The Sanctity of Life

Introduction

I must admit that I have been horrified by recent studies and discussions concerning the sanctity of life.  Previously, I had not been horrified enough.  What follows is not a comprehensive discussion by any means, but some thoughts concerning this issue as it faces the entirety of the world today in its various forms.  For a fuller discussion see the links provided below – in fact, I would commend them to you first and foremost.

History 

This is nothing new.  Abortion and euthanasia are not horrors conceived in the minds of contemporary secularists, philosophers, or embarrassed parents who are normally seated in the first few rows of their congregations pews.  The issue of the sanctity of life dates to the inception of humanity in Genesis 1:26-28.  There, God wills to create man in His image, the imago Dei, and succeeds in doing so.  Man is created in the image of God, created to reflect that image to the nations.  It is precisely because one is so created that the sanctity of life is an issue.  To destroy human life is to assault the crown of God’s creation, to rebel against God, Himself.  Thus the prohibitions against murder (see Cain in Genesis 4).  In Genesis 3, man created in God’s image faces an adversary, one to whom he would eventually listen to and fall from that Edenic union that he had with God – this adversaries attack on the first Adam centered on his word contra that word of God, it was a counter word.  God curses Adam and Eve and the devil, but not without telling the devil that He would and had already lost and how that would come about – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15) – only a few millennia before that offspring, Christ, would come into the world.  What must be highlighted here is the reality that Satan has, ever since, violently attacked the seed of the woman, children.  Why?  Because his defeat, which has happened and is happening, was promised to him by God in the form of a child, who was Jesus Christ.  Now we know that Christ was bruised by Satan (on the cross), but that Christ fatally crushed Satan (on that same cross)!  

We should not be so naive then as to separate the biblical assaults on children from their source, namely, Satan’s warfare against the image of God and His Christ.  For throughout the Scriptures, unborn humans, infants, and other young children are murdered – murdered to end ancestral lines; murdered to squelch out the line of the coming Messiah (2 Kings 11:1-3); we find it in the infanticides of Pharoah (Exodus 1:8-22) and Herod (Matthew 2:16-18), again to bring about the death of Christ’s line or in the case of Herod, Christ, Himself; moreover, the pagan nations that surrounded Israel offered their children in the fire as sacrifices to the the gods; others, when famine arose because of covenant curses being realized due to sin, parents would eat their children to survive.  

We are not far removed from such atrocities.  Today, the number of abortions in America since Roe vs. Wade in 1973 has climbed near to or reached 50,000,000.  Fifty million human beings murdered in the mother’s womb – that is one-sixth of the American population.  That does not take into account that many aborted in 1973 would now be 35 years old and parenting children of their own.  To our shame (which does not really do the situation justice), we have removed an entire generation of God reflector’s from history.   And for what reason?

The Real Issue 

Many speak of the instances of rape, incest, etc. as reasons for abortion – and while these issues are indeed horrifying, and in need of much counsel and discernment, – these kind of cases account for three percent (3%) of all abortions in America.  What of the other 97%?  We are left to understand the other 97 abortions out of one hundred as cases wherein the unborn human, the child to be born, simply did not fit in with the lifestyle or plan or self-interests of the couple (and any accessories to the event).  Today, 33% of pregnancies end in abortion, making the womb the most dangerous place for a human being to be – not the streets, not in gangs, not in the military, but in the mother’s womb, – and it is because the child cramped his or her purported parents style.

America is indeed a confused country – a country whose citizens (84%) claim that religion is important, and yet give obvious evidence that cups of tea with religion, secularism, New Age, postmodernism, or whatever do not in any way effect our convictions or our mental capacities, much less our heart, or souls, or the forthrightness of our actions.  The real issue, at last, is a gospel issue.  Convictions, mind, heart, soul must be changed if actions are to be changed, but moral reform will not accomplish the task; such conversion is exclusively a God work (John 1:12-13); I write not of dead orthodoxy but of the real, the true vibrancy that one receives as a gift from God when they (seeing themselves as what they truly are, that is, sinners before a holy God who is just to condemn them, and us all, to hell) then repent of their sin and embrace the perfection of Jesus Christ’s life, and death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead, as their own (and only means of salvation with God whereby God declares the sinner perfectly righteous, removes the guilt of sin, and gives the very righteousness of God to us to fill our account) – we are thus and then a new creation, and only then able to turn from following the worn out paths of the devil begun long ago from Genesis 3:15, to the new paths of Jesus Christ, informed by His Word, by which we live and move and have our being.

