|New International Version|
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
|New International Version|
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.
Read at Bible Gateway
Read all of Jeremiah 29
NOVEMBER 8, 1998
The Perils of Disapproving God
Paul’s teaching about why a society degenerates into unrestrained, debauched, destructive evil is unlike any analysis you would read today. One of the reasons for this is that when a society is sinking into moral decay, one of the traits of that decay is the inability to see what is happening. The social mind becomes so defective in the moral decadence that it doesn’t have the categories or the framework to recognize evil for what it really is.
We do live in such a day. The inability to render sound moral judgments is evident almost wherever you look. Which makes this passage of Scripture one of the most relevant and needed texts in all the Bible for our day — precisely because it seems so foreign. Today, if something doesn’t seem spiritually or morally foreign, it is probably part of the blind and decadent atmosphere we breathe, and therefore of no real use to us, no matter how good it makes us feel.
What we need is a word from outside our defective world and our depraved thinking. We need a word from God. And we may certainly expect such a word to be very strange, because we have become strangers to the reality of God in a very self-absorbed age.
What we have in today’s text is a list of twenty-one ways of sinning or twenty-one kinds of evil. And what I think we should do is notice, first, why Paul gives us this list and where such evil comes from. Then we should look at the list itself and ask why it’s here. Then we should ask what the solution is to these kinds of things.
So, first, where do the evils listed in verses Romans 1:29–31 come from? It all started back in verse 18 where Paul gave the reason for why the gospel of the gift of God’s righteousness is so desperately needed. You recall that he said in verse 16 that the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Why? Verse 17: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous shall live by faith.’” In other words: The gospel is the power of God to save believers because in it God gives us what we need and could never produce on our own, namely, his own righteousness. The righteousness that he demands from us he freely gives to us, if we will trust him. This is the great biblical truth of justification by faith.
Then in verse 18, he tells us why this gospel of the gift of God’s righteousness is so desperately needed: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” We need the righteousness of God because it is the only thing that can protect us from the wrath of God. And we need to be protected from the wrath of God because we are unrighteous by nature and suppress the truth of God. By nature we don’t like God and we don’t want him in our lives. I tremble just to say it.
So what Paul does in the following verses is describe for us the effects of suppressing the truth of God. He wants us to see all the evil of the world as a river that flows from this spring. Reject God, suppress God, distort God, recreate God in your own image to your own liking, and the effect is worse than we expect. And the thing that is worse than we expect is that God joins our crusade against God, as it were, and delivers us into the debasing effects of our own rebellion against him.
We’ve seen it three times. In verse 23, we exchange the glory of God for images, and verse 24 says, “Therefore God gave them over to the lusts of their hearts.” In verse 25, we exchange the truth about God for a lie, and verse 26 says, “For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions.” And today in verse 28 we see it again: “They did not see fit to acknowledge God (or literally: they did not approve to have God in their knowledge), [therefore] God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper.”
This is what Paul means by the wrath of God being revealed (verse 18): God’s wrath is being revealed against the world, as human beings all over the world set their affections on other things more than on God. God’s response to this worldwide disloyalty and treason against our Creator is not, first, to send us to hell, but to see that we sink into the swamp we have chosen.
This is what I was referring to at the beginning when I said that Paul’s teaching about why societies often degenerate into unrestrained, debauched, destructive evil is unlike any analysis you would read today. Today you might hear someone say: “Okay, America, you have built your bed of secular, God-belittling relativism and amorality, so now sleep in it.” But that is not what Paul says here.
He says something far more horrifying about God’s wrath. He gives us his analysis of our situation in four steps. Just take verse 28 from today’s text to see all four. First, he says that the root problem is that we don’t like having God in our knowledge. “They did not see fit to acknowledge God.” That is the fundamental problem in the world. That is the essence of the human condition. We don’t want God. We want self-determination and self-exaltation. That was the first sin in the garden. And that is the root of all evil today. We do not want to know God or have him in our lives.
The second step of God’s analysis is that God, in an act of judgment (recall the revealing of “wrath” in verse 18), withdraws his common restraints on our rebellion and gives us over to sink in the swamp we have chosen. This is what you will not hear in any social analysis today. Who today has the God-centered realism to say: The depth of our sin does not just deserve divine judgment, it is divine judgment? That is what Paul says. You can’t really understand America (or any other country) today without this revealed truth. Even if we tried to boast over God that at least we have our self-determination in rebelling against God, God would answer, “You think so? Think again.”
