Every day we seem to face new and unusual behaviors. Some are just odd, like bungee jumping. Others are abnormal and outrageous, such as pedophiles who prey on underage children. You can't open your newspaper, or watch your television, without facing new and often bizarre actions by increasingly strange people.
Most of these people, even those involved in harmless, activities (like hot dog eating contests or cow chip tossing) will tell you they have the right to do as they please. As long as things are not illegal or harmful to others, they should be free to do what they want.
Sadly, this attitude spills over into the spiritual realm of man. From the Garden of Eden on, mankind has insisted on getting his way. Mankind didn't really care what God thought or what God wanted, it had the right to do as it pleased. So, we see society developing technologically, but wasting away spiritually. We see culture leaping forward in knowledge, and falling behind in morality. Man has done as he pleased, with these results.
God predicted this pattern for all cultures that chose to ignore Him. He knows what happens when mankind goes its own way with little or no regard for His Will. The apostle Paul described it well.
"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 known 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 that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen" (Rom. 1:18-25).
God tells us that we can, indeed, do as we please. But, only if we accept what comes with it. Notice what happens when you do as you want, and not what God wants. You can do as you please, if...
You Ignore Obvious Truths: -- Paul tells us that the evidence of God is clearly available to every person. No matter of race, nationality, background or language, everyone can see that there is a God, a Creator, a Mastermind who put together our universe and our world, and even our little corner of our world. God's eternal power and divine nature, though unseen literally, can be seen in everything He has made.
On top of this, every culture in the world is driven to some degree or other by religious yearnings. Often those yearnings lead people to worship "gods" other than the Creator, but it is clear to any honest observer that there is a Creator and that most people hunger to know and understand that Being.
Yet, we live in a world that loves to ignore this obvious truth. Our culture much prefers turning to science to explain the universe. Our world would rather believe in atoms, molecules and DNA than in the One who created all of those things. So, mankind ignores the obvious truth of a Creator, turns to faith in matter, and ignores what is clearly true.
Sadly, when that happens, man also closes his eyes to other obvious truths. It takes no genius to figure out that an unborn child is still a child. But, abortion rates continue at steady rates throughout our world. It is obvious that all people are people, yet we still have those who contend that some races are somehow inferior to other races. It is obvious that loving people die for each other, yet we still have those who believe they can abuse or dominate others in order to get their way.
So, when you insist on doing things your way spiritually, you always follow a path that compels you to reject facts that cannot be refuted. You have to choose to be blind to certain truths, and then you can do as you please before God.
If You Want A God You Can Control: -- The people Paul describes did an odd thing. They rejected the obvious fact of a Creator, and instead chose to create their own gods. These were in the form of man, or birds, or four-footed animals and even crawling creatures. Man created these idols and ascribed to them various powers. Some controlled the skies, others the seas, some the fertility of the crops, and still others ruled in the afterlife.
All these "gods" were similar. None was all powerful, and most acted no differently than humans did. They had the same emotions, some failings and similar appetites. In other words, mankind exchanged the glory of an incorruptible God for a smaller god. They gave up on an all powerful God in order to create a little god they could control. They defined him, they offered praise to him, they served him. All the while it was a manageable god.
This is still what man wants to do. Why does evolution sound so good? Because science is manageable. If we understand it, we can control it. Why do people turn to Eastern religions? it allows them to control their emotions or their inner peace or even their physical health. People still look for a smaller god they can control.
The problem is, what good is a small god who cannot see, control or manage everything? I want a god who is different than me. I want a god who loves better than I do. I want a god who knows a whole lot more than I do. I want a god who is bigger than any of life's mysteries. I want a god who understands life and overcomes death. A small god may be manageable, but will do little good when facing the big issues of life. I can certainly choose to create my own god, whether it is a being or a philosophy or a science. But unless my god can handle the tough issues, he will do me little good.
If You Don't Want Stability: -- Paul adds one more solemn warning. He tells us that these people exchanged the truth of God for a lie. They chose to worship what God had created rather than the God Who created. They chose to build their lives on lies, not truths. The end result is a life based on falsehood and instability. No one can be safe building a life on a lie. There's no stability in giving up God and living on empty promises.
This is the real tragedy of insisting on doing as you please. It is a lie. Oh, you can do what you want. The lie is that it will work. It won't work because when man does what he wants he never really gets what he wants.
You want to live for pleasure. That will work until you get tired of it. Then you will find you devoted your life to having a good time and will still face illness, heartache and death. You want to live for power? You can grab all you want. But, eventually someone bigger will come along and you will not be so powerful. You think lots of money will make you happy? Go make money. You will still one day face an illness or life situation that all the money in the world won't help. You see, that truth is that you can do as you please, but you will never be pleased.
So: Get Outside Yourself: -- Instead of pleasing yourself, think of how to satisfy others. Instead of insisting on your rights, think about how to protect and keep the rights of others. Instead of looking out for yourself, put others first. You will be amazed how your view of life changes when you stop worrying about making others happy. This is the nature of the God yhou have rejected. He loved us enough to send His only Son to die for us. When you put yourself aside and think of others, you will take a giant step closer to the Creator of the universe.
Then: God Will Make Sense!: -- God will never make sense if you try to limit Him, deny Him, or ignore Him. But, if you embrace Him, accept His values and His Will, God will open your eyes to see what life can become. God didn't create us to be miserable or insecure. He made us to live triumphantly, happily and successfully. But, He knows that if we try to do it our way instead of His, we will never be happy, successful or close to triumphant.
What seems to be the backward truth is this. If you want to be pleasing, you can't do as you please. If you want to live, you must be willing to die to yourself. "Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it'" (Matt. 16:24,25). Jesus explains what you must do. You must give up trying to please yourself, and, instead, turn back to the One True God. When you come to Him, surrender your pride and your will to His, then life will make sense. All you need do is trust Him, turn from your self-chosen paths nad be baptized into His Son. Then you finally find the happiness and satisfaction you crave. Come home to God, and please Him, instead of self.
By David Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 55, No. 42, Oct. 20, 2006.
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