As I drove down the highway, I noticed a red light appeared on my dashboard warning me that my engine was overheating. I only had a short way to go. I thought I could make it to my destination. I ignored the warning sign and within a minute steam was pouring out from under the hood. In just a few short minutes after the light came on, I found myself on the side of the road with a seized engine. The damage was complete. The engine was beyond repair.
As we travel the road of life, God has given us some large warning signs that we ignore at our own peril. Our text is Romans 1:18-28, 32. In these somber verses, God is seeking to get our attention, letting us know that something is desperately wrong. All people are sinners. The problem is far worse than we can imagine. Sinning against God is not a matter of making a simple mistake. Sinning against a holy God makes us worthy of God’s wrath (v. 18).
Unfortunately, in our fallen condition, we love sin. The lure of sin is so strong that despite the clear evidence of God’s existence we work hard to suppress His reality. In verse 18 Paul says that, “The wrath of God is revealed … against [those who] suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” In the original language the word ‘suppress’ means to “hold down.” Think of a person holding someone under water against their will. It is an act of aggression.
God does not let sin go unpunished. His first act of judgment is to let go (v. 24). Those who love their sin are free to drown in it. As they embrace sin, God hands them over to experience its destruction. As sinner’s embrace a life of rebellion, their life begins a downward spiral of ever-increasing depravity. From idolatry to immorality to every form of evil imaginable, sin drags the sinner further down into greater depths of death and destruction (vs. 28-31).
Thankfully, God’s act of letting go is also His first act of redemption. A sinner cannot know the fullness of God’s grace without understanding the full impact of sin. Sin always leads to death (Rom. 6:23a); and salvation is never experienced apart from repenting from sin (Luke 13:3). Before a sinner can be saved, they must know and acknowledge their rebellion against God. Paul’s argument in Romans 1 is meant to teach this vital truth. As sobering as these words are, they are meant to warn all people that sin is real, and ignoring sin will lead to catastrophic and eternal consequences.
Thankfully, the realization of one’s sin can become the beginning of a new life. In chapter two, Paul writes, “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” (v. 4). When God reveals our sin, He does so with the intent to turn us away from it. The revelation of our guilt is God demonstrating His goodness towards sinners. Only when we understand our guilt will we seek forgiveness by repenting. When we turn to Him, He brings us to His Son and shows how sinners are saved by calling to Jesus for salvation (Rom. 10:13).
There is nothing more sobering than coming to grips with one’s guilt before God (Rom. 3:19); and there is nothing more glorious than knowing our guilt and shame are washed away by the blood of Christ (Rom. 8:31-39).