Rotten to the Core

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Rom 3:9-20 GW  What, then, is the situation? Do we have any advantage? Not at all. We have already accused everyone (both Jews and Greeks) of being under the power of sin,  (10)  as Scripture says, "Not one person has God's approval.  (11)  No one understands. No one searches for God.  (12)  Everyone has turned away. Together they have become rotten to the core. No one does anything good, not even one person.  (13)  Their throats are open graves. Their tongues practice deception. Their lips hide the venom of poisonous snakes.  (14)  Their mouths are full of curses and bitter resentment.  (15)  They run quickly to murder people.  (16)  There is ruin and suffering wherever they go.  (17)  They have not learned to live in peace.  (18)  They are not terrified of God."  

What then is the situation? The situation is we have been given the Scriptures. This has already been highlighted at the beginning of this chapter where we read that having the Scriptures in our hands is a tremendous advantage.

Paul spoke of this when he wrote to Timothy:

2Ti 3:15 GW  From infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures. They have the power to give you wisdom so that you can be saved through faith in Christ Jesus.

From when? From infancy. To when? To this day! Timothy had been introduced to the Holy Scriptures by his mother Eunice and his grandmother Lois. We don’t know anything about Timothy’s father, for whatever reason, sadly,  he was not there for Timothy in the formation of his faith.

Sometimes ladies, you got to take the bull by the horns and do it yourself! Sometimes grandparents, you have to be the one to step in and familiarize your grandchildren with the Scriptures.

One of the speakers at the Via de Cristo weekend last week related the story of the time his family went camping with their neighbors. On Sunday morning his family got dressed and headed out of the campground to go to church. Their neighbors children asked them, Where are you going?”

They said, “to church.” The children replied, “What’s church?” They replied, “It’s a place where we go to worship God.” The children replied, “Who’s God?”  Someone needs to step into that family and familiarize those kids with the great advantage given to us in America....the Scriptures. And what an incentive for the church to get involved in outreach Sunday School!

This ignorance of God is not just an isolated incident friends. Someone shared with me this week that they were at a Youth For Christ outreach and the majority of the kids who were there were absolutely biblically ignorant, not knowing even the most basic things.

Don’t let that happen in your home! From infancy what you have to do to familiarize your children with the Scriptures. Why?

They have the power (you don’t have any power except by prayer and example) to give your children the wisdom that enables them to be saved through faith in Christ. They do not have to lose the faith that God planted in them at their baptism. They can “continue in what they have learned and found to be true.” 2 Tim. 3:14

So many Lutheran parents want to know why their children seem to leave the church after confirmation. The reason they leave is because they have not been taught the Scriptures from their infancy. Parents have saved it for once a week Sunday School or a last ditch effort in Confirmation Class, but this is your job parents! The most important vocation you will ever have!

The goal of confirmation is not to implant new faith, it is to confirm the faith that they have had since infants. A faith that has been nurtured by a steady diet of the Scriptures at the family altar.

Young people, don’t let the apathy of your parents keep you from the Scriptures. Don’t let outside activities rob you of the time at the family altar. Press the issue! Urge Mom and Dad to spend time with you, teaching the Scriptures. Get into the Word on your own daily! Work out your salvation! Don’t forfeit the tremendous advantage you have been given in the Scriptures because you don’t think it’s cool..
As you enter your teen years you will be yearning for more independence. You will be seeking ways to break away from your parents. It is a good and natural thing to do (within limits) But please don’t think that you need to be independent of God and His Word. In fact, itis in these years that you need it the most! That kind of thinking will lead to pain, suffering, despair, and even worse, a possible loss of your faith that could separate you from God forever.

The situation is, we have the Scriptures....but just having the Scriptures is not enough. Just having the Scriptures doesn’t change the fact that we are sinners. In fact, just the opposite should be true. The fact that we have the Scriptures ought to show us how sinful we really are. How far short we fall of the glory of God.

