************ Sermon on Romans 1:21-22 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 22, 2007
"Foolishly Refusing to Give Thanks"
Thanksgiving Day 2007
Today is Thanksgiving Day 2007. In his proclamation, our President calls us to "give thanks for all we have been given and ask God to continue to bless our families and our Nation."
Even more important, we know God calls us to give thanks. This command to "give thanks" is repeated 34 times in the Bible. It is very important to God.
So, I want to know, are you thankful? Are you thanking Almighty God for His blessings?
I Futile Thinking, Foolish Hearts
A I am sure you realize not everyone bothers to thank God. The Devil and his demons, of course, do not give thanks to God. And, I know that countless of our fellow Americans also fail to give thanks to God. Many today will sit down to a Thanksgiving Day meal without once thinking of the Almighty. Our Scripture reading this morning talks about those who don't give thanks.
B Why is it that some people do not thank God? Is it because they don't know there is a God? Is it because they haven't been told about God? Is this why they don't give thanks to the Almighty?
Absolutely not! They know the "truth" (Rom 1:18). They know there is a god. They know "his eternal power and divine nature" (Rom 1:20). God has revealed this to them – and to us – in Creation. As Psalm 19 puts it:
(Ps 19:1-4) The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (2) Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. (3) There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. (4) Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.The heavens talk about God. The heavens declare God's existence. The heavens – and all of Creation – declare God's power and His nature.
Because of Creation Revelation, every person in this world knows there is a God. Not only that, but they know clearly there is a God. Paul says, "what may be known about God is plain to them" (Rom 1:19). God has not hidden hints to Himself in the universe. We are not like Sherlock Holmes – looking for clues that only the most brilliant or most observant can uncover. We are not like Diogenes who searched the dark corners of Athens trying to find an honest man. God has clearly shown Himself. It is so clear and so plain "that men are without excuse" (Rom 1:20).
If God's revelation is so plain and clear, how come so many people don't believe in God, don't glorify God, and don't thank God? I gave a test in Catechism class a few weeks ago. Every student but one had a certain question wrong. When that happens a good teacher realizes the problem is not with the students but with the teacher and the teaching. Is there something defective with God as Revealer and Teacher that so many don't glorify and thank Him? Is there something defective with His revelation? The problem is NOT with God. The problem is NOT with God's revelation. He is the supreme Teacher. He has clearly and personally revealed Himself. We cannot blame either Him or His instruction. The problem is with man. The problem is with our moral blindness and disbelieving hearts. The problem, says Paul, is with futile thinking and foolish hearts.
C The result is what we see this Thanksgiving Day: people who know there is a God but refuse to give Him the worship that is His due. This is how Paul puts it:
(Rom 1:21-22) For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools ...
Do you know what the saddest word of our text is? The word "futile." Futile means "worthless, empty, of no value, useless." This is how Paul sums up the efforts of all those who fail to glorify and thank God. Their efforts, their thinking, their emotions – it is all futile. No matter how extensive their efforts, no matter how brilliant their thoughts, no matter how heart-wrenching their emotions – it is all futile if God and His glory and praise are not in the equation.
Paul uses not only the word "futile" but also the word "foolish." Your heart is foolish if you know there is a God but don't glorify Him as God nor give thanks to Him. Your heart is foolish because "the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth" (Rom 1:18). You know there is a God. You deny His existence. You fail to thank Him and glorify Him. How foolish on the day of judgment.
Futile. Futile. Futile. Foolish. Foolish. Foolish. This is what Paul say about lots of our fellow citizens today. This is what Paul says about all those who don't worship the God Who loves us in Jesus Christ. This is what Paul says about those who believe in idol gods and follow false religions. They all know the one true God. But they neither glorify Him as God nor give thanks to Him. So their thinking is futile, their hearts are foolish.
A failure to give thanks to God, do you know what that shows? That shows you don't have the saving grace of Christ in your heart. That shows you do not want to repent of your sin and pursue righteousness. That shows you, like Satan, want to be on the throne that is occupied by God alone. That shows you are futile and foolish.
On the other hand, a heart that has been touched by the grace of God feels compelled to give Him praise. No futility here. No foolishness here.
