My God and My Neighbor

May 1, 2024

Where Did We Go Wrong in this Country?

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Was it the government’s fault? Maybe too much entertainment? Or have churches, schools and parents failed us? We need to dig deeper if we want the answer. In this episode we’ll look at a voice from long ago that explains our situation. That source is Romans 1:18-32. This amazing passage describes how a culture goes from admitting God to denying Him and the moral collapse that follows. This is definitely a perspective on history you won’t hear often.


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Kerry Duke: Hi, I’m Kerry Duke, host of My God and My Neighbor podcast from Tennessee Bible College, where we see the Bible as not just another book, but the Book. Join us in a study of the inspired Word to strengthen your faith and to share what you’ve learned with others.

We disagree in this country about a lot of things, but there’s one thing that most people would agree on, and that is our country is in a mess. As a matter of fact, the majority of people would say that the whole world is in bad shape. It seems that no matter who you talk to today, the same kinds of sayings and the same kinds of questions just keep arising.

People say, “Well, what has happened anyway? How did we get to this point? Why and how did things get this bad?” And even more frightening, we tend to ask the question, “Where’s all this headed?” Where are we going? Is it going to get worse? What we’re going to do today is to look to the Bible for answers to these questions.

And these may not be specific answers so that you know exactly what’s going to happen next. That’s not the kind of study this is because that’s not the kind of Bible that you read. The Bible doesn’t give you all the details about what’s going to happen next. Because that’s where faith and trust in God comes in.

At the same time, the Bible does give you principles and teachings that will help you to assess the problems that we’re facing today. And it will give you courage and wisdom and patience about how to live in a world like this. And actually, when you turn to the Bible, you find that nothing is new anyway.

In Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse 9, the Bible says, “The thing that has been, it is that which shall be. And that which is done, is that which shall be done. And there is no new thing under the sun.” That’s Ecclesiastes chapter 1 verse 9. It’s a very important passage to keep in mind when you hear all of the opinions that are being stated today about what’s happening and why it’s happened and what we ought to do and what’s going to happen.

Politicians have their view. Newscasters have their views. Podcasters, of course, have their views. Preachers have their opinions. But the bottom line is, no one knows our situation like God does, and even though He doesn’t specifically give us a Bible that talks about our nation as He talked about, let’s say, the nation of Israel in the Old Testament or these other Gentile nations.

At the same time, the principles are the same, the basic truths are the same. And when you read the Bible, beginning in the book of Genesis, what you find is that this old world has been in bad shape ever since Adam and Eve sinned.

You remember that Adam and Eve had an ideal environment. They had a perfect home. They had no disease, no death, no crime. It was absolutely perfect. And what did Adam and Eve do? They threw away that perfect home for a moment of pleasure, and the world has been in a mess ever since. Now, that’s the truth. But there is a passage that I want to really focus on today because it answers some of the questions that we’re raising, and it helps us to put this whole thing in perspective the way that God wants us to see it.

It is in Romans chapter 1. Now, I know that some of you are driving, some of you are working, and you can’t get to your Bible right now. But if you can, open it up to Romans chapter one and you’re going to see a picture of modern-day America written almost 2, 000 years ago. I would say also that this is kind of like a devil’s blueprint.

This is how the devil leads people away from God. And you could also say that this is history in the making, because when people do, and especially when nations or cultures do what these people did, then they’re going to end up where those people ended up. So, in Romans chapter 1, verse 18, Paul says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness.”

“Because”—this is why the wrath of God is being revealed. You see, verse 18 says, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven.” And if we ask the question, well, why? Why is God angry? Why is God showing his wrath? Verse 19: “Because that which may be known of God,” that is, known about God. He’s going to explain that in just a minute.

