A Culture Lacking Thanksgiving
Topic: English Passage: Romans 1:18-32, Ephesians 5:1-5
About a month ago, a news outlet put on an event at the White House called a “Presidential Forum with Joe Biden.” According to the news outlet, this would be a time for President Biden to engage “in conversation with six change-makers on issues animating young people ahead of the [midterm elections.]”
One of the guests at that event was a man whom we were told was a social media star. This man claims to be a girl and was previously invited to speak at the Forbes Women’s Summit. Now, he was invited to talk to President Biden about the rights of transsexuals.
The segment with the President began by talking about current laws in some states which prevent genital mutilation on minors, prevent men from accessing women’s restrooms, and prevent men from competing in women’s sports. When asked about those laws, President Biden said, “I don’t think any state, or anybody, should have the right to do that, as a moral question and as a legal question.” In speaking about laws intending to protect a child’s privacy and to protect them from life-altering consequences, President Biden went on to say, “It’s outrageous, and I think it’s immoral. The trans part’s not immoral. What they’re trying to do to trans persons is immoral.”
Now, a few weeks back I reminded you that the word “immoral” means anything which deviates from the design of God with regard to sexuality. But now, we have a statement made by the President of the United States, saying that trying to stop the transsexualization of our nation and our children is immoral. I cannot think of a more fitting response than the words of Isaiah chapter 5, verse 20—Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
How did our culture get to this point? God designed humanity to be male and female. He designed, Genesis 2 tells us, that a boy would grow into a man, leave his parents, and be joined to a woman in marriage. Two hundred years ago, this would have been universally affirmed in the public sphere. And now, it is almost universally denied by the media and by major corporations.
Last month, a teenage girl in Vermont spoke out about being uncomfortable with a teenage boy being allowed in the girls’ locker room. Because she spoke up, the girl was “found guilty of harassment and bullying,” ordered to “take part in a ‘restorative justice circle’ with the equity coordinator, submit a ‘reflective essay,’ and serve out-of-school suspension.” I wasn’t until the girl obtained legal defense and sued the co-principals and the district officials that the superintendent took back the disciplinary actions. How did we get here?
This past week, the city of San Francisco approved a new program called GIFT, which stands for Guaranteed Income for Trans People. It is offering trans people $1,200 every month for a year and a half. It’s open to the first 55 applicants who make less that $600 per month. The application for that assistance has over 15 different choices for personal pronouns, and over 90 options for gender identity. How did we get here?
Back in 2015, the Obergfell Supreme Court Case ruled that “marriage” did not have to be between a man and a woman, and no state could ban the recognition of a homosexual union. This past week, the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, aimed at codifying the Supreme Court decision into law. If this became law, it would open more doors for activists to sue religious group and individuals for going against their beliefs.
In response to that Senate decision, Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said those who voted in favor of the bill “redefined marriage and undermined civilization, endangering religious liberty.” How did we get here?
How did we get to the point where USA Today could put a man on their list of Women of the Year? How did we get to the point where the White House selects open homosexuals and transsexuals as members of the staff? How did we get to the point where high-profile business and individuals lose access to their accounts for stating biological facts?
That question could be answered politically and historically, but this morning, I want to give you a theological answer to the question. What is it that has led us here?
I’m not asking the question from an individual perspective. I’m not asking: how does an individual get to this point in choosing this kind of lifestyle? I’m asking the question at a societal level? How do we get to a place where we are openly promoting that which dishonors God and goes so clearly against His design and against biological realities?
To answer that question, I’d like you to turn with me to Romans chapter 2. Romans chapter 2, verse 1.
The Apostle Paul wanted the people of God to understand the trajectory of the culture. And he also wanted us to understand how it would end. The end of all this is the wrath and judgment of God. In recognizing that, however, we dare not assume we are above it.
Look with me at Romans chapter 2, verse 1. This is a reminder tat needs to adjust how we think about all that’s going on. Romans chapter 2, verses 1-3.
Chapter 1 ends with a description of a fallen culture, and then it says this: Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
So, before we start looking at how we got here, let’s not forget this warning. None of us is exempt from the judgment of God for the ways in which we have rebelled against God’s design and given in to sin. Talking about the downfall of a society is not intended to be an arrogant thing; it's supposed to be humbling.
What we’re going to do right now is work backwards through the second half of Romans 1. This is not the normal way you should do Bible study, but I think it will help us to start from where we are and walk back up the staircase we have fallen down from. In doing that, we’ll be able to see how we got here.
