The Second Sunday after Trinity| Rev. Rolf Preus| June 1, 2008| Romans 1: 18-25
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”
Love is the defining virtue of the Christian religion. God is love. To know God is to know love. What are we without God? We are without love.
This is simple. Yet many of the smartest people in the world don’t understand it. God is love. If you want to know love you must know God. And it’s not good enough to invent your own god. If you fashion a god according to your own notions you will not find the true God and you won’t find true love either. The only way to find true love is to find the true God. The only way to find the true God is to find him in Jesus, specifically, in Jesus laying down his life for us.
This is where we find forgiveness of our sins. With forgiveness comes peace with God. Peace with God brings us peace with one another. All of this comes from where Jesus dies for us sinners. This is also where we find eternal life.
The wrath of God is gone. But apart from Christ laying down his life for us the wrath of God is very much a present reality. As the Apostle writes:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Jesus bore the wrath of God against sinners on the cross. He took it away. This is the gospel truth. But where this truth is suppressed the wrath of God remains. It is revealed from heaven. It comes upon every sort of ungodliness and unrighteousness of man. God punishes sins. He does so in time and in eternity.
His anger is no fable or fiction. Recently a popular television preacher was held up for public ridicule for suggesting that the destruction of New Orleans was divine retribution against that city’s toleration of open homosexuality. The very idea that God is real and that he actually punishes sin is offensive to the modern mind. We need to point out that we don’t know the mind of God except as he has revealed his will to us in the Holy Scriptures. So I must confess ignorance as to why God sends specific storms, earthquakes, and other devastating visitations. But the fact that God punishes sinners in this world is beyond dispute. “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
They suppress the truth. They deny the true God. God’s invisible attributes are seen by what he has made. The very existence of this word points to a Creator. Those who invented the teaching that we evolved from the animals did not do so for any scientific reasons. They did so for religious reasons. The existence of this universe shows the almighty power of an intelligent Creator. Those who don’t want to deal with God’s existence need a way to explain away the evidence that God has given us of his existence. They want an excuse for denying God, his justice, his judgment, and his anger against sin. So they come up with what appears to the foolish as a plausible explanation for the existence of an orderly world that leaves God out of the explanation.
Evolution is taught as fact in public schools across America. You can’t visit a state park or read any kind of public information about geology or ancient history that isn’t filled with evolutionary notions. Scientists who try to challenge the prevailing orthodoxy of the evolutionist establishment are silenced, mocked, and persecuted. Even religious leaders buy into this unproved and improvable theory and insist that there is no conflict between evolution and Christianity.
Several years ago I taught a seminary class in Ukraine to students who had been raised in the Soviet Union. When I told them that there were churches in America that condoned and even supported the teaching of evolution they were amazed. These men had grown up under the tyranny of Communism. The Communist regime had tried to disprove Christianity and the existence of God by indoctrinating the children in the teaching of evolution. Those young men knew the teaching of evolution as Communist propaganda. After all, if God doesn’t exist then the crimes of the Communists are no longer criminal. This is one reason why Communism is atheistic. The very existence of God proves that the Worker’s Paradise is a devilish hoax.
The denial of God’s existence is never a merely intellectual thing. David writes in Psalm 14,
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.
The denial of God does not come about because the evidence for God’s existence is lacking. The opposite is the case. God has made his existence known to all people. They know he exists. They know they are accountable to him. This is why people deny God. They don’t want to be accountable. They are afraid of facing the One who sees what they do and knows what they think. People may make an intellectual argument but it holds no water. As the Apostle says:
. . . what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse . . .
The widespread acceptance of evolution by the educated classes in America is one reason for the decline of the moral authority of the Church. God’s law governing parental authority, issues of life and death, sexual behavior, and other things is grounded in the creation itself. God’s created order teaches us that we get our identity from God, not from the animals. It teaches us that parental authority is divine authority. It teaches us that marriage and the intimacy that belongs to marriage is between one man and one woman. It teaches us to value all human life and to defend the weak against the strong. All of this is grounded in creation.
Once the biblical account of creation is set aside the Creator himself is ultimately denied. This is what we see among us. Idolatry isn’t just the fashioning of images in the likeness of human beings, birds, and animals, as the Apostle Paul describes in our text. Idolatry is the replacement of the true God with an idol. It may be an idol within the mind not formed by hands. Often the idol becomes the human being.
Once the evidence from creation for God’s existence is denied we lose the truth that creation teaches us about its Creator. We end up with a distorted understanding of what it means to be human. Love is redefined. It is no longer the self-giving love of the Creator who took on our flesh and blood and laid down his life for us. Love becomes self-gratification. The other exists to please oneself in whatever way one wants to be pleased. This is why sexual immorality becomes the norm among those who deny God as Creator. They love to point out the hypocrisy among Christians who fall into sexual sin. Their consciences accuse them and they need to deflect that accusation by leveling it against others. This is why Hollywood loves to portray Bible believing Christians as hypocrites. Having abandoned faith in God they want to silence those who have not.
They want to be free from religious strictures that bind them. They want to be free to discover their own form of human existence. They want to be free but they are enslaved to their own desires. Listen once more to St. Paul, the Apostle of Christ:
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
God gave them over to it. God punishes sin with sin. “You want to live a life without me?” God asks. Have at it. See where it leads. See its fruit. The pleasure it promises is a lie. There is no pleasure at the end – only bitterness. What paraded itself as love was nothing more than selfishness. True love was never found. Deception gives way to anger. Anger gives way to hatred. Hatred is the poison of death itself. So they are the living dead, stumbling on the road to an eternity in hell where true love cannot enter.
Life without God is life without love. It is vain. It is empty. God created us in love. It was his love that sent his only begotten Son to become our brother and to live the holy life of pure sacrificial love all the way to the death on the cross. It is divine love that invites us to the supper to eat and to drink of that body and blood by which eternal life was won for us. It is divine love that forgives us all of our sins freely on account of Christ’s life and death of love. This divine love penetrates our hearts and changes us so that we want to worship God in truth and to love one another.
This is living! Blessed be our Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter for giving us a real life to live here in time and hereafter in eternity! Amen