Charles Stanley - The Privilege Corrupted
Of all the opportunities and privileges that you have been afforded in life, what privilege stands out above all the rest? Would it be that you have had a wonderful opportunity, wonderful privilege, to have a good education that has established you and made it possible for you to succeed in life? Could it be that the greatest privilege you consider is the privilege to travel and you've been able to travel almost unlimited in different parts of the world? Or could it be that you have had the privilege of choosing a vocation that has brought you a great sense of contentment and joy and fulfillment in life? Maybe you had the privilege of turning your hobby into a vocation. Or maybe it's just the fact that you have been raised by godly parents and you consider that the greatest privilege in your life. Or maybe the grandparents had that wonderful honor of raising you.
Somewhere along the way all of us could probably look at some privilege and say, This stands out above all the rest. But how does the privilege of knowing God compare to those others? Knowing the God of creation, knowing through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, knowing this God who created you, who has saved you, who has a purpose and a plan for your life, who loves you unconditionally. Where does that understanding and that knowledge compare to all the rest? Well, I believe if you and I think about it carefully and accurately we'll say, the greatest privilege in life is to know God through His Son Jesus Christ. Now there are lots of people who do not. There are lots of people who don't even want to. There are lots of people who'd give it absolutely no thought whatsoever.
What they do not realize is this: The greatest tragedy in life is to live your life without the knowledge of God, and to die without a knowledge of Him and to spend eternity, eternally separated from God. Somebody says, Well, I just don't believe that's the way it is. Well, you know what? Your denial of the truth does not change the truth. And that is one truth that many people will never be able to accept, that the denial of the truth does not change the truth. And so, when I think about how much God has shown us about Himself, how much you and I can know, and yet how we often times have allowed sin to corrupt the truth of the knowledge of God in our life.
That's what I want to talk about in this very, very, very important message because God has diagrammed, He has outlined, He has made it so crystal clear what happens when people turn away from the truth about Himself. And I want you to turn if you will to Romans chapter one. No matter how you may view evolution, no matter how you may view the Bible, God, Jesus, or whatever, I want to encourage you to listen to something. Because what I want to show you is that God has given to us in this passage of scripture a very clear picture of what happens when people suppress, deny, shut out, reject, turn away from the truth that God has given to us about Himself.
So, I want you to listen carefully. I want you to think about something now. Because He says in this passage, look if you will beginning in verse twenty: "Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling things".
Now what in the world is he saying to us? Simply this, that man has a knowledge of God. The question is, What will he do? Will he accept the knowledge of God? Acknowledge that God is the sovereign creator, that he needs God because of his sin, and ask God to forgive him of his sins based on what Jesus Christ did at Calvary, or will he not? Here's what God says mankind has done. Now let me just point something out to you here. Listen, are you listening? Say amen. Whenever an individual, or whenever a nation of people, or whenever a church is willing to surrender, willing to give up their high and holy exalted opinion of God. Whenever an individual, a nation, a church or an institution surrenders, gives up, forfeits, yields their high and holy opinion of Almighty God, at that moment they begin the downward path that will ultimately lead to their destruction.
You can look at our nation alone. Most of us grew up in a time in this nation where even though people were not Christian, they believed that there was a God. And even people who were not Christian had at least a respect for the living God. They believed that He was, that He is, and they respected Him to a great degree. So much so, that even though they did not necessarily believe in Him as their God, they put their, they put His name, inscribed His name in concrete, bronze and iron and different buildings all over this country. Acknowledged Him, laid their hand on this book and pledged to uphold the constitution, or whatever they were being inducted into. So, man's had this high and holy understanding of God. Something has happened in this nation. Our respect for God, our acknowledgement of God, our high and holy opinion of God, something has happened.
And now when you talk about God, it's almost like you're the enemy. When you talk about God you must have a disease. When you talk about God and defend your belief in Him, you are a little lower class than the others. I want to show you my friend, exactly. God, He lays it out crystal clear. What is going on in the minds of people, leaders of our nation, people from every walk of life in our nation. It is in the church, it is in institutions, it is in the nations and it is individual lives. When you give up a high and holy concept of the living God, you begin a downward trek that has an awesome painful penalty toward the end. Now, the stages are all here. Look at this. I want to give them to you. And I want you to jot them down because you need to speak to your children, your grandchildren.
You need to understand it yourself so when somebody says, Well, what in the world's happening in the world? Here it is, crystal clear in the Word of God. Listen, there are four stages. The first stage is the stage of intelligence. God has revealed Himself to mankind in creation and in His conscience. So, God gave man a great deal of knowledge here. Human history began with man knowing God. That's how history began. The history of humanity began with man knowing God. Then he turns from the truth and rejects God. Second stage, the second stage is ignorance. Now when a person moves from the stage of intelligence, knowing there is a God. Desiring to know this God. He moves to the stage of ignorance.
