Is truth absolute or relative? Has God delivered unchanging truth about Himself or is it acceptable for us to decide on our own what He's like and what He wants from us? In this message Stephen gives us an absolute answer.
“Trading Away the Truth”
If you are new around here, my responsibility and mission is not to tell you what you think you ought to hear; or rehearse for you things you’d like to hear; or make up things that you’d really rather hear. My mission, as God’s herald, is to simply repeat and expound on what God has already said. My message is not original – it is not contrived or conceived of by me. It is the message of God’s word alone that must be heard. For when we hear the Bible taught, we hear from God himself, for He is the author of this Book.
And so often, what we hear Him say in His word, radically challenges our preconceived notions about life in general.
I personally believe that the Bible is the most disturbing Book you will ever read. And it is the most rewarding Book you will ever obey.
John Stott wrote these challenging words; “If we come to the Scriptures with our minds made up, expecting to hear from it only an echo of our own thoughts, and never the thunderclap of God’s, then indeed He will not speak to us and we shall only be confirmed in our own prejudices. We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.”
Erwin Lutzer, Ten Lies About God, Moody Press, Chicago p. 80
This morning we return to the Book of Romans, and chapter 1 where we hear the thunderclap of God’s truth.
Now we have discovered already in chapter 1 that mankind would rather not hear from God at all.
In fact, they have denied the authority and existence of a personal, sovereign God, because that would make them accountable. They wouldn’t be able to believe anything they wanted and they wouldn’t be able to behave any way then wanted.
In spite of their persistent denials, the thunderclap of God’s Spirit can be heard as the Apostle Paul, under the inspiring leadership of God’s Spirit writes in verse 18 of Romans chapter 1 (Quote 18-23)
24. Therefore – that is, on the basis of man rejecting God; man refusing to honor God; man refusing to worship their Creator –God gave them over.
Paradidomi is the Greek word for “gave them over”. It refers to both God’s passive role in allowing man to bear the consequences of his unbelief and to God’s active role in causing sinful man to reap the penalty of his immorality.
In other words, when man abandons God, God abandons man to the full consequences of his sin.
Three times you read that phrase – verse 24, “God gave them over”; verse 26; God gave them over verse 28.
You do not want a holy, righteous Creator God? Then He does not want you. You abandon God and God will abandon you.
But the one who ignores and rejects God does not escape unharmed – v. 24. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them.”
In other words, they become users and abusers of one another. They simply treat each other as objects of selfish desire – selfish longing and yet, nothing satisfies; intimacy is lost as men and women go from one high to the next, from one toy to the next, from one partner to the next; from one spiritual experiment to the next – never satisfied – never full – never contented.
Solomon said, “The eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:20)
The second instance is in verse 26, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions...” Paul goes on to describe homosexuality and lesbianism and concludes in the last part of verse 27 “they receive in their own persons the due penalty of their error.”
Again in verse 28, And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed and evil.
So man pays the price of a life filled with spiritual wandering, unhindered wickedness, unfulfilled passion, unable to relate to one another, destroying themselves and each other.
Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, “Every man shall one day be seated at a banquet table of consequences.”
What you have in this latter part of Romans chapter 1 is a description of the banquet table - spread with all its pain and evil.
Mankind says, “God we want you to leave us alone – we want to live our lives the way we want – leave us be!” And God does. And wandering mankind pays the bitter price.
Now, let’s pick up where we left off a number of weeks ago with further commentary on why mankind will digress to such sinful and depraved activity.
Rom. 1:25 For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.
You could render that first phrase, they substituted the truth for the lie.
This has to refer all the way back to the garden, where Satan whispered the very first lie into the ear of Eve.
If you eat of this fruit you will not die. In other words, Satan’s first lie denied the authority and accuracy of God’s word. He’s still doing the same thing today.
Some of the lies of the underworld that assault the truth of God are these:
- That truth is relative.
If there is no such thing as absolute truth, then God’s truth is merely one of many.
I found it interesting that in this same article on Education I referred to earlier, Massachusetts passed in 1647 an act they called, “The Old Deluder Act which became the basis for publicly funded schools. “The chief project of that old deluder, Satan, is to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures...it is therefore ordered that every township of 50 households shall appoint one within their town to teach all the children [the scriptures].”
World Magazine, May/June 2001
Can you imagine Massachusetts today, or any state, ordering all their public schools to teach the scriptures so children will be protected from the delusion of Satan’s lies?!.
