GOD’S WARNING TO THE SELF-CONVINCED MORALIST (2 of 2)
God’s Invitation to Grace ❧ Part 13
Romans 2:5-16 ❧ Pastor, Dr. John Denney
A little more than three weeks ago, on September 16, trusted researcher George Barna spoke
at a Family Research Council event in Atlanta Georgia. Barna warned that “America is a nation in
crisis” because its citizens do not hold a biblical worldview. Barna explained “Your worldview is the
filter that you use to see and understand and experience and respond to the world around you.
Because your worldview enables you to make sense of the world, you need a worldview just to get
through every day. . . In fact, every single decision that you make, and you make hundreds of them if
not thousands of decisions every single day — every one of those flows through your worldview. The
choices that you make are a result of what you believe, as described by your worldview.” The crisis is
that the predominant worldview in America is syncretism.
Barna cited research conducted by the Cultural Research Center, which he currently heads in
Arizona Christian University. His findings show that there are seven major worldviews that Americans
are most influenced by: biblical theism, Eastern mysticism, Marxism, moralistic therapeutic deism,
nihilism, postmodernism and secular humanism. “As we look at America today, we know that there
are a number of competing worldviews competing for the heart and the soul of the nation,” Barna
said. “Each has a different understanding of everything that takes place in the world, a different
explanation for why things are happening, a different concept of how you might best live your life.”
The most common worldview isn’t any of the eight main adopted ones, according to Barna,
who noted that the primary worldview dominating America is “syncretism,” or varying combinations of
all eight worldviews into one belief system. “As we’ve done this research, what we’ve discovered is
that, frankly, we don’t like any of them. Instead, what we do is we listen to all of them, and we take
bits and pieces from each one. And we blend that together into a customized worldview that
describes what we feel, what we think, what we want, where we want to go, how we want to live,”
Barna explained. He went on to report that 6% of Americans currently possess a biblical worldview,
meaning that less than 10% are closely aligned in their thinking and behavior with what the Bible
Why is our worldview so important? Barna says a person’s worldview is “crucial to defining
who [they] are, and how [they] live,” Barna noted, because a person will always do what they believe.
“If you don’t do it, you don’t really believe it. So we have to see that consistency in there. A biblical
worldview is critical because that’s what enables you to become a true disciple of Jesus Christ. If
that’s your goal in life, what you’re saying is ‘I want to think like Jesus so that I can live like Jesus,'”
(Notes from article by Nicole Alcindor, CP Reporter). The gist I want us to see here is that a
supermajority of those who call themselves Christians in America are extremely confused.
Syncretism is simply another word for confusion.
Let me ask you, how do you get a Biblical worldview? You go to the Bible. This morning I want
to share with you God’s view of the world we live in. If you’ve been with us for the past number of
weeks, you know Paul is painting a black-and-white no-nonsense picture of the world. He’s telling us
like it is. In Romans 1, Paul gives us a Rated-R view of sin-fallen humanity. Most of us are repulsed
by what we read. We console ourselves thinking, “That’s not me. I’m not that bad.” Then Paul turns
his piercing gaze on us and announces, You may think you can condemn such people, but you are
just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you
are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things (Romans 2:1, NLT).
Paul’s point is simply that not one of us can honestly say we’re better than anyone else. We’re all
sinners before a holy God. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all done wrong things. We’ve all failed,
and we all know it. Many of us carry a heavy load of guilt every day of our lives. We are troubled by
heartbreaking regrets. Is there any hope? Yes. That’s what Romans is all about. It is God’s invitation
to forgiveness, a new life, a fresh start. It’s an invitation to real hope.
Open with me to Romans 2. We’re going to look at 2:5-16. Some people read this and get
confused. I thought we’re saved by faith not works. This passage seems to be saying God will either
accept us or reject us based on our deeds rather than our faith. They get confused because they
miss what Paul is talking about. He is not talking about salvation. He is talking about judgment and
God’s basis for judgment. The Bible is clear, we are made right with God through our faith alone in
Jesus Christ. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift
of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8, NAS). So, Paul is
showing us the basis of God’s righteous judgment for those who reject God’s free gift of salvation.
How Will God Judge People? 1) By our works, 2) by our conscience, and 3) by our secrets.
I. By our works. But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up
wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render
to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory
and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the
truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation (Romans 2:5-8). God is going to judge us for
our deeds; how we lived. Specifically, how we lived or didn’t live toward Him. Those who do good in
relation to God obtain eternal life (vv. 7, 10, 13), while those who do evil toward God receive God’s
wrath (vv. 8, 9, 12). This is true all throughout the Bible for believers as well as unbelievers. In
Jeremiah, God says: But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people
their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve (Jeremiah 17:10, NLT). Jesus said Do not
marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, and will
come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil
deeds to a resurrection of judgment (John 5:28-29). The difference here is God is the One doing the
judging, not us. Our judgment is often flawed. God’s judgement is always right. In verse five Paul
describes God’s judgement as righteous (v.5). It is always right, never wrong. In verse eleven he
says God’s judgment is impartial (v.11). God’s judgment is always infallible and always impartial.
You might think, if I’m saved by faith, then how is God still going to judge me? I thought Jesus
forgave me of my sins and made be right with God (Rom. 3:28, et al). I thought salvation was a gift
(Eph. 2:8). Now you’re saying I have to work for it? No, not at all. Our salvation is a gift from God.
We can’t work for it. But once we’re saved, God has good works He wants us to do for Him. For we
are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so
that we would walk in them (Eph. 2:10). Paul is saying if you’re saved, your life is going to show it.
