The Church for Life

The Church for Life


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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Scientific, Philosophical & Metaphysical Case for Life

(I gave this message on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday at Pines Baptist Church in Pembroke Pines FL on January 31, 2016. Be sure to view the PowerPoint slides, including fetal development slides on Microsoft OneDrive HERE. You can listen to the message online HERE)

For many, abortion is a controversial subject. For some it may be difficult, perhaps even painful to think about. And I know it is likely that some here this morning have been touched by abortion in some way. If that is your experience, while you cannot escape the truth about abortion nor some of the consequences of being involved in an abortion, please know that there is hope in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We will never understand God's grace apart from God's truth. But God's truth always leads us to God's grace. That is why it is my personal conviction that abortion is a gospel issue. In other words, you cannot address abortion from a biblical perspective without acknowledging that God has made every provision through the death of His Son Jesus Christ to forgive, heal and restore those who have been involved in the abortion of a child.

The blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cleanse us from any and every sin if in repentance and faith we call upon Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Therefore, if you life has been touched by abortion in any way, know that you are in a safe place today in this church. I am personally so glad this morning that the gospel is God's powerful remedy for my sin and yours.

On January 22, 1973, two U. S. Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton, legalized the deliberate, premeditated killing of preborn children at anytime during all nine months of pregnancy right up to the very moment of natural child birth for virtually any reason. The Court ruled that unborn children are not persons and therefore lie outside the protection of the U.S. Constitution. In other words, the words of the Declaration of Independence, "...that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” these words of our Constitution do not apply to unborn children. Therefore an unborn child is the property of the mother, the Court having given her the legal “right” to keep or kill her unborn child. Justice Harry Blackmun, author of the prevailing opinion in Roe v. Wade, recognized the significance of the personhood of the unborn in the courts decision, writing,

“The appellee…argue that the fetus is a ‘person’ within the language and meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment…If this suggestion of [fetal] personhood is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment.”

You see, If the Court were to acknowledge the personhood of unborn children they would have every reason and the moral imperative to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Forty three years after Roe v. Wade there are two questions that must be answered in the abortion debate: "Is the unborn a human being?" If you answer this question in the affirmative the second question, a metaphysical question, is of equal importance. "What makes human life valuable?" Or more specifically "What value do you place on unborn human life?" These two questions are central to the abortion debate.

As Prolife apologist Scott Klusendorf asks in his book The Case for Life, "Is the unborn a member of the human family? ...If so, killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong. It treats the distinct human being, with his or her own inherent moral worth, as nothing more than a disposable instrument. Conversely, if the unborn are not human, elective abortion requires no more justification than having a tooth pulled." (page 27)

In other words, from both a legal and moral perspective, if the unborn are human beings the central issue in the abortion debate is not women’s rights, a woman's right to choose, or a woman's right to privacy, but the human rights, the civil rights of the unborn. If the unborn are human beings you cannot extend to a mother the right to kill her unborn child, without denying her child the most basic civil right, the right to life.

But we are now in the forty-fourth year of state sanctioned abortion in America. And as our nation slips further into spiritual darkness we have come to the place where our political leaders are now debating what should be both rationally and morally inconceivable - tax payer funding of America's largest abortion provider that has been caught harvesting and selling body parts of dismembered unborn children. And in this election season, we again have candidates running for president and other political office who brazenly defend, promote and advocate for a mother's right to kill her own offspring. Therefore we must consider the scientific, philosophical and metaphysical case for life. We begin with the scientific case for life.

Is the preborn a human being? Merriam-Webster defines science as: "knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation." Scientific evidence indicates that human life begins at conception. Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, in their book The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, write,

"A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm...unites with a female gamete or form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." (1998, page 2)

Jerome LeJeune, M.D., Professor of genetics University of Descartes  writes,“…after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being.”

Douglas Erlandson,  “When the fertilized egg (or zygote) is first formed, it already possesses its full complement of DNA or genetic information.” He continues, "That information never changes. A person’s sex, blood type, hair and skin color, and future height are all determined in that first cell. From that moment on, unless its life is terminated, it will develop until it becomes an adult human being.” He adds, “It will never become a cat, dog, gorilla, or anything other than a member of the species homo sapiens. From the moment of conception, it is every bit as much a human being as you or I. Nothing radically changes at birth. Birth is simply a change of address one stage on a continuum of life stages.”

David McDonald, further explains the science, "Every human cell has 46 chromosomes (Chr) except the sperm and the egg which have 23 each. At conception they become a unique human with 46 Chr." (see McDonald's diagram slide)

Again, Scott Klusendorf, "...the different in kind from any cell of its parents....From the start this new entity not only directs its own internal development, it has something completely different from both parents--its own unique chromosomal structure. Later it will bear other distinctions such as a different blood type and different internal organs." (The Case for Life page 37)

In other words there are at least two bodies present in every pregnancy: two heads, two set of hands, two set of legs, - two beating hearts and two distinctly different DNA. The science of embryology is definitive as to the humanity of life in the womb and the biological evidence that the embryo is a person distinct and separate from its mother.

