Reclaiming Glory

Sermon Text – 08.04.2019
[Romans 1]
          Does the idea of Hell ever seem a little unreasonable? Eternal damnation and torment for those who are not saved by the grace of God through the blood of Jesus Christ – you ever get the sense that it just feels mean? We do this thing in our culture where we spend huge amounts of time obsessing over the worst human beings in the world. Serial killers, terrorists, sexual predators – and compared to them we all look like a buncha angels. I mean, do we really deserve hell? I mean, common -what’s the worst thing you’ve ever done? We do this comparison game in the modern world to help us feel better about who we are. We create relative morality so we don’t look that bad. I may not be perfect, but at least I’m not as bad as that guy, or them. Just about every human being I’ve ever met knows they’re not perfect, but in their world – they’re not that bad. Doesn’t Hell seem a little unreasonable?        
I guess, let me ask you another way – If I punched you in the face right now, what would happen? David Platt, who is a brilliant preacher and missionary, author and all around Pastor extraordinaire – he tells a story, I’m pretty sure it was in the book Counter Culture – which I highly recommend. Anyways, in that book, David tells the true story of his friend named Azeem. Azeem is an Arab follower of Jesus, who was talking with a taxi driver in his country. The driver believed that he would pay for his sin for a little while in hell, but then he would surely go to heaven after that. After all, he hadn’t done too many bad things. So Azeem said to him, “If I slapped you in the face, what would you do to me?” The driver replied, “I would throw you out of my taxi.” Azeem looked out the window of the cab saw a big guy across the street, “what if I went up to that random guy on the street and slapped him in the face, what would he do to me?” Taxi driver replied, “He would probably call his friends together and beat you up.” “Okay, what if I went up to a policeman and slapped him in the face? What would he do to me?” Cab driver, chuckled and replied, “He would beat you up for sure, and then you would be thrown into jail.” And finally Azeem, the Arab follower of Jesus sitting in the back of a cab in his country asked, “And what if I went to the king of this country and slapped him in the face? What would happen to me then?” The driver looked at Azeem and laughed awkwardly. He told Azeem, “You would die.” The driver got Azeem’s point and realized that he had been severely underestimating the seriousness of his sin against God.

Today is the beginning of a brand new sermon series called the Road to Rome. Now, if you’re used to my preaching, you’ll know that I usually do pretty short sermon series – usually three to five weeks tops. But I read Romans as part of my personal devotions back in January and I realized that as a church we need to go through this book. It’s such a great book, but it serves as like an introduction to theology all by itself. So, in the next year in this church we are going to read the entire book of Romans one chapter a week. But, here’s the problem – even going one chapter a week, Romans has 16 chapters which would be four months of the same series. I felt that was a bit much to go through all at once – so we are going to do four different sermon series walking through Romans, with other sermon series mixed in there – and that’s the calendar for the next year. So this sermon series is the Road to Rome, Part 1 – where God’s at. For the month of August, for the first four chapters of Romans we will rediscover and reclaim the glory of God.

