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Abandoned by God

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: Romans 1:24–25

Sin always has consequences, and one of the most significant consequences is that it leads to more and more sin. Thank God that by His grace we do not have to be slaves to sin.


The author Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.” Romans 1 gives us a vivid description of what those consequences look like when you reject the Word of God. Paul is going to spread out this banquet table with a list of sins—showing us what happens when God the Creator is rejected.

In the preceding passage—verses 18 to 21—we are told that every human on the planet who has reached a certain level of maturity knows that God exists. They intuitively know there is a God by observing creation around them and hearing that voice of conscience within them.

The trouble is, unsaved humanity refuses to honor God; they refuse to thank Him for His creation; they attempt to suppress the truth about His existence. They effectively say to God, “We choose our sin over a sovereign God; we want to silence our conscience. We want God to leave us alone!”

So, God gives them their wish. Three times—here in verses 24, 26, and 28—we read these rather terrifying words, “God gave them up,” “God gave them up,” “God gave them up.”

Now you need to understand that mankind gives up on God before God gives up on them. The apostle Paul has already made that clear; mankind rebels against the knowledge of God; mankind suppresses the truth about God; mankind violates the inner conscience that they need to stop sinning. And what happens? God gives them up to go ahead and literally ruin their lives in immorality as they abandon the created order of God.

Now what does it mean for God to give them up? The Greek word for this phrase (paradidōmi) was often used in a legal sense of handing a person over to suffer the payment for his crimes.[1] When Paul writes here in Romans 1:24, “Therefore God gave them up,” he is describing an act of a righteous Judge who hands them over to suffer the payment—the penalty—of their actions.

When God created the universe and the animal kingdom and the human race, He created moral and physical laws. Observing them leads to life; violating them leads to destruction. You can choose to defy the law of gravity, but if you jump off that cliff, you are going to break a leg—or worse. Your response to that law does not change the law—but it certainly changes you.

Imagine driving your car on a winding mountain road, and you see a sign that says, “Slow down, dangerous curve ahead.” You can rebel against that sign and speed up—“I’ll show that sign who is in charge of my life.” Well, your defiance is not going to change the truth; by speeding up you will simply suffer the consequences.

So when people say, “I’ll show God, I’ll violate His signs, I’ll ignore my God-given conscience, I don’t want anything to do with God’s restrictions or moral boundaries,” what does God do? Well, God gives them their wish, and they suffer the consequences.

Now Paul begins to describe this banquet of consequences in verse 24. He writes, “God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”

Do not miss the progression. You start out by dishonoring God, and then you dishonor yourself. So, what starts out as defiance in the heart against God, eventually involves the destruction of your body. It might be drug abuse or alcohol abuse, pornography or other forms of sexual immorality.

What Paul is effectively saying here is that if you do not long after God, you will long after something else. If you do not hunger and thirst for righteousness, you are going to hunger and thirst for something else. You are going to convince yourself that this will satisfy you, but it is like drinking saltwater. You drink, and you are still thirsty. So, you drink some more, and that saltwater begins to destroy you from the inside out.

Sinful pleasure promises something it cannot produce. It cannot satisfy.

My earliest childhood memory was when I was around four years old. I can still picture that little upstairs bathroom in our home, where I grew up. My older brother, who had snuck out of bed, climbed up on top of that bathroom counter while everyone was asleep. He opened the medicine cabinet and pulled out a brand-new bottle of children’s aspirin, the kind they used to make that tasted like orange candy—and this was before they invented childproof lids.

My brother was about five and a half years old. He divided the contents, and we stood there in our pajamas and ate every last one of them—we thought we had gotten into the candy dish. Then we went back to bed and fell asleep. My grandmother, who was spending that night in our home, got up to use the bathroom and saw the empty bottle lying on the counter. The next thing I remember—and I can still remember it today—was lying on a cold counter in the hospital, next to my brother, the drug dealer, and our stomachs were being pumped out. I remember being terrified and in tremendous pain.

It could have been disastrous. We did not know it, but our little lives were in mortal danger. What we thought was candy could have killed us.

Maybe you are in the process right now of being consumed by sexual sin—it is like candy to you. At the moment it seems good and right; it’s being applauded in society, and people around you are affirming your decisions. Well, I am here today to intervene. It might be painful to hear it, but that sinful activity is going to defraud you and deceive you, and it will ultimately destroy you.

Do not be like those whom God has turned over to fall deeper and deeper into depravity. Now is the time to repent of your sin and follow the guidelines of God’s Word.

Paul tells us here in verse 25 that rebellious mankind has “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” You could render that, “They substituted the truth with the lie.”

This goes all the way back to the garden of Eden, where Satan whispered that lie into the ear of Eve, “God didn’t really say that; if you eat of this fruit, you will not die.” Satan’s first lie to the human race denied the authority and accuracy of God’s word.

He is still doing the same thing today. He is lying to you, and this old world is lying to you when it whispers, “God didn’t really say that; the Bible doesn’t mean what it says; good people disagree with the Bible; we are more evolved now, and the Bible is a relic from the past.”

Do you know what the lie will do to you? It will turn out the light and let you live in the darkness. And God will give you over to that banquet table of consequences.

Let me rephrase the warning Paul is delivering here. To abandon God is to be abandoned by His mercy. To walk away from God is to walk away from hope and forgiveness and grace.

God will forgive you—there is not one sin He will not forgive. Jesus died for all of it! But if you reject Him, you have no one to forgive you. You have no one to give meaning to your life. Saying goodbye to God is saying goodbye to mercy and grace.

Now do not overlook the hope Paul gives us here at the end of verse 25, where our God is called “the Creator, who is blessed forever!” Nothing this world can do will ever change the truth of who God is.

The world might dishonor Him, deny Him, ignore Him, even hate Him, but He is and will forever be “the Creator, who is blessed forever.”

Let’s follow Him today.

[1] See Matthew 5:25; 10:17, 19, 21; 2 Peter 2:4.

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