Now how does he get there? Look at this verse. I'm not gonna tell you what I think, I'm just telling you what God says. Verse twenty-one: "For even though they knew God, intelligence they did not honor God, did not honor Him as God, or give thanks to God; but they became futile empty in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools". Now think about what he says. When a person suppresses the truth, what happens? By suppressing the truth, they no longer honor God. I don't want to honor God. And so therefore, they are very, become very ungrateful because they, you know they, dishonoring God, you become ungrateful.
Then what happens? Well, when you choose not to believe God, you choose to suppress the truth of God. Then what happens? Then, then all of a sudden there's this emptiness. Futility, emptiness. And so, what happens? He says then the heart becomes darkened. And what did Jesus say in John that third chapter? Men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil, because they refused to acknowledge the reality and the truth of Almighty God. So, then you have a heart that once was intelligent, believing there is a God, who chooses to suppress that truth and now they've gone from intelligence, dishonoring God, no gratitude toward God, futile in their minds and in their thinking. Trying to find something that will fill up this empty place, and they've become darkened in their minds.
When you read the scripture, the Bible talks about darkness, usually it's symbolizing something evil unless it's talking about day and night. Men love darkness rather than evil because rather than light because their deeds are evil. When men suppress the truth, they start from intelligence, and they move down to ignorance. They no longer know the truth because they have, listen, they have chosen to deny the real truth. And now they're trying to say, This is truth and that is truth. But you know what is interesting? These errors and these lies do not satisfy the human heart. And so, man moves further and further downward. There is a very short step between idolatry and immorality, very short step. Because stage number one is intelligence. Stage number two is ignorance. Stage number three is indulgence.
Listen to what he says, beginning now in this twenty-fourth verse: "Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie," listen, they deliberately, willfully, suppressing the truth decided they'd choose to believe the lie; and he says "they exchange the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever". Amen. "For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, women for women. In the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error".
My friend, it is impossible, it is impossible to move from intelligence to denying God, to denying His rightful place in your life, and just staying ignorant. Ultimately, there will be indulgence. This indulgence is man's attempt to fill that big, huge empty emotional spiritual vacuum, in his life in which God himself desires to reside. You can participate in every form of sexual sin or any other kind of sin, and all you will be doing is moving one step further downward, downward, downward in your search and hunger and thirsting and yearning desire to fill this big empty void, darkness in your heart. And when you get to the bottom and you have tried every earthly thing that man can do in His beastly nature and any other nature, you will find the same horrible, vacuum, empty, loneliness dissatisfaction, hopelessness and helplessness, because it is always at the bottom of ultimate indulgence. How does a person get there? They get there by choice.
Somebody says, Well, that's not a part of my life so I must be okay. No, you're not. Until Jesus Christ is your savior and God is in your life, you're moving downward. Now I want you to notice twice he says the same thing. Look, look again if you will now at verse twenty-four. Therefore, God gave them over. Look if you will again in verse twenty-six. For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions. Now, go back to verse eighteen for a moment. When he said, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness". That is when he said, he says, For the punishment of God is directed toward "all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in sin and unrighteousness".
When we think about the wrath of God, we usually think in terms of the heavens breaking through of some storm of God's fire and judgment upon the world. You know what one of the forms of God's wrath is? It's far more subtle than that. One of the forms of God's wrath is that when God sees that a person has suppressed the truth, denied the truth, rejected the truth, turned away from the truth. Has chosen to no longer honor God as God, who has chosen to no longer express any gratitude toward God and to allow their heart to become empty because they want no part of God. And then to allow themselves to become darkened in their mind, in their heart, in their spirit, choosing to disobey God deliberately, willfully, dishonoring Him, denying His very presence, God says, I just turn them over to it.
Tell me anything worse on this earth, being alive and having God having turned you over to that which you worship other than Him. Turned over to it. That's wrath. But it is wrath that man invites because he denies the presence of a holy God. And my friend, all the denial in the world and all the rejection in the world and all the arguments in the world will not change the fact that Jehovah God is God. Jesus Christ is His Son. God created you to serve Him and to love Him and to obey Him and to bring Him glory. And to refuse that, resist that, suppress that, and choose a life of sin and darkness and disobedience, you move from intelligence to ignorance, to ignorance to indulgence and ultimately from indulgence to an impenitent heart. What do we mean by that? Look if you will what he says.
Verse twenty-seven: "And in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman burned in their desire towards one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper". What is a depraved mind? A mind that has become so darkened, has suppressed the truth so long, it cannot make right judgments. This is why we see the gross, wicked, vile, sinful, evil, unimaginable things going on in our society today because those who participate in them, they have lost their capacity to make right judgments. And this is how far sin will take a person. When you begin to suppress the truth of righteousness in your life, here's what he says.