In Lennart Nilsson’s famous Life magazine photo essay "Drama of Life Before Birth,” of April 30, 1965, he writes of the unborn at 3 1/2 weeks, or about 25 days. “This embryo is so tiny - about a tenth of an inch long that the mother may not even know she is pregnant. Yet there is already impressive internal development, though not visible here. This embryo has the beginnings of eyes, spinal cord, nervous system, thyroid gland, lungs, stomach kidney and intestines. Its primitive heart, which began beating haltingly on the 18th day, is now pumping more confidently. On the bulge of the chest, the tiny buds of arms-not yet visible are forming.”

At 28 days, four weeks, forty pairs of muscles are developing along the trunk of the new life; arms and legs forming. At thirty days, regular blood flows within the vascular system; the ears and nasal development have begun. By the 40-43 day, the brain registers waves on an electro encephalogram and the heart energy output is reported to be almost 20 percent of an adult. By the forty second day the skeleton is complete and reflexes are present and movement of the baby in the womb may begin.

By the eighth week or 56th day you have a perfectly formed baby with hands, fingers, including distinctive fingerprints feet and toes. All vital organs are present and functioning. The baby responds to touch. By the ninth week the baby is the size of your thumb and will respond to pain, can grasp an object and make a fist. In the 11th week, about three and a half months, all bodily systems work. The baby swallows, tastes, sleeps, wakes, responds to light and darkness, warmth and cold. In the 11th and 12th weeks, the arms and legs move, the baby sucks its thumb, inhales and exhales amniotic fluid and nails begin to appear.

By four months - or 16 weeks, the fetus is five and a half inches long. The genital organs are clearly differentiated. The baby swims, kicks and turns somersaults. The baby cries, hears voices, has rapid eye movement, eyebrows and eyelashes. Here is a photo of Baby Walter Joshua Fretz, born premature at 19 weeks surviving for only moments.

At five months the baby can learn and remember, is well coordinated and kicks are being felt by the mother. A photo of a six month-old preborn child. This [slide] shows us the inevitable conclusion; "It is wrong to kill this person, [the unborn], for the same reason it is wrong to kill this person." [the newborn].

Is the unborn a human being? Based on objective, empirical scientific evidence the answer is an emphatic "yes!"

Secondly, note the philosophical case for life. Jim Holt, writes, "Broadly speaking, philosophy has three concerns: how the world hangs together, how our beliefs can be justified, and how to live " (New York Times Book Review, 15 Feb. 2009)

On The Case for, this question is posed: "Do all human beings have an equal right to life or do humans come to be at one point, but only become valuable later in virtue of some acquired characteristic?"

This is the philosophical and moral dilemma faced by those who despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that the unborn are human beings insist that they are disposable.

Scott Klusendorf, in his book, Stand for Life, co-authored with John Ensor writes,

"As philosophy professor Stephen Schwartz points out, there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult that you are today that would justify killing you at the early stage of development." He continues, "Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not relevant such that we can say that you had no rights as an embryo but you do have rights today." (page 9)

Philosopher Stephen Schwartz uses the acronym SLED to help us remember these nonessential differences. Please note the four nonessential differences between the preborn and human life outside the womb.

Size: While it is true that an embryo or fetus is smaller than an adult size does not determine their value. In other words, they are not of lesser value because they are smaller in size. Most men are larger than women. Are they more human because they are larger in size? Larger men do not have more rights than smaller women. Size does not determine one's value. As you can see (slide) My size does not affect my humanity.

Level of development: There is no question that a fetus is less developed than a 21 year old, just as a toddler is less developed than a teenager, but the value we place on a human being is not determined by their level of development.

Environment: Does where you are determine who you are? Does your value change when you get out of bed or walk outdoors? Does the value of the unborn change because it moves six inches down the birth canal? As you can see (slide) Location does not determine personhood.

Degree of dependency: Viability does not determine value. Diabetics depend on insulin and those with kidney failure on dialysis. Are they therefore less valuable? A two year old is more dependent on parental care than an eighteen year old. Does that determine their value? Can we kill the unborn because of their heightened degree of dependency while in the womb of their mother? Again, "...there is no morally significant difference between the embryo you once were and the adult that you are today that would justify killing you at the early stage of development."

Inevitably this brings us to, the metaphysical the case for life. The science of embryology is conclusive: life begins at conception. The unborn are human beings at every stage of development and gestation in the womb. Philosophy compels us to acknowledge that there is no morally significance difference between the unborn and an adult that would justify killing unborn children at an earlier stage of development.

Yet despite the compelling scientific and philosophical case for life our government sanctions and pro-abortion advocates and politicians insist on promoting and preserving a mother's right to kill her unborn child. Why is that?

