Sermons

The Glamorization of Evil

March 24, 2024 Speaker: Ray Lorthioir Series: Sermons 2024

Passage: Romans 1:28–32

Sermon 3-24-24

Pastor Ray Lorthioir

Trinity Lutheran Church

W. Hempstead, NY

Sunday of the Passion, Palm Sunday

 

The Glamorization of Evil

The last time I preached a Lenten series on Romans chapter 1 was in 2018. At that time, I looked at verses 18-32 as a series of steps by which cultures that once knew Yahweh, the Creator God, slid into paganism. For that’s what happened after the Tower of Babel. And so, by the time of Jesus the entire world had slid into paganism except Israel.

As we noted several weeks ago, there’s a reason this happened. The spiritual beings called in Scripture, “the sons of God,” whom Yahweh had placed over the nations at Babel rebelled against Yahweh and declared themselves gods. They then led the nations astray into the worship of false gods – namely themselves. Interestingly, St. Paul makes it clear in his teaching that Yahweh tolerated this state of affairs for centuries. But with the coming of Messiah Jesus, the time of tolerance was and remains over.

This is why we saw in Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Jesus caused Yahweh’s wrath against idolatry to finally be revealed. Therefore, because Messiah Jesus has appeared, all nations and peoples of earth have been called to abandon paganism and all forms of idolatry, including self-idolatry. And, for the last 2,000 years that’s what’s been going on in the world. Entire lands became Christian. The old gods and goddesses were entirely displaced. Their temples were left to fall into ruin across Europe. Instead, cathedrals were built to the glory of the living God.

How did God reveal His wrath? He revealed it in the ferocious wrath that fell upon Jesus. Don’t be deceived by the devil’s lies. When you behold the crucified Jesus, that’s what you deserve because your righteousness falls short of the glorious perfect righteousness of your Creator. I deserve the same.

But, it’s precisely because the Son of God received the full measure of Yahweh’s wrath for human rebellion that when we look at the cross, we’re also looking at the atoning sacrifice that satisfied Yahweh’s justice. It was Jesus’ sacrifice of Himself that made and continues to make forgiveness of sin available to all who repent of sin. And when sin is forgiven, the forgiven one is made righteous – righteous enough to stand before the living God. This is the good news of the Gospel for you and me.

In this series of sermons, we’ve noted that something happened in Europe and the Americas. The ancient gods have been attempting to regain their territories. This began in the Renaissance and continued into the so-called Enlightenment. And so, atheism – the denial of a Creator God – found its initial proponents who proudly defied the Christian culture and thinking of their time. Still, it would be the mid and later 1800’s before the atheist creation myth that we’ve been taught could be formed thanks to thinkers like Lyell, Darwin, Herbert Spencer, Henry and Aldous Huxley and more.

Once the atheist creation myth had been developed, it became possible to promote it as the “science” that intelligent people must believe, as opposed to the outdated superstition of “religion” that Christians believe in. The secret these promoters of the atheist creation myth marvelously hid was that their myth was also religion and not science. Thus, for the last hundred years and more the truth about Yahweh, the Creator God, has been suppressed. Even the church became embarrassed to proclaim Genesis as the truth. And so, my task in this series of sermons has been to trace Western Christian culture’s slide into neo-paganism and neo-idolatry, and to show that it happened in precisely the way St. Paul outlines it will happen to any society, ancient or modern, when the truth about our Creator God, Yahweh, is suppressed.

So, here is the picture Romans 1 paints for all time. The godlessness and wickedness of our sinful nature invites us to suppress the knowledge of our uncreated Creator God. Once that is done in a culture, the first step down into paganism is to cease privately and publicly glorifying our Creator God for who He is. The second step down is to cease giving Him thanks for everything. Now, as we’ve noted, glorifying and thanking don’t cease in the human heart. They’re just transferred from the living God to some other object of worship, including one’s self.

The third step down is the darkened thinking that produces false philosophy, cultural debauchery, and ultimately hopelessness and despair. The fourth step down is creating idols and worshipping ourselves. The fifth step down is abandonment of Yahweh’s pronouncements on sexuality and the glamorization of sexual debauchery. The sixth step down is worshipping created things, like the universe, and human sexuality, instead of their Creator. The seventh step down is sexual confusion resulting in a glamorization of homosexuality, bi-sexuality and transgenderism.

Notice – the glamorization. Indeed, I titled the 2018 sermon “Glamorization of Evil.” And so, I’ll use the same title with this one. For we now get to the eighth and final step down in Romans 1:18-32. It’s the glamorization of godless, wicked and unrighteous behavior.