It’s that simple. Jesus said, A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good
fruit (Matt. 7:18). How do you know a saved person from an unsaved person? By their fruits (Matt.
Paul is not talking about God’s salvation in this passage, but God’s judgment. He’s saying
those who snub their nose at God thinking since God hasn’t judged them yet their getting away with
it. They think either God must not really exist, or He must not really mean what He says.
There is a story saying that one day, students in a great physics professor’s class – someone
like Albert Einstein – said that they had decided there was no God. The professor asked them how
much of all the knowledge in the world they had among themselves collectively, as a class. The
students discussed it for a while and decided they had 5% of all human knowledge among
themselves. The professor thought their estimate was a little generous, but he asked them: “Is it
possible God exists in the 95% you don’t know?” (David Guzik, Enduring Word).
The great gamble many people are taking today is thinking either God does not exist or He
doesn’t really mean what He says. Paul says God really does exist and He really means what He
says. That those who are living in stubborn rebellion are storing up God’s wrath like masses of water
building behind a great dam. One day the dam of God’s judgment is going to suddenly burst. There
will be no more warning, there will be no escape. They will stand before God in what is called the
Great White Throne of judgment (Rev. 20). Books recording every deed they have ever done will be
opened (Rev. 20:12). If their name was not found in the Lamb’s Book of Life, they were thrown into
the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence
of the Lord and from the glory of His power (2 Thess. 1:9). A world biblical view recognizes we will be
held accountable by God for how we lived. His judgement is infallible and impartial.
II. By our conscience. For there is no partiality with God. For all who have sinned without the
Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the
Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be
justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not
having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts,
their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them
(Romans 2:11-15). No one will be able to say to God, “It’s not fair God, You didn’t give me enough
information.” Each one will be judged based on the information they had – whether Jew or Gentile.
Paul says the Gentiles who do not have the Law do the things of the Law instinctively because it is
written on their hearts, their conscience bearing witness. God’s Law reflects His perfect character.
Since we’re all made in God’s image, we were made to reflect His character. Because of this, we
intuitively know right from wrong. This is true of every culture that has ever existed. There is a fixed
universal timeless sense of right and wrong that everyone recognizes and lives by for the most part.
I read of a tribe in Africa that makes this very point. They had an unusual but effective way to
test the guilt of someone who’d been accused of wrongdoing. A group of suspects would be lined up
and the tongue of each person would be touched with the blade of a hot knife. If the saliva was on
the tongue, the blade would sizzle, but cause little pain. But if the tongue was dry, the blade would
stick, causing searing pain. A dry tongue was the sign of a guilty conscience.
We might think if this is true, then why aren’t more people bothered by a bad conscience? In
fact, it seems they have no conscience at all. Because of their stubborn and unrepentant heart (V.5).
Stubbornness literally refers to having a hard heart. We get the word sclerosis from it. When
someone has arteriosclerosis, it refers to a hardening of their arteries. What happens physically is
true spiritually. A heart remains stubborn toward God grows unresponsive and insensitive to what is
right and wrong. One commentator writes: Hardening of the arteries may take a person to the grave
but hardening of his spiritual heart will take him to hell. He’s right.
How do you have a good conscience before God? Paul says the doers of the Law will be
justified. A lot of people say they know the Bible. They’ve gone to church for years. They’ve taken
copious notes. They’re very interested. They think because they’ve heard the Word they’ve got it.
Paul says if that’s you, you’re perilously wrong; it’s not enough. God is looking for doers of His Word
not just hearers. Paul says God is going to judge us based on our conscience, knowing and doing
what is right in our hearts.
III. By our secrets. on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men
through Christ Jesus (Romans 2:16). God knows your deeds, your conscience, and He knows your
secrets you keep hidden deep in your heart. Κρυπτός – Kruptos, that which is not able to be known.
What is not able to be know in our hearts? Our motives. God knows our hidden motives behind
everything we say or do. God’s judgement of our lives is like a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
machine. Just as an MRI produces a three-dimensional detailed image of our bodies, so God’s
judgement produces a detailed image of our conduct, our conscience, and our character. For the
word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the
division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of
the heart.And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the
eyes of Him with whom we have to do (Hebrews 4:12-13, NAS).
God knows our sin, He knows our hearts; the good, the bad, the ugly – all of it. There is
nothing hidden from Him. The crisis that has swept America and many churches is we’ve abandoned
God and His Word.
Pilots call what we are seeing today a graveyard spiral, or suicide spiral, or a death spiral. It’s
when a plane spins out of control. It starts as a very slow entry into a banked turn, left or right.
Because the turn happens slowly your equilibrium (a part of your inner ear that tells you what is up
and what down, what is left and what is right) malfunctions; it doesn’t notice you’re in danger. You
think you are flying level with the horizon, but you’re not. You are, in fact, descending toward the
ground faster and faster. Because you don’t feel like you’re turning downward, you don’t believe you
are. Your so convinced, you don’t even bother to look at your instruments. It’s at this point aviators
say you must learn to rely on your instruments; your attitude indicator, altimeter and heading
indicator. Your instruments are not affected by the fall. Failure to respond to instrument readings is
the most common reason leading to a spiral dive.
God’s Word is our only reliable guide that will pull us out of the danger we’re facing. Because
we’ve abandoned God and His Word, we’ve taken our eyes of the instrument panel that will keep us
safe. God is saying, “Turn back to Me. Turn back to My Word. Place your trust in Me. Learn what it
means to be a follower of Christ, a doer of My Word.”