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Is God Mad? - Romans 1:18-32

Taught on | Topic: the wrath of God | Keywords: anger, artist, creation, design, glory, good news, grace, judgment, judicial, rage

The Wrath of God Is Revealed God is full of love, right? Right! That’s the good news. And Paul gets back to that theme and develops it fully in the chapters ahead. But first, there’s some bad news. Like a powerful prosecuting attorney, Paul made the case as to why we need the good news of Christ. God’s grace is necessary because of our guilt. In this section, we learn about the wrath of God—an attribute that many people can’t wrap their heads (and hearts) around.

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5/26/2019
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Is God Mad?
Romans 1:18-32
Skip Heitzig
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Message Summary
The Wrath of God Is Revealed God is full of love, right? Right! That’s the good news. And Paul gets back to that theme and develops it fully in the chapters ahead. But first, there’s some bad news. Like a powerful prosecuting attorney, Paul made the case as to why we need the good news of Christ. God’s grace is necessary because of our guilt. In this section, we learn about the wrath of God—an attribute that many people can’t wrap their heads (and hearts) around.
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Heart & Soul: A Study through Romans

Heart & Soul: A Study through Romans

When the wrath of God meets the righteousness of God, where does that leave us? The apostle Paul says that we are marked by sin at birth but marked righteous at salvation. In this series through Romans, Skip Heitzig explains the essentials of Christian doctrine that can transform your thoughts, words, and actions. Move from sinner to saint, and from saved to Spirit-filled as you inscribe the essence of the gospel onto your heart and soul.

Outline

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  1. What Does It Regard?

  2. Why Is It Required?

    1. For Suppressing God’s Truth

    2. For Ignoring God’s Revelation

    3. For Perverting God’s Glory

  3. How Is It Revealed?

Study Guide

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Connect Recap Notes: May 26, 2019
Speaker: Skip Heitzig
Teaching: "Is God Mad?"
Text: Romans 1:18-32

Path

God is full of love, right? Right! That's the good news. And Paul gets back to that theme and develops it fully in the chapters ahead. But first, there's some bad news. Like a powerful prosecuting attorney, Paul made the case as to why we need the good news of Christ. God's grace is necessary because of our guilt. In this section, Pastor Skip taught about the wrath of God—an attribute that many people can't wrap their heads (and hearts) around:
  1. What Does It Regard?
  2. Why Is It Required?
    1. For Suppressing God's Truth
    2. For Ignoring God's Revelation
    3. For Perverting God's Glory
  3. How Is It Revealed?
Points

What Does It Regard?
  • In Romans, Paul announced the good news that God will freely give you His righteousness in Christ, and the bad news that we are all sinners who deserve judgment.
  • We can't fully appreciate the good news unless we fully apprehend the bad news. Our first step is to admit that we are powerless before a holy God.
  • Paul uses the word wrath to describe God's revelation from heaven. This word refers to something that builds up over time. God doesn't lose His temper or fly into a rage; instead, He lets the anger collect, controlling His response and waiting for repentance.
  • God's wrath is His firm, settled, and perfect hostility toward all evil. Because God is perfectly righteous, He is perfectly wrathful.
Why Is It Required?
For Suppressing God's Truth
  • God puts His stamp on people, and He puts His workmanship—creation—around people; but some people suppress it. The word suppress means "to hold down," or "to keep back."  
  • The New Jerusalem Bible translates this suppression of truth (v. 18) as those "who keep the truth imprisoned in their wickedness."
  • People don't believe—not because they can't believe, but because they won't; they don't want to believe.
For Ignoring God's Revelation
  • God, who is invisible and unknowable, made Himself visible and knowable through what He made. This is the argument for design: creation is the visible disclosure of the invisible God (see Psalm 19); this is called "general revelation."
  • Notice the phrase "manifest in them" (v. 19). The word manifest can be rendered "plain to them." The design of creation is plain to see, leading us to conclude there is a Designer.
  • Science demonstrates many facets the Bible upholds, such as thermodynamics. With entropy, things run down. And if things run down, they must have had a beginning (e.g., the sun).
For Perverting God's Glory
  • Like thermodynamics, there is a downward moral spiral. Rather than starting low and climbing higher, humans started morally high and sank lower through sin. We have moved from familiarity with God to rebellion; rebellion to idolatry; and idolatry to immorality.
  • Our theology is connected to our morality; what we believe influences how we act—false views of God lead to false practice. Errant theology produces errant sexuality (vv. 24-27).
  • Paul paints a portrait of humanity's downward slope. He makes a point that God is perfectly righteous in His condemnation of evil, particularly against those with knowledge of the truth, because many deliberately suppress the truth to pursue their own self-centered path.
How Is It Revealed?
  • Like water behind a dam, the question arises: does all that stored up wrath get released?
    • Final wrath: there will be a final reckoning at the end (Romans 2:5, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, Revelation 6). This is the Great White Throne judgement; God will be the judge, and there will be no jury, no appeal, and no escape.
    • Provisional wrath: God's wrath is administered via public administration (the legal system; see Romans 13). Although human legal systems aren't perfect, God uses human government to punish wrongdoing.
    • Permissible wrath: God gives people what they want; He lets them follow their desires to logical conclusions (vv. 24-28). Unlike the final or judicial judgments, this is quiet judgment, letting people do what they want via free will. It is not God's intervention or non-intervention, but He allows the natural consequences of stepping outside of His will.
  • The more God lets go, the worse it will get, until it culminates in the Tribulation.
  • The spiritual and moral degeneration is likened to a judicial act of God, God judging humanity and this judgment is God's perfect antagonism toward evil.
  • God's wrath is directed against evil, but specifically toward people who have knowledge of the truth, but who have suppressed it in order to pursue a self-centered path.
Practice

