Reversing Direction on the Reprobate Road
|Author: Doug Sharp
Romans Chapter 1 is an elegant description of humanist man. Wanting to lead a life that is of his own choosing apart from God’s leading, the natural man actually follows a pattern toward degeneration and death that is not under his control. Romans 1:28 warns us that there is a point where God will reach with us where he gives us over to a reprobate mind. Many people have wondered if at this point a person may be beyond hope. It is imperative, then, that if we want to discover God’s plan for our life and perform the purpose for which He has created us, we should study the habits of those who fall into this pattern and do the opposite.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.
This verse waves the first red flag that could indicate a problem. Are you ashamed of the gospel of Christ? Do you find it wearisome going to church? Is there a lack of enthusiasm for learning the things of God? The natural tendency for man is to hate the idea that God claims ownership over his life. This means that ego must be dethroned in your life, and Jesus Christ take first place. The opposite is enthusiasm, boldness, and eagerness to share Jesus Christ with others.
Many people in the sciences are in it for the thrill of achievement. A sign on a chemistry professor’s door caught my eye that said, “If a person comes to me and says he wants to go into science to save the world, I encourage him rather to go into charity. Scientists needs egotists, true egotists, who enjoy science simply for its own sake.”
I would say that the reward in this is tenuous and fleeting at best. It is like the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” and “I have seen all of the works that are done under the sun; and indeed, all is vanity and grasping for the wind.” Perhaps the chemistry professor’s advice is good, it is far better to repair a relationship, right a wrong or bring service to others than it is to try to reach the pinnacle of scientific glory.
The gospel of Christ runs counter to man’s ego. This is why some feel embarrassed by it. There is no room for self achievement: Jesus Christ took care of it all. False religions all have at its center a set of requirements through which salvation can be achieved. Unfortunately, in every case, man will flunk even the false religion’s set of rules. In Christianity, all the law serves is as a indicator that everyone has the need of salvation, and man cannot achieve it apart from Jesus Christ. On the cross, Jesus took our burden of sin upon himself, and paid the price for us. What remains is that we receive the gift of eternal life from him, and accept him as Lord. This concept can be foreign to those in the academic community where so much emphasis is placed on grades, degrees, publications, honors. The fact that all of this higher learning counts nothing toward salvation irks some people. But in order to make salvation available to everyone, God made it simple.
Years ago when I was a young teenager, I remember going into a teenage hangout to get some ice cream, and feeling uncomfortable because I was there with my parents. Perhaps this is the same sort of feeling people have with Jesus. It is that juvenile sense of embarrassment that prevents many people from taking Jesus Christ and His gospel with them wherever they go. I think that even Christians who have been following the Lord for years are tempted on a daily basis at this point. It is easy to be a friend to Jesus Christ in church. Shouldn’t it be the same in the workplace, in the laboratory, on the college campus, in the classroom? If the word of God applies on Sunday morning, shouldn’t it apply to everything else the rest of the week? Why should we be embarrassed or ashamed when we have the King of Kings walking beside us who paid a terrible price just to gain our friendship and fellowship?
The first signpost on the reprobate road is being ashamed of the gospel of Christ. The remedy is being bold enough to take Jesus Christ as a companion into the workplace, school, job or laboratory and living your life with Him by your side.
|17For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: for as it is written, the just shall live by faith.
Once a person neglects the gospel of Christ, or fails to make Jesus Christ a constant companion, the next area of temptation is faith. Faith in Jesus Christ is knowing that his word is trustworthy, and that he will come through in every area of your life. If you don’t spend enough time with God, it is likely that your understanding of him may fail eventually, and your perception of Him may be skewed. Once your relationship with Him is broken or strained, doubts begin to creep in that damage your faith in Him. Some people have a perception of God as a celestial killjoy. Others think he is a Santa Claus in the sky who dispenses blessings like a vending machine. Many cults are built upon false perceptions as to who God really is, and worship a false Jesus. Not knowing Him, they worship a false picture of Him. Then once that false picture breaks down and fails them, they plunge deeper toward unbelief.
Faith in Him is the only requirement God asks of us. And even in this he helps us, providing enough evidence that means something to each of us personally. Therefore the second signpost on the reprobate road is a mistrust of God, which is lack of faith. To cure this, a person must erase whatever false picture they may have of God, and eagerly seek to know him for whom he is.
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men; who hold the truth in unrighteousness.
19Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has shown it unto them.
20For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood from the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse;
After a person’s finds that his foundation for faith is unsteady, he may realize that although he knows what is right and wrong, and what the truth is, he finds that he does and thinks the opposite. This is an indication that all men know what the truth is in their hearts, that there is enough information for someone to make a positive decision to follow God just by observing His creation. Once a person reaches the point where he holds the truth in unrighteousness, he begins to make excuses trying to justify why he does the opposite of what he knows to be the right thing to do. This scripture explodes the notion that God has forgotten about the heathen who has never heard the gospel. Because God is a personal God as well as an infinite God, he has the ability to make himself known to someone who truly seeks after him. Skeptics try to blame God for the condition of those who have never heard about him. But God’s wrath is upon those who play the game of hiding from the truth that is written on their own heart.
