Devolution Not Evolution; CHOICES HAVE CONSEQUENCES
Lesson Two of Three Lessons
The cross of Jesus Christ is the supreme illustration of how bad man’s sinful condition really is, because it took the Lord’s death by crucifixion to redeem all who repent and acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God.
The cross of Jesus Christ is also the ultimate example of God’s love because Jesus loved us so much He was willing to pay just that price for our salvation.
At the top of the slippery slope identified as devolution in Lesson One, based on Romans 1:17-32 (from last week’s Cutting Edge) is Paul’s claim people know God exists and that they are responsible to Him. The issue becomes, how will they handle that knowledge?
The answer is that every person on earth has broken fellowship with God because he has corruption at the core of his being with which he is born. It becomes visible almost from childbirth. We want what we want, when we want it and the way we want it. That means it comes natural for us not to want what God knows is best for us, when He wants us to have it, and the way he knows is best for us to be blessed with it. Instead of giving God the glory and honor He is due for His gracious provision of what is best for us, it comes natural for people to suppress the truth and go their own way, making the choice to live with an attitude of ingratitude toward God. This sinful nature has “a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and prides in our achievements and posessions” (1 John 2:16, NLT). “All have become corrupt. No one does good. Not a single one” (Psalm 14:3, NLT).
How important for every person in the human race to agree with God about our spiritual condition! Yes, all people, even the heathen, know God exists and that we will answer to Him for our rebellion against Him, including our violations of His character. A glance at ancient history will make the point.
Moses, the great emancipator, led the children of Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land about 1500 B.C. Moses the lawgiver gave his people the Ten Commandments from the finger of God that set the moral and ethical values of the Hebrew people. Moses the prophet also laid the foundation that bequeathed monotheism to the world (the worship of one God). In Moses’ lifetime, Greece and Rome were only small villages that survived on farming and fishing.
Homer, a Greek poet, wrote his Iliad about 750 B.C. (seven centuries after Moses). The Iliad includes the story of the Trojan War of the Greek Spartans against the city of Troy in Asia Minor. The conflict waged ca. 1250 B.C, about five centuries’ before Homer was born. Homer’s account immortalized the story of Helen of Troy and the Greek victory because of the deception of the Trojan horse. Even at this early time, the Greek people were already on a path of idol worship, including such goddesses as Athena (wisdom), Hera (women and marriage), and Aphrodite (sexual fertility, love and beauty).
About five centuries after Moses, God raised up King David and established the Kingdom of Israel as the dominant world power of the day. David was succeeded by his son, Solomon, who built the Jewish temple to honor Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Solomon ruled over an empire that was the richest the world had ever seen up to that time. Solomon’s kingdom was very dedicated to monotheism.
Solomon built a fleet of ships for trade. The Phoenicians to the north of Israel were also masters of the seas who traded back and forth throughout the known world of the day.
It is unthinkable in this climate of Israel’s wealth and commerce the story of Israelite monotheism based on the revelation of God and the values of the Ten Commandments did not travel north into the lands we think of today as ancient Greece. Peoples far beyond Israel no doubt heard the message of Jehovah God who revealed Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and their descendants. Jehovah brought the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery, opened up the Red Sea for them to cross over on dry ground, gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments written with His own finger, and then called on them to live the highest moral standards in the ancient world. Solomon’s temple was one of the great wonders of the world, and the fame of the worship of God that the Israelites practiced went international. The Queen of Sheba visited Jerusalem from Africa, for example, saw the splendor of Jehovah’s temple and Solomon’s reign, and said, “The half has not been told me.” The message surely also went north into Asia Minor and then westward into the land that became Greece, and even on into Rome (1 Kings 4:34; 5:1; 2 Chronicles 32:31).
The heathen peoples surrounding ancient Israel, however, made a choice to live their own way, under the banner of the gods they created, with the values of their own making. But they did not act out of ignorance. Yes, God has given to all people the right to make choices freely, but choices do have consequences.
Instead of turning to God, the ancients developed their own self-righteousness and worldly wisdom as they tried to find meaning in life that would fill the emptiness of their lifestyle. In that process their hearts became “darkened” or hardened. They claimed to be wise, and the Greek people, for example, were indeed intelligent in significant ways. To name three, they produced great philosophers and builders, and became the cradle of democracy. They achieved so much, yet rejected God and lived the life of fools. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for idols of the mind and heart, and believed a lie. They rejected God’s plans, revealed for the good of mankind, and developed their own. Paul wrote they were “morons” for doing this, but they still did it.
The implications of making this exchange always show up quickly, especially in how a culture handles sexual morality. The Greek world in which Paul grew up in Asia Minor was decidedly promiscuous. The culture embraced a wide range of sexual sin, such as celebrating homosexuality, same-sex marriage, public nudity, polyamory (at least three partners in a “marriage”), and infanticide (exposing newborn infants to the elements). Athletes in the Greek Olympic Games for centuries always competed in the nude.
When people in a culture make these kinds of decisions and reach this depth of devolution, the exchange on earth results in decisions God makes in His heaven. The Apostle Paul identified these consequences with three “God gave them over” verdicts. The first two of the three will be addressed in this lesson.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen.
Paul makes clear in this statement a connection exists between sexual sin that embraces idolatry, and believing the lie that man can plan for man better than his Creator can. In the case of marriage and the family, the essence of idolatry is to reject God’s plan and proceed to establish one’s own. As people do this, they degrade their own bodies. The statuary of the ancient Greek world that has survived shows how the culture did just that. One example with the heathen Greeks is how they openly celebrated nudity. Rather than worshipping the God who created the human body, they routinely chiseled their stone gods in the nude. Greek culture actually defined nudity as “righteous” and “heroic.” The contemporary word, “gymnasium,” derives from the Greek word gymnos, meaning “naked.”
