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MESSAGE ON THE SANCTITY OF LIFE FOR JANUARY 23, 2005*

 

Jesus calls his church to be the light of the world.  We are the primary illuminators in a world growing increasingly dark and if our light doesn’t shine in the darkness, there are no emergency generators.  We in Christ’s church are it—we are the sole agency commissioned to be the light.  We are also called to be the salt of the earth.  We are not only to season the world with goodness, grace and love, but we are the preserving agent in a world that is, because of sin, strongly inclined to rot.  If we fail to be that preserving agent, there are no other moral preservatives God will employ.  As we sit here today, the world has seldom been more engulfed in moral darkness and our culture is rotting off the bone. 

          Perhaps the most atrocious malignancy on our culture is the alarming indifference to human life, specifically the life of the unborn.  Several factors over the past few years have conspired to lessen the number of crisis pregnancies and that has resulted in a decrease in surgical abortions over the last decade, but there are still about 3500 abortions a day performed in our country and every one of them is legal.  More than two unborn children die per minute in our country and the murderous process that allows for that is totally protected by law. And that says nothing of the countless women who abort their babies through the use of the so called “morning after pill” that some are currently working to make available without a prescription. 

The rhetoric of the church has been generally strong in opposing this godless practice, but the rhetoric is all too often not backed up with much else.  As with many other issues, the church is becoming more politically sophisticated in getting out our message, but the battle to end abortion will never be won with rhetoric or by political savvy. Wiping out this cultural blight is ultimately a spiritual endeavor fought not fundamentally against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities and the cosmic powers of this present darkness—against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”

          This morning, we want to look at abortion from a biblical and God-centered perspective. First, we will see why abortion is wrong from God’s point of view.  For a few of you, this God-centered perspective on abortion may be review, but much of the church really does not understand why God so violently hates abortion.  Too many believers have addressed the issue of abortion on only an emotional, gut level because it rightly evokes powerful emotions.  But what liberates people and nations is truth and the church must always be driven by truth, not emotion.  God uses truth to supernaturally ignite our hearts and change the hearts of others.  The truth about why abortion is wicked and culture-destroying is unchanging and will continue to fuel the fire of our hearts to be faithful and not grow weary in defense of the unborn. 

So, this morning we want to have our fire stoked with truth about abortion and then look at what we can do to bring light and salt to this dark and rotting part of our world.  Why is abortion wrong or what is it about abortion that is wrong?  There are many reasons why abortion is wrong. The one you hear most often is it is murder and that, as we’ll see is the only conclusion you can come to with any validity if you examine the biblical witness.  But as grizzly and awful as that truth is, the even more heinous and fundamental evil of abortion is abortion is an arrogant assault against God.  Ultimately, abortion is not a crime against man, but against God. 

The question is--HOW is abortion an arrogant assault against God?  Here are three responses.  The first is; Abortion, by murdering a person created in God’s image, destroys the image of God in that person.  The basic reason all murder is wrong within a biblical world view is not simply because it is selfish.  It is.  James 4:2 says, “You desire and you do not have; so you kill.”  If you had to take one biblical text to capture, on a human level, what is behind abortion, it would be James 4:2.  People have abortions because babies, when they don’t come at just the “right” time, are seen to be just too much of an inconvenience. Babies and pregnancies often just don’t fit inside people’s self-centered agendas.  “I can’t drop out of school to have a baby.”  “We can’t afford a baby now.”  “We are too old to have children.” “This baby might be born with a handicap.”  “My career just doesn’t allow me any time for a baby right now.”  “My parents would totally freak out if they found out I was pregnant.”  

Those reasons are all self-centered and they are lethal to the unborn.  Murder IS selfish and is wicked on that level, but even more basic is this evil--it is a direct assault on God by destroying his image in the murder victim.  God says in Genesis 9:6, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

God says murder is wrong because humanity is made in God’s image.  No one has ever been able to comprehensively define HOW man is created in God’s image. The Bible doesn’t explicitly explain all that is involved in that. 

