September 11, 2019

I want to break into a dance, not break dance when I read and reflect on Romans 1:16-17.  Every time.  Without exception.  What people need is the Gospel and the Gospel is the power of God to produce salvation in all who believe.  All kinds of people who believe. All ethnicities in the world who believe.  All ages who believe.  All from whatever background or belief system who believe.  God’s power in the Gospel breaks through and breaks down all kinds of barriers and brings people to Jesus.  There it is.  So believe.  But why is it that people don’t believe and be saved?  Why is it that it seems so few except in exceptional circumstances of a mass movement of the Holy Spirit refuse to believe?  And why is it that so many who do believe are in our day and in our time living lives that are frankly and embarrassment to the one in whom we believe?
Romans 1:16-17 makes me want to dance.  Romans 1:18-32 makes me want to cry.  A deep and dreadful dirge.  We need the Gospel of Jesus Christ to transform our lives because of who we are from birth and by nature.  We are not only born in sin but because we are born in sin we are born under the wrath of God.  What this means in part is that we are born with a natural bent toward exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  We are born with desires that are misdirected from pleasing God toward pleasing ourselves.  We are born in fact with our compass way off center.  We are born with a focus on who we are as we understand ourselves and thus we are born thinking that what we want and perceive we need for ourselves is right.  And we then develop a view of God that is biblically wrong, fatally flawed, and yet faithfully followed by those who believe wrongly because we have made some very fundamental exchanges.  We are not alone in making these exchanges.  There are far more people inside our churches that have made these exchanges that we really want to know and thus they may be in many of our churches the majority.  What are these exchanges that we make?
I want simply to cite six or seven of them.  We exchange God as the center of the universe for ourselves as the center of the universe.  It should not surprise us that little Joni who grew up in church and was taught that God created all that is should be deceived by the teaching of evolution when she goes off to college, not because of its scientific credibility but because of its personal and social implications:  evolution makes “man” the meaning of all things and the measure of all things.  God exists to serve our needs.  Joni may have grown up in a home or a church that had already made this exchange so giving it evolutionary underpinning is no major shift for her.  Second, we exchange the supernatural power of God for the natural reason of the individual.  The first exchange turns us at best into practical deists.  If we continue to believe in a God, we do so as those who think that he has always in mind our best interests and the second exchange means that we know what those “best interests” are.  We could not conceive of a “God” who would send suffering or for sure long-term pain into our lives as the instrument that He uses to bring honor to His Name.
Third, we exchange truth as determined objectively for experiences that are more felt than factual.  Life becomes determined and driven by what we feel is right for us and good for us.  Facts are not forsaken but only useful as they help confirm what we are feeling is right.  Fourth, we exchange revelation from God through His Word as the ultimate guide to determine what is true for what we can connect logically in our reason as true.  It never occurs to us that our reason could be infected with sin or that our reason could mislead us because fifth we have exchanged the biblical teaching of total depravity that simply means that everything about us from what we think to what we feel is corrupted by sin for seeing ourselves as being basically good so that we make most of the time really good decisions.  This leads us sixth to exchange the truth of God that we are aliens here and strangers on the earth for our being citizens of this world whose ultimate goal is our pleasure and happiness in this world now.  Having made all of these exchanges and most of them unconsciously, it is an easy step to the seventh change which to exchange the Gospel of Jesus Christ which when believed produces real and radical change that keeps on working on, in and through us for another Gospel that is formalized into a formulaic prayer that provides us assurance of heaven leaving us free to live here and now however we choose.
That we can make exchanges in our lives for, let’s say; a pair of pants that do not fit for a pair that does, that is a good thing.  But when we exchange the truth of God found in His Word for a lies that we begin to believe and base our lives on, that is very dangerous and deadly.