The Worldly Image (Rom. 1:18-31)

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-Spent last 2 weeks laying the foundation of understanding what does it mean to be human. It means reflecting the image of God in the world. 3 primary ways that happens:

-Structurally, functionally, relationally. 

-That doctrine is what has led to the need to treat every single human from conception to natural death with: dignity, honor, and respect because every single person has been created in the image of God.

-Last week we emphasized the relational aspect of this image, and talked about how that has been broken by the Fall in Gen. 3. But it’s not the only part that has been broken, all relationships have (between God and humans, human to human, and human to the rest of creation)

-We know that, recognize it, acknowledge it happens, but what does that look like, what are the implications of the Fall affecting our imaging of God?

Rom. 1 gives us that exact picture!

-Last week focused on the “othering” we as humans do. Talked to/got emails from a few people who shared where they most struggle is in relation to those who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community. I was already planning on touching on that today, but we’ll go a little further into that than I was initially planning on since it is such a prevalent issue today that is also connected to the image of God. But we have some work to do before we get to that conversation!

-Looked at Rom. 1:16-17 my first Sunday here! The theme statement of the whole book: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.””

-You can go back and listen to that message for the whole explanation of what the gospel is, but in short it’s the good news of Jesus coming to save us from our sins. Belief in that gospel will make us distinct from the world, but allows us to be saved, taking us from living under God’s wrath to being made righteous.

-Today’s text explores what it looks like to live under God’s wrath, or to reflect the image of the creation instead of the Creator, like we were created to do.

-Ever been to a carnival with the crazy mirrors that distort the images? 

READ/PRAY

  1. Revelation of God’s Wrath (18-20)

-When’s the last time you heard a sermon on God’s wrath? Time to change that!

-A couple notes: God’s wrath is a real thing, we need to talk about, be aware of, connects from his holiness. Because we sin, we are separated from God. As we talked about last week, we are literally “othered” from Him. Yet God’s wrath was poured out on His one and only Son on the cross.

-Note where this wrath is revealed. Not against men, it’s against men’s ungodliness and unrighteousness. Eventually his wrath will be poured out against them, but that’s in the future.

-Unrighteousness repeated, the opposite of Rom. 1:17. The way to be righteous is by putting your faith in Jesus. Apart from that one way, you will be under wrath.

-This wrath will come because they have suppressed the truth.

-That’s a fascinating phrase! Not just ignored: suppressed, pushed down, restrained. There is truth out there that we need to learn, but people stuck in their sin use that sin, their unrighteousness to prevent the truth from coming out. I think we, unfortunately, see that regularly in our world today. With the #metoo movement, with the debates about church authority. 

-Moo: ““Truth” in the NT is not simply something to which one must give mental assent; it is something to be done, to be obeyed. When people act sinfully, rebelling against God’s just rule, they fail to embrace the truth and so suppress it.”

-In short, if we don’t suppress the truth, but instead expose the truth and let it flourish, we will be living in righteousness, as God has commanded us to. Therefore, we need to look for places/areas where truth is coming out and celebrate it! 

-Paul then goes on to share explicitly how they are suppressing the truth.

-Because God has revealed Himself. Vs. 19 “God has shown it to them.” 

-We spent last Fall looking at Genesis. Who created the world? God did! We could use the cosmological argument for this (anything that exists must have a cause, since the universe has a beginning the universe has a cause) The Bible tells us that cause: God! 

-This is referring to the reality we see in passages like Psalm 19 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Everything we see points to the greatness of a creator. Our bodies work/function/flourish in such precise ways because they were designed, created this way!

-Then the pinnacle of the entire creation is humanity. Unique among the rest of the world (We’ve seen some of the descriptions of that in the videos we’ve seen) Why are humans so different from other animals on the earth? Because God designed it that way so that humans are meant to demonstrate God’s image/glory to the rest of the world.

-However, instead of imaging God, humans have given up this reflection, as we see in the next section:

  • The Great Exchange (21-25)

-Continuing the argument: since God has revealed Himself through His creation, humans are held responsible for not acknowledging Him or His work.

-Look at the description in 21: did not honor or give thanks. Did you know ungratefulness is a demonstration of an unrighteous heart? We are to GIVE THANKS ALWAYS. We have salvation because of the atoning work of Jesus! If that doesn’t foster a spirit of gratitude within us, something is wrong!

-Vs. 22 then reminds us that truth is found in God alone, so when you suppress the truth (suppress the reality that God is God) you become a fool and participate in the great exchange.

-This exchange idea works its way through this whole section: appears in 23, 25, 26. First is exchanging the glory of God for other images. At its core, this is idolatry. Remember: we’re supposed to be imaging God to the world around us, but because of sin we fail in that task and start to image ourselves after other people or even the animals in creation. 