          What we do know comes from texts like Genesis 1:26.  Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."  That tells us when God created man in his own image and likeness he created a race of people that were in some ways like him and represented him.  We are not infinite like God, but in some finite expression we are like God and we uniquely image and represent God to the angelic realms looking on from the heavenlies.  God forbids murder on the grounds that humanity is created in his image. Murder is an arrogant slap in God’s face because, among other things, it communicates that killing a being who images God, who uniquely represents the Lord of the universe, is no different than killing a chicken or a pig or a bug.  How do you suppose God responds to having His divine image degraded to the level of a pig?  Human life is sacred because it bears the stamp of the divine—no other creature does that.  Murder destroys God’s image in that person and is therefore something God takes personally—it is a crime not only against the murder victim, but ultimately against God Himself.

          A reasonable question at this point is, “Does an unborn child, even an embryo, image God or is the image of God seen only in fully developed human babies?”  Here the Scriptures are clear.  David says in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, David tells us something important about humanity here.  David says he was full of sin from his conception.  Think about that.  Why are we sinful?  Romans chapter fives tells us we get our sin from Adam, the prototype of humanity.  Sinfulness is a mark of fallen humanity because we get it from Adam who began the human race.  If we are sinful because we are human and if David was sinful from conception, that means AT CONCEPTION he was a human being, bearing God’s image.  Scientists will tell you that what essentially distinguishes humanity from every other creature is found in our DNA and human DNA is fully present at conception.

Another and perhaps the most relevant biblical argument supporting the fact that unborn children are fully created in God’s image and therefore to kill them is murder is found in the Old Testament law.  In Exodus 21, within a section devoted to laws on accidental death, Moses writes in verse 22, "When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine.  23But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life,  24eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,” The scenario is clear.  In the case of men brawling, if a pregnant woman is injured and that leads to her delivering her child prematurely and if either she OR the baby are injured, the penalty must be consistent with the crime.  If she OR her baby are killed, the perpetrator must forfeit HIS life. Here the law states that the life of the unborn child is held to be of equal value with the mother and the perpetrator.  The same penalty is imposed for the death of the baby as for the death of the mother and the murderer is called to pay with his life for killing the unborn baby because he has killed someone of equal value to himself. 

In today’s postmodern world where absolute truth has been dismissed, we live in a context where we regularly witness two inherently contradictory decisions issued by our judicial system as it relates to the unborn.  That is, on the one hand in some cases people are being prosecuted for crimes where violence perpetrated against a pregnant mother results in the death of the unborn child.  The assailant is in some cases held accountable for killing the unborn baby.  But at the same time—murder of the unborn in the case of abortion is protected by the same legal system. There is no such inconsistency in God’s assessment of the value of unborn life. 

Abortion is murder any way you slice it biblically.  Another reason why abortion is an arrogant assault on God is because every abortion is an invasion into God’s sovereign domain—it is a violation of his right as the sovereign Creator.  God is sovereign over the entire universe but this specific domain which He has claimed for his own is…a woman’s womb.  The Bible teaches the womb and the process of creation that occurs there belong to God--He is the one orchestrating the events there.  The process of creation in the womb is not simply the work of a mysterious, “life-force” phenomena, but of God.  We see this repeatedly in the Scriptures.  God is sovereign over the womb in that it is HE who opens and closes the womb.  He determines whether and when pregnancy occurs.  In Genesis 29:31, God says he “opened [Leah’s] womb.”  In Genesis 30:22, he says he “opened [Rachel’s] womb.”  Of Hannah and her barrenness, God says he “had closed her womb.” God opens the womb and closes the womb, indicating he is sovereign over that area and that is HIS domain, no one else’s. 

