Sanctity of Human Life Sunday
January 17, 2016 Series: Stand Alone Sermons
Topic: Stand Alone Passage: Psalm 54:1–54:7
We are not big here on stand-alone topical sermons. Usually our preaching is done in a series – most often walking through books of the bible verse by verse. On occasion we pause with a stand-alone sermon because of the way the timing works out, or we might break from our plan if a major event occurs that is profitable to address from the pulpit. Throughout any given year we will only have 5 or so of these stand-alone sermons, this morning being one of them.
Today is Sanctity of [Human] Life Sunday. While there is nothing magical about what name we ascribe to a particular day, we believe that it is right and good for the Church to preach with some regularity on the topic of abortion. Participating in Sanctity of [Human] Life Sunday is a way that we can ensure that we pause to consider this great evil that is done under the sun at an alarming rate… in our own city and in cities, towns, and villages across the globe.
I will pause here to assuage the uneasiness some of you are likely feeling right now. Statistics suggest that there are several of you who have participated in the act of abortion in some way.
• 10% of all women in the U.S. will have an abortion by age 20
• 25% of women will have an abortion by age 30
• 30% of women will have an abortion by age 45
If you are one of these women, or if you were a boyfriend, counselor, parent, or friend involved in an abortion - I want you to know that this sermon is intended to be a message of shame for you. It’s a wake up call for all of us. Even though we will spend some time looking at what God says about abortion, we will also remember how God views you – and me – because of the gospel.
The truth is that I have no basis whatsoever for standing up here and pointing the finger at anyone. In studying and preparing for this message, I was convicted of the apathetic stance I have lived by when it comes to abortion. The sort of attitude that says, “Well, what am I going to be able to do about it, anyway.”
I was gripped by a quote I found of John Piper – who himself in 1989 had realized he had done less than he should have. Here’s what he said after being arrested for protesting a planned parenthood clinc…
“I want to publicly confess a great blindness and indifference and apathy in my own life and ministry. I am in no position to point my finger at any of you. I bear a greater responsibility as a leader. My silence has been more shameful than yours. I am praying now that I would be forgiven and granted another chance to do my part in ending ‘the silent holocaust’ of abortion.”
My heart resonates with these words – this week I found myself repenting of my apathy. Why have I not even been praying and fasting and earnestly seeking an end to this abomination? I’ll come back to that later.
I encourage you to not check out – I believe that there is something to be gained by listening to the word God has planted in my heart this week, even if abortion is not a part of your individual story. So stay with me!
To give you a road map for today – I’m really setting out to answer two questions.
1. Why is this issue important? (1 Answer will be given, broken into two sections).
2. What should our response be as God’s people? (4
Before we go any farther, let’s read the passage for today – Psalm 54.
We actually know what David was going through when he wrote this Psalm. He was in need of a miracle – unable to preserve his own life, so he calls out to the only one who can save him. Since the unborn do not have a voice, they cannot call out themselves. This morning, I want you to hear this passage as the plea of those who are unable to call out to God for help….
Psalms 54:1-7 ESV O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. (2) O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. (3) For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. Selah. (4) Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. (5) He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them. (6) With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good. (7) For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
WHY IS ABORTION AN IMPORTANT ISSUE?
According to Abort73 – there are more than 42 Million babies killed throughout the world every single year through abortion. That is about 115,000 abortions every day. There are only 86,400 seconds in a day, meaning that worldwide there are about 1.3 abortions every second.
The problem is not just in the outermost parts of the world where Christianity has not been afforded the same opportunity it has in the United States. In our own country, since Roe vs. Wade in 1973, there have been more than 57 Million legal abortions performed. To put that number in perspective – if you devoted one second of silence to each victim of abortion starting now, you would not speak again until November 6… by the way, that’s November 6, 2017.
If your moment of silence was in honor of the victims for the previous year, it would last for about 12 days.
