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When Truth Is Suppressed

Romans 1:18-25 • May 15, 2024 • g1293

Pastor Todd Lauderdale teaches a message through Romans 1:18-25 titled “When Truth Is Suppressed.”

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Pastor Todd Lauderdale

May 15, 2024

Sermon Scripture Reference

I’m going to have you turn to the Book of Romans, chapter 1. Romans is in the New Testament. I’ve titled tonight’s message, “When Truth Is Suppressed.”

Several years ago, I experienced something I’d never experienced before. I suddenly had this intense pain that was kind of going across my ribcage, and it made it very hard to breathe. For about ten minutes, I sat there wondering what in the world was going on with my body. About ten minutes later, the pain eased, I was able to breathe fine, and it seemed like I went completely back to normal, but it was severe enough that I thought I should go get checked out.

The following day, I made an appointment to see my doctor. I went to visit that doctor, and he gave me a once-over to examine me. He couldn’t really find anything in particular that alarmed him, so he said, “You know, it probably was just kind of like a spasm in your diaphragm.” I thought, Okay, a spasm in my diaphragm. I could live with that. He said, “It might happen again. It might happen from time to time. You’re getting older; those things happen.” So, I left the office thinking, Okay, maybe it’ll happen again, and it did.

It seemed like for a period of time, every month or couple of months would pass by, I would again have this sudden, intense pain going across my ribcage. I would sometimes be curled up on the floor, just knowing, “It’s just a spasm. It’s just a spasm.” There were days that my wife would walk in, and I’m in the fetal position in the middle of the living room floor. She said, “I’m taking you to the hospital.” I’m saying, “It’s just a spasm.” One day, that came upon me, and it didn’t go away. It lasted, and it lasted. My wife said, “I’m taking you to the Emergency Room,” and so off we went. There, in the Emergency Room, I got examined by another doctor. He did a more thorough exam which turned into an emergency surgery where I had my gallbladder removed.

I was examined by two different doctors, and those two doctors gave me two different diagnoses. I have to tell you that I definitely preferred the first diagnosis over the second. The problem was that the first diagnosis was not true; the second diagnosis was the true one. To be flat out honest, I preferred the lie over the truth in that moment. I would have rather believed that it was simply a spasm in my abdomen than that it required surgery. Knowing the truth, and choosing the truth in that moment actually was probably a smart decision.

We’re living at a time when it seems like lies and the truth are colliding on a regular basis. More and more I see a tendency for people to choose the lie over the truth, if that lie is more convenient than the truth is, so much so that it appears that in our day and age there are some that are willing to hold down that truth, suppress that truth, to embrace a lie because they find the lie is more convenient than the truth.

Now, keep that in mind as we read the passage we’re going to look at here in Romans 1 as the Apostle Paul shares with us beginning in verse 18. I’m going to read down to verse 25. It says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.”

I wonder if you have ever considered the things that are happening in our society right now compared to the way things were not too long ago. I mean, it appears to me that about twenty years ago we could never have imagined the things happening that we see happening in our society, where politicians are making decisions that we would’ve never thought they would have made, that topics are being taught in our public school that we would have never thought would be taught, that people are making lifestyle choices that are being celebrated, that voices are being listened to that probably shouldn’t be listened to and other voices are being silenced. Maybe you, like me, have taken a look at what’s happening and have wondered, “Why is what’s happening, happening?” and “How is it that it is happening so quickly in such a short period of time where it seems like there’s been a total culture shift in what is going on in our world right now.” I think there are a lot of people right now trying to diagnose our social problems, but I really believe that Scripture is going to give us the right diagnosis right here in this passage.

It begins in verse 18 where it says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.” This might not be the most popular topic for a pastor to preach on, in fact, I would bet that the majority of us probably have never in our lives heard a message preached on the wrath of God. It’s not exactly the thing that pastors want to teach on these days. Pastors want to sound uplifting. They want to be encouraging. They want people to leave church with a smile on their face and feel good about themselves and be energized. So, the wrath of God is oftentimes a topic that is going to be skirted around. There are other things to talk about like the love of God and the grace of God, but let me assure you that the wrath of God is as much a part of the nature of who God is as His love, His grace, His mercy, His goodness, His patience, and His kindness. We don’t often think that way because we like to focus on the ones that are more palatable for us, but the Apostle Paul is going to talk to us a bit about the wrath of God.

