Romans 1:28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; (NKJV)
(Previous devotionals can be found at www.seriousfaith.com)
God gave them over to a debased mind. That sounds pretty frightening. What does it mean?
First, who is God talking about? We find that answer starting back in verse 18:
Romans 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, (NKJV)
The entire thought from verse 18 to the end of chapter 1, is talking about the unrighteous, sinful man who rejects God even though the Creator is clearly revealed in creation (v.20), and God’s divine law is written on every heart (v.19). He is talking to those who suppress the truth (v.18), even though the truth is knowable by all.
Paul is talking about sinful humans who have denied God and have no excuse for it (v.20); they have decided to worship the creation instead of the Creator (v.25). Having chosen this wickedness, man descends into all kinds of vile passions (v.26) ignoring the obvious and natural use of their bodies to engage in shameful, lustful wickedness (v.27). There are consequences to pay for this wickedness no matter how politically correct it is; no matter if it is your “constitutional right”; and no matter if you believe you “can’t help yourself”.
The phrase “gave them up” (v.26) and “gave them over” (v.28)
should strike fear in the heart.
Imagine with me…
Two parents who have struggled year after year with a rebellious 19 year old teenager. The teen has done drugs, stolen money, gotten kicked out of school, and been in trouble with the cops. In response, the parents have been patient and persistent. They have sought help, gotten counseling, disciplined the child and set up boundaries and monitoring on the kid as much as possible. They have worked with him, prayed for him and cried countless hours over him doing anything and everything in their power to get through.
In response, the teenager just gets worse. Now the kid starts sleeping around, drinking alot and doing hard drugs. What’s more, the child has become grossly disrespectful and looks at his parents with utter contempt and hatred. The kids is bound and determined to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and no one is going to take away his “freedom”.
So the parents finally realize they have done all they can do. The child has a free will and can make his own choices. He is determined to live a certain type of life. So they announce to him, “we’re finished. You want to live this way, go ahead. You can have what you want, we aren’t going to try and stop you. But we will not support you, help you or protect you from your choices anymore. If you want to live this type of life, you deserve the consequences you are going to get.”
The wise parents know that by allowing the teenager to experience the full force of the consequences without their protection and help, he stands a better chance of “bottoming out” and rethinking what he wants in life. (Now I realize this type of situation can be much more complicated; but it gets across the point I’m making).
It’s one thing to have earthly parents finally say “fine, you want it, you got it” about your sinful choices. How SCARY is it to have the Creator God of the Universe finally “hand you over” to your sinful desires where you will receive the “full penalty” of your choices?
In verse 28, Paul is saying that there is a point at which man is so disinterested in God, even ignoring and pushing out the truth that God manifests in every heart and the truth that is clearly seen in Creation, that God finally “gives up” on them in a sense. From a divine perspective God is saying “fine, you want sin, you got it”. He then removes his hand of protection and care and allows that person to descend, without restraint, into the wickedness and vile passions that are the inevitable result of those completely devoid of God. But God does not do this from a sense of vengeance as much as He desires that a person will turn from their sin if they feel the full force of its consequences. If they do not, they are just condemned by their own choice (v.32)
Romans 1:26-27 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. (NKJV; emphasis mine)
Notice that the wickedness Paul points out surrounds sexual immorality. Wherever wickedness is found in humanity, sexual immorality is never far away. Once a person starts down the path of wanton sin, only turning to God will give them any hope of reversing course. It’s not just about sexual depravity though (v.29-31)…
…being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness (sinfulness), covetousness (wanting what you don’t have), maliciousness (wanting others to suffer); full of envy (jealous of others), murder, strife (trouble maker), deceit (dishonest), evil-mindedness; they are whisperers (gossips), backbiters (stabbing in the back), haters of God, violent, proud, boasters (arrogant), inventors of evil things (actively devising evil), disobedient to parents, undiscerning (lacking wisdom and insight), untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful…
When God “gives over” someone to their obstinate, rebellious sinful desires, they quickly sink into the quicksand of all sorts of evil behavior.They not only do these wicked things, but openly approve of and promote anyone else who does the same. (manifested today in many of the “activist” groups).
Okay, so what? We are genuine Christians. God protects us, chastens us and directs us. While we struggle with sin, we not in danger of God giving us over to sin. So why is it necessary for us to understand these things?
- It helps us to be alert and careful about sin in our own lives
- It helps us to understand why much of the world is so wicked; why there is wide spread perversion, debauchery and wickedness
- It helps us to understand better the specific person you know that has “gone off the deep end” in sin
- It helps us to understand the spiritual state of those who absolutely refuse to see anything they do as wicked, and what’s more, they don’t care
- It helps us to realize that God is just and fair; that He gives men more chances than they deserve before finally “giving them over”
- It helps us NOW to understand the danger of dabbling in sin, knowing that it can grow and lead to death (James 1.15)
- It helps us to be able to WARN those who are going down the path of rebellious wickedness and explain to them that there will come a time when God will remove His hand of protection and say “fine, have it your way”.
The thought of God saying “okay, you want it, you got it” when it comes to sin (and its resulting consequences) should be VERY scary to anyone really considering it. Can you imagine the fear a 3 year old would have (assuming he could understand) to know what it means to have his parents say “you’re on your own!” It pales in comparison to the fear of having God Himself declare you have been “given over” to your sin, by your own choice and you will justly receive the “full penalty” of your choice.
Lord, Help us to understan the protection and care You provide us instead of “giving us over” to our sin. Help us to have compassion for those heading in that direction, and the boldness to warn them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Contemplation: Do you think you were ever close to being “given over” to your sin? Do you think it actually has ever happened to you? What brought you back to God? Do you think a person can turn back to God at that point?
Application: God is patient and merciful. But like any good parent, and He is the Perfect Father, there will come a time for obstinate sinners when God will finally say, “okay, you want it, you got. Have your sin.” At that point, the full consequences of sin without restraint will become reality and destroyed lives will follow.
James 1:22 – But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (NKJV)
- What is the most obvious Bible truth you have learned today?
- What change in your life needs to be made concerning this truth?
- What specific thing will you do today to begin that change?