The following words were posted on the progressive magazine by Mary Elizabeth Williams on January 2013. The title of the article? "So What if abortion Ends a Life" The subtitle: "I believe that life starts at conception. And it's never stopped me from being pro-choice." Ms. Williams writes,

"While opponents of abortion eagerly describe themselves as 'pro-life,' the rest of us have had to scramble around with not nearly as big-ticket words like 'choice' and 'reproductive freedom.' The 'life' conversation is often too thorny to even broach. Yet I know that throughout my own pregnancies, I never wavered for a moment in the belief that I was carrying a human life inside of me. I believe that’s what a fetus is: a human life. And that doesn’t make me one iota less solidly pro-choice." She goes on to explain,

"Here’s the complicated reality in which we live: All life is not equal. That’s a difficult thing for liberals like me to talk about, lest we wind up looking like death-panel-loving, kill-your-grandma-and-your-precious-baby storm troopers.' Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides. She’s the boss. Her life and what is right for her circumstances and her health should automatically trump the rights of the non-autonomous entity inside of her. Always."

An astounding admission! She continues, "I can say anecdotally that I’m a mom who loved the lives she incubated...If by some random fluke I learned today I was pregnant, you bet your [expletive] I’d have an abortion. I’d have the World’s Greatest Abortion."

This is why we must make a metaphysical case for life. Ms. Williams acknowledged that "a fetus is: a human life" but goes on to declare, "Yet a fetus can be a human life without having the same rights as the woman in whose body it resides." Because the mother is "the boss. "

While acknowledging the scientific evidence that the preborn are human beings, she denies their right to live for a metaphysical reason. Metaphysics literally means "beyond the physical" In other words, it explores the nature of reality. Merriam Webster, "a study of what is outside objective experience." Scott Klusendorf writes,

"...although the pro-life view is implicitly religious, and we will come to that in a moment, it is no more religious than alternative explanations about human value and human rights. Everyone is asking the same exact question: what makes humans valuable in the first place?" He continues,

"Science can't answer that question because science deals only with things we can measure empirically through the senses. If you want an answer, you'll have to do metaphysics." (The Case for Life, page. 57)

Ms. Williams has answered that question. She defends the right of a mother to take the life of what she admits to be a human being, her own child, because all human beings in the world in which she lives, do not have the same rights. In the case of a mother she's the boss with both the power and ability and in America the legal right, to end the life of her unborn child for her own personal reasons. That's her metaphysical explanation and defense of her position. It sounds like the survival of the fittest, doesn't it?

Let me attempt to explain how Ms. Williams could come to that conclusion, and then give you the only viable metaphysical explanation for determining the value to human life. The Apostle Paul in Romans chapter one points out that there are essentially only two worldviews that govern our metaphysical decisions. Verse 25: "they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." According to Paul, you can either acknowledge God the Creator and worship Him or you can deny the Creator and worship the creature, the latter being the premise of secular humanism which inevitably leads to moral relativism.

Over thirty years ago, Dr. Francis Shaeffer in his book, A Christian Manifesto wrote, "The term humanism...means Man beginning from himself, with no knowledge except what he himself can discover and no standard outside of himself. In this view Man is the measure of all things, as the Enlightenment expressed it." (page 24)

When you deny God the Creator; when you repudiate any notion of transcendent truth; there is inevitably only one alternative; man becomes the center of his own universe. He puts himself in charge, and is therefore accountable to no one but himself as Paul has written.

In essence, secular humanism is the self-deification of man. This is the premise of Darwinian evolution. And here is the devastating result. Again Dr. Schaeffer,

"Those who hold the material-energy, chance concept of reality...not only do not know the truth of the final reality, God, they do not know who Man is...They have reduced Man to even less than his natural finiteness by seeing him only as a complex arrangement of molecules, made complex by blind chance. Instead of seeing him as something great who is significant even in his sinning, they see Man in his essence only as an intrinsically competitive animal, that has no other basic operating principle than natural selection brought about by the strongest, the fittest, ending on top. And they see Man as acting in this way both individually and collectively as society."  (A Christian Manifesto, pages 25-26)

Therein lies the explanation for Ms. Williams defense of abortion. That is the metaphysical argument for those who, despite the overwhelming scientific evidence and the compelling philosophical argument, seek to justify the killing of unborn children. But as the Apostle Paul wrote, there is an alternative worldview, the acknowledgment and worship of the Creator.

You see the Bible provides us with the most compelling metaphysical case for life. We look to transcendent truth to answer the question "what makes humans valuable in the first place?"

In making that case we begin at the beginning. Notice first of all, man was created By God Genesis 1:26a (ESV) God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness....then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature." Genesis 2:7 (ESV)

The Biblical record indicates that man was not the product of a meaningless, random  evolutionary process over billions of years rising to he top of the evolutionary chain having succeeded in the survival of the fittest. Man was not the result of a cosmic accident. Not the product of random chance. How is this relevant to the abortion debate? As already noted, the Founding Fathers recognized that man was endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including the right to life. Endowed by their Creator. Not the Federal Government, not the Supreme Court, not the state of Florida but their Crestor!  You see the Founding Fathers understood Genesis one.  They looked to creation to answer the metaphysical question "What makes human life valuable?" 