Paul has pointed that out to us repeatedly here in Romans, but apparently he hasn’t pointed it out enough, because he starts in again using a variety of Scriptures garnered from the OT to show us how wicked we are.

“Not one person has God’s approval.” There is none righteous no, not one! Need we go farther than that? Does anyone here wish to raise their hand and say, “I’m righteous enough!” Well, no one would have the cheek to do that in public worship, but some of you do believe that you are righteous enough.

Some believe that they have led “good enough” lives to get into heaven. Some believe that God will overlook their minor faults and forgive them because after all, they aren’t criminals or murderers. They are good decent people, therefore if the scales are weighed, the balance will be in their favor and God will allow them in.

Do you believe that? Do you believe your works are going to get you into heaven? If so, have you ever considered what that belief states about God? First of all you have called God a murderer. He sent His only Son into the world and allowed him to die for the sins of the world. If you think you don’t need Jesus to pay for ALL of your sins, then God has murdered His own Son senselessly. Because if you can make it in on your good could millions of others.

Well, maybe Jesus only died to save the worst cases. know....those others. Oh my, you are walking on thin ice, oh my are you proud, oh my are you in trouble, because God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.  

Get this straight! God did not send His Son to die for a few....He sent Him to die for the world...for all of us....because no one in the history of the world was good enough......except Jesus!

Look at the charges Paul brings against us! “No one has understanding.” That is, no one truly understands the “fear of the Lord!” When’s the last time you had a sense of the awesome and fearful presence of the Lord? When have you had or grasped the essence of His holiness and His hatred of even the smallest sin?

The prophet Isaiah was one of the few who have ever been escorted into the presence of the Lord and he said, “Woe is me, I am undone, for I am a man of unclean lips.!” Undone by the sheer terror of being in the presence of holiness.

Jesus, when He was being arrested in the Garden, asked the soldiers, “Who are you looking for?” They replied, “Jesus of Nazareth”. He said, “I AM He” I Am, the name of the holy God, and a whole battalion of soldiers were knocked to the ground like dominoes. The awesome, terrible presence of the Lord.

Fear the Lord. Give Him the homage and respect He is due. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge, (the awareness) of the Holy One is understanding. ...No one one considers the holiness of God.

Pro 9:10 GW  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. The knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Paul continues: “No one searches for God.” The idea here is that no one craves God.. Do you ever have a craving for something? This time of the year I get cravings for pumpkin pie with whipped cream....for turkey sandwiches with mayonaisse, for cranberry salad hmmmmmmm.

But do I ever have that kind of craving for God? Hmmmmmmm God. Is it tedious work for me to daily open my Bible and read of Him? Is it tedious to go to church and worship Him? Oh, what a sinner I am. So often I just go through the motions with no real craving for the lover of my soul.

“Everyone has turned away” “Everyone God? Are you sure? You’re beginning to sound like my teenagers, “Aw c’mom, everyone else will be there, everyone else’s parents are letting them do it, Yes, God is sure. Everyone has deviated from the path that He has marked out for us. Everyone is off the mark of perfection demanded by a holy God, everyone sins.

“Together they have become rotten to the core.” Together, meaning that in the whole lot, the whole bushel basket of humanity, there is not one good apple, not only are they bad, but they are bad to the core.  

Think of a rotten apple. Would you bite into one? Would you bite into one all the way to the core? Maybe on Fear Factor. Maybe if the price was right. Well the price was right and Jesus bit into the core of humanity and swallowed our rottenness completely by dying on the cross. Only His death could make humanity tasty to a holy God.

“No one does anything good, not even one person.” - Here the idea is that there is none harmless, none benign. Every single one of us has some malignancy in us, where if left alone we would do great harm and damage to others. Without God’s grace and mercy we would all become a raging cancer to the human race.

I’m not sure Christians have an appreciation for this idea of malignancy. The truth about the human race is that if God were to withdraw His protection, if He would not restrain evil to some degree, we, with the help of the devil, the world and our flesh  would destroy ourselves.

