Romans Lesson 43 - The Road Most Traveled
Don't follow the path that has the most footprints. Follow the path that has Christ's footprints.
The Road Most Traveled
Paul has been describing the depravity of mankind. Depravity is a word that simply means, wretched, ruined, sinful, depraved, degenerate. Webster defines it as “wicked perversion.”
Webster’s New Compact Dictionary (Book Essentials Publications; Larchmont, NY) 1987 Edition, p. 116
When we say that mankind is totally depraved, we do not mean that man is incapable of doing good things. We simply mean that mankind is sinful and selfish in the very core of his being.
The evil condition of the heart of fallen, sinful mankind is exposed as Paul writes in
Romans 3:10. There is none righteous, not even one.
- There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God.
- All have turned aside, together they have become useless – the Greek word for “spoiled milk.”
Then in the next few verses Paul shifts from mankind’s evil condition, to describing mankind’s evil communication.
- Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving; the poison of asps is under their lips;
- whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness.
Now, finally, Paul concludes his inspired, unflattering, truthful description of mankind by focusing on the evil chaos brought about by sinful humanity.
The purpose of this awful yet true description of the wretchedness and sinfulness of mankind is to reveal the absolute inability of mankind to save himself; the inability of somehow doing enough good things to outweigh the bad things. Paul is revealing the need for total and entire redemption.
It isn’t so much that we’ve done some sinful things – but that we are sinful creatures. It isn’t so much that we’ve had a few evil thoughts, but that we’re evil in our hearts, which is why our hands and do evil things.
Most importantly, this description was given to us from God to show why a Savior would, in fact, need to come to pay the incredible penalty of our sinfulness.
There’s no way we could ever pay for the immensity of our sin.
According to the press report I read, Matthew Boya from Bonei, West Africa was innocently practicing his golf swing in a pasture adjacent to the Bonei Air Force Base. With one errant shot, he destroyed the country’s entire air force. Here’s how it happened.
He was hitting golf balls in an adjacent field when one of his shots sliced toward the runway. The ball hit a bird and killed it – the bird dropped onto the windshield of a small plane which was speeding down the runway, preparing to lift off. The pilot was so shocked by the bird hitting his windshield that he momentarily lost control of his plane and plowed into four shiny mirage jets and destroyed the entire air force of this small country in West Africa. Officials caught Matthew and jailed him for hooliganism, refusing to give him a trial. In fact, they are demanding that Matthew Boya reimburse his country, since they didn’t have the money in their treasury. The cost is forty million dollars. Since Matthew makes 275 dollars a year, the report estimated it will take him 145,000 years to pay it back.
There’s no way!
My friend, there is no way you could ever pay the penalty of all your sin before a just and holy God.
That’s Paul’s point in verse 19b “. . .that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God. . .”
Paul is driving us to that very point.
Like a prosecuting attorney, the Apostle Paul in verses 10-12 has described who we are.
In verses 13-14 he has described what we say.
And now, verses 15-18, he will deliver the final evidence of mankind’s sin as he describes what we do.
Four very short, powerful, inspired phrases that pull off the mask and reveal the human heart for what it truly is – totally depraved.
Now again, when we say that we are totally depraved, that does not mean that we are all acting as badly as we could be; it does mean that we are capable of being as bad as we want to be. And that is because we are infected with sin in every area of our being.
An unbelieving Psychologist wrote, “All the old primitive sins are not dead – they are just crouching in the dark corners of our modern hearts – still there, and still as ghastly as ever.
Quoted in “Talking it Over,” by George Sweeting in Moody Magazine, September 1985, p. 2.
Well, Paul is about to describe the human race – some openly corrupted, but all, inwardly corrupted with sin that crouches in the corners of our hearts and waits for an excuse to act.
First of all, in his inspired description of the evil chaos of mankind, Paul declares that mankind is “callously unconcerned.”
He writes in verse 15, “Their feet are swift to shed blood.”
Whether we want to admit it or not, we live in a world of violence. In 1900, there was only one murder for every 100,000 people in the United States. By 1974, it had risen to 1 out of very 10,000 people.
The FBI has stated that the likelihood of you or I experiencing a violent crime has increased 50% in just the last decade alone.
Violence has become a way of life. By the time the average child reaches 12 years of age, he has watched more than 13,000 hours of television. By the way, that’s twice as much time as he has spent in school. And in those hours of television, he has seen 14,000 violent deaths. He has watched 100,000 violent crimes – one every 8 minutes.
