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You Can Have It All?

Romans 1:18-32

Jim Davis

Our world says, "You can have it all and why shouldn't you have it all?"

There is a common lie by which many of us live --- it is the common belief that when we get everything we want we will be happy. There was a story of a king who was a friend of another king. He wanted to punish his friend. He decided that the worst punishment he could give his friend was to give him everything he wanted. When his friend received everything he wanted he became tired and bored. He was more miserable than he had ever been. He was so miserable that he didn't even have anything to complain about.

There is a second lie that naturally follows the belief that when we get everything we want we will be happy. It is a belief that we should have everything we want. These common beliefs leave us feeling that life is unfair if we are deprived of anything we want. The natural outcome of these beliefs is that those around us begin to suffer when we feel that they are interfering with us getting what we want. After all they are depriving me of my happiness.

Watching an evening of television reveals that our society is built on denying God and on breaking of all ten of the Ten Commandments. We even make it appear fun. Sin has gotten under our skin and become so entwined within us that it seems first nature. Sin is an acquired trait that has its origin in Eden. We have so fined tuned this acquired trait to serve our needs that we no longer recognize the pain it brings. The modern way of handling sin is to pretend that it has no hold on us--to see it as inevitable and healthy, even fun.

I was reading where a preacher was sick in bed with the flu and he watched talk shows for a whole day. He wrote down ten talk show myths. These myths really aren't funny. They're projected as truth.

All your problems are somebody else's fault.
This world owes you happiness.
You'll be happy if you get what ever you want.
There is never any reason to feel guilty.
Man is basically good and unselfish.
All beliefs are equally valid.
Pornography and perversion are innocent.
You can have it all.
You shouldn't have to wait for anything.
Because you're God, the answer lies within you.

Those who leave God behind leave behind the potential for greatness in humanity. They have exchanged the glory of what is incorruptible for something that is corruptible, and it proceeds to corruption. The people in the world today who are influencing those who will be adults a generation from now are celebrities and media figures, not fathers or mothers or grandmothers or grandfathers, worthy individuals who live lives of accomplishment. Most celebrities are shameful and have very little to offer. So many look at public religious leaders and see crooks. They look at politicians and see liars. They look at sports and entertainment figures and see buffoons. Claiming to be wise, we're becoming fools. We're educating kids to know more about condoms than about how to live their lives. So Paul summarizes this as a suppression of the truth, and it's something we are sadly too familiar with.

The Bible gives us some very blunt advice about this. First John 4:1 says, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world." The Bible tells us in other places that the reason there are so many false teachers is because it's profitable. They're making lots of money on those infomercials and psychic hotlines.

Reaping the Penalty of Our Error

Romans 1:26-28
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (NIV)


What is the recompense of our error or the due penalty for our perversion? God turns us over to our own depraved minds. "Do those words sober your thinking like they do mine? They mean that God turned them over to the practice and the results of their evil. He would no longer make efforts to restrain them. He would cease to warn them. He would leave them to their own destructive ways."1

The amazing thing about God's judgment is that He allows the irony of sin to play itself out until we reap the recompense of our error. He will allow it to play itself out until our impulse towards self-glorification ends in self-destruction. Note the kind of world that Paul describes in the following verses. Paul describes a world unrestrained by sin.

Romans 1:28-32
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (NIV)


God's judgment allows the irony of sin to play itself out until our impulse towards self-glorification ends in self- destruction. He gives them over to a depraved mind. Allowing us to reap the recompense of our error is God's only hope to turn us around. Someone said, "More lives are changed as a result of feeling the heat than seeing the light." God is allowing us to feel the heat in hopes that it will turn us around.

Depraved minds are seeking to glorify themselves by any means possible. If I believe my happiness is dependent on getting everything I want and I believe I should get it, then I will stop at nothing to get what I feel I deserve to make me happy. It doesn't matter if I have to invent ways of doing evil to make it happen.

