Romans Lesson 20 - Saltwater
Have you ever taken a plunge into the ocean and swallowed a mouthful of salt water? It might have looked refreshing and cool, but it only made you thirstier. In this message Stephen shows how the world's vain philosophies and empty pursuits are just like that salt water.
Robert Lois Stevenson once wrote, “Every man shall one day be seated at a banquet table of consequences.”
In Romans chapter 1, verses 24-32 you discover a vivid description of what those consequences look like. Paul spreads the table with a list of sins that make us all so uncomfortable that most would rather skip it altogether.
Now you might be thinking, this list in Romans 1 verses 24-32 are not consequences, but the sins that people commit. In a way that’s true. But in a very real sense, these sins happen to be nothing less than the consequences that enslave the life of any person who refuse to honor God.
From adultery to arrogance; from lesbianism to gossip; from idol worship to lying and deceit – Paul spreads the banquet table and says in effect, “If you want to get rid of God – here’s what you have to look forward to. . .unrestrained evil, unrepentant wickedness, uninhibited perversion.”
I am led by God to refuse the temptation to hurry through this passage – even though we will hold our breath and hang our heads in shame at times. We will all discover ourselves in this text; none of us will go unmentioned, or unnoticed.
And I believe that if God didn’t want us to expound on the dark side our sinful nature, He wouldn’t have inspired Paul to spend nearly half of chapter 1 bringing it out into the open with descriptive words.
Now back in verse 21, all of mankind knows about the existence of God, through creation and conscience. But they refuse to place Him on the throne – they refuse to thank Him for His kindness – they suppress the truth about Him – they have said to God, “Leave us alone in the darkness – we have chosen our sin, instead of the Savior – leave us alone!”
And so God does!
Three times you read the chilling words, “God gave them up/over (v. 24); God gave them over (v. 26); God gave them over (v. 28).
You need to understand that man gave up on God before God gave up on man. Man chose to ignore God in his rebellion and God allows man to ruin himself in immorality.
We don’t want a holy righteous God! Then have a seat at this awful table of consequences – for as sure as I’m standing here, you will find yourself eating at this banquet.
You cannot trifle with the truth of God’s word and escape unharmed. You abandon God? God will abandon you! Oh, the tragedy of those words, “God gave them over.”
Now the Greek word for this phrase is the word paradidomi (paradidwmi). It’s actually a word that comes from the Roman system of law. It means to be handed over to suffer the payment of their crimes.
It was used in Mark 1:14 to refer to John the Baptist being put in jail or taken into custody; it’s used in an illustration given by the Lord Jesus who said in Matthew 5:25, “Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.”
The word is used in reference to fallen angels or demons; some who were immediately judged – in 2 Peter 2:4. “...God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.”
So when Paul writes in Romans chapter one verse 24; “Therefore, God gave them over. . .”, this is an act of a righteous judge who takes unrepentant sinners and abandons them to their own undoing.
The verb could be understood passively – in the sense of God releasing man to float into the current of sin which progressively picks up speed until he rushes over the edge of some massive waterfall and crashes on the rocks below.
It can also be understood in an active sense – that is God doesn’t just release man to float away – He actually fashions the boat and boards man on it and that boat rushes over the waterfall.
God has created his moral and physical laws – some lead to life and others lead to destruction.
God is not only passively involved in allowing man to destroy himself in sin, but actively involved in judging sinful man with the awful consequences and penalties of sins.
So man wanders around spiritually seeking, with unfulfilled passion; in misery, diseased and despairing.
Man has said, “We will choose to ignore our conscience with it’s moral whisperings; we will choose to dethrone the Creator with a god made in our image and more conducive to our sin; we don’t want anything to do with Creator God.”
When God abandons them He simply gives them their wish!
There is something about this word, paradidomi – that has within it the nuance of sadness. It describes the feeling of the father whose son turned his back on him and said, “Leave me alone – I want to go as far away from you as I can!” And the father gave him his wish and his inheritance. And so the son went into a far country – and there he lived it up with his money. He bought his friends and he bought his pleasure until he spent everything he had . . . and ended up in a pig pen, covered with filth abandoned by his cheap friends, trying now to satisfy his empty stomach with pig food. He was seated his banquet table of consequences. He had destroyed his life and ruined his youth. Apart from the mercy of his father he would live the rest of his life, a slave. But the father gave him mercy and robed him with grace.