The third step in Paul’s analysis (in verse 28) is that the effect of God’s giving us over and removing his common restraints (see Genesis 20:6) is that we are imprisoned by a “depraved mind.” “God gave them over to a depraved mind.” Our minds become more and more defective in sin. Not only do we use them to sin, but we can’t even think clearly about sin. We can’t recognize it. It’s as if we turned away from God and fell in love with the African black fly that carries the roundworm that causes river blindness, and then God gave us over to the fly and the worm — and the blindness — so that all we can do now is fondle the fly (of sin!) and keep trying to convince ourselves that it’s a precious tuft of velvet.
The fourth step of the analysis (in verse 28) is that our defective mind produces all kinds of evils. Paul goes on to list twenty-one of them as samples. So now we have our answer to the first question, namely, where does such evil come from? It comes from: (1) our desire not to have God in our knowledge; and (2) from God’s judgment on mankind to give us over to sink in the swamp we love; and (3) from the depraved or defective mind that we sink into.
So now we can ask the question: What is this list of evils? What are we to make of this long list and why is it here? Let’s read it again. Verse Romans 1:28–31:
God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful.
Of course, a person could raise an objection against Paul here: This is not the way all unbelievers are. Some are very conscientious, law-abiding, philanthropic, courteous, decent people. Yes, that’s true, and Paul knew it was true. He was quite aware, for example, of the Stoics of his own day — people like Seneca and later, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius, who prided themselves in not being like this list of evils, and yet, who were not Christians.
No, the point of this list is not to say that every society that refuses to love the true God will look just like this. We know this because, in verses 26–27, Paul says that homosexual desire is also a result of not loving God above other things, and being handed over by God, and yet Paul clearly does not think that every unbeliever has homosexual desires.
Similarly, here in verse 28–31, when he says that all these sins are the result of refusing to acknowledge God, and he doesn’t mean that every unbeliever, or group of unbelievers, has all these sins or in the same measure. Instead, these are samples. They are the sort of thing that comes from rejecting God, and the more God gives a people up to their own unrestrained depravity, the more their society will have these sins in greater and greater measure.
So what’s the point of listing all these sins? The point, I think, is to give us enough examples to show that virtually every form of evil has to do with God and comes from failing to know him and approve him and love him above all things. In other words, he gives us a sweeping array of evils to awaken us to the fact that the ruin of any area of life is owing to the abandonment of God. Verse 28: they did not want God in their knowledge, therefore . . . and then he gives his list of evils.
In other words, the point of the list is to connect God with every sin in the world. And we’ve seen that the connection is twofold: every sin is rooted in our preferring something else to God; and every sin gets worse as God takes away his restraints and gives us up to sink in the swamp we have chosen.
If America has the highest murder rate in the western world, it has to do with God. If our executives are greedy, it has to do with God. If our politicians are deceitful, it has to do with God. If we gossip about each other behind the back, it has to do with God. If our talk show hosts are insolent and boastful, it has to do with God. If our children are disobedient to parents, it has to do with God. If we are untrustworthy and don’t keep our marriage vows, it has to do with God. If we are blind to obvious wrongs and are unloving and unmerciful, it has to do with God.
That’s the point of this list. Wherever we are sinking in sin, it is because we have jumped off the rock of the glory of God.
Which brings us finally to the third and last question: What is the solution? How shall we battle back against these destructive evils in our own lives and in our culture? The answer is what the whole book of Romans is about. But let’s close by looking at three great reversals.
- We need the reversal of God’s wrath against our unrighteousness.
- We need the reversal of God’s handing us over to a depraved mind.
- We need the reversal of our mind’s moral decay so that it can be renewed for right and proper use in God’s service.
The good news is that God has provided every one of those reversals. You do not have to sink any further if you will embrace God and his provision. The key verse for the reversal of God’s wrath against us is Romans 1:17: In the gospel of Christ, “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’”
In other words, the righteousness that God demands from us, he freely gives to us, if we will turn back to him and trust him to be our greatest Good. And if you have the righteousness of God, you are not under the wrath of God anymore — a very happy reversal!
The key verse for the reversal of God’s handing us over to a depraved mind is Romans 6:17: “Thanks be to God that, though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were handed over [same word as Romans 1:28].”
This is the exact reversal of the handover in Romans 1:28. Here it is to a form of teaching that is true and holy, not false and dirty. And notice that it is God who does it. “Thanks be to God,” Paul says, that you became obedient to this teaching. God gives us over to truth and righteousness as much as he once gave us over to sin.
