18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. … … 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.
Romans 1:18-21, 28 (NIV)
Through the general revelation of God in His creation, man knows God (vv18-20). The man who knows God is expected to glorify God and give thanks to Him (v21), yet, a knowledge of God doesn’t naturally translate into so. Paul speaks of a truth suppressed because of wickedness (v18), vain thinking and darkened hearts (v21). The knowledge of God can be lost instead of retained (v28), or as the ESV version says, we may not see fit to acknowledge God.
As students of the word of God, we are supposed to know God better and deeper, yet I couldn’t help but realise that these descriptions can be aptly applied to us as well. We can know God intellectually yet not glorify him nor give thanks to him. The cerebral stimulation received through Bible study can be reduced to useless cognitive processes.
What we need is a good and honest heart for the word of God:
But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Luke 8:15 (NIV)
God has given us a new heart and a new spirit (Ezekiel 36:26). With this heart, we can hear, retain and allow the word of God to bear fruit in our lives. Guard this heart with prayer so that it does not turn evil and deceptive.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)