It seems as though the two teenagers in Colorado felt deprived of recognition by fellow students. So they decided to get the attention they felt they deserved and desired even if they had to go out in a blaze of glorious disgrace. They and others reaped the recompense of their error. This is becoming common place across our country. It is becoming the hallmark of our society.

The question uppermost in our minds is "What made them do such a terrible thing." It is almost as though they are not really responsible for their own actions. The moral character that is expressed in the life of a nation evokes a specific response from individuals who make up that nation. We refuse to believe that they were part of a society that believes you can and should have it all, especially if this is what makes you happy.

Paul says that a life that is bent on having what it wants is " . . . full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them."

Here in Romans lust begins with an attraction leading to dissatisfaction, obsession, and finally to idolatry. We become convinced that in order to be happy, "I must have _____," "I can't do without _____," "______ is good for me." At this point we begin to justify getting what we want by any means possible, even if it means inventing a new god that will allow us what we want. We invent a god to serve our own needs.

When we become dissatisfied we begin to redesign our concept of God to allow us to have what we have become obsessed with. Paul uses the example of sexual fulfillment, but this can occur in any realm, not just in the area of sexual fulfillment.

Romans 1:25-28
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator-- who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. (NIV)


Recognizing the Penalty of our Error

When you sin, do you ask yourself, "How will I have to pay for this sin?" What will be the recompense of my error? You don't ask that question because deep down you don't believe you'll have to pay for whatever it is you're about to do. Sin has consequences though and we must recognize this truth.

Moses said, "But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23 NIV) It wasn't just that their sin would become known. The admonition carried with it the idea that they would have to pay for their sin.

Galatians 6:7-9
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (NIV)

A man was in prison. They had him sewing up burlap bags as part of the prisoner work program. Another prisoner walked in and said, "So you are learning how to sew." The prisoner sewing the burlap bag said, "No I am learning how to reap."

The recompense of our shameful ways is emerging in our society. Sadly instead of shock and revulsion being hurled at those who brought such a fate upon themselves and society our anger is directed toward the teaching that could have prevented it.

There is a great tendency to dismiss our bad behavior.

We find thousands of books that promise us ways to be happy with futile and useless methods.2 The evolutionist sees sin as immaturity and imperfection. The necessary process to eliminate sin is viewed as simply further evolutionary progress. 3

Genetic technologist view sin as nothing more than undesirable behavior that can eventually be bred out of the human race. A behavioral geneticist told a conference of theologians, "Tell us what behaviors you define as sin and we will eliminate them from the gene pool so that what you call sin will no longer exist." 4

The humanist teaches that imperfection is not catastrophic and that nothing --- even the worst of sins --- is really bad. So what if I am not perfect is the answer. There is no right or wrong. Moral values are self-determined and situational. 5

Christian Scientists believe there is no devil, no evil and therefore no sin. To them evil is an illusion. Sin and disease are figments of the mortal mind. 6

The everyday lives of Bible characters reflected their personal sin as well as God's judgment. David during his cover-up concerning his sin with Bathsheba was no picture of emotional well-being. He was sleepless and constantly worried.

David said, "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD"-- and you forgave the guilt of my sin." (Psalms 32:3-5 NIV)

David had a far easier time dealing with Saul's murderous threats than he did the consequences of his own sin. At least he knew when Saul was threatening him that he had God on his side.

Once we buy the lie that sin is good for us, then we must deal with the warped perception sin brings. Is hiding from someone who loves you the natural thing to do? Once Adam and Eve bought Satan's lie they had to deal with the recompense of their error. Part of the recompense was that their wrongdoing alienated them from the God who loved them. Sin alienated them from one another and from their world. Their sin caused them to lose sight of the truth.

Dealing With Penalty of Our Error

Truth is the road map for negotiating the difficult challenges of life. Without it we get lost and we develop all sorts of problems that should tell us that we're lost. We often settle for half-truths or no truth at all because they are usually easier. But truth is the only road to stability; there is no other path. When we lose sight of the truth we are lost only destruction can follow.

