Summary: Paul focuses on the fact that if anything, or anyone, sits on the throne of your life other than Jesus that is called idolartry.
American Idols (04-02-06)
Pastor Jeff Williams
How many of you watch American Idol? Do you get angry when your favorite performer is voted off? Would like to sing in front of Simon Cowell? Me neither!
In our country, there are a lot of American Idols. I’m not talking about Kelly, Rueben, Fantasia, or the next American Idol, Mandisa. Can anyone name some idols that we Americans worship? [Money, power, success, sex, sports, relationships]
This morning, the Apostle Paul is going to challenge us to not let anyone, or anything, take priority over our relationship with Jesus Christ. As the commercial says, “Anything less would be uncivilized.” Actually, the Bible calls it something worse – idolatry.
That’s the main point. Let’s read it together: When anyone or anything sits on the throne of our lives other than Jesus, it is idolatry.
We come to one of the most descriptive sections of Romans. Because of the sensitive nature of the material, you may want to take your young children upstairs to Promise Land. If it had to be rated, this sermon is PG-13. As I pray, feel free to act accordingly.
The Great Exchange
Several years ago I gave a friend a purse. What she didn’t know was that I had included a check for an upcoming mission trip. Some time after that, I asked her if the money helped her meet her goal. She admitted, somewhat embarrassed, that she had exchanged the purse without ever looking in it. She exchanged a very valuable object for something quite ordinary.
How many of you exchange presents after Christmas? How about re-gifting? Tell the truth! Humans love to exchange, don’t we? That is Paul’s point in the verses we will look at this morning. He describes three great exchanges:
• They exchanged the glory of immortal God for a mortal image (v. 23)
• They exchanged the truth of God for a lie (v. 25)
• They exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural sexual relations (v. 26b-27)
Because of these three decisions, Scripture says “God gave them over.” The actual Greek word means “to abandon.” This is the act by which God hands over the human race for judgment because of their sins. It is as if God said, “Do you really want to do life without me? Okay, I’ll respect your free will but I’ll tell you upfront, the end result is not going to be pretty.” As we will see, the human race enters a downward spiral when it rejects God and tries to do life on its own.
Image is everything
Paul was brilliant in the way he laid out his arguments in the book of Romans. He is so logical, so precise with his language. Please turn with me to chapter one of the book of Romans. We’ll start in verse 21:
“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 mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:21-23)
* For they knew God
Notice Paul says that they “knew God.” Last week we learned that God has revealed Himself in such a clear and understandable way, that we are without excuse for our sins. God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, are so apparent that only a fool would reject such a revelation. And that is exactly what we become when we reject God.
* they neither glorified Him as God or gave thanks to Him
In Paul’s mind, there are two natural responses to “knowing God.” The first is to “glorify Him as God.” To glorify means “to praise, extol, celebrate, honor, to make glorious.” Isaiah 26:8 says it this way:
“Yes, LORD, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts.” (Isaiah 26:8)
The second response is giving thanks to Him. Paul concludes that a sense of gratitude for all that God has giving to us and a holy appreciation for all that He did for us through Christ on the cross, should be at the very center of our lives.
These two responses can be summed up in one word – worship. The natural response of a human heart to God’s greatest and glory, at least in Paul’s thinking, is to break out into praise and worship. The Psalmist writes:
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100:4-5)