Applications and Exhortations

Allow me two applications, one to the unbeliever and one to the believer: first, to the unbeliever, to the one who perhaps has experienced an abortion(s), the gospel of God (see above) stands open to you, and I plead with you to receive the grace and mercy of God in it; God saves sinners, not simply addicts, or abusers, or sensualists; not sinners of a certain type or degree; God saves sinners, even you; to the believer (who also has perhaps endured an abortion(s)), know that God has forgiven in Christ, that He does in fact love you, that you are in a particular situation whereby you can be tremendously helpful in counseling other women and men who may or may not be considering abortion or euthanasia, etc.  Many believers may become actively involved in pregnancy centers, in writing letters, in blogging, etc. to make known what Satan has tried to hide and make secret.  God knows, He is not mocked, and you, as with America, as with the world, will reap what she has sown.  But God is gracious, and I pray that we all begin to seek His face concerning sin, seeking to be rid of it, seeking to propagate the truth of the gospel and the glory of Christ.  

Throughout history, God preserved the line of His Christ from the abortions, infanticides, and genocides of the adversary, and in doing so has brought to us His salvation by way of a cross.  Let us then be realists about who is the impetus behind the attack on life; let us be realists about the God who thwarted Him in Jesus’ name.  God help us that there might be a day soon when the unborn, and those fighting for life may find life, both now and eternally.

Related Links

Why the Unborn Still Matter to the Church, by Russell Moore

Roe vs. Wade Thursday, by Bryan Baise

The Case for Life Around the Web, by Justin Taylor

The Baby in My Womb Leaped for Joy, by John Piper (his response to Obama on abortion; you can see a clip of his sermon at this site also)

And Finally

A Christian Theology of Salt and Light

Due to the length of it, I posted this under the “Other Writings” tab above.  If you have time, I would benefit from your thoughts as always.

A Thought On Prayer

The Bible makes it crystal clear that we can hinder our own prayers.  Husbands who are at odds with their wives have their prayers hindered; believers who are carrying on in sin have their prayers hindered; many struggle to believe the revealed truth about God as Father, or Provider, or that He is unchangeable and merciful in His character, and so they cannot find it in themselves to ask from Him.  We cannot merit, however, God’s attention or His answers; our many words, for example, do not earn God’s open ear and bountiful hand.  God has promised to answer the prayers of every one of His children because He is, in Himself, the basis of His own listening and answering – Christ has merited this for us, and God is unchangeable, a perfect Father who is pleased to commune with His children in prayer.  

God does not discriminate concerning the prayers of His children on the basis of that child’s growth in godliness.  When the church gathers together to pray, the people who pray should include both the seminarian and the new babe in Christ.  Often times, those who do not pray publicly within the context of the church hesitate because they assign themselves a value of lesser status than those who speak and pray so articulately.  They do not want to be embarrassed.  In all Christian love, we of course would freely invite every member of our church to pray; we affirm as much – every member of the body is as much a child of God as the next in the same way that I and my younger sister are just as much the children of our parents; I am not more of a child, my voice is not more important than hers simply because I have been my parents child longer than she; thus, we must affirm and encourage every person to pray in our church settings and not give credence to the more eloquent only.

Recently, Jenny and I were talking about this sort of encouragement towards all believers in the church to have a part in the prayer life of the church; that it was made plain and practical in one of our pastors more recent sermons.  However, even with this affirmation, we realized something that many of us do (perhaps) unconsciously – we are apt to verbally affirm those whose words are more articulate than those whose are not quite so . . . pretty.  It seems as if we are more inclined to breathe an “amen” or a semi-silent “uh-huh” when the eloquent do speak up.  But is this not to make a distinction between the eloquent and the fumbler of words even unconsciously?  Why is this a big deal?