Connect Up: Though God is love (1 John 4:7-21), why can't Christians only focus on one attribute of God? Why is it important to see the full nature of God's attributes, including His wrath, judgment, and sovereignty? Discuss this quote by Wayne Grudem: "If God loves all that is right and good, and all that conforms to his moral character, then it should not be surprising that He would hate everything that is opposed to His moral character." (Systematic Theology)

Connect In: Judgment is a recurring theme in the Bible. In 1 Peter 4:17, Peter states that judgment begins at "the house of God." Given that Peter means the church—the visible gathering place of believers—what do you think this passage means? Using Pastor Skip's three-tiered points listed above, here are some thoughts to discuss:
  • God allows difficulties and suffering in His people to help purify them; God's people are persecuted but will prevail because of judgment.
  • God disciplines those whom He loves (see Hebrews 12:6). God's judgment brings conviction and repentance, helping us preserve the faith.
  • Judgment may include church discipline (see 1 Corinthians 5:12).
Connect Out: Many people have been brought to Christ through the thought of eternal judgment in hell, and recognizing that sin separates them from a holy God. Though they are saved through the thought of judgment, they soon realize it is because of His love (see John 3:16) that God uses judgment. Take a moment to discuss the connection between love and wrath. Why would a loving God show wrath or judgment? God loves the sinner but hates the sin. How would you explain this connection to an unbeliever you are trying to reach with the good news?

Detailed Notes

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"Is God Mad?"
Romans 1:18-32
  1. Introduction
    1. The wrath of God is an attribute that some dismiss because it's too painful to consider
      1. Some people tend to be offended when the words God and wrath are used in the same sentence
      2. The idea of God's wrath can insult sensitivities and sensibilities
    2. Paul announced the bad news as well as the good news
      1. The theme of Romans is the righteousness of God, but Paul believed that you will never fully appreciate the good news until you fully apprehend the bad news
      2. You must know how bad things are before you realize how good the good news is
      3. Until mankind admits the problem of sin, they will never seek a savior
  2. What Does It Regard?
    1. God is not neutral when it comes to sin
      1. There are two Greek words used for wrath in the New Testament:
        1. Thumos
          1. A red-hot anger; overcome by rage
          2. This is impulsive, passionate anger
        2. Orgē
          1. To grow ripe
          2. This is an anger that builds up over a long period of time, the way that water collects behind a dam; it is stable, settled, and controlled
      2. God doesn't fly into a rage or lash out; He lets the water collect and controls His response, waiting for the right timing
      3. Romans 2:5
    2. The wrath of God, as Paul presented it here, is God's firm, settled, and perfect hostility toward all evil
      1. The wrath of God is parallel to the righteousness of God (see Romans 1:17)
      2. God is perfectly righteous; therefore, God is perfectly wrathful
    3. Some refuse to believe they are guilty—they want to live in a false paradise of supposed innocence
  3. Why Is It Required?
    1. For Suppressing God's Truth
      1. God put His stamp in us and His workmanship around us
        1. We can look inward through our conscience and see the testimony of God
        2. We can look around us at the cosmos and see the testimony of God
      2. To suppress means to hold down or hold back
        1. Some don't believe, not because they can't believe, but because they won't believe
        2. It's not a matter of ability, but a matter of will
    2. For Ignoring God's Revelation
      1. God, who is invisible and unknowable, has made Himself visible and knowable through His creation
        1. This is known as the teleological argument for the existence of God—the argument from design
        2. Creation is the visible disclosure of invisible God—the divine artist has revealed Himself
      2. Creation is general revelation—anybody, anywhere, at any time, can know this truth
        1. "The undevout astronomer is mad" —Johannes Kepler
        2. Psalm 19:1-3
      3. The art speaks of an artist—the design speaks of a designer
        1. The radiation of the sun is produced by the sun losing some of its energy
        2. Because it will obviously have an end at some point, it must have had a beginning
    3. For Perverting God's Glory
      1. The theory of devolution: the Bible does not teach that man started lower and climbed higher, but that man started high and sunk lower
        1. We began in familiarity with God, then moved to vanity, then went from vanity to idolatry and from idolatry to immorality
        2. Idolatry always tends toward immorality, because an errant theology will produce an errant sexuality
      2. Paul painted a picture of the downward slope of the human condition and God's settled and perfectly righteous antagonism toward those who have knowledge of the truth but suppress it in favor of a self-centered path
  4. How Is It Revealed?
    1. God's wrath is released in three different ways:
      1. Final wrath: a final reckoning at the last day
        1. The great white throne judgment
        2. This will be unlike any earthly court—no defense, jury, appeal, parole, or escape
        3. 1 Thessalonians 1:10
        4. Romans 2:5
      2. Provisional wrath: God's wrath satisfied through the judicial system
        1. Romans 13:4
        2. God uses human government to execute His wrath
      3. Permissible wrath: God gives you what you want
        1. He abandons them to their desires (see vv. 24, 26, 28)
        2. This is the quiet, non-intervention judgment of God
          1. Hosea 4:17
          2. Matthew 15:14
          3. Acts 7:42
    2. How often have we heard that God is going to judge America?
      1. God has already judged America
      2. Part of the judgment of God is abandoning us to our own wills and desires
      3. "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'" —C.S. Lewis
    3. The more God lets go, the worse things get
      1. The spiritual and moral degradation around us is a judicial act of God
      2. When God gives you over to whatever you want, that's the wrath of God
  5. Conclusion
    1. If you believe, you already have everlasting life
      1. No matter what you go through, things will only get better
      2. John 3:36
    2. If you're in this world, the wrath of God already abides on you
      1. Every person in this world is sitting under the fabled sword of Damocles, waiting for the rope to break
      2. When you believe, you move to sit underneath the grace of God, and that is why the good news, set against the bad news, is really great news
Figures referenced: Damocles, Johannes Kepler, C.S. Lewis

