I'm sure that most of you are aware that we had another multiple shooting this past week. It seems like it is getting to be common place for someone to take a gun and kill a bunch of people. This past Tuesday, August 9, Buford O. Furrow Jr., 37, shot and wounded five people at a Jewish community center in Los Angeles, and then, about an hour later, shot and killed a postal worker.
In this past year we have seen at least 10 such multiple shootings. On August 5, Alan Eugene Miller killed two co-workers in Alabama, and then, killed a third person at a company where he used to work. On July 29, Mark Barton killed nine people and wounded 13 at two brokerage firms in Atlanta before taking his own life. On July 12, Cyrano Marks shot and killed six members of an Atlanta family, and then, killed himself. On June 11, Joseph Brooks Jr. killed two people and wounded four others in a doctor's office in Michigan before killing himself. On May 20, T.J. Solomon, a 15-year old, shot and wounded six students at Heritage High School in Georgia. On April 20, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris killed 13 people and themselves at Columbine High in Colorado. On April 15, Sergei Babarin opened fire in the Mormon Family History Library in Salt Lake City, killing two people and wounding four others before police shot him to death. On March 18, Walter Shell shot and killed his attorney and one of the lawyer's clients in Johnson City, Tenn. On January 14, Di-Kieu Duy opened fire in a Salt Lake City office building, killing one person and wounding another.
Have you asked yourself lately, "What's happening to our country? Why the increase in violence?" Though violence is definitely on the rise in our country, the violence of men is nothing new. The world has been filled with violence since Cain killed Able. This is because men are evil, they are wicked, they are creatures utterly filled with sinfulness. Look at God's description of men in Noah's day:
Genesis 6:5 (NKJV) Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
We know this is true of our day also, because we see it all around us. We daily see the depravity of man made manifest. Because of our media based society, the world has shrunken to such a small size that we pretty well know what's going on everywhere, and the sinfulness of man is common knowledge.
America is growing in acts of violence and immorality as time goes on. Why is this? It seems that no matter how well a society begins, it always descends to the same pit of immorality that we see in our nation. Why has man always inevitable sunk to such a sad condition? The answer is found in our text in Romans 1:
Romans 1:24-28 (NKJV) Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;
Three time is this text, we see the phrase, "God gave them up or over." As we will see in a minute, this phrase means: "to turn over to judgment." Because America is turning away from God, God is turning us over to judgment.
Because of the fall and total depravity of man, man has no capacity to restrain his sinfulness. He cannot control it. He cannot do good, and he cannot keep from doing evil.
Romans 3:10-12 (NKJV) As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one."
There is only one force in the entire universe that can restrain evil, and that is God. And the problem with man is that he has turned his back on God.
It all began in the garden of Eden:
Romans 1:21 (NKJV) because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
They knew God, but they failed to glorify Him by their obedience and their gratitude.
Romans 1:22 (NKJV) Professing to be wise, they became fools,
They became fools, they hid themselves from God, and sought to produce their own righteousness. And so it has been ever since. We are all the sons of Adam. And when man turns away from God, God turns them over to judgment. This is not a new thought found only in Romans. We see the same idea in:
Psalms 81:11-12 (NKJV) "But My people would not heed My voice, And Israel would have none of Me. 12 So I gave them over to their own stubborn heart, To walk in their own counsels.
Israel would not obey God, so they were turned over to the evil fruits of their own hearts.
Hosea 4:17 (NKJV) "Ephraim is joined to idols, Let him alone.
Ephraim was a prominent tribe in the Northern Kingdom and stands for Israel as a whole. Israel was to be left to herself and allowed to go to her own doom.
Talking about the rulers of Israel, specifically the Pharisees, Jesus said,
Matthew 15:14 (NKJV) "Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch."
God lets men go to fulfill the sinfulness of their own heart and thus bringing judgment on themselves.
Acts 7:37-39 (NKJV) "This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, 'The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.' 38 "This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the Angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers, the one who received the living oracles to give to us, 39 "whom our fathers would not obey, but rejected. And in their hearts they turned back to Egypt,
They didn't want Moses' leadership, so God let them go:
Acts 7:40-42 (NKJV) "saying to Aaron, 'Make us gods to go before us; as for this Moses who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 41 "And they made a calf in those days, offered sacrifices to the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands. 42 "Then God turned and gave them up (paradidomi,) to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the Prophets: 'Did you offer Me slaughtered animals and sacrifices during forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
Whether you are talking about nations or individuals, when you turn away from God, there comes a point when God turns you over to judgment.
