Denial is Not Just a River in Egypt, It’s What People Do Best!

Title: Denial is Not Just a River in Egypt, It’s What People Do best!

Text: Romans 1:18-32

Time: July 16th, 2006

Why is it that most people here in Jamestown are not very interested in the Christian faith? I know most people are not interested in Christianity because I go out visiting in the neighborhoods here and it’s hard to find anybody willing to talk about anything related to Christian faith with them. They’ll talk about the weather, they’ll talk about local politics, they’ll talk about the economy, they’ll talk about the missing girl Yolanda Bendices, they’ll talk about the Lucy-Fest, they’ll talk about this or that, but they don’t have any interest in talking about Jesus Christ? Why is that? Why is it that the last place you’d find most people on Sunday morning in Jamestown is in a Christian Church? You’ll find them in bed, you’ll find them in the living room with the television on watching something, anything, you’ll find them traveling to the lake or visiting friends or relatives, you’ll find them scratching around in the garden, you’ll find them mowing the lawn, you’ll find them outside on the front porch reading the Sunday paper, but you won’t find them in church? Why is that? Why is it more people here in Jamestown read the local Post-Journal newspaper, or some cheap store novel (I just came back from flying from Minnesota and on the plane there were five people, count them, five people reading the same book, novel on my plane, it was something called, “The Devil Wears Prada”), you’ll find people reading books of all kind (students reading books for school), you’ll find them reading magazines, you’ll find them reading everything and anything other than reading the Bible? Why is it that most people in Jamestown are more interested in almost anything else other than God? You’ll find people interested in hobbies of all kinds, boating on the lake, motorcycles (we just had a lot of motorcycle riders come into town), you’ll find people interested in flowers, growing flowers, and gardening, growing all kinds of vegetables. You’ll find people interested in working on their cars, working on their homes, working on the computer, on the Internet. People are interested in going on picnics, going to a baseball game, all kinds of things, but what you don’t usually find is people interested in God, or at least they don’t seem to be interested in God these days. Why is that? The Apostle Paul wrestled with that same question and here is his answer — people are in denial (that’s not a river in Egypt, it’s a state of heart and mind where a person pretends that something isn’t real even though they know for sure it is real). People today, more and more, are living in denial about God. While they may agree that there is a God, they live 99.999999999% of their lives as if there were no God. Or in other words, they live in denial of God most all of the time. Now living in denial isn’t good — ask any psychologist about it. They’ll tell you that it’s dangerous to live denying something you know to be simply because you don’t want to acknowledge it. For example, let’s say a teenager comes home smelling like marijuana, but the parents deny it, put it out of their minds, refuse to talk about it, simply ignore it. Pretty soon the teenager starts taking a great interest in gardening and plants a few plants of his own in the back yard, except the parents can’t figure out what kind of plants or why the teen is so interested. But they don’t talk to the teen about it, nor do they want to know anything about it. Pretty soon the police show up at the front door and arrest the teen: possession and growing of marijuana. The police ask the parents, “Didn’t you know your teen was using, selling, and growing marijuana?” The parents answered, “No, we never suspected.” That’s a lie because they did have their suspicions, but they were living in denial. Well, people live in denial about God all the time, it may be one of the things that most people today have in common with everybody else in our modern world: denial of God’s reality in life. Let’s hear what the Apostle Paul has to say about this situation in Romans 1:18-32 (read). There are three things I’d like to point out today from this passage. One, God’s truth is plain to everyone. Two, disobedient people deny the truth of God to avoid doing it. Three, God’s judgment comes to disobedient people no matter what.

First, God’s truth is plain to everyone. Vv. 18-19, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” There are two key phrases in that passage: “men who suppress the truth,” and “God has made in plain to them.” If God has made himself and his truth plain to people, yet they still refuse to acknowledge him — that is living in denial, that’s taking a bath in denial. But what does it mean that God has made Himself and His truth plain to people. Here’s what Paul says in v. 20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” There are two way to know things about God, through nature and through revelation. People today deny the truth of God even though it’s natural to instinctively know the truth of God. For example, it’s natural for people to have a conscience, telling you something is ok or not ok. Now conscience isn’t always 100% accurate because it is effected by how you were raised or what environment you’ve been conditioned to live in, but it’s a clue to telling us there is a God because why else would there be something inside of us reminding us when we do bad or congratulating us when we’ve done good? For example, most people couldn’t just walk into a Wal-Mart store, pull something off the shelf and walk out. Why? Because of conscience. They would feel guilty for stealing because their conscience would bother them. Now that’s a clue that God exists because we know that God has put within everyone a spirit, the eternal part of each person that is fallen but not completely ruined. It needs redeemed, that is, the spirit or soul needs saved, but even before salvation it has a basic conscience telling it right and wrong. But that’s not the only thing that tells people there is a God; there is also external nature, the sky, the stars at night, the seasons of fall, winter, spring, and summer, the laws of science, etc. Have you ever heard of Creation Science? It’s the study of nature with the acknowledgment that there is a God who created it. For example, there has to be a God or else our planet, the earth, would have perished long ago. Why? Because we just happen to be the perfect distance from the sun, not too close to be burned, but close enough to warm us, not too far away to freeze us, but far enough away to keep us from getting too close and burning up. Now how could that come about by chance? It couldn’t, there must be a God. And there are hundreds and thousands of things just like that we could talk about. I think for the ancient people the coming and going of seasons for farming was the best proof. Who sends the rain at the right time? Who sends the sun in the right proportion? Planting time, the warm and rainy season, then the harvest when the weather turns. Who planned all that? God. So people can see God plainly from inside their conscience and from outside by nature.