Cross references: Psalm 19:1-3; Hosea 4:17; Matthew 15:14; John 3:36; Acts 7:42; Romans 1:17; 2:5; 13:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:10

Greek words: orgē, thumos

Topic: the wrath of God

Keywords: anger, artist, creation, design, glory, good news, grace, judgment, judicial, rage

Transcript

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Is God Mad? - Romans 1:18-32 - Skip Heitzig

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Romans chapter 1? We're continuing in this series called "Heart and Soul," which is an excursion through Paul's greatest work. And that is the book of Romans. Now as we start today, I wanted to just show you a picture of my mom. I've done this before. But look at that sweet lady. This is in her older years before she went to heaven.

But this lady was about five foot. That's what she ended up as. I'm 6' 5". She's five foot. Maybe she was 5' 2" in her earlier years. But she kind of shrunk down a little bit. She had a great smile. I'll show you another picture just so you see the-- so there's me next to her in the tie. And look at my sweet little mom with a Frisbee hat on.

So what I remember about my mother is her laugh, her love, and her unconditional acceptance of four rowdy boys. But there was another side of this lady. It was the side you don't want to be on. She had a look in her eyes. And that little German frame against your body, the wrath of mom.

I was five years old when I discovered the wrath of mom. It's so distinct in my mind because she was responding to my mouthing off to her. I remember where I was standing in the living room. And I remember it was an epiphanal moment for me. And what I realized is, never mess with that lady again. She's very capable with or without dad to handle four boys, self included.

Infinitely greater than the wrath of mom is the subject that is before us, and that is the wrath of God. It is an attribute of God that some people dismiss as pure fiction. They decided it's too painful to think about so they don't even believe it exists-- the wrath of God. There was a street evangelist who was standing on a street corner yelling at people as they walked by, saying flee from the wrath that is to come, for there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

And as people were walking by, one old lady decided she was sarcastic and she walked up to him. And she goes, well, I don't have any teeth. So how can I gnash my teeth? And the evangelist bent over and said, with all due respect, ma'am, don't worry teeth will be provided.

For some people, when you put the words God and wrath in the same sentence, it's an affront to them. It insults their sensibilities and sensitivities. In fact, some Christians almost feel like they have to apologize for God because of this attribute that sullies his otherwise perfect temperament. And they like to backpedal on this. They don't like to talk about this.

Bertrand Russell wrote a book many years ago called "Why I am not a Christian," "Why I am not a Christian." And he wrote, and I quote, "there is one very serious defect in my mind in Christ's moral character and that is that he believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Jesus Christ, certainly as depicted in the gospels, did believe in everlasting punishment," end quote.

If you happen to feel like Bertrand Russell, you're going to find this to be a very difficult passage. And so let me just say, I am simply the messenger. This is not my Bible. I didn't write it. But I do believe in it, and I believe in its entirety. And because it is in the Bible and in this study of Romans, I'm not going to say, well, this is one part I don't like to talk about. So let's just Skip a few chapters to get to those really fun parts.

That would sort of be like a doctor telling the hospital administrator, listen, I want you to know in advance that I don't like to give bad news to my patients. So if they're dying of cancer and they only got six months to live, I don't want to say that to them. I'm just going to pat them on the back and say, it's all going to be great. Or if they're doing certain activities that are harmful, bad habits, I don't want to tell them that they're doing those things. I just want to give me a hug, make them feel really good about their visit, and send him on their way. That would be malpractice Paul cannot be accused of malpractice.

So Paul tells us about the wrath of God. Now before we jump into these verses, let me kind of bring you up to speed. So far so good with Paul, so far so good-- so far it's all been about the good news. That's what gospel means whenever you see gospel. I said last week translate that-- good news. So Paul is saying, hey, I got good news for y'all. There is a righteousness from God for you. He will cloth you with the righteousness that is in Christ if you believe in Him. That's the theme of his book.

But from verse 18 and for the next few chapters, he's going to give detail after detail about the wrath and judgment of God. Why? Why? Well, because Paul believes-- and it is true-- that you will never fully appreciate the good news until you fully apprehend the bad news. You have to know how bad off you are before you go, you know that gospel is really great news. So he does you that service.

The theme of the book is the righteousness of God, as we have said to you on a couple of occasions. But Paul now begins with the unrighteousness of man. Because until mankind admits that they are a sinner, they will never seek a Savior. If you don't admit you have a problem, you will never seek the medicine, the solution, for that problem.

It's interesting that in the 12 step program for alcoholics the step number one is to admit the powerlessness you have over alcohol. You admit you are powerless over alcohol, and you admit that your life has become unmanageable. That's step 1. Consider this Paul's step 1. Paul is saying, before I wash over you with the grace of God, you need to know how good that grace is by seeing how bad off you are without it.

So with that in mind, we begin where Paul leaves off. In verse 18, he says for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them, for since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead so that they are without excuse. Because although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts--" that is vain, empty-- "and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Professing to be wise, they became fools and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, birds, four footed animals, and creeping things. Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleaness in the lusts of their hearts to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the creator who is blessed forever." Amen.

"For this reason, God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 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. 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.

Being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil mindedness, they are whisperers, back biters, haters of God, violent, proud, boaster, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful, who knowing the righteous judgment of God that those who practice such things are deserving of death not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them."

