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F. Earle Fox
St Luke's REC, Santa Ana, CA
1st Sunday of Lent -Feb. 25, 2012
Isaiah 48:12-21; Psalm 147; James 1:22-27; John 16:23-33
Today is the first Sunday of Lent. I am preaching this sermon against abortion and for life because the "40 Days for Life" began a week ago Saturday, and will continue through most of Lent. The lessons do not point in that direction, so I am using this sermon to go in a slightly different, but related, direction -- choosing life.
"Choose life..." is a theme running all through Scripture, expressed in many different ways. "Choose life..." It comes, in both Old and New Testaments, from the Voice of God Himself, urging His people to choose the path to life, to which He is calling them. Jesus tells us:
Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Mt. 7:13-14
Choose life -- resist the devil, as Jesus does in the Gospel.
But whichever He meant, it doubly underscores the need for us to commit ourselves (1) to rigorous truth-seeking and truth-speaking, (2) to obedience to His law, (3) to repentance and confession of our disobedience, and (4) to reception of His wonderful forgiveness and amazing grace. I think those four requirements are what make that gate seem so narrow and the road so hard. They one and all very difficult.
The fallen world is commanded to take the road back to reality, back to substantial being, back to security -- out of the endless morass and near-psychotic mentality of our human societies. Back to relationship reality -- how we get along with God and one another. Choose life.
But Jesus is saying is that the majority of the human race does not want to live in reality. It wants to live in convenience, pleasure, and power. It is not willing to be truth-seekers at any cost to itself. That "at any cost" part is essential, because the world, the flesh and/or the devil will soon confront you with just that situation where you are not willing to pay the cost of truth-seeking, and so, as Paul points out in Romans 1:18 ff., thereby subverting and derailing your trip into reality. You begin the great compromise... the wide and easier road which leads to unreality and death.
Choose life, Jesus is saying. Choose that which leads
to life -- at any cost to yourself. That is the pearl of great price.
Our Declaration of Independence lists life as the first of the inalienable rights - from God, not from civil government. That valuing of life comes right out of our Biblical heritage. If life is not protected, of what use are any of the other rights? It must be the primary protected. That means that there is a supreme obligation on all of us to protect the lives of ourselves and those around us. Our rights exist only because there are obligations protecting those rights. The obligation to refrain from murder protects the lives of all living persons, and therefore protects the "right" to life.
And that leads us to the abortion issue. Every preacher ought to preach at least one or two times a year on that subject until the scourge of abortion is lifted from America. And he ought to be clear: there is one and only one Christian position on the issue of abortion: If the entity in the womb is a person, then the person in the womb has the same protection of law as born persons. By any reasonable standards the evidence is clear: the entity in the womb is indeed a person.
Abortion has quite an "interesting" history. That very principle of protection of life was stated right in the Supreme Court 1973 decision, Roe v. Wade. The Court said, wrongly and foolishly, that it was not necessary for the Court to determine whether the entity in the womb was a person, but that if it could be proven that it was, then the decision to permit abortions would be immediately overthrown.
How could that determination, as to whether the entity in the womb was a person, not be necessary -- if its being true would invalidate the conclusion that killing children in the womb is OK? And how could the America public have let them get away with such horrendous twisting of law?
We Americans had become so ignorant both of our own legal system and of the law of God, that we did not see what they were doing to us. But that is changing. (I strongly recommend the currently available lecture series online from Hillsdale College in Michigan, on the American Constitution. Excellent. At www.hillsdale.edu .)
To understand the situation, we must go back 11 years from 1973 to 1962 when the decision, Engel v. Vitale, was passed -- telling God that He no longer had the right to talk to our children in the government-run schools, nor they to Him. More stupidity or deceit. Prayer was declared "unconstitutional". Prayer was not the issue. The issue was: Who is God? Who decides the difference between right and wrong? Who decides who shall live and who shall die? That is the prime question for all politics and lawmaking. Who is God? From where does all authority emanate?
The Court told God and the rest of us that God no longer ruled, that He was dismissed, and that they, the Court, were now responsible for those decisions. Engel v. Vitale and a few other anti-Christ decisions set the stage for Roe v. Wade, in which the Court indeed decided that a whole class of persons no longer were persons, that babies in the womb could be killed for any reason, or no reason at all.
