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When God Gives Up

Noah's ark

by Dennis Pollock

“Then God turned and gave them up … “  (Acts 7:42)

If you were to ask one thousand Christians, “What is God doing in the world today?” you would no doubt get a wide variety of answers. Some might talk of revival, some of apostasy. Some would speak of prophecy being fulfilled and others would talk about church growth. A few might even talk about cloning or the fertility industry. But it would be hard to find one in a thousand that would give the answer that I am going to suggest to you.

The first chapter of Romans has to be one of the most unusual chapters of the Bible. Paul talks here about an exceedingly wicked society. He goes to great lengths to show the depths of depravity, sensuality, idolatry, and immorality to which these people have sunk, and concludes that these who “became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” are “deserving of death” (Romans 1:32).

The amazing thing about this chapter is that Paul never tells us who they are (or were). He uses the pronouns “they” or “their” or “them”, but never tells us who “they” are. Some have suggested that Paul is describing the generation of Noah. Others believe Paul might have been talking about the wicked Roman empire of his day. Since the invisible Author of the Scriptures did not see fit to plainly reveal this to us, it must be that what is revealed about them is far more important than who they were.

One of the interesting things we find in this description of a wicked people headed for judgment and destruction is the repeated use of a certain phrase and concept:

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts …”  (Romans 1:24).

For this reason God gave them up to vile passions”  (Romans 1:26).

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind …”   (Romans 1:28).

Three times in this one chapter (more than in any other chapter in the Bible) we find the idea of God giving up on a people. Certainly this is not a concept most evangelicals are comfortable with. We love to emphasize that "God’s love and mercy are infinite” and that no sinner is so far gone that Christ cannot save him. The idea that God might actually give up on an individual or a people seems somehow antithetical to the nature of God.

Yet when we search the Scriptures we find that God can and does give up. The textbook case for this is the Old Testament king Saul. After continually offending God with his refusal to fully obey God’s direct commands, God finally has had enough. Samuel is praying and grieving over Saul when God stops him short by saying, “How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel?” (1 Samuel 16:1). Samuel is told to go and anoint David as the new king. This done, the Holy Spirit comes upon David and one of the most fearful pronouncements in all of Scripture is given: “The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul …” (1 Samuel 16:14).

In Paul’s description of a wicked society in Romans, we find that there is a definite reason that God has given up on this people. This is no arbitrary decision of a whimsical deity exercising divine prerogative. In all three verses where Paul tells us that God gave them up, we are given the reasons. And they are astonishingly similar:

Because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God …”  (Romans 1:21)

Who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator …”  (Romans 1:25)

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge … “  (Romans 1:28)

So what was their problem? What had they done that caused such a strong reaction from the Almighty? It seems they had deviated from the worship of the one true God. At some point they had left God behind and become more enthralled with creation than with creation’s Designer. “For this reason God gave them up …” (Romans 1:26).

COULD WE BE “THEY?”

In 1963 the Bible was removed from the public schools of America. In explaining their decision the court wrote: “If portions of the New Testament were read without explanation, they could be and had been psychologically harmful to the child.” Things went from bad to worse as the years passed, and by 1980 a Kentucky school was forbidden to post the ten commandments upon its walls. The court ruled: “If the posted copies of the ten commandments are to have any effect at all, it will be to induce the schoolchildren to read, meditate upon, perhaps to venerate and obey the commandments. This is not a permissible objective.”

It seems there is no end to the ways Americans have feverishly worked to rid themselves of the knowledge of God. Christmas break in the schools is referred to as “winter break”. Silent Night has given way to Santa Claus is coming to Town. Celebration of Jesus’ resurrection has turned into a holiday about a chocolate rabbit and pretty colored eggs. Children have been sent to the principal’s office for bringing Bibles to school. And churches seem more intent on promoting success than Christ.

GOD AND HIS CREATION

Earth

It is most interesting to find that Paul declares that these who have forsaken God have substituted a love for nature in God’s place. He writes that they “worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever” (Romans 1:25). Isn’t it odd that those who seem to have the least reverence for God Almighty, our Creator, often talk in glowing, almost idolatrous terms about the beauties of nature and our responsibility to protect and preserve our world at all costs. One little girl had been so indoctrinated by her school that when her mother bought her a new bed, she responded sadly, “I really love my new bed, but it’s made out of wood. They killed trees to make my bed.”

