Monday, April 6, 2009

The Gospel vs Futility

Romans 1

This morning we are going to contrast the devolution of man with the evolution of worship

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools ...

Do you know what the saddest word in this passage is? The word "futile." Futile means "worthless, empty, of no value, useless." This is how Paul sums up the efforts of all those who choose not to glorify and thank God. Their efforts, their thinking, their feelings are all futile. It doesn’t matter how great the effort, no matter how amazing their thoughts might be, no matter how gut-wrenching their feelings are. The realization is that it is all futile if God, His glory, His praise are not recognized in it.

Paul uses not only the word "futile" but also the word "foolish." The heart of a person is foolish if they know there is a God but don't glorify Him or give thanks to Him. Why is it foolish? It is the reality of this verse "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth" (Rom 1:18).

Futile and foolish!! This is what Paul says, but you contrast that with the hope of the power of the gospel and the transforming work that it can do in anyone’s life and it gives me every reason to believe that there is no way ever that He gives up on a person. He definitely will give someone over, but it is always with the intent to bring them home to His saving grace and mercy. Today we will focus on the power of the gospel and the righteousness of God. That is the opposite of futility.

We will contrast the downward spiral of man with the upward revelation of the gospel

First the bad news.

v18 The 1st conscious decision of a life removed from God is the suppression of truth

This takes place when you become convinced that everything you see can be explained. A person may not say it with their lips, but their life reads like a book and there is no God consciousness.

It is happening now more than ever before in the history of our country.

It is the silencing and marginalizing of the voice of truth. It is university campuses in our country who are successfully shutting down groups that are pro life. It is the very real challenge as ‘our society becomes increasingly rights-focused and less tolerant for acts of conscience’ as Charles Lewis writes on the front page of the National Post.

Eric Rassbach, a director of a fund for religious liberty in the States thinks, “many Canadians and Americans suffer from short memory or a lack of basic history.” We need to remember why so many people fled Europe to the new world in the first place. It was for religious freedom because their consciences were being violated and they were being persecuted for their beliefs.

Iain Benson who is the director of an Ottawa based think tank focused on religion and public policy shared how the dominant viewpoint has always tried to shut down dissenting views. Once we lived in a society where as he states religion played the oppressive role, dictating the law, but now we live in a post religious time that is guided by a ‘atheistic theocracy’.

Now more than ever we are on the defensive. Just look at the ridicule that an MP faced for believing not in creation, but the possibility of it.

Recognize that our current societal norms as pushed on us by the media, the prevailing cultural influences is a one size fits all type of belief.

Margaret Somerville, a Canadian author and ethicist is banned on certain campuses because she is against same sex marriage. However, it should be noted that she is anti discrimination against gays; however her voice is silenced because every person is narrowed to two views. You are either pro gay rights and pro gay marriage or the opposite on both.

It was Cristina Alarcon, a Calgary pharmacist, who refused customers the morning after pill that eventually lost her job. She never told the person she couldn’t have the pill, she just told them you can’t have it from me. She makes the great point that no one should be denied the right to live a unity of life where we live with personal integrity and goes on to say that “Denial of freedom of conscience is the beginning of the end of a mature democracy. Without it we would all become like robots.”

The 2nd conscious decision of a life apart from God is denial of natural revelation.

God has created the world and all of its natural breath taking beauty to reveal Himself to us. It is the argument for ID – Intelligent Design that Ben Stein articulates in the movie Expelled. It is the conscious choice to believe that this all just happened by chance at random in some primordial soup billions of years ago...

Paul makes it pretty clear that just based on natural revelation alone that there is enough to point us to God and give us no excuse for not seeking Him.

I think we now more than ever have the opportunity to realize how awesome, how indescribable, how intricate, how amazing God is.

Check out this video on youtube

I think sometimes we just need to be silent and in complete awe because until we start contrasting ourselves with the awesomeness of God, we will never fully enter into worship.

I have just started reading Crazy Love by F. Chan and he points out some pretty incredible details of the intricacy of creation.

· The caterpillar has 228 distinct and separate muscles in its head

· Your heart generates enough pressure to pump blood throughout your body that it could squirt blood up to 30 feet

· There are 3000 different species of trees within one square mile in the Amazon Jungle

· How about spiders...when they build their webs, the create sixty feet of silk in one hour, simultaneously producing special oil on the their feet their keeps them from getting stuck on their own web...and I know we all squish them, some of us with our bare hands, but that deserves respect!