One of the consequences of relative truth is seen in the next lie:
- That salvation is universal and all religions are equally true.
That’s religious relativism.
One university student parroted the politically correct mantra of the day when he said, “It’s okay for you to believe that you’re right, but it’s not okay for you to believe that someone else is wrong.”
That’s relativism. And it has been baptized into religion.
If you want to believe there is only one true God, then that will be right for you, but don’t tell the Hindu he’s wrong because he believes in the existence of millions of Gods.
Everybody is going to heaven because everybody is sincere.
One author I was reading was sitting next to a woman on a plane who was wearing a cross around her neck, “We have a wonderful Savior don’t we?” She rolled her eyes and said, “I don’t think of the cross like you do – she showed me that beneath the cross was the Jewish star of David and beneath that was a trinket that symbolized the Hindu god Om. She explained, “I’ve discovered that people find God in different ways. Christianity is but one path to the divine.” She went on to say that she preferred spirituality to religion.
By the way, you hear that a lot – “I into spirituality, not religion.” What do they mean. Frankly, what they mean is that they do not follow a creed – a system of theology based on objective facts . . . it’s all a matter of feelings without commitment.
Look at the Internet sampling of spirituality and you’ll find something for everyone. Web pages like:
Spirituality for Today; Medical Intuition; Jesuit Spirituality; Native American Spirituality;
Transgender Spirituality; Spirituality and Health;
Spirit Tools for a New Age (discussion about things like: pyramids, wands, daggers and pendulums) The Inner self Magazine; Psychotherapy and spirituality;
Andrew Walker wrote that people are no longer swayed by one religion alone. Many kinds are for sale, and compete for our attention. We, the consumers, are completely free.
Then again, here’s an illustration of polytheism/pluralism. Texas oil heiress Genevieve Vaughan and her husband visited Egypt and came across a statue of Sekhmet – the Egyptian goddess of fertility. She said, “I made a vow; if the ancient fertility goddess would help her have a baby, she would build a temple in her honor.” “Lo and behold, I got pregnant that very month,” said Mr. Vaughan. So in 1993 the temple was finally built off Route 95 in Nevada. Built by an all-female construction crew, the temple encloses goddesses, and the idol of Sekhment. There is also a full-time priestess who leads weekly rituals for visitors, many who drive in for the major holidays.
World Magazine, May 6, 2000 p. 16
By the way, I expect people to come up with this stuff. I expect them to concoct their own religions and wander from one experiment to the next. But why do they? Paul already answered that in Romans chapter 1 verse 21, “For even though they knew God they did not honor Him as God, but they became futile in their speculations and their foolish heart was darkened.”
However, on the other hand, if these people are right and there are many paths to God, then Jesus Christ was totally deluded and deceived, for He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The Apostles were deceived as well for they preached of Jesus Christ, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Another lie is that judgment is nonexistent.
Have you noticed that while most people you talk to believe in a literal heaven, those same people deny the existence of a literal hell.
Paul preached to the Athenians who had their multiple gods and temples – at the end of his sermon he delivered the stunning conclusion: “God is now declaring to men that all everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.”
I’ll save further comments on the subject of hell for this summer’s series.
We’ll purposefully turn off the air conditioners for effect.
Another lie is that man evolved.
As well, the lie that God is uninvolved in the universe, both in the past and in the present.
No other lie, in the minds of the last few generations has so assaulted the character of God and the authority of scripture than evolution.
Stephen Jay Gould postulated in his book, ironically entitled, “Wonderful Life” that there is nothing predestined about our current pre-eminence among large terrestrial fauna; we are the product of a whole series of contingent events in the history of our planet, any one of which could have been reversed to give rise to a different outcome. We are, in short, like every other creature that ever walked or slithered across the earth -–we are an accident. . .the survivors . . . we were lucky.”
Quoted in The Evolution of A Creationist by Jobe Martin,
Biblical Discipleship Publishers, Rockwall, Texas; 1994, p. 50.
What does God say?
John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
Hebrews 1:1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2. in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. 2. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created.
You say, well, maybe God did create the world, but He allowed it and man to evolve over billions of years. That view, by the way is called, Theistic Evolution.
But once again, Scripture doesn’t allow for it.
In Mark 10:6 Jesus Christ said, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female.
In other words, when creation began, man and woman were also created.
Let’s look briefly at the record of God’s word. Turn to Genesis chapter 2:7.
READ verse 7. Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Skip to verse 21. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place, and the Lord God fashioned ainto a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, “This is now bone of my bones...”