Boy, that's a mouthful. Paul, tell us how you really feel, right? So he's dealing with the wrath of God. Now in looking at this, I want to give you three things. I want to answer three questions about God's wrath-- what it is, why it's required, and how it's revealed.

First of all, what? What is it? What does it regard? What's it all about? Verse 18 says, the wrath of God is revealed from heaven. Back in the 1920s, the 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, went to church one Sunday. His wife didn't go. For some reason, she stayed home in the White House. President went to church, came back home.

But his wife wanted to know, what was the sermon about, what did the preacher talk about. So in typical male fashion, the president just said one thing, one word. She said, honey, what was the sermon all about, tell me. He goes sin. That's it. That's all he said.

Well, being a typical woman, she wanted more than a one word answer. So she prodded him and said you've got to give me more than that. And the president said finally, well, I think he was against it. That summed up the sermon. Well, I think he was against it. You can't read this without coming up with the inevitable conclusion, God is against it.

Now there's two words in the Greek language that are used in the New Testament for the word wrath. One of them is used here. And you need to know the difference. One word used in the Greek New Testament for the word wrath or anger is the word thumos, thumos. We get our word thermometer from the word thumos, or we get the word thermos from word thumos.

Thumos mass means a red, hot anger. It's somebody flying off the handle into a rage, losing their temper. It is a word that means when people are overcome by a rage. It is impulsive anger, passionate anger, and it is not the word that is used here for God's wrath. That's not the word.

But that's why it's hard to imagine God as being wrathful because that is what we typically think of wrath as. And that is because most of our experience with anger is with a selfish anger, with the guy who drinks too much and throws his wife down or the mother who is impatient with her five-year-old and flies off into a rage because the son or daughter spills his drink.

Some of us have been recipients and victims of that kind of anger and wrath. So when we hear the words wrath of God, naturally we cringe. But again, that is not the word used here. The word Paul uses for the wrath of God is the second Greek word. That is the word orgai. And the word orgai literally means to grow ripe, like fruit when it ripens, to grow ripe.

And it's something that builds up over a long period of time. Like water that collects in a dam, in a huge dam, it collects behind that dam. It is stable. It is settled. It is controlled. That's the word that is used here. So God does not lose his temper. God doesn't fly into a rage or lash out.

He lets the water collect over a long period of time. And thus, he controls his response and he waits for the right time. That is the thought in the very next chapter of Romans, chapter 2 verse 5. Paul writing says, because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath. Get the picture? It's like water being collected behind a huge dam.

So the wrath of God used here by Paul means, God's firm, settled, and perfect hostility against all evil. Once again-- God's firm, settled, perfect hostility toward all evil. The wrath of God is a parallel thought to something else mentioned in verse 17, the righteousness of God. I want you to look at the difference. Go back to verse 17. We looked at it last week.

Paul said, "for in it, the righteousness of God is revealed. Now look at verse 18-- "for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven." You get the link? It's a parallel-- the righteousness of God, the wrath of God. God is perfectly righteous. Therefore, God is perfectly wrath full. He is never neutral when it comes to evil. God didn't sit around in heaven and go, oh, well. That guy killed 20 people. So what? He meant well.

God is never neutral toward evil. In the words of Calvin Coolidge, I think he's against it. Now verse 18, what Paul is essentially doing is he's walking all of humanity into God's courtroom. Paul is acting like the prosecuting attorney. He is bringing the accusation, marshaling all the evidence, and securing the sentence as guilty before God. Why does he do that?

Because Paul knows that, in his audience, as in any audience, there are some with enough hubris, enough bravado to insist they're not sinful, they're not guilty, and they want to live in a false paradise of supposed innocence. So he goes, not so. The wrath of God is being revealed. And it's in the present tense-- is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness. So that's the what. That's what it means.

Second question, why-- why is God so mad? Why would He have wrath? Why would He be angry at all? What is that wrath directed at? Well, Paul paints a pretty ugly picture in the verses that we just read. And I'll say that he sums it up by giving us three reasons. Reason number one for God's wrath is for suppressing God's truth. That's what he says in verse 18. "The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them."

Simply put, God put his stamp in us and God put his workmanship around us. So we can look inward, in a sense. We have a conscience. And in the conscience, there is the testimony of God. And in the cosmos around us, there is also the testimony of God. But people hold that down. They suppress it. The word suppress means, they know the truth, but they are holding it down or holding it back in order to live unrighteous lives.

The Jerusalem Bible translates this verse, "because they keep the truth imprisoned in their wickedness." In other words, there are people who don't believe-- and it's not because they can't believe. Have you ever heard people say that? You tell them the gospel. They go, I can't believe that. They said, I can't believe that. Really? You can't believe that? No, I can't believe that.

Well, what if I gave you enough evidence so that the logical step is that you believe that? Would you do it then? No. So you've got to rephrase that. Don't say I can't believe it. Say, I won't believe it. Very different. It's not a matter of ability. It's a matter of will. So many people don't believe not because they can't believe, but because they will not believe.

They don't want to believe. RC Sproul calls this the psychology of atheism. Let me give you what he wrote. He said, and I quote, "unbelief is generated not so much by intellectual causes but as by moral, psychological ones. The problem is not that there is insufficient evidence to convince rational beings that there is a God, but that rational beings have a natural antipathy to the being of God. In a word, the nature of God, or at least the Christian God, is repugnant to man and is not the focus of desire or wish projection. Man's desire is not that God exists, but that he doesn't," end quote.