Let me tell you that sometimes we shy away from the wrath of God because we misunderstand what His wrath is really like. We think that maybe His wrath is an anger that begins to boil into a full-blown rage, much like when Bruce Banner gets a little bit upset and begins to turn into The Incredible Hulk; you know his eyes begin to turn yellow, he rips his shirt off, and the next thing you know he’s smashing buildings and throwing people around. We get that kind of an image about the wrath of God, that the wrath of God is actually an impulsive, emotional, uncontrolled outburst when God just gets really ticked off. But that’s not the way the Bible describes His wrath right here.

There are a couple different words that could be translated “wrath.” First, thymós, where we get our word thermometer, does speak kind of like a red-hot anger, but that is not the word that is used here by the Apostle Paul. He uses a different word, which actually means a controlled and determined anger against evil. You see, the reality is that God is very patient. The Bible tells us that He is slow to anger, but when His wrath is delivered, we need to understand that it is measured and it is just. In other words, God does not blow a gasket. God is very determined when He does get angry. It is a controlled anger and a justified anger when He dishes out His wrath.

In this passage we’re going to get a little dose of the reason why God reveals His wrath. To begin with, we’re told in verse 18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Now, there are a couple things that are mentioned here. First, men choose to suppress the reality of God; and secondly, they do so in order to live an unrighteous life. Why will God pour out His wrath? Because men have chosen purposefully to reject the reality of God so that they can live as they please. Verse 18 essentially is a summary to the rest of the passage that we are going to dive into. Paul summarizes what he’s talking about there in verse 18, but now we’re going to see more in depth of why God’s wrath will be revealed.

Verses 19 and 20, “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead,”—or divine nature—“so that they are without excuse.” We know this about how God has revealed Himself. He’s revealed Himself in two distinct ways. We refer to that as general revelation and special revelation. General revelation is the way that God has revealed Himself to everybody everywhere, and He’s done His revelation of Himself in two ways to everyone everywhere. First, is from the inside, and the other is from the outside. Inwardly, God has revealed Himself in man’s conscience, meaning that there is an innate understanding that there is a God who made us that exists in every human being. Inwardly, our conscience testifies to the existence of God, and not just that God exists, but also that there is a right and a wrong.

If you want to glance at Romans 2:15, we know that our conscience not only convinces us that God exists, but also that there is good and evil, there is right and wrong. In verse 15 it says, “who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them,” that is to say that inwardly we have an awareness of when we are living right or we are living wrong. God inwardly has testified to every human being that He is there and that there is a right and a wrong. But then, He also has revealed Himself outwardly at the things that are made. Outwardly, we see the glory of God through all of creation. That’s why in Romans 1:19, it says these two things, “because what may be known of God is manifest in them,”—that is, your conscience—“for God has shown it to them,”—that is, the creation around us.

Many of you have heard of Helen Keller. At a young age, she contracted a disease that took away her ability to hear, her ability to see, and her ability to speak. Essentially, she lived nearly her entire life unable to see anything, hear anything, and unable to communicate with her voice whatsoever. But she had a teacher whose name was Ann Sullivan. Ann invested herself into Helen Keller to try and come up with a means of teaching her things, so she taught her how to communicate simply with touch. She began to educate Helen Keller just through physical touch. There came a time in the things that she wanted to teach Helen that she decided to introduce to Helen the concept of God. She wanted to educate her about who God is. Helen’s response, when Ann began to share these things with her, was, “I know about God. I just don’t know His name.” Interesting that a woman who could not see, could not hear, and could not speak had an inner awareness of the existence of her Creator. God put that there, and He put it in you and me as well. Then, God also has declared Himself around and about us through His creation.

I want to elaborate on that a little bit because that’s really what Paul is going to be talking to us about here. Let me pause for a second because I’m realizing now that I never shared with you about what special revelation is. If general revelation, given to everybody, is in our conscience and in creation, special revelation is given to us by God through His Word and through His Son. We know about God through creation, but we can know exactly who God is—His name, His character, and His plan of salvation—because He’s given us His Word, and He’s given us His Son.

Getting back to general revelation, and I want to highlight that because that is what Romans 1 is all about. It is about how God has revealed Himself to every human being through his conscience and through His creation. Essentially, we can see God in everything that has been made. Now, there are many directions that I can go with this, but I decided I want to highlight one specific way that creation testifies to the existence of God, that is, that we see such immense design in the creation around us in the universe as a whole. We are not living in a universe that is full of chaos and mishaps; even scientists call it a very fine-tuned universe. What that essentially means is that the universe is not chaotic but is orderly and that even life here on Earth is only possible because of an ecosystem that is so precise that it will allow for life. I wish we had more time to really elaborate on this because there is so much in creation that testifies to design, that an intelligent being designed the way that things are.