One place where this is demonstrated is that the theory of evolution ignores the basic logic of design. It is easy to recognize something that is created by man. A chair does not materialize from wood splinters created from lightning bolts hitting a tree. You can tell a bird’s nest by its shape and arrangement of pine needles, bark and twigs, and you don’t expect such a thing to assemble as the result of the wind. It is so much more compelling to believe that life with its incredibly complex arrangement of DNA and proteins was created by God. Dr. Michael Behe, the author of Darwin’s Black Box, talks about life being irreducibly complex. He uses the illustration that the mousetrap will not catch mice with its individual pieces. The base by itself does not catch mice, the spring by itself does not catch mice, neither does the cheese. But when they all come together, the mousetrap will perform its intended function. So much more so is life; proteins need DNA and DNA needs proteins, millions of biochemical reactions must operate in conjunction with one another or life does not exist. One example of this is the function of enzymes and coenzymes. A biochemical reaction is catalyzed with amazing efficiency with the use of enzymes. As the level of the product of a chemical reaction increases until there is enough of it, it binds onto the enzyme forcing it into a different shape. This shuts off the process. This means of self regulation could have only been designed by an intelligent creator.
The Creator reveals himself personally to everyone through the things he has made. Even little children understand this, and faith comes easy to them. It is the self-assured college student that finds it so difficult to see God as creator. Therefore, the third signpost is knowing what the truth is, not following the truth, and making an excuse for wrong behavior. The consequences for this are immediate and starts a dangerous breakdown of your relationship with God. If you find yourself in this state, stop making excuses, realize how wonderfully you are made, and admit that you need Jesus Christ.
21Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
There are several warning signs in this passage of scripture. The fourth signpost is if you find yourself getting mad at God. This is typically revealed in your language. Someone who has a heart for the things of God would never ask God to “damn” something or someone, especially if they know the full consequences of what they are asking. But these word flow freely from the lips of many people on a regular basis, and it reveals their heart. If someone drops an anvil on your toe, you wouldn’t yell out in pain, “Bill Clinton” would you? But many people freely utter the name of Jesus Christ as a swear word, as if he is to blame for the immediately calamity at hand. These people reveal that they do know God, but they don’t glorify Him as such.
Complainers are another breed of people that hang around at the fourth signpost. No matter what the conditions are, they cannot find a way to be comfortable. Their lack of contentment reveals the condition of their heart. I imagine they could find something to gripe about in heaven if they were there.
The people who gather at our church spend a great deal of time in praise and worship of God. What a wonderful cure for grumblers; put them in this kind of atmosphere where beautiful music and songs of praise lift you up. One of the most beautiful things about a husband and wife relationship is when a partner appreciates and respects what the other is doing and tells them so. This is very true with God. A prayer of thanksgiving is actually talking with God and telling him how much you appreciate him for specific things he has done for you. If you have a thankful heart towards God, you won’t stay long at the fourth signpost.
The fifth signpost is becoming vain in your imaginations. This could reveal itself in paranoia, thinking that God is out to get you, or that other people are out to get you. This results in imaginative but incorrect ideas about Christians or the nature of God. Jerry Bergman is well known for his anti-racist, anti-nazi articles that demonstrate that both of these destructive beliefs have their roots in evolution. He was recently attacked by an evolutionist, who accused him as being a neo-nazi and a racist! He jumped to this wrong conclusion after reading part of a review of Jerry Bergman’s work by another evolutionist, but not the whole thing. If he had been careful to check his sources, he wouldn’t have made such an accusation.
If you find yourself leaning on signpost number five, making up stories to accuse Christians falsely or twisting scripture around to mean something it doesn’t, it is just a few short steps to signpost number six, which is a darkened heart. The way the Bible talks about the heart is in the colloquial sense as the center of emotions. Instead of a bright, cheery spirit, their foolish heart becomes dark.
You know these kind of people. They walk around with a black storm cloud above their head, and lightning strikes them every once in a while. They read the obituaries every day, and if their name isn’t there, they sigh, get dressed and go to work. Hypochondriacs are a perfect example of those who are at signpost number six. Pessimists, negative thinkers, gossips, and those who spread rumors are likely to be at this point. The antidote for this poisonous attitude is thankfulness. If you find that you cannot feel thankful, RUN to the nearest Bible believing church who enthusiastically worships God. Join in with them whether you feel like it or not. If you don’t, you could arrive at the next signpost.
22Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.
Oh, what an attractive thing it is to be thought to be smart! Signpost number seven is the belief that the knowledge you possess makes you wise. One of the proverbs says, “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own lips.” A person who boasts about his accomplishments robs himself of the reward of someone else blessing him. An arrogant person is very difficult to reach for God because he believes that his interpretation of the facts precludes the existence of God.
