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James Merritt - Bad Deal

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    James Merritt - Bad Deal

How many of you like to go to movies? How many of you like to read? You like to go to movies or read or do both, you're going to love this series. I mean, I promise you, you're going to love this series we're about to start because we're going to look at a book in the Bible that could just as easily be put on the screen as it was put on the page. It has all the elements of a great movie. It's got a great director. His name is Paul. It's got a great setting, great background, which is you and me and the whole human world. It's got a great supporting cast, and that's us. And the plot is thick. It's really kind of, It just draws you in because what this book is all about, at least in the beginning, is our God reached out to the world and then the world rejected God.

Paul says, "Our world right now is under this dark cloud," and it's not a cloud full of rain. It's a cloud full of wrath. So in Romans 1, we're going to pick up in verse 18. He says, "The wrath of God," I realize we don't hear that much anymore, "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness..."

Now, I told somebody the other day, we were talking about this series, I said, "If you show the movie, it would be rated R, not because of graphic sex or anything like that, but the movie really does show it all, the way things really are". Paul's not going to hide anything. He's not going to sugarcoat what he says. He says, "Our world is under the wrath of God". And the reason why our world is under the wrath of God is because of the godlessness that's out there and the wickedness that is out there. There is one thing that really makes God angry. There's one thing that stirs up His wrath, and that is evil. It provokes His wrath.

Now, let me just stop right there. Let me just call a timeout. I want you to know I get it, before you say anything else, and I know what you're thinking. Some of you are thinking right now, "I'm so glad I did not invite my neighbor today," when actually, it may be the very message your neighbor needs to hear because I get it. The moment we even read the words "the wrath of God," some of you roll your eyes and you go, "Man, I thought we left that stuff behind long time ago. I thought we kind of got rid of all this wrathy God stuff a long time ago". And you know, you're sitting there and you say, you know, "How unpopular a topic, how politically incorrect is that"?

And the truth of the matter is, we don't hear very much about the wrath of God anymore and we really don't want to. You know, in all of my ministry, I've never had somebody come up to me and say, "Pastor, would you preach on the wrath of God? I'd just love to hear a message on the wrath of God". I've never had that happen. We don't want to know about the wrath of God. Here's what people say. People say, "Don't tell me about the wrath of God. I want to hear about the" what? Oh, the love of God. But here's the problem. It is the love of God that causes us to talk about the wrath of God.

Now, let me explain that to you. I want you to imagine... how many of you are parents and have children? Alright. So how many of you have grandchildren. Alright. I've got both. I've got kids. I've got grandkids. So what do you do, if you do, hold on to that. If you don't have kids or grandkids, think about the person in the world that means more to you than any other person in the world. Think about the one person that you would say you love more than anybody else. Then I want you to think about the most evil, vile, wicked thing that somebody could do, either to your children or to your grandchildren or the person that you love the most. And let me ask you a real dumb question. Would that make you angry? It would stir up in you your what? Your wrath.

You'd say, "Yes, that'd make me angry. I mean, I would be absolutely furious". Well, wait a minute. I've got a question. Why would that make you angry? I didn't say somebody hurt you. I didn't say somebody did anything wrong to you. I said they hurt somebody you loved. You said, "That's right. That's why it would make me angry. It's not that they hurt me; what would really stir my wrath and what would make me furious and make me angry is they hurt someone that I love deeply". So let me just stop right here. Let me just give you a principle that's going to be kind of the backdrop, not just of today's message, but really of this entire series that we're going to be in. And every week that we preach over the next several weeks in this book, I want you to keep this in mind. Okay?

Let me throw this up on the screen. God hates sin so much because He loves the sinner even more. God hates sin so much because He loves the sinner even more. You hate anything that hurts your kids, and you should. You would get angry over anybody and over anything that would hurt your grandchildren, and you should. Well, I've got news. God hates anything that hurts the people that He created. You may not like it. You may not think it's politically correct. You may find it hard to believe that we're going to talk about this in the 21st century. But this is the way that it is. And the reason why people don't like it and the reason why churches went away from it and the reason why a lot of pastors won't preach it is because of what somebody said. I'm going to put it up on the screen. It's one of the greatest things I've ever read.