Jesus, speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies in 70 A.D. said,

Mat 24:21-22 GW  There will be a lot of misery at that time, a kind of misery that has not happened from the beginning of the world until now and will certainly never happen again.  (22)  If God does not reduce the number of those days, no one will be saved. But those days will be reduced because of those whom God has chosen.

This is what happens when God pulls back His protection. Man, at the mercy of the murderous Satan, turns into a murderer himself.  But you may ask, why does a loving God pull back His protection? Sometimes it’s the only way He can get our attention.

“Their throats are open graves.” - The idea here is that we slay people with our words. We open our yappers and kill people with our harmful and thoughtless words. If we were to open our  mouths and say ah, the good doctor would see spiritual tombstone after spiritual tombstone engraved with the names of people we have assassinated with our words.

The sad thing is that most of the time the assassinations are the ones closest to us, as if familiarity is an excuse. We assassinate our spouse, our children, our parents, and members of our own church family. Of course we never stop there. We go on to those people at that other church, to our co-workers, neighbors, and even complete strangers.

We’ve all heard the commercial for the credit card company that asks, “What’s in your wallet?” In light of this verse, maybe we should ask, “What’s in your gullet? How many tombstones? Who have you assassinated with your words?

Then Paul elaborates on how the assassinations are carried out.

“Their tongues practice deception.” We lie about others. We do not tell the truth about them. I am amazed at how efficient the internet is at spreading lies about others. The backyard fence and the water cooler...and sometimes the small group Bible study are also excellent places to lie about others, (O Lord spare us from this sin.) but they just can’t cover the ground that the Internet can.

“Their lips hide the venom of poisonous snakes.” - The fatal poison of our gossip and slander is hidden behind our smiling lips. Lips that say one thing to your face and quite another behind your back.

“Their mouths are full of curses and bitter resentment.” - Not just swear words in the way we define them but in actually calling a curse down on a person from God. How many times have you said it or thought it in anger....”God damn you!”  Have you ever considered the implications of such a request?

The idea of bitter resentment is that of something pressed down. A mouth pressed down with bitterness. These are words spoken against another through clenched teeth “I hate you.”

“They run quickly to murder people.” - Ah, we not only murder with our words, but we are also quick to murder with our hands. No where is this more evident than the matter of abortion. How quick are we to murder?

The CDC says that in 1970 there were 193 thousand abortions in the United States, when it was legalized Nationwide in 1973 the number jumped to 844,000, and by 1980 the figure hade risen to 1.3 million.

Once the legal restraints were off, we found out what we really are....murderers. Men and women, anxious to eliminate the problem in their life caused by their sexual promiscuity. Oh how quickly we run to murder people. The problem is that while the legal restraints are off........God’s injunction against the spilling of innocent blood remains.  Thou shalt not kill.

“There is ruin and suffering wherever they go.” - The idea of ruin here is a literal breaking into pieces and it is tied into murder and certainly tied into the gruesome procedure of abortion and other forms of genocide such as concentration camps, the killing fields of Cambodia and so on. .

And the suffering....well, it is the misery that is left behind after such cruel and inhumane acts. Post abortion syndrome and all other post traumatic disorders stemming from the cruel loss of human life fall into this category.

According to the Elliot Institute, 44%of women who have had abortion experience nervous disorders as soon as 8 weeks after the event.. 36% report sleep disturbances. 5 years after the abortion, 25% had gone to see a psychiatrist compared to 3% for the control group.  30 to 50% report some sort of sexual dysfunction, 60% consider suicide, 28% actually attempt it.

Post abortive women smoke more, drink more, and are more apt to abuse drugs. They are at increased risk for sterility, eating disorders, child abuse, divorce, depression, and anger.

Now does that sound like a trail of misery or what?

“They have not learned to live in peace.” - again the idea that all mankind has not learned to live in peace. We never will because we are sinners. Jesus said there will always be wars and rumors of wars until He comes again. If left to ourselves we would have destroyed each other long ago.