So this is why so many people work so hard at suppressing this. They work hard at explaining God away and working hard at saying, you shouldn't believe in God. They do it every Christmas and every Easter. The national atheists worked really hard at holding down the truth.

So why is God's wrath required? For suppressing God's truth. Number two, for ignoring God's revelation-- look at verse 20. "For since the creation of the world--" you know right now that Paul is a creationist. He believed that there is a God in Heaven who actually created the world. "For since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes are clearly seen or visible being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead. So they are without excuse.

Because although they--" excuse me. Verse 20-- "because although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful that became futile in their thoughts. Their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools. And they changed the glory of incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man, birds, four footed animals, creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up to uncleanness," et cetera.

Here's the deal. Paul is saying, God who is invisible and unknowable, unless He reveals himself, has made himself visible and knowable by his creation. Now this is called the argument from design. And I'm not going to get too heady into this stuff. But some of you know, if you have a background in apologetics, that the term for this is the teleological argument for the existence of God. So I'll push that word aside. That's what it is. But this is the argument from design.

In other words, creation is the visible disclosure of invisible God. Just like an artist would reveal himself or herself by a painting or a sculpture would do that with a statue, the divine artist has revealed himself. Now we call this general revelation, general revelation. In other words, anybody at any time everywhere can know this stuff. It's general revelation.

I found it interesting. Johan Kepler-- some of you know that name, Johan Kepler the father and founder of modern astronomy-- had a great little sentence. He said, "the undevout astronomer is mad." It's a great quote. The undevout astronomer is mad. Put it another way, if you can look up at the sky and the galaxies and the stars and say, there is not a God, you're nuts. That's Johan Kepler, the father of modern astronomy. The undevout astronomer is mad.

David would agree with him. David wrote in Psalm 19, "the heavens declare the glory of God. The firmament shows his handiwork. Day unto day, they utter their speech. Night unto tonight, they reveal knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard." In other words, when you see the art hanging in the sky, you can concur-- the artist himself must be awesome.

The art speaks of an artist. The design speaks of a designer. Now you should know that Paul the Apostle appealed to this argument from design, natural revelation, whenever he spoke to people like those in Athens or those in the pagan city of Lystra. This is in Acts chapter 14. He says to those in Lystra, "God has not left himself without testimony. He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons. He provides you with plenty of food and He fills your heart with joy." He is appealing to the design of the natural world to show in visible terms the invisible God.

Now I want to drill deeper. Look at verse 19. "Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God is shown at home." And I'm reading my version, the New King James version. If you are reading a more modern translation even than this, like the New International Version or others, it says, "what may be known of God is plain to them." That's good.

In other words, it's pretty obvious. It's pretty plain. So at the end of verse 20, Paul can say, so they are without excuse. So here's the deal. If you can look at something that is designed and go, there must be a designer, you're thinking right.

Let's say you come up to a beautiful designer dress. I'm trying to get your attention, gals-- a beautiful designer dress sitting on a mannequin like this. And you look at it and go, wow. And somebody else comes up and goes, yeah, isn't that amazing. It took millions of years and random processes and that thing just happened. It took a long time and a lot of explosion. But that's how that dress came about.

You go, are you nuts. That's an Oscar de La Venta, whatever it is. There's some cool designer who did that. The design speaks of the designer. Now that's wise. But if, on the other hand, you take the modern approach-- and here's the theorem-- that no one plus nothing equals everything. Really? You believe that? Yeah, no one plus nothing equals everything.

And it's sort of like this. Let me give you one of the great inventions of modern time. Where is it? Here it is. A LEGO block-- check this out. Come on. Any of you play with LEGOs you've grown up or something? Raise your hands. Yeah, some of you are like-- So any of you still play with LEGOs? Raise your hand. God bless you. God bless you. God bless you.

So LEGO blocks. I had to borrow this from my grandkids. But we got some not too long ago, and I was putting them together. And I made a little house. I thought it was really cool. So just from a simple little plastic block, I could make a little house or a wall. But from a simple little block, you can also make a masterpiece like this.

That's all from LEGO blocks. That's from Disney Springs down in Orlando, Florida. That's all LEGOs. That's Toy Story, man. How cool is that? Or you can make this. That's also from LEGO blocks. Look, it's going out and in the water, this little dragon. Now keep that up for a minute, that picture.

This is the way evolutionary theory works. It's the idea that, from simple plastic blocks like this-- accidentally, fortuitous occurrences of accidental circumstance, randomness over a long period of time, produced that. And that's insanity. Because you look at this and you look at that and go, now, there's some brilliance behind that. There's a master behind that masterpiece.

But that's complex, and this is simple. And the idea that complexity of life forms over millions of years accidentally produced that-- Paul says, that's not plain. What's plain to them in natural revelation is that masterpieces like you and I were designed by a master artist.

Now there was in the scientific world for years this theory called the steady state theory, that things just continued the way they were without any punctuation. We now know that is debunked. Let me just give you this little factoid. The radiation of the sun is produced-- you go outside and you feel the heat of the sun. The radiation the sun is produced by the sun losing part of its mass.

In fact, every second of every day 4,200,000 tons of mass is lost from the sun. What that means is-- and we now know-- one day the sun is going to burn out. It's going to have an end. It hasn't always continued. Because it has an end at some point, it must mean therefore it had a beginning. So we can look at that and we can notice that and we can make these conclusions in natural revelation.

Interesting poll put out a few years ago by CBS News and New York Times-- they did a joint poll of 885 people in the United States of America. Now this is modern times. 55% of Americans in the general public were creationists. More specifically, 55% of the general public believe God created the world in six days.