For time sake, we can’t delve into that too much, but I’ll point out one, and that simply is in our ecosystem the way that the earth is watered. Do you realize that the system that the earth has to water the planet is crazy detailed in that God created evaporation? Over the surface of the ocean water evaporates into the atmosphere that forms clouds for which the wind then blows those clouds over the surface of the land, and when the temperature of the air begins to change, that water condenses into raindrops which then fall to the earth and water the ground so that plants can live, and fills lakes, and fills streams and rivers that then flow back into the ocean and the cycle continues.

There are even mountains that are high enough to where the water does not fall in liquid form, it falls in frozen form in snow, just so that during the hot months that snow can melt and the mountains and the land will have water well into the hot season when it is not raining at all. So, those plants grow and give off oxygen so that we, animal life, can breathe in the oxygen and let out carbon dioxide, which is what the plants need to live. They need the carbon dioxide, and we provide that for them; we need the oxygen, and they provide that for us. Those are just a few examples of how God has so designed things on this planet so that life can even happen.

We are living in a time when modern man is telling us that, “Everything that you see in this universe happened naturally. There’s no divine purpose for it. There’s no being that made this all happen, it was all through natural processes.” What Paul is arguing about here in this passage is that God has made Himself known through His creation, and our society is telling us, “No, He did not. All of this is just natural things that would have happened anyways.”

I want to share with you a little bit more detail of why that is such a ridiculous notion by giving you a series of pictures. I want you to take a look at the screen here real quick, and we’re going to take a look at some sand dunes, right? I don’t know where this is. There are many places on our planet that have sand dunes like this, but you’ll notice those ripples that are in the sand. How do those ripples get there? Anybody have an idea? Wind, right. Okay, wind, blowing over the surface of these sand dunes is going to shift that sand, so we can look at those ripples and say, “Yeah, I can see how that happens naturally, wind blowing over the surface of those fine granules can blow them in such a pattern, and it looks beautiful.” We understand that can happen naturally.

Let’s say you’re walking along the beach and came across this (extravagant sandcastle). Are you going to take a look at that and say, “Whoa! Look what the wind did! Man, I betcha it took a long time for the water vapor from the waves crashing on the shore to get that sand wet enough, and the wind whipping around that it formed such an amazing castle.” There isn’t anybody in their right mind that is going to take a look at that castle and say, “Look what nature put together.” Am I right? Now, the person who built that may not be around at all, but we know that there is a person who built that. Even if nobody is on the beach but you, yourself, and that sandcastle, you know that somebody was here and somebody had in their mind to build something like that and made it happen with their skill, intelligence, and knack for design. Am I right? Nobody in their right mind is going to take a look at a sandcastle on the beach and say, “Wow! Look what the wind did.”

Let me show you another picture. This is a picture from Bryce Canyon in Utah. Those red rock spires are called “hoodoos.” They’re all over the place in Bryce Canyon, and they’re beautiful. You can look at those and you can, because you’re intelligent, think, “Okay, I can see how that could happen. You know, wind and rain and snow and hot days and cold days over a long period of time can cause erosion to take place and those rock formations to happen. I could see how nature could make something like that happen.”

If you went to South Dakota and decided you were going to visit Mount Rushmore, and you saw this (picture shown), are any of us going to look at that and say, “Whoa! Look what nature did. Look what years of wind and rain and hot and cold, and maybe some marmots and squirrels burrowing made that mountain look like that. Man, I can even recognize some of our Presidents in the side of that mountain! That is amazing that that could happen naturally.” Nobody is going to come to that conclusion. We know, if we come across a mountain that has faces in it that distinct, that somebody did that on purpose. They may not be there at the time, but we’re going to take a look at that mountain and know that where there is that much design, there is a designer.

Let me show you one more. What if you were taking a walk in the woods and you came across this (picture of a mountain cabin). Are any of you going to think to yourself, “Man, I can’t believe all those trees fell on each other. I can’t believe all those rocks, maybe because of the wind or a violent earthquake or something like that, just kind of stacked themselves on top of each other.” You may walk up to the door and say, “How in the world can this wood become so flat and somehow join itself together on hinges that actually make this thing open so I can go on the inside and see all those rocks stacked on top of each other in the perfect formation that, wow! I can build a fire right there, and there’s even a hole that goes up through the roof that allows the smoke to escape.” Nobody thinks that that happens naturally. Everybody can look at a building like this, even if it’s in the middle of nowhere, and know somebody was here and somebody designed this and somebody put it together because things like that don’t happen naturally.