While you’re still living, my friend – you can stop chasing the mirage of the world system and run to the Father and ask for mercy and He will forgive you and clean you up and put on your finger the ring of redemption – the sandals of salvation.
But if you want to swim in the current of sin God will abandon you to the waterfall. You choose the country far away from God and there is a pig pen in your future.
Paul describes it in chapter 1, verses 24-32.
He begins the description of this banquet table of consequences by saying, in verse 24, “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.”
Did you notice the progression? When you dishonor God, you dishonor yourself, first in your heart and then with your body.
The lusting in the heart that is unfettered by a conscience – you remember, the conscience has been choked off and silenced – what once brought a pang of guilt no longer even coughs out a warning.
The words lust (epithumia) and impurity (akarthasia) are words, in this context that refer to sins of the flesh:
These unfulfilled cravings might be in the form of drug abuse or pornography of sexual immorality – the point Paul makes is that when you do not long after God you will long after something else.
You think – this will satisfy me. But it is saltwater to thirsty lips. You drink and you’re still thirsty – you drink again and you’re still thirsty. And the saltwater begins to destroy you from the inside out.
Society in our generation is consumed with the sexual content and activity. I read this past month that 68% of all television shows have something to do with it; 89% of any movie you watch features some form of it; and 8 out of 10 times you see it, it will be between single people or between married people with someone to whom they are not married.
If you’re like my wife and me, you now consider even the commercials to be out of bounds.
The trouble with sexual sin, or the lusting of the heart, is that it is never satisfied.
When the heart becomes hardened and the thrill is gone; forbidden pleasure needs more and more, like a drug addict who needs higher and higher doses to get that original high. Sinners have to go to more and more extremes to get the same sense of pleasure.
We’re in the process of watching our culture go deeper and deeper into sexual darkness and deviancy.
World Magazine (March 10, 2001) reported that this past years Oscar winner for best picture was a story that hinged on a man who rediscovers his vitality by lusting after his daughter’s underage friend. Nowhere, this review said, “does the movie present the main character as a repulsive figure, as movies usually depict pedophiles, and the audience [is led to be] definitely on his side. It also reviewed a recent Hollywood attempt to recast an 18th century Frenchman named Marquis de Sade as a man who wasn’t all that bad in a movie called “Quills”. True history however reveals that this man was a pornographer who tortured women and molested children. But the movie played him as a champion of free speech.
Our sexually inundated society is simply reaching for the same thrill, but it’s taking more graphic stuff to get the same high. And in the process, sinful man sexually dishonors and abuses one another; abuses one another through crime; abuses one another through violence.
One author wrote, “As mankind draws further and further away from God, God gives them over to the consequences of their spiritual and moral rebellion against Him. Instead of adhering to God’s standards of moral purity, they attempt to remove the consequences of their impurity. They turn to counseling, to medicine, to psychoanalysis, to drugs, to alcohol, to travel, and to a host of other means to escape what cannot be escaped except by the removal of their sin. [And all the while] sin destroys personal relationships, marriages, families, cities and nations. Sin degrades man, debases the image of God in which he is made, and strips him of dignity, peace of mind, and a clear conscience.”
John MacArthur, Romans Vol. 1; Moody Press; Chicago, Ill. p. 100
“The hearts of the sons of men”, Solomon wrote, “are full of evil and insanity is in their hearts throughout their lives.” (Ecclesiastes. 9:3)
You want to see the insanity of lust? You want an illustration of how sexual immorality deceives your intellect and darkens your discerning ability? Look at Samson!
