God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.
–Romans 1:24

Romans 1 has a sobering message for all of us: those who abandon God will be abandoned by God to their own self-destruction. This week we will look at Romans 1 as we discover what happens when God lets go.

In the book of Romans, Paul described why we all need the righteousness of God. He explained that we are all guilty before God, even those who have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. Starting in 1:20, he showed why the unbeliever who never heard the gospel is still guilty before God. First, he said unbelievers have received the knowledge of God. You do not have to have a Bible or a preacher to know there is a God. The heavens are declaring the glory of the Lord. Everyone can know there is a God, and while that knowledge is not sufficient to save us, it is sufficient, if rejected, to condemn us. Second, unbelievers have rejected the knowledge of God. Even though they know there is a God, they have rejected the knowledge of the true God. And third, they have replaced that knowledge of God with a false god. The person who bows down before a statue or worships an animal or philosophy does not do so because they think it is the real god. Instead, they have created a god of their own liking that they can control.

What happens to the person who does that? Paul explains the downward path toward destruction of those who reject the knowledge of the true God. In Romans 1:24, Paul said of the people who have received, rejected, and replaced the knowledge of the true God that “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them.” The Bible says that God is judging those who reject the knowledge of Himself.

How is He doing that? Verse 24 says God is doing it by giving them over. The word “gave over” is the Greek word “paradidomi,” which means “let go of.” Because these people have rejected God, God has let go of them. He has abandoned them to follow the desires of their own hearts.

Ironically, this is exactly what the unbeliever thinks he wants. He thinks he wants to be unshackled from a God who judges and has a list of obligations. The unbeliever says, “I will free myself from this God, and follow the desires of my heart.” But when he does that, he discovers that freedom from God is not all it is cracked up to be. When you abandon God and follow the desires of your own heart, it never leads you upward. There is a spiritual force at work called sin, and whenever God lets go of us to follow the inclination of our hearts, the path is always downward into depravity and destruction.

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Today’s devotion is excerpted from “When God Lets Go” 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.