· What about our goose bumps that we get when we are cold....what is actually happening is that our hair follicles is actually helping us stay warm by trapping in heat

· Then there are plants which take in carbon dioxide which is harmful to us and produce oxygen which we need to survive...There’s a really good reason to get real plants in here!

Psalm 19:1-4

The problem is that there is a lot of spiritual amnesia going on, because we could go on with these amazing facts, but all too easily we forget. We need to be reminded again and again of who God is.

Revelation 4 Big picture view of God

Isaiah 6 Holiness of God

Romans 8 Fatherhood of God

The 3rd decision away from God is the right to refusal; knowing Him and turning away. v21-23

· God has given each of us the right to choose to glorify Him

· God has given each of us the right to choose to thank Him

We can right the ship at this point or become the masters of our own destiny, worshippers of ourselves.

This is when the lights go out and we descend into the darkness of ‘self destruction’

The 4th decision away from God is the worship of self and created things. v24-32

The fact is that we all have a god like it or not. People say well I don’t believe in God, but they do. Your god is your consuming focus and God will let you be consumed by whatever that is.

He gives us over to whatever sinful behaviour pattern that is. Ultimately we are given over that we might give up and realize there has to be a better way.

1 Corinthians 5:5 shares how God gives us over for the destruction of our selfish and painful self serving ways that we become so consumed we actually become sick of it.

I know that this passage speaks to homosexuality and clearly teaches it as a sinful pattern of behaviour to practice but let’s remember that it is on the same page as greed, envy, gossip, disobedience to parents.

My mom gave my brother Adrian over to cigarretes. He was caught smoking by her so she sat him down in the bathroom and made him smoke pack after pack until he became so sick he threw up. He never smoked again.

So, the final result of a life lived according to these beliefs is a depraved mind that gives way to every kind of wickedness.

The final step is the flaunting and celebration of sinful wickedness, indulgence and self glorification.

We read the paper and see another massacre of 14 people in a senseless shooting in Binghamton, NY and you know that it is a result of a fully depraved mind.

A mind where the enemy of our souls took over because He is the thief who comes to kill, steal and destroy.

Now, the good news!

The 1st step towards the gospel is recognizing that He, God is the Creator and He has revealed Himself through His creation. v20

He is eternal – He exists out of time and since we are within time, we can never wrap our minds and hearts around He who has no beginning or end. Psalm 102:12,17

He is divine nature – It is the understanding that He is all-knowing, Psalm 139 He is all powerful Colossians 1:16 and He is everywhere. Psalm 139:7 We never escape His presence.

The 2nd steps towards the gospel is believing that God has revealed Himself through His Word v2

And knowing that alone should want to make me go there, but what happens? We are all too easily distracted and entertained by such small things that pale in comparison to being awestruck by God.

The truth is that most of us don’t think about our kidneys until we need one like Luci did and for Julie Ann to give her one. We just don’t think a whole lot about our internal organs until something isn’t quite right like pain in our chest.

We need to get to the point where we realize that it is all about Him, every moment of our lives. Paul knew who He was...Do we know who we are and more importantly whose we are because none of us really know when it all ends

The next step toward the gospel is accepting Jesus Christ as your Saviour for He is the revelation of God v3 -6

The ongoing steps are in the sharing of the gospel through a life well lived v11-18

In the gospel, God is saying to us ‘I made you, I formed you and shaped you with a heart to know me. Receive me and you’ll be on the greatest adventure of your life. I can’t tell you how it will all happen or how it will end, but know this, it won’t be predictable and it will be worth it guaranteed.


We can live in the power and righteousness of the gospel or live in its denial and let self spiral.

A man by his sin may waste himself, which is to waste on earth which is most like God. That is man’s greatest tragedy and God’s heaviest grief. A.W. Tozer

A failure to give thanks to God, do you know what that shows? That shows you don't have the saving grace of Christ in your heart. That shows you do not want to repent of your sin and pursue righteousness. That shows you, like Satan, want to be on the throne that is occupied by God alone. That shows you are futile and foolish.

On the other hand, a heart that has been touched by the grace of God feels compelled to give Him praise. No futility here. No foolishness here.

Questions for Discussion

1. Share about a time when you were completely amazed by God’s creation or what strikes you as the most profound mystery of God?

2. What verses of Scripture have really captured your heart and mind this week? How can you make it stick with you?

3. How is the gospel being made powerful in you? In what ways can you testify to its power to change in you? Watch the following ‘cardboard testimonies’ and be inspired.


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