Without Excuse

One of my New Year's resolutions is to finish the Bible this year in my inductive studies.  I have five to go so surely I can manage that in a year.  I started this journey four years ago in February and I must say it has completely changed my life.  I grew up in church and became a believer at a young age.  We went to church faithfully and I have even as an adult.  However, it wasn't until I started really studying the Bible for myself that my faith began to grow.  I believe the church is vital and is extremely important.  We are commanded to go to encourage one another and hold each other accountable, but it's not enough.  You won't know all of His word by simply attending church...even if it's every service.  

For years, I felt like a fake.  I really didn't know much of the Bible at all.  I knew many stories that were segmented, but I didn't ever study it for myself and read to see how everything fit together.  I'm not at all saying I completely understand everything in the Bible, but it definitely helps when you actually study it for yourself!  I can't tell you how many times I have made the New Year's resolution to read my Bible in a year. I have always felt ashamed that I cannot truthfully say that I have read the entire Bible.  I usually start off the year well.  I've read Genesis many times in this plan.  ha.  Then for one reason or another, I have gotten bogged down and quit.  Partly because I didn't understand and when you get to Leviticus, it was a little dry.  

With that being said, I haven't really known the Bible as a whole.  I've had a second hand relationship and understanding of the Bible for years.  I felt like a fraud just pretending to have really read it when I hadn't.  I was in many Bible studies, but I still didn't know how to do it on my own.  Unless I had a workbook telling me exactly what to do, any outside Bible reading or studying simply wasn't there.  There were many times that my Bible would be in my car where I left it on the Sunday before.   

I want to share all of this because I feel many people are in this very place.  Perhaps now.  It's not a place where I wanted to be.  I had a longing to learn more.  I just didn't know what else to do about it.  I felt silly asking how to study the bible because that's something I really should know how to do.  At the time, I was doing Bible study in my home with a small group.  It was a precious, cherished time in my life.  I miss that group.  I believe God had that particular group of people in my life for a reason.  Tabitha Merritt introduced me to how she studies the Bible and I had to know more.  She was gracious to lend me some of her Kay Arthur Inductive Study books and help me along in the process.  Once I began in the book of Philippians, I was hooked.  It was such a relief and excitement.  I finally had a way to study the bible that wasn't dependent on whether or not I was in a bible study group.  I was so excited that I had studied a whole book of the Bible and how much I learned for myself.  I know that this method is not for everyone. There are many people who know and study the Bible in different ways, but for me this revolutionized my life.  It. changed. me.  That's what His word does.  Even others around me have noticed.  

Of course there have been some ups and downs in this journey.  There have been times that I have gotten sidetracked and haven't been as faithful.  I can usually tell because my whole attitude is different because I am not in the Word as I should be.  There have been times that I have been away from His word and He draws me back.  Lord, I'm prone to wander!!!!  BUT when I return, I feel it physically.  It's hard to explain, but my whole countenance changes and I feel physically refreshed.  Hebrews 4:12 says, "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."  I know this to be true.  His word is alive and active.  Yesterday in my bible study, His Word just absolutely pierced me to the very soul into my joints and marrow.  I began the book of Romans a few days ago and I've spent several days in the first chapter.  I don't know why I have waited so long to study this book, but perhaps now is just the perfect time.  I have studied the bible in no particular order.  Usually when I get finished with one book I feel He leads me into the next one somehow.  I have heard many sermons from this chapter and have read most of it, but I haven't read it over and over and picked it apart.  

There are many ideas and beliefs that we can make up on our own according to what we think is fair. Maybe it's even mixed in with some Scriptures that we may know and understand, but unless we know what God's Word actually says about it, we can be WAY off base.  One area that I discovered a few years ago that my belief was not according to God's Word was about the salvation of people who haven't been told the gospel. This is a question that I struggled with.  How would it possibly be fair for people to be judged and condemned to hell because they don't know the gospel??  In my mind, that just couldn't happen.  It just was cruel and not fair.  I actually have gotten in arguments about this very subject.  I admit now...I was wrong. Do you know why I was wrong??  Because I had no clue what the Bible actually said about this!!  I made up my own mind what I believed to be the way God operated.  Studying the first chapter of Romans will answer this question.  