I happen to be one of them. 32% were theistic evolutionists. That is, they believe God created the world, but he used the process of evolution to do it. That's 32%. Only 13% were orthodox darwinists. What that means is 87% of modern Americans believe God somehow created the world.

We're not talking 1,500 years ago. We're not talking medieval time. We're saying modern Americans believe-- most of them, 87%-- that God created the world. Question-- why would so many people in modern America believe that? Because Paul said, it's pretty plain to them. Verse 20, "God's invisible attributes are clearly seen." Not everybody sees it that way, and God's wrath is poised against those who suppress God's truth and ignore God's revelation.

There's a third reason, and it sort of follows the first two-- for perverting God's glory, verse 23. "And they changed the glory of incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man." That's idolatry. "Birds, four footed, animals creeping things. Therefore, God gave them up to uncleanness in the lust of their hearts to dishonor their bodies among themselves."

Now it has a sexual component. "Who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worship and served the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever more." Amen. That's all the people say, no, really it's all about feeling good. Does it make you feel good? If it makes you feel good, worship and serve that impulse.

For this reason, verse 26, "God gave them up to vile passions, for even their women exchange the natural use for what is against nature. 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."

Now Paul has taken this downward spiral of human morality. This is the theory of devolution-- devolving, not evolving, devolving. The Bible does not teach the man started low and climbed higher. The Bible teaches that man began high and sank lower and are sinking lower with every subsequent generation.

So it begins with familiarity. I have some concept, some knowledge of God. It's pretty simple. It's pretty plain. But it goes from familiarity to vanity, emptiness, futile thoughts. Then it goes from vanity to idolatry, worshipping all sorts of things, including myself. Then it goes from idolatry to immorality. And anybody who has studied world history confirms that idolatry always tends toward immorality.

Why? An errant theology will produce an errant sexuality. If you're wrong views about God, you have wrong views about humanity. You have wrong views about origins. You have wrong views about sex, on and on. So Paul is painting a picture of the downward slope of the human condition and God's settled and perfectly righteous antagonism toward evil, in particular those who have some knowledge of the truth but are suppressing it for their own self-centered path. And for those who do that and are that poised, Paul is saying, God has his wrath poised. And in the words of the evangelist, teeth will be provided.

Now the last question, and we'll close with this, is how. How is it revealed? So far, we've considered the existence of God's wrath. But how does all that stored up wrath ever get released? And to answer that, I want to move quickly because I feel like Inigo Montoya, in that great theological movie, The Princess Bride.

Remember the scene where Inigo Montoya is with Andre the Giant and Wesley and they're about to storm the castle? And Inigo Montoya said, let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up. So I feel like I-- I was going to keep going, but you don't want me to do that. I've memorized most of the lines in the film.

But so he realizes, I've got to make this quick. So I want to make this quick and let you know before I get to Paul's point of how it's released. In general, God's wrath is released three different ways. Number one, there is the final wrath, the final wrath. We all know there's going to be a final reckoning in the end, a final judgment at the last day. Don't think that Hitler's getting off the hook.

Don't think that God's going to say, oh, well, whatever Pol Pot. He wasn't all that great. But whatever, I'll let him go. Don't think that ISIS and Baghdadi and all those monsters are going to get off scot free. There will be a Great White Throne judgment. And the accounts will be settled in the final judgment.

It will be a judgment unlike any earthly court. There will be no debate about guilt at the great White Throne judgment. There will be a prosecutor but no defense. There will be a judge but no jury. There will be a sentence but no appeal. There will be a punishment but no parole. There will be imprisonment but no escape.

This is what Paul refers to in 1 Thessalonians 1 when he calls it the wrath that is to come, the wrath that is to come. That's God's final wrath, or Romans chapter 2 verse 5-- "the day of God's wrath." That's the final wrath.

Number two-- there is what I call God's provisional wrath. Let me explain. No, let me sum up. It is God's wrath vis-a-vis the public administration of justice, i.e., the legal system. You're looking at me like, I have no idea what you just said.

So if you got a ticket on the way to church today because you were going 55 miles an hour in a 20 mile an hour zone, you just experienced the wrath of God through the judicial system. In Romans 13, Paul talks about those government officials who do that. He says, "for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil."

Bernie Madoff is in jail for 150 year sentence. He's experiencing the wrath of God through the judicial system. Willie Nelson, Nicolas Cage, Martha Stewart-- and I could give a host of other celebrities who have evaded paying taxes and have been fined a heap because of it-- they're experiencing the provisional wrath of God. Those are simply examples of how God uses human government.

Now it's flawed. It's flawed because it involves humans. So humans don't always get it right. But God uses human government. It's flawed because sometimes they put people in prison who shouldn't be there. Sometimes they let people go free who should be in jail. But that's God's final wrath, and God's provisional wrath.

Now I'm going to get to the text. There's a third way God will release his wrath, and that is Paul's point. I call that God's permissible wrath. That is, He gives you what you want. He does? And you're look at me like, He does? That's good. No, that's bad.

When God gives a society or a person everything he or she wants, that's an act of judgment or wrath. Because what is happening is God is pulling off the restraints. He's abandoning you to your own desires. Look at verse 24. "Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness in the lust of their hearts to dishonor their bodies among themselves." Verse 26-- "for this reason, God gave them up to vile passions." Verse 28. he says it again-- "and even as they didn't like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind to do those things which are not fitting."

Three times in one passage-- God gave them up, God gave them up, God gave them up. When we hear of God's wrath, we usually think of the first way, the final wrath. We think of thunderbolts coming out of heaven. We think of the great White Throne judgment. But this is the quiet, invisible work of letting people have what they want.