“That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has showed it unto them.” And what God showed to them was Himself. God showed his existence. He showed His nature to these people. Now look at verse 20. Paul said, “For the invisible things of Him”—the invisible things of God: you can’t see these with the physical eyes—”the invisible things of God from the creation” or since the creation of the world “are clearly seen,”

It’s a play on words here because He’s saying these things are invisible, and yet you can clearly see them. Well, how can you clearly see something that is invisible? Well, it’s invisible to the eyes, but they are clearly seen with the mind, with the eyes of the soul. And I want to focus on those words: “clearly seen.” Even if a person has never read the Bible, even if a person has never been taken to church or gone to Sunday school, he can know that God exists.

And I’m not talking about all the gods that men have invented. I’m talking about the true God. This passage says that anyone, anywhere, at any time can clearly see God and God’s nature as best he can now. And that’s a limited view that you have of the nature of God by looking at the creation, but he can at least see some things about the nature of God.

And I’ll explain more about that in just a minute, but notice again in verse 20 “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world (or since) the creation of the world are clearly seen.” Well, what are these invisible things? He’s going to explain. But before he does, he says that these things of God that you can’t see with the eyes are being understood by the things that are made.

That’s the creation. That’s the sun, the moon, the stars. That’s the earth. That’s the clouds above us. That’s the skies. That includes the animals. That includes the fish. Mankind himself. All of God’s creation. It enables you, enables anyone to understand the invisible things of God. These things are understood by the things that are made—made by God.

God made them. And when He made these things, He showed himself. Psalm 19 verse 1 says that the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows his handiwork; day unto day utter speech and night unto night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice  is not heard.” Now that’s Psalm 19 verses 1 through 3.

So he says that the heavens declare the glory of God. Now the heavens would be the sun, the moon, the stars, and the firmament. And that would be the atmosphere just above us, part of which the birds fly in. Then you have the clouds and the lightning and so forth. All of that shows the glory of God and the handiwork of God.

And you find in verse two that he says this display is going on constantly day unto day and night to night. So in other words, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, God is showing man his power. God is showing man his existence. And then in verse three he says (this is what we would call a universal language because) “there is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.”

In other words, what he means is it doesn’t make any difference what nationality a person is, it doesn’t make any difference what language or dialect he speaks as a human being. This is the universal voice and universal language of nature itself: God’s creation. Now, that’s what Paul is talking about here in Romans 1.

He says that the invisible things of God are clearly seen since the creation of the world because they are understood by the things that are made. And then he tells us what these invisible things are in Romans 1 verse 20. He says, “Even his eternal power and Godhead.” Let me start with that last word.

First, many times when people hear the word Godhead today, they immediately think of the Trinity, the concept of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Now, the word Godhead here in Romans 1 verse 20 does not refer to the Trinity. We know that because he is saying here that nature itself shows this Godhead.

In other words, you can see it in the creation, not the Bible. He’s not talking about the Bible here. He’s not talking about the written word of God. He’s talking about the world or the work that God did in the creation. And that shows something of God’s existence and some of his power.

Now, it doesn’t show as much as the Bible does. Obviously, you know much more about God by reading the Bible than you do by looking at the creation. But what he’s saying here is, you do have a basic understanding of the one true and living God by what you learn from nature itself. Sometimes we call that natural revelation. Now, here’s what he says about that.

He says, you understand his eternal power. So, you know that God is eternal. The One who created all this is not temporary. He did not have a beginning. He will have no end. He’s not accidental as far as his existence is concerned. He is eternal. And you can also see the power of God. He says, His eternal power.

You can see the power of God, obviously, when you look at this creation, because it not only took divine and perfect and infinite power to create initially all this, but it also takes that same kind of omnipotence to keep all this in motion and to keep all this in place. Now what is the connection here?

Well, he says in the first part of Romans 1 verse 20, “The invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen.” Here’s one of those invisible things: His eternality. Here’s another one of those invisible things to the physical eye, and that is His power. So you can’t see the essence of God.

You can’t see God right now. The Bible says, “No man has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). But this is talking about seeing these invisible things of God with your mind, with the soul. So the next one is the word Godhead here, and that means His divine nature. That means his divinity, the fact that he is deity.

