Romans – Chapter 1 v18 – 32

Readings for this week July 30 – August 3

Click here for a pdf of this week’s readings

Booklet_Front_-_Romans

Day 1 – Ignoring the Truth Around Us

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 1:18-20

Human beings were created to worship and serve God in loving relationship with him and with each other. Knowing and accepting this is the absolute, necessary bedrock foundation of all possible human thriving and flourishing, in creation, in relationships, in everything. Right from the beginning God revealed himself to us, and not just to a select, privileged few, but to all of us. But even this basic knowledge of God, revealed through his creation, has been rejected or ignored by most people. We know how we are supposed to behave, we know how we are supposed to treat each other and the world around us. And yet we don’t. We fail even to live up to the (high or low) standards that we set ourselves; we certainly don’t live up to God’s standards or expectations for us.

Though the consequences of sin have distorted creation somewhat, the natural world’s testimony to God is still revealed through his handiwork. But we have suppressed this knowledge, ignored it, or refused to admit that God is God and that he is in charge. In order to experience the fruitful, healthy life that God wants for us, we need to let God be God: to humbly admit that we are his, and to honour his power and control over us and over creation, the very power and control that creation testifies to, but that we ignore. As Paul will explain in more detail later, renewed human beings honour their creator and give thanks to him for all he does.

Questions to Consider
What is the wrath of God? How is it being revealed? How is it an appropriate response to our rebellion?

Prayer
Lord God, you and you alone are God. Forgive me when I try and take your place, whether deliberately or through apathetic neglect. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 2 – The Wrong Sort of Worship

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 1:21-23

One of the main beliefs that arose out of the Enlightenment was that human reason was the ultimate measuring stick of all things, and that if allowed total freedom and correctly applied, our rational capabilities could – and should – be able to solve all the world’s problems, thus making the world a better place and us better people in it. Right thinking rightly applied was all that was needed.

Paul vehemently disagrees. He doesn’t deny that we have God-given capabilities that we can – and should – use. It’s more about our abuse and neglect of these capabilities. In these verses he talks about what happens if people suppress the truth God has revealed to them. It isn’t that they start behaving badly, although, rest assured, that will crop up a little bit further down the track. But what comes before bad behaviour is bad thought: futile thinking and a darkened heart as we read in verse 21. Thinking on its own is not enough to save us. As wonderful – and God-given – as our rational capacity is, we can still deceive ourselves both with it and about it. And the main thing that such mistaken thinking leads us to is a failure to worship, or at least to worship properly. We succumb to idolatry; we swap the glory and majesty of God that he offers us for the lesser reality of worshipping the created order. The problem with idolatry is not that we worship, but that we worship the wrong thing. It should come as no surprise to us that such thinking, such deliberate turning away from God, rouses his anger against such rebellious disregard.

Questions to Consider
What are we tempted to worship instead of God? Why these things? How do we know when this starts to happen in our lives?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, conform my mind and all its contents to be like the mind of Christ. May my thoughts honour you and your intentions. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 3 – Loving in the Wrong Direction

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 1:24-25

Someone once said that all of us, every single human being, has a love pump inside us, silently working away, responding to our desires and directing our love and adoration in different directions. Even the fallen world we inhabit and our sinful and rebellious natures can’t stop this love pump from working; it still goes, it still functions. But what has changed is where our love pump now directs the love it produces: at any target other than the principal one for which it was created – God. Desires and affections in themselves are good things – we have been created as desiring creatures – but our twisted, damaged, off-kilter love pump now directs our love and devotion in the wrong direction.

This is idolatry, worshipping an element of the created order rather than the Creator himself, seeking to satisfy the God-given desire for God at the centre of our being with something other than God. We all worship something; we must, because that is how we have been created. But so many of us expend our worship in the wrong place, believing that we will be fulfilled and made whole by something we see in creation, rather than by the one who created it, and created us. Other desires are not wrong. God is a good God who always planned for us to enjoy the entirety of his creation. But if our primary desire, the one that orders and directs all other desires, is not God, then not only will we miss our purpose but we will also damage ourselves even more than we already are.

Questions to Consider
What desires fight for control of your allegiance and worship? How do you order your desires to keep the desire for God as your primary desire?

Prayer
Heavenly Father, we know that until we find ourselves in you, our hearts will be restless. Still my heart, and grow in me the desire to be yours and yours alone. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 4 – Distortion

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 1:26-27

Human beings are made in the image of God. Our original task was to mirror God’s love to his creation through our words and actions, and to reflect the glory of God’s creation back to him. We were to work with God in tending to his creation and caring for it. There are ways in which we are to be like God. But we are not meant to be God. When we try to be God, when we try to act out our creative, mirroring role without God’s guidance, in spite of his intentions, we end up producing pale, shadowy imitations of his creation, and we make a mockery of his good intentions for us.

This is what Paul is saying here. It is humanity’s utter fallenness and depravity as a whole that allows for such distortions of God’s intentions for his people to occur. For Paul, as an example of this, occurrences of unnatural sex behaviour, that were often seen in the culture of the day, were a sign that the world in general is corrupt and fallen. Paul is interested in what it means to be genuinely human, and what is required for us to be able to reclaim our position as God’s people. God created the world and its people to relate and function in certain ways, ways that love, edify, encourage and that allow us to be conduits for his purposes for creation. When we try our hand at it without following God’s good guidance, what we get tends to be a not-nearly-as-good version of what God has already called us to and provided for us. Our fallenness distorts this, distorts everything, twisting God’s good purpose and replacing his ways with pale imitations of what he intended.

Questions to Consider
What do you see in the world around us that is a pale human imitation of something that God has made for us, or made us for?

Prayer
Holy Lord, may we heed your call and honour your intentions in all that we do and in all that we aim to do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)


Day 5 – Life Without God

Silence, Stillness and Centering before God (2 minutes)

Scripture Reading – Romans 1:28-32

These verses don’t make for particularly edifying reading. In fact, they are rather horrible. But the characteristics listed here, as repulsive as they are, will still be recognisable to us. One way we like to divide people into categories of ‘us’ and ‘them’ is to make us the good, well behaved moral people, and them the evil, destructive villainous people. Because, we like to think, we just aren’t bad like they are. But as Alexander Solzhenitsyn once wrote, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.” The propensity is there in all of us.

These verses show us what life looks like when we say “God, we don’t need you!” and God replies, “Ok, try it on your own then.” These characteristics don’t really need explaining or unpacking; they speak for themselves. We know what they are and, sadly, we know what they look like too. These things are what you get when you let the twisted mind and wrong thinking we looked at a few days ago take over, and are allowed to go wherever they want. Three times in this passage Paul says “God gave them up”. They wanted to go their own way, heedless of the consequences and warnings, and God let them. If people want to turn their back on God and life-giving things like love, kindness, gentleness, humility and so on, then this is what the lives of such people will look like. And this ultimately will lead, as we will see in the next chapter of Romans, to death.

Questions to Consider
Where and how do we see these attitudes in society? What end results do we see around us?

Prayer
Loving Father, I know what life without you is like, that time in my life before you called. Thank you for loving me and showing me that there is a better way to live. Thank you for the life you have given me. Amen.

Conclude with Silence (2 minutes)