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An Inconvenient Truth And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient. Romans 1:28 Here is the last of three occurrences where God is said to have given man up or over to his own pursuits. The first occurrence is in verse 24, where it says, God gave them up to uncleanliness, the second in verse 26, where it says, God gave them up to vile passions, and the last in verse 28, where it says, God gave them over to a debased mind. Of this giving over we observe: 1. That it is consequential. Mankind warrants this act of reprobation on account of their sin. Let us not be confused or deceived in any way, God's wrath and retribution are due to the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. It was man that willfully allied with Satan in open rebellion against God, and it is man that continues in ungodliness and unrighteousness. 2. That it is judicial. God's holy justice requires retribution. Justice is an attribute of God. Charnock reminds us that "God is oftener styled Holy than Almighty." Pink says, "Because God is holy He hates all sin. He loves everything which is in conformity to His laws, and loathes everything which is contrary to it...It follows, therefore, that He must necessarily punish sin." With God, sin is personal. You can hear His indignation as He says, I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of My hand. For I lift up My hand to heaven, and say, I live forever. If I whet My glittering sword, and Mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to Mine enemies, and will reward them that hate Me (Deut 32:39-41). His vengeance burns against men, as we read, The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood; The LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man (Ps. 5-6). God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day. 3. That it is cumulative. God's successive acts are cumulative. The more God gives men up, the greater sin abounds, and the greater sin abounds, the more God gives men up, and the angrier God becomes. Here is found a cumulative consequence of man's wickedness, greater and greater ungodliness, greater and greater unrighteousness, so that God's wrath compounds and His retribution grows. Out situation is more dire than we thought. 4. That it is reprobative. It is not a passive work of God, but an active work of delivering us up to the bondage of our wills. Adam and Eve were driven from God's presence to the barren world their sins had corrupted, to serve Satan all the days of their lives, and to reap the consequences of their sin. Likewise, God once led Israel into captivity for her vile and godless pursuits and handed her over to punitive masters. In this fashion God leads us into the hands of the devil himself, to enslave us unto unforetold evils. With insatiable glee we fly headlong to our own destruction, wantingly laying hold of all the evil designs of our wretched wills. Like a lamb led to slaughter we willfully advance to our own demise. In no way is God, who foreordains our path, culpable in our desserts, they are wholly ours to pursue. Haldane says, "It proceeds from His justice, and it is this view to be considered as punishment." Or, as Luther says, "He permits the perverse sinner to break His commandments all the more viciously in order that He might punish him the more severely...But this takes place according to God's righteous judgment, for it is His most severe punishment to give up a sinner to him whom He hates most, (Namely the Devil)." Luther clarifies this by saying, "The punishment, however, is not properly the sin itself, but the reprobation which is connected with it." If we were to ask, "What is the purpose of this text ad what is the point of this sermon," we would answer, "To convince us of our helplessness and grieve us over our own culpability in our reprobation, so that we might rightly understand God's justice, and clearly see Him as the worker of goodness." A subordinate consequence of this text is to explain the world we live in and the utter futility of men to escape it, to show that apart from the power of God in the gospel, man cannot escape his condemnation. So, we say: Doctrine. Apart from God's powerful grace, men are led by God to their own worthy demise. God's wrath has led the nations to their own desired, inescapable ruin. Getting what we want is the worst thing that can happen! That God would give us what we desire, and thrice over hand us over to the consequences of our vile pursuits, is the most punitive end of our rebellion. Bondage was the consequence of God's wrath. Salvation the consequence of His mercy. So, we affirm two truths: I. Man is in inextricable bondage. We are hopelessly enslaved. The previous passage showed us to be inexcusable on two accounts, one, Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them, and two, Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened, the conclusion being, that we are without excuse. On account of our condemnation for our foolishness and idolatry, God has judiciously acted to reprobate all men. Our sin and God's wrath have led us into captivity. Man cannot break free. The power of sin and Satan are too great. God's wrath cannot be expunged. We cannot escape nor can we ever desire to do so, because our vile passions are our pursuits. We are therefore led by God down the labyrinth of divine retributive justice. There is no way out. There is no one on earth that can settle our debt. There is no one amongst us that can set us free. See how this is proven by these three ominous statements of the text, that show the emphatic result of God's wrath for our crimes, as we are led into the bondage of our wills, noting that God's wrath: 1. It leads us to be ruled by a covetous heart. We are governed and controlled by our lusts, our desires, and what we insatiably covet. Man's passions rule his reason. Despite the injury we bring to ourselves and others, with unrestrained lust we pursue our selfish wants. We are ruled by our blind passions. God sets us in the hands of this world's vile master, who delights in fueling these vile desires. So, we lust for this life and its worthless wares. We take what we want and we want what we take. Is there anything more vile or repulsive? Our culture is the consummate example of such lusts. It champions such pursuits. We glorify sin and the criminals and rebels that commit them, anarchists are our heroes, the rich and powerful those we long to immulate, this is our entertainment and what we find intriguing. ἐπιθυμίαις τῶν καρδιῶν speaks to a strong, a controlling power, which bind our darkened hearts. But, as if that is not enough, we find that God's retributive wrath also: 2. It leads mankind to lustful passions. These are instable lusts for that which is convenient, or rather, that which is not. Look around us. Everywhere. The internet is fueled with every vile lust and practice. Like unrestrained beasts our lustful hearts yearn for the unspeakable. We hide these vile lusts, but they drive us and flood our minds. The devil with his minions fuel ruthless, lascivious, unrestrained lusts, driving men like the demons did the swine to their own