True wisdom is the application of knowledge in pursuit of the truth with the motivation to do the right thing. This is a gift of God, and not the result of any personal achievement. Solomon became great and wise because he asked God to give him wisdom to discern truth from error.
Many people like to think that their accumulation of knowledge translates into wisdom. But knowledge and wisdom are two different exercises. Merely filling your brain cells with facts does not mean that you know how to practically apply them. In fact, many people push themselves further and further from the truth in their pursuit of knowledge. With so much at stake in their own theories and viewpoints and perhaps their career, in order to accept Christ and acquire true wisdom, they would have to unlearn gigabytes of knowledge, wipe their hard disks clean and start from scratch. Timothy talks about them as “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (II Timothy 3:7). Scientists who have been taught mega evolution all of their lives are in this situation. They have based their research upon it, their careers upon it and their reputation on it. Now, though their theory is crumbling underneath them, they doggedly continue to fight to save it because they know they will have to relearn everything.
23And changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four footed beasts, and creeping things.
Signpost number eight is humanism, where man worships himself. This is coupled with the evolutionary worldview which is much like the old pagan nature worship. The humanist places himself as the crowning achievement of the long struggle of evolution. Henry M. Morris, in his book The Long War Against God traces the history of modern humanist and evolutionary thought right back to the original sin in the garden of Eden where the serpent said unto the woman “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”
This temptation is the essence of what makes up humanist thought. Are we smarter than God? Can we make value judgments against Him? This is what Satan was doing in the garden of Eden, questioning the integrity of God, accusing Him of hiding some blessing from Adam and Eve. Isn’t that the essence of humanism? Dr. Morris thinks that Satan himself believes that he is the product of evolutionary chance, and was not created by God. The humanist reasons that if he is the product of millions of years of evolution, he was not created by God and is therefore not responsible to him. A result of this, and maybe a reason for this shows up in signpost number nine.
24Wherefore God also gave them up to the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves:
25Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
God made the marriage covenant a beautiful and precious thing not to be trifled with, and is a parallel to a person’s relationship with God. Believing that God is somehow withholding pleasure from them, it is a small step for a person to proceed from humanism to sexual sin. Marriage, the family, and the concept of being faithful to one partner for life is continually under attack. At this point many people have their thinking so turned around as to believe God’s promises are lies. If they use scripture at all, they use it to find loopholes that justify their own actions. A case in point is the next few verses:
26For this cause God gave them up to their own vile affections: for even the women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
27And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust toward another: men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves the recompense of their error which was meet.
I am not going to make any comments on these verses. I would suggest that people examine whether or not they recognize themselves at any of the other signposts. It is not my position to judge a person. That’s God’s business. It is everyone’s responsibility toward God to see if their lives line up with His purpose.
28And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient,
This verse frightens me, because it is this last and tenth signpost that is a blatant indicator of where our society has gone. The public school system no longer retains any knowledge of God in their curriculum, and teaches evolution as fact. Our government refuses to acknowledge God as the source of law. The result is in these areas where we have refused to take a stand for what the truth is, our society has fallen into corruption. The results are indicated in the next verses:
29Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity, whisperers,
30Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
31Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful;
32Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
Do we see these results in our society? In our home? In our schools? In our workplace? In our government? The answer to this is obvious. For a generation we have removed the knowledge of God from our schools, and used the phony excuse of “the separation of church and state” to do it. I believe the results are devastating upon our society.
How do we reverse direction on this reprobate road? Those who are Christians need to raise the standard of Christianity and not hide in the closet. Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ.” Are you?
Do you believe that God is your Creator, that He has made you for a purpose, and that He has a plan for your life? If you believe that, are you committed to following His direction?
Do you glorify God and thank him for what he has done for you? Do you appreciate Him, and have you established a continual relationship with Him? The key to preventing a slippery slide down the slope toward a reprobate mind is here. Some people have questioned whether a person who God gives over to the reprobate mind is incapable of a reversal. I don’t know, but my experience is that hundreds of people who find themselves at every one of the signposts on the reprobate road have immediately reversed the direction of their lives at Mount Hope Church, and are now experiencing the fullness of the Christian life. The only way our society can be changed is one by one, person by person. And that is my challenge to you.
Google Map to Jesus
A reader of this article recently emailed me and commented that I need to explain a little more about what to do if you find yourself at one of the signposts on the reprobate road. It is simply this. Find the next exit, turn around, and ignore all the rest of the distractions until you get back where you got turned around in the first place. It does no good to try to deal with the rest of the issues if you are ashamed of God, don’t recognize him as Creator and Lord, or if you are not thankful.
Recently I took a trip where I led a group of automobiles to our destination. I got turned around and traveled 50 miles out of our way before I realized that I was on the wrong road. The car following me was just as lost, because he assumed I knew where I was going. I had to admit to the other driver that I had made a mistake and as a result we wasted gas and lost an hour on the way to our destination.
So it is if we find ourselves on the reprobate road. We need to retrace our steps, get out our roadmap the Bible, and get back on the Lord’s Highway. To do so may seem costly and embarrassing. But that is the nature of repentance.