Core Values That Count 2/8/98

Romans 1:14-17
Page 1645 Come Alive Bible

JESUS CHRIST touches and transforms lives. He did so for the most unlikely candidate. A brilliant though belligerent young attorney who was the apple of the judiciary eye in Jerusalem was assigned the role of special prosecutor to investigate rumors of the resurrection of Christ. His evidence turned on him and convinced him of the reality of the resurrection. He who gathered more facts about the resurrection was a skeptic. His material evidence and the collaborated testimony of eye witnesses changed his life. Thereafter, the life of Paul, filling it with joy so that it overflowed. That elation over salvation thrilled him so that he wanted to happily share it with others. The natural result of the in filling is the outpouring. What happened in the life of Paul was revolutionary. Ambitiously he wanted this spiritual revolution to sweep the known world. He had a sense of obligation to be an agent of achieving this end.

He had – – –

As a result of his redemption, he was completely owned by Christ. This gave him a sense of being completely obligated to Christ. Since Christ died for his sins and rose for his salvation Paul desired to do what Christ wanted and not what he wanted.

We are morally obligated to others as a result of being trustees or stewards of the Gospel.

When we receive something nice from friend, we feel a bit of indebtedness until we can do something nice for them. That wasn’t how Paul felt. He was not indebted to the people because he had not received something from them but something for them.

When Moses received the Ten Commandments from God, he became a debtor to Israel not because he received something from them but for them.

This indebtedness is to all persons. Greek culture permeated the known world. Therefore they were included. The term “barbarians” was a term used by the Greeks for anyone that did not speak their language. Other languages sounded to them like “bar bar” so they combined those words with “os” to make the word “barbaros,” meaning anyone not speaking Greek.

The words, “wise and unwise,” refer to cultured and uncultured. Thus, everyone is included. This is amplified in Colossians 1:28, “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

About 500 B.C. “The Greek Miracle” emerged. In the lovely city of Athens the Greek culture was born. Their striking architecture was revolutionary. They raised knowledge of math to a new height. They became the first civilization to write history as such. They developed a new system of thought called logic.

Our American culture is indebted to Greek thought. They impacted the entire world.

The Greeks were the first to make their gods in their own image. God’s devised by other civilizations were ghoulish. Most were hybrids of lions/men or bulls/women, etc. Greek gods were like human beings. They said beauty is truth and truth is beauty. Their gods looked like Olympic champions or perfect females. Romans 1:23 describes this process: “and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man; and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

Man was made the center of the universe. Humanism was given a major boost. Our society is currently following their trend.

Societies that do this should expect the result. Romans 1:24 reveals the result: “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves…”

The term “God gave them up” means God took off all restraints. It was a term used for removing the mooring lines from a boat and setting it adrift. God gave them up to depravity. Verse 18 notes the “wrath of God is revealed” against such persons.

An overlooked aspect of the wrath of God is that God often punishes sin “in kind.”

In the Old Testament era the people of God rebelled during the wilderness wanderings when God was feeding them with “manna” a perfect food substance. What they wanted was not the perfect food God wanted them to have. They complained and demanded meat. God gave them what they wanted. Numbers 11:18ff tells of the result. God said “…you shall eat flesh…until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome.”

God often judges us by giving us more and more of what we want until we become sick of it. In the process we often call it progress.

As a child I loved pickles. Note, I said, past tense, “I loved” pickles. One Sunday afternoon while my parents were hosting relatives on the front porch of our house I got my opportunity. Mom had just made a vat of my favorite home made pickles. I had some with lunch and mother said, “Son, don’t eat any more.”

While they were busy on the front porch I seized the moment to enjoy more pickles. I was just wafting down my third one when I felt the hot laser beam of mom’s eyes on my back. Moms, even on the porch, knew what was going on in the kitchen.

“Enjoying the pickles I told you not to eat?” “Yes, mam!” “Well have another.” What has come over mom? She is rewarding me for misbehaving. What a wonderful way to get another pickle. Down went another large one. Yummy!

With a warm smile mom offered another. Well, that was OK but not quite as good. Slowly I finished it only to be offered another. By now pickles were becoming a punishment.

Believe me, pickles taste a lot better going down than they do coming up.

God gave them up. Romans 1: 21-23 chronicles the behavior resulting in being given up.

IMPUDENT – “They did not glorify God…”

INGRATES – “Neither were they thankful…”

IMPOSING – “They become futile in their thoughts…”

IRRATIONAL – “professing themselves to be wise…”

IDOLATERS – “They changed the glory of the incorruptible.”

God gave them up to “vile passions” (Vs. 26). That is, passions of dishonor.

Our president is alleged to have participated in conduct that would come under this classification. I want to repeat “alleged to have.” My point is not to hint that he is or is not guilty. Mark that.