          So we started right in the beginning where it says [read v.1] and then in seven he says, [read it]. What we need to know to understand this is that the Romans is actually a letter written by a guy named Paul to the underground church in Rome. There were other leaders, like Peter, who went to Rome to watch over that church – but Paul always wanted to visit. He writes in verse 8 [read 8-12]. What I want you to hear in those words is how much Paul loves the people of this church, and he’s never even met them. God is my witness for how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times. And I read that, and I felt super convicted. Paul has this simple, yet amazing idea that churches are all on the same team. If they preach Jesus as the son of God – he is praying for their success. So let me ask you – how often do you pray for the success of other churches? (well, first let’s make sure – are you praying for the success of this church? That we would reach people with the message of Jesus) But when you hear that the church up the road is building a new expansion or launching a new campus and reaching people with the good news of Jesus – are you overjoyed? Or jealous? Are you focused on the kingdom of God, or on the building of your preference? Paul didn’t build that church in Rome, and yet he constantly lifted them up in prayers at all times. Paul thinks to himself, we are on the same team, God’s team – this is about God’s kingdom, not building up this church building or that church denomination.
Verse 15, [read it]. Now, before we move on – we should clarify, what does he mean by the “gospel.” What is it that he’s telling people that is such good news? What is Paul’s message that is so important? Actually, I kind of skipped it – it was back in verse 2. [read v.2-5]. Through grace we call everyone to obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. Basically the gospel is the story of what Jesus did. How Jesus came and died for our sins, rose from the dead so that we could be reconciled to God. All of us start out away from God. This broken world, call it sin if you want, has kept us away from God, we are so far away from God – but Paul brings good news that through Jesus we are brought back together with God. Through faith, through believing in Jesus, we are called to obey God and live in harmony with God. Verse 16 says, [read it].
It keeps going, [read v.17]. In the gospel, in the story of what God has done for humanity in the world – we see God’s righteousness, we see how good God is – that he would offer us salvation the way he did. Verse 19 [read 19-20]. Alright, now this is really important so we’re gonna walk through that slow. What may be known about God is plain. Paul is saying, what we need to know about God is super obvious. Since the creation of the world – from the beginning of time – God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made. Basically, what Paul is saying is that creation points to the creator. From what has been made, from the stuff God has made – we see his qualities. His eternal power and divine nature are obvious if you pay attention to his creation. I think the easy read on this is simply – go watch more sunrises. Spend time looking at the stars or marveling at the testimony of the flowers. Witness a mother with her child, and give praise to the one who made them both. All of creation surrounding you in this life witnesses to God’s awesome power if you’re paying attention.
But here’s the problem – we are not paying attention. [read v.21-23]. Humans are built to worship. We are built to give praise, to lift up and exalt something. Look at the modern world – we create idols, we share viral videos and click “like” over and over. We cannot help ourselves – we treat movie stars and musicians like gods and then wonder why they all have ego problems. We treat politicians like heroes and saviors (or villians, if you’re on the other side). We worship so many things with our lives, and absolutely none of it is deserved. Although we know about God, we neither glorify him nor give him thanks. Verse 23 hits me in the gut – they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being. What I want you to realize this morning is that there is only one thing in the universe worthy of worship and we have a habit for swapping it out for lesser things. We exchange glory of the immortal God for mortal things. Verse 25 throws out the same message, [read it]. We gave up the truth for a lie, we swapped out worship of the creator, for worship of a created thing. And when Paul lays it out like that it just seems so… dumb! What were we thinking? The glory of the immortal God, exchanged for mortal things. It’s like having a bank account that has a little infinity sign in the dollar amount. Like an unlimited, never ending supply of money, and trading that for a hundred dollar bill. How could we be so stupid? We took our eyes off of God, and we settled for something much, much less. What’s our vision statement this year? Eyes up, Flushing. You can understand why the heading of this passage is “God’s wrath against sinful humanity.” When you contemplate the incredible majesty of God’s glory, how valuable that is in our lives – getting angry when someone throws it away makes an awful lot of sense.
The good news this morning is that God claims the glory. I think for a long time, the modern church has been trying to limit God to make him more relate-able. As people left the church prevailing wisdom was that you need make God cooler, make God more understandable. Don’t freak people out talking about his glory and infinite power and wisdom. Make him like a genie, or like a vending-machine-santa-claus best friend type God and they’ll come back to the church. Little side-note, didn’t work. They limited the picture of God, and then young people said – well, why would I worship that? In trying to make Jesus everybody’s best friend, we sold them a picture of something that is not worth their time. There’s this teaching out there, called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. You don’t have to remember that, but basically it’s this idea that people have created a false God in their minds to give them a moral framework and make them feel better about themselves. It turns God into a toady butler/genie, rather than the creator of the actual universe. One of the best ways to tell if someone has slipped into the modern trap of moralistic therapeutic deism is if they start using personal pronouns in front of God. Like, you ever hear someone say, “My God isn’t like that.” Or “My Jesus would never do that.” Oh he’s YOUR Jesus? I didn’t realize, did you create him? Or did he create you? When we put limits on what we will allow God to be like, what we will allow God to do – that is humans making up a false god in their heads. And the scary part is that it has almost nothing to do with what’s actually going on out there. But the reality that we have forgotten is that God is so much bigger than created things. God is so much bigger than the idols of this world. The real God, as found in scripture, is so much bigger than the personalized god we made up in our minds. God claims the glory, because all that glory is his. He’s the only thing that deserves it. 
God claims the glory and our response is to give Glory to God alone. Give glory to God alone. Ask yourself, how big is your God? Most of us only care if God is big enough to solve our own personal problems, and then we stop thinking about it. But the majesty of a God who created the heavens and the earth cannot be lost on us if we are going to trust this thing that’s out there with our entire lives. A lot of us in the modern American church wanna know what God can do for us. We have a consumer mentality, how is my life going to be improved by including God? We try to make God a created thing, not a creator worthy of praise. Rather than asking, what can I do for the God, as a mortal should ask before an immortal – we, in our arrogance, try to switch the roles – what can the immortal God do for me? Challenge yourself with this – If God came into your life, like burning bush style, showed up and started talking directly to you – if God asked you to do something you don’t want to do, like quit your job and move to another country or sell your vacation home and give the money to an orphanage, or become a foster parent as soon as your biological children leave the home – if God asked you to do something you don’t want to do – would you do it? And if you hesitate, is it possible you don’t understand just how big God is? Have you given up worship of the Creator of the universe for worship of something you created in your mind, that’s a little more convenient? God claims the glory, and so we must give glory to God alone.


