It’s important to look at how sin progresses. The path it takes. First, because it gives us a better understanding of the history of the human race; and second, because it’s still how sin works in us today.
WE KNEW THE TRUTH
The place to start is to realize that mankind – and you and I – know the truth. Romans 1:19-20 makes that very clear: “since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
This is very interesting: God made the truth known to everyone through the creation. The one “book” that everyone could read. The created universe is known as “general revelation.” From it, we can know some very general things about God. The Bible is known as “special revelation.” From it, we can learn some very specific things about God.
What can we learn from the creation? Romans 1:20 lists just two qualities: God’s eternal power and his divine nature. From creation, we can’t know his plan of salvation, we can’t know that he will provide for all our needs, we don’t even know much about his character as a loving God. But we all can see two things very clearly from the universe around us: first, God is very powerful to have created all this; and second, he is above it all – divine – since he did create it.
What is the obvious course of action for weak, created beings when faced with a powerful, divine God? It should be worship. Possibly worship from fear, possibly worship from love, but worship, nevertheless.
This completely trashes the idea that people have that “I didn’t know any better.” Romans says clearly: we all knew better. We all knew the truth.
WE DENIED THE TRUTH
Having established that man knew he should worship God, based – if upon nothing else – upon the evidence of his power and divinity displayed in nature, Paul next moves on to point out the progression of sin: we denied the truth.
We knew the truth, but we denied the truth. Romans 1:21 states, “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.”
We refused to worship. We refused to give thanks. Spend a few minutes considering this: “Why would we deny the truth?”
Now look at the result – our thinking became futile – useless, pointless, and purposeless – and our hearts became foolish and dark. Refusal to worship and glorify God will always result in futility in thought, mind, and action.
WE EXCHANGED THE TRUTH
Finally, we exchanged the truth. Romans 1:22-23 and 25 reads, “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles …. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised.”
We exchanged the truth for a lie. We knew the truth, but we denied it. But there is, as Pascal said long ago, a “God-shaped vacuum” in each of us. If we won’t fill it with God, we will attempt to fill it with something else … usually with something we think we can control or manipulate. Something that will give us “what we want” and cater to our pride.
But everything else is created – they “worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” – therefore, everything else is less than God. And because it is less than God, it will never fill that hole inside.
We have the progression here: we knew the truth, we denied the truth, we exchanged the truth. We exchanged it for things that are less than God, and that therefore do not satisfy. That is the path that sin takes. Which returns us to the point we made a moment ago: refusing to worship and glorify God results in futility.
What are some of the things people attempt to fill their lives with instead of God? Why are they futile as ends in themselves?
Do we as Christians still fall prey to this type of futile thinking? Sometimes, yes. Though we have accepted Christ as Lord, we still need to die to self daily. And we fall for the same reason: we know the truth, but we deny it and exchange it for a lie … the lie that we need something other than God to satisfy us.
NOTE: the above is an excerpt from the Bible study “Running the Race,” which you can download free here: https://www.prismaticjoy.com/books