destruction. We are ruled by our lusts and passions. Is there any wonder that our entertainment contains every foul form of unspeakable deviant sexual act? And our culture is the worst! Once men did it at night, in private, hidden in the recesses of the most wretched corner. But now? Now it is celebrated! And if that were not enough, we find that God's retributive justice: Lustful passions are those uncontrolled, blinding lusts that drive men everywhere to unspeakable acts, so that none are ever surprised. As if our hearts being ensnared with uncontrollable, covetous desires were not enough, add to this vile passions that drive us, and we find that this bed of our misery is our just desert given by the hand of an angry God. You want it? Here, you can have it, it will drive you and consume you till you die as Israel did with the vile flesh of your desires between your very teeth. Then, we find that God's retribution also: 3. It leads mankind to futile minds. ἀδόκιμον νοῦν, the King James calls it a reprobate mind. But it is worse than it sounds, for our minds are steeped and filled with futility. They are vane. We have no lasting good thought. We only think of ourselves. We are as slaves relegated to a life of diffidence. Day after day futilely pursuing that which kills. Thus, we shall find Paul say with the Psalmist, there are none good, no not one, there are all together become unprofitable. Here is what Luther termed the Bondage of the Will. This is the world we live in, where we see God's wrath all around displayed, evidenced best when He removes all restraint and we with insatiable lusts are driven by the devil to pursue the most inconvenient unspeakable evil. We become a people and society described as given over to: All unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Sound familiar? It should. Use: For our understanding, this is the world around us. Look at what the selfish desires of our hearts have merited us. Is there any greater demonstration of God's wrath than to see that He has set us loose to pursue our own wicked lusts? It always leads to two ends, idolatry and captivity. Adam and Eve's lusts led to a wicked progeny that advanced to unspeakable wickedness. This is the situation Paul describes as he introduces the gospel. Mankind is enslaved. His will, his mind, his life, they all are in bondage, enslaved by the sovereign will and retributive justice of God's wrath, who has handed us over to be driven to our own ruin. One glaring example of what we speak is Esau. He was one that was ensnared by his own insatiable, violent desires. Despite the consequences of his actions, he drove himself further and further into moral bankruptcy. When all was said and done, he was remembered as the brother that lost all for the moment. Hebrews warns its readers, Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord...Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright (Heb. 12:14f). A lost blessing, a stolen inheritance, as Esau was one driven by insatiable, earthly passions. There was no escape, the situation was hopeless. And so it is for all men, enslaved to their lusts and vane hearts, until the gospel trumpet is sounded. Then, we find: II. God alone can set the captive free. As our situation was hopeless, God acted. As Isaiah said, He saw that there was no man, And wondered that there was no intercessor; Therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; And His own righteousness, it sustained Him (Is. 59:16). Luther says it this way, writing to Erasmus, who was a champion of man's ability, "This, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: that God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His infallible will. By this thunderbolt, free will is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces." It is God who saves, it is He that wills to save, it is God that has brought salvation to those of His good pleasure. Salvation then is: 1. By God's will alone. It was Zechariah that said, The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing (Zech 3:17). It is God who wills to save, not man, as it says so plainly, So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy (Rom. 9:16), and again in John 1, which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God, and again in John 6, No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. The gospel breaks through into the darkness. It sounds a shrill herald to the enslaved, declaring that a strong man has come, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, who will save His people from their sins. As you can see from our text, no slave can will his own escape. The Lord once said to Israel, Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil (Jer. 13:23). We cannot, as Jesus told Nicodemus, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God (Jn. 3:3). God alone saves. 2. By His power alone. God breaks the bonds of our captivity. He subdues the devil. He renews our dead souls. He imparts to us a heart of flesh rather than of stone. He renews our wills to good pursuits. It is His Spirit that now drives us. But we did not break the chains! It was God that set us free. God did not inquire for Israel's help in their extrication from Egypt, He alone drove them out! The Lord says in Isaiah, And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me. How did He bring this salvation? By enlisting Israel's might and help? No, but as it says in Isaiah, Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel, and thy garments like him that treadeth in the winefat? I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment. For the day of vengeance is in mine heart, and the year of my redeemed is come (Is. 63:1f). 3. By His righteousness alone. It was never on account of our goodness, but on the account of another, a righteous Man, who imputed to us a righteousness not our own. Not a single act, not a single exercise of the will, but we are driven by the Spirit of God to do good, as Paul says, For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has foreodained that we should walk in them. Not a drop of our own blood, not a drop of our own sweat, but it is His righteousness imputed to us, and received by faith alone. This is no trivial matter, no non-essential doctrine, this is what Luther called it, the doctrine upon which the church stands or falls. Sovereign grace! Grace alone! 4. By His grace alone. We are led out of bondage by the grace of God alone. As we enter into eternal life we can surely attribute all of our salvation to God alone. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Could it have been said any clearer? We did not save ourselves! It was all of God's sovereign grace! Use: For our delight let us dwell free unto righteousness in the kingdom of God. Live free from sin. Cast off the bonds of death. Wear no yoke of your evil taskmaster of old. As Paul said to those in Corinth, Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty (2 Cor. 6:14). Look. Watch the world. See the misery of the enslaved. And now, rejoice that you are free! How could we ever go back? Why would we ever want to? Free, free! We are free in Christ!
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