Now, verse twenty-nine. Now listen to this, you, listen. You can't have just one particular problem in life. Once you suppress the truth of God all kinds of sin comes into your life. And so, he names twenty-four different ones. Listen, doesn't mean that a person's guilty of all of them but gonna be some. Listen, verse twenty-nine, "Being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful". And then this is just how far He'll take you, "and although they know the ordinance of God," they know better than those who worships, "those who practice such things are worthy of death".
Listen to that. There are a lot of folks in our society who would not want to hear that verse. Worthy of death. "They not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them". I do not know how to say to you as lovingly as I know how because I don't judge anybody. It's not my business. I just want to tell you with all of my heart because I do care. Whatever you may be into, whatever you may be worshipping in life, the last thing that you want to happen is to die without knowing the one true living God through His Son, Jesus Christ, who went to the cross of Calvary. And God the Father put all of our sin, all of our wickedness, all of our vileness, all of these things mentioned in this passage upon Him, and Jesus Christ experienced separation from the Father because that's how wicked and vile and sinful and unholy our sins are.
And God could not look upon them, He separated Himself from His own Son and let Him die on the cross because of the wickedness and the vileness and the horribleness of our sin, in order that you and I may be able to be saved from eternal death. That is the love of God, for you no matter who you are, what you're into, what you're depending on, what you're worshipping, who you're serving in life. It is not a message of condemnation. It is a message, listen, it is a message of loving warning that you don't want to die without Christ. And here's what God says. He says it's just this simple. But it's just this tragic. Intelligence, you know there's a God. Ignorance, you suppress the truth and turn it off, let your heart get darkened. Then you become indulgent, defending what you do. Then you become impenitent, you have a depraved mind.
Listen carefully. When a person, listen carefully, when a person can sin and sin and sin and sin and it appears they have no conscience. They can defend it, laugh it off, joke about it, be deceptive about it, and keep on doing it. That person may have reached the level of a depraved mind. And then you wonder why they don't change. Once a person's mind becomes depraved and God turns them over to their wickedness, that's it. When they've shut God out, refused to listen, totally ignore, reject, absolutely deny the presence of God, and God turns them over to that, it's all over. What a tragic, tragic thought to live your life without Him and miss what your whole life was about. I cannot encourage you enough to ponder what you've heard in this message. And to ask God to show you where you are. You know there's a God.
Have you chosen to suppress that truth? Have you have you, have you chosen just to indulge yourself in every wicked, vile thing you can in order to satisfy something in you? Well, let me ask you a question. Isn't it strange that people who do that, when you read about their lives, there's nothing about peace, joy, contentment, satisfaction, confidence, and assurance about life after this one? You don't hear them talking about worshipping the Father. You don't hear them talking about the Lord Jesus Christ.
You know why? Because they have so separated all those holy thoughts from themselves. They have become gods to themselves, and where they might, they, whereby they may be one of America's idols, they have become a god unto themselves and they will die in their idolatry and be eternally separated from God. Young person, be careful who your idol is. Only one is legitimate and that is God. Only God is, only God is legitimate. And so, I want you to know we're not condemning you. We're trying to love you, love you out of darkness into light. Telling you that you have an opportunity to be saved by the grace of God. That you, your life, listen, the fact that you would even listen to this says there's hope for you.
The fact that you would even have any interest at all about hearing about God says there's interest, there's hope for you. You say, Well, suppose I've committed the unpardonable sin? If you'd committed the unpardonable sin, first of all you can't do that. The last thing you'd have is any interest in listening to some preacher tell you about Jesus Christ, about the Bible, God's creation and hope and eternity. So, there is hope. You say, Well, what must I do? If you're willing to ask the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive you of your sins because He went to the cross and died for them. Ask God to change your life, turn it around, that you need Him. If you simply say to Him:
Father, by faith, I'm asking You to forgive me of my sins. I'm asking You to come into my life, to rescue me, save me. I give You my life today.
If you're willing to tell Him that He will forgive you just that fast. He will begin even now. That rescue is beginning to take place even now. And God will take you out of the lifestyle you've been living, make you free, make you a child of God. That's my prayer, that's our hope, that's what the gospel is all about. It's about deliverance, rescuing, hope, help, forgiveness, cleansing, and giving you a whole new beginning in life.
And Father, how grateful we are we never have to wonder whether You'll save someone or not. We never have to wonder if someone can cry out to You for hope and help and forgiveness and that You would reject them because You said you wouldn't. And so I want to pray that for every person who hears this message, whether it's now or years later, every single person who has never trusted Jesus as their Savior, would stop right where they are and pray that simple prayer. That their brief little bit of knowledge of You may be greater knowledge, trusting Jesus as Your Son, trusting Him to forgive, trusting You to save them, for we ask it in Christ's name, amen.