What I want you to understand this morning is that when God gives men up to their own sinfulness, that, in itself, is the working of His wrath. The terrible disaster that comes into peoples' lives because of their incessant sinfulness is the outworking of the present expression of God's wrath. When men abandon God, he turns them over to judgment.
Three times in our text in Romans, Paul uses the Greek word paradidomi, it has the idea of: "turning over" or "delivering up." If we look at a few uses of the word paradidomi in the New Testament, we will get a better understanding of its meaning.
Matthew 4:12 (NKJV) Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, (paradidomi) He departed to Galilee.
Matthew 5:25 (NKJV) "Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver(paradidomi) you to the judge, the judge hand you over (paradidomi) to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.
Matthew 10:17 (NKJV) "But beware of men, for they will deliver (paradidomi) you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.
Matthew 18:34 (NKJV) "And his master was angry, and delivered (paradidomi) him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
Romans 4:25 (NKJV) who was delivered up (paradidomi) because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
Romans 8:32 (NKJV) He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up (paradidomi) for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
Get the picture? It is very often used of turning over to punishment, imprisonment, or severe judgment.
Paradidomi is in the active voice in our text in Romans, stressing the activity of God. Many have translated this as if it was permissive; God has permitted man to fall into the consequences of his sin. But it doesn't say God "allowed" them to turn to uncleanness. The active voice tells us that this is a judicial act of God. It was an active, positive, judicial handing over man to evil unclean hearts. God withdraws from the wicked the restraints of His grace, and gives them over to the dominion of sin. This is the activity of a sovereign God because of man's sin.
Ephesians 4:17-19 (NKJV) This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given (paradidomi) themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
The same verb is used here but in a such a sense that the human responsibility of the act is stressed.
Our God is a Sovereign God and controls the affairs of this universe, there is not one thing that is not under His sovereign control. Scripture says, "He works all things according to the counsel of His will." But that does not excuse us of our responsibility. We are responsible for our acts. So, we have God giving men over, and man giving themselves over. God inflicts His judicial penalty, his judgment upon men, and men are responsible for the consequences.
God never forces the sinner to sin. But the sinner is not free to do either good or evil, because an evil heart within is ever inclining him toward sin. Let me try to illustrate what I'm talking about. I hold in my hand a book. I release it; what happens? It falls. In which direction? Downwards; always downwards. Why? Because, answering the law of gravity, its own weight sinks it. Suppose I want this book to occupy a position three feet higher; then what? I must lift it; a power outside of that book must raise it. Such is the relationship which fallen man sustains toward God. While Divine power upholds him, he is preserved from plunging into sin; let that power be withdrawn, and he falls- his own weight of sin drags him down.
John 3:19 (NKJV) "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
Moral depravity is the result of God's judgment. What is the significance of the spread of violence and immorality in our country? We're inclined to say that the spread of these things is evidence that we are in danger of judgment by God. But Paul says, "These things are the judgment of God."
It is my humble opinion that God is judging America now! Can't you see it? That is what the increase in violence and immorality is all about; it is God's judgment on a sinful nation. That is why our society is like it is, God is removing the restraints. We've seen this happen progressively in this country. We were founded on Christian principles, and for a long time the restraints were there. But in the last fifty years or so, God seems to be removing them. And we are reaping the result.
God is presently judging American society because we have abandoned Him. The sin and degradation in this country is God's wrath being poured out, and we're seeing what life is like apart from God.
Why is God releasing His wrath on America?
Romans 1:18 (NKJV) For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,
What causes His wrath? Ungodliness and unrighteousness.
Ungodliness focuses on the relationship to God. God is angry because man is not rightly related to Him. Unrighteousness has to do with our treatment of our fellow man. Jesus stressed the importance of these in:
Matthew 22:35-40 (NKJV) Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 "This is the first and great commandment. 39 "And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 "On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."
Ungodliness speaks against idolatry. Anything which is the ultimate concern of an individual is an idol for him; because God is the One who should be our ultimate concern. Ungodliness is acting as if God doesn't exist. It is disregarding God in our lives.
