“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.
Romans 1:24-32 ESV
Have you ever walked into a room you knew was empty only to jump ten feet into the air when you see someone standing there staring at you. Then, when your heart stops playing the drums with the inside of your chest you realize that it is just a mirror, and you are only looking at a reflection of yourself. We all have a little bit of that same reaction when we read this passage of scripture. I believe that this is one of the hardest portions of scripture to read because we all see a reflection of ourselves in it.
In my last post we talked about how people drift and begin to love the created world more than the creator himself. This passage points to the results. Paul summarizes the brokenness of humanity when we seek only our “Lusts of their hearts.” We tend to think of lusts as innately sexual in nature, but I think Paul has a broader idea in mind. The NIV translates it: “sinful desires” the NLT “whatever shameful things their heart desires”
I see in this the results of when you use something not as directed. For example, not long ago there was a challenge going around the internet to eat Tide Pods. Tide pods are created for washing laundry, and as such contain chemicals and soaps that are not healthy for you. As, mostly teenagers, took up the challenge the number of calls to poison centers for eating a Tide Pod jumped. In all of 2017, 220 cases of teenagers eating the tide pods was reported–25% of which were intentional. That is about 18 people a month. However, in the first two weeks of 2018 there were already 37 cases reported–that is more than double.
Those teens were using something with specific instructions in a way that was not directed and as a result received a natural punishment. It made them sick. Like the train analogy from our first blog they crashed. And God is telling us that when humans drifted from worshiping and serving him first, the result was a crash. We lived the way we were not directed. We turned our worship away from God and crashed. You see, when we decide that whatever our hearts desire is going to be the most important we create natural penalties, and crash. One of those natural penalties is separation from God.
I don’t believe that there is a person alive, or who has lived (besides Jesus) who can’t find themselves somewhere in that list. This too is part of the Gospel. It is realizing that we have drifted from what we were intended for and crashed, and if we are completely honest, we can’t save ourselves from it. It is our own hearts that are leading us astray. It is our own desires that draw us from God.
How am I to save myself from my own heart? I can fight it, but I will succumb in some way. Sometimes I am privileged enough to talk with addicts who have found themselves free of their addiction to alcohol. We’ll talk about their journey and sometimes they’ll tell me that when they get free of the addiction to alcohol they found themselves addicted to something else instead. They find themselves struggling with sexual addictions, or smoking, or pain meds, or…. They fought their heart in one area and won, only to find themselves losing in a different area. I think we all experience similar things. The Bible describes the human heart in its natural state as deceitful, and desperately wicked, and beyond the understanding of humanity (Jeremiah 17:9). What is the answer? It’s God. (Jeremiah 17:7-8).
This passage can be a struggle when we stay here, but when we remember what Paul has already written we know that there is hope. Remember how he told us that the Gospel is the power of God for Salvation–not condemnation. In order to be saved, though we have to know what we need to be saved from. Remember that it is through Jesus we receive grace. All humanity falls into the category of drifted and crashed, but that doesn’t stop God from loving us. Instead, it galvanized Him into acting, and caused Him to find a way to save us from the mess of our crash. And Paul will return to that truth, but first he is going to deal with how we try to cover up our crash and deal with it ourselves.