Now the good news is that truth is available to anyone who wants it. Which also means that emotional health is possible for anyone. The real question is "Am I willing to pay the price?"

Jesus said the same thing about two thousand years earlier. In John 8:32 he said, "When you know the truth, the truth will set you free."

We must expose the lies that we've been taught by our culture and apply the truth. The truth will set you free, and you'll experience new freedom from some hang-ups, some habits, some hurts that have messed up your life for twenty or thirty years or more.

The only source of absolute truth is God. Romans 3:4 says, "Let God be true, and every man a liar." There's a fundamental question you need to ask yourself: "What is going to be the authority for my life? What's going to be the basis for my beliefs and my behavior? What's going to be the guidebook that I rely on? What's my North Star? What's my compass?"

When it comes down to it, you have only two options. You either have the world or the Word of God. You will either build your life on what culture says or what Christ says. The world or the Word, which will it be?

Which of them do you think is more reliable? The problem with what culture says is that it just keeps changing. It's shifting every day. The therapy that works today isn't the therapy that was so popular five years ago. Why? Because man's knowledge is increasing, and they find things don't work. But usually by the time we figure out it won't work it is too late.
 

Romans 3:9-18
What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

"Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit."
"The poison of vipers is on their lips."
"Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness."
"Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (NIV)


The Penalty of Our Error Tells Us We Are Lost

Our society is telling us that we can have it all. It is encouraging us "to be all we can be." But we must strive to be all that God is calling us to be. Becoming all that God is calling us to be begins with recognizing where we are. Paul tells us where the world is without God.

We will never experience anything different until we face ourselves as we really are and until we face the mess we have created for ourselves. We seem to think it's a sin to admit we're sinners, but as long as our understanding of sin is superficial our grasp of the significance of Christ's death will be superficial too.

There are all kinds of signs that tell us we are lost. We ask, "What made the teenagers in Colorado do what they did." We believe that it is an influence outside of ourselves that is responsible. We can't see our responsibility for the way we are raising our children because we refuse to see the recompense of our error.

A friend sent me the following "Let's see..." in and email, I have now idea where it originated.

Let's see...

I think it started when Madalyn Murray O'Hair complained that she didn't want any prayer in our schools, and we said O.K.

Then someone said, "You had better not read the Bible in school  - the Bible that says thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself."   And we said, O.K.

Remember Dr. Benjamin Spock, who said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped  and we might damage their self-esteem?  And we said, O.K.

Then someone said that teachers and principals better not discipline our children when they misbehave.  And our administrators said, "Whoa,  no one in this school better touch a student when they misbehave because  we don't want any bad publicity, and we surely don't want to be sued."  And we said, O.K.

Then someone said, "Let's let our daughters have abortions if they  want, and we won't even have to tell their parents." And we said, O.K.

Then someone else said, "Let's give our sons and daughters all the  condoms they want, so they can have all the "fun" they desire, and we won't have to tell their parents."  And we said, O.K.

And then some of our top officials said that it doesn't matter what  we do in private as long as we do our jobs. And we said, "As long as I have a job and the economy is good, it doesn't  matter to me what anyone does in private, it's nobody's business."

In short, it's O.K.

So now we're asking ourselves why some of our children have no  conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill.  Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.

I think it has a great deal to do with "we reap what we sow".  Whoa!  What a concept!


Conclusion:

Romans 3:22-24
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (NIV)
The beautiful thing about God's grace is that you can't get so lost that he want hear your prayers. God wants to save you wherever you are. He wants you to return to him. But first of all we must be willing to die our old way of living. We must embrace God's truth that he might salvage what is left of our lives.

1. David Reddick, The Preacher's Study, http://preacherstudy.com/Ro2.html
2. William Backus & Marie Chapian, Why Do I Do What I Don't Want to Do? (Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, Minnesota) pg. 36,37
3. Ibid.
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.

 

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