First, because we are failing to hear as God hears.  God listens to our words, but God knows what we need before we ask Him.  Our many words do not impress; then again, no words does not impress either; furthermore, we should not be trying to impress.  But God looks on the heart and the intentions thereof.  He is concerned with its Godwardness, its intent, and so we should set ourselves to such discernment of our own prayers.  Moreover, with this in mind, we ought to listen carefully to hearts of brothers and sisters in Christ; then we shall be more prepared to enter into their prayers with them, agreeing with them before the Father.  Prayer is essential to the Christian life, to the vitality of the church body, and our faith that God is at work in the world by the gospel of Christ.  Let us then mind our prayers, and our unconscious and unwise bent towards the eloquent, affirm Godward intentions, avoid people pleasing and the erroneous belief in the merit of many words – and, as my wife has so rightly said in agreement with Christ, enter into the secret place where our Father always resides forever to commune with us as a perfect Father to His waning yet rejoicing child.

Appendages to Repentance, Wisdom, and Knowledge

This is more of a reminder to myself than anything else, although the appendages that I would write of may often be forgotten amongst us in general.  The tendency is to get comfortable with repentance for the sake of repentance, wisdom for the sake of wisdom, and knowledge for the sake of knowledge.  It is easily forgotten that such inward realities have outward expressions and that it is by the outward expression, the practical outworking that the inward reality is proven to be either true, or false, or perhaps, the evidence of the spiritually deceived.  I am quite often the latter.  For this reason, I would draw you to observe the following verses:

Concerning repentance: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance,” Matthew 3:7-8.

Concerning wisdom: “But to what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds,” Matthew 11:16-19.

Concerning knowledge: “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing,” 1 Corinthians 13:2-3.  

Thus, we ought to walk carefully – do we repent of sin Godward?  Let us bear that fruit by not attending to that sin again.  Do we think of ourselves as those of much wisdom, that is, practical knowledge?  Where are the correspondent deeds of wisdom, if in fact wisdom is justified, that is, declaratively manifest in decisions, words, and actions, by its deeds?  Knowledge alone puffs up; it makes one prideful; but love builds up, that is, our knowledge of God must support and be submissive to a love that carries one Godward.  If we, as I have, exalt the notions of repentance, wisdom, and knowledge above their practical outworkings of fruit or deed or love, and consider ourselves more godly because we can speak words, yet have no actions to match them, then we are only a half Christian, that is, a deceived Christian, and we must, ironically, truly repent and ask for wisdom and knowledge that works.  

For the sake of understanding allow a short qualification:  repentance is a gift of God, and so to are wisdom and knowledge, for we receive them insofar as we know God through faith in Christ, a faith which itself is given to us by God and does not originate within ourselves.  Nevertheless, having received them, and continually receiving them and having them refreshed and exercised by the working of God’s Spirit, we must repent, and make use of wisdom and knowledge for the dispersion of the knowledge of the glory of Christ.  That is all to say that God is the sovereign author of these graces, and that we, being regenerated (made alive to God through salvation) now not only pursue them, but seek to take care for the products of them, namely, fruit, deeds, and love, which verify these spiritual realities.  Such realities in full expression, like the blossoming flower, reveal the ideal of the new creation, that is, of the whole Christian.  God has saved us for more than mere words, for the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power – that of a transformed life.  Let us look then to the blooming of these graces with humility, for therein have we truly reflected Christ.

Sin, Consequence, and Grace

I write from personal reflection when I type that the theology of sin has largely been lost amongst my own soul and, I do believe, the American church in general.  The pace of our day has consumed time for thinking on one’s sin and the consequences of it.  Our culture beckons the church to be quiet, and to desist from using words like sin and repentance and judgment.  Unfortunately, we have given a ready ear and taken heed to their many persuasions.  Pragmatic approaches to “doing church” (whatever that means) have removed from the pulpit the very realities that drive the soul to the Savior.  The price paid has been the desensitization of the heart to the majesty and grace and greatness of the Savior, for in proportion to our grasp of the wickedness of our own sin do we equally grasp the love and grandeur of Jesus Christ.  I want to briefly speak to three things upon personal consideration: sin, the consequences of sin, and the grace of God which stands against sin with immeasurably greater power.

