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Romans 1.29

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eing filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

This verse and the next two verses show the the end results of the “death spiral”. This is what it looks like when an individual or a community or a nation completely rejects God and His ways and His personality. They have started with rejecting God’s glory and not being grateful to Him and ended up with a personality and a society that is utterly broken down. Sin is like a montrous weed: you think you can plant a couple of seeds and enjoy life a little bit, but the pleasure is just for a season and then the consequences bring pain.

God is not a killjoy! He is the source of joy, and His joy is our strength. He outlines in the Word what brings joy and what does not. Following His will is not about a grey and sterile life, it is about a life of joy and wonder. A life of adventure!

Paul gives us a long list about what a society or individual that consistently and constantly rejects and ignores God ends up like. I am going to simply go through this long list and describe each of these qualities so you can see what a society that rejects God looks like.

adikia – unrighteousness – in this context, the word means unjust or unfair. A society that rejects God becomes unjust. People are penalized for things that they did not do, people who commit genuine sins against society are rewarded. A society hits the bottom of the death spiral when it fails to reward just behaviour and punish unjust behaviour. Both the US and the UK recently have seen high profile court cases where justice was simply not done.

In addition, adikia also means that the innocent are not looked after. Children are not cared for, orphans are not looked after and the elderly are ignored.

porneia – This is defined by Strong’s as:

1) illicit sexual intercourse
a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12

Another hallmark of a society at the bottom of the death spiral is an “anything goes” attitude to sexuality.

ponēria – This word means “wicked”, but in the sense of rotten, like an apple that has spoiled. As you know a bad apple can make a dozen good apples bad, but a dozen good apples cannot make a bad apple good.

Any individual at the bottom of the “death spiral” will infect others with his ideas, his speech and his attitudes unless they are aware of what is going on and deal with it appropriately.

Many of us know people like this: they have gone bad. Beware – bad company corrupts good character.

pleonexia – this is the desire to continually have more. The KJV translates this as covetousness, but the NIV and NLT both use the word “greed”. We have made the word “greedy” in our generation a humorous term – a jokey kind of insult when someone takes the second doughnut, or steals someone’s client in the office, or even when someone is cheating on their partner. However, greed is a serious sin that has huge social consequences. Out of control greed is one of the main causes of human suffering in the world.

Greed is actually one of the truest expressions of unbelief. If you feel you have to get all you can, then that is because you do not believe that God will supply your needs. The Christian has no place for greed: seek ye first the kingdom, and all these things will be added to you. Remember the words of Jesus: “Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.” (Luke 12.15, NIV)

kakia – this is the word for malice. It means that you do things to deliberately hurt other people and you do not even care or feel ashamed that you do. It is one of the symptoms and one of the signs of a nation that is at the bottom of the death spiral is that people feel no shame at hurting others. They rejoice when they get one up on people, they are happy when people are hurt. They boast of how they put people in their place. There is no fear of the Lord, there is no humility. There is something so alien to Christ about taking pleasure in the pain of others and in causing pain to others.

phthonosThis is envy. A lot of people get confused with envy and jealousy. Jealousy can be sinful, but does not have to be – Deut. 4.24 tells us that God is jealous so we can know for a fact that not all jealousy is evil.

The difference is simple: jealousy is an intense desire for something. So if your neighbour gets a brand new car and you intensely desire a car like it, that is jealousy. This is why God calls Himself a jealous God – He intensely desires our attention. There is nothing wrong with having intense desires. If your desires take us away from God, then there is a problem. That is when jealousy becomes a sin.

Envy is always a sin. In the situation with the neighbour’s car, envy would lead you not to want the same car but to want your neighbour to lose his car, maybe to crash it or for it to be scratched. Envy and malice are linked: malice is where you want to hurt someone, envy is where you want their possessions or their reputation in life or their relationships to be destroyed because you want them for yourself.

phonos – Translated murder by the KJV and the NIV, phonos means to deliberately take an innocent life. If you think that is not part of our society, then what do you define abortion as?

eris – This word means strife or contention. This was the sin of the Corinthian church:

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions (Greek eris) among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. (1 Cor 1.11-12, KJV)

The eris in Corinth was expressed by them forming gangs: the Paul gang, the Apollos gang, the Cephas gang, and the Christ gang. One of the signs of a nation or community hitting the bottom of the “death spiral” is a gang culture. This could be gangs on ethnic grounds, or the east end postcode gangs (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6304345.stm). Football violence comes from eris as does most racism.

