For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
An atheist decided to go mountain climbing. As he was ascending the mountain, his foot slipped, and he began to fall. He desperately grabbed hold of a thin branch of a tree on the side of the cliff. Realizing he could not go up any farther and that the branch would not hold him much longer, the atheist did the unthinkable. He looked up into Heaven and shouted, “Is there anyone out there who can help me?” To his great surprise, a voice shouted down from Heaven, “Yes, but first you must let go of the branch.” The atheist thought a moment, looked back up into Heaven, and said, “Is there anyone else up there who can help me?”
It is a funny story, but it illustrates a serious truth. The reason atheists reject God is not because there is a lack of evidence for God, but because they have a lack of desire to know and obey God. That is why every unbeliever is deserving of God’s wrath.
The theme of the book of Romans is how to have a right standing with God. Paul said that the righteousness of God is available to everyone who comes to Christ through faith. But before Paul talked about the good news of how God has provided a way for us to have a right standing with Himself, he had to share the bad news. The bad news is the problem of righteousness. That is the theme of the first major section of Romans: the problem of righteousness.
The problem of righteousness is that we do not have any of it. None of us is in a right standing with God. Before you can understand the good news of how God offers to put you in a right standing with Himself, first you have to understand that you are in a wrong standing with Him. And so am I. That is where Paul started his presentation of the gospel in Romans 1.
By the way, that is a good place for us to start with our presentation of the gospel as well. Today we are told that when we present the gospel to somebody, we need to start with their felt needs. “Are you lonely? Are you depressed? Do you feel something is missing in your life? Well, why not try Jesus to satisfy that need?” But the truth is, unsaved people do not always have felt needs. Sometimes they feel perfectly content the way they are. And even when unsaved people do have felt needs, we do not always accurately diagnose what their real needs are. An unbeliever may feel lonely, he may be suffering a broken marriage, or he may be going through an addiction–those are all real felt needs, but those are not his greatest needs. His greatest need is a right relationship with God. That is where the gospel begins, and that is where Paul began in Romans 1. He did not begin with the people’s felt needs. He began with God’s view of man. And he started his gospel presentation not with the love of God but with the wrath of God.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “No Excuse” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2014.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.