That’s what the word Godhead means in this passage of scripture. So, you can see that from nature itself. You can look at the creation and you can reason to the one true and living God. Now, what he says in the last part is that anybody, anywhere can do that. If they want to, if they choose to find God, they can do it.

You know, the Bible says in Acts 17 27, that he is not far from every one of us. And that is exactly what we saw in Psalm 19 verses 1 through 3. There’s no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Now here in Romans chapter 1 verse 20, Paul says, after he says you can clearly see the existence of God, you can see His eternal power and His divine nature, you can understand these things about God by looking at and reasoning from the things that are made.

Paul said that in the end, the conclusion to this in Romans 1 verse 20 is, “So that they are without excuse.” Without excuse about what? There is no excuse for a man not knowing about God. There’s no excuse for a man being an atheist. There’s no excuse for a man being a skeptic.

There is no excuse for a man who says, “Well, I believe in God” but he ignores God. He neglects God. He acts like and he lives like there is no God. You see, a man can be a theoretical atheist where he says, “I don’t believe in God.” Or he can be a practical atheist because he lives like there is no God. Now, in either case, there is no excuse for that kind of behavior because God can be clearly seen by anyone.

And remember that Paul is here talking about the Gentiles. He’ll address the Jews in chapter 2. You see, the Jews had the written revelation. They had the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Some Gentiles had access to them, but by and large the Gentiles did not have the Scriptures that we call the Old Testament.

But even though the Gentiles did not have the written word of God, they had the revelation of God in nature. That’s what Romans one is all about now. You may say “Well, what does all this have to do with what we’re talking about though? I thought we were talking about the condition of our country and how we got to this point?” Well, that’s where it gets interesting in verse 21 of Romans chapter 1.

He says, “Because that when they knew God…” He’s talking about these people in verse 20, especially the Gentiles, and he said that they knew God. They knew that God existed. They admitted that. They were not atheists. They were not agnostics. And he said, the problem is, They knew God, but they did not glorify Him as God.

In other words, they knew in their hearts and in their minds, in their intellect, that God existed. But they did not recognize Him. They did not honor God. They did not fear and respect and reverence God. They did not glorify Him and give Him the honor that He deserved. That was the first mistake.

It’s one thing for people to say, “Well, I believe in God.” But if they ignore God in their lives and neglect him in their hearts, then they have begun the downhill path away from God. Now that’s what Romans one is about. And that is exactly what you’re seeing today in our country.

This all started when people stopped thinking about God, when they stopped reading their Bibles, when they stopped praying to God, when they stopped worshiping God. When they turn to entertainment more than to God, all this is taking time away from God and attention away from the Creator. So the Bible says step number one was that they glorified Him not as God.

Step number two: “Neither were thankful. That was the second mistake that they made, or it’s the second mistake that is listed here.

I’m not saying that these things happen just in this order necessarily, but the Bible is giving you a portrait here of what these people did when they left God. It began in their hearts and what was in their hearts showed and manifested itself in their lives. So notice these words again, verse 21, “Because that when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful.” Now that’s very interesting because a lot of times we look at ingratitude as being a mistake and something that aggravates us and irritates us when other people are not thankful like they should be. And here the Bible says it’s more than just a mere annoyance. This is a serious character flaw.

This is a sin that he talks about here, a sin that is so serious that he lists it as one of the first things that happened to these people when they departed from God. Now this again is a portrait. This is a description of what happens to an individual or what happens to a nation. When people leave God, these are basically the steps that are taken.

So ingratitude is a very serious thing. Next, he says, “They became vain in their imaginations.” That’s the King James Version. Other translations will say something like this: “futile in their reasonings,” etc. So they had their reasonings. They had their speculations about things. In other words, they had their experts and they thought that they were wise when in fact they were not.

As a matter of fact, it goes on to say they became vain or futile in their reasonings or imaginations and their foolish heart was dark and professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Now, back in those days, they had the so called experts and scholars and many of those so-called scholars where philosophers, Greek philosophers, They believed that they had the answers and the explanations to every major question about this universe.