Secondly notice that, man was created in God’s image and likeness. The intrinsic value of human life is implicit in this transcendent truth. Genesis 1:27 (ESV) "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them."

Pediatrician, Dr. John Rendle-Short identifies some of the Godlike qualities man shares with God. (Godlike Qualities Man Shares with God)
Language, humans can communicate. My dog Maggie can bark, whine, growl, but I have never heard her utter a single word, no less speak a sentence.

Intelligence, man can think. Not only can he think as a rational being he can think in the abstract. He can compute complex mathematical, chemical and engineering problems and formulas.

Creativity, he can create sophisticated products. Think of the technology of our modern scientific, medical, engineering and construction industries, just to name a few. He can send a man to the moon and back, and communicate instantly around the world from iphones and the internet.

Love, relationships, fellowship, community; man is a social creature with the ability to love and be loved; to care for and nurture its young; live in enduring committed relationships like marriage and family.

Holiness, man has a moral conscience, the ability to tell right from wrong.

Immortality, man is eternal. Unlike the rest of the animal world, he will live forever.

Freedom, man can make choices. his is “because he is human, made in the image of God.” (John Rendle-Short, M.D, “Man: The image of God”)

What a huge statement this makes about man’s capacity to relate to God. You see the fact that God created man in His image and likeness speaks of God’s intention and purpose in creating a unique creature having the capacity to live in relationship with His creator. Here is where creation and the gospel intersect.

Remember that Dr. Shaeffer's assertion that the humanist "do not know the truth of the ultimate reality God" and do "not know who Man is"? In contrast, notice the implications of the Creation account. Michael C. Sherrard in his book The Death of Relativism, writes,

'Only in the context of theism can life have purpose. And Christianity shows us that purpose. Humans are made in God’s image. As His image-bearers, we have a unique capacity to know Him in a relational way. We can experience the fullness of God and His love more than anything else in all of creation. We possess dignity and value because of our nature: God made us in His image. We are valuable because He values us. Because our value is secured in the nature of God, who is unchangeable, eternal, and good, our value remains constant."

Adam and Eve in their pristine sinless state walked in fellowship with God in the Garden because they were made in His image and likeness. In other words, they had the capacity to know God. Sin broke that relationship, but God in His love for mankind, went to extraordinary length’s to redeem sinful man through the incarnation.

God became a human being died a substitutionary death on the cross, paid the penalty for our sin, and offers forgiveness and eternal life through faith in His Son Jesus Christ. That act of love, is in itself one of the greatest statements as to the intrinsic value God places on human life created in His image and likeness. Do you see why abortion is a gospel issue? A church issue?

The biblical metaphysical case for life includes, the personhood of the unborn. Judie Brown of the American Life League writes,

Personhood” is not a debate topic, but rather a term applied in the philosophical sense to an individual human being who is easily identified at his biological beginning as unique in every way because he possesses his own DNA—not his mother’s, not his father’s....In other words, personhood means that each human being is uniquely individual." ("The People at the Center of Abortion Politics" Life Site News 01-27-16)

This is precisely what the Bible teaches. We see personhood in God’s relationship to the unborn. Of John the Baptist: “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.”  Luke 1:15 (ESV) The prophet Isaiah’s testimony, "Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.”  Isaiah 49:1b The Apostle Paul, "But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace.”  Galatians 1:15 (ESV)

Listen to this incredible incident. These words were spoken by Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist when her cousin Mary, just days pregnant with Jesus Christ, came to visit her. Luke 1:41-44,

"When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.'"

Do you realize what took place here? The text says that John the Baptist six months old, leaped for joy in his mother's womb when he came into the presence of Jesus Christ, God incarnate, who was but days old in the womb of his mother Mary. This is the first recorded worship of the Messiah, and it took place in the womb.

The Psalmist wrote, 139:13,16 (NIV) "For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother's womb...“Your eyes say my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

Do you see the personhood of the unborn in these biblical accounts? Pastor John Piper,

“Psalm 139 emphasize(s) God as the primary workman - nurturer, fashioner, knitter, Creator - in this time of gestation. Why is this important? It’s important because God is the only One who can create personhood. Mothers and fathers can contribute some impersonal egg and some impersonal sperm, but only God creates independent personhood.” (Brothers We Are Not Professionals, pages 219-220)  

What is God’s View of human life in the womb? Douglas Erlandson has written,

“God deals with the lives [of man] from conception to adulthood. The Bible does not appear to recognize a special change in God’s dealings with man at birth. God values each of the above men while he is still in the womb – knows him, chooses him, shapes him.” (Abortion: Answering the Arguments)

The Bible gives an answer to the metaphysical question that everyone is asking, "What makes human beings valuable in the first place?" The unborn are created by God and for God. They are created in His image and likeness and are recognized by God as distinct and unique persons from the moment of conception. So valuable to Him that He sent His Son to die on the cross so they could be reconciled to their Creator. This biblical claim and worldview provides us with the answer to the metaphysical question apologist Scott Klusendorf posed earlier "what makes humans valuable in the first place?" It is the only credible alternative to Mary William's claim that all life is not equal because "she's the boss" therefore unborn children are expendable.