I can come across a log, a tree that has fallen in the forrest, and I know that that happens naturally, but things like this (picture of mountain cabin) don’t happen naturally, they have to be designed. They have to have a designer. My point is basically this: The universe is so detailed and so designed.

What Paul is illustrating for us here is that God has made Himself known by the things that He has made. Look at verse 20 again, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made,”—so what can we understand about God? We can understand,—“even His eternal power and Godhead,”—or His divine nature.

Two things that creation is revealing to us, that there is a God and He is powerful, so much so that a man by the name of Antony Flew, some of you might have heard of him, he has since passed away about fourteen years ago, but he lived most of his life in the last century. He was one of the most well-known atheists in all of the world. In fact, he spent sixty years of his life not only content with his own atheism, but often speaking critically about those that believe in the existence of God. That lasted for most of his life, but the day came when he changed his mind. You might wonder what happened to a guy who would decide that his atheism doesn’t work for him anymore, and he became a believer in God. What he said was this, he lived by this life principle, “Follow the evidence wherever it leads.” As a philosopher, he always tried to follow the evidence, but he finally got to the point where he realized that all of the evidence was actually not leading to naturalism but to a divine Creator. He ended up writing a book which he titled, There Is A God: How The World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind. Wouldn’t it be great if every scientist would come to the same realization, but that’s just simply not happening.

Many of you might have heard of Richard Dawkins, an evolutionary biologist. Not only is he an atheist, but he is adamant about his atheism and critical about the existence of God. Even as a biologist, he said this, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Even he, in all of his research and study of biology, is admitting that what he sees in creation or in the universe is design. You would think that he could make the next step and say there has to be a designer, but he does just the opposite. He wrote his own book, but it was not about his belief in God. He called his book, The God Delusion, in which he dispels the notion and really thinks those that believe in a Creator to be fools.

Psalm 14:1 says this, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is not God.’” Why are they a fool? Not because they’re stupid, because the truth of the matter is that many very, very intelligent people are fools. You don’t have to be stupid to be a fool. A fool is one who sees the truth and ignores it. A fool is one who sees the truth but is going to ignore that truth because it’s not a convenient truth for them.

Back in verse 18, Paul tells us this, the last part of the verse, that men will, “ . . . suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” That word “suppress” refers to a purposeful, willful, continuous holding something down, much like trying to hold a beach ball underneath the surface of the pool. You can do it, but it is going to take continuous effort to keep that ball submerged. That is the idea of what Paul is getting across here, that though God has revealed Himself adequately in the things that He has made, mankind has the ability to suppress that evidence, suppress that truth, hold it underwater, because they don’t like that truth. That truth does not fit into their life choices, their lifestyle, so they suppress it.

Today, we’re living in a world I think that is suppressing the truth about God, at least many are. The Bible tells us here in Romans that there’s no excuse when you can see the truth but you willfully choose to suppress it. There are things that happen when you make that willful choice to suppress the truth, and that’s what Paul goes on to elaborate on. Look at verse 21, “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.”

There are several things that are said here in these verses of what happens when mankind decides to suppress the truth of God. First, it tells us the things that they do not do in verse 21, “ . . . they did not glorify . . . God, nor were thankful,” to their Creator. When you choose to suppress the truth, you will not bring God the glory that He deserves nor will you be thankful for the life that He has given you. Not only do you have certain things that you will not do, there will be other things that you will become, that’s what verses 21 and 22 tells us. You will become “ . . . futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened,” and who have made themselves fools. To say that your thoughts are futile is to be empty-headed, essentially, as was being communicated here. If you willingly reject what is truth, then you’re emptying your head of the very things that would bring you life, but you’ve willfully rejected that. Your heart becomes dark, and like Psalm 14:1 says, you have made yourself a fool.

No one really is blinder than the one who has chosen not to see, and if you suppress the truth of God that is within you in your conscience, and you suppress the truth around you in God’s creation, the Bible calls you a fool. There are things that they don’t do, they won’t glorify God; they’re things that they become, “ . . . futile . . . darkened,” and “ . . . fools.” And then there are things that they will do, that’s in verse 23, where it says, “and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man.”

