What if I told you that God will give us exactly what we want – I mean what we really, really want? Would you believe me? I suspect not. But we will look at a passage from the Bible today that tells us exactly that. God will give us what we want.
In saying this, I’m not suggesting that God will give us a million-dollar mansion, or a quarter-million-dollar Ferrari. Even if those are the things that initially come to mind, those are simply the trappings of a more deeply-seeded desire. That’s not what the worldly mind really wants.
What the worldly mind wants is happiness and peace outside of submission to the Creator – the God of the universe. We errantly identify that as the stuff that we can acquire, but acquiring the pile of stuff does not satisfy what we really want, so we repeat the acquisition process and chase after even more stuff. Perhaps a Ferrari and a Porsche will quench my inner dissatisfaction. And yet it does not. Thus, despite any claims to the contrary, I know that the mansion and the hot car are not what we really, really want.
Let’s look at some passages from Romans chapter one:
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts 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. – (Romans 1:24-25 – NASB)
Pause a moment and ponder that phrase, “God gave them over…” It is though God sees what we want, knows that we are refusing to acknowledge him as God, so he says, “Fine. Have it your way. I’m out of this picture.” And God removes himself from the sphere of influence of our lives and lets us manufacture, and drown in our own mess that we lust after.
And it doesn’t end there. Romans says it again:
For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; – (Romans 1:26a – NASB)
And he continues to describe the grotesque homosexual relationships the are spawned in this burning passion. Women with women and men with men. And again, that phrase, “God gave them over…” You want a life without me? Then have that life, and reap what grows from it.
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 – (Romans 1:28 – NASB)
And this verse is followed by a laundry list of attitudes and self-serving behaviors that lead to a life of misery, self-worship, and ultimately death.
Properly considered, these are terrifying passages. As a child, I often adventurously, and somewhat rebelliously ventured off into some ill-advised behavior, but I always did so with the belief that my mother and father were a phone call away and could/would rescue me from any mishap into which I may fall.
In our target passages, God is not pressing us into misadventure, but is, rather, removing himself from the picture altogether and allowing us to experience the full horror of life without him. And how quick we are to blame God for the miseries and misfortunes of life, saying, “How could God let this happen?” The answer is clearly outlined above. We wanted our own way, and God gave us over to it. Rather than force himself and his ways upon us, God graciously backed away and left us to our own self-directing devices.
Years ago, my brother-in-law was trying to work his way through medical school, care for my sister, and soon his two daughters. It was an exceedingly great challenge. His father was quite well off, and could have supported the family through the entirety of medical school and residency. My brother-in-law’s integrity and self-respect demanded that he do this on his own, and he said as much to his father. So, his father “gave him over” to that desire. Fine. You want to do this on your own, then do it on your own.
It was a terribly difficult time for the family. They were dirt poor, but they were happy. I always admired that firm stance. But when it comes to God and matters of eternity, we are ill-advised to use the “do it on my own” approach.
In a passage that starts with our rebellious nature and which says God’s wrath is revealed against that rebellion, taken as a whole, it appears that God’s wrath is defined as God simply stepping out of the picture to let us deal with the hand of cards we deal ourselves. It is not so much God actively lashing out against us, as it is God putting his hands up (so to speak) and letting us drive the ship without him.
In our arrogant efforts, we change the glory of the incorruptible God into our idols. We change the truth of God into a lie and reject him as the Creator. We toss aside knowledge and replace it with philosophy and foolhardy speculation. So, God gave us over…
While it is true that the apostle Paul is describing the first-century world, it is equally clear that the phraseology he uses to do so applies to our western society with unmistakable precision. Every verse in Romans one is like a bullseye-arrow-shot to the heart of our world. It reads like a PBS documentary on 21st Century humanism.
As the world denies God, ridicules God, lies about God, we who are in Christ must stand firm with Paul and proclaim, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16a – ESV)
Victoriously in Christ!