a runaway 18-wheeler
We are embarking on a 30 days road trip. A one-month intentional expedition through the book of Romans. This four-week “30 Days Road Trip” Sunday series, however, is really just a companion to the daily devotional series we’ve created for you to engage with the book of Romans yourself. We believe there is so much more that God can speak into your life about this amazing book one-on-one as you read and pray through it. We strongly encourage you (if you haven’t already) to open the Life Bridge App (it’s new!) and sign up for the 30 Days Road Trip. Start today!
The book of Romans begins in the same tenor as the recitation that begins this week’s message. With a bit of trucker poetry (thank you 1970’s!) Grant introduces us to the runaway 18-wheeler that it the first two chapters of Romans. Paul puts his foot to the floor in describing how God see’s humanity … and it isn’t pretty. We want to believe that people are generally good, but God knows differently (and truly). He knows that we are not good right down to the core. We are sinful. Left to our own devices, we are that runaway 18 wheeler.
we know the truth
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.
Early in the first chapter of Romans, Paul names a fundamental problem with the runaway 18 wheeler’s. They suppress the truth. Think about an occasion in your childhood when you did something wrong. When we are young, we’ve not had the chance yet to grow a callous over our conscience. We’ve not had the chance to lie so often that even we are convinced the lie is the truth. In the aftermath of doing wrong, that conscience I just mentioned begins to bother us. We know what we did was wrong. This is the smallest and purest form of what Paul is referring to in verse 18. We may be ignorant of the depth of our sinfulness, but we are not ignorant that what we are doing (in our sin) is wrong. And those times throughout our lives, maybe even before we were confronted with who God was, when we sensed that there had to be more to this life than just getting up in the morning, playing or working, going to bed, and then getting up in the morning and doing it all over again. That “feeling” (which you may not have understood as the image of God that we all have because He created us) down deep inside us, left us unsettled suggesting that there had to be more. We, as sinful people, many time suppressed that feeling. We couldn’t change it (because it’s true), so we suppressed it.
So, why do we suppress the truth? Why don’t we seek it and live it? The answer is pretty simple (and you should really watch the video if you haven’t already to hear the fuller story of Grant’s daughter who should be credited with these words) … “because I want what I want!” God’s biggest competitor is not any particular sin or even other gods. God’s biggest competitor is … we want what we want. We walk away from God and do our own thing because we want what we want.
they got what they wanted
So in their (and “their” is also our if we also choose to suppress the truth) godlessness and wickedness — their “wanting what they wanted” — what is God’s response?
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. 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 a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 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, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
God allowed them the natural fruits of their wanting. God is the Creator, but he is not a coercer. He did not create us with strings attached to our backs. He does not watch what we do and when we begin to want or choose something bad for us and suppress our will by picking up the strings and manipulate our wants and actions (as though we were a marionette). Just as God’s biggest competitor is our wants, this is the cruelest thing God does. Many people “blame” God for the tragedies of natural disasters or the vile and evil things done by people. But these are simply the things which happen in a broken world which has chosen to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A cursed creation is not immune from natural disasters and sinful men and women get what their hearts desire. God has given “us” (as mankind) what we want. We cannot blame God for that. Read on through the end of chapter 1 and see the runaway 18 wheeler that is mankind wanting what they want.
we have met the enemy, and…
… he is us. This classic phrase speaks the truth of the transition Paul makes in chapter 2. The temptation is there with all we’ve considered to point the finger outward. All the trouble with things is “those people.” But Paul is quick to point the finger back at the believers in Rome (and us).
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
Grant shared a great quote that he’s heard in the past to illustrate this fundamental truth. “We always compare everyone else’s blooper reel to our highlight reel.” We take the best parts of our life and compare them to the worst mistakes of others. We all do this. No matter whether we are lost or redeemed, we all want what we want. We all sin.
but here’s also what God sees
To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.
God scans humanity and sees that no one is good at the core. He sees the true condition of people’s hearts and He has allowed them to get what they really want. But — and this is a really fundamental “but” — He also sees a remnant who are persistent in doing good because they are seeking Him. The heart of God soars in seeing those prodigals who limp, crawl or run back to Him.
Maybe you’re someone whose been injured by the church (or someone in it). Maybe you’re someone who had great expectations of what God was going to do in your life because you were reading your Bible and praying for it. Without realizing it, you began looking at God like some genie in a bottle and you were convinced God wanted this for you, only He never popped out and the “thing” never came. We all have reasons to believe God isn’t who He says He is. We’ve all had the troubles or tragedies which are a product of this broken world we live in. Yet, you’re still here. You’re still reading and praying. You haven’t completely given up, and you’re still here. God sees you. Keep seeking. Keep persisting.
the best definition of faith
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.
We’ve said over and over that faith in Jesus is the only way of salvation. We sometimes struggle to define faith. How do you put faith into words? Faith is believing, so all you need to do is believe? Does that mean you can say you believe and then just go about your life any way you choose? All you need to do is believe, right?! Of course, we would say “no.” No, faith really isn’t that. It isn’t really saying you believe and then living whatever way you choose. Well, then what is it? Perhaps Romans 2:7 gives us the best picture. Those who persist. Those who persist because they believe. Those who are still here. Those who continue to limp, crawl and run back because they know what Jesus did for them. They know, despite all that happens to them in this life or goes on around them, that God is who He says He is. This is faith.
God sees you. Keep seeking. Keep persisting.