I would only make one point about sin: sin is very serious.  It is more than our actions, more than idle thoughts, words, or bad attitudes; these are but the fruits of sin, the sins of sin.  Sin, itself, is something much more.  It is a dissatisfaction in God, rebellion against His created order; a murderous hand shaking in his face with defiance; a principle that labors to destroy the soul; Romans presents sin as a master, a king before which we bow and offer ourselves; but this master lies in secret, and is most cunning; sin is humanly impossible to kill; therapy, medicines, nor pats-on-the-back or get-em-next-time-slugger’s do the job; sin is the root planted in every human being from Adam’s fall, for in him all humanity sinned; it grabs and squeezes the heart, wrapping it in chains, commanding our being to act in accord, and being so rooted and apart from Christ, we know no better but to worship its evil word; sin has universally infected the human race; sin is so serious that death entered the world on account of it as a judgment in part; and sin, though it is against particular individuals, is ultimately against God.  Sin is very serious, and it has consequences.

Some consequences have already been mentioned, but it must be attended to more particularly.  Our sin, for example, effects many who have not engaged in the sin (see Achan’s sin).  When we think that we have sinned against one person, we may find out that it most truly impacted several.  The seriousness of sin is further heightened when the eternality of those consequences are taken into account.  Not to belabor the point, but the greatest consequence of sin will not be realized in this life, but when one stands before God to give an account of his or her life.  If one has not believed upon Christ, the consequence is a second death, by which is meant consignment to hell forever, that is, without end.  But allow me to write to the grace of God.

Practically speaking, let us take one of the fruits of sin, any one of a number that I have wrestled with today.  Perhaps it was a thought, or a look, or pride displeasing to God, or perhaps still something else.  The point for today, the point to consider is that it wasn’t something worse; it is not that I do not have the capacity within myself to do something worse, for indeed the same root of sin is in me that resides within the nastiest son of gun in history; the potential to be like many whom we sneer at resides within me; but God restrains me, His grace restrains me, and so His grace restrains you, the believer – for you are His child, and the unbeliever – for God is expressing His common grace in order that you should repent and trust Christ, for I am not as sinful as I could be.  This should be quite clear.  And, indeed, the believer should be squelching out sin dependent on the work of God’s Spirit – which He has given to us for this purpose: to make us like Christ, that is, without sin; this goal, to be stretched for in this life, is the prize of the next.  

But because God restrained my ungodly thought (for example) from becoming an ungodly action, God’s grace has also restrained the consequence of my sin – it does not effect as terribly those same people (for example) that would have been impacted.  Thus, God’s grace restrains me, and restrains due consequence, i.e., judgment (taking the form of Fatherly discipline with His children), and works in His children to battle this evil called sin by the gift of His Holy Spirit which equips us for the trenches with the Sword of the Spirit, that is, the Word of God.  He, thus, makes us a holy people which is the greatest happiness, a people satisfied in Him, the greatest Joy.

Lastly, the grace of God, which one professor properly calls “demerited favor”, overcomes the power of sin in the life of the unbeliever.  This is the good news to every unbeliever, and the greatest reminder to the believer (having already come to know this reality).  Sin, itself, is so serious that only God’s grace could overcome it; this refers us to the cross of Jesus Christ – “For our sake, God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” 2 Corinthians 5:21.  The Savior of the world was slain before the beginning of the world because of the seriousness of sin, for sin itself, that He might redeem from its mastery all who would embrace Him as one’s only means of salvation before God.  Jesus was without sin!  But He lived, but He died our death for sin, but He arose triumphant over it having no sin in Himself and invites every sinner to be cleansed by faith in Him.  Where sin abounds, God’s grace abounds all the more.

To the believer, I would with all of my heart, seek to encourage you to be mindful of sin, its seriousness, its consequences, and the incredible dissatisfaction that its promises bring.  We must reclaim the doctrine of sin, and we must take heed to our lives; as John Owen put it, “You must be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.”  To reclaim the doctrine of sin is to reclaim the knowledge of the true majesty of the Lamb who was slain; as we understand the wickedness of sin as it applies to ourselves, so we shall know the greatness of Christ by proportional degrees.  God has saved us to watch our lives with an extremely sober mind, but sin seeks to devour us like a roaring lion.  It was to Cain that God said he must obtain mastery over sin; Cain failed, but where he failed, Christ succeeded, and in Christ so we too now have the gracious ability to master sin, to kill it, to grow in holiness.  But no soldier began a battle well who did not first reckon well the might of the foe; let us do this regularly, for in so doing shall we see the bounty of God’s grace in Christ – restraining, disciplining, loving, pointing and pulling us Christward.