This school year, there will be more than 70,000 assaults against teachers in our public school system.
Our culture of violence has led one college president to describe ours as a culture of death. He editorialized in World Magazine with the following illustration.
“On June 6, 1997, Melissa Drexler killed her baby. The Aberdeen, N.J. teenager was at her high school prom when the pains of her contractions became strong enough to force her into the ladies bathroom, where she gave birth to a son. She took her child, wrapped him in a garbage bag, and tossed him aside. Returning to the dance floor, she picked up where she left off. Her case is not unique; the number of murders of children less than one week old has increased by 92% over the past 25 years.” World Magazine, October 10, 1998; p. 33
And why not? The article went on to say, even the Washington Post seemed to prophecy that “the acceptance of abortion would lead to a profound moral shift in our culture, a great devaluing of human life.” Ibid.
This profound shift is now in full swing. Today, the value of life has been turned upside down. Now, it’s illegal to crush the egg of an eagle, but legal to kill an unborn child in the womb.
But even abortion is a symptom and not the cause of this devaluing of human life. The devaluation of human life has been taught now for several generations as the Biblical view of creation has been replaced with the theory of evolution.
The resulting loss of value to human life was recently articulated by James Rachels, an unbelieving professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama who claimed that because of the theory of Darwin, “we can no longer think of ourselves as occupying a special place in [the world] – instead, we must realize that we are working blindly and without purpose, products of the same evolutionary forces that shaped the rest of the animal kingdom.” Ibid.
And so, that logic flows to it’s bitter and violent end. Since animals kill their offspring, so can humans. Since animals can mate indiscriminately, so should humans. Since animals kill one another for a variety of reasons, so can humans?
Several generations now have officially and resolutely ignored creation as God’s handiwork, that only the human race was created in His image – breathed into by God himself with immortal soul (Genesis 1:27); that man is more valuable than an animal (Matthew 10:31); that the worth of the human soul is greater than all the physical world (Mark 8:36). Ultimately, because these truths have been abandoned, we now have a culture of violence we could never imagine.
Pick up an advertisement from video games like Mortal Kombat and read the ad, “Have you ever killed anyone with a chain saw? Would you like to?” When high school students in Jonesboro, Ark., were told of the shootings at the nearby middle school, some of them laughed. Ibid.
Pick up the latest newspaper which tells the story of our growing culture of violence and death.
Last weeks edition of the News and Observer revealed once again the depth of the human heart in it’s murderous capabilities; The headline read, “Nurse’s aide faces murder charge.” A nurse’s aide hit a homeless man named Gregory Biggs, aged 37, with her car. She continued driving home with him stuck headfirst in her broken windshield and ignored his cries for help as he bled to death in her garage. According to the report, Ms. Mallard said she’d been taking the drug ecstasy and drinking that night the victim was hit. The impact hurled him headfirst through the windshield, leaving his broken legs protruding onto the hood. With Biggs still lodged in the windshield, Mallard panicked and drove a few miles to her Fort Worth home, parked her car in the garage and lowered the door as Biggs pleaded for help. According to the arrest warrant, Mallard waited a couple of days for Biggs to die before two friends removed his body and dumped it. Ms. Mallard said she planned to burn the car and purchase a new one after she received her income tax refund. Cheri Orr, who lives across the street from Mallard and occasionally visited her, described mallard as a nice woman who kept her lawn neatly manicured and could often be seen dressed for church on Sundays. The prosecuting attorney said, “I’m going to have to come up with a new word. Indifferent isn’t enough. Cruel isn’t enough. Heartless? Inhumane? Maybe we’ve just redefined inhumanity here.” [And who could imagine this. The article went on to say that] “Several times, Ms. Mallard went out into the garage and apologized to the man, but did nothing to help.” Why? Because she’d be found out as a drug user? Because she’d be found guilty of a hit and run? Because she’d face criminal charges? Because it could tarnish her career? Because she might lose her job? Some of that, perhaps all of it, turned a nurse who went to church on Sundays, into a physical murderer.
Associated Press article by Angela K. Brown, quoted in the Raleigh News and Observer, March 8, 2002
Other forms of hostility & aggression such as child abuse and spousal abuse are household terms in today’s violent world. Victims are beaten, robbed, raped and then murdered for no apparent reason other than sheer brutality. Ibid, p. 191.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Apostle Paul says that the capability of murder resides within the human heart. From the very first crime recorded in scripture – which was the murder of a man by his own brother – to the most recent murder – the capability is within us all.