In Judges chapter 16, the Bible records that lustful, sinful Samson is involved with a woman named Delilah. She’s on the payroll of the Philistines, he just doesn’t know it yet. She has been promised 11,000 pieces of silver if she can find out why he’s so strong. She comes to him one night and says, “Samson, you say you love me (v. 15), then we shouldn’t keep any secrets should we...how can your strength be taken away?” And Samson says, “Well, if you bind me with new ropes that haven’t been used yet, my strength will be gone.” So he eventually fell asleep, she went down to the Lowe’s and bought 7 new ropes – fortunately their open 24 hours – then, in the night, she awakens him, “Samson, the Philistines are coming after you.” He tries to get up – but, what’s this, new rope is tied all around him – he snaps them and takes care of the Philistines. Now will Samson put 2 and 2 together and come up with his rope secret that only Delilah knew about? No! He says, “Not her!” Later she comes and says, “Samson, tell me the truth, what takes away your strength . . .” He said, “Braid my hair into seven braided . .. and I’ll be as weak as water.” Later that night, after Delilah finished his hair, she said, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you.” He woke up and fought off the Philistines and noticed that his hair had been braided. Would he figure it out? No! And he eventually tells his secret and ends up blinded – his eyes put out by the Philistines and thrown in jail. A picture of the blindness of sin over a person’s life and the enslavement of a person given to lust.
Is it any wonder that Solomon would later write, perhaps thinking of Samson, “The man who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense.” That’s the Biblical way of saying, “He is an idiot.” Not a very kind word, but it is the truth.
There isn’t anything more idiotic than sin. And sexual sin will make a fool out of you. It will destroy and dishonor and deceive.
Sinful pleasure promises something it cannot finally produce. It cannot satisfy. For the moment, or in the case of the wayward son, over a matter of years, it brought pleasure and mirth and friendship. But eventually, it brought pain and guilt and suffering.
My earliest childhood memory was when I was around 4 years old. I can still picture the bathroom counter and my older brother – who had snuck out of bed with me – climbing up on top of that counter. Everyone in the house was asleep. He opened the medicine cabinet and pulled down a new bottle of children’s aspirin – the kind they used to make that tasted like orange candy – it was also a time before they invented child proof lids. My brother, who was about 5 ½ years old, and I divided the bottle up and ate every last one of them – thinking we had really gotten into the candy and fooled everybody – then we went back to bed and fell asleep. My grandmother, who was spending the night in our home that evening, got up later to use that same bathroom and saw the empty bottle lying on the counter. The next thing I remember, and can still remember it to this day, was lying on a cold metal stand at the hospital, with my older brother, the drug dealer, lying on a stand next to me having our stomachs pumped out. I remember being terrified and in tremendous pain. It could have been disastrous. My life was in mortal danger and I didn’t even know it. I was in desperate need of intervention. What I thought was delicious could have led to death.
Maybe you’re here this morning and you are in the process of being consumed by sexual sin – but at the moment it seems good and right and the thing to do. Sin tastes delicious, but it is deadly.
I’m here to intervene in your slumber. It may be painful to hear it, but I must tell you, that sin will defraud you and deceive you and it will ultimately destroy you.
According to Paul, sins against the body includes not only those sins against your body, but against the bodies of others.
The word translated “impurity” can actually refer to the decay that occurs within the grave. It could include actions of violence against the bodies of others for the sake of personal satisfaction or selfishness. I believe that these things can best be described as the betrayal of one person against another.
Our culture is filled with unrestrained betrayal today:
- Abortion is the betrayal of the unborn by the mother and father and society at large today that endorses and encourages it.
In our world it is against the law to crush the egg of an unborn eagle but you can dismember the body of an unborn child.
- Infanticide – the betrayal of babies by the parents
This step downward was being practiced in Rome when Paul wrote this letter. The Roman father had the right to allow the newborn to live or be given in sacrifice to the gods; to be placed on the doorstep where during the night pimps would come and take them and raise them for prostitution or, simply thrown away.
You might think, infanticide of any form could never happen in our world! I wish it were so.
Even now, chairing a department of ethics at Princeton University, Peter Singer is creating a firestorm of protest, but he is gaining a hearing among the academic elite. He recently wrote and article, “Killing Babies Isn’t Always Wrong.” He writes, “Perhaps, like the ancient Greeks, we should have a ceremony a month after birth, at which the infant is admitted to the community. Before that time,” he says, “infants would not be recognized as having the same right to life as older people.” This is, he argues, morally acceptable because it is not until weeks or even months after birth that they gain, “self-awareness.”