-The description goes from higher to lower: man, birds, animals, creeping things. Almost as if idolatry reverts the world back to its primordial state of chaos, before God commissioned humans to steward the rest of the created order. 

-This idea is seen even in the language of virtue vs. vice (the third section of this text is a vice list) virtuecomes from Latin for “human/perfection” vice comes from Latin for “beast/animal-like” To act virtuous is to image God, to act using vices is to image the creation, or mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

-Because of this tendency among humans to participate in this exchange, God gives them up, allows them to continue down the path of their own folly. This doesn’t begin with God, but He allows them to bear the consequences of their choices, which is getting to disordered or misplaced worship. 

-Every time we sin we’re breaking at least 2 commandments: whatever sin we’re participating in, and idolatry/ no other gods before Him. Notice the “lust of their hearts” Another place we see that idolatry is at the core of our sins. We don’t trust God, we don’t believe His way is best, we’d rather do things our own way. Throughout Scripture, idolatry is referred to as harlotry, so many times we’re uniting ourselves to sin instead of to God.

-(25) Second use of exchange: I view this as a reference back to the Fall in Gen. 3. Ever since the Fall we’ve struggled to trust God, we’ve instead trusted creatures. Because of the idolatry of our hearts we continue to be tempted by the lie. As if to remind people that God must be worshipped above everything else, Paul breaks out into doxology! 

-Even thinking about misplaced worship reminds Paul to worship God. Church, that’s what we who have new hearts are supposed to be doing! Even when we see or talk about sin in the world around us, it should bring us back to orienting our lives to God, praising Him and Him alone. This is what we do every week: we see idolatry all around us, we gather to remember and remind each other that we worship the Creator, not the creation.

-Finally, Paul gets even more specific about what this great exchange has led to:

  • Unnatural Ways to Live (26-32)

-“For this reason” that is: because they have exchanged God’s truth for a lie. We have perpetuated the same lies that caused our first parents to sin. We have not loved God with our whole hearts, and we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. 

-The way you should think about this section is what the Bible would describe as “unnatural” is what the world would believe/define as completely natural. These 2 things are completely opposed to each other. So while we would see these descriptions as completely negative, the world would hold these up as virtues. 

-Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised when we see the world manifesting these things! When they aren’t, that’s the miracle!

-Paul begins with women: who have given up the natural way God designed things to function, and pursued other desires. But it’s not just women who have done this, men too have given up “natural relations with women” and instead or full of desire for each other.

-One of the “clobber passages” in the Bible. Every verse in the Bible is important, but you need to take it within its context

-Let’s begin with the reality that same sex attraction is a result of the Fall, not the way God intended creation to function. With that said, all of sexuality has been abused/broken by the Fall, not just homosexuality. Jesus took the exptectations from the OT and raised it to an almost impossible level, if you even look at someone with impure ideas/thoughts that’s sin!

-Notice as well that homosexuality isn’t the only sin listed here! Gossip, slanderer, disobedient to parents. All a part of the exact same list of sins. 

-Every culture has their own list of vice/virtue lists that have some aspects that line up with God’s list, but everyone falls short in some area. Christians here have a tendency to elevate sexual sins higher. When I was growing up premarital sex felt like the “unforgiveable sin.” Matt Chandler: Jesus wants the rose. No one is too far gone for God to save! That’s literally the point of the gospel! 

-Anyone who has sinned sexually can find forgiveness in the cross of Christ!

-It feels like this conversation has fallen upon us like a tidal wave in the past decade.

-Even in MN we had stark reversal of laws from 2012-13. In 2012 an amendment was made to limit marriage to one man and one woman, which got voted down in Nov. (It almost sounds cute/quaint to say that now) Just 9 months later, Aug. 2013, same sex marriage became legal. 

-How do we engage this conversation today?

1. Identity

-I keep talking about this idea of “expressive individualism” that our world uses. This is one of the biggest examples of this! Instead of deriving our sense of identity outside ourselves, we’re trained to look inside (listen to your heart!) and then force everyone else around us to embrace our self-expression, whatever it is that day. 

-But what have we seen the past 2 weeks? Our identity isn’t found inside, it’s found outside and most closely connected to being like Jesus.

-This is where we need to get back to an understanding of who God is, since He created us, our identity needs to be rooted in Him, and it’s only by recognizing that reality that we’ll be able to live whole/complete lives.

-If instead of reflecting the image of God, we reflect the world/creatures we’ll see all sorts of issues coming because of that – and that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the world today! An epidemic of loneliness, searching for happiness, spirituality isn’t decreasing it’s INcreasing but in the wrong places (wicca, witchcraft)

-Part of the difficulty in this conversation is that sexuality has changed from something we do to something we are. We are not defined by our sexual desires! We are first and foremost humans! Therefore we need to try to separate the sexual conversations from the identity conversations as much as we can.