What is the point in reciting these statistics? Really, it is a reminder for us. Since these victims have no choice but to be silent, we need to be reminded of what is going on so we can speak up for them.
I also want us to realize that the issue is one that affects many more of us than we would probably realize or like to admit. It is an epidemic that is sweeping our nation and not just robbing lives of the aborted, but also robbing countless moms and dads from that which they were seeking in having an abortion – freedom, happiness, and a lack of negative consequences for sin.
I think that just about everybody in this room would agree that abortion is a terrible thing. But what is the core problem at play? It’s more than a baby killed, it’s more than a mom’s heart and body wounded… we must realize that at its core, abortion is a God Issue.
1. Abortion is an assault on God as Creator and Author of Life:
Jeremiah 1:5 ESV "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations."
Job 31:15 ESV Did not he who made me in the womb make [my servant]? And did not one fashion us in the womb?
Psalms 139:14-16 ESV I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (15) My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. (16) Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
Remarking on this Psalm, David Platt puts it well in his book “Counter Culture:”
The way God creates people compels praise. The psalmist’s words are all the more stunning when we realize that he came to his conclusions without knowing so many of the details that we know today concerning a baby’s development. The psalmist didn’t necessarily know how God takes an egg and a sperm and brings them together. How a few weeks later, often before a woman even realizes she is pregnant, a human heart is beating and circulating its own blood. Within a few more weeks, fingers are forming on hands and brain waves are detectable. Before long, these “inward parts” are moving. Kidneys are forming and functioning, followed by a gallbladder, and then by the twelfth week, all the organs of a baby boy or girl are functional, and he or she can cry. All of this occurs within three short months – only the first trimester! A heart, a brain, organs, sexuality, movement, reaction – and the Creator of the universe is orchestrating all of it! This work of creation evokes awe and amazement… Abortion is without question an assault on God’s grand creation of a human life. There is no way around it.
Human beings are created uniquely in the image of God. He, as the creator, is the one who has authority over life… not us.
2. Abortion is the result of Idolatry.
Psalm 54:1-3 Says, “O God, Save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. (2) O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. (3) For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. Selah. ”
I want to talk for a moment about that word ‘vindicate’ in verse 1. In the KJV and several other translations, it is translated from Hebrew as ‘judge.’ The definition of the HEBREW word (deen) is as follows:
From Strong’s Concordance (H1777): deen implies a settlement of what is right where there is a charge upon a person. deen is a judicial word marking the act whereby men’s position and destiny are decided.
David’s request is that God would render judgment according to what is right, rather than according to what the charge on him was.
When a baby is being considered for abortion, is there not a charge leveled against him or her? What is that charge? Typically, an abortion is carried out because the baby will be an inconvenience, it will cost a lot of money, it will ruin plans, or put plainly… it will get in the way of my life.
Do you see the idolatry here? Remember, what is the definition of idolatry… It’s not just bowing down to a golden statue. It’s giving something other than God (could be a person, thing, idea, desire, etc.) central meaning, purpose, love, or priority in our lives.
In preparing for this sermon, I was reminded of what is probably my ugliest moment in parenting. Though it was almost five years ago, I am sure that my two oldest children remember it. I was helping Aryn with a science experiment that I was initially excited to help with. We were making rock candy and keeping track of how various factors affected the growth of sugar crystals. Kari had gone out to run some errands, so I was there with the kids by myself. I quickly became irritated with the whole process of the experiment and the fussy kids, and the messy kitchen, and the stressful day at work, and… the feedback loop was really going. And then one of the kids did something – something pretty innocent and harmless… but I saw it and I blew up. In an instant, I turned into a raging monster shouting hurtful things at my kids, slamming things around, red-faced, etc. It probably took 15 minutes for me to coax Nathan out of hiding… he was so afraid. Then it took another hour to confess my sin to them, repent, and cry it out together.
Matthew 5:21-22a ESV "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' (22) But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…
1John 3 also says that whoever hates his brother is a murderer.