The secular world was waging war against the sovereignty of God, and against the family which was the primary institution through which Biblical faith could be passed on to the next generations. And we, the Body of Christ, have let them get away with trashing the sovereignty of God and the family -- with hardly a peep of effective protest.
The truth is that Roe v. Wade is not the law of the land -- because the courts, even the Supreme Court, are legally incapable of making law. That is done by we, the people, through our elected representatives in the legislature. And nowhere else. But our Constitution had been high-jacked from us by persuading the public that courts could make law. That is not true, and has never been true.
Abortion was pushed through by radical feminists who wanted the freedom to be just as sexually promiscuous as they thought men were being -- without the unwanted baggage of children. And again, the Church, the Body of Christ, was impotent and silent. No effective protest from the Christian community.
We were impotent to defend God, family, and little babies because we had been secularized and dumbed down -- largely by our own public school system which had, after the founding in the 1960's of the Federal Department of Education, an almost uninhibited lock on the minds of most American children.
None of this was accidental. The government
school system was, right from its founding in the early 1800's with Horace Mann
and others, right up through John Dewey, and into our present situation,
designed to be a control system, not an education system.
Well, God has something to say to all this... whether they like it or not.
First, He has to say that every human being is made in His Image, male and female. We are all created, as He remarks, very good. He values us as His creatures. But we lost touch with our own value when the human race rebelled and fell into the world without God. Then God reasserted that value of us in redemption -- indicating the extent of that value by the shed blood of His Son. You don't get any more value than that.
Second, He has to say, "thou shalt do no murder." You shall not take the life of any human being who has not been duly and legitimately found guilty of a capital crime. Babies in the womb just don't qualify.
Third, God has to say, "Government shall be limited in its scope, and responsible to the people of the land. It shall not be another Egyptian taskmaster," ...as we are getting today.
Fourth, God has to say, "I have given the authority for the education of children to the parents, not to civil government. Civil government will butt out, not I."
In other words, our present government, which has inflated itself far beyond that appointed by God, is (under the jurisdiction and judgement of God) an outlaw government, and needs to be reined in, disciplined by we, the people. Under God, we, the people taken as a whole, are the highest officer of the State. Either we rein in our government, or we, the people, shall be punished by God. We will be dismissed, impeached -- as, for all practical purposes, we already are. America will suffer the same consequence that Rome suffered, for not submitting itself to the purposes of God. It died. We are already well down that track.
But in the grace of God, we can turn this
around. God means to win this war, and He will use us just as He did Moses
and others -- if we will submit ourselves to Him.
Abortion is a terribly contentious subject, but there is a graceful way of opening a discussion when facing a supporter of abortion. You can say to them, "If the evidence should show that God approves of abortion, and that the entity in the womb is not a person, then I will stand with you, and I will agree that we abortion protesters should pack up and go home.
On the other hand, if the evidence should show that God does not approve of abortion, or that the entity in the womb is indeed a person, would you be willing to reconsider your position on abortion?"
You can see the effect almost immediately. Their face relaxes, if they are waving a sign, they put the sign down, and become quiet. They are listening, they are thinking.
If I make myself vulnerable, if I am willing to admit the possibility, however small, that I might be wrong, and if I am willing to spell out the conditions by which I might be proven wrong, then he understands that I am not there to beat up on him, and that I am willing to put the issue to an honest contest of evidence. We fight not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers in high places.
I have never seen this kind of approach not work --
to at least begin the possibility of an honest discussion of a very
difficult issue. Just that beginning is a major step, and opens a crack in
their armor. But we first must take off our own suit of armor.
Then, if you get that far, what can you say? How does one show evidence for the entity in the womb being a person?
You can mention that all the scientific evidence points to certain facts of the situation. There is no contradictory evidence.
(1) The entity in the womb begins as a zygote, a one-celled being made up of the union of an egg and a sperm, the female and the male union. The zygote is not an appendage of the mother, even though it lives within the body of mother, and gets its nourishment from her. That one-celled being is an independent being, separate from mother, with its own DNA code combined from mother and father, which spells out precisely the various characteristics into which it will grow. It is a being in its own right.
(2) But, it is more than just a being. It is not a frog-being, it is not a deer-being, it is not a octopus-being, it is a human-being, i.e., a person, a somebody, not a something. What else could it be? It comes from human parents, not from a frog, deer, or octopus. At the first one-celled stage, it is a being already separate from mother, so it can be only a human-being.
