Eyes to See

 

Looking Back and Looking Forward

 
eyes to seeWe had a great time at the 2011 Cor Deo Intensive.  One of many highlights was studying sections from John’s gospel together.  What became clear as we worked through John 5 was how the religious experts in Israel seemed to have selective sight when it came to their Bible reading.
These were people who didn’t just know a few rudimentary facts.  They would have studied and memorized and quoted the Hebrew Scriptures all the time.  Yet they seemed to see only certain things there.  When Jesus stood before them they didn’t recognize who He was or from whom He had come.  Technically they were experts, but they were flawed by a lack of the love of God in them, combined with a love for the praise of men.  Somehow issues of motivation marred their vision.
Over on my preaching site I have posted on the subject of “which God” we preach (Here are the links to three posts – 1 2 3).  One man commented that he was once in Cairo talking with a man and after a couple of hours it became very clear that the “one true God” each was affirming belief in were two very different deities.  That’s how I feel in churches sometimes.
There are some people who look in the Bible and all they seem to see is law and duty and God’s power and His sovereignty.  God seems to be a very distant and cold task master that must be dutifully obeyed in order to receive the glory He craves.  Yet in the very same passages they seem to be oblivious to the motivations described, the compassion or delight or love of God.  It gets to the point, at times, when I wonder if we are talking about the same God.
Ron Frost’s suggestion to the gathered folks last week was simple but spot on – read the Bible fast enough to get a real sense of God’s personality.  Read the whole Bible, not just selective verses, and read it with an openness of heart and mind to see the God who reveals Himself through it.  To too many Christians God is essentially an impersonal force, an ultimate being, a faceless judge and a hidden power broker with nobody else in His league.  Consequently, this impersonal God paradigm filters their Bible reading so that no matter how many times a passages screams God’s heart to the reader, they still only see duty, sometimes where there isn’t even an imperative to be found.
It is like two sports fans watching the same match, but supporting different teams.  It’s amazing how the same pictures will be interpreted so differently!  Of course, I’m the exception to that as I always watch my team objectively.  Oh wait, that’s actually a silly thought, isn’t it?  Makes me wonder what biases I bring to my Bible reading that might be blinding me to the personality of the God who reveals Himself through the Word.  Theological, philosophical, relational, parental, experiential and sin issues that all go to smear the lenses through which I read the Bible.
So we come back to the original issue in John 5 – the religious experts’ blindness to the personality in the Old Testament.  I wonder if some of us still have that sense that the God of the Old Testament is harsh, but His nice Son becomes clearer in the New Testament.  I suppose the best way to get past such errant thinking is simply to pray for eyes to see, and then to dive into the Old Testament with a hunger to know God personally and better.
Leave a comment at Cor Deo
~ Peter
 
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Peter-Mead.png[/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk. Peter also authors the BiblicalPreaching.net website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.biblicalpreaching.net” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”http://www.cordeo.org.uk/” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]

Abortion: The Absence of Love


Psalm 139:13-15; Job 31:15; Luke 1:41; Isaiah 1:16-17; James 1:27 (ESV)

Psalms 139:13-15  For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14  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.

Job 31:15  Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?

Luke 1:41  And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit,

Isaiah 1:16-17  Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, 17  learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

James 1:27  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.

 