“They are not terrified by God.” - and we are right back where we started. The source of all of our sin is that we do not fear God. We are not terrified of Him. We are not impressed with His holiness or His judgement. Ps. 36:1 says, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

And Paul has masterfully carried this thought through to it’s logical conclusion. If our eyes do not see God for who He really is, our tongue and our feet will act as if He is not holy.

Oh but pastor, don’t talk about fearing God, talk about smooth things, talk about all love and all grace! I’d like to, and I will talk of love and grace, but I would be doing you a great disservice and I certainly wouldn’t be preaching the full counsel of God’s Word if that’s all I talked about.

The fear of God is one of the greatest recurring concepts of the Bible, Isa. 33:6 says, “The fear of the Lord is His treasure.” Mal 1:6, “If I be a master, where is My fear?” Phil. 1:6, Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

But what is it? What is the fear of God?  Lenski defines it as, “that regard which would not offend or provoke God.” Regarding God in such a manner that you would do nothing to offend or provoke Him.  In other words the fear of God is to not do things that would tick Him off.

It is the opposite of the love of God in that the love of God compels us to seek to please Him, while the fear of God keeps us from being compelled to displease Him. There is a tension here that we need to honor. Where sin abounds there is no fear of God, but where obedience abounds we find love of God. “If you love me you will keep My commandments.”

Proper fear should act as a deterrent to sin, and proper love should act as an incentive for obedience.
While praying yesterday and waiting for a word from the Lord this is what He spoke into my heart.

“There is no fear of Me in the hearts of My people. They have received Me as their Father but live in My house as if there are no rules. I will chastise them, I will discipline them because I love them. Take this seriously and change the way you think and act.

If you are worried about the lack of joy in My house, you need not be. Joy will be present when I am pleased with My children. There is joy, peace, and harmony in the house where the Master is pleased. The only way you can please Me is if you are in My Son. Seek to surrender to Him. He knows My rules perfectly and will bring perfect joy and peace to you. You cannot say you are surrendered to Jesus if you continue to live according to your rules.

In Luther’s explanation of the ten commandments, every one of them begins with “We should fear and love God....” He had it right...the need for balance. Fearing God enough to not displease Him, and loving God enough to please Him.

Well, we could leave you hanging here with the fear of God. But I don’t think that would be wise. It is said that D.L. Moody was preaching a series in Chicago and he had preached hard on the fear of God and the law, but he stop short of presenting the Good News, thinking people would come back the next day to hear more.

Unfortunately Mrs. O’leary’s cow kicked over the lantern and the great Chicago fire wiped out the opportunity to share the gospel. He vowed to never leave his listeners hanging again.....and neither will I.

Not one of us here have any degree of righteousness on our own. We are all sinners. None of us truly fear God as we should,

None of us crave God as we should.

We have deviated from God’s way

Our core being has been ruined by sin

We are like malignant cancers.

We slay people with our words and our hands

Ruin and destruction follow us.

We have not learned the way of peace.

We are not terrified by God
That’s our problem. Not one of us deserves to be in heaven, we all deserve to be condemned to hell...........rotten apples everyone of us.  But thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. Even though we are guilty of these sins, there is no sin that Jesus did not pay for and no sin that God, our Father  won’t forgive.

When we surrender our lives to Jesus and trust that He paid for our sins on Calvary, we are saved.  Saved and motivated by love to be obedient.

Joh 3:16 GW  God loved the world this way: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him will not die but will have eternal life.

Mar 16:16 GW  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

We find this great promise of the Gospel all over the Bible. Believe in Jesus, trust Jesus, have faith in Him, confess Him as your Lord and Savior and all of these sins, and any others are completely taken out of the picture:

Psa 103:12 GW  As far as the east is from the west- that is how far he has removed our rebellious acts from himself.

Understand God’s hatred of sin, and fear Him, but understand His love for you too and surrender to it. Receive it as you believe in Jesus.  Receive the forgiveness He bought for you on the cross and move forward in newness of life! Both fearing and loving the Savior of your soul.