Mankind was created by God with an innate need to worship, and if we choose not to worship the God who made us, we will find a substitute to worship. In biblical times, oftentimes that was in idolatry. Cultures would shape a god out of stone or out of wood or out of precious metal, and that would become the object of their worship. Because they did not believe in the God who created them, they had to make a substitute god. Now, we don’t see that happening much in our culture anymore, but we nevertheless see people that have made their own gods—the gods of money, the gods of sex, the gods of pleasure, the gods of power, or the god of self. In fact, at the end of verse 25, we haven’t read down that far, they “ . . . worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator,” the creature often being themselves. If they don’t worship the true and the living God, they will find another god to worship, and sometimes that god is actually themselves.

The passage is not done yet because we haven’t seen what God will do. When God reveals Himself to mankind, and mankind willfully rejects that knowledge and suppresses that truth, not only do their hearts become dark, but God makes a choice. In verse 24, Paul says this, “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves.” In other words, God gives them over to their own desires, “If that is your choice, I will allow you to fulfill your desires to make your choice.”

When we talk about the wrath of God, which is how this passage began, most often we are thinking about the end-time judgment when God judges all and divides the sheep from the goats, and some go to eternal life and some to eternal destruction. That is not the only way that God reveals His wrath. That is, surely, not how God is revealing His wrath in this passage.

Many of our parents, when your kids were growing up, there were times that they were acting like fools, so you had to do something about it. Part of a parent’s job is to bring the rod of correction. Now, sometimes parents correct by intervening—time out, spanking, or what have you. Other times, parents discipline by not intervening and allowing that child to suffer the consequences of their own choices. Sometimes we intervene, sometimes we don’t intervene, but both ways we are intending discipline to be dished out.

Sometimes God displays His wrath by not intervening, and this seems to be one of those cases where God says, “Okay, you don’t want to believe in Me, you don’t want to be governed by the good that I want you to walk in, you are going to choose the unrighteousness that you want to walk in. I’m going to go ahead and let you do that.”

In this chapter, three times it tells us that God gave them over, verses 24, 26, and later in verse 28. Three times over we are told that God gave them over. They made their choice, and God says, “Okay, I’m going to let you live out your choice.” I think that’s what we’re experiencing in our world right now. To a great extent, I think that God has given over and now our society is running amok and indulging in the very things that God was trying to keep them from.

We can watch the news today and see what is happening with our laws, the moral decay, common sense being set aside, and maybe see that mankind is bringing upon themselves the fruit of the choice that they made when God has made Himself known and they said, “I don’t want Him.” Even in that, I think God’s grace is still revealed.

We’re told in 2 Peter that God, “ . . .is longsuffering . . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” We’re not living in the time of God’s full-blown wrath. Maybe His wrath is measured because He’s allowing people to do what they want to do. But even in allowing them to do what they want to do, God’s ultimate purpose is that they would realize that their ways are futile, that their ways are empty, that their ways are to a dead end and come to their senses and turn back.

I didn’t go through the entire chapter because I didn’t think we were going to have enough time, but also it gets even harder. If you want to see a pretty accurate commentary on things that are going on in our society, you might want to finish out the chapter on your own later. Suffice it to say right now, that aren’t you glad that when you look at creation and you see the fingerprints of God.

If you’re in here tonight, and that is a decision that you have not yet made, maybe you’ve wrestled with what current science is telling us, and it’s coming into conflict with what the Christian faith is declaring. I hope I’ve given you some things to consider tonight because the One who made you not only gave you life but wants to give you eternal life. That is only through is only begotten Son. Let’s pray.

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About Pastor Todd Lauderdale

I was born and raised in Southern California and gave my life to Christ when I was 16 years old after seeing the radical change in a high school friend who had become a Christian only a few months before. My life was transformed, and I have never looked back! I have been a Pastor since 1988, initially serving in middle school and high school ministries. For the last 20 years, my passion has been young adult ministry. Young adulthood is the time of life when people are making life-long decisions, like what they will do for a living, who they will marry, and the kind of person they will be. It is so important that Christ is the foundation on which they stand as they make these major decisions in life. I’m just grateful to God that He has allowed me to teach His Word to these young people!

Sermon Summary

Pastor Todd Lauderdale teaches a message through Romans 1:18-25 titled “When Truth Is Suppressed.”

Pastor Photo

Pastor Todd Lauderdale

May 15, 2024