In my moment of intense burning anger against my children, I myself was guilty of murder – according to Jesus’s standard of righteousness. I was consumed with my own agenda and desires – primarily idolizing control. The dark and disturbing truth is that in that moment of rage, if the sinful desires of my heart were worked out to their full potential, unmitigated by the Holy Spirit, my children would have ceased to exist. I hated in that moment – I hated my own beautiful children because they stood in my way… I stand before you today guilty of the same idolatry that is at the root of abortion.
It’s not hard to imagine abortion as being a lot like what David describes in Psalm 106.
Psalms 106:36-37 ESV They served their idols, which became a snare to them. (37) They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons;
What does it mean to sacrifice? A sacrifice isn’t made for nothing. A sacrifice by definition is giving something so that you would receive something of greater perceived value in return. If we valued life in the same way God does, wouldn’t that change a lot about how we interact with others around us? We would not be so quick to gossip about, slander, abuse, neglect, belittle, and use other people because of whose image they bear. We treat each other so poorly because we exchange the truth for a lie (Romans 1:23) and serve our idols rather than the giver of life. How wretched I am, that I would do this!
But thanks be to God for the truth of the gospel. I can tell you about my sin because it doesn’t define me. What defines me?
1John 1:9 – If [I] confess [my] sins, he is faithful and just to forgive [me my] sins and cleanse [me] from all unrighteousness.
Ephesians 1:7 – In him [Jesus] [I] have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon [me].
Or that Jesus, while dying on the cross – the Creator of Life being robbed of his life – cries out “Father, forgive them – for they know not what they do…”
The truth of the gospel is that Jesus died for the ungodly. His love for you is not conditional on your righteousness – what’s more is that it’s given with full knowledge of how unrighteous you really are. There is therefore no shame and no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, and in him we trust and hope and live and heal and rest.
WHAT SHOULD OUR RESPONSE BE?
The question that we are now left to ask is – what should our response be? In light of all that we’ve talked about.
We don’t call this “Evil of Abortion” Sunday – no, we call it “Sanctity of Life” Sunday. It’s one thing to hate abortion – I would agree that we should all hate abortion – but it’s another to actively embrace and uphold the sanctity of life. It’s one thing to hate abortion, but another thing to care about and care for the children who aren’t aborted – children who were perhaps born into a less-than-ideal scenario.
Let’s look at Psalm 54 again…
Psalms 54:1-4 ESV O God, save me by your name, and vindicate me by your might. (2) O God, hear my prayer; give ear to the words of my mouth. (3) For strangers have risen against me; ruthless men seek my life; they do not set God before themselves. Selah. (4) Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.
What does David say about God in verse 4? In the face of an overwhelming danger, though his life is threatened by ‘ruthless men’ (which in the Hebrew could mean scary or powerful men), David recognizes that his help comes from the LORD. He says, “God is my helper, the LORD is the upholder of my life.”
Consider these passages…
Ephesians 5:11 ESV Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Paul makes it clear that we should not be satisfied as God’s people to refrain from evil. But in addition to our abstinence from evil, we are called to act – to do. He says we should uncover the works of darkness and expose them to the light of truth.
James 2:26 ESV For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.
James 1:27 ESV Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Psalm 68:5 ESV A Father to the fatherless is God in his holy habitation.
Isaiah 1:15-17 ESV When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.
Throughout scripture, we see God as a merciful, loving, and caring God who compassionately cares for the destitute, the marginalized, the hurting, the broken, the weak, the poor, those on the fringes of society. But how is it that God has chosen to provide this care for these people? HIS BRIDE.
If God is the Father to the fatherless, isn’t his Bride the mother to the fatherless? God has chosen us to be agents of action in these stories of hurt and brokenness. He commands it of us, and rightly so. For us to just sit back and wait for politicians to wake up is simply not an option. We must take action – we cannot allow these killings to keep on happening.
