The prophet in ancient Israel once described the wickedness of the nation by saying the people had, “lost their ability to blush.” Sin and corruption had become so commonplace that nothing shocked them anymore. No amount of perversion caused them embarrassment. I’m concerned because I think we are there. I remember the day in 1984 when a friend called me early in the morning and asked if I had read the morning paper. I said that I had not, why? He told me that a very popular preacher in Waco, one we had heard many times at several conferences, had been forced to resign his church due to a longstanding practice of homosexual relationships. Now, 25 years later, when I hear such news my response is, “Really who was it this time?” It’s not that I don’t care. Not that it is not devastating to a pastor, his family, the church, and the Gospel but I’ve grown accustom to hearing it. The real grief is the grief of recognizing the hardness of my own heart. I was watching the news one day last week when the story broke about the house in Cleveland, Ohio were they went in to arrest a man suspected of rape. He was not home but they found 6 bodies in varying stages of decomposition. I believe the count is now 10 bodies and a skull and they are still looking. You turn on the radio and hear there has been another drive by shooting – another young person dead. Or there is a report of a teacher, a pastor, a priest, coach or trusted individual who is suspected of molesting children. Or there is breaking news of a business leader or politician involved in scandal. The story usually begins with something like, “Shocking news this evening…” but it’s not shocking. “A grizzly discovery late this afternoon…” but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. Jaded, hardened, unfeeling due to the fact we’ve come to live with and accept wickedness. Even worse, we don’t even call it wickedness – it’s just life.
That’s the problem with living in darkness. After a while you don’t notice the absence of light. Your eyes adjust and you make do. Our world is dark and the darkness is increasing. Sin is never satisfied. It is ever devolving. It grows more depraved. It tightens its grip. The only thing holding it at bay is the grace and mercy of God. That’s what makes the judgment of God so frightening. It is frightening because according to Romans 1 – the judgment of God begins with His removing the restraint on sin and giving man over to his own wants and desires. But wait a minute if God gives man what he wants – won’t that make him happier by allowing him to indulge himself in his own desires? One might think so but sin destroys. Sin cannot bring lasting happiness, only God can do that. Man getting what he wants proves to be disastrous. That is the point of our text found in Romans 1 beginning with verse 24.
Text: Romans 1:24-32
- Paul is writing a letter of introduction.
- Outlining his gospel – the message he has been given to proclaim.
- In chapters 1-8 he deals with sin, salvation and sanctification.
- Chapters 1-3 come to the conclusion that, “All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory.”
Romans 1 is a disturbing passage because he plunges immediately into the depths of sin and perversion. Why? Why start here? Because the brilliance and glory of the good news of God grace is best displayed against the backdrop of the darkness of man’s soul and the depth of his depravity. Have you ever gone into a jewelry store to look at a ring? They usually will place the ring on a pad covered with black velvet. Why? To make the ring sparkle. To play its brilliance against the darkness. That’s what Paul does with the Gospel. In order to fully appreciate the glory and wonder of the Gospel you need to see it against the backdrop of sin and corruption.
Paul’s point in our text is clear…
Thesis: When God gives up on man, allowing him to pursue his heart’s desire, it leads to disaster both now and forever.
Let me point out a couple of things.
- Unrestrained sin leads to profound sensual perversion. (1:24-27)
- Unrestrained desire give birth to an endless variety of sin. (1:28-31)
- Unrestrained desire poisons the heart and mind with a twisted understanding of right and wrong. (1:32)
Why would God give us up to such wickedness?
He does so because when darkness prevails, when despair and violence are widespread men and women are most recognize the depth of their sin, the hopelessness of their condition and flee to Christ. He gives us up to such despair so that we might give ourselves to His grace.
Do you remember the promise of Isaiah?
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
The first century world had sunk into the darkness of despair. Men had turned from the true God to gods of their own making. Suddenly one night against the black sky surrounding Bethlehem declared the coming of light in the person of the Lord Jesus, the righteousness from God had come as the remedy for the unrighteousness of man.
That’s the Gospel and it is for you.