No, I think that’s what Adam said a little later, after he caught his breath. I think the first thing he said was more like, “Shazzam.”
What you have in the record of Scripture is a fully developed man and a fully adult woman being created in a moment of time. Chapter 1 records that trees also were created already bearing fruit; stars created already giving light, which means that their light was supernaturally stretched in an instant to planet earth.
When Adam woke up from his sleep he wasn’t introduced to a little baby girl – but a woman. If he had said to Eve, the unforgivable, “How old are you?” She would have said, “About 30 seconds.”
If she had said, “Adam, what do have to eat around here?”, he could have pulled a ripe peach off a tree that had been created only 3 days earlier.
What might appear to have taken years to develop would have taken a matter of seconds
Furthermore, from measuring the distance between earth and farthest star and then calculating the millions of years it would have taken for the light from that star to reach earth, if God created a fully mature system as Genesis 1 and 2 tell us, then that light beam is only as old as the star.
Time is nothing to God.
You remember when Peter took that sword in the garden of Gethsamene and swung it at the High Priest’s servant, thus forever proving that he was a fisherman and not a swordsman – you remember he missed the mans head and instead cut off his ear. Jesus Christ stooped down and picked up that man’s ear, walked over to the man and sewed it back on and said, “Come back in 3 weeks and we’ll take out the stiches?” No stiches, no time for healing, no headache through the night either – instant healing – and no time needed for it to happen!
Evolution destroys the authenticity of God’s word – and it dilutes the power of God’s word. It also enslaves God to work in time and space – when He is beyond and above, not limited to time and space.
Evolution rejects clear scripture
Secondly, it restricts God’s power
Third, it forfeits true worship. Just think of how many Psalms you would have to cut from your Bible where David praised God as creator and designer of every living thing..
According to Paul, mankind in Romans 1:25 chooses to swap the truth about God for lies about God.
Go back to Romans 1 and notice what rebellious man does next – READ v. 25b “[He] worships and serves the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever, Amen.”
In other words, man experiences a number of consequences by virtue of choosing his speculations instead of inspired Scripture:
First consequence is this: mankind rejects a personal, loving, forgiving Lord.
Reject God, you reject the Savior. Reject the Savior, you lose a Redeemer. Lose the Redeemer and you’re left in your sin. Burdened with your sin you lose peace of mind and true freedom.
So, choose yourself – and you become a slave to sin.
Choose the Savior and you become free for ever.
Second consequence: mankind replaces God with other objects of worship.
Man was created with a sense of longing. And if you do not long after God,. You will long after something else.
It might be the reflected in the totem pole of the American Indian; the eagle of the Romans, the sacred cow in India – where to this day it is considered murder to kill a cow and cannibalism to eat the meat. 200 million head of cattle aer allowed to wander around competing for food and damaging standing crops. Not even the government of India can liberate the nation from the cow’s divinity.
In our culture, the worship of wealth is the god of choice. It might be longing after and devoting great time and energy to health, or physical pleasure; prestige, sports, education, entertainment, success, power.
An idol is that which occupies your mind with longing in place of longing after God and His Kingdom.
Another consequence is this: mankind abandons the only basis for morality and civility.
In that same magazine article I was reading yesterday it gave what could be considered now as almost prophetic. In 1836, William McGuffey began publishing his McGuffey readers, which would sell more than 125 million copies and teach several generations how to read. The series contained this entry: “If you can induce a community to doubt the genuineness and authenticity of the Scriptures; to question the reality and obligations of religion; to hesitate undeciding, whether there be any such thing as virtue or vice (right or wrong); whether there be an eternal state of retribution beyond the grave; or whether there exists any such being as God, you have broken down the barriers of moral virtue and raised the flood gates of immorality and crime.”
World Magazine; May/June 2001, p. 10
200 years later, we are proving him right. Romans is nothing more than a description of the flood gates opening and immorality and crime flooding our culture.
We’re going to stop here and pick it back up with the consequences that relate to the loss of human nobility and the rise of animal rights and the sovereignty of nature.
Aren’t you glad the scriptures are never controversial.
The truth is, the thunder of God’s voice has been heard from the pages of scripture. You can either run for shelter into the arms of Jesus Christ, or you can stand out in the open holding the lightning rod of your own speculation – and hope lightning doesn’t strike.
I invite you this morning to the sheltering arms of the Great Shepherd – the name above all names – the one true and living God who will rescue you from sin and its eternal consequences.