Listen to this. "People believe in a God without wrath who brings people without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministry of a Christ without a cross". And that's what a lot of churches, not all of 'em, but that's what some churches out there are preaching. They are not going to talk about wrath. They're never going to mention the word sin. They're certainly not going to talk about judgment. And they don't say much about the cross. Paul says, "You know what? That's just not the way it is".

So the question is, why is our world under this dark cloud of God's wrath? What is it that we do that is so harmful to ourselves, that's so harmful to each other that it would cause God's wrath to bubble up? What is it about what we do to ourselves and each other that would really make this God angry? Well, as you're going to see today, it's all the result of a bad deal. This world started off with a bad deal. It goes all the way back to the garden of Eden. Adam made a bad deal. Eve made a bad deal. And ever since, we've been making bad deals. And that's why we're in the trouble that we're in today. So Paul tells us four things that we do that causes God to be wrathful, that brings out the anger of God. And again, it's not against us so much as it is against the wickedness and the godlessness of what people do.

So what is it that we do? What causes the wrath? What's the bad deal that we make that just makes God so upset? Well, number one, we reject the witness of God. Right off the bat, he says, "Look, we reject the witness of God". Now, I want you to keep in mind, what is Paul doing over the next several weeks? He's making the case for grace. He's saying, "Let me tell you why we need grace". You know, we sing the song "Amazing Grace". Look, one of two things is true about grace. Grace is either amazing or it's just amusing. Either everybody needs it or nobody needs it, and either we need it or we don't need it. The reason why I stand up here and preach every week, I have a conviction. I think everybody needs it. I think that's the greatest need in the world, is grace.

But Paul says, "Well, you know, there's a question we have to answer before we answer the question about grace. We've got to answer the question about God," because if somebody says, "You need the grace of God" or "you need God's grace," Paul says, "Well, wait a minute". And people are asking this question today, by the way. "What evidence is there that there's even a God out there that gives us grace to begin with"? Paul says, "Okay, let's deal with that". So he begins by, in verse 19. "Since what may be known about God is plain to them..." Who's the them he's talking about? He's talking about those people that bother us. What about the guy that's out in the middle of Africa that's never heard of a church? What about the guy that's never even seen a Bible? What about that guy? Says, "Okay".

Paul says, "Let's talk about those people". "...because God has made it plain to them". Made what? "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". Now, Paul doesn't mince words. He doesn't say, "Well, you know, the evidence for God is kind of strong and you might want to consider it". No. Paul says, "Let me tell you, here's the cold, hard truth". Paul says, "There is one powerful, divine Creator. And everybody, deep down, knows it". Everybody, deep down, they know it, because He's given this undeniable witness how through the world and the universe.

Paul says, "Look, there's a God out there". And I don't care what the new atheists say or what the old atheists say, doesn't matter... deep down, they know it. Deep down in their heart of hearts, deep down, they know there is something or someone out there. And Paul says we know enough to be accountable. We know enough about this God to want to know more about this God. So what Paul says is, you know, this God who is invisible and this God that is unknowable, well, guess what... this God has made Himself both visible and knowable through His creation. And this creation tells us there's a Creator up there. And He is a divine creator and He is a powerful creator and He is a brilliant creator and He is a glorious creator. And to reject that witness can only hurt us, and that's a bad deal and it angers God. But it gets worse. Not only do we reject the witness of God, we replace the worship of God.

Now, listen to how this works. Paul has just addressed the fact, look, everybody's got some knowledge of God. Nobody's completely ignorant of God, nobody's completely innocent before God. The world knows enough about God to want to know more about God. And yet, how does the world respond to all of this knowledge that we already have? 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".

Now, I hate to tell you this, but the word foolish is the Greek word moron. I'm not making that up. Paul says there is enough to know about God that should cause us to turn to God. But instead of turning to God, we do something completely moronic. Just like a moron, we reject the idea of God. But it's not just that we reject the idea of God, it's worse than that. We replace the worship of God. He goes on to say in verse 22, "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". In other words, he said, "The more reason we're given to worship the true God, the more we are determined to worship a false God".

