Saturday, January 27, 2007

God Gave Them Up. . . to Depravity

Last week, we settled the question of the responsibility of all people when it comes to knowledge of God. Every human being living on planet earth has had the same revelation of God. It is the evidence of creation. If a person can look out at the created universe and fail to see the power and divinity of God, that person is knowingly and willfully refusing to see the truth -- not because they cannot see it, but because they are unrighteous and full of pride.

Today, we are going to look at God’s wrath and the reason why I deserve it, you deserve it, and every person on earth deserves it. Romans 1:18 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness…” and verse 21tells us why:“ 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.”

Now stop for a moment and think of what it means to have a “darkened heart.” Are you thinking along the lines of hardened criminals? The men we see in the news – murderers, child molesters, rapists? Here’s the Bible’s portrayal of a darkened heart: “Professing to be wise, they became fools,” (rationalizing their sin, forming their own ideas about God and the world) “…and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image…” (idol worship. History is full of idolatry – even today, people you may know worship “nature” over God.) Are you thinking that these things really aren’t that extreme? Well, the darkened heart is only the first step. It’s at this point that God reveals His wrath.

How did God inflict His wrath? Romans 1:24: “God gave them up...” Verse 26: “God gave them up....” Verse 28: “God have them up....” Basically, God gave up!! He abandoned them. Read Romans 1:24-32. These verses describe the downward spiral of depravity in a person whom God has abandoned. Sure, some of the ramifications include murder and sexual sin. But the list also includes greed and envy. And strife (dissention), malice (spite), gossip (rumors), slander (insults), insolent (disrespect), arrogance (self-importance), boastful (proud), inventors of evil,
disobedience, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful… Verse 32 says these things are worthy of death. I dare say, every person reading this is guilty. That said, I am - you are - we all are depraved. All mankind is depraved! And you may be uncomfortable and even provoked that I’d come right out and say it.

Consider the story of the modern day prodigal that came to the reading of his father’s Last Will and Testament. The young man stormed out of the lawyer’s office as the document was being read. See, the father began the Will by unfolding and recounting his son’s lifetime of bad behavior and wrongdoings. Being full of pride, this provoked and infuriated the son. So he walked out. Unfortunately, for the son, he missed the last paragraph of his father’s Will. See, the father had left his beloved son a very large estate and a few million dollars! The son failed to hear the whole story.

Yes, each of us is on that downward spiral of depravity unless and until we reach God’s grace and redemption. We need to hear and fully understand God’s plan of grace and redemption. We need to hear the whole “Will” of God for our lives. Please listen to all of what Romans will teach us.

-Pastor Mark

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Rediscover God's Word. . .

Discovering something for the first time is an experience of awe and wonder. The sheer adrenalin rush of a fresh encounter is almost addictive.

But rediscovering something you have lost is an even deeper experience. In addition to the rush of awe and wonder, there is the deep sense of comfort and stability that lets us know that some things never change. They can be trusted.

God’s Word is like that. It can be trusted. The Bible reminds us that God cares about this world. He cares about us. Our lives may be entirely frenzied, but God’s Word is sustaining. It brings comfort and stability to chaos.

I invite you to Rediscover God’s Word here at Crane Chapel. I hope you are as excited as I am as we begin studying the Book of Romans together. Each time I dig into this portion of God’s Word, I am truly inspired! Romans is a masterpiece of truth. It outlines some of the greatest themes in the Bible: The Gospel of Truth, Grace, and Redemption.

The Book of Romans underscores that living a Christian life is so much more than doctrine. Romans is an essential roadmap for daily living. It has answers for all of our human dilemmas. Romans unfolds God’s plan for each of us to live a stable, fruitful, and joyful life. It can bring comfort and stability to our frenzied lives and our chaotic culture.

If you made any New Year’s Resolutions -- and you’re like the majority of Americans -- you’ve already broken them. Am I right? Resolve to make a new resolution:
Rediscover God’s Word. And invite someone to join you.
Very soon we will be in a brand new sanctuary! I encourage you to extend a personal invitation to a friend, neighbor, co-worker, family member, or former Crane Chapel member. What a great opportunity for the entire community to Rediscover God’s Word!

- Pastor Mark E. Goossen

Without Excuse...