But of course in the United States in 2006 nearly everyone, has the Bible. Everybody today could own a Bible if they wanted one, but even if you don’t have a Bible, you probably still know things about what the Bible says. That’s the biggest way people today know about God, through the Bible. Conscience and nature can tell us about God, but we need the Bible to tell us more about God. Most people in the United States and Jamestown have read a Bible before. Most people know a little bit about what it says. So there is no excuse, no pleading ignorant. People can’t act like they do when a policeman pulls them over: “Sir, I didn’t’ know the speed limit was 65, I honestly didn’t know it. I saw the sign over there that said “86” and thought that was the speed limit.” No, people can’t plead ignorance with God. What is plain from conscience and nature and certainly from the Bible is that there is more than enough information about God to tell people right and wrong, yet they live in denial. Now especially here in the United States, there is no excuse for not knowing about God or about right and wrong. Just here in Jamestown there are churches all over the place. I live up on 5th Street and two houses down is a Baptist church, then a block down the opposite way is a Presbyterian church, and next to it is a Covenant church. One block South of my house is the 1st Congregational church, the church we are soon going to be renting from, and down the street from there are Lutheran churches, and more. Most people have attended a church before, most people as kids have gone to either Sunday School or Vacation Bible School. Every Christmas and Easter, there are movies on television or at the theaters that explain about God, such as the Ten Commandments, or about Christ, such as the Passion of the Christ. No, it’s almost impossible to totally ignore God today in America today. There is Christian radio and television, tracts laying around for people to find, the Bible is given away, even John 3:16 signs at football games. What Paul was saying 2000 years ago is even more true today, “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.” It is certainly the case that today in Jamestown, New York in 2006 the existence of God and truth about God is plain enough. In fact, it is so plain that people are getting pretty sensitive about it being so plain. If you try to tell someone about God today you might get the reply, “Don’t preach to me brother, I don’t want to here it.” Oh, it’s plain enough to people, very plain enough to people today. It is not a problem of people not knowing enough about God and about God’s truth. That’s not the problem in the United States. It might be a problem in India or some place that doesn’t have the Bible or is trapped in some false religion, but not here. Then what is the problem? That brings up point number two.

Second, disobedient people deny the truth of God in order to avoid following. V. 18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” The key phrase is “men who suppress the truth.” The word here “suppress” literally means to hold down the truth. It’s as if you set a basket trap for a squirrel or chipmunk in your back yard and you hear it trip. You run out there and the basket is down and there is a critter under it, so what do you do? You sit on the basket while you holler for help, all the while the critter inside is trying to push up on the basket and get out, so you are trying your best to keep the critter under the basket while it is trying as hard as it can to get out. That’s what a person who is suppressing the truth about God is trying to do, especially today, because God is so plain today and His truth is so well known that the only way to avoid it is to live in denial. A person who wants to avoid following God can only do so by living in flat-out denial. I know people just like that; I’m related to some people just like that. They say they don’t know much about “religion” so they can’t comment on anything about God. Here they live in America, some college graduates, yet they don’t know enough about God to comment and have an opinion about religion? That’s funny, in an age when people give their expert opinion about everything, when people comment about everything, and act like authorities on all kinds of topics, people all of a sudden get really cautious and don’t want to speak about God. It isn’t because they don’t know enough about God, it’s because they are suppressing the truth, living in denial towards God, living and thinking as if there were no God. Conversation about God would run against their plan of denying God. If you are going to live in denial you can’t go around talking about something you don’t want to admit is a reality, so you pretend not to know anything. It’s a technique of denial. I remember reading about the parents of the Columbine killers. If you remember there were two high schools boys in Colorado about 8 years ago who brought guns to school and started killing people. Before it was over I think about 15 people died. They interviewed the parents of the boys and the parents said they didn’t have any idea their boys were planning anything like that. Strange thing was that the boys had guns and ammunition in their rooms, yet the parents claim they had no idea something was up? That’s living in denial. People do that all the time with respect to God. God exists but people live as if he didn’t. God has given us his laws, but people act as if God hadn’t given us any laws to live by. God has warned us of a Judgment Day to come, but people act as if there is no coming Judgment. God has told us about heaven, and warned us about hell, but people act as if the only heaven is down here on earth, and that hell is a myth, a bad dream. That’s living in denial. Why do people live in denial? That’s point number three.