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is know about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so they are without excuse."  Romans 1:17-20

According to these Scriptures, God reveals Himself to everyone through His creation.  We can all have general revelation that there is a God just by looking around us at His creation.  Psalms 19:1 says, "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.  Day to day pours forth speech."  Psalms 97:6 says, "The heavens declare His righteousness, and all the peoples have seen His glory."  How have they seen His glory?  Through His creation! 

When I studied the book of Job, it was difficult.  Job went through such pain and agony with the loss of everything earthly.  He lost all his children, all his wealth, and his health.  Everyone turned against him.  He felt completely alone yet he never blamed God.  When God finally replied to Job, His response was about His creation.  Job 38-39 will just leave you in awe of Him by His power through His creation.  So, just from creation alone, we are given a general revelation of God.  "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so they are without excuse."  Romans 1:20.  Just because the gospel hasn't been shared with you doesn't give you an excuse according to this passage.  I still don't understand all of that fully, but I know that it is our job to share the gospel.  Not everyone will believe, but that's not on us.  It's on them.  It's our job to tell what we know.  

That's another thing that studying His word has done to me.  It has given me more of a passion for those who don't know Him because if we really thought about and understood the fate of unbelievers and stop being so focused on ourselves and our own comfort levels, we have no choice but to share.  Our church really focuses on missions.  That's one thing I love about my church.  That's what we should be focused on.  There are many people groups that haven't heard the gospel.  It doesn't mean that they are without excuse.  They will have to answer, but we are commanded to go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you."  Those were Jesus' last words in the book of Matthew.  Not everyone can physically go, but we can give and we can pray for others who are called and willing to go.

Hang with me here.  I'm glad you're still with me.  I know this is lengthy, but this next section is what really pierced me.  Starting in verse 21-22, "For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculation, and their foolish heart was darkened, professing to be wise they became fools."  Even though we can see clearly that there is a God simply by His creation, not everyone will believe. We can see that well when we look around.  We have scientists all around who try to discount God has anything to do with creation.  Those who "profess to be wise, yet they become fools." Why??  Because even though they see there is a God they did not honor Him as God.  Then what happens to them?  Their hearts are darkened and they become fools.  

So here's what happens.  They exchange several things for truth and God gives them over.  Very sobering.

Can we not see this going on still today?  Our world worship man and animals (not that I will ever understand this one...not an animal lover.  haha)  But when we worship anything other than God alone and continually do not honor Him as God, He will let us have our way.  He gave them over to the lusts of their hearts and their bodies would be dishonored.  

Isn't this just a slap in the face to the Creator.  He made everything and instead of worshiping Him, we turn and worship what He made instead.  In return, if we do not honor Him as God or give thanks, He will give us over to our own degrading passions.

And here's the controversial one.  When we exchange the truth for a lie, worship the created rather than the Creator, He gives us over to our own degrading passions...exchanging the natural function.  What is this about?  The natural function is man and woman.  So when we deny God, we exchange the natural into the unnatural...men with men, women with women, committing indecent acts.  Not only that, but there is another long list of things we will be turned over to.  And that's not enough.  They not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.  Misery loves company.  

This is not new.  This has happened all throughout mankind.  When mankind rejects God's revelations of Himself in His creation, God gives them over to impurity, degrading passions, and to a depraved mind.  He gave them over to what they wanted.  This resulted in this horrible list of exchanges.  This regression of a downward spiral into the ugly depths of depravity included worshiping idols and other created things and committing acts sexual impurity.  It went from hearts to bodies, from minds to behavior.  

I want you to ask yourself this question in this very controversial subject right now in America about your thoughts and beliefs about homosexuality.  If you believe that this perfectly natural and okay, have you really read what God's Word says about the matter?  Like me, I can come up on my own with what I think is right or fair based on my own opinions, but what does God really say?  When I studied for myself on certain issues, I realized that what I came up on my own was not correct.  Your findings may not be the popular choice, but is it the truth?  Let us not exchange the truth for a lie and end up destroying ourselves.  

There is hope!!  There is power in the gospel of God for salvation to everyone who believes!!  I would love to talk with you more about this if you would like to discuss something.  I do not have all the answers, but I can search and ask.