(This Day’s Thought is pleased to bring you Eric Elder’s new series of sermons on the book of Romans.)
Lesson 4 from the series
Romans: Lessons In Renewing Your Mind
By Eric Elder
Of all the passages in the Bible, the one that has changed my thinking and the direction of my life more than any other is the one that we’re looking at today—a passage at the end of Romans chapter 1.
It’s a little hard for me to talk about, though, because what God spoke to me through this passage was very personal and specific to me. While this passage may not speak to you as personally, the principle that I learned from reading it does apply to every one of us: if you ask God for His Truth—and listen for His honest answer with an open heart and ears to hear—God will answer you!
What happened to me was that I was reading another passage in the Bible that puzzled me. It said that all of us had sinned and that the penalty for sin was death. Therefore, all of us would eventually die because of our sins (see Romans 3:23 and 6:23).
I thought this was a little strong because I felt I had been a pretty good kid all my life. I hadn’t done anything that I felt I would even get put in jail for, let alone that could possibly kill me. But the Bible seemed to say otherwise. So I shared my question about these verses with the guys in my small group Bible study. One of them suggested that I ask God what He thought about how good I’d been.
I thought that was a fair question, so I went home that night and got ready to pray. But before I did, I started to wonder: What if it was true? What if I really had done something that could possibly kill me? I wondered if I really wanted to hear God’s answer to that question or not.
But as I thought through His possible answers, I decided that what I wanted more than anything was God’s truth. Either what the Bible said was true and what I thought was wrong, or what I thought was true, and the Bible was wrong. Both couldn’t be true. So I asked God to show me the truth.
Within two weeks, God answered my prayers. He brought me to Romans chapter 1, where I read Paul’s words about what happened to people when they “exchanged the truth of God for a lie” (Romans 1:25a). God had my attention, for I wondered if I had ever exchanged His truth for a lie. As I read the words that followed, I was amazed to see that Paul, writing almost 2,000 years ago, described the same path that I had taken in life a just few years earlier. Paul said:
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
“Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:25-32).
Even though I felt I had been pretty good all my life, there was one area that I had kept secret from most people. When I went off to college, I became sexually involved in a series of relationships—with other men on campus. While at one level I felt that what I was doing was wrong, on another level it seemed so “right” because it seemed to fill a legitimate need that I had in my life for close male friends.
What I didn’t know was that I was trying to meet that need in a way that could have possibly killed me. AIDS was just beginning to surface at the time, but it didn’t seem like that big of a threat to me. I never even considered the possibility that I might die from what I was doing.
But as I read this passage in Romans, I began to see what I had been doing in a whole new light. I began to see that not only did homosexuality go against the way that God had designed my reproductive organs to work—they would never produce life in this way—but it could have actually led to my death instead. And God didn’t want me to die. He wanted me to live! But because of the decisions that I had made, I might already be carrying the seeds of my own destruction within me.
I didn’t want to die. I wanted to live. But I wondered how I could possibly undo what I had done. I couldn’t take it back. I also wondered how I could possibly change my thoughts and feelings about other guys. I couldn’t think of any way to do it myself, and I didn’t see how anyone else could change me either—not my family, or my friends, or a counselor—no one.
But then I read another story in the Bible about Jesus and how two blind men came to Him for healing. They called out to Jesus: “Have mercy on us!”
Instead of just touching their eyes or telling them to dip in a particular pool of water, Jesus asked them a question. He said:
“Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matthew 9:28b)
It seemed as if Jesus was asking me the same question. I didn’t want to live my life in a way that could possibly kill me, but I didn’t know how to change it either. But as I read this passage, I felt like Jesus was asking me: “Eric, do you believe that I am able to do this, too?”
I thought about everything that I had ever heard about Jesus—how He healed the sick, walked on water, and raised the dead. I thought to myself, If anyone can do it, Jesus can.
As I thought about this, I just put my hand up in the air and said, “Yes, Lord, I believe.”
And as soon as I said those words, Jesus reached out to me just like He did to the blind men. He touched me. He healed me. He changed my life forever.
The next day I went to a church service where I heard how Jesus came to die for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to. For the first time in my life, I realized that I was a sinner and needed a Savior. I went home that night and knelt down on my bed, with my head on my pillow, and I asked God to forgive me for everything I had done that had gone against Him and His plans for my life. I put my faith in Him, and asked Him to fill me with His Holy Spirit so that I could live the life He wanted me to live.
I woke up the next morning with a whole new perspective on life. Even though I got up and ate breakfast and went to work just the same as the day before, I knew that God had given me a new shot at life. He picked me up off the path of death and put me on the path of life.
On this new path, God has given me a wife, six children of my own, and the promise of eternal life with Him forever. I’m now on a path of life and life abundant! It’s been twenty-four years and counting since that day, and I’ve never looked back.
I took a risk on the day when I asked God to reveal His Truth to me. But it was the best risk I’ve ever taken in my life. I realized that day that God was right and I was wrong, that I had exchanged the truth of God for a lie. I put my faith in Him—and His Word—from that day on.
Maybe you have days when you feel like God is distant—that He doesn’t seem to care about you or what you’re going through—that He’s simply not interested in the details of your life or the direction that it takes. But nothing could be further from the truth! God loves you so much! The truth is that God wants you to know His will for your life even more than you want to know it! And He’d love to reveal His Truth to you if you’re willing to ask Him.
I want to encourage you to ask God to renew your mind today. Ask Him to reveal His Truth to you on those topics that are close to your heart. Ask Him to pour out His thoughts into your thoughts. Ask Him to give you a new way of thinking about your life and the direction that you’re headed. If you’re on course, God will tell you. But if you’re not, God will tell you that, too—if you’ll listen for His voice with an open heart and ears to hear.
If you want to renew your mind, ask God your questions, open His Word, and listen for His answers.
Will you pray with me?
Father, thank You for letting us come to You with our honest questions. We pray that You would give us Your honest answers, too. We do want to know Your Truth. We do want to know how to live our lives in ways that we can have life abundant. Open our ears so that we can hear You clearly, and open our hearts to Your Word that You’ve given to us on the pages of the Bible. Help us to put our faith and trust in You for everything in our lives, including the forgiveness of our sins and the promise that we can live with You forever when we put our faith in Christ. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
￼P.S. I know that today’s message touched only briefly on a topic that’s at the forefront of many people’s minds these days. If you’re interested in hearing more, I’d be glad to send you a copy of a book I wrote on this topic and others related to it called What God Says About Sex. It contains much of my own story about how I learned what God says about sex. It’s available in either paperback or eBook formats and I’d be glad to send it to you for a donation of any size to our ministry. Just click the link below to make a donation and get the book:
P.P.S And if you have a group, whether large or small, that’s wrestling with this issue and think it would be helpful for me to share more of my story with them in an interactive way, I’d be glad to share it with your group, either in person or over the Internet via Skype. Just let me know your interest and a few details about your group using the request form at the link below. God has much to say to us today about this topic, just as He did to the people who were wrestling with it in Rome in Paul’s day almost 2,000 years ago.
Speaking Request Form
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Questions for Reflection
1. Read Romans 1:24-32. Looking at this passage, what are some ways that the people in Rome got off track when they “exchanged the truth of God for a lie”?
2. What are some ways they could get back on track if they wanted to?
3. Why is it sometimes hard for us to hear God’s Truth in our lives?
4. After reading this passage and hearing this story, is there any particular Truth from God that you’d like Him to reveal to you?
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