          There’s two pieces to the application and then we’re done. The first part of giving the glory to God is to throw away the idols. This can be tricky because I think a lot of worship things without realizing that what we’re doing is worship. Romans chapter one gives us three big areas to search for idols in our lives. First, from verse 23, exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. Now, in ancient Rome they were probably talking about statutes and literal idols – I think the best comparison in our world is the way we treat famous people. With the way they can edit and update pictures, magazine covers are not even pictures of real people anymore. We have created gods and used them to sell products. Politicians, musicians, movie stars, models, social media influencers – people that have become, in our minds, more than people – images made to look like mortal human beings. The next verse gives us the next idol, the sinful desires of our hearts. One thing that the book of Romans makes very clear is that our heart often wants what is not good for us. You see a lot of stuff in the modern world, “follow your heart” – we’ll expand on this when we get to chapter seven, but just trust me when I say that’s terrible advice. The human heart can be really dumb sometimes. Do not make an idol of the sinful desires of our hearts. Verse 25 gives us the third idol, and honestly it sort of captures all of the idols. “they worshiped and served created things, rather than the creator.” The key to throwing away the idols of your life is to make sure that you are not worshipping created things, rather than the creator. Let created things point you to the creator. 1.) Don’t worship images made to look like human beings – people who seem like they are more than people. 2.) don’t worship the desires of your heart. 3.) honestly, to capture it all – don’t worship created things, only worship the creator. Three pieces to step one – throw away the idols.
          The second part of giving glory to God is to reclaim that glory. Verse 28 says, [read it]. Throw away the idol of worshipping created things, and reclaim the glory of God, who is actually worth worshipping. Throw away the idol of a god you made up in your mind to make yourself feel better – the best friend slash butler who always agrees with you, and reclaim the truth of the actual God who revealed himself in scripture. Throw away the idol of following the desires of your heart and doing whatever you think is best and reclaim the knowledge of God, the righteous way he has shown us how to live. For a lot of us, this takes a mental shift. Away from a me-centered religion to a God-centered religion, but here’s the best part. Even when we turn away from the god we invented to look at the real God that is out there – that God still loves you. That God still came for you, died for you, offers salvation through Jesus Christ for you. When you reclaim the glory of God, and how awesome and incredible God really is – it actually increases the value of what we do in this place.  

  It’s pretty simple, actually. We substitute worship of the creator for worship of the created. We substitute the glory of God, for something less. And so I’ll leave with this – May you pay attention to the creation that points us back to the creator.  May you throw away your idols and reclaim the glory of God in your life. And when you see the majesty of the God who created the heavens and earth – may you respond by giving glory to God alone. Amen.

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