Where are we right now? Right now, we are at the end of Romans 1, and that means we are in a state of a deranged mind. A deranged mind. If you want to keep a list of how we got here, this is the bottom of the staircase—a deranged mind.
We see things in our culture that aren’t even logical. That’s what I started telling you already, and there are plenty more example. We see things that don’t make sense, and in the eyes of the culture, they don’t have to. This is a culture running after its own sin without a second thought to the implications or to human reason. That’s what it means to have a deranged mind. It no longer makes sense. The transexual revolution is right in there with this kind of thinking.
Look at verse 28 with me. Romans 1:28-32—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.  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips,  slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,  foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  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 the spirit of our age. We may not see it as pronounced in our own homes and cities, but this is the culture in which we live. God has given this culture over to a non-functioning mind. That is part of God’s judgment. If a people want to continue in their sin, God removes His sustaining grace to hold it back, and chaos ensues.
Now, how did we get to this place? What was happening for God to give a culture over to foolishness and rampant evil?
Well, before we got to the level of a deranged mind, we were at the level of unnatural desire. That’s the previous level: unnatural desire.
It makes sense to think that if a culture continues to press itself toward that which is unnatural, the result of that is going to be a culture that ditches logic altogether. If we had no desire to stay withing God’s design, then what’s the point of following any design at all? Before we had a deranged mind, we had an unnatural desire.
Look with me at Romans 1, verse 26. Romans 1:26—For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; [verse 27] and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
Before there ever was an illogical transexual revolution, we had a homosexual revolution. That’s what verses 26 and 27 describe. The culture was consumed with unnatural desires, and they announced to the rest of us that it was all okay. God says it is unnatural and shameful and dangerous. These people pay the penalty in their own bodies. The culture, however, says it is to be celebrated. So, they flaunted their pride flags in rebellion to God’s design.
But how did our culture get to that point? If you notice, verse 26 says that God gave them up to those dishonorable desires. Again, that was a form of judgment. God allowed the culture to go its own way. What led to that?
Well, before there was a deranged mind, there was an unnatural desire. And before the unnatural desire, there was an illicit sexuality. An illicit sexuality.
To use the sociological terms, before the transexual revolution, there was a homosexual revolution. And before the homosexual revolution, there was a sexual revolution.
Seventy years ago, people who understood God’s design for sexuality and marriage stood up against the sexual revolution, and they were told it was unloving. They were asked, “Why can’t we just let people love whom they love?” Why can’t we just leave people alone in the privacy of their own bedrooms?
Culture began to say more loudly that the biblical design for sexuality was repressive and old fashioned. The playboy mentality was beginning to flourish, and college students around the nations were advocating for free sex, which including access to abortion and other birth control methods.
In this country, that was a major transition. The biblical foundations of family were beginning to crumble under the cultural weight of “free love.” Rather than a desire to honor God, or to recognize the shame of illicit relationships, our culture began to openly embrace its own personal pleasure.
Look at Romans 1, verse 24—Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
One a culture removes the foundation of God’s design, there’s nothing to stop it. God Himself removes His grace which was holding them back. So, illicit sexuality leads to unnatural desire, and unnatural desire leads to a deranged mind. But we can still go back one more step.
The sexual revolution in this country was not the beginning of our decline. Illicit sexuality was not the starting point of our fall. We need to go back one more step.
Before a deranged mind, there was an unnatural desire. Before the unnatural desire, there was an illicit sexuality. But before the illicit sexuality, there was something else. There was an ungrateful heart. An ungrateful heart.
Look at verse 21—For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
The starting place for the downfall of our society was inadequate worship. Human reason replaced divine revelation. And art and science went from exalting the Creator to exalting the creation. This culture saw all of God’s blessings. We saw the evidence of His power and His goodness, but we rejected Him. Again, Paul says, we did not honor Him, and we did not give thanks. This all began with an ungrateful heart.
Maybe you didn’t expect me to make a connection today between sexual immorality and thanksgiving, but it’s right there. And how appropriate it is given that this week, we will be celebrating Thanksgiving. Giving thanks to God is not an option. It’s a vital part of the Christian life.
We need to remember that this holiday is about much more than days off work and school, and nice meals with friends and family. Thanksgiving is about giving God the proper honor which He is due.