Romans 1:28, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” At each of the eight steps down into paganism Yahweh simply gives rebellious people what they want. He literally surrenders or yields them up to all the depraved evil that the sinful nature can possibly think of or devise. Yahweh refuses to protect them any longer from the consequences of their own rebellion.

So, here’s the list of evils that godlessness produces. Romans 1:29-31, “29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”

What’s remarkable about this list is the number of ordinary, everyday sins in it: gossip, envy, slander (lying with intention to ruin a person’s character), greedy covetousness, deceit (lying with intention to defraud), malice (having it in for someone) and disobeying parents.

But what’s most remarkable is the severity of all these common sins. The word translated “full of” means literally to be stuffed, as in big time overeating. In other words, these sins are not casual. The pagan mind is literally stuffed full of all these wicked thoughts and behaviors so that people can’t think rightly or righteously about anything. They are foolish and evil beyond measure. All you have to do is watch video from Spring Break in Florida to see all this in action. Last year it got so bad that this year Miami Beach has put severe restrictions in place. But violent inner city neighborhoods are depraved year round. There are several videos now circulating on YouTube of Chicago’s mayor Johnson taking severe criticism for the situation there. People are feeling like prisoners in their own homes.

Now, just like the inbuilt need to glorify Yahweh does not disappear when the knowledge of Yahweh is suppressed, so the human need to live a moral lifestyle that Yahweh built into us does not disappear either. Depravity occurs when people instinctively know that what they’re doing is evil, yet they deliberately cross every line of morality Yahweh has naturally inscribed into our hearts. They stubbornly defend their activities as justifiable. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Romans 1:32, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” This is what I wrote about this verse in 2018: Here again is the approval and celebration of what is contrary to God’s holy will for us. If left to go on long enough, celebration of rebellion against God breeds mercilessness and ruthlessness in a culture.

Certainly, when we examine first century Roman political and military practice, we find mercilessness and ruthlessness – crucifixion for example. No doubt, in business and daily life these attitudes were also present. But, like any other advanced civilization, the empire would not have been able to function if these attitudes had completely taken over life.

Here I would add in 2024 that we’re just now seeing mercilessness and ruthlessness come to fruition in Haiti where gangs are taking over the entire country. On the other side of the coin, El Salvador has finally solved its gang problem. But it’s taken the arrest and imprisonment of over 40,000 merciless and ruthless men to do so.

Human civilization actually can function where mercilessness and ruthlessness are the rule. Certain South American jungle tribes survived into modern times based on ruthless assassination of those in their own tribe.

However, this is relatively rare. Civilization functions best where there is adequate personal safety for all its members. That’s why we all look for places to live where personal safety is highly esteemed. But there are areas, usually in the inner city, where personal safety is not valued. Life itself is not valued. Indeed, mercilessness and ruthlessness are the hallmarks of welfare culture, its gangs, organized crime and drug culture.

The only thing that keeps mercilessness and ruthlessness in check in our own culture is Christian ethics. But pagan Marxism is in the process of twisting what remains of Christian ethics.

Remember. Marxism divides all of humanity into two classes: oppressors and the oppressed. Now, helping your oppressed neighbor is of the Lord. It is of the Lord to remove from power those who unjustly oppress, and even to punish such rulers. However, is it of the Lord to mercilessly and ruthlessly destroy oppressors, like pagan Marxism preaches? For, nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to exterminate enemies of the Lord.

Now, we’ve seen how Marxism has defined the police who enforce law as oppressors. But, if police are oppressors, what does that make those with wicked and criminal intent? They are the new oppressed. This is complete insanity. But, it’s happening.

So, where police “oppressors” are forced to let the criminal “oppressed” do their thing, what can we expect but depravity from the senseless, faithless, heartless and ruthless? Thus, we have arrived at a point where evil people are not only defended and given approval but have even been glamorized and given fame, just as it says in Romans 1:32.

There’s a very cryptic statement that describes this situation in Psalm 12:8, “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.” What, then, will happen if Christian ethics are totally forgotten or become despised in our culture?

I wrote this last little bit in 2018. How little did we know what six more years would bring. I heard a profound statement from Elon Musk yesterday regarding the war in Israel. “. . . we really need to stop this principle that the . . . normally weaker party is always right. . . . This is not true. If you are the oppressed or the weaker party it doesn’t mean you’re right.” Whether he knows it or not, this is Musk opposing Marxist doctrine. In the interview, Musk holds out for the historic Judeo-Christian means of determining good and evil, right and wrong.