On January 21 of 2011 I had the privilege to stand in front of the U.S. Federal Court building in downtown Ft. Lauderdale and delivery the message at the Rally for Life. This was part of my concluding remarks. "Ultimately, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the solution to America’s abortion crisis. Innocent blood has polluted the land and profaned the name of the Lord. But there is a greater blood shed at Mount Calvary that can transform the heart of a mother so she will choose life for her child; that can cleanse the guilty, forgive, heal and restore those involved in abortion. What America needs to hear is God’s truth about abortion wrapped in the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ."

For those who have been involved in an abortion in anyway and for those of us who or are guilty of failing to do anything to end abortion, let me share this as we close. In 1 John 2:1b-2  (ESV) we read, "But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Jesus is our defense attorney, pleading our case before the Father. That's what an advocate is. He can be our advocate because He was "the propitiation for our sins." Through His death on the cross, He shed his blood and paid the penalty for our sin. When we come to Him in faith, confessing our sin, our sin is put to His account and His righteousness is put to our account. A propitiation is a blood sacrifice that covers sin so that God’s wrath and judgment will be averted! Jesus died in our place. He paid the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven and justified -- declared righteous in God's sight, our sin no longer being held against us."

© James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Christ Our Healer - Online Bibliography

Books on divine healing available free online:
The following books by Dr. A. B. Simpson are available 
to download from the C&MA website.
Scroll down to the list of Simpson books at:

The Fourfold Gospel, A. B. Simpson (Chapter three - "Christ Our Healer")
The Gospel of Healing, A. B. Simpson
The Lord for the Body, A. B. Simpson

Dr. Simpson's Present Truths or the Supernatural,
chapter five, "The Supernatural Body" can be downloaded free at
The Hope Faith Prayer website at:

The Ministry of Healing, or Miracles of Cure in All Ages, by Dr. A. J. Gordon 
See book index and download at: 

Bodily Healing and The Atonement , T. J. McCrossan, BA, B.D, 1930
(Formerly Instructor in Geek at Manitoba University) Download at:

Divine Healing, Andrew Murray (1828-1917) Download or read online at:
"The Psycho-Spiritual Dynamics of Physical Healing in Alliance Spirituality" by Rev. David John Smith. Read at: - 116

Ambrose University - Alliance Studies Resources at:
Click left sidebar "Subject Index" then click "Healing" under "Subject List"
Note: Ambrose University is the official Canadian school of both the Christian & Missionary
Alliance and the Church of the Nazarene. The Alliance University College merged with Nazarene University College in 2007 to form Ambrose University.

Ambrose University - Alliance Studies Resources at:
Click left side bar "Author Index" then  click "Simpson" under "Author List"
for healing resources by Dr. A. B. Simpson.

Ambrose University - Alliance Studies Resources at:
Click left side bar "Author Index" then click "B" under "Author List"
for two healing resources by Dr. Keith M. Bailey

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old  Testament - Isaiah online at:

Purchase online:
Divine Healing - The Children's Bread, Keith M. Bailey, Christian Publications, Inc.


Compiled by Rev. Jim McGarvey
The Church for Life                                                                                                                                                January 2016

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

God's Provision For Today's Challenges - 2 Chronicles 20:1-23, Hebrews 11:6

(The most recent time I gave this message was on January 10, 2016 at The Lighthouse Chapel in Port St. Lucie Florida. You can view the PowerPoint slides of the message on Microsoft OneDrive HERE.)

As the title of the message suggests, we live in challenging days. Challenges of a personal nature: health issues, unemployment, financial uncertainty, perhaps marriage difficulties and so forth. Issues facing our nation: political unrest, the threat of global and domestic terrorism, corruption in government and Wall Street, a health care crisis, unprecedented government deficits, a volatile economy, and home foreclosures.

I want to look with you at the provisions God has given us for challenging times, by looking at King Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah as they faced a crisis in their day, a challenge that was humanly speaking insurmountable. Reading 2 Chronicles 20:1-13 (NIV)

"After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to wage war against Jehoshaphat. Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, 'A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar' (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. 5 Then Jehoshaphat stood up in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem at the temple of the Lord in the front of the new courtyard and said: 'Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. Our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, "If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us." 10 But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.' 13 All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord."

Notice how King Jehoshaphat responded when faced with this massive army from Edom to the south headed his way. How we respond to life's challenges is critical. What we do when faced with adversity will determine whether we experience the presence, power and provision of God or limit ourselves  to our own human resources and ingenuity.

King Jehoshaphat responded in three ways to the crisis faced by his nation We can respond in the same three ways when facing a challenge. The first and immediate response of King Jehoshaphat was to call a prayer meeting. He called his people to prayer and fasting.

