Saturday, December 16, 2006

Saturday Sermon: You’re Imagining Things

Because 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.
(Romans 1:21 - ESV)

The problem is not that man did not know God, but that he did know Him – yet refused to glorify Him as God. Therefore, mankind is without excuse. Here we see the awful process. Their worship of Him did not keep pace with their knowledge. They were not thankful, and they become vain in their imaginations, and their hearts become darkened.

Whenever we reject one explanation of the facts we must necessarily counter with an alternative. Paul gives us the big picture of humanity’s slide into depravity; they transformed their conception of Him into forms and images more comfortable to their corrupt and darkened hearts. They heard (Romans 10:18 / Colossians 1:5-6, 23) but they didn’t listen and obey. They didn’t thank the Giver but the gift; they worship the sun, moon, and stars, the earth and its people, instead of the One who created it all. Now this isn’t only about back then, it has been played out many times, and even in our individual lives. Keep that in mind. When people don’t have the right conception of God they will invent anything and everything under the sun to take His place.

Their imaginations run wild, they move according to their own thoughts instead of from God’s thoughts, the people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18 – ESV), they ignore the revelation of God, and then God slowly allows them to recede from the restraining effect of God’s common grace. Where people don’t glorify God and thank Him, their imaginations get the best of them.

Three biblical examples: Genesis 6:5, 11:1-6, only about 100 years between the Flood and the Tower of Babel events, yet God still had mercy, by restraining their vain imaginations. Vanity – Ecclesiastes / Jeremiah 2:5, 7:23-24, 13:16, 23:16-17 – These passages describe what happens to a people who have knowledge of God but don’t act like it, they are bound by their own sin. We see countless examples of this in scripture, when people worship the creation and the created rather than the Creator (Acts 14:1-19).

We can also be guilty of worshipping a self-made God. We can’t seem to resist the temptation to create God into our own corrupt image, or even into an image beneath us. Every heresy begins with a misconception about the nature of God. It is absolutely essential that we constantly compare our own conception of God against the reality of who God is as revealed in His Word. We will inescapably become like the God we serve. We don’t like God as He presents Himself therefore we make a cafeteria religion. Here are the choices on the menu today:

Three modern examples: Cult of culture – “everything about God must be relevant to cultural norms” – decided by cultural sensibilities, it is groupthink and it leads to pandemonium, as we talked about for the last two weeks. Even the words of God in the Bible are looked at in the context of today’s culture, and we become the arbiter – “hath God said?” this leads to attack as on the authority, sufficiency and clarity of scripture, as we will see when we get to the verses about homosexuality and you will hear, “we need to update the bible to our times”. To the secular priests of the human rights culture, the only sin is to say that homosexuality is a sin. They don’t seek to conform the culture to God’s standards, but God to the cultural standards.

Cult of science – “everything about the eternal we can find in the natural” – looking at the window only instead of at it and then also through it to what it points us to. We study the glasses but don’t put them on. We only see what we want to see.

Cult of self-discovery – “everyone is on their own road” – purity of purpose is the goal, sincerity instead of truth, God on the inside, self-help, what’s in your heart is what’s real and true, and God. Sincerity is no substitute for truth. One without the other is of no value in finding God.

We want to worship the God who worships us. When He demands our allegiance, without earthly recompense, and brings us hardship instead, we become hard hearted against Him. When He tells us to take up our cross, we demand He be placed on the cross instead. Consider also the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, they thought they knew who He was, but when He was something different than what they wanted they turned on Him, much as we turn our backs on the real God, and instead worship a God of our own desires.

Vain imagining and a darkened heart: Ever heard someone pontificate about something they obviously know nothing about? Embarrassing, and pitiful isn’t it? How many people claim to know God but are all caught up in some mumbo jumbo about angels, or Oprah, or some quasi spiritual nonsense, it is because they did not glorify God as God, they put him in second place or worse, and didn’t give thanks to Him as He truly is, and so they become vain in their imagination, and when they reach to use “god” they are using the gods of their own devices, and their hearts become more and more darkened, as they feel this god of their own making has to be God, and even when they read the bible they only see what they want to see in it, and become unteachable and immovable in their sinful conception of God.