Change the circumstances . . . alter the conditions . . . apply enough pressure . . . add enough selfish motive and pride and maybe a little fear and the world will only record one more episode in the murderous ability of the human heart.
And what’s the ultimate reason for man’s violence against one another? God has been abandoned and ignored! Humanity is answerable to no one! And so Dostoyevsky was right when he wrote, if God does not exist, everything is permissible.
It’s true. Everything is permissible without a living holy, righteous God before whom men believe they are accountable.
The second thing Paul reveals about mankind, is that mankind is “Destructively unharmonious”
Verse 14 records, “Destruction and misery are in their paths.”
“Destruction – is what you do to others
“Misery” – is what you bring on yourself
Paul is referring to the wreckage of human relationships. The debris of emotion, the despair brought about by sin.
The word destruction is the rare Greek word “suntrimma” which means to crush or grind up. It’s used in the Greek Old testament in Leviticus 21:19 for a fractured foot and a broken hand.
Archibald T. Robertson, The Epistles of Paul, Volume IV (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI); 1931, p. 345
In other words, Paul is saying that man is a destroyer – he crush things and breaks things up. He breaks his word. He breaks his vows. He destroys his relationships, he fractures hearts.
Man grows tired of his toys – he wearies of his responsibilities and his commitments. The thrill of sin needs new adventure, new experimentation. His pride and selfishness needs new avenues to satiate his appetite for sin.
In a Wall Street Journal article, published this past month, the news of this past Valentines day in England was that a record number of valentines were sent out. Trouble is, that wasn’t a good sign for marriages. The survey was conducted by the British and they found that 13% of married men and 11% of married women planned on sending what they dubbed, an “unfaithful valentine” to someone other than their spouse. For people living in London alone, “unfaithful valentines” jumped to nearly one card out of every 7 cards mailed. The Wall Street Journal, Tony & Tacky, February 15, 2002, p.
Anywhere in the world you want to go, if you listen carefully enough, you will hear the sound of grinding, crushing, fracturing, breaking lives – broken, fractured, crushed by sinful mankind.
I had a individual come in to see me recently who hadn’t attended our church for many years. I listened to his story - he had been through a series of life changing tragedies, including bankruptcy, divorce and the inability to enjoy his children. He suffered on two occasions a complete emotional breakdown. At one point, after having been on just about every possible medication he asked his doctor sort of tongue in cheek, “Do you have a pill for a broken heart.”
What fractured lives we live – what devastating sorrow brought about by sin.
An old preacher named R. G. Lee once wrote these words, “Sin has ruined men, ruined women, even ruined angels. Sin has occasioned every tear of sorrow, every sigh of grief, every pang of agony. Sin has withered everything that is fair, blasted everything that is good, made bitter everything that is sweet. Sin has dug every grave, built every coffin, woven every shroud and enlarged every cemetery that that the world has ever seen. Robert G. Lee, Quoted in Nelsons Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations and Quotes by Robert J. Morgan (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN); 2000; p. 749
Paul goes on to add in verse 16 that mankind is not only on the well worn path of destruction, but he adds the words, “and misery are in their paths.”
In other words, they get their way, but it only brings misery. They break their word – they violate that covenant – they get their way – and they are miserable. They not only cause misery on one another but they are personally rewarded with misery.
I love the way James Dobson put it when he wrote, “The grass on the other side of the fence is really not any greener – in fact, it’s often not even edible.” Quoted in The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart by Charles Swindoll (Word Publishing, Nashville) 1998, p. 523
Isn’t that true?
Oh what destruction and misery lie along the path of humanity.
Is it any surprise that Paul would immediately follow that description with the next one in verse 17. And the path of peace have they not known.
Mankind is callously unconcerned; destructively unharmonious and now here, he is described as inevitably unfulfilled.
In other words, you can’t walk on the path of violence and destruction and misery and expect to find satisfaction . . . peace. . .they are not on this path.
The path the world is taking that leads away from God, is the broad path. It’s the road most traveled. Jesus said, “Many there be that find this broad path.” He went on to say that the broad path leads to destruction. The road of unbelief, the road of sin leads to final judgment.
There are three kinds of peace will never be found on the path of sin and unbelief:
- Peace with God!
- Peace with others!
- Peace with yourself!