The point is that in public opinion polls 72% of the people say it doesn’t matter if he did it.

Though I am not passing judgement on the president I am critically judging the attitude that says it doesn’t matter. It does matter to God. Other societies that have become hardened in this attitude have experienced the “wrath of God.”

It is said God gave such persons “over to a debased mind.” That means a person is incapable of making a correct moral judgement.

Verse 22 says, “Professing themselves to be wise they become fools.”

We have the most learned society in history. We have more brilliant people today than ever. We are brilliant about many things. Ask about space exploration, lasers, the Internet, modern medicine and we are capable of giving brilliant answers. Ask about a moral issue and we fail the test. Listen to the average TV talk show and you will hear the wisdom of fools.

As verse 18 says we have “suppressed the truth with unrighteousness.” The truth has now become so popular in certain instances that it is thought to be wrong.

A second characteristic emerges in verse 32. It shows people seek agreement on sin. “You approve of my sin and I will applaud yours.” The ploy is not only to cover sin but to get society to applaud it.

We, like Paul, can never repay our Lord for what He has done for us; but we, like him, should be willing to pay a little interest on the debt by faithfulness. The expression “ready” actually means “eager.”

“So” expresses the same intensity as the same word in John 3:16, “For God so loved…”

Paul was fervently eager to preach the Gospel.

He was mocked for preaching the Gospel in Athens.

He was mobbed for preaching it in Jerusalem.

It looks like he would have learned, but now he was ready to be martyred for preaching it in Rome.

Abraham Lincoln said he liked to see a man preach like he was fighting a swarm a bees.

Some preachers preach like they have just swallowed an egg and they are afraid that if they move, it will break; and if they don’t it will hatch.

What Paul was to preach was “the Gospel,” the good news not man’s views.

It takes time to get ready. Paul had to spend time alone in the Arabian desert with the Lord to get “ready.” No Christian should be reluctant to be trained to share the good news.

It took bold faith not to be ashamed of the Gospel in Imperial Rome.

Paul had previously faced the wicked city of Corinth “in fear, and in much trembling” (I Cor. 2:3). There he saw what the power of the Gospel could achieve. Now with eager boldness he was ready to face Rome, a city that worshiped power, with a greater power, the power of the Gospel.

The Greek word translated “power” is DUNAMIS meaning “God’s power.” DUNAMIS gives us our English words dynamo, dynamic, and dynamite.

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6: 9 – 11).

The expression “The just shall live by faith” (vs. 17) was the theme that started the Reformation. It was a revolutionary thought in that era. Man through creedal religion was trying to earn, merit, and deserve God’s favor. Despair and futility resulted.

There is all the difference in the world in man’s self-sought righteousness and God’s righteousness.

READ: Titus 3:5; Eph. 2: 8,9; Romans 4:5.

The good news is revealed “from faith to faith,” EK PISTEOS EIS PISTIN, literally, “out of faith and into faith.” In other words, God does not speak to us directly; but faith comes from out of the heart and life of one believer who shares that faith and into the heart of one who by faith receives it.

The word “revealed” means “to take off the veil.” That is what sharing the goods news is. It is an unveiling.

In the Convent Library at Erfurt is a renown painting. It depicts Martin Luther as a young monk of 24 years of age reading a portion of Scripture in the early morning light. On the page he is reading can be seen the words, “The just shall live by faith.” Centuries before the prophet Habakkuk had penned these words and later the Apostle Paul repeated them. This painting depicts the renewal of humanity.

In the Library of Rudolstadt is a handwritten letter penned by Paul Luther the son of Martin. In it he relates a family insight as follows, “In the year 1544, my late dearest father, in the presence of us all, narrated the whole story of his journey to Rome. He acknowledged with great joy that, in that city, through the Spirit of Jesus Christ, he had come to the knowledge of the truth of the everlasting Gospel.”

Let me share a summary of that moment of enlightenment in the life of Martin Luther.

Still today in Rome you will find the Cathedral Church of St. John of Lateran. There are three parallel staircases in it. People walk up the stairs on the left and right, but the center one is considered special. On some of the steps of the center case there are coverings of plate glass through which red stains can be seen on the stairs. These steps are still climbed by anguishing would-be worshipers who stoop to kiss the glass covered stains. A late tradition says these were the stairs in Pilate’s Hall in Jerusalem, and these are the blood stains from Christ’s wounds.

As the devout young monk, Luther climbed these steps on his knees seeking thereby to gain the favor of God, the text which he had read in that early morning light came to his mind: “The just shall live by faith.” He jumped to his feet and went on his way rejoicing.

Now back to the Library of Rudolstadt and the handwritten letter by the son of Martin Luther: “Thereupon, he ceased his prayers, returned to Wittenberg, and took this as the chief foundation of his doctrine.”

It is the foundation of Christianity.