And Paul said they became empty, or futile, or vain in their reasonings. And I don’t know of a better description of what Greek philosophy, and I’m talking about human philosophy, was and is than that statement. It is empty speculation. It is futile speculation about things that man either does not know the answer to or cannot know the explanation for.

In verse 21 he said, as a result, “their foolish heart was darkened.” Now we have entered the moral realm. You see, it’s more of an intellectual matter when he says that they were empty in their reasonings. That’s the intellect of man. But now we’ve come to the heart. He said their foolish heart was darkened. That means that their conscience is beginning to be blurred.

Their moral convictions have been compromised. They have forsaken their idea of right and wrong that they learned from nature itself according to Romans 2:14-15. And so there was darkness that entered their soul in a moral sense. Now notice verse 22. They were “professing themselves to be wise.” They bragged, they paraded themselves as if they were the wise ones, and yet the Bible says they were fools.

Does that remind you of a passage in the Old Testament? You see, this whole context is about knowing God and honoring God. Psalm 14, verse 1 says, “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.” And that’s just as true today as it was 3, 000 years ago when those words were written. What did they do? Well, the Bible says in verse 23—now that they have just completely ignored God and turned to their own wisdom—look at what they did in verse 23.

They changed, or exchanged, “the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, to birds, to four footed beasts, and creeping things.” That is idolatry. Now, does it make sense for a man to take a piece of wood or rock or metal and carve it into an image of something that he sees, either a man or a bird or a cow or a snake or some other creature on earth?

Does it make any sense for a man to do that and fall before it and pray to it? It makes absolutely no sense. That is ludicrous. That is foolish. And yet, that is the very thing that these people did because they turned away from God. They felt that they were wiser than God, they turned to themselves, and look at what they’re doing.

They’re bowing down to a piece of wood or rock or metal that they’ve carved out which they know cannot answer their prayers. Does it make any sense? Does it? Well, in verse 24, we see that their departure from God again was not just theoretical. It was not just some kind of intellectual change that they had made.

It is a moral change. It is a moral digression because in verse 24 the Bible says, “Wherefore God also gave them up.” He let them go to uncleanness. That’s moral uncleanness “through the lusts of their own hearts to dishonor their own bodies between themselves, who changed the truth of God into a lie and worshiped and served the creature more than the creator who is blessed forever. Amen.”

Now, the first thing that these people did was to reject God. They left God behind. I’m talking about the true God and they invented gods according to what they wanted God to be. In other words, the Bible shows that God made man in His image. Well, these people created gods in their image, after the likeness of men, and animals, and other creatures.

So the Bible says that they changed the God that they served because they didn’t like the God that the true God is. So what happened in the midst of all this? What happened as a result of them turning away from God? Well, the Bible says that they “dishonored their own bodies. between themselves.” Let those words sink in.

They turned from God, they refused to honor God, and they honored idols instead. And in the midst of that, connected with that, they dishonored their own bodies that God gave to them. And they had known that deep in their hearts. They did know that God is the one who created their bodies and gave them their bodies.

But they weren’t happy with the way that God created them. They were not happy with who they were and what God had told them and the laws that God had given them. So the Bible says that they were given over to spiritual and moral uncleanness through the lust of their own hearts. Now he gets more specific about this.

In verse 26, the Bible says “For this cause, God gave them up unto vile affections, for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature.” Now here we have this expression again. It’s the same in the Greek here, and that is that God gave them up. God gave them over.

There are three times where you find that expression in this chapter. And that simply means that God let them go. They were bound and determined to live the kind of life that they wanted to. And God did nothing to stop them. He gave them over or gave them up unto vile, that is, worthless affections or feelings. So he does talk here not just about their thinking and their choices. He talks about their feelings, their affections, and he says that their passions were vile and worthless.

What kind of vile and worthless feelings? Well, the feelings that he describes here are that their women did change or exchange the natural use of their passions into that which is against nature. Now he’s talking about what we call lesbianism here. Now it’s interesting that Paul wrote this about 2, 000 years ago and the same thing is happening today.