Now obviously, he's talking there about idolatry. And I know when you mention the word idolatry, again, people kind of roll their eyes and say, "Idolatry? Come on, dude. Idolatry; that's an ancient world problem. That's a pagan problem. We don't worship birds and, you know, and animals and reptiles and all of that". I've got news for you. Idolatry's well alive today. It's all over the place, 'cause let me tell you what an idol is. An idol is anything that you want more than God, an idol is anything that's more important to you than God, and an idol is anything that brings you greater fulfillment than God. If you won't believe we've got idols today, let me just name a few. There's the idol of possessions.

So, for example, why do a lot of us have financial difficulties? Why are we so deep in credit card debt? Why do we keep paying things that we know we can't afford and buy things we can't afford? 'Cause we made an idol of possessions, so we buy more stuff. There's the idol of pride. So we become workaholics because we want to make our way up the corporate ladder. We want to get to the top. Doesn't matter if we have to sacrifice church, God, family. Doesn't matter. We're going to get there. It's pride. We worship the idol of a personality. We see it all the time. We take athletes and we take actors and musicians and we turn celebrities into deities and we worship them, worship at the shrine of their altar. There's the altar of pleasure.

So we drink and we do drugs and we sleep around and we get into pornography and all these other kinds of things. And what Paul is saying is, "Look, the fountainhead of the river of sin is idolatry". It all comes from idolatry. Listen to me. I've got news for you. The next time somebody tells you they are an atheist, I want you to tell them this, "No, you're not". They say, "How's that work out"? "It's real easy". Number one, an atheist is someone that says they know there is no God. Well, nobody knows that. I don't know there is a God. You don't know that there's not. But where's the evidence lead us. I absolutely believe with all of my heart and I'm 100% convinced there is a God. The only way you can know there's not a God is you'd have to know everything there is to know about everything. But you don't know everything, so God could exist.

The second reason why I know there's no such thing as an atheist is because everybody worships something. Everybody does. Everybody has some God. And that's why the most common warning about sin in the Bible is not about lying, it's not about stealing, it's not about cheating, it's not about adultery, it's not about murder. The most common sin the Bible warns us about, we're told to avoid and run away from is idolatry, because that is the fountainhead of all of sin. So we made a bad deal. We've exchanged deity for idolatry and we've replaced the worship of the one and only true God with a false god and that's a bad deal and it really angers God 'cause it hurts us. Now, it gets worse and it gets deeper, because Paul said, "Let me just give you an example of what idolatry leads to. We renounce the will of God".

Now, let me just forewarn you before we get to this next passage, so don't even look at it yet. What I'm about to read is going to make some of you very uncomfortable. And what I'm going to read is probably going to make some of you angry. And what I'm about to read will probably make some people, if not on the outside, inside go, "That's it. Done". So let me just help you here. Save your emails. Email Him. You say, "What's His address"? Don't know. You can work it out. Talk to Him. Okay? I'm just the messenger boy. It is not just what it is. It is what God says it is. You ready? Buckle up. "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," that's the bottom line, "and they worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones".

By the way, it's the only time lesbianism's ever mentioned in the Bible. "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 errors". Another bad deal, and it's just natural. When you reject God and you renounce God and you replace God, here's what happens. You replace God's deity for idolatry. You exchange what is natural for what is unnatural. You exchange what is purity for what is impurity. And when Paul refers to homosexual practice as unnatural, he's not just meaning it's against Mother Nature. In the Bible, what is natural, what is nature is what God's intention is. So what is natural is God's divine design for men and women. This is natural. Anything else is unnatural.

You say, "How do you know that"? Because if you look back at verse 24, Paul refers what he's talking to as sinful. And if you look in verse 26, he says, "What this is is shameful". Now, if you want to know what that is, when you go to read the word of God, it's real simple. Anything that is against the will of God is sinful. And anything that is against the will of God is shameful. In fact, that's the definition of sin. Every time and any time you go against the will of God, that is sin. And Paul's point is, "Look, there is a divine design to manhood. There's a divine design to womanhood. And this should not be rejected, it should not be refused, or it should not be replaced".

Now, before I go on, let me just make one other thing plain. Paul here is not elevating homosexuality, that is homosexual practice above every other sexual sin or any other sin. He was just simply emphasizing this is a physical illustration of what happens to our spiritual condition when we reject God and renounce God and we replace God. He said, "Look," this is true, "all of us have desires that are warped as a result of sin". It's because of our fallen nature. And all this sin comes from idolatry, and we are all idolaters.