Introduction

I know that the topic of abortion is a tremendously sensitive issue for a number of reasons. Let me list a few of the reasons.
1. Many don’t want to speak to it because they are afraid of sounding sexist or misogynistic.
This issue has been wrongly turned into a women’s rights issue. But abortion has nothing to do with women’s rights. No woman’s basic human rights are at stake in a pregnancy. This has to do with the rights of the child in the womb. I believe it is evil to make this into a woman’s rights issue. It is a below the belt tactic which has been tremendously effective in silencing those who care for children and to justify the killing of countless millions of babies. The simple fact is that no woman or man has an unqualified right to do what they want with their own body. Your right to do what you want with your own body ends when your right to do what you want with your body infringes upon the basic rights of other people. In other words, you cannot use your body as a battering ram to injure other people because your body is yours to do what you want with. Just because the baby is in a woman’s womb does not mean that she has the right to do with it what she deems best. Her rights to do what she wants with her body stop when her rights infringe upon the basic rights of another person.
2. The fact is that no woman’s basic rights are being infringed upon by having a baby in her womb.
However, the basic rights of the baby in the womb are being infringed upon when the mother decides to have an abortion. The woman’s non-basic, relatively-trivial right to avoid inconvenience, trying times, or social stigmatization are not comparable to the basic right to life for the child in the womb. So this is not about women’s rights—it is about the basic rights of children. But many are afraid to say this.
3. Many find it difficult to talk about it because it demonstrates that America is not who we want her to be.
We are an evil, vile generation. Abortion puts a face on that evil. Many American’s want to believe that we are a force for good in the world. We like to be able to look at the Hitler’s, Stalin’s, and Hussein’s of history as if we are somehow above their depravity. But abortion tell us, “While Hitler exterminated eleven million people, Americans have exterminated sixty million children. While Stalin killed twenty million people, Americans have killed sixty million babies. While Hussein was responsible for the killing of hundreds of thousands of his own people, Americans have killed sixty million of her own people.”
Abortion also puts us in our place as we assess ourselves in light of today’s atrocities. We like to be able to gasp in self-righteous indignation over China’s one child policy while we give the green light to abortion on demand. That doesn’t settle well with us. It humbles us. It knocks us down to size. Just as with any country, citizen’s of America want to believe that they are part of a society that is doing more good than harm. Abortion doesn’t prove that America is the worst nation on earth, but it does prove that America is just as guilty of innocent bloodshed as any other nation on earth. Abortion proves that the Bible is right when it speaks of the radical effects of the fall on mankind. There is no escaping it when we consider this difficult issue.
4. Lastly, this is sensitive because it is so pervasive.
Studies suggest that nearly one in every three women will have an abortion in her lifetime.[1] If our church is representative of the larger culture, one in every three women have already had or will have an abortion. This is a terrifying statistic. However, I mention this because this certainly makes this a difficult issue to speak to. I know that I am not speaking to a group totally unaffected by the trauma of abortion. I hope for some of you that this statistic tells you that you are not alone. This issue is pervasive because the women who have the abortion are not the only one’s who are affected. Mom’s and dad’s counsel their daughters to abort, husbands counsel their daughters to have their own children killed, and boyfriends counsel their girlfriends to kill their own children.
So this issue is pervasive. It touches many more than we often realize. If SGF is representative of the broader culture, and I have no reason to think it isn’t, I am speaking to many who are carrying the guilt of a past abortion. This is one reason why abortion is talked about so little. Who wants to kick a person while he or she is down? I certainly don’t. However, in spite of all of these reasons, we must speak to the issue of abortion, as difficult as it may be.
We tend to think that the best way of handling guilt is by never talking about the sin which brings the guilt to the surface. This simply isn’t a biblical way of handling guilt. Biblically, guilt should never be suppressed; it should be addressed. In other words, if you feel guilt because of some past sin, you must not pretend that you never committed that sin and push all the emotions and feelings of guilt down or force them away. Rather, you must address these feelings of guilt with the Gospel by reminding yourself that you did commit that sin, that it was a heinous sin, but that Jesus took that sin upon Himself and bore the full penalty of that sin in His body on the cross. That is to say that when Jesus died on the cross, when the Father looked upon His spotless Son He saw the Son as the one who chose to have an abortion, He saw His son as the guilty party. The Father poured out His wrath on Christ so that you might be set free from the guilt and condemnation of your sin.
If you don’t address your guilt with the Gospel and you simply suppress it by willing it away two things will happen.
1. You will never experience true joy. True joy can only come in knowing that your sin has been taken away. Your guilt, although real, has been dealt with—your sin has been atoned for.
2. You will become callous to the true nature of sin. Sin always demands an answer.
Our hearts demand a response to sin and the guilt which comes with it because we know intuitively that it deserves to be punished because it is an act of rebellion against our Creator. If you only push sin away and never provide an answer for it, you will over time begin to think that sin can be dealt with without providing an answer to it. The Gospel does not tell you that your sin is not a big deal. Rather, it tells you the opposite. It tells you that your sin is a big deal and that you are condemned for it. But the Gospel also tells you that Christ stepped in your place and took your sin upon Himself and took the full penalty for it so that you can be set free from it. The Gosepl is the only answer for guilt. It both reminds you that you deserve condemnation apart from Christ and that Christ has indeed taken that guilt and condemnation away. Let me say, as well, that this is usually never, for any sin, a one time event. You have to apply the Gospel to past sins every day of your life.
Regardless of the fact that abortion is a sensitive issue and difficult to talk about, we must address it. The fact is that regardless of how it makes us feel (dirty, guilty, or whatever) 3,500 babies are killed everyday in the US, 1.3 million a year. 117,000 are killed everyday in the world, 42 million a year. As difficult as it may be, these numbers continue to climb regardless of how we respond. So… with the time I have left I want to first give a basic argument against abortion from the Bible and then I want to talk about how we as Christians should respond to this appalling reality.
 