Quoted by Chuck Colson in BreakPoint; Commentary #000920, September 20, 2000.
He’s not alone! University of Colorado Philosopher, Michael Tooley has also said, as far back as 1972, that infants are non-persons who “do not have a right to life.”
As selfish, sinful, abusive man wanders further and further away from God’s word he loses his standard of human dignity. A dignity and life that begins in the womb, according to Isaiah 44:2, “Thus says the Lord who made you and formed you from the womb.” David wrote in Psalm 139:13, 14. “For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother’s womb; I will give thanks to Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made."
Even now, there is a bill pending in Congress called, “Born Alive Infants Protection Act.” Which simply tries to keep infants who survive abortions from being killed.
Then there is another form of betrayal:
- Incest – the betrayal of children by adults
One author had an article published in the Weekly Standard attempted to show that the age of consent should be drastically lowered and much of what is called “child abuse” today, should be reconsidered. Another author said that much of what is called abuse between consenting minors and adults should be reconsidered “intergenerational relationships”.
Quotes from World magazine, March 10, 2001, p. 42
The truth is it is a form of betrayal.
Another dishonoring action and betrayal of the human body is:
- Euthanasia which is the betrayal of older people by the younger people.
Those who are too old to “contribute” should be put to sleep like you put an animal to sleep.
Euthanasia is derived from the Greek prefix eu – which means “good” or “easy” and the Greek noun thanatos (qanatoV). Put the two together and you get, “good or easy death”. But it’s a lie.
When you discard the truth from God’s word that life is sacred and worthy of being saved, then the deformed, the handicapped, the mentally disabled, the old and infirm, the newborn, the unborn and the undefended child – are all no longer protected but dishonored and betrayed.
Paul wrote, “Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.”
In other words, in the end, sinful pleasure betrays you, and abuses you, and dishonors you and you dishonor others.
In closing, let me focus on two principles that emerge from Romans 1:24;
First, to abandon God is to be abandoned by grace.
In other words, to walk away from God is to walk away from the grace of God. Grace that gives meaning to your life and purpose to your existence; it gives laughter that isn’t hollow and doesn’t have to have a drink or a pill to work up; it provides the foundation for relationships that can give and not always get.
Saying goodbye to God is saying goodbye to His grace.
Secondly, to reject the freedom of salvation is to embrace the slavery of sin.
Paul, in writing to Titus, contrasted salvation with slavery to sin when he wrote, (Titus 3:3-6) 3. For we also once were...disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy...but when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5. He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6. whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior...”
Let me add one practical warning to the believer. If salvation provided some sort of inoculation against immorality and sinful pleasure, Paul would never have had to write to Timothy and say, “Flee youthful lusts.” Notice he didn’t say, “Stand and fight it, Timothy.” No. He said to run from it. . .flee youthful lusts, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22)
There’s that word again – the word “heart”. In Romans 1 the unbeliever loses the battle to lust first in his heart. In 2 Timothy 2, the believer wins the battle for purity in his heart.
What’s the best way for the believer not to live like an unbeliever. “Thy word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee”, David wrote in Psalm 119:11.
When’s the last time you memorized a verse of scripture. My friend, if you want something quick to overcome sin, I’m here to tell you . . . there is not such thing.
Ladies and Gentlemen, holiness will never sneak into your life! Moral purity will never be a coincidence.
The battle for purity is fought in the heart of every believer. It is as Paul called it, a pursuit! And the pursuit begins in the heart.
Before you ever do anything with your body, you gave it permission with your heart.
1) Is the word of God in your heart?
2) Is the Spirit of God in your walk?
Paul wrote, “Walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the lusts (same word as in Romans 1) of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
The only way to overcome the domination of the of depraved human nature is to be dominated every step of the way by the Holy Spirit.
“Walk by means, or in the power of the Spirit and you will not carry out the lusts of the flesh.”
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