Answer from a Troubling Progression

Steve Viars May 20, 2006

- this morning I thought we’d begin our time by thinking about something pleasant...
- show Termite pic #1

- this is a termite...termite infestation will occur in approximately 2 million new structures this year...and damage and repairs will cost owners more than 2 billion annually...
- this is a side view of a couple of termites...show Termite pic #2...
- as you can see, they were designed to eat stuff...lots of stuff...
- now if you say, well, that’s OK, because we have one of those new steel frame homes...or my office building is made of steel and concrete...
- that’s good, but I have to tell you that recently a major international corporation moved into their new steel and granite headquarters in Cincinnati, only to find out they had a major termite infestation...
- though they obviously couldn’t chew the steel and granite...they really enjoyed eating the paper right off the drywall...

- termites are problematic for 2 main reasons...
- one is that they often do their work in places that you would not readily notice...
- Termite pic #3 – they start on the inside of something and work out...
- they consume wood from the inside and then work out...
- by the way, if you think we’re OK today because surely they take Sunday’s off...they actually work around the clock...

- the other big problem with termites is that they multiply...rapidly...
- so you can deal with one – Termite pic #1
- or two – Termite pic #2...or a few – Termite pic #4..or a bunch – Termite pic #5...
- or a whole bunch – Termite pic #6
- it kind of makes you want to go home and check he foundation of your house, doesn’t it?

- now, why am I telling you this?...
- it is because the Word of God speaks about a possible progression that can occur in a person’s heart...and if it is not detected, and addressed, and solved...it will destroy, not just a person’s house...it will destroy his/her life...
- checking the foundation carefully is exactly what wise people do...

- with that thought in mind, would you please open your Bible to Romans chapter 1...page 119 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...page 1396 of our Chinese English Bibles...

- while you’re turning there, I’d like to take a moment and remind you of the preaching schedule that we laid out at the beginning of this year...
- after today, I’m actually going to be out of the pulpit here for the next 6 Sundays...
- during that time Pastor Dutton, Pastor Aucoin, and Pastor Green are going to speaking here...
- we planned that for several different reasons...
1. One is that the Lord has given us an excellent pastoral staff and we believe it is very beneficial to our congregation to hear God’s Word from a variety of voices...
- I think you know that our staff members could serve as senior pastors in other places tomorrow...they are often contacted by churches looking for pastors...
- they are here because of their excitement about what God is doing with our church family and the unusual ways they have to use the gifts and abilities God has given them...
- and that does mean they are obligated to be here forever...but we believe it is helpful to the congregation to hear from these men and from every pastor on our staff...

2.  We highly value ministry as a team...some churches have one main dog and then a bunch of pups...and there’s an aversion to delegate and share ministry opportunities and responsibilities...
- we think that approach is unhealthy and unbiblical...
- so we have tried to recruit the very best people we possibly can...and I think God has blessed us with an A+ team...
- but as we continue to develop our ministries, one of the key components of all of this is that our staff be as interchangeable as possible...
- so it really doesn’t matter who’s speaking, or who’s teaching, or who’s leading...of who’s doing the wedding, or conducting the funeral, or making the visit...
- and that is true not just on a staff level...but having a team of lay persons and paid staff working together as a group of friends is a whole lot better than a one or two man show...

3.  Another reason is that my daughters Bethany and Karis and I are leaving for a ministry trip to San Paulo, Brazil on Wednesday...
- Bethany and Karis hope to work with a student from Master’s College on some ministry opportunities with youth...
- I will be speaking next Saturday to a conference on biblical counseling for Christian workers...
- then on Sunday morning and evening I will be speaking in their church in San Paulo...
- early the following week I will have the privilege of speaking to their seminary students...
- and then the primary reason I am going is to speak at an annual conference they do for pastors, missionaries, and lay persons each year...
- as you may have noticed in the paper, there has been a fair amount of unrest in San Paulo the last couple of weeks...so we would appreciate your prayers as we try to represent our church in what is one of the largest cities in the world...