Let’s talk about a few specific things we can do.
1. Love the children around us. This may seem like a no-brainer, but our perspective changes pretty quick when we start seeing other people as image-bearers of God. Fundamentally, children are not a nuisance or hindrance to experiencing the fullness of life – there’s a Psalm that talks about children being a treasure that is placed in the womb. Children can teach us a lot if we let them. Do you treat children – whether yours or someone else’s as if they are a treasure?
2. Adoption and foster care. What about the children who are not aborted? Does the name Norma McCorvey sound familiar to you? How about if I told you she was involved in a court case in 1969 in which she was referred to as Jane Roe. That’s right – she’s the pregnant woman who was used to make a legal case for abortion before the supreme court. If you are familiar with Roe v Wade, you know that the ruling was made in 1973. Her baby was actually born about three years before the Supreme Court’s ruling and adopted by a family somewhere in the Dallas area. By the way, in a twist of significant irony, McCorvey is an anti-abortion activist.
Our communities need families who are willing to step into the brokenness of the hurting and broken children here in the United States and throughout the world.
In Washington state, there are 10,000 children in the state foster care system. Last year, I was talking with a state social worker who said, “We are having a hard time finding homes for any kids right now – it’s a real epidemic. Just the other day I had a reasonably-intact 5-year old boy that nobody would say ‘yes’ to.”
What an awesome picture of the gospel it would be to have the 5,000 or so churches in our state raise up families to care for these kids – not only giving them families, but introducing them to Jesus.
3. Fast. Have you considered fasting to humble yourself before God and implore him to put an end to abortion in our country? Why not? This week my bible reading plan took me through Ezra 8, and was struck by how Ezra proclaimed a fast for the people so that they, their children, and their goods could be protected on a journey they were going to take.
What struck me was the reason why he did this.
Ezra 8:21a, 22-23 ESV Then I proclaimed a fast there… …(22) for I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
He was most concerned about God’s honor and glory being upheld. We believe, and regularly assert that God cares for the unborn – let’s humble ourselves and fast. I’m going to pray about how best to do this, but if you’re interested in joining me keep your eye out for some additional information soon.
4. Pray. Yes, prayer… that weakest of muscles for most of us. It seems almost too simple, but if we truly believe that God is who he says he is that we would be routinely asking him to step in and take care of this.
a. Pray that God would end abortion not only in the United States but throughout the world.
b. Ask God to forgive you for the part you have played in abortion – even if it is just that you’ve done nothing – like the townspeople of Dachau who let so many people suffer and die in the concentration camp.
c. Ask God for leadership in our government that cares more about doing what is right than about doing what is popular.
We must pray and intercede on behalf of those who cannot pray themselves. Pray that those who would be aborted might be able to praise him for saving them, like David does to end Psalm 54…
Psalm 54:5-7 ESV He will return the evil to my enemies; in your faithfulness put an end to them. (6) With a freewill offering I will sacrifice to you; I will give thanks to your name, O LORD, for it is good. (7) For he has delivered me from every trouble, and my eye has looked in triumph on my enemies.
OPTIONAL CLOSING PRAYER – Credit: John Piper, A hunger for God.
We are not able in ourselves to win this battle.
We are not able to change hearts or minds.
We are not able to change worldviews and transform culture and save 1.6 million children.
We are not able to reform the judiciary or embolden the legislature or mobilize the slumbering population.
We are not able to heal the endless wounds of godless ideologies and their bloody deeds.
But, oh God, you are able!
And we turn from reliance on ourselves to you. And we cry out to you and plead that for the sake of your name and for the sake of your glory, and for the advancement of your saving purpose in the world, and for the demonstration of your wisdom and your power and your authority over all things, and for the sway of your Truth and the relief of the poor and the helpless, act, O God. This much we hunger for the revelation of your power. With all our thinking and all our writing and all our doing, we pray and we fast. Come. Manifest your glory.