The cause of God's wrath is ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. Because our country is filled with ungodliness and unrighteousness, God is turning us over to judgment.
What is God's wrath? First, we must understand that God's wrath is not like ours. Wrath to us may suggest a loss of self-control, an outburst which is partly, if not wholly, irrational. God's wrath in the Bible is never capricious, self-indulgent or irritable. God's wrath in the Bible is always judicial. It is the wrath of a judge administering justice. Each person gets exactly what he deserves.
Wrath denotes God's resolute action in punishing sin. It is the active manifestation of His hatred of irreligion and moral evil. God is Holy, and His holiness demands that he not tolerate unholiness.
Habakkuk 1:13 (NKJV) You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, And cannot look on wickedness....
The question that we need to ask ourselves this morning is, "What can we do about our country's moral condition?" What can we do to stop the violence? The answer that we keep hearing from our government is, "We need more gun control laws." Let me assure you, this is not the answer.
It has now been 12 months since gun owners in Australia were forced to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed; a program costing the government more than $500 million dollars. And now the results are in: Australia-wide, homicides are up 3.2 percent; Australia-wide, assaults are up 8.6 percent; Australia- wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent (yes, 44 percent). In the state of Victoria, homicides with firearms are up 300 percent. Figures over the previous 25 years show a steady decrease in armed robbery with firearms (changed drastically in the past 12 months). There has been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults of the elderly. Australian politicians are on the spot and at a loss to explain how no improvement in "safety" has been observed after such monumental effort and expense was successfully expended in "ridding society of guns."
Guns are not the problem; the problem is the human heart is evil. What can we do to turn our country back to God? We must seek to change men through the gospel.
We can start by living godly and righteously; we must set the standard. Our faith is to have an impact on the world in which we live. We, as believers, are called to influence our society, culture, and world. Look at:
Matthew 5:13-17 (NKJV) "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
We are called to be salt. The principle function of salt is to preserve and to act as an antiseptic, it has a healing effect.
The Christian is to function as salt in an individual sense. We are to be an influence by our life and character being Christlike, in every sphere in which we find ourselves. By being Christlike, we influence society almost automatically. Someone who is Christlike radiates his influence; it will permeate any group in which he happens to be.
Though the church makes her great pronouncements about abortion, pornography, homosexuality, and other major issues, the average person is not affected. But if you have a Christlike individual working in a shop, or an office, or in a school, or anywhere else, they will affect others around them.
What will have more impact on a woman considering an abortion; the preaching of the church against abortion, or a caring individual who lovingly shares with her what the Bible says about abortion, and then helps her think through some alternatives? Now don't misunderstand me, the church is to preach against these things, but we preach to believers - the world doesn't listen to us, but it watches you.
What is going to hinder the spread of pornography; the church preaching against it, or individual Christians taking a stand against it where they live and work?
What good is salt if it has no flavor? None! If Christians don't influence their world, they are "good for nothing," according to Matthew 5:13. And even if salt does have flavor, it is no good if it doesn't leave the salt shaker. We are not to isolate ourselves from the world. If we are going to have an influence in the world, we must be in it.
Not only are we to be salt, but we are also to be light. What good is a covered light? What good is a believer who is not shining in his world? Neither serves any purpose.
I think the order in which our Lord put these is important. We are to be salt first, then light. The first effect of a Christian is a general one. As a Christlike individual lives in the world, he is going to affect his environment. It is only after that, that he has this specific and particular function of acting as light. In other words: Scripture, in dealing with the Christian, always emphasizes first what he is, before it begins to speak of what he does. My Christlike behavior should cause people to say, "There is something unusual about that man." Then, as they watch my conduct and behavior, they begin to ask me questions. Here, the element of "light" comes out. I am now able to speak and teach them. The right to talk intimately to another person about the Lord Jesus Christ has to be earned. Whether we like it or not, our lives should always be the first thing to speak. If our lips speak more than our lives, it will avail very little. So often the tragedy has been that people proclaim the gospel in words, but their whole lives and behaviors have been a denial of it. We are to be salt and light, the two should always go together, but I believe the order here is important.
As salt, we retard corruption. As light, we shine forth the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are to be doing both! The only hope for our country is for it to turn to God. Let's be sure that we are pointing the way.