Romans 1:21-32 explains how God gave some people over to their fleshy desires, and then describes what happened to them. Ephesians 4:18-19 says essentially the same thing.
What exactly does this mean?
Does it mean that God had been helping them avoid giving in to their desires before? Did He make it nearly impossible for them to resist their temptations?
Well, that doesn't seem like a very fair fight, now does it? If God expects us to be holy, why would He make it so hard for us to do so?
Well, because it's not about our ability to withstand temptation or not. We just can't. No matter how hard we try. We've proven this over and over and over again. The rules God established in the Old Testament were meant to show us what it would take to be considered holy by God. But we can't fulfill them all. It's not like we haven't tried, but we're just not capable. Is God setting us up for failure? In a sense, yes. I believe the Law was given so that in our efforts to fulfill them, we'd discover our need for help from above; a need for constant, divine intervention from God on our behalf. We weren't created to overcome the temptations of the world alone. We NEED God to help us, to give us the strength to withstand whatever is thrown into our path. We were created to be in a relationship with God, and in our failings, we eventually come to realize that.
Satan sits up with God day and night, trying to get Him to allow certain trials into our lives to prove to God that our faith isn't as strong as we say it is. And sometimes God does indeed allow suffering to befall us in order to force us to see how weak we are. God allowed the hearts and minds of the people in Rome and Ephesus to wander from obeying Him. He allowed them to experience the weakness of their flesh so that they would finally see how depraved they were, hoping that they'd reject it and renew their commitment to follow God's ways instead of their own ways. Sure seems risky of God to let them taste of their evil desires and hope that His ways were more satisfying to them so that they'd reject the fleshy goods for spiritual goods.
But I guess that really is how you would be able to tell who loves you and who doesn't. It isn't obeying if you don't have the choice to disobey. It isn't love if you don't have the opportunity to reject that love in favor of something else. If we can reject the desires of our flesh after experiencing them and commit ourselves to God's ways instead, God can KNOW that we live for Him alone.
A friend of mine wrote in her blog yesterday that "without God living the Christian life is impossible!" I literally laughed out laugh when I read that line. I immediately though, "Well, DUH!" I would think it absurd to assume that you can live the Christian life without God, but I think she's really hit the nail on the head with that statement. It is so blindingly obvious, but it seems perhaps that many of us are trying to 'do good' without letting God guide our paths. We're not really considering what He wants us individually to do. We're all still trying to work our way into His favor. I wonder how many times we do something good for someone else and sit back feeling smug and high and mighty, holy even. And I wonder how many times we thank God for the opportunity to be His hands and feet in this world and instead give Him all the glory and honor and praise. And I wonder how many times we feel awesome about how wonderful we are because we have given glory to God.
ugh. we're wretched. seriously. At least, I am. No doubt about it. Thank God for God.