-Jesus, the most human person to ever live died a virgin! 

2. Heterosexuality isn’t the goal, holiness is.

-In the beginning, God intended man and woman to complement each other, to image God to the world, and to be in perfect relationship (God, others, creation) Because 

-Christopher Yuan Holy Sexuality and the Gospel “Heterosexuality will not get you into heaven and is not the ultimate goal for those with same-sex attractions. God commands us to “be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44–45; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Peter 1:16). Because God is holy, he requires his people to be holy as well. Thus, the opposite of homosexuality is not heterosexuality – that’s not the ultimate goal. But the opposite of homosexuality is holiness.” (p. 52)

-All of us have sins that we struggle with, and may continue struggling with until the day we die or Christ returns. We as a church are meant to be a place of refuge, a source of strength and encouragement in our daily fight against our sins. We should never look down on someone else for their struggles when they’re not the same as ours.

-I have a distinct memory of the time a friend shared with me (VERY nervously!) that he wasn’t a virgin. I think he was even more surprised when I didn’t shame him. (much better response than the time a friend in college told me!)

3. Higher calling than just “being honest.”

“The Christian has a higher bar for his or her speech even than honesty, and that bar is edification (Rom. 15:2). Not every honest thing needs to be said…Friends, just because we’re honest, doesn’t mean we’re edifying.” (Isaac Adams Talking About Race, 40–41)

-When talking about this issue, how can we engage it in such a way that we’re edifying the person we’re talking to? This isn’t just for believers, Rom. 15:2 is referring to your neighbors. If you want to know who your neighbor is, go read Luke 10:25-37 it’s a parable called the Good Samaritan.

-Similar idea in Col. 4:5-6 “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” How can you be gracious toward those who are of the world and dealing with these issues?

-Where the world calls for endorsement, we are called to love them – truly love them! Treat them as humans who are created in the image of God and create a place for them to understand who God created them to be. And it starts with us living that reality out.

4. We need to be the church. 

-We are commanded to be welcoming (Rom. 15:1-7) we are all commanded to be hospitable (Heb. 13:2). I don’t see anywhere where we’re commanded to fight against those who are sinning, because we don’t fight against flesh and blood.

-“There is a core difference between sharing the gospel with the lost and imposing a specific moral standard on the unconverted.” Rosaria Butterfield Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert. Rosaria was a Lesbian activist and scholar (writings laid the foundation for much of Lesbian agenda today) Came to faith through a pastor opening his home. Which means we as the church are called to be a:

-Family. For those who struggle with gender dysphoria, for those whose family members are losings this fight, we are meant to be a place where sinners are made whole.

-Parents: it’s not your fault. We’ve been looking at the doctrine of humanity, and part of the implication of that is we are all sinners. But don’t forget to pray, don’t forget to listen, don’t forget to be hospitable. We shouldn’t act surprised when sinners sin, it’s in the name! I preach this now understanding I may need this reminder in 20 years as my kids grow up. But please don’t keep this in isolation.

-For any of you who struggle with sexual sins of any kind, please don’t struggle alone. Bring it into the light, let others know, let them come alongside you, and let’s continue stumbling toward maturity together.

-People view it as either you need to affirm marriage in my life or you’re condemning me to a lifetime of loneliness. I’ve known lots of married people, marriage doesn’t solve loneliness! In fact, at times it can make it worse! That’s where we all need each other!

-Lots of fun debates about whether how to welcome people into the church. Do they have to believe before they can belong? I think we need to be more intentional about creating places for people to belong before they’re going to believe. That means invite your friends, neighbors, coworkers, enemies over, show them the truths of the gospel. If you remain a loyal, faithful friend we’re going to speak volumes to people who get cancelled at the drop of a hat.

-This week read Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. Author wondered why teenage girls identifying as transgender jumped by 1,000% in a year. She interviewed those who have done irreversible damage to their bodies and now regret their youthful folly. Church: are we going to be a place where those who have made those decisions can find a place to recover, or do we just look down on them?

  • The Greatest Exchange (1 Cor. 6:9-11)

-Another vice list by Paul, but this one ends with a pointed reminder: and such were some of you.

-Brothers and sisters, we’re not better because we have different, more socially acceptable sins. The only difference is faith. Do you believe, trust in, throw yourself upon God’s mercy and trust Him to daily conform you to His image, or do you instead want to continue trying to reflect images of the creation? One leads to life and flourishing, the other leads to death. And if we are pursuing Christ, it’s on us to continue looking around for those imaging the creation and demonstrate and share how to image Christ, and we need each other to do that!  

-Instead of reflecting the carnival mirror, we’re commanded to reflect God to the world! 

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