witnesses to truth.
Bible in a year

Read the Bible in a year:

Exodus 13, 14

Matthew 23
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