Finally, the key verse for reversing the defectiveness of our minds is Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
When God has given us his righteousness by faith in Jesus, and when he has handed us over to a new teaching of truth and begun to make us obedient to it, then, little by little, we are transformed in the renewing of our minds and the long list of sins in Romans 1:29–31 becomes shorter and weaker to the glory of God.
This is the key to life. This is the message that we take to the neighborhood and to the nations. I call you and urge you to receive these three reversals from the hand of God by faith: (1) the reversal of God’s wrath through the gift of God’s righteousness; (2) the reversal of being handed over to depravity through being handed over to truth; and (3) the reversal of a depraved mind through the transformation of a renewed mind.John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist and most recently Providence.
4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
1 John 4:4
Remember this verse as we go into the next year!
May God bless all of you, as we embrace Him and each other.
If there was ever a time when we are called to show an extraordinary display of love for God and each other, it is now. I’ve been questioning what we as Christians are doing to show love during these hectic times.
Reading the following scripture, I tried to put a filter in place to determine whether modern-day Christianity actually survives the test of Jesus’ definition of love. Let’s read this together and ask the Holy Spirit to help us answer that question.
The Great Commandment
Matthew 22 (English Standard Version)
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.
35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
8 This is the great and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Along with these scriptures, we would be remiss not to read and understand God’s further definition of love.
1 John 4:20 (English Standard Version)
20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
So, let’s ask ourselves:
- Do we treat everyone with this kind of love? Does it matter whether they have the same color of skin as ours, speak with the same language that we use?
2. Are we prejudiced in any way?
3. Do we encourage hate of any person?
4. Do we support bullying?
5. Do we reach out and pick up the peaceful person that was just beaten down–by fists or guns–or words? Or do we join in?
6. Do we judge a person by whether they are poor, or not?
7. Do we act out, in any way, with disdain, judgmental thoughts or actions, or do we try to understand a person who is different from us? who may have a different religious affiliation? a different way in describing their belief system? Or do we think that we are the only people who have all the answers?
8. Do we agree that requiring servitude by anyone is ok? is loving? is the way Jesus would treat people?
I think this is a somber time in all of our lives when we should quietly sit and reflect on these questions. If we fall short of the definition of love as Jesus describes it, we have an imperative to go to Him and ask forgiveness, turn away from that wrongful attitude, and humble ourselves as we seek God’s guidance in remedying our actions. That way He will be glorified rather than being ashamed of us.
Are we really Christians?
If we don’t display the love and light from our Lord, then we should stop using His name–in vain!
Your sister in Christ,
Pondering, letting my thoughts go upward and all around me up to HIM, I constantly Sit in Heavenly Places. It’s joy unspeakable! ~ Sharon
Commitment to Christ is a daily calling.
“You’re gonna regret it!” I waved away the warning without turning around. What was to regret? I took the shortcut.
I was on my way to a picnic. The tables sat on the other side of a marsh. The parks department had kindly constructed a bridge over the marsh. But who needed a bridge? I ventured in. The mud swallowed my feet. Squiggly things swam past me. I think I saw a set of eyeballs peering in my direction. I backpedaled—flip-flops sucked into the abyss. I exited, mud covered, mosquito bitten, and red faced.
I walked over and took my seat at the picnic table. It made for a miserable picnic, but it makes for an apt proverb. Life comes with voices. Voices lead to choices, and choices have consequences!
~ Max Lucado
Think about the Christian you want to be. What qualities do you want to have: more compassion…more conviction…more courage? What attitudes do you want to discontinue: greed…guilt…endless negativity? With God’s help you can! You can close the gap between the person you are and the person you want to be. Indeed, the person God made you to be. You can live “from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
To inherit your inheritance is God’s vision for your life! Imagine the thought. You as you were intended. It’s a life that is yours for the taking. You can expect to be challenged. The enemy won’t go down without a fight. But God’s promises outweigh personal problems. Victory becomes, dare we imagine, a way of life. Isn’t it time for you to change your mailing address from the wilderness to the promised land? Are you ready to march?
~ Max Lucado
Praying for blessings to all of you around the world. May we all come together to find what is best in each of us. Love surely is better than hate. Working together, standing together, loving together will make the difference. If you are upset about something, find your voice. Go on Twitter, Facebook, start a Website, care and share positive ideas and progressive thinking instead of crying in a corner. We can all light the place where we stand and that light will shine enough to change things.
