Sunday, September 7, 2014

Thank God

God’s anger is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness….

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and … creatures.

God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of 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 over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer…
God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful. 

Although they know God’s ordinances: that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
(Romans 1:18–32)

Paul’s words above have bothered me most of my life.  If you read them carefully, you’ll see that he describes a progression.  It’s a progression many (maybe most) of the people you know are going through.  It starts out small, but it ends up with people being depraved and just rotten.  But not only have these people become vile human beings, but they “give hearty approval to those who” do such sickening things.  You know these people – look again at the descriptive words, like “gossips” and “slanderers, arrogant, boastful, untrustworthy, unmerciful.” 

As if this weren't bad enough, consider that Paul wasn't writing about non-believers.  He was writing to a church about what can happen to Christians!  These are people who “know God’s ordinances,” who “exchanged the truth for a lie.”  These are Christians who have deteriorated into dreck. 

The reason this bothers me, however, is because of one simple and repeated phrase: “God gave them over.”  Those must be the most horrible words in all of scripture.  God gave up on people – He just let them go right down the drain.  If God lets you go, what hope do you have? 

Because this passage frightened me so much, I studied to understand how it could happen.  What is the thing that makes it possible for “good” people to go from a state of decency to a place where God gives up on them, and finally into the state of folly & depravity?  What causes this? 

  • Though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks
  • Professing to be wise, they became fools
  • They exchanged the truth of God for a lie
  • Worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator
How did this horrible process begin?  By a failure to honor God and give thanks.  

When we fail to give thanks, we are failing to acknowledge the many gifts of God.  When we are ungrateful, we become complainers and grumblers.  We are never satisfied, like God hasn't done enough for us.  We are warned many times about not whining, complaining, or grumbling. 

“Don’t grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”
(1 Corinthians 10:10–12)

Telling disciples not to complain is only part of it.  It can become merely another rule we feel we must obey.  The truth is that complaining is nothing more than the absence of gratitude.  It’s basically like shouting at God that He hasn't done enough. 

The people Paul mentioned who were destroyed were the same people God had brought out of Egypt, out of slavery.  But that wasn't enough. 
God gave them water to drink. But it wasn't enough
God gave them food daily, but it wasn't enough
God gave them health and clothing that never wore out, but it wasn't enough
God made them a nation of holy people, and gave them the Torah, but it wasn't enough
God was leading them to the land of promise, but it wasn't enough

What about us? 
Hasn't God also given you and me food, drink, houses, jobs and all sorts of good things?
Hasn't Yahweh healed us, rescued us from our sins and made us part of His Kingdom?
Hasn't He sent His only Son, so that we could live eternally?

Anyone who can read this, can read.  God has given us everything we need and promises us eternal life.  How can we not be grateful every single minute of every single day?  How can we not thank God continually? 

Only a spoiled, rotten little child whines and gripes and complains for “more.”  “I want” or “I don’t want to” are the expressions of ingratitude and they make God sick. 

“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)

Thank God.  
Thank Him all the time, “without ceasing.”  
Count your blessings more than once a day and realize how much God has given us.  

Gratitude helps us remember how blessed we are.  It helps us show others how great God is.  It builds faith.  And it will keep us from sliding down into darkness so far that God just plain “gives us over.” 

This is the love of God:
That we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)

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