Abortion is a Sin
I do not intend to give an exhaustive treatment of this issue of abortion. I do not intend to give scientific reasons for my conclusions. My only purpose this morning is to demonstrate that abortion is a sin particularly from the Bible. I believe that R.C. Sproul is correct when he said, “I am convinced that if the most ardent feminists thought that abortion was in fact a type of murder, they would be as ardently opposed to abortion as they are in favor of equal rights for women.” He argues that it is best to refer to abortion as involuntary manslaughter and not murder, in the majority of cases, simply because the overwhelming majority of women who get abortions do so believing that the embryo or fetus is something less than human.
I agree with Sproul and appreciate his approach. He doesn’t want to bring unnecessary contention to an already contentious issue—we should all take our clues from him on this. The fact is that men and women in our culture are brainwashed to think that an embryo or fetus is something less than a living human being. So what I want to do is demonstrate from the Bible that the baby in the womb, regardless of where it is in regard to its development, is a real living human person. In other words, the baby in the womb is a real living person from the get-go. The baby doesn’t become a human person somewhere in the process of development. Rather, life, personhood, begins at conception. I believe that it is self-evident that a human is a human regardless of where he or she is at in the process of development.
The fact is that humans do not fully develop until they are well into their 20’s, somewhere between 20-30. If life does not begins at conception but begins somewhere along the lines of discernment, who am I or who are you to know when that life begins. The fact is that a human life is brought into being at the moment of conception. The basic makeup, everything that makes you who you (DNA) are, genetically speaking, is already there at the moment of conception. All you need is time to develop and space to rent. And here is the point; if it can be proven that the baby in the womb is a real human person, regardless of where it is at in terms of its development, it can be proven that abortion is a type of murder and is therefore a sin.
Abortion is not the extermination of potential life or the removal of a personless mass of cells. Abortion is the extinguishing of the life of a real human person. Abortion destroys God’s creature—a creature uniquely made in the image of God. There are no passages which say that life begins at conception. However, there are many passages which communicate that God is at work in the womb. God considers the baby in the womb to be His special image-bearer. This is what makes abortion such a crime against God. It is an act of idolatry. The one who performs or has an abortion plays God. Read the book of Genesis. You will find that God opens and closes the womb. It is God’s prerogative to give life and His to take life. When a human decisively takes a life, he is presuming a role that belongs to God alone. Life and death are God’s business. Consider these passages with me.

Psalm 139:13-15; 13 For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. 14 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.

Job 31:15; Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?

Luke 1:15, 44; 15 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth… 44 when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.