It is dividing yourself up into the “we’s” and the “not-we’s” and deciding that the not-we’s deserve to be treated differenrly. In Corinth there were all sorts of problems, but thankfully they had not reached the end of this cycle – though they did have huge problems. At its worst, eris is probably responsible for more violence, wars and death than any other sin on this list.

dolos – This word means “deceit” and comes from a root word meaning “bait”. It is not just lying, but lying and deceiving people in a way to trap them and entrap them. 1 Peter 2.22 says that dolos is not found in Christ. Isn’t it wonderful for us as Christians to know that our God and Lord will never do anything to trap us or entrap us? He is always honest, always true, always genuine. His goal is never to catch us out!

kakoētheia – This is a really simple compound word. Kako means bad in the sense of not fit for purpose, in the sense that a bad knife is one that will not cut your vegetables or a bad jacket has holes in it and will not keep you warm. Etheia is the word in which we get our English word ethics, and means “appropriate customs”. Kakoetheia means that your customs are not fit for the purpose. Your whole community, your whole set traditions are just without use – they do not build community, they destroy it. They do not bring a sense of family, they deny it.

Many people in society have bad ethics – unfit traditions. They are corrupt by habit – they are used to being selfish, hateful and unfair.

psithyristēs – this word means whispering, in the sense of whispering rumours and slandering people. Whispering is when you never know who is about to backstab you, when people will lie about you to get ahead, when you cannot trust people with your heart. When you have a problem, there is no-one you can trust to help.

Whispering destroys community, destroys churches and destroys families. If you have something to say to someone, say it to their face or say it to the Lord (and I do not mean phone up the church and give them a “prayer” request!) – they are your only two options. Do not ever become a whisperer, you will be destroying your life and your community.

Glory and freedom,
Benjamin

Staying Pure in a Fornication Nation

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You don’t have to compromise with our sex-saturated culture. By God’s grace you can stay in the sexual safety zone.

There were some raised eyebrows last week on the campus of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., when I hosted a special meeting—the day before Valentine’s Day—on the subject of fornication. That’s not a word you normally associate with a lecture topic, but hey, I had to get attention. And since the hormones on most college campuses are as dense as Florida humidity, I figured the kids would be all ears when I attacked the subject.

I was right. At times you could hear a pin drop in the auditorium, especially when I talked about how most American young people aren’t even sure how to define sexual activity anymore. (Today’s college seniors were nine years old when President Clinton tried to redefine sex during the Lewinsky scandal.) At other times the students burst into nervous laughter, especially when I told how I gave my son-in-law a lecture about sexual boundaries in front of 700 of his classmates when he was dating my oldest daughter.

“Losing one’s virginity used to be a serious issue, but today fornication is just a standard sitcom plot device.”

I thought it might be helpful to share these key points with a wider audience, since many of the readers of this column are single. And even if you are married, it would be good to take a quick refresher course in self-control—since we live in a nation that is losing all moral restraint. Here’s what I told the group at Southeastern:

1. Don’t redefine your morality. I’ve seen Christian young people roll their eyes when I say the word “fornication” because it sounds so much like King James English—sort of like “sodomy,” another word we avoid in our PC culture. But we need to be careful how we bend the meaning of words. Terms that are in the Bible should not vanish from our modern vocabulary just because they offend some of the hosts of The View.

When “fornication” is used in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 (“For this is the will of God … that ye should abstain from fornication” KJV), the Greek word is porneia. It’s the root word for pornography, but it means a lot more than sexually explicit material. It includes sex between unmarried people, homosexuality, bestiality, prostitution, incest and adultery.

According to the apostle Paul, sex as God intended is limited to marriage between one man and one woman. Period. The Episcopal Church has no right to broaden the definition. Neither do Bill Clinton, Newsweek, Oprah or HBO. Don’t let moral relativism infect your brain.

2. Don’t sell your birthright. Losing one’s virginity used to be a serious issue, but today fornication is just a standard sitcom plot device. It’s considered normal. People are considered weird if they didn’t have sex by age 14; and if anybody dares to teach abstinence in a public school he is labeled a Neanderthal.

In TV shows like Desperate Housewives, Nip/Tuck or Grey’s Anatomy, life revolves around who’s in bed with whom. There’s even a TV series on Showtime called Californication that follows the life of a sex addict. What TV producers don’t usually explore are the consequences of immorality. Audiences probably wouldn’t laugh if the couples hooking up on these shows had to deal with genital warts, gonorrhea, AIDS, abortions, post-abortion trauma or clinical depression—all real fallout from illicit sexual behavior.