We see this even more clearly in the fact that the Bible repeatedly attributes the entire process of fetal development to the hand of God.  Psalm 139:13 says, “you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  Isaiah 44:2 and 24; 46:5 and Jeremiah 1:5 all say it is God who “formed you in the womb.”  God is the One behind the mysterious development of the unborn within the womb.  He is the Potter at work shaping his fearfully and wondrously crafted human vessels.  He is the Master Weaver stitching together his glorious human tapestry.  It would be appropriate to hang over every pregnant mother’s blossoming belly a sign reading, “God at work.”  The womb is God’s domain where He does some of his most spectacular fabrication. 

We must see the utter arrogance involved in abortion from God’s perspective.  He is at work within the womb fashioning his glorious human “pottery” when someone, completely uninvited, trespasses into his sacred chamber and breaks his creation into bits, destroying it, making it completely unsuitable for public display.  God is working on the loom of humanity within a mother’s uterus when suddenly someone storms into his sanctuary and slashes his tapestry to bits.  How profoundly arrogant—what right do they have, who themselves were once a pre-born work in progress, to invade God’s private studio and destroy his creation?  On the basis of the poetic imagery God uses in the bible, this is abortion from His perspective.

          A final reason why abortion is an arrogant assault against God is because abortion is a direct and lethal attack against those he has explicitly declared are recipients of his special concern.  One of the unchangeable values of God is his attitude toward the weak and innocent.  The consistent witness of Scripture is that those who are weak, those who cannot defend themselves, those who have no political power, those who are easy to over look and abuse—God’s heart is uniquely for those people.  Psalm 72:13 says, He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.”  Isaiah 40:29, “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  In Matthew 18, Jesus is speaking of small children and he says, “…whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.  In Matthew 25, Jesus powerfully and uniquely identifies with the weak, the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, and the imprisoned when he says in verse 40, “…as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'  

       Think about that.  If Christ identifies with the weak to the degree that when we minister to them, we are ministering to him, then what does that say about how Christ must view abortion?  The answer is obvious.  When you defend or take care of the weak, helpless unborn, you are taking care of Christ.  But when you raise the scalpel, when you walk into the abortion clinic to murder the unborn, you are, because of Christ’s identification with the weak, murdering Christ.

Do we see why abortion is so purely Satanic?  It is an expression of undiluted evil because it is a direct assault against God’s image.  Satan hates God.  So, he strikes at Him by taking humans who alone are created in God’s image, uniquely representing Him-- and he destroys them, working under the paper-thin veil of deception which maintains because they are unborn, they are expendable.  Know this--even though our sin-darkened culture may not see the sacredness of unborn life, the Adversary surely does.  Satan sees the superintending of God in the womb over his glorious act of creation and the evil one delights at using greedy, bloody human hands to crash into that sacred chamber and shred God’s masterpieces. Satan sees those poor, helpless, weak image-bearers of the divine, those for whom he knows God is uniquely burdened, and he revels in destroying helpless ones within the clean and clinical setting of an abortion clinic. 

Again, we must see how utterly wicked this godless massacre is. The implications for a church largely asleep at the switch are sobering.  According to the principle Christ lays down in Matthew 25, when we sit back and do nothing about the scourge of abortion in our culture, we are sitting back and doing nothing to rescue Christ.  When we fail as we have so consistently failed in this matter, we are aligning ourselves with those on Christ’s LEFT side at the judgment as Jesus says in Matthew 25.  The call of Christ to the church is to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth.  Proverbs 24:11 says, Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.” Psalm 82:3-4 tells us to, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;  maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.  4Rescue the weak and the needy;  deliver them from the hand of the wicked."

          In light of these clear scriptural injunctions, we must all ask ourselves the question, “As a believer, what am I doing to defend the cause of the weak?  What am I doing to uphold the rights of the poor and oppressed? What am I doing to rescue the weak and needy, to deliver them from the hand of the wicked?”  And the answer for most of us is, not much.  What can we do about this godless blight to engage the real enemy behind this and stay God-centered in our approach?  What can we do that is fueled by the truth and not simply blind emotion?  What can we do that brings not only heat, but also light to the world and salt to the earth?

