Romans 1:22-25. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a [THE] lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Why do we need the gospel? Because it is the power of God for salvation. Salvation from what? The wrath of God. God’s settled opposition to sin.
Romans 1:18. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
Notice God’s wrath here is not “thunder bolts and lightening very very frightening” (Queen). How is God’s wrath revealed? It is revealed as God gives humanity up to the lusts of their heart. This is a passive response by God. God is not actively making people lustful. He does not force us to have impure desires, or put a gun to our heads and make us act upon those desires. God’s wrath is allowing people to have what they want.
Let’s be perfectly clear: the person Paul is describing here in Romans 1:24-25 is not in Christ. He is not describing the saint. He is describing the one who has heard the law of God and has openly rejected it. They have heard the truth about God and exchanged it for THE lie.
Christian, this is not you. God has not passively given you over to your sinful desires. No. He is actively confronting, opposing, and destroying sin in your life, first and foremost by the New Creation, giving you a new heart that at its deepest level desires the truth of God.
But, you are still a sinning saint. Indwelling sin still lives inside of you (that’s Romans 7). The Flesh and the Spirit still battle inside of your desire (that’s Galatians 5). And so we can still learn from the important truth that Paul puts forward here – idolatry steals our hearts from worshipping God.
What is idolatry? It is worshipping and serving the creature rather than the Creator.
Our heart must desire to KNOW God rather than USE God. This is why even in Christ you still need the gospel each and every day. We still face the lusts or “over-desires” that seek to control us. We still fall victim to THE lie- the lie that something other than God will satisfy, is worthy of worship, or will give grace and love until the end.
No creature will do this for you. No creature is worthy of your worship. Every good creation, when removed from the grace of the good Creator, will cease being good, and will actually become an evil master. Sex, work, family, talent, hobby, romance, food, mission – each of these are good creations of God. But when we get our identity, our “grace,” our power, our very life’s glory from these things they will destroy us. Only God is meant to be able to withstand the demands of your heart. Only he can rule you without crushing you.
In Christianity we have this way of using the Creator to get his creations. The creation is supposed to move our heart toward a deeper desire for the Creator. But instead, we flip this. We manipulate the Creator through prayer and “faith” to get his creation.
“I will be happy when God gives me ___,” instead of “I will be happy in the midst of my suffering alongside of Christ.”
“Please God let me get the job” instead of “Please God let this job search lead me to a deeper knowledge and experience of your love and grace in Christ.”
“God give me health, give me strength,” rather than “God give me you, give me grace in weakness.”
“To live is Christ” is freedom from the need for idols. The desire for God and his grace through Christ is the cure for idolatry – He is blessed forever. Amen! The desire for him must overwhelm these leftover sinful desires that still war inside of us. For us, the great truth is that God is fighting for us, to constantly lead us back to the worship of him face to face. No idol necessary. You are the idol. You are the image. You are the creature that can rest within your Creator.
Can you identify ways that you have served the creation over the Creator? Are there ways you are using God to get his creations, rather than using his creations to know God? How does union with Christ allow us to trust the Creator regardless of whether or not we have the creation? Think about being the New Creation and all that looks forward to.