If you are a single person today—whether you have lost your virginity or not—it’s time to reclaim your purity and save sex for marriage. We’ve forgotten the story of Esau, who forfeited his birthright through one stupid act. He traded his inheritance for a bowl of stew. You really can throw your life away through one act of fornication.

3. Get ruthless with your weaknesses. Jesus sounded stricter than a Catholic school principal when He talked to His disciples about self-discipline. He told them: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29, NASB).

Jesus was not advocating self-mutilation. He was using sarcasm to emphasize how serious sin is—and He urged His followers to take radical steps to avoid the snares of temptation. In our sex-soaked society, it is more imperative than ever that we draw boundaries.

Got a problem with pornography? If you can’t discipline yourself to avoid offending Web sites, get rid of your computer. Do you end up engaging in heavy petting or intercourse with your girlfriend or boyfriend after a few minutes of kissing? Draw lines and stick to them. And if you can’t stick to the rules, ask for intervention. If you don’t you are headed for spiritual shipwreck.

4. Live a transparent life. The Bible never advocates that we battle sin alone. We need each other. James 5:16 says: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” In some cases you will never get victory over temptation until you share your struggle with another Christian and seek counsel and prayer.

So many believers today are living with secrets. Many women (and men too) were molested as children by a relative or friend—yet they have never shared their pain. Many young guys are trapped in a dark world of pornography and masturbation but are too ashamed to admit it. Many Christians struggle with same-sex attraction yet they fear that if they confess their thoughts they will be rejected.

You will never discover the abundant life Christ promised until you clean out your spiritual closets and deal with all your dirty laundry. Total forgiveness and cleansing is available, but confession and repentance must come first.

5. Develop the fear of God. Paul had sober words for the Thessalonians who ignored his admonitions about sexual sin. He told them: “He who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you” (1 Thess. 4:8). It couldn’t be clearer: If you disregard sexual boundaries, you are on thin ice.

What we desperately need in the church today is a conscience awakening. Too many Christians have warped judgment—and they don’t even feel godly remorse when they break God’s law. If you have any form of sexual sin in your life, flee it immediately and make a 180-degree turn. He will grant you the grace to live a life of purity.

 

J. Lee Grady is editor of Charisma.

Run Through Romans (1.18-1.32)

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I have included the text of Romans 1.18-32 below.  The Bible text is in red, and my comments are interspersed with the text.  At the end of the Bible text, I will talk about the problem with unrighteousness.

18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;

This verse tells us the problem of humanity: the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness.  The phrase “wrath of God” is only used 4 times in the Bible (Romans 1.18,  John 3.36, Ephesians 5.6, Col. 3.6) and it does not mean that God is having a temper tantrum.  It means that God is going to punish all unrighteousness.  This has happened once before in the world-wide flood of Noah (Genesis 6) and will happen again when the world is destroyed by fire.
As we shall shortly see in the remainder of this chapter, everyone in the world is unrighteous on the basis of their actions.  Therefore everyone must be punished by God.  God is a good, just God and must punish all unrighteousness.

19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

This verse explains why God is going to punish everyone that is unrighteous.  They should know the laws of God – God has shown everyone what is known of God.  Or put more simply: God has created everyone with the ability to know right from wrong.  We call this the conscience.  No one  who acts in an unrighteous way can ever say that they did not know how to act right.  Every time they act unrighteous, they know they have done wrong.  The voice that tells them right or wrong might be silenced by continual wrong-doing, but no-one can ever claim it was not there or that they did not know they have done wrong.

20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

The second reason that no-one can be excused for acting unrighteously is the creation of the world.  The creation of the world proves that God is all powerful and that He is Lord.  People might claim they think this world began in an explosion of nothing and that life came from non-living material, but itis scientifically impossible and is simply a denial of what the Bible says can be clearly seen.  If you see a building, you have proof there is a builder.  If you see a creation, you have proof there is a creator.

21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

So although every single human born has both a conscience and creation to prove to them there is a God and that they should live a righteous life, every human has done 4 things wrong:

1. They failed to glorify God

2. They were not thankful to God

3. They became vain in their imaginations

4. Their foolish hearts were darkened

Every person should know there is a God and that they should live right.  Every person has violated their own conscience and done things they know to be wrong.

