Tuesday, April 26, 2016, 5:40 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Romans 1:18-32 (ESV). Suppressing the Truth (vv. 18-23) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. So, it isn’t that the people on this earth are not aware of God’s existence, but it is that they deny that existence by how they choose to live their lives. It isn’t that they can’t see God all around them as reflected in all his created works, but it is that they choose not to honor him as the holy God that he is. And, it isn’t that the truth about God, to some extent, has not been made known to them through all that God has made, but it is that they choose to suppress that truth and to go their own way, instead. So, humankind is without excuse. Yet, the saddest reality of it all, I believe, is that this also describes many who call themselves Christians. They do not revere God. They live ungodly and unholy lives, and yet think they are still going to heaven when they die. They think they don’t have to turn from their sins, and that they don’t have to obey God. And, they call that freedom! Instead of becoming followers of Christ, whom they claim to know, they have become followers of humans, instead. They are not worshipers of God. They are just looking for a free ride. God Gave Them UP (vv. 24-27) 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. Because humans do not honor God or give thanks to him, even though they know he exists, for God has revealed himself to them - and because they suppress the truth by their unrighteous living, and have chosen to worship the created rather than the creator, God has given them over to the desires of their flesh, to do what their evil hearts desire. He does not force his will upon us, in other words. We are not puppets on a string. He reveals himself to us, but we must choose whether or not to honor him as the holy God he is. We must choose whether or not to believe on him, and to receive his Son, and to accept his eternal salvation. It is our choice how we want to live our lives, whether or not we will honor God with our lives, or whether we will give glory, instead, to our human flesh. Although there are many ways in which we may choose to give honor to our flesh instead of to honor God with our lives (see next section), these verses here talk about a very specific area of flesh living. Here we are presented with the problem of living in impurity. Although all sin is impure, this is specifically referring, I believe, to sexual impurity. This can come in many different forms. Included in sexual impurity is lust, which is really where it all begins. Jesus said that if a man looks lustfully at a woman (to whom he is not married), he has committed adultery with her in his heart. And, this applies to women, too, and it applies to sexual lust toward people of the same sex, as well. If we sexually desire someone to whom we are not married, it is the same, in God’s eyes, as if we had already committed the physical act. Yet, I believe this encompasses more than just sexual lust, but also romantic (emotional) desire toward someone to whom we are not married. When we give our hearts and/or minds over to thinking how we would like to be with someone with whom we are not married in either a romantic or sexual situation, or in a close friendship where we are intimate with another, outside of our marriage, then that is the same as committing adultery in God’s eyes. I believe this can be played out in many ways, too. One situation is that this is all in our minds and it doesn’t go beyond that, but it is still lust, and it is still adultery, even if we never act it out in any way. Another is that we watch romantic movies or read romantic novels, or we watch or read stories with sexual situations in them, especially with regard to people living in sexual impurity, and that we get some kind of “high” or some kind of pleasure out of entering into imaginary situations where other people are romantically or sexually involved with one another. Read verse 32 (below). It is not just the practicing of these sins that is dishonoring to God, but it is it is the giving approval to those who practice them which also dishonors God. For, when we allow ourselves to be entertained by these situations, then we are honoring them in our minds and we are giving approval to them. Another situation which exists today, and which has broken up many marriages, are romantic or sexual (or sensual) affairs which begin seemingly innocent enough, but because people are not wise, discerning and guarded against such things, they easily fall into the trap of the devil and they fall into sin. This can take place in working relationships with other people or on social media sites where people reunite with old friendships, or where they form new relationships with people, and it can happen, as well, on Christian discussion sites or even in the church in certain areas of ministry where people work closely together. We have to be so careful. I don’t believe married people should go out to lunch with people of the opposite sex, or even of the same sex if they have any kind of weakness in that area, because they set themselves up for a fall. Private emails, texts and chats can be a danger, as well. At work, they should guard against having intimate and personal conversations with co-workers, but should keep conversations professional and above board always. And, then there is the issue of pornography, which is HUGE these days with the ease at which even children can gain access to pornographic sites with the touch of a finger on a laptop, a tablet (I Pad) or on a smart phone. And, there is sex-texting that goes on or sex-chatting on social media or other chat sites on the internet or even on unsmart phones, which are “call and text” only, but also allow for sharing pictures. PARENTS, don’t be stupid! Guard your children against such things. Don’t just hand them these devices thinking your kids won’t go to such places, or that they don’t know how. They are smarter than we are when it comes to such things, and they can work their way around net nannies, too. And, then there is the whole homosexual issue, as well. Especially in today’s world here in America, homosexuality is being strongly promoted as normal behavior, but if you read these verses here, it is clear that God does not see it that way. He created man, and then woman to be man’s helper. He said that the two will become one flesh in marriage. He is against homosexual unions. He calls them “shameless acts.” These are not my words, they are his. I love all people regardless of the sins they commit, but because I love them, I will tell them the truth, even if it gets me hated and falsely accused in return. Not Only Do They (vv. 28-32) 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. Yet, lest we begin to see ourselves as superior, or we begin to think we are somehow better than those who commit these “shameless acts,” we need to be reminded that these are not the only sins God regards as evil in his sight. Included in the list are envy, strife, deceit, gossip, boastfulness, disobedience, and faithlessness, etc. I see so many who call themselves Christians making a huge fuss over homosexuality while they ignore such obvious sins in their own lives. Jesus counseled that we should get rid of the log in our own eyes before we can see clearly to take a speck out of another’s eye. It doesn’t say we can’t judge sin in another, but that we need to not judge hypocritically. So, before we judge another, we need to examine our own hearts before God, asking him to reveal to us our own sins, and then we need to turn from those sins and obey God with our own lives. Then, we need to correct lovingly, always with a goal of restoration, and not treat others unkindly. Again, let me remind all of us here that if we allow ourselves to be entertained by others’ sins, or if we accommodate others’ sins in any way, we are guilty of giving approval to them, and so we share in their guilt, because we took pleasure in their sin, or we made allowance for their sin in some way. So, we need to guard against viewing or listening to TV shows, movies, music or music videos, video games, social media posts, and photos, etc. which glorify and give honor to the above listed sins. And, instead, we need to walk in the Spirit, and not according to the flesh, and we need to choose daily to honor God in all that we do, and are, and say. So, repent of your sins today, and follow Jesus in obedience. Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee / Henry Van Dyke / Beethoven / MacMillan Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love; Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above. Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away; Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day! All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays, Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise. Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea, Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee. Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blest, Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest! Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine; Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine. Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began; Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man. Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife, Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.