Fasting means to deny oneself something that is a legitimate part of your life for the purpose of seeking God. Fasting from food or drink is common. When I fast this is what motivates me: "I need God more than I need food." Why did Jehoshaphat call a fast? 
Note two reasons: Fasting communicates urgency of desire. In other words, it's like saying to God, “I’m really serious about this.” Verse three says Jehoshaphat was “alarmed” and “afraid.” In his book God’s Chosen Fast, Arthur Wallis writes,

"When a man is willing to set aside the legitimate appetites of the body to concentrate on the work of praying, he is demonstrating that he means business, that he is seeking with all his heart, and will not let God go unless he answers."

You see fasting is a picture of one who is diligently, earnestly and sincerely seeking God. The second thing we learn about fasting
is that fasting communicates dependence on God. Verse 20 in the New Living Translation, "O our God, won't you stop them?
We are powerless against this mighty army that is about to attack us. We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help." In other words, King Jehoshaphat was saying to God, “We are helpless!” "You’re the only one who can help!” Jehoshaphat's father faced a similar crisis as recorded in chapter fourteen. When facing a similar threat, a vast army of Cushites, King Asa called upon the Lord, chapter 14, verse eleven, "...Lord, there is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty. Help us, Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this vast army. Lord, you are our God; do not let mere mortals prevail against you.”

After the Lord "struck down the Cushites," the prophet Azariah brought this word from the Lord, 2 Chronicles 15:2, “The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you”

May I suggest to you that is the theological basis for fasting. Pastor K. Neil Foster writes, “Fasting is the quickest way to get yourself into the position where God can give you what He wanted to give you all along." Principle number one, fasting is an invitation for God's intervention. Fasting provides an opportunity for God to demonstrate His supernatural power. In other words do what only God can do. Through fasting God will bring His resources into our circumstances.

Through fasting God intervenes in our crisis. Through fasting God invades our lives with His presence. And in all of this God is glorified because He gets all the credit. Of all the spiritual disciplines, fasting is probably the most neglected and perhaps the most misunderstood, but it is the most powerful, rewarding, and fulfilling means of grace.

Notice Jehoshaphat's second response in the face of the crisis facing his nation. He responded in faith. Let’s define faith. 
 We come to Christ through faith Ephesians 5:8, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith." Then as believers we walk by faith. The Christian life is a life of faith. My favorite definition of faith is Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

I believe this verse describes Jehoshaphat's faith. Jehoshaphat fasted. In other words, he was earnestly seeking God. He evidently believed that God existed, and that God would reward, or answer his prayer. Our faith is only as good as the object in which we place our faith. May I suggest to you that Jehoshaphat's prayer was a faith building prayer. We learn two things about faith from Jehoshaphat's prayer.

First, God is the object of our faith. You say, well tell us something new! That’s obvious! But I ask you, what kind of God is the object is the object of your faith? Faith depends on its object. If God is the object of your faith, the question is, what do you understand about God? How would you define the God who is the object of your faith? What kind of God is the object of your faith? How well informed are you about this God? How well do you know this God? I think it would be accurate to put it this way, our view of God, who is the object of our faith, will to a large degree define out faith.

Perhaps you have driven over the Intercostal on the 17th Street Causeway Bridge in Fort Lauderdale. Most of us never give a second thought when we drive over that bridge. But each time you drive over that bridge, you are placing your faith in the bridge to get you safely over the Intercostal. That is because we have complete faith in the structural integrity of the bridge. We are placing our faith in the architect, engineers, and construction crew who designed and built the bridge.

We gain insight into Jehoshaphat's faith by looking at his view of God. If faith depends on its object, what did Jehoshaphat think about God? What was his view of God? What did he believe about God? In the face of this crisis how did he define God? We find the answer in his prayer, verses six through twelve. He asks three questions. And in answering them he defined the God, who was the object of his faith. You see, these three questions in Jehoshaphat's prayer are faith-building questions. Let's look at how Jehoshaphat defines God.

Are you not...? is the first question, ”O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in you hand, and no one can withstand you." (verse 6). Here he is focusing on Who God Is. In asking this question Jehoshaphat is proclaiming truth about God. Notice that he focuses on the transcendence of God - the “otherness” of God, “are you not the God who is in heaven?” God is unique and distinct from his creation. Nothing in creation is comparable to Him. The transcendence of God speaks of everything about God that separates Him from his creation.

Then he focuses on the sovereignty of God, “you rule over the nations.” God is in absolute control of his creation. He determines the end from the beginning. Thirdly, He focuses on the power of God, "no one can withstand you. In Jehoshaphat view God has no rivals. He rules supreme. Remember, “faith depends on its object,” Hebrews 6:11, ”And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists...'

The second question is Did you not...? "O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” (verse 7) Here the focus is on what God did.  Not only is Jehoshaphat remembering the faithfulness of God in giving them victory over their enemies (verse 7a) He was addressing God as the God of covenant. (verse 7b) This was the God who had intervened in history, chosen a people as his very own and obligated himself to those people in a covenant relationship.

As Jehoshaphat called out to God in this time of crisis, he was not only mindful of who God was, he was mindful of what God had done. He is not only calling to mind what he knew about God, he was focusing on the intervention of God on behalf of His people in the past.