4. Another reason for this schedule is that when we return the second week of June, I am hoping to put some focused attention into the administrative side of the community center, seminary, and vision of hope ministry start ups...
- we have a lot of other excellent people in place...but I think everybody understands that we have a lot going...and being sure we are getting off to a good start across the board is a very important part of what needs to happen around here in June...

5. The last reason is that God in His sovereignty has provided a number of unusual speaking opportunities to represent our church and extend our mission...and some of these organizations are requesting some new material to be developed...
- for example, this summer I will have the privilege of speaking at a conference on biblical counseling that is being offered exclusively to persons who are deaf...
- I’ll also have the privilege at the end of the summer to travel with a team of folks from our church to the country of Moldova...which is just a very strategic opportunity...we want to be sure that material is A+
- the point is...for a lot of reasons, we have organized the schedule the way we have...we think it will be a blessing all the way around...

- now, this morning we are concluding this study we have been doing entitled...Is God Mad at Us?
- Luke 13 – The Answer from a Fallen Tower
- Job 1-2 – The Answer from a Suffering Servant
- Hebrews 12 – The Answer from a Disciplined Child
- II Corinthians 12 – The Answer from a Weak Body

- this morning we want to study Romans chapter 1, and think together about...
- Romans 1 – The Answer from a Troubling Progression.
- read Romans 1:18-32

- obviously these verses are about the wrath of God...and I understand that we do not find that to be a particularly pleasant topic...like talking about termites...
- but these verses are clear that certain choices and tendencies that begin in the inner man will result in God’s wrath being revealed...so if that is the case, it would be wise for us to face it...so let’s organize these verses this way...

I. The Fact of God’s Wrath
II. The Reasons fro God’s Wrath
III. The Effects of God’s Wrath.

I. The Fact of God’s Wrath.


- the book of Romans is the most comprehensive treatment of the doctrine of the redemption anywhere in the Bible...
- from all we know of this church [or perhaps group of churches], they were solid, mature people in many ways...
- Romans 15:14 - Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.
- so you don’t find in this book what you find in a book like I Corinthians where the people were so immature that Paul has to deal with problem after problem...
- apparently these people were stable enough spiritually where they could handle some meat of the Word...
- and after some initial greetings, we’re only 18 verses into the first chapter when Paul starts unpacking the doctrine of the wrath of God...
A. Meaning
- Greek orge – settled, determined indignation.
- J. Alva McClain – The wrath of God is His holy aversion to all that is evil, and His purpose is to destroy it.

- any person who has no place in his/her view of the world for the place of God’s wrath is apparently choosing to ignore large chunks of Scripture...
- this topic is like termites...it might be unpleasant...but acting as if it does not exist is not going to make it go away...

- now, please keep this in mind...the B. Source
- “of God”...“from heaven”...
- the challenge that many of us have is that we assume God exercises His wrath the way we exercise ours and that is often not a very good thing...
- far from being an emotional outburst...God’s wrath is a logical conclusion...His wrath is the natural extension of His holiness...
- Habakkuk 1:13 - You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness...
- even fallen man with his twisted morals still has the ability to express appropriate outrage at certain injustices in our world...and the fact that this is true demonstrates that he still retains some vestige of the image of God in which he was made...
- genuine holiness produces righteous indignation...we should not be surprised that God is ever capable of wrath...we should be disappointed if He wasn’t...
- Richard Trent – “There [can be no] surer and sadder token of an utterly prostrate moral condition than...not being able to be angry with sin...”.
- now, it is also important to keep in mind that this is...
C. A consistent biblical theme.
- Psalm 90:7-9 - For we have been consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh.
- Isaiah 9:19 - Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts the land is burned up, and the people shall be as fuel for the fire; no man shall spare his brother.
- Jeremiah 7:20 - Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place—on man and on beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground. And it will burn and not be quenched.”
- and we could develop this theme all day long---we could talk about the wrath of God during the days of Noah, His wrath at the attempted construction of the Tower of Babel, with the people in Sodom and Gomorrah, Pharaoh and His armies, big ugly Goliath, Nebuchadnezzar’s pride...the biblical illustrations are practically endless...
- now, I recognize some will hear those examples and then say...but PV, those verses are from the OT...
- but friends, the truth is, that if the conditions explained in Romans are present...[or maybe we should say---the termites of unbelief are eating away in a person’s heart]...then the wrath of God is every bit as possible today in NT times as ever before.
- not long after John gave us one of the greatest verses about God’s love in the Bible – John 3:16 – For God so loved...we read...
- John 3:36 - He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
- Ephesians 5:6 - Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.
- Colossians 3:5-6 - Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience,
- now, when we take all of this back to Romans 1, we learn that God’s wrath is ...
D. Active today.
- notice carefully what verse 18 says...the wrath of God is revealed...
- that is a present tense verb...indicating that something is happening now, and something is happening continuously...
- the wrath of God is being revealed...