Firstly, everyone has failed to glorify God.  To glorify God means to acknowledge that God is great, to think highly of God.  We have not done that – we have blamed God for our problems, we have thought that He is like us that He does not mind our sin, that He is not holy.  Every depiction of God in the media reduces Him from His true greatness.  We all have doubted that God would come through for us, we all have doubted His Word, doubted His love, doubted His holiness and His greatness.

Secondly, everyone has failed to be grateful.  In particular this is a Western problem.  We are panicking that we cannot buy the same amount of food we used to be able to in the credit crunch, but we forget how blessed we are to live where we live.  All of us have spent time moaning about the negative and ignoring the positive.

Thirdly, we have all become vain in our imaginations.  We have imagined ourselves committing sins of violence and sins of sexual immorality in our minds, we have imagined and worried about things that God promised to protect us from.  Our imaginations run wild, and we fill them up with junk from the TV just to make it worse.

Fourthly, we have all had darkened hearts.  God has tried to speak to us but we could not hear Him.  We failed to notice Him ministering to us again and agani.

Every human being has done these things in every single nation.  Every human is unrighteous in God’s eyes and therefore must be punished.  This is the problem of humanity – God’s goodness means He must punish unrighteousnes (the wrath of God) and every human is unrighteous.

22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

As an aside on v. 22, I noticed recently that Richard Dawkin’s new atheist club is called the Brights.  Immediately I thought of Romans 1.22.  However, we are all guilty of this.  We all think we know best, and that God’s ways are archaic, out-of-touch, unrealistic, or whatever.  Whenever we reject God’s ways, we are foolish.

23And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Verses 23-32 show how unrighteousness caused by thanklessness and not glorifying God degenerates.  We have all been guilty of vv. 18-22, but not all nations have spiralled into what happens next.  However, all nations without a strong Christian witness – or if they ignore that Christian witness – will spiral into this downward fall into unrighteousness.
After ungratefulness, comes an honouring of the creation.  This takes many forms from the totem poles of tribal animism to the mother Earth  philosophy infecting many facets of our society.   Creation is given respect and God is ignored.

24Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

Following ignoring God over the creation comes sexual immorality.  People have sex before and outside of marriage.

25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Next the idolatry becomes more pronounced and people openly worship things that have been created.

26For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:

27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.

Next the sexual immorality becomes more pronounced leading to a society which openly accepts homosexuality.  If this happens to a society it is deeply in this spiral of unrighteousness.

28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;

At this stage, what happens is that the people in that society will develop reprobate minds.  The Greek word used for reprobate is adokimos which is used for counterfeit coins.  It means to have no value at all – to not be fit for purpose.  This is what is happening in large sections of Western society – people cannot use their minds at all.  They cannot think, they cannot show initiative, they cannot create.   All of society dumbs down.  People then fail to notice any sin, any wickedness and simply let everything pass.  Crime rates sht up, poverty and injustice increases and the society becomes a hard place to live in.

29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,

30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

31Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:

I could go through each of these words and show you what they mean exactly and you would realize that we are here people.  However, most of them are self explanatory.  When a society or a nation exhibits all these qualities it is simply showing the fruit of the fact that everyone fails to glorify God and fails to thank Him.  It has just spiraled out of control.

Ultimately without the gospel, this will happen to every nation on the planet.  Even with the gospel being present in a nation it still happens if people make unrighteous choices.

32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Then, not only will people do all these unrighteous acts they will take pleasure in those that do them. The word take pleasure could also be translated applaud. Think about this: the Bible describes an unrighteous society at its apex as one where people worship the creation, treat homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle, disobey parents, invent evil things, hate God, hate people, and then finally clap and applaud people who do wicked things.

Our society has TV chat shows where you can clap and applaud people who divorce, comedy shows where you can clap and applaud people who hate and slander the government of our countries, romantic shows where you can clap and applaud people committing fornication and reality shows where you can clap and applaud people in all manner of wickedness.

Our society is unrighteous.  Our planet is unrighteous.  But before we judge the world and the nations and are smugly condeming of them, remember: I have failed to thank God and so have you.  I have failed to glorify God and so have you.  I have had vain imaginations and so have you.  I have had a dark heart and so have you.  On our next post we will show that we cannot judge anyone in a smug self-righteous way as we look at Romans 2.

We have to find out how a person like you and like me can be righteous.  Otherwise we are condemned to hell on earth and hell after earth.   Stay with us as we run through Romans, the journey will be worth it.

Blessings,
Ben

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