But there is more. He was focusing on the covenant relationship that Israel had with God. He refers to God as the “friend” of Abraham, verse 7. This speaks of God's revelation of himself to man. It speaks loud and clear of God' intention to live in fellowship with Abraham and his seed, through a divinely conceived and initiated covenant.

As he led his people in prayer at the Temple Jehoshaphat refers to the Temple as the dwelling place of God among his people, verse 9. This speaks of the presence of God in the midst of his people. He already noted the transcendence of God. Now he speaks of the immanence of God, the nearness of God. This speaks of the right of these chosen people to stand in the presence of God, that transcendent, sovereign and powerful God because of that covenant relationship.

Perhaps Jehoshaphat was reminded of the temple dedication by his great, great, great grandfather Solomon as recorded in chapter seven when the visible glory of God filled the Temple and God himself said, "Now my eyes are open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place.”  (7:15) If you are in Christ today, this is your privilege as well to know the immanence of God, the presence of God especially in your time of need.

Church are you getting the picture? Faith depends on its object! God has disclosed to us who He is. He has revealed himself to us in His creation. He has revealed himself to us through revelation, the written word, and through His Son Jesus Christ the living Word. So He stands before us today as the object of our faith, offering to have a dynamic personal relationship with us through faith in His Son. We have access to the very presence of God through our covenant relationship with Jesus Christ.

But there is a third question, Will you not...? verse twelve, ”O our God, will you not judge them (their enemies)? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”

The focus of the third question “Will you not?” is on what we can expect. King Jehoshaphat is saying; based on who you are, the transcendent, sovereign and powerful God; based on what you have done, you brought us into a covenant relationship with yourself and drove out the enemy from this land and gave it to Abraham's descendants. On that basis we call upon you; we ask for your help; we cry out for your intervention; and we expect a response!  Hebrews 11:6 describes Jehoshaphat's faith. "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

You see, there is the expectation on Jehoshaphat's part that God would respond. The three questions Jehoshaphat asks in his prayer, are faith building questions. They were faith building because they reveal truth about the God who was the object of Jehoshaphat's faith.

I'm going to suggest to you that, principle number two, your faith will be defined by your knowledge and experience of God. And the two are related. Your knowledge of God will either limit or enhance your experience of God. How are you defining God this morning? How does your knowledge of him and your experience of him contribute to that definition? In other words, how well do you know God?

But there is another side of faith. Faith is acting or stepping out in obedience to God's Word.  Faith is trusting in God’s promises
and trusting the God of promise. Faith is an action word. Notice God's first response to Jehoshaphat's impassioned prayer.  He sent a word to the king and his people through the prophet Jahaziel. Jahaziel was a Levite, a descendent of Asaph. A singer, if you will.  His prophetic word brought instructions and a promise;  a promise from God that required a response of faith.