Psalm 139: Here we see that God is intimately involved in the development of the child in the womb. The Psalmist clearly saw himself as a real living person in the womb. And this Psalmist is writing this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This is the word of God. The phrase “knitted me together in my mother’s womb” in vs. 13 is massive. We cannot think of the development of a baby in the womb in purely scientific terms. We tend to only think of developmental progress in scientific or medical terms. Maybe we have progressed past the Bible. Maybe we have become so overconfident in our science that we have forgotten what is most determinative. What God says is that He is the primary actor in the womb, not natural processes. If the only thing you think when you give birth to a baby is science, you have missed the glory of human life. The glory of human life is that it is the work of God.
He goes on to say in vs. 14 that He is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” He is clearly giving glory to God, not science. That is why he says, “I praise you… wonderful are your works.” In vs. 15 he talks about “being made in secret.” He is clearly speaking about development in the womb. The womb is a secret place. He then reiterates the same truth but with poetic language, “intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” He is not here saying that he emerged from the liquid magma in the center of the earth. The “depths of the earth” is a reference to the womb. It is a hidden place, a secret place, like the depths of the earth. And in this hidden place, in the confines of the womb, he was “intricately woven” together. This is the Psalmist in the womb. God is the author of life. God is the primary actor in the process of development. The baby in the womb is being intricately woven together to be who God has designed him or her to be. The baby in the womb is not a lifeless, personless mass of cells. The baby in the womb is a human being made in the image of God, intricately woven to be who God has designed him or her to be.
John Piper says, “To put it positively: the destruction of conceived human life — whether embryonic, fetal, or viable — is an assault on the unique person-forming work of God. Abortion is an assault on God, not just man. God is uniquely at work in the womb from the moment of conception.” Job 31: Job emphasizes the same thing as the Psalmist in Psalm 139. God is the author of life. He is the one who makes the baby in the womb. Luke 1: Here we see that John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit while in his mother’s and actually leaped for joy when Mary came bearing Jesus in her womb. There is no questioning the fact that John the Baptist was a real human person in the womb.
 
Putting it in Perspective
Clearly, God speaks of the development of the baby in the womb as His work. He sees the baby in the womb as His work, as a living being, as a human person made in His image for His glory. Abortion, my friends, is the killing of this life. It is the destruction of an innocent human being. As R.C. Sproul says, “the most dangerous place in the United States for a human being is inside the womb of a woman. For millions of unborn babies, the womb has become a cell on death row. The inmate is summarily executed without benefit of a trial or a word of defense.” Isn’t it amazing that the most violent criminals are given the right to a trial and to representation. Adam Lanza, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Charles Manson were given due process—they stood before a judge and jury and had the right to representation in the court of law. However, an unborn human person, the most innocent, helpless, and defenseless among us are literally sucked out of the womb without representation, without even committing a crime. They are killed in the most sacred and safest places on earth, the womb of their own mother.
I know that we are so concerned about terrorism in America. I don’t in any way mean to downplay the horror of 9/11. But how many people were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack? 3,000. How many babies are killed every day in America again? 3,500. What is the true horror of 9/11? 6,500 innocent human beings made in the image of God were ruthlessly killed. I remember watching the news on April 15th, 2013, the day of the Boston Marathon Bombing. I remember watching the news footage coming in. I do not in any way mean to downplay the horror or tragedy of what happened in Boston. How many were killed in those blasts? 3 people. I remember watching the pictures, the images of people on the sidewalks of Boston with blood on their faces and clothes. I remember watching the same images again and again and again. My stomach became sour because I realized that horrific day that 3,500 Americans did not die that day, 3,503 American’s died. Why didn’t the media talk about the 3,500 babies who were violently and barbarically killed on April 15th? And make no mistake about it, abortion is not a painless procedure. It is a painful, barbaric, monstrous procedure. One of my seminary professors once said that although the media cannot tell you what to think, it can tell you what to think about. They control what you think about by what they report and what they don’t report. The massive slaughter of 3500 babies was not mentioned on April 15th because their blood was not spilled on a side walk in downtown Boston—it was spilled in the privacy of a womb in a protected doctor’s office. The names and faces of those who were killed in the Boston Bombing were broadcasted on every news channel under the sun, but not one aborted baby got air time. Did you miss it?
Many say, “When will the judgment of God come on America for this great atrocity of killing 60 million babies in the last forty years? I say that judgment has already come. I would consider 60 million American’s killed is judgment. How many millions of would-be doctors or teachers or policeman or soldiers or pastors have been killed in the last 40 years. Abortion is the judgment of God on America. It is self-inflicted judgment.
 
