Big Black Dogs and Skunks
Tuesday, June 8, 2010

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of the hearts.  Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”  (Eph. 4:17 – 19)

                I have a very big black dog.  He is mostly a Newfoundland, but since he was a rescue dog living on death row, we are not all that sure what other breeds he might contain.  What I do know is that he is big, black, and very hairy.  There is something else about Barkley that is significant to the passage above.  He loves to chase little critters.  And when this 100+ pound behemoth launches that body toward these little ones, you can bet they run like crazy.  Now that Barkley is old, a few strides are all he needs to satisfy his urge to chase.  Last fall, on our morning walk (I always walk just before dawn so that we don’t get harassed by cars and kids – he loves kids), he spotted a little furry creature.  This one had an ebony color that matched his own, except for a set of dual white stripes running down its back and onto its tail.  Even, in the dark, I knew this was not a stray cat.  But nonetheless, Barkley launched himself to full pursuit of this little non-timid creature.  Now I can imagine what was going through his mind.  “O boy, I am clearly faster than this one.  I can catch him and Dad will be so proud of me.”  Wrong!!  He did catch up and you can imagine what a full frontal attack of a very ripe skunk did to that mat of Barkley’s very heavy coat.

                We could argue that Barkley was just doing what comes naturally.  You can’t blame him (for those who would argue that I will let you clean him up next time).  And that is possibly true, although he knows the command to stay and completely ignored it.  But you see, this is a perfect illustration of what Paul is talking about in Romans 1 and in the above passage of Ephesians.  Obedience is all a matter of mindset and the Christian mindset is on pleasing and glorifying God.  And when we set our minds on something else, you can bet we will begin to smell decidedly like a skunk.

                Most Christians believe that Romans 1 has only two points – salvation by faith alone; and homosexuality is bad.  And for those who read the text in that way, they miss the truth of this magnificent chapter.  It has too many points to capture in this brief writing, but it can be condensed into two major points: First there is some incredibly Good News captured in the gospel.  God has given us a remedy for death and His wrath.  Paul says in one of my two life verses: “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.”  In real plain English, Paul say, “God has given us some really good news and that is, He has given us a way to escape some really bad news.  And He has made this good news available to us by faith.”  Paul doesn’t linger there long, because he immediately launches into the bad news which is the wrath of God.

                The second point of Romans 1 shows how this wrath befalls us.  And it begins with a bad mindset.  We look around at all the beauty and magnificence of creation and we don’t see the Creator.  We don’t acknowledge Him nor do we glorify Him, nor do we exalt His truth.  And when that happens , there are a whole multitude of consequences: our thinking becomes futile and when our thinking becomes futile our hearts are darkened.  Out of futile thinking and dark hearts then flows the outward manifestations:  idolatry, sexual impurity, homosexuality, wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of ways of doing evil, disobedience to parents, senseless, ruthless, faithless, and heartless (these are Paul’s words not mine).  All of this is because we have turned our thinking away from God and have let the world darken our hearts.  And the end result is that we not only do those things, but we grant approval to anyone else who does them as well. (Rm. 1:32)  And our culture has become so black that we miss what was so obvious, even 2000 years ago.

                All this begins with futile thinking, progressing to hard and darkened hearts, and ending in a loss of sensitivity, and a continual lust for more of the same.  If you cannot read these words of the Holy Spirit given to us by the hand of Paul as a reflection of what is wrong in our land, then I fear you are like Barkley and the skunk.  For I am sure, given the chance, if the little creature shows up again, the results will be positively the same.

Kingdom Road Ministries
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