Be blessed with much love, joy, and happiness!
Sharon & Erick
There comes a time when we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
And its time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all
We can’t go on pretending day by day
That someone, somehow will soon make a change
We are all a part of Gods great big family
And the truth, you know,
Love is all we need
We are the world, we are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day
So lets start giving
Although this article was published in 2015, when I discovered it today, I thought it important to share. ~ Sharon Rule
Published: April 27, 2015 – 11:12AM
Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.
I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.
This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.
At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.
The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.
In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.
The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us. The evidence shows that investing in women and girls delivers major benefits for society. An educated woman has healthier children. She is more likely to send them to school. She earns more and invests what she earns in her family.
It is simply self-defeating for any community to discriminate against half its population. We need to challenge these self-serving and outdated attitudes and practices – as we are seeing in Iran where women are at the forefront of the battle for democracy and freedom.
I understand, however, why many political leaders can be reluctant about stepping into this minefield. Religion, and tradition, are powerful and sensitive areas to challenge. But my fellow Elders and I, who come from many faiths and backgrounds, no longer need to worry about winning votes or avoiding controversy – and we are deeply committed to challenging injustice wherever we see it.
The Elders are an independent group of eminent global leaders, brought together by former South African president Nelson Mandela, who offer their influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity. We have decided to draw particular attention to the responsibility of religious and traditional leaders in ensuring equality and human rights and have recently published a statement that declares: “The justification of discrimination against women and girls on grounds of religion or tradition, as if it were prescribed by a Higher Authority, is unacceptable.”
We are calling on all leaders to challenge and change the harmful teachings and practices, no matter how ingrained, which justify discrimination against women. We ask, in particular, that leaders of all religions have the courage to acknowledge and emphasise the positive messages of dignity and equality that all the world’s major faiths share.
The carefully selected verses found in the Holy Scriptures to justify the superiority of men owe more to time and place – and the determination of male leaders to hold onto their influence – than eternal truths. Similar biblical excerpts could be found to support the approval of slavery and the timid acquiescence to oppressive rulers.
I am also familiar with vivid descriptions in the same Scriptures in which women are revered as pre-eminent leaders. During the years of the early Christian church women served as deacons, priests, bishops, apostles, teachers and prophets. It wasn’t until the fourth century that dominant Christian leaders, all men, twisted and distorted Holy Scriptures to perpetuate their ascendant positions within the religious hierarchy.
The truth is that male religious leaders have had – and still have – an option to interpret holy teachings either to exalt or subjugate women. They have, for their own selfish ends, overwhelmingly chosen the latter. Their continuing choice provides the foundation or justification for much of the pervasive persecution and abuse of women throughout the world. This is in clear violation not just of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but also the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Paul, Moses and the prophets, Muhammad, and founders of other great religions – all of whom have called for proper and equitable treatment of all the children of God. It is time we had the courage to challenge these views.
Jimmy Carter was president of the United States from 1977 to 1981
May 4 2015
This story was found at: The Age
So happy to be sharing this amazing day with all of you. Hoping you are having a wonderful, blessed, full-of-love day. If any of you are alone today, we reach out to you to let you know you are never alone because we love you and are with you in spirit. Remembering those who are no longer with us and feeling the loss of their presence. Sharon and Erick
When Christ was born, so was our hope! This is why I love Christmas. The event invites us to believe the wildest of promises! He did away with every barrier, fence, sin, bent, debt, and grave. Anything that might keep us from him was demolished.
He only awaits our word to walk through the door. Invite him in. Escort him to the seat of honor, and pull out his chair. Clear the table; clear the calendar. Call the kids and neighbors. Christmas is here. Christ is here. One request from you, and God will do again what he did then. He’ll scatter the night with everlasting light. He’ll be born in you.
Let “Silent Night” be sung! Every heart can be a manger. Every day can be a Christmas. The Christmas miracle—a yearlong celebration! ~Max Lucado
The sinful nature is the stubborn, self-centered attitude that says, “My way or the highway.” The sinful nature is all about self: pleasing self, promoting self, preserving self. I have a sin nature! So do you. Under the right circumstances you will do the wrong thing. You’ll try not to, but you will. You have a sin nature. You were born with it. The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart!
Christmas commemorates the day and the way God saved us from ourselves. The angel speaking to Mary in Matthew 1:21 says, “. . .you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Each of us entered the world with a sin nature. God entered the world to take it away!
~ Max Lucado