How to Respond
So how do we respond to this information? A few things need to be said. 1. It is not permissible for the Christian to exact justice on their own.

“Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).

Those who bomb abortion clinics and shoot abortion doctors are just as vile as the doctors themselves. 2. We must look at this with from a biblical perspective. We must see this as the work of the enemy. If we go wrong here our whole approach will be off target. If you think that this is primarily a battle of ideas—if we just inform the public correctly we will win. No… this is the slaughter of 3500 babies a day!

“We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present spiritual darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).

This is being pushed along by demonic and satanic forces. How can the entire public be asleep while 3500 babies are being killed every day on our watch? This is a spiritual issue. We must approach this on our knees or we will lose. We must not underestimate this enemy. 3. We must know that it is not enough to be informed, we must actually take up the cause of the unborn.

Isaiah 1:17; 17 seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.

Psalm 82:3; Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.

James 1:27; 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.

The fatherless, widow, and orphans represent those who are helpless, defenseless, and voiceless.
They have no authority to speak on their behalf. If someone doesn’t speak for them, they will be trampled on. The NIV translates Isaiah 1:17, “Take up the cause of the fatherless.” I love this translation. It communicates the idea that it is not okay for you to watch them struggle from afar. If we are to be obedient we must actually inconvenience ourselves—take up their cause—to see it to that they basic needs are met, that their basic rights are bing upheld. The unborn in our day and age are the most helpless and defenseless in our society. The unborn cannot speak up for themselves. They can’t vouch for their right to life. Who is going to do it? God says that it is our job. So how do we take up the cause of the unborn? Many ways.

(1) Pray. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer. God hears the cries of His people when they cry out for the oppressed.

(2) Talk about it. Don’t be silent. Expect to be misunderstood. Speak the truth in love, but speak the truth. Write letters to congressman, senators, and other governing officials. Let your voice be heard.

(3) Donate to crisis pregnancy centers. There is no reason that we can’t spare our loose change for the sake of the unborn. Crisis pregnancy centers exist for the purpose of saving the lives of babies. Give, give, give. Give more than just change. Put bills in the bottles. Money is massively important in this effort. You must bring the baby bottles back next week. But we ought to have every bottle filled.

(4) Adopt. This may be an option for you. Taking up the cause of the unborn involves inconveniencing ourselves for the unborn. I can happily say that Christians have paved the way when it comes to being a shelter for unwanted children. But we can and must do more. You should pray whether God is calling you to this. John Piper adopted a girl at age 50. Many others do adopt later in life as well. This is one way where we can send a powerful message to the world that we are not just for the unborn in theory but in practice, in reality.

(5) Volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center.

(6) Don’t lose the gospel.

As much as you may be concerned about the unborn, what sets you apart from the world is not that you are pro-life but that you are sold out to Jesus Christ. As much as you should be outraged and concerned about this issue, the Gospel must be at the very center of your Christianity. I have found many Christians who have sold themselves out to the pro-life issue to the point where they equate evangelism with converting people to become pro-life. But this isn’t evangelism. Evangelism is about pointing to Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for sins. But I would argue that the majority of Christians are apathetic abortion and not disproportionately passionate about it.
~ Jimmy
 
 

 

..

Jimmy Snowden
Jimmy serves as pastor for “Preaching and Vision” at Sovereign Grace Fellowship in Boscawen, New Hampshire. Previoulsy he fulfilled leadership roles in both Kansas City, Missouri and Las Vegas, Nevada. Jimmy received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Studies from Hannibal-LaGrange College and a Master of Divinity degree from Liberty University.
Visit pastor Snowden’s Blog