This judgment is not God's intervention. This is God's non-intervention. This is God stepping back going, have it your way, do whatever you want. That is God's judgment. Now, if you're thinking, well, that's just Paul talking, I don't have enough time. I could take two separate Sundays showing you through the scripture how often this pops up. But let me just give you a few examples.

In Hosea chapter 4 when the Lord is saying, I'm going to judge the northern kingdom of Israel called Ephraim in that text, this what he said. "Ephraim is joined to his idols. Let him alone." Not, they're practicing idolatry. I'm going to step in. He goes, let him alone. Let him alone.

In Matthew 15, Jesus speaking to the religious authorities who were antagonistic to him and wanted him crucified said to his disciples, "let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And both will fall into the ditch." In the seventh chapter of the book of Acts when Stephen is recalling the history of the Jewish nation and how they made the golden calf in the wilderness, this is what he said. "And they made a calf in those days and offered sacrifices to the idol. Then God gave them up to worship the host of heaven."

So many times where God just says, I'm stepping back. I'm abandoning you to whatever you want to do. When God does that, things are pretty bad. And I bring this up because how often I have heard and you have heard things like, well, you know what, if America doesn't shape up, God's going to judge America.

Let me suggest to you, based on Romans 1, God has already judged America. It's too late. Part of the judgment of God is, really? That's what you want? Have it. I abandon you to your own will and your own desires.

Boy, that's pretty severe. C.S. Lewis-- you know his name. He was the great professor of literature, English literature at Cambridge and Oxford. He was an atheist who became a believer in Christ-- said there are only two kinds of people in the end, those who say to God thy will be done and those to whom God says thy will be done.

Now what this tells us is, the more God lets go, the worse things get until it will eventually culminate in the great tribulation. So the spiritual and moral degradation that we see around us is to be viewed as a judicial act of God. It's the wrath of God.

Every generation-- you tell me if I'm right or wrong. Every generation says this. When I was a kid, things weren't this bad. But boy, they're really bad today. Right? Do we say that? Do you know your parents said that? Do you know their parents said that? Do you know way, way back in the 1700s your whoever was saying that? Do you know your kids and grandkids are going to say the same thing? You know why? It's true. And what is the reason for that truth? God gives you over. When God gives you over to whatever you want, that's a sad day. That is the wrath of God.

Now I want to close with a good thought, if I may. I go back to my mom, that little 5' 2" lady, maybe 5' 2"-- maybe in her prime. And I think back to that day when I was five years old and I discovered the wrath of mom. That day-- and I got to say, there were many other episodes of that. It was not the only time. Trust me. I learned to respect that lady.

But those episodes of her righteous anger made all the other episodes of her laughter and her love and her acceptance all the sweeter. When I compare the goodness of her to those wrathful times, her personality is so much better, so much sweeter. So it is I believe with God.

I want to close with a verse. This is John chapter 3 verse 36. It is John the Baptist speaking. And this is what he said, "he who believes in the son--" that is Jesus-- "has everlasting life." How many of you believe in the son? How many believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior? Do you believe that? Then put your hand up like you're not ashamed of that. Can you believe in that?

Let me just tell you then. If that's the truth, you have-- not you will have. You have it right now-- everlasting life. You have it now. It's guaranteed. When you die, it'll just get better. No matter what bad things you go through, it'll just get better. You have everlasting life. If you believe in the son, you have it.

"And he who does not believe in the son--" now I'm not going to ask for show of hands-- "he does not believe in the Son of God shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Now listen to how that's put. The wrath of God abides in him. In other words, you're in this world. It already abides on you. Every person in this world is sitting in the chair under that fabled sword of Damocles waiting for the rope to break and judgment to fall.

When you say I believe in Jesus Christ who's God's son who took the penalty for me, you move chairs from sitting under the sword of Damocles to sitting under the grace of almighty God. And that's why the good news set against the bad news is really great news.

Father, we thank you for the great news of the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ. We thank you for what he's done for us. We thank you that you've given us a plain and clear understanding through the writings of Paul who articulated to his audience in Rome why this gospel was so awesome and what a wondrous thing it is when you are saying here, I'll take the righteousness of Jesus and clothe you in that.

So when I look at you, I see you as pure and spotless as my own son. What good news that is. And we would never appreciate it unless we see it in bold relief against that dark sky of your wrath. So thank you even for that. In Jesus' name, Amen.

We hope you enjoyed this message from Skip Heitzig of Calvary Church. How will you put the truths that you learned into action in your life. Let us know. Email us at mystory@calvarynm.church. And just a reminder, you can support this ministry with a financial gift at calvaryn.church/give. Thank you for joining us for this teaching from Calvary Church.