(3) If all goes well, it will mature into an adult human being like the other 6 or so billion of us on planet earth. And only three things are necessary for that to happen: time, nourishment, and TLC (tender, loving care) -- the child needs to know that it is loved, that it means something to someone - or it will die. That is first mom's job, for which she is so superbly equipped.
(4) There is no special stage later than conception
at which the entity arrives, at which one can reasonably say, "Aha!
Now, at last, it has become a human being." It is one long,
continuous process from the conception of the initial zygote. We are therefore
left with only one time at which we can say, "This is the beginning of its
being human", i.e., at conception. There is no other time which can
reasonably be chosen. All other times are arbitrary, unreasonable, and probably
meant to establish a falsehood to justify abortion.
With a little practice, that discussion is easy to remember. But sometimes you do not get more than a few seconds -- for which there is a good sound-byte. "Sure, abortion is perfectly OK -- if God says it is OK for you to take someone else's life to solve your problem."
That is all you have to say. You have gently put the problem of whether she or he can take another life right in his or her face. You can wait for an answer, or, if you have no time, just walk away. The bomb has been dropped.
If they retort that they do not believe in God, then
tell them to use their own morality. The consequences of their saying that they
have such a right to take someone else's life will get them into a terrible
We in the West have gotten ourselves into our own
moral snarls and
unhappy conditions because we, the Christians, have often in practice (if not in
theory) abandoned God. Almost all Christian leaders, both in the Church
and in politics, argue their cases pragmatically, not from Godly principle.
Most Christians do not know how to introduce Godly principle into the
secularized public arena. We have ourselves become secularized, trying to
paste our Biblical beliefs on top of a secular bottom foundation. Many, if
not most, Christians believe that random-chance evolution is probably the real
explanation for how things got to be the way they are, that life is essentially
impersonal and machine-like. And the rest do not know how to explain
otherwise, even if they believe otherwise. So we continue to lose
the public discussion.
But there is help and hope.
God holds the intellectual, moral, and spiritual high
ground. Secular philosophers and academicians do not hold any high ground. If we obey
God, and become honest truth-seekers before becoming
"position-defenders", we will find that the truth will defend itself much better
than we can. That is the meaning of honest science -- we give up our right
to be right and let the truth and the Lord of truth speak for themselves.
How? Through His word, and through the evidence which supports His word.
For those who have eyes to see, the evidence is everywhere.
We will hear Jesus' words to the disciples in last week's Gospel: "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth..." If you are a truth-seeker, and the Spirit of truth is presenting the truth, what is going to happen? Truth-seekers will bump into the truth, and into Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Truth-seeking is the royal road to God.
And from today's Gospel: "These words I have spoken to you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world, ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
That is past tense -- "I have overcome the world..." Not, "I will overcome the world." It is already overcome. We need only to be grafted into Him, and to follow Him.
The first step for doing that is to become truth-seekers and truth-doers in all our pursuits, and encourage others we meet, of whatever persuasion, in whatever issue, to themselves also join in the truth-seeking and truth-doing venture. Offer the Gospel for them to chew on, but encourage them to ask honest questions, even to challenge you. We need each other, even sometimes our enemies, to keep honest.
The Gospel tells of Jesus’ temptations in the desert, fasting and praying. The devil tempts Jesus to choose death. Jesus replies three times with obedience to the Father, choosing life.
In the Epistle, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to “receive not the grace of God in vain”, thus choosing death, but to choose rather as “dying and behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” Choose life.
And Isaiah urges the people to stop faking their faith, and to choose ways that honor God by actually loving their neighbors. “Is not this the fast that I choose...?” says God. Choose life.
The protection of the babies in the womb is simply a natural part and inevitable extension of choosing life in all other areas of our Christian faith. That is going through that narrow gate, and along that hard road. And it does lead to life.
Choose life by yourself making a difference, a testimony, a witness, a gift, a personal presence. That is going through that narrow gate, and along that hard road. And it does lead to life.
Father in heaven, these 40 Days for Life, these 40 days of fasting and praying, these 40 days of Lent, as You enable us, for the sake of the little ones, get us out of our arm chairs, off our couches, into the lives of others who need to know about You. Show us how to do an Isaiah fast – “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free...” In Jesus name who left His place in heaven to get Himself into our lives who needed to know about You. Amen.
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