Reading 2 Chronicles 20:14-17 (NIV),

"Then the Spirit of the Lord came on Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly. 15 He said: 'Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 1You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’”
Jahaziel gave the marching orders. He told them exactly what to do, the instructions and told them exactly what God would do, the promise. You see, God's provision always accompany God's instructions. When we step out in obedience to God, we always step into the provision of God. When we choose to walk in the will of God we will find ourselves walking in the presence of God. Notice the emphasis on God's provision, verse fifteen, “For the battle is not yours but God's,” and verse seventeen, “You will not have to fight this battle see the deliverance the Lord will give you. Go out and face them tomorrow and the Lord will be with you." It's all about what God would do.                                                                                                                                                              
Principle number three, obedience to God always brings us into the presence and provision of God. When we choose to walk in the will of God, we will find ourselves walking in the provision and the presence of God.
Notice how Jehoshaphat and his people responded. 2 Chronicles 20:18-20 (NIV), "Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground, and all the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell down in worship before the Lord. 1Then some Levites from the Kohathites and Korahites stood up and praised the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 20 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, 'Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.'”
I think verse twenty contains the key to this test of Jehoshaphat's faith. Notice Jehoshaphat's final instruction to his people. You will find it toward the end of verse twenty. Two clauses, “have faith in the Lord you God and you will be upheld.” (NIV) or "believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established” (ESV). There is a command and a promise here. There are two clauses here with two different verbs. First the command, “have faith” or "believe.” Then the promise, “you will be upheld” or “established”. One clause contains a command and the other contains a promise. And the two verbs come from the same root word. Listen to G. Campbell Morgan's comment,
“The exhortation in our text...has, in the original, a beauty and emphasis that are incapable of being preserved in translation. There is a play of words which cannot be reproduced in another language, though the sentiment of it may be explained...and although we can only imitate the original clumsily in our language, we might translate in some way as this: 'Hold fast by the Lord your God, and you will be held fast,' or 'stay yourselves on Him and you will be stable.'” 
What is Jehoshaphat saying here? Remember in his prayer he painted a picture of the magnificence of God, His transcendence, His sovereignty, and His power, the binding of Himself to Israel in a covenant relationship. He has defined God, who is the object of their faith for his people, and now he is exhorting his people to respond in faith to this God. Here is the key. The way in which they are to respond to God in faith, is closely related to the way God has promised to respond to their faith.
Again, G. Campbell Morgan. He further describes the imagery that takes place. "Put out your hand and clasp Him, and He puts out His hand and steadies you. But all the steadfastness and strength come from the mighty Hand that is outstretched, not from the tremulous one that grasps it.”
I declare to you this morning, there is a promise from God for every crisis you face; there is a promise from God for every dilemma that is before you; there is a promise from God for every challenge, and adversity and trial and set of difficult circumstances that comes your way. But more important is the fact when we act in obedience, when we take God at His Word; when we embrace His promises; and reach out to God, it is His hand that reaches out and takes hold of our hand; It is the transcendent, sovereign, powerful hand of God that reaches out and grabs hold of our weak and trembling hand. That is the theological truth described here. Are you living in that truth?
What are the obstacles to walking in this kind of faith? Faith in God cannot be separated from our knowledge of God. And intimacy with God is inseparable from intimacy with His Word. Notice the last words of verse twenty, “have faith in his prophets and you will be successful”. God had responded to the fasting and prayer of Jehoshaphat and his people with a specific word through the prophet Jahaziel. Jehoshaphat embraced that word.
God has not left us without a word. The Bible is His word to us, a final and complete revelation. For many of us our view of God is impoverished because our knowledge of His Word is impoverished. We lack intimacy with God because we do not consistently fellowship with Him in His Word. When we fail to give ourselves to God's Word three things happen.
First, we don't understand the nature and character of God. Therefore our fellowship with Him is compromised. Secondly, we don’t know the will of God. Therefore we often live outside of the purposes and plan of God. Thirdly, we don’t know the promises of God. Therefore we miss the blessings and provisions of God.
Peter said it is through the promises of God that we participate in the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:3-4 (NV), "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises," Now listen, "so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."  
First, we can respond to adversity with prayer and fasting. Second, we can respond to adversity in obedient faith. Third, we can respond to adversity, and, this is going to surprise some of you, we can respond with praise. Notice Jehoshaphat's response to the word of the Lord spoken by Jahaziel, verse eighteen, an act of worship, praise! That was Jehoshaphat's third response. Notice 2 Chronicles 20:21-23, "After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: 'Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.' 22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir                                                                       who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The Ammonites and Moabites rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another."
Notice verse 21, Jehoshaphat sent singers ahead of the army. The choir preceded the infantry. And, verse twenty-two, as they praised the Lord revealed his power. As they praised the Lord, he defeated their enemies. I’ve often said that praise is the threshold into the presence of God.
Why is praise so critical in the face of our crisis or adversity? Principle number four, in praise we surrender to God's sovereignty in our lives. As we face challenges and adversity one of God’s provisions is to respond in praise. You see in our praise we acknowledge that the transcendent, sovereign and powerful God is in control of our lives and our circumstances. You see, praise is rooted in our submission, obedience and surrender to God. It is at this point that it dove tails with faith. You cannot exercise biblical faith with out obedience to the will of God. And you cannot exercise biblical praise without surrender to the sovereignty of God in your life and circumstances.
Are you facing adversity today? Is there a trial or challenge that is overwhelming you? What has been your response? King Jehoshaphat and his people faced insurmountable odds, a vast and powerful enemy. In humility they sought the Lord with prayer and fasting. They expressed to God the urgency of their desire. They expressed their dependence on God. They responded in obedient faith.  And they praised God. God will reveal Himself strong on our behalf if we respond to our in this way.
I close with this illustration. I use Psalms in my personal worship and prayer. A number of years ago I memorized the first eight verses of Psalm 63. I was undergoing great challenges. As I read these verses one day, I found they expressed my heart and my desperate need of God in those difficult times. Here is the background of these verses. God anointed David to be King many years before he actually replaced King Saul. And for years after being anointed as the next king, David lived as a hunted man, the life of a fugitive often out in the wilderness being tracked down by King Saul and his army.  During those years of hardship David had several opportunities to kill King Saul. His faith in God's promise that he would one day be king was tested over and over. Again and again he faced the question whether to trust and obey God or take things into his own hands.
It is believed that while being hunted by King Saul he wrote Psalm 63. As you listen, notice the praise that springs from his heart in this face of his adversity. Notice the words that express his insatiable hunger for God in the face of the life threatening challenges he faced. Notice the words that express his intimate fellowship with God in the face of his trials. Listen carefully to the metaphors and the word pictures that he used to describe his faith and trust in the Lord in these difficult circumstances. May I suggest to you as I close, that his words embody how we are to respond to God in the face of every challenge and adversity.
Psalm 63:1-8 (NIV) "Oh God, you are my God, Earnestly I seek you; My soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld you power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands."
Do you think David fasted? He continues,
"My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; With singing lips my lips my mouth will praise you; On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing under the shadow of your wings."
Remember verse twenty, God's outstretched hand? "My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me."
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