They are without excuse because even when they know of God they do not glorify Him, they are not thankful, and they become vain in their imaginations, and their hearts become darkened. Isaiah 5:20 – the outcome is always the same – Matthew 6:23 – man will declare the laws of God against the law – we unwittingly seek to destroy the good that God has given us. British police have now arrested a man for distributing pamphlets featuring Bible verses at a homosexual rally. How long will it be before Christianity becomes illegal? We are closer than you think. The logic of men will surely lead ultimately to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible itself is “hate speech” and must be banned. We will destroy those freedoms that God first gave us.

“Will you kindly notice, that, according to my text, knowledge is of no use if it does not lead to holy practice? “They knew God.” It was no good to them to know God, for “they glorified him not as God.” So my theological friend over there, who knows so much that he can split hairs over doctrines, it does not matter what you think, or what you know, unless it leads you to glorify God, and to be thankful.” (Spurgeon)

In his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer says "what comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." After all, "the history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man's spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God." If no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God, the same is true of individuals. We can never rise above our idea of God. How we think about God influences how we live for God.

Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, 'What comes into your mind when you think about God?' we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man. Were we able to know exactly what our most influential religious leaders think of God today, we might be able with some precision to foretell where the church will stand tomorrow." But still many Christians do not think deeply about God, about what He is like, or about what we must do about Him. "I believe there is scarcely an error in doctrine or a failure in applying Christian ethics that cannot be traced finally to imperfect and ignoble thoughts about God."

"Before the Christian church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, 'What is God like?' and goes on from there. Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind."

This is why I am so vigorous to root out false teaching about the nature of God from my life, and from this assembly, and why you hear me rail against the backslidden and the apostate leaders of the church today. It is a prophetic warning of the falling away we are seeing today and will see tomorrow, and a call to faithfulness, not timely relevance, but timeless relevance. Spurgeon said it in the 19th century, Tozer said it in the 20th, and I say it again today.

Acts 17:27 / Ephesians 4:17-19 describe the downward spiral of the depraved, Ephesians 4:20-21 – you have learned better, and the rest of Ephesians describes what to do with that knowledge

To Christians: Isaiah 43:7-10 – He does not mean He made us so that He could become more glorious in Himself. We cannot increase his beauty and perfection. Instead what it means is that He created us to display His glory, that it might be known and praised. This is the goal of God, that the Lord's glory will be known and displayed to the nations. Matthew 5:16 / Philippians 2:15

Giving thanks: remember our discussion of this from Romans 1:8, we described six ways of giving thanks unto God: stewardship, sincerity, sanctification, suffering, solidarity, and service.

2 Corinthians 10:5 – don’t let anything come between you and God
1 Corinthians 10:31 – seek to glorify God in all you do
1 Thessalonians 5:18 – be thankful for what you do have and anything that comes your way
Romans 12:2 / Ephesians 4:23 – keep feeding on the Word of God
Ephesians 5:8 / 1 Thessalonians 5:5 – walk in the light you have, don’t turn backwards (John 12:35 – stay in fellowship with believers, if they are not doing the other things, then admonish them, and if they won’t repent then leave)

To unbelievers, and those who are wavering in their faith: Living as though there were no God will keep you from finding God. The best advice I can give to the person who wants to find out whether Christianity is true is to live as though it were (John 7:17): pray, follow the Bible, give up claims to self-ownership, and say to Christ in your darkness, "If you are there, you can have me." Colossians 1:12-13 / 1 Peter 2:9 – this can be you today.

To all: Jeremiah 9:23-24 – What comes into your mind when you think about God?


One Sheep's Voice said...

Wow, there is a lot to take in tonight. Your post always cause me to examine myself, just as God's Word does. Perhaps, just perhaps, causing a little more of me to burn off with each examination. Glory be to God alone!

Kevin Jones said...


This is wonderful. Two questions. Is your Saturday sermon the one you plan to preach the next day, and do you podcast your sermons?

Even So... said...


Most of the time they were last weeks sermon, sometimes though they are tomorrow's...this one was from a few weeks ago, tomorrow is Romans podcasting yet, but hopefully we will get rolling on some audio soon...I will gladly send you a CD for you to check out anytime for free, email me whenever, and thank you for coming over...