Additional Messages in this Series

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5/5/2019
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The Heart and Soul of the Gospel
Romans 1:1-7
Skip Heitzig
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Today we embark on a thirty-two-week journey through the book of Romans. Considered to be Paul the apostle’s magnum opus, this book is largely responsible for igniting the fires of the Protestant Reformation and the Wesleyan Revival. As Paul introduced himself to the church at Rome, he got right to the heart and soul of the matter—the gospel—the good news that presents Jesus Christ as God’s great answer to the pressing need of the human race.
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5/19/2019
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Unashamed!
Romans 1:16-17
Skip Heitzig
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Standing up for and speaking out about our faith in Jesus Christ can sometimes feel awkward and intimidating. Often our message is not received with glad faces or with open arms by the people we work with and live next to. As Paul was planning to visit Rome, he expressed eagerness rather than hesitation to herald this message. Why was that? The apostle gives us five reasons for his readiness and enthusiasm.
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7/7/2019
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Four Mistakes Religious People Make
Romans 2:1-11
Skip Heitzig
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Jesus was not a religious leader. He was a righteous leader. And He was often confronting the religious leaders of His day. Likewise Paul found many enemies among the religious elite of his day, among both Jews and Gentiles. After announcing his theme of good news in Jesus, Paul promptly plunged into the bad news of God’s wrath—a subject that religious people sometimes love (but for all the wrong reasons). Paul tells us some of their most common mistakes.
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7/14/2019
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Hypocrisy Gets an Audit
Romans 2:17-29
Skip Heitzig
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All businesses, corporations, and individuals have blind spots. Auditors can help by giving a clear and unbiased reading of practices and procedures, and then give appropriate recommendations for change. Here, Paul played the role of auditing the hypocrite—the one who has spiritual style but no substance. Let’s consider the assets, the deficits, and the net appraisal of the one who wears a spiritual disguise.
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7/28/2019
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The Advantage of Having the Bible
Romans 3:1-8
Skip Heitzig
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Those who have been raised in a home with spiritual foundations and the teaching of Scripture have an edge over those who were never exposed to such benefits. The advantage of having access to the Bible is enormous, but it is not a fail-safe. Paul addressed the Jews who were caretakers of God’s own words, and much can be applied to anyone who has the advantage of revealed truth but fails to take it to heart.
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8/4/2019
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How Prisoners Go Free
Romans 3:9-26
Skip Heitzig
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Freedom is a huge word for the Christian believer. Picture yourself nervously standing in a courtroom before a judge who has just read the pile of evidence against you. Just before the gavel strikes the bench proclaiming your guilt, a piece of evidence strikes his gaze and he unexpectedly announces your innocence. You can now go free! Here Paul explains how any person anywhere can find hope and freedom because of the gospel.
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8/11/2019
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Old Age; Young Faith
Romans 4
Skip Heitzig
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Our skin may wrinkle but our faith never has to. Abraham’s faith was vibrant and youthful even when he was nearing one hundred years of age. As Paul points to the patriarch Abraham as an example for justification by faith, we can learn what it means to believe God through all the ages of life. How vibrant is your Christian faith? Have you let cynicism and doubt choke out your confidence in God?
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8/18/2019
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Our Benefits Package
Romans 5:1-5
Skip Heitzig
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Why is being a Christian so great? Every unbeliever you meet is asking that question as they observe your life. What are the benefits of living with a committed faith in Jesus? After explaining what it means to be right with God by believing in Christ, and after illustrating that principle with Abraham, Paul gives a short list of some of the benefits of a saved life.
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8/25/2019
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Unrivaled Love
Romans 5:6-11
Skip Heitzig
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Modern wisdom continually tells us, “Love is a verb,” rather than a sentimental feeling. Love is a commitment that involves action. For the first time in the letter to the Romans, Paul introduced the word love and a very singular kind of love—God’s love for us. Wanting to show how secure we are in this salvation, he described the greatest demonstration of love—its proof, its provision, and its product.
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9/1/2019
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A One-Man Show
Romans 5:12-21
Skip Heitzig
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Just one person can do a lot of damage, and conversely just one person can do a lot of good. Paul here showed the effect that Adam brought on by his rebellion and the effect that Jesus bought with His blood on the cross. One caused death. One conveys life. One brought guilt. One bought the gift of grace. The big question is, have you received the gift?
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9/8/2019
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Don’t Look Back
Romans 6:1-7
Nate Heitzig
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9/15/2019
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Winning the War with Sin
Romans 6:11-14
Skip Heitzig
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There is not a person I know who doesn’t struggle with sin. Evil thoughts, bad habits, immoral impulses, and recurring temptations all rear their ugly heads, leaving us exhausted and disappointed in ourselves and wondering if any deliverance is possible. This struggle is real. The war can be fierce. How can we believers (who still have our old natures) win in these battles? Consider this four-step strategy.
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9/22/2019
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The Struggle Is Real
Romans 7:14-25
Nate Heitzig
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9/29/2019
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Safe and Secure
Romans 8:1-11
Skip Heitzig
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As the old saying goes, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” That’s certainly true of Paul’s authorship of this book. He closes chapter 7 on a low note, only to crescendo to a swelling high point in chapter 8. “Don’t despair! You’re in secure hands and you’re safe,” Paul tells us. He reminds us of four facts that should settle every heart.
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10/6/2019
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The New You
Romans 8:12-18
Skip Heitzig
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Most people love new stuff: a new car, a new set of clothes, a new puppy, a new haircut, a new adventure. But the best new thing you could have is a new you! Being a Christian isn’t a temporary reformation but a total transformation. When the Holy Spirit gets hold of a person’s life, He begins the process of a total makeover—changing you from the inside out. As a Christian believer these are among the changes you can expect to see.
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10/13/2019
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The Steady Hand of a Caring God
Romans 8:28-30
Skip Heitzig
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The world to many people seems to be a random place where anything can happen. But a believer can (and should) step firmly onto the soil of life. Why? Not just because God exists, but also because God cares! There is not a single atom nor molecule out of place in God’s universe; His hands and heart are steadily controlling your every breath. Let’s examine some of the richest truths about the quality of care from a loving God.
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10/20/2019
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A Midterm Exam: Five Questions to Test Your Understanding
Romans 8:31-34
Skip Heitzig
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In the middle of any given course or semester, a test consisting of questions is given. This does two things: it measures the student’s grasp of the course materials, and it helps identify any areas that need work. Right in the middle of his sixteen-chapter book, Paul gives his readers a series of questions to jog our spiritual memory and face some wonderful realities about the love of God. Let’s consider five questions in these verses.
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There are 17 additional messages in this series.