At the filming of the movie Men in Black they ran into some unexpected slowdowns. It all revolved around the use of cockroaches on the set. It seems that some of the good folks at one of the watchdog groups that monitor the treatment of animals found out about the roaches. They sent some of their representatives down to the set, and began to make their demands. Using roaches in the filming was OK, but only as long as they made sure that none of the little darlings got hurt or lost. Thus when the hundreds of roaches were taken out of the barrels they were kept in, a count must be made.

During the shooting the utmost care must be taken not to step on or hurt them, and after they did their part another count must be made to ensure that none were lost. At times all filming had to be stopped in order for cast and crew to scour the set, looking for a few wayward roaches.

Cartoon villains used to be loudmouthed bullies like Brutus, Popeye’s archenemy, but no more. A survey by the Center for Media and Public Affairs disclosed that 9 out of 10 Saturday morning cartoons evoked frightening scenarios of impending environmental disasters, with the bullies being either businessmen or scientists plotting to pillage the earth.

CONSEQUENCES OF DEPARTING

As man draws further and further away from his Creator he faces consequences, both in this life and in the life to come. As we read in Romans 1 of this mystery society which has departed from God and worshiped creation over Creator, we find a familiar pattern. First is the departure. Next we find God giving up, taking His restraining hand off that society. And finally we see the sordid consequence of sexual immorality. Fornication, homosexuality, and lesbianism run rampant when divine restraint is not actively at work to suppress human sensuality. Paul writes that those of whom God has given up:

dishonor their bodies among themselves”  (Romans 1:24).

exchanged the natural use for what is against nature”  (Romans 1:26).

burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful … ”  (Romans 1:27).

Is this not the very pattern we have seen in our nation in this last generation? Sexuality has exploded as we have thrown off the restraints of the fear of God. Television producers promote homosexuality and promiscuous heterosexual sex with a zeal that seems almost religious. All are expected to bow before the god of hedonism.

While evangelical Christians have rightly spoken out against the gay lifestyle, we have failed to see that the rampant sexuality and homosexuality that confronts us around every corner is not the heart of America’s problem. Our problem is not a sex problem – it is a spiritual problem. We have forsaken our Creator and reaped a harvest of immorality. High schools and universities throughout the nation are telling our children: "Morality is all relative. Every culture and every individual has the right to manufacture his or her own morality (or no morality at all). What’s good for one may not be good for another. There are no absolute values or standards."

Then we wonder when our children seem out of control and we find condoms in our girls’ purses and in our boys’ wallets! Of course they are out of control! Without the restraint of the knowledge of God, without the subduing effect of a life with purpose and destiny, without the preserving grace of Jesus Christ, why should we find it so surprising when America’s youth embrace self-gratification and promiscuity?

BAD NEWS AND GOOD NEWS

So what on earth is God doing today? Many answers might be given. He is pouring out His Spirit upon His church, He is fulfilling prophecy in the land of Israel, He is directing the course of nations. But one of the major things that He is doing is something that few have guessed – He is giving up. God is giving up on nations, societies, and individuals that have shaken their fists in His face and insisted on their right to live ungodly, unthankful, and unholy lives, without God and without hope. What is the result? – It is exactly what Romans 1 predicts - a staggering increase in sexual immorality.

There is some good news in all of this, however. Though God is indeed giving people over to vile passions, He is not giving up on all. In the midst of our depraved and twisted world, there is still a chosen remnant that He is preserving. The God who gives up is also the God who can preserve. Those who trust in Christ as Savior and Keeper of their souls are finding that He is able to “confirm you unto the end that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”  (1 Corinthians 1:8). Purity is not an impossible dream in our sin-saturated world. We have a Savior who is big enough to keep us all of our days.

While multitudes push God from them, rejecting His offers of forgiveness and reconciliation, heaven rejoices that there are still many that flee to the cross of Christ and find there an inheritance in God’s family. They discover that God is able not only to save them from hell, but to keep His hand on their lives and their families all their days, and to preserve them blameless until the day of Jesus Christ. “Faithful is He who calls you, who also will do it!” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

For a full listing of all devos (written and audio) go to our Devos Catalog Page.

     

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