First, we must submit ourselves to God by repenting of our callous indifference.  We must humble ourselves and confess that we have failed God by failing the unborn.  Our strong words about the evils of abortion have not been matched by action.  We must ask God to grant us repentance so that we can show the fruit of repentance—a new zeal for God’s name, a new resolve to be militant and take up the spiritual battle on this front.

Beyond that, there are countless ways the church can work to end this scourge.  We can train to be sidewalk counselors with Jim Tuttle at the abortion mill down town.  We can work in any of the crisis pregnancy contexts to help those who are pregnant in tough situations.  We can become politically active in intelligent ways to expedite political and legislative change within our culture of death.  But far more important than any of that is, we must pray regularly about this plague.  Pray that the culture’s self-centered eyes would be opened to the massacre that is abortion.  Pray that the clinical façade of the abortion clinics and Planned Parenthood would be torn away to reveal the carnage that is really being promoted and perpetrated there.  Pray for the mother’s contemplating abortion, that God would reveal his heart to them and the lies that shroud abortion would be unmasked.  Pray for a Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade and obliterate the self-serving, purely manufactured right of a woman to choose to kill her child.  Pray for the church, that we would wake up and answer the call to arms—that we would walk our talk.  As we said, the battle is spiritual.  As much as a new, pro-life Supreme Court would be welcome, without a basic, spiritual, value shaping change in our culture, any legal or political reforms are at best temporary.  We must pray and watch God work to shape minds and hearts and the tenor of the debate within our culture.

          Finally, we have a gospel of God’s forgiveness to preach to those who have had abortions.  The message of forgiveness purchased at the cross speaks in a powerfully direct way to those who have had abortions.  Think about a few points of contact between the gospel and abortion.  Abortion is an act of inconceivable hostility from people who seek to kill pre-born children as quickly and efficiently as possible with the goal of removing a dead baby from the comforts it had known in its mother’s womb.  Jesus left the comforts and worship of heaven to come into this world to live within a mother’s womb and among a people of inconceivable hostility who sought to kill him.  Abortion is the brutal murder of innocence—as innocent as fallen humanity can be.  Although we are, as David said, sinful from our conception—pre-born children have never consciously sinned and in that sense are perhaps the only innocent population on the planet.  Jesus’ death, even more than the death of babies in the womb was the quintessential brutal murder of innocence.  Jesus had not lived three hours or three days or three trimesters without sin, but three decades.  He was completely untouched by sin and utterly undeserving of the death he died. 

Abortion results in the desecration of developing human bodies that are grotesquely disfigured beyond recognition.  The passion of Christ resulted in the desecration of Jesus’ body to the point where it, like the bodies of aborted babies was unrecognizable.  Isaiah 52:14 says of his body, “…his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” Abortions are performed with the baby having no advocate in defense of him/herself at the moment of abortion and they can give no defense of themselves.  Likewise, Jesus had no one to advocate in his defense and he himself was led, “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” [Isa53:7]. 

          Finally, and perhaps most appallingly—in nearly all abortions, all of this has been perpetrated on the child at the express request of his/her own parents who have been charged by God to nurture their child, not kill it.  The glory of the gospel and what provides hope to all sinners is that His Father presented Jesus for sacrifice NOT out of selfish motives, but because it was necessary for sinners to find cleansing and forgiveness and a new heart that beats not for ourselves and our agendas but for God and his kingdom.

          So if you are a sinner and in particular if you have participated in an abortion at any level, know this—the cross of Christ and his suffering and death his Father subjected him to is powerful enough to cleanse your sin.  This is the gospel of hope and forgiveness we have to give to an abortion-stained culture. This is the gospel all who have been a part of abortion can claim and find assurance that God has forgiven them and will redeem even their sin for use in his kingdom.  As it relates to abortion and every other social evil may God give his church the grace to live as salt and light in this world for his glory.

 

*first preached January, 2001

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