Paul says that this sin is against nature, against the created order, because God created male and female. He created male and female in the animal kingdom, and He also created male and female in mankind. In Genesis 1, verse 27, the Bible says this: “So God created man in His own image. In the image of God created he him, male and female created he them.”

Now, an easy way to remember this is that in Genesis 1 verse 27, the Bible says that God created male and female at the very beginning. And in Romans 1, 26 and 27, Paul refers to this and he says the same rule applies. You see, when people commit this sin, they’re not simply going against the Bible, which is enough.

Any time you transgress what the Bible says, if the Bible says not to do something and a person does, then it’s sinful. But there are some things that are so obvious, because of nature itself, that the Bible shows that when you do that it’s not just against the law of God expressed in the Bible. It’s against the created order of things.

It goes against what you see in nature itself and anybody can see that anywhere in the world. So, in other words, even if a person has never seen a Bible, he can know that this is wrong according to Romans 1 26 and 27. Now, let’s notice verse 27. Paul said, “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman.” That’s natural.

They “burned in their lust, one toward another, men with men, working that which is unseemly and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error, which was meet”. Now that’s the King James version. And the new King James version and other translations would say basically the same thing about them leaving the natural use of the woman burning in their lust one toward another and men with men. When it says in the King James Version that they worked that which is unseemly, that means shameful.

When it says they received in themselves that recompense, that means the penalty, the repayment of their error, their sin, which was meet. And that word meet simply means it was deserving. It was fitting. It was appropriate that they would be punished like they were.

I don’t know specifically what that punishment was. It appears that it was something in this lifetime because when you look at the verse, it says that they burned in their lust, and while they were burning in their lust one toward another, they were at the same time receiving in themselves, this penalty of their error. But at any rate in Romans 1:27 we see how far we’ve come now.

Have you noticed the progression here or the digression you find in verse 20 that they could plainly see God from creation then in verse 21 they begin their journey away from God by not recognizing and glorifying and honoring Him, by not thanking Him for the blessings that they knew they received from His bountiful hand in creation and in nature.

So they turn to themselves, they turn to their own speculations, they turn to their own foolish heart, and they set up gods in God’s place. And as a result of changing gods, they change their lifestyle. That’s what we find here in verse 26 and 27. Now, as a result, the Bible says in verse 28, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”

Now that phrase comes from just a few words in the original. And here’s what the idea is. It comes from a word which means to put something to the test, to test something. And if you don’t like it, then you reject it. So this passage says that they tested or tried out the idea of God, the supreme God. And they were okay with God being the provider.

They were okay with God being the all-powerful God. But they did not like the fact that God had rules. They did not like the fact that God had certain order, not only in His physical creation but especially in the moral realm. In other words, He said, you can do this, but you can’t do that. And they didn’t appreciate that.

They did not want that. So they rejected God. That’s what it means when it says that they did not like to retain God in their knowledge. They put him to the test. They tested the concept of the true God and they rejected it. They disapproved of that. As a result, God gave them over to a reprobate mind.

And the word reprobate there means that something has been tested and it has been rejected. So when they rejected God, God rejected them. And the Bible says God gave them over. He gave them up to a reprobate mind. And the word reprobate there means that it has been tested and it has been rejected. And what it means here in this context is that these people have a worthless mind, a mind that is not fit to make moral judgments.

That’s the idea here. And that’s why they continue to get worse and worse. And he lists all these sins that are mentioned in verse 29 through 32. They were full, he says. “of all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whispers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents without understanding covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful, and so forth.

Now, how did all that begin? It began when they refused to honor God and fear Him and be thankful for what God was giving them. And look at where it ended. Now, this is a commentary on our society today and so many cultures throughout the world. And the only hope for any man or any nation is to return to fearing God and honoring God and keeping His commandments.

And that is what My God and My Neighbor is all about. We hope you’ll take these passages, think about them carefully, and share them with as many people as you possibly can.

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