Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Spiritual Warfare: Romans 1 & 2, Part II

So, let's sum up the previous blog:  Paul is following the trajectory of when a people ignore God: "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles." (Rom. 1:21-23)

So, a people's thinking becomes futile (useless, unable to reach the truth) and their hearts are darkened (for the pure in heart see God; so, the opposite is true: they don't see God).

Now comes the slow spiral downward.  I find it interesting that Paul is writing to a Gentile church and not sugar-coating his message. He is calling out why Christ is necessary:  He died to save sinners.  Lest the Roman church thinks they are not "like those people," he reminds them that all have fallen short of the glory of God.  All members need the power of the resurrection, so they may live reflecting the mighty work of God in their lives.

The deeper the sin, the mightier the testimony of God's working in the lives of individuals. Jesus is central to everything Paul will say: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: 'The righteous will live by faith.'” (Rom. 1:16-17)

Then Paul launches into how depraved humanity really is--and the evidence for the Fall is everywhere.  But, and this is key, because salvation in Christ has been revealed and His power through His resurrection has been made known, no one is now without excuse to continue in the old ways.  

So, those who suppress the truth of the reality of the Almighty God, whose creation speaks of His love, power and lordship over creation, and then make an idol and ascribe to it divine power--Paul has zero tolerance for such folly.  

Wickedness suppresses the truth, for it models an utter disregard for God and His standards. We don't just break the Law by ignoring our consciences that bear God's moral imprint, but we celebrate breaking it and encourage others to do so as well. 

Idol makers need priests who want to fill temples with graven images.  Priests need worshippers to fulfill the "demands" of the idols: practices that are immoral and self-centered, laced with fear of reprisal if the rituals aren't followed.  Worshippers need to keep coming back to the temples, to fulfill obligations and put money in the temple coffers, keeping the temple and priests operating. It's cycle of greed parading under a false spirituality.  

This system, fostered by the wicked on the unsuspecting crowds who are equally wicked in choosing a lie, ignore the truth about God--the One who reveals Himself through the majesty of creation: "since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." [emphasis mine] 

Idolatry is a reinvention of God.  His qualities, His commandments, His love for humanity are lost, and are replaced with a god who demands fear, sacrifice, devotion, and practices that are against God's design for His children.  His commandments that we love one another as brothers because He is our Father, are subsumed under a self-centered approach to divinity.  Worshippers are taught to do for the god so the god will do for them.  If gods don't reciprocate, it is the fault of the worshipper, and back to the temple they go.

The priests of these temples use fear and mystery to ensnare and imprison God's children in an never-ending cycle of fear and immoral practices. The worshippers enjoy the mystery and hidden knowledge and pride themselves on being good followers of the religion. These practices damage their souls and make it harder and harder to see the One true God. 

That is how the truth is suppressed: by misrepresenting God, His character and His commands.  Sound familiar? Think of what Satan said to Eve: "Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, "You must not eat from any tree in the garden”'?

And a moment later, “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:1, 4-5) 

Exactly: "No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons." (1 Cor. 10:20)

So, if idol worship is really demonic, then no wonder the Gentiles are so deceived.  The "gods" promise enlightenment, but deliver deception.  

Thus, Romans 1 chronicles a people who are operating in that deception.  So now, as a direct consequence, their behavior mars the image of God in which they were made: "Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen." (Rom. 1:24-25)

Sexual desire and temptation is never far away from our fallen flesh.  Satan loves the debauching of the innocent--it traumatizes the soul of a person. Innocent once lost is hard to overcome, and like our first parents who lost their innocence, the return to the garden is impossible.  Hence, the cross:  Jesus' sacrifice reopened for us the fellowship with God and His creation.   

God gives us the gift of sex, and we remake it to where we are in the center, and the sole purpose of our lives is to be happy in the pursuit of the flesh. 

Sin means missing the mark, and Paul's words show how we miss the mark: "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.  In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error." (Rom. 1:26-27). 

Love is replaced by self-serving lust. But let's keep going.  Paul doesn't stop with sexual sin, but sees a whole constellation of sin that results when we make God in our own (fallen) image and how it misses the mark (i.e. sin): 

"Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God" = I don't need God and His narrow, out of date rules; I know what's best because I am enough. 

"[S]o God gave them over to a depraved mind" = I pursue what I want because I am unhappy; society must revolve around me,and moral consequences? None, because there is no moral law.  I am the law. 

"[S]o that they do what ought not to be done" = I will have no competition against my pursuits: no laws, no intolerance and nothing that impedes what I want.  
"They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity" = I am the measure of all things--if I don't see it as wrong or as a problem, then it isn't.    

"They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice" = Get out of my way.  I do what I have to do, and if anyone disagrees or contradicts me, beware.  I will shut you down. 
"They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful" = Don't bring up God to support your arguments, for you are stupid and way out of touch with a progressive society.  I speak out all the time against those who question me, but you must remain silent.  

"[T]hey invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents"  = I know what I am doing, what I am feeling and my parents have no understanding, so I do not listen to them.  I listen only to those who understand me and want to help me find my true self. 

"[T]hey have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy" = Why should I?  It's about me, and my perspective.  Don't try to step in and change me--leave me to pursue my truth!  If you question me, I will have no mercy on you--you don't deserve any. 

"Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them." = We will overcome opposition to our plans by any means necessary, and guess what?  We are succeeding in ways unfathomable even 10 years ago!  We are picking up speed to recreate ourselves and our society in our image. Woe unto to you if you get in our way. 

Welcome to now.

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