Wise people thank God; fools refuse. That is what it comes down to.
II Surprising Company
A I mentioned earlier that not everyone bothers to thank God. The Devil and his demons don't thank God. Unbelievers don't thank God. Atheists don't thank God. Followers of other faiths don't thank God. Sounds like there is a whole company of fools, doesn't it?
B But you know, there is also a whole big group of those who do glorify and thank God. When we glorify and thank God we find ourselves in surprising company. I ask you to turn with me to Psalm 148. Let's read it responsively ...
(Ps 148) Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. (2) Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts. (3) Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. (4) Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. (5) Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created. (6) He set them in place for ever and ever; he gave a decree that will never pass away. (7) Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depths, (8) lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds that do his bidding, (9) you mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars, (10) wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds, (11) kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, (12) young men and maidens, old men and children. (13) Let them praise the name of the LORD, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens. (14) He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD.
Who glorifies and thanks God? Angels (Ps 148:1-2). In the book of Revelation we see worship scene after worship scene of angels praising God:
(Rev 5:11-12) Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. (12) In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"
(Rev 7:11-12) All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, (12) saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
Who glorifies and thanks God? Sun, moon, and stars (Ps 148:3). You might wonder how the sun, moon, and stars can praise God? They show us God's might – He made them out of nothing. They show us God's providence – they give direction. They show us God's vastness – the light from the closest star takes 4 years to get to us; the light from the farthest stars takes 15 billion years to get to us. They show us God's glory – think of how plain and boring the night sky would be without the light of the moon or the twinkling of a thousand stars. They show us God's wisdom – the gravity of the sun, moon, and stars helps to hold our solar system and planets in place.
Who glorifies and thanks God? Lightning and hail, snow and clouds, stormy winds, mountains and hills, fruit trees and all cedars (Ps 148:8-9). They glorify God because they do His bidding (Ps 148:8). They do what God created them to do. They do what God commands them to do. Obedience always glorifies God.
Who glorifies and thanks God? Great sea creatures, wild animals and all cattle, small creatures and flying birds (Ps 148:7,10). Their very existence glorifies God – their variety, their color, their splendor. Trinity United Reformed Church has given Ruth and I a trip which we are taking in April. One of the things I hope to do is spend time snorkeling and looking at marine life. When I see all the fish and other sea creatures, when I see a coral reef, when I see all the plants and colors – I can't help but praise God.
C Notice, everything in this world naturally glorifies and thanks God but man. Man, and man alone, is made in the image of God. Man, and man alone, displays all of the following characteristics:
-he is a personIf there is anything in Creation that glorifies and thanks God, you would think it should be man. But, often it isn't. How futile is man! And, how foolish!
-he is spiritual
-he is capable of making choices
-he is free
-he desires the companionship of other humans
-he uses tools
-he communicates by means of the spoken and written word
-he has and develops culture
-he is immortal
-he has a moral nature
-he has some conception and knowledge of God
Let's end the same way Psalm 148 does. The Psalmist has called all of Creation – angels, sun and moon and stars, sea creatures, mountains, animals, birds – to praise the Lord. Everything in Creation is called to glorify and thank the Lord. The Lord. The Hebrew word is "Yahweh." This is the name for God as Maker and Sustainer, the Source of life and being. In other words, God is to be praised for being our Creator and Provider.
"Yahweh" is also the name of the God Who rescued His people from Egypt. It is the name of the God Who loves us in Christ. Listen to how the Psalmist puts this:
(Ps 148:14) He has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his saints, of Israel, the people close to his heart. Praise the LORD.God is to be praised, He is to be glorified and thanked, because He has raised up for His people a horn. All of the power and might of a mountain sheep or an elk is concentrated in the horn. Likewise, all of God's saving power is concentrated in a horn. That's why Zechariah, for instance, praises God for raising up "a horn of salvation for us" (Lk 1:69). That horn of salvation, of course, is the Lord Jesus Christ.
On this Thanksgiving Day we give glory and thanks to God as Creator and Provider. Especially, though, we give glory and thanks to God for giving us a Savior.
We join wise people of all times and places when we glorify and thank God.
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