On the internet, there’s a group of leftists who call themselves “The Young Turks.” One of their number, a leftist lady named Anna Kasparian, just recently had a “come to Jesus” moment on air. She was totally beside herself concerning the case of the recent literal Amityville horror, where corpses were dismembered and the body parts scattered around Long Island. She was outraged that the judge had to release the accused perpetrators without bail, just with GPS monitors on them. She brought up the fact that the 2019 New York state reforms passed by leftists make mutilation and disposal of murdered corpses among the crimes that no longer require bail. She said in the course of her diatribe, “If this is what it means to be on the left, then I’m not on the left!”

The bail reforms of 2019 were passed by New York City Marxists who have declared criminals to be an oppressed class. Their declaration was made on totally racist grounds. And whether these Marxists realized it or not, they fulfilled Romans 1:18-32. They have glamorized evil. They have glamorized crime. The same thing with the District Attorneys who refuse to prosecute the shoplifting epidemic that has now gripped major urban areas.

The good news in all this is that someone like Anna Kasparian has just now realized the insanity of life under godless Marxism. May she press on to the full realization. I’ve just recently been seeing where 70 percent of 17-year-old men are more conservative than men have been in 50 years. This is probably because they’re sick of their radicalized female teachers carping about “toxic masculinity.” I just saw this week where 20-year-old women are having deep second thoughts about trying to behave sexually like men in the hook up culture. Amazingly, they’re also becoming anti birth control pill. Young men have been withdrawing from women because the modern American woman has become dangerous legally and financially. Everything is topsy turvy.

But as a result, I think we’re on the cusp of something. The number of disoriented and helpless young people searching for real truth seems to be growing. As we’ve said before, Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” Thus, the fallout from denying our Creator God is becoming oppressive. And that’s a good thing.

Therefore, I think that the time for a resurgence of solid, traditional Christianity has come. The only problem is that we older people are the ones who pioneered the rebellion against Christianity and Christian culture that the young people now seem to be rebelling against. Therefore, if we’re going to pass Christianity on to the next generations, we ourselves have to explore what it means to be solid, traditional Christians – how to think, believe and hope according to the Word of God. For that reason, as we enter the Easter season next Sunday, I’m going to start a series on the elementaries of what it means to be a Christian.

Standing on Isaiah 49, St. Paul announced to the Athenian philosophers in Acts 17 that the time of the gods is over. Jesus said the same thing to His disciples when he gathered them at one of the premier pagan retreat centers of the Roman Empire, Caesarea Philippi. It was there that He said in effect that His Church would demolish pagan worship and that the gates of hell would not be able to resist the attack. And this is precisely what happened in the ancient Roman Empire. It took nearly three hundred years, but Christianity eventually became the religion of that empire and later of all the European kingdoms that succeeded it. The ancient temples of the gods fell into ruins. Christian cathedrals were erected. And even though the principalities and powers have been pushing back, they cannot succeed. For, God cannot be mocked. He is Creator of all things and for that reason all things have to fall His way. The only question is: are we going with Him or against Him?

The people who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday had no real clue what they were doing. In reality, they were welcoming Yahweh, the Son, come incarnate in mortal human flesh to accomplish the task He had been sent to do. But they didn’t know it and wouldn’t know it for about 60 more days.

But when they did know that Yahweh had sent His Son to conquer death by dying; and to conquer sin by becoming sin; and to conquer the devil by resisting the devil even unto death on a cross; and to become our righteousness by being obedient unto death on a cross; and to become the resurrection and the life by rising from the dead and sitting at Yahweh’s right hand – when they knew all this work of Messiah and more, they proclaimed it to the world. Thus, news of the resurrection even took off like wildfire in the lands that had been debauched by centuries of pagan thinking and practice. And so pagan gentiles were reconciled to their Creator God through Messiah Jesus and started to learn His ways by the power of His Word and His Holy Spirit.

Nothing has changed. Paganism may have new media and institutions with which to express itself. But its ways are the same as they were thousands of years ago. Romans 1 proves that to us. And the Gospel of Jesus Christ hasn’t changed. Therefore, let’s be done with paganism and all the subtle ways it has inserted itself into our lives and our very beings. Come unto us, Lord Jesus. For surely you are King of kings and Lord of lords. You have and will triumph. Do so through your Church – even us. Amen.

All Bible quotes are from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

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