- now, let’s be sure that we balance all of this...
- we have said repeatedly in this series that we cannot know in a given situation exactly why God may be allowing something to happen...we can’t say in a given situation, well that is undeniably an example of God’s wrath in that person’s life...
- and I know you might say...well, religious leaders are doing that all the time...
- you’re right about that...
- you may remember a few weeks ago when there was an outbreak of bird flu in Israel among turkeys and chickens...that one of the rabbis said God was judging the nation for an election ad that he didn’t like...
- so we can never say in a given situation...we know that is God’s wrath on that person...

- on the other hand, we dare not ever say...that could never be the wrath of God because He is not capable of dealing with human beings in that way...
- you may remember after the tsunami that  a writer named David Hart said in the Wall Street Journal said – “No Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God’s inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that this mysteriously serves God’s good ends.”  David Hart, Wall Street Journal
- do you see how different that is than Jesus’ response to the news about the men who died when the tower of Siloam fell?...repent, or you will likewise perish...
- any time a calamity occurs, in your life or somebody else’s...the key question is...what could God teach me through this?...failing to learn lessons and respond appropriately to those lessons squanders the opportunity God gave...
- Amos 4:10 - Your young men I killed with a sword...Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the LORD.
- Revelation 16:9 - And men were scorched with great heat, and they blasphemed the name of God who has power over these plagues; and they did not repent and give Him glory.

- now another point we have tried to make multiple times is that if you have placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ---you will never be subject to God’s wrath for your sin...
- that would amount to a double payment...Christ cared for that once and for all...
- of course we are all subject to God’s fatherly displeasure and the chastening that might come because we are His sons...
- but if you have trusted Christ...one of the appropriate responses should be...thank the Lord that I have been delivered from Romans 1...

- Romans 5:1-2 - Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

- now, let’s drill further into the text...Paul also helps us understand...


II. The Reasons for God’s Wrath


- there is a very clear logic in this passage...did you see it unfold?...God’s wrath is revealed when certain conditions are present...what are they?
A. Ungodliness
- a lack of reverence for or devotion to the God of heaven...which invariably leads to...
B. Unrighteousness
- corresponding behavior that ignores God’s will and ignores God’s Word...
- and the end of verse 18 explains how those termites work...it is not a matter that the knowledge of God is not present...God has revealed Himself in nature, He has revealed Himself in man’s conscience, He has revealed Himself in His Son, and He has revealed Himself in His Word...but what do people do with that knowledge?...
C. The suppression of truth.
- the idea is to press it down out of your heart...to put it as far away from your being as possible...it is purposeful unbelief...
- then the chain reaction picks up speed in verse 21...
D. Dishonoring God
E. Unthankful
F. Futile speculations
G. Foolish and darkened heart
H. Exchanging the glory of God for idols.
- now, each one of those points probably deserves its own study...but the overall point here is...to whatever degree those conditions exist in our world...God should be angry...
- If He wasn’t, we would have every reason in the world to question His holiness...

- now, the key question is, how would God would each one of us to respond to concepts like these?