Third, God’s judgment comes to disobedient people no matter what. V. 18, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” What is the wrath of God? It is referring to the judgment of God, or the justice of God, or the punishment of God. Paul says that God’s wrath or judgment is being revealed from heaven. Now there are two revelations of the judgment of God. One, there is the present judgment of God that is revealed. Two, there is the future judgment of God that is coming that is revealed. Now the present judgment of God gives us a little taste of the coming judgment of God. When people disobey God in this life things happen that are bad as a natural consequence of their actions. For example, if I go around killing people, there is coming a day when I will be killed. That’s the natural judgment of God. Another example is sexually transmitted diseases. If a person lives outside of God’s moral laws, he or she will probably get a sexually transmitted disease. That is an example of the present judgment of God. God doesn’t have to act directly; he just lets the natural negative forces bring the judgment. Of course, there is the direct judgment of God at the Judgment Day, and that will be judgment on all sin and disobedience in a person’s life. But people today not only deny God and deny sin, but they deny the judgment of God. Today people deny that there even is a present judgment of God. If you were to suggest that it might be a judgment of God upon a homosexual in getting AIDS they would turn on you in anger and resentment for even suggesting such a thing. What is so hard to believe that AIDS is a present judgment of God on sin and disobedience? It makes perfect sense, not that everybody who picks up AIDS is guilty of sin, there are some who get it from a tainted blood supply. But why do homosexuals refuse to consider that AIDS might be a judgment from God? Because they are living in denial, of God, of sin, of God’s judgment. Why? Because they want to keep on living in sin and disobeying God without guilt or shame. But it’s not just that sin, it’s all the other sins as well. People today live in denial of all kinds of sins, and they don’t want to think about God either, because that might bring up ideas of Judgment Day, and so forth. So it’s a lot easier to just live in denial, or as Paul puts it, “to suppress the truth,” or keep a lid on it. As our nation turns away from God in denial more and more, I believe that God will allow his present day passive judgment to fall upon us in many forms. I believe that modern day terrorism is a form of the judgment of God upon our sinful nation. Until we deal with the sins of abortion, sexual immorality, and other such sins, I believe God is going to remove his hand of protection from our nation and let the terrorists harm us, until we confess and repent of our sins, and embrace him instead of denying him.

Now what should we do, in light of the wide-scale denial of God in our society today, in light of the denial of sin, and the wide-spread disobedience to God today, as well as the denial of any judgment to come? We must make sure that we as Christians don’t deny God in our lives. I remember one pastor telling his congregation that many of them live as atheists during the week, meaning that they lived as if there were no God in the way they talked and behaved. Now what should we do in the midst of widespread denial of God today? We must rebel against it and act all the more that God is real! What should we do as people less and less read their Bibles? We must read ours more and more. We need to rebel in the heavenly direction! What must we do as our friends, neighbors, relatives, co-workers pray less and less? We must pray more and more. Let’s rebel in the heavenly direction! Let them see our example and follow us, let us not follow them. What should we do as our culture suppresses and denies God’s existence and reality in life? We should affirm God’s existence and reality all the more in life. Speak of God often to people, talk about him and His word. Praise the Lord and thank God openly as a witness. Don’t buy into the suppression or denial of God in our modern day and age. Rebel against the denial of God. Talk about him even more! Why? Because if we don’t talk about him, he won’t get much attention, so let’s give God even more attention to make up for the lack of attention our society gives Him. Of course, the most important thing we can do is keep telling people about the gospel, about how God is offering us forgiveness of sins so there is no need to live in denial of sin. Keep telling people about God’s love and kindness, so there is no need to live in denial of God. The subject of God is not a negative or bad subject, because we can be forgiven of sins, we can be removed from judgment through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross. There just is no good reason for denying God in our lives because by including God in our lives we are given eternal life. If the news were all bad, that might make sense in denying God, but once we get past the bad there is so much more good. There’s no reason to deny God any more, not since Jesus offers forgiveness of sins and eternal happiness.

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