I remember the day my son Shepard was born. Dr. Strobel and I were standing there at my wife’s side passing time, hammering out and resolving a whole throng of theological issues. I do recall my wife interrupting a few times whining about something. (I’m sure her recall of that day is altogether different.) But little Shepard came! I’ll never forget that moment. I stood there, Dr. Strobel sang the Doxology, and what I wanted to do more than anything else was worship, just worship because I saw what God can do. I was Without Excuse.

You can argue about a lot of things, but you cannont argue about the birth of a child. Anybody who has ever witnessed the birth of a child knows there is a God. There is no other way. There is no other answer. There is nothing else you can say.
Romans 1:20 says, “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 men are without excuse.”

So basically, the atheists in this world (and sadly, a lot of religious people too) are lying to themselves! That’s what Paul is saying here. Every single human being has witnessed God’s eternal power simply by existing on earth! God has put Himself on display. You don’t have to have much of a brain to understand that there is a God. Science can come up with and create many things, but it has yet to create something from nothing. A farmer can plant a seed, but he can’t make the seed grow. And how about an ocean tide? A sunset? Falling leaves? Migrating Geese? A Minnesota snow storm? These are the things that only God can do. By virtue of simply living on planet earth and having a conscience, we are Without Excuse!

Even those in far-off cultures who have never had an opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ are Without Excuse. They too have received clear witness of the existence and character of GOD from nothing else but observing creation. They may be spiritually dead, but they are Without Excuse when it comes to understanding God’s power and nature. Here’s the key: A person needs to respond. If a person responds to God’s natural revelation, God will provide a means for that person to hear the Gospel. Remember the Ethiopian Eunich (Acts 8:26-39)? How about Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48). They were “good” men, but they were both spiritually lost…. until they responded.
And if we don’t respond? Romans 1:21 say, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish heart was darkened.” There ya’ have it! Paul revealed the secret to the Romans and it’s ours for today: Reject the clearly identifiable light God gives – and it leads to greater darkness and depravity. Read the rest of Romans Chapter 1 to see exactly how. We really are Without Excuse.
-Pastor Mark

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Significance of the Book of Romans

There is no book of the Bible which has been so instrumental in changing lives and in impacting the church as Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Most, if not all, of the great revivals and reformation in the history of the church have been directly related to the Book of Romans. I don’t often list a great deal of historical quotes and facts here. But as a pastor, my calling and my life’s goal is to see the Word of God change people’s lives. More than any other Biblical passage, Romans does that! Read on:

In 386 A.D., Aurelius Augustine received Jesus Christ as his Savior after reading a passage from the Book of Romans. He went on to become one of the church’s most outstanding leaders and theologians.

A thousand years later, Martin Luther wrote, “Night and day I pondered Romans until I grasped the truth. I felt myself to be reborn. This passage of Paul became to me a gateway to heaven.”

Several centuries later (May 24, 1738 to be precise), a minister named John Wesley wrote this about his study in the Book of Romans: “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins….”

In assessing the importance of the Book of Romans, John Calvin said, “When one gains a knowledge of this Epistle, he has an entrance opened to him to all the most hidden treasures of Scripture.”

The famous sixteenth-century Bible translator William Tyndale wrote of Romans: “It is the principle and most excellent part of the New Testament... No man can read it too oft, or study it too well; for the more it is studied, the easier it is; the more it is chewed, the pleasanter it is. . . the more it is searched, the preciouser things are found….”

It has been said that Romans will delight the greatest logician and captivate the mind of the consummate genius, yet it will bring tears to the humblest soul and refreshment to the simplest mind. (Are you excited yet? I am!)

As a congregation, we’ve just come out of a wonderful study in the Book of Acts where we were introduced to the Apostle Paul. There is no dispute that Paul wrote the Book of Romans. Probably while in Corinth on his third missionary trip. His primary purpose in writing it was to teach the truth of Grace to new believers who had never really heard it. So Romans is primary a book of doctrine and contains little historical material -- but it does answer a lot of questions about man and God: What is the good news of God? Is Jesus really God? What is God like? How can God send people to hell? Why do men reject God and His Son? Why are there false religions and idols? What is man’s biggest sin? Why is there evil in the world? What is the standard by which God judges people? How can a person who has never heard about God be held spiritually responsible? Who is a true Jew? Can any person keep God’s laws perfectly? How can a person know he is a sinner? Where can people find real peace and hope? What exactly is grace? Why is living a Christian life such a struggle?

If you’ve ever asked questions like these, this sermon series from the Book of Romans is for you! Stay tuned. We’re just getting started!

- Pastor Mark