I.  Appropriate response for those seeking to gear up for greater effectiveness?
- the answer to that somewhat depends on the spiritual condition in which you currently find yourself...
1.  Be sure that you have been reconciled to God by trusting in the finished work of His Son on the cross.
- it is important to think about Romans 1 in light of the overall emphasis of this book...
- the first three chapters are trying to demonstrate the lost condition of every person without Christ...
- this chapter teaches that immoral persons are lost...
- but chapter 2 addresses people who might be trying to live good lives...and Paul explains that moral persons are lost as well...
- and then chapter three makes the startling claim that religious persons are lost as well...
- we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God...
- the only way to be delivered from the wrath of God is to be clothed in the righteousness of God’s Son...
- and I am glad for the many persons who are attending our church...we are having record numbers of people coming...and we are thankful for that...
- but one of my concerns as a pastor is that we clearly communicate that being a follower of Jesus Christ is a decision that is made at a point in time...and if you never made that decision before, we would urge you to make it before...in part because we would never want anyone to face the wrath of God because you refused to let Jesus pay.
2. Be motivated to passionately minister to others.
- 2 Corinthians 5:11 - Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...
- one of the ways you can tell whether we really believe what we are seeing in this text is our level of commitment to outreach.

- and that is one of the things I love about being part of this church family...it is obvious that many men and women really believe that there is a heaven to be gained and a hell to be shunned...
- and it isn’t like they walk around with a holier than thou attitude...let’s look down our noses at someone else...
- but it is a genuine concern that anybody in our town would ever have to face the eternal wrath of God because they refused to come to Christ...
- and something that is very troubling to us is that for many dear folks in our town, the issue isn’t that they have rejected a message they clearly understand, it is that they have never had the gospel clearly explained to them...
- it is one thing if we have carefully communicated the message to everyone in our community and then some choose to reject it...it is entirely different if we haven’t done everything in our power to make the message clear, and plain, and universally understood even if it is not universally accepted...

- Wednesday evening I was discussing this with our Intro to Faith class and then I had two meetings...
- one with one of our teenagers who would like to start a new ministry in our town in an attempt to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to others...and I’ll think we’ll let him explain it in a few weeks himself after he gets a bit more organizational work done...
- then I left that meeting and went to another one with a committee working on additional outreach strategies...
- and I walked away from that thinking...these individuals could be doing anything with their time right now...
- but they are investing in outreach and the only explanation I can see is hearts of compassion that believe the seriousness and reality of what a passage like Romans 1 teaches...

- that is why I want to ask you to do something this evening...I would like to ask every person here to be back at 5:00 to celebrate the groundbreaking of our community center...
- all of that is about demonstrating the love of Christ in hundreds of different ways so that relationships can be established with people in our community so that others can be brought to Christ...
- and the community will be watching tonight...
- your presence will make a difference...
- and I think the Lord has clearly demonstrated that He can/will bless our efforts to serve Him in incredible ways...[would any of us question that?]...
- so now its your turn...would you, with your presence, send a message that you want to be part of demonstrating the drawing love of Christ as creatively as we can through our community center and its associated ministries?...I honestly believe that will make a difference...

3.  Be sure that you are developing an approach to personal holiness that is the polar opposite of the characteristics in this text.
- please think about this list we’ve developed...ungodliness, unrighteousness, the suppression of truth, dishonoring God, being unthankful, being careless with our minds and our hearts...
- well, if we are going to be effective in reaching our community for Christ...then what do we have to do...working at allowing God to develop to exact opposite in us...
- and these are some of these termites that might be going undetected...[what about the issue of suppressing the truth you know...the issue of being unthankful...the issue of being careless about what you put in your mind...---develop]...

- [also mention how great it is that so many are coming---but on the other hand how important it is to stress that we take personal holiness very seriously around here....everybody has to be growing, in part because of all that’s at stake...]

- now, what is...


III. The Effect of God’s Wrath.


- when people think of God’s wrath, they often think of the thunderbolt kind of response...
- [cf. DaVinci Code cartoon...]

- and sometimes that may be the case...but there is a crucial lesson here...often God’s wrath is more passive, in the sense that He simply gives you over to yourself...
- He stops restraining you...
- He allows your heart to go in the direction it desires...

- you never want to find yourself in the condition known as “God gave him up...”

A. Gave them up to the impure lusts of their hearts.

 

B. Gave them up to the degrading passions of their bodies.

 

C.  Gave them up to the depraved thinking of their minds.

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video