It should be noted the heart of God has never compelled loyalty and obedience from anyone. People can, and do, rebel against God; they can say “NO!” even to their creator. However, we should hold close in our memory and never let go the lesson Adam and Eve learned. People are indeed blessed by living out God’s plans, but they face serious consequences for “exchanging the truth of God for a lie.”
One of the greatest benefits of God’s design for monogamous marriage between a man and a woman until death parts them is that it establishes in a marriage the fidelity that is first revealed in the character of God. Then, when faithfulness in marriage is multiplied across a culture, children will be reared in an atmosphere of love and trust. As the children grow up and move into the workforce of the society, they take this basic value of fidelity with them. Other spin off benefits of fidelity include such principles as honesty and trust. One such result is expressed in the phrase, “a man’s word is his bond.” No question about it, when fidelity in monogamous marriage is spread across a society, it carries with it a whole series of benefits. On the other hand, as sexual promiscuity increasingly knows no restraints, a culture loses such cornerstone values as faithfulness, honesty and trust, and continues to slide on down the slippery slope of devolution.
“God let them go ahead into every sort of sex sin, and do whatever they wanted to – yes, vile and sinful things with each other’s bodies. Instead of believing what they knew was the truth about God, they deliberately chose to believe lies. So they prayed to the things God made, but wouldn’t obey the blessed God who made these things” (Romans 1:24-25, TLB).
As you, dear reader, ponder the continuing loss of moral restraints in American culture, please consider:
- Robert Audi serves as professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He advocates a philosophy that is very strong today in the halls of congress, both state and federal: government “has a prima facie obligation not to advocate or support any law or public policy that restricts human conduct, unless one has and is willing to offer adequate secular reason for its advocacy and support.”1
- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 organized prayer must be removed from public school classrooms. In 1973 the Court made abortion a constitutional right for all women. A few years later, the courts said even religious symbols had to be removed from official, public seals and emblems. In addition, all references to God, such as the Ten Commandments cut into marble or engraved on parchment, if preserved in the public arena at all, must be reduced to only a ceremonial meaning and justified with only a historical purpose.
- And in June 2015, the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage a constitutional right throughout the United States.
Obviously, the kind of thinking expressed in each of these three examples relegates the teaching of Jesus Christ to the inside of the church. The Lord Jesus, in this reasoning, has no place at all in the marketplace of ideas, including government. When no law in a country can find its authority in the teaching of Jesus Christ God’s Son, as expressed in the Bible, its government has already believed a lie and declined to the level the Apostle Paul described in verses 26 and 27.
So God said, in effect:
“If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.’ It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them — the God we bless, the God who blesses us” (Romans 1:24-25, Msg).
The second of the three “God gave them over” statements follows:
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27 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.
I do not believe America today is at the depth of immorality as was practiced in the Greek and Roman world. The United States still has millions of Bible believing, God fearing people who have not bowed to the gods of this age. The United States also continues to have many followers of Jesus who will give their lives before submitting to the moral pressures of our time. In contrast, when Barnabas and Saul (Paul was his Greek name.) left on the first missionary journey of the Christian era I know of no record of a single Christian who counted Asia Minor as home, other than Paul himself.
It is my conviction, however, that America has already slipped considerably down the soggy slope of devolution, and continues to slide.
Man is a worshipping being. When we remove God off the throne of our hearts, we will replace him every time with another god; Satan will move into the darkness. When we cease to adore God and show Him gratitude, we always pull idols into our hearts made in our own image. People sin against God because they want to sin; they find pleasure in sinning, albeit fleeting; it’s their inner nature to sin. When they build gods that are sinners like themselves, they always suppress the truth about God and try to convince themselves they have unquestioned authority to justify their self-righteous acts. One result is homosexuality in all of its forms.
Inflamed lust produces indecent acts of perversion. But this idolatry always comes at a price. The cost is described by the word dissipation, meaning the over-indulgence that goes with moral corruption and ultimately destroys (Luke 21:34; 1 Peter 4:4). The most commonly understood price of sexual perversion is the spread of killer diseases. But there is another consequence; it is insensitivity, and it is equally shocking and revolting.
In American culture, this shows up in many ways but is best illustrated in the 58,000,000 babies that have been killed in the wombs of their mothers. In most cases, abortion results from men and women wanting to enjoy casual sexual relationships without responsibility. But the abortionists who kill babies, over time easily develop a sickening insensitivity to the destiny of each infant they kill. This is especially pronounced when we perceive each infant in the womb is conceived as a human being made in the image of God. While this is bad enough, insensitivity has an additional result. It is the dehumanization of the abortionists and their staffs. Abortions over time dehumanize to the point sensitivity can be thrown to the wind. This means abortionists can even casually discuss how to hold the birthing instruments to ensure the babies are delivered so that their more desirable organs can be harvested and then sold for the top dollar. This callous bargaining to set the price for the tiny organs of these mutilated infants requires dehumanization and insensitivity beyond imagination.
The cross of Jesus Christ is the supreme example of how bad man’s sinful condition really is, because it took the Lord’s death by crucifixion to purchase our salvation.
The cross of Jesus Christ is also the ultimate example of God’s love because Jesus was willing to pay just that price to atone for our sins and give us a new beginning, including eternal life.
Lesson Three, “The Twenty-One Count Indictment,” will follow next week.
1 Robert Audi. Religious Commitments and Secular Reason (Cambridge University Press, 2000) P. 86.