So here's the point he's making. When we reject the witness of God and we turn away from the real God and when we replace the worship of the true God with a false god, the next act, that thing you're just going to do naturally is you're going to renounce the will of God. And when you replace His will, which is always best for you, and you substitute your will, which is always bad for you, that is a bad deal. So Paul says, just when it comes to sex, if you replace heterosexuality with homosexuality, you made a bad deal. If you replace being faithful to yourself and your own body and abstaining from sex with fornication, that's a bad deal. If you replace your marriage vows to be faithful to your wife and you commit adultery, that is a bad deal. And those bad deals anger God because they hurt us.

Now, if you think it's gotten worse, let's... we're going to hit now rock bottom. So what is the result of all these bad deals? So here's the last thing. We ridicule the word of God. Now, watch, this is hard, but just stay with me. The end result, and we're seeing this right now. If you want to know what's going on in the country right now, going on in the world, it's real simple. It's not hard. The end result of embracing spiritual idolatry and sexual impurity is social iniquity. I'm going to say that again. The end result, when we decide we're going to embrace spiritual idolatry, we're going to say to God, "We don't want You anymore, don't need You anymore," and when we embrace sexual impurity that feels good and we're going to do it, don't care what You say, Paul says you're going to have social iniquity.

Now, I've had people say to me, "Well Pastor, what do you think? Man, what is going on in America? What is wrong? What's the deal with, you know, everything"? Here's the way I would describe it to you. What we're watching happen right now in our society and in our culture is what I call a spiritually nervous breakdown. We're having a breakdown, not of the body, not of the mind, but of the heart and of the soul. And I'm going to show you how, because what you're about to read not right now, it was written 2,000 years ago, it sounds like what you hear on the news. It sounds like what you read every day on the internet, or if you get a newspaper what you read in the newspaper.

Listen to what Paul says. "Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so they do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful", hold this on the screen just a minute, "they invent ways of doing evil..." Now, if you say, "I'm not, what is he talking about"? News flash. Just turn on the 11 o'clock news tonight and watch the lead story. Any station you want to pick. It won't be anything good. Any newscast you pick up at 11 o'clock, somehow it's going to be about wickedness and evil and depravity and murder and strife. All of those things, that's what we're dealing with. He said, "This is our problem". Now, we keep reading, "they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy".

Paul says, "Hey, what do you expect"? When we reject our vertical relationship with God, you can rest assured that our horizontal relationships with others is going to be destroyed and distorted and damaged beyond human repair. When we don't do what we ought to do when it comes to God, we will surely do what we should not do to each other. So in other words, here's what Paul says, when we decide to break up with God, there will be a breakdown in culture. There will be a breakdown in the home. There will be a breakdown in society. There will be a breakdown in racial relations. There will be a breakdown in human relationships. Now, you say, "Wow, I'm glad that's over with". No, we still hit rock bottom. I mean, you say, "Well, how low can you go"? Well, take a deep breath. Listen to this one. Here's how he ends. "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 they also approve of those who practice them".

Now, here's what Paul says. Paul says, "You know, it's one thing if you decide to imitate other people and you imitate each other and you refuse God and reject God and replace God and renounce God". He said, "That's one thing". He said, "You know, it's one thing when you acknowledge wrongdoing and you even accept wrongdoing". "Well, boys will be boys". He said, "But when you begin to applaud wrongdoing, you have hit rock bottom". Now, you may say, "Boy, wow. What a downer this message has been". Right? Well, I never end on a downer. I never do. I'll tell you why. Because what the Bible is about is about grace. And the hero of the Bible is Jesus.

And I keep coming back to this empty tomb and I realize all over again, like I did when I was a nine year old boy, that when Jesus Christ died on that cross and He came back from the dead, He sealed the deal. He said, "Hey, James. The worst deal you'll ever make is to refuse the best deal I'm about to offer. But if you'll accept the best deal I'm about to offer, it will remedy the worst deal you've ever made". So I'm going to ask you to do four things. We're just going to put 'em up on the screen. We're done. Begin today. Daily acknowledge the witness of God. Spiritually experience the worship of God, the real God. Practically obey the will of God. Personally love the word of God. And all of that can begin in your life when you give up this bad deal and you accept God's best deal, which is absolutely free.
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