And based on what Romans 1 tells us, we see that a heart that is discontent and ungrateful is on its way to ruin. And the same is true for a society. The downfall begins with a lack of thanksgiving. Proper thanksgiving is the prevention of a culture and a life that falls away from God. Take that to heart. Proper thanksgiving is the prevention of a culture and a life that falls away from God.
Romans 1 is not the only passage that makes a connection between giving thanks and pursuing holiness. I want to show you one more passage before we end our time together.
Even if we are not at the bottom level of Romans 1, we all need to recognize that our hearts are constantly wanting to move in the wrong direction. That’s what it means to be in a fallen world and in a body of flesh. Our sin pulls at us. It sees the allures and lies of the world, and it wants to feed its lust. And that produces in us a kind of angst. There’s an internal battle.
In Second Peter chapter 2, it says that while Lot lived among the great immorality of Sodom and Gomorrah, he was greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked. And then it says that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.
God has given us a very important weapon for that kind of battle, and that weapon is thanksgiving.
Turn with me to the book of Ephesians, chapter 5. Ephesians chapter 5. Paul is writing to the church about how to walk in a manner worthy of their calling. Chapter 4 ends with a call to a new life. Instead of lying, we need to speak the truth. Instead of unrestrained anger, we need to pursue peace. Instead of stealing, we need to be generous. Instead of corrupting speech, we need to build up. And instead of bitterness, we need to be kind and forgiving, just like Christ forgave us.
And now, we come to chapter 5, and notice what Paul says. Ephesians 5:1—Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
We don’t walk according to this world anymore. We walk in obedience to Christ. And part of a life that honors Him is a life of purity.
Look at verse 3—But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
By calling us “saints,” Paul is reminding us that we’ve been called to be holy, to be pure. There is no place among the people of God for sexual immorality. Our lives are not our own. We belong to Christ. He has redeemed us. But Paul’s command implies that it’s a battle. We need to fight for purity.
And in verse 4, Paul even extends that to the level of our words. Verse 4—Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Impurity can happen with our bodies, and it can happen with our words. Paul says there’s not place for that among the people of God. And instead of dirty lives or dirty jokes, what does Paul say we should have? He doesn’t contrast immorality with purity. He says instead let there be thanksgiving.
That contrast tells us a lot about the heart of sexual sin. Whether you’re single or married, young or old, sexual temptation and illicit sexual desire is rooted in a lack of contentment and a lack of gratitude.
Sexual sin is to say to God, “What you have given me is not enough. I want more. I want more.”
Do you remember the story Nathna told David when he confronted him about his adultery. He told him a story about a rich man who stole a poor man’s little lamb. And David was infuriated because he understood the greed of that rich man, but he didn’t realize that was him until Nathan said, “That’s you, David. You are that man.”
Well, that’s us every time we are being pulled into sexual sin, either in our mind, in our speech, and in our conduct. We are saying to God, “I want more.” And that is to say, “God, You’re not in charge. I don’t live for You. I live for myself.” And when we live for something other than God, that’s called idolatry.
So, notice what Paul says in verse 5—For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
If sexual sin takes over your life—if sexual sin is the dominating feature of your life, you are not headed for the kingdom of God. Like Paul said in Romans 1, you are headed to judgment.
But that’s not how it needs to stay. At the beginning of the message, I read to you from Isaiah 5, when he called out how backwards Israel was. They had switched light for darkness. They had abandoned their God.
But just a few chapters later, listen to what Isaiah says in chapter 9. Isaiah 9:2—The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
Isaiah understood what we all need to understand, that God is a Savior. And despite how far any people or culture may fall away from Hi in darkness, God sends out His light. He sends the light of His truth, and He has sent to us the light of Jesus Christ. And many of you have seen that light, and have accepted the forgiveness of Christ, and have repented of your sin.
In the days of the Apostle Paul, one of the wors cities was Corinth. It was know for its immorality throughout the Roman Empire. and yet, even there, the gospel had taken root, and people came to confess their sin, and trust in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and in His resurrection.
And so, Paul says this in First Corinthians 6:9—do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
No one is beyond the saving grace of Jesus Christ, if they will repent of their sins and call out for mercy. Do that today if you’re never done it. And God will wash you. He will sanctify you and justify you. And He will give you His holy Spirit to help you walk in obedience and in joy.
And part of the fruit of that work will be a heart of thanksgiving. Thanksgiving keeps you back from the sin and foolishness of this world, and it helps you fight against all the false promises. Let’s not underestimate the power of giving thanks.