Peace with God isn’t on that path, because peace with God comes through Jesus Christ – Paul wrote in Romans 5:1, Therefore having been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
He wrote to the Colossians, that we have peace with God through the blood of Christ’s cross (Colossians 1:20)
Peace with others, including yourself, Paul wrote, comes from submitting your life to the Holy Spirit who then develops in your heart and life the fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy and peace. (Galatians 5:22)
Peace comes from a personal relationship with the God of this Book. A relationship that begins with confession and repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
It’s interesting that God invites troubled mankind with the promise of rest and
peace. Isaiah quotes Him as He invites “I have seen his ways, but I will heal
him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners,
Creating the praise of the lips. Peace, peace to him who is far and to him
who is near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him.” 20. But the wicked are
like the raging/tossing sea, for it cannot be still and quiet, and its waters toss
up refuse and mud. There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah was also the prophet who unmistakably introduced the Messiah with
these words, “For a child will be born to us, a Son will be given to u; and the
government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be ‘called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
You want peace today my friend? You need the Prince of Peace to take the
throne in the castle of your heart.
Anything or anyone else on the throne of your heart will bring nothing but
heartache and disappointment. Only the Prince of Peace ruling in your heart
brings lasting peace and satisfaction.
Well, what does the world do with this invitation? Paul finishes his description
of mankind with one more phrase. Mankind is not only unconcerned,
unharmonious and unfulfilled, but now he is described as unbelieving.
Verse 18. There is no fear of God before their eyes.
There is no respect . . . not trust . . . no loyalty . . . no awe . . . no worship of
God from the unbeliever. The unbeliever is afraid of a lot of things . . . he is
not afraid of God.
Burt Reynolds was recently asked in an interview I read about – he was asked
what he would say to God in the afterlife. He responded in typical bravado, “I
would say to God, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but you’ve made
more . . .”
- Man fears other men, but not the Sovereign ruler of the world;
- Man fears natural disaster, but he doesn’t fear the Creator of nature;
- Man fears the future, but not the Designer of eternal life;
- Man is afraid of death, but doesn’t fear the Lord who conquered death;
- Man fears exposure of his sins to others, but doesn’t fear the Supreme Judge before whom he will one day stand;
- Man is afraid of eternity, but not the Divine Architect of heaven and hell.
Moody Monthly published a heartbreaking story several years ago about an
event that occurred in the life of a well known surgeon living in Chicago. Dr.
Leo Winters was awakened one morning around 1 o’clock. There had been an
accident and a young boy was in the hospital and they felt like he alone had the
skill that was capable of putting that boys body together and allowing him to
live. So, Dr. Winters rushed out of bed, climbed into his clothes and grabbed is
keys and ran out to his car and began the drive to downtown Chicago. He
decided to take a shortcut through a rather dangerous area, known for its rough
gangs. He felt the risk would be worth it and precious time could be saved. As
he was sitting at a stoplight, a man suddenly rushed from the shadows and
opened the car door. He was wearing an old flannel shirt and a gray hat, and
took the doctor and literally threw him out of the car, screaming, “I’ve got to
have your car.” Even though the doctor tried to explain, the man wouldn’t
listen, he sped off in the doctor’s car. It took Dr. Winters at least 45 minutes
to find a phone and call a taxi. By the time the taxi dropped him off at the
hospital, more than an hour had passed. When he arrived, the nurses shook
their heads and said, “You’re too late, Dr. Winters; the boy died 30 minutes
ago.” They said, “You’ll find the father down the hall in the chapel, grieving.
He is awfully confused. He can’t understand why you never came.” Without
taking the time to explain to his staff, Dr. Winters hurried down the hallway
and opened the door of the chapel and there at the front was the crumpled form
of that weeping father, wearing an old flannel shirt and clutching that same gray
hat. He had been in a hurry to get to the hospital too, and had taken this
Doctor’s car and had pushed, literally, from his life the one who could have
perhaps, saved the life of his son. Quoted in Parables, Etc. November 1989
You want a picture of humanity? There it is. Rushing after life. Racing after
satisfaction and fulfillment. Hungry for meaningful relationships and lasting
commitments; hoping for peace . . . some relief from guilt and sin . . . yet at the
same time, pushing from their lives the only One capable of saving their lives.
There is no fear of God before their eyes.
This has been the description of mankind’s depravity. The Spirit of God,
thru the Apostle Paul has intended to lead the Romans, and us to an
understanding of why we desperately helplessly cling to the deliverance of God
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