The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 ESV

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dead to Sin, Alive in Christ - An Exposition of Romans 6:1-14

(I gave this message at Pines Baptist Church, Pembroke Pines on Sunday February 9, 2014.)

Dr. Maurice Irvin, who was my pastor while I was at student at Nyack College, writes of an attempt he made at baking a pie. He had seen a beautiful picture of a pecan pie in a magazine accompanied by a recipe. So after shopping for the ingredients he attempted to bake the pie. The result of his efforts, however, in his words, was "a parched pastry" black in color "about the thickness of a pancake" and as hard as a rock.

 He writes, "At that point I looked at the picture in the magazine of the beautiful pie I was supposed to be making, then I looked down at the black, shriveled up, rock-hard thing I had produced. I took my pie out into the backyard and buried it." He continues,

"There have been times when I have felt like doing the same thing with my life. I have looked at the pictures in God's Word of what a Christian is supposed to be. Then I have considered what I am. And the contrast embarrasses me. There must be others who at times have been disappointed in themselves. The Bible describes a life of holiness. Ours is marked by impurity. In God's Word the standard is graciousness, but we are marked by unkindness. We see sweetness there but bitterness within; love there, selfishness in us; honesty there, lies from us; hope in Scripture, discouragement in us; loveliness there, lust in our hearts; generosity there, greed here; victory there, failure here. And such shortcomings make us feel like taking our lives out and burying them."

Perhaps you as I have had similar feelings. We are all too conscious of our sin. Perhaps even to the point of discouragement. Paul addresses the dynamics of this struggle in the text before us. What Dr. Irvin describes in all too familiar terms is our need of sanctification. When we are saved that is, at out conversion, we are justified delivered from the penalty of our sin. But the challenge we now face is our sanctification. Living a life of holiness set apart to God. Living in victory over the power of sin in our daily lives.

In the chapters preceding our text the apostle Paul presents God's plan of salvation for sinful man. In chapter three he  emphatically declares that every human being is "under sin," (3:8)  (ESV) declaring that "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (3:10-12)

He continues, (3:23a) "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." He then proceeds to declare the only solution to man's guilt before God is justification by faith alone. He makes the case for our justification through the death and resurrection o f Jesus Christ. Chapter four ends with these words, "Jesus our Lord,...was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification."

He continues in chapter five, (5:8-9) (ESV) "...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God."

So in chapters three through five, Paul tells us how to be saved. Then in chapters six through eight he tells us how we are to live after we have been saved. As W. H. Griffith Thomas has written,

"Union with Christ carries with it not one, but two results. First of all there is the efficacy of the Atonement for our guilty past as we share in the merits of Christ's death."

That's justification. We are declared righteous in God's sight because the penalty of our sin has been paid by the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ on the cross over 2000 years ago. Our sin was placed on Him. His righteousness is imputed or credited to our account. So Paul could write the Corinthians, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (5:21 ESV)

Dr. Thomas continues, "...secondly, there is the efficacy of the Resurrection for our unholy present as we share the power of Christ's life." This is our sanctification, our "spiritual condition" as we seek to live a holy life. And what Paul goes on to say in chapter six is that our sanctification, living in victory over sin, is also the result of our union with Christ in his death and resurrection. Neal Anderson writes,

"Sin hasn't died nor is it removed when we receive Christ, but our relationship with sin has ended and its power to dominate is broken through the believer's crucifixion, resurrection and righteousness in Christ."

Romans chapter six outlines for us this wonderful truth. There are three key words that give us the framework to understand and experience this freedom in Christ. First, the word "know" found three times, verses three, six and nine. Second, the word "consider," "count" or "reckon" in verse eleven. And thirdly, the word "present" or "offer" in verses twelve and thirteen. As someone has said "Know who you are. Believe it with all your heart. And yield to God." (J MacArthur)

First of all, Paul begins with what we need to know. Chapter six begins with this question, (ESV) "What shall we say, then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? In other words, having been justified shall we take advantage of God's grace and forgiveness by continuing to sin? Paul says emphatically, "By no means! "No Way!" He then asks another question, verse two, "How can we who died to sin still live in it?" It's a rhetorical question, more of a statement than a question. You don't expect an answer from a rhetorical question because the answer is so obvious. And in this case the answer is found in the question he poses. If you have died to sin how can you continue to live in it? You cannot be dead and alive to something at the same time.

Before I continue, let me point out the significance of the word "continue." Paul is not teaching that the one who is justified will never sin again. That's why he chose the word "continue." It means "to stay longer," to "prolong a stay," to "remain on" (Analytical p. 158)

For example, it is used of taking up residence in a house. When you move into the house, you remain there. You decide this is where you will be staying, where you will be living. Paul is saying, the one who has been justified will not live in sin; will not continue in sin. John made the same point, in1 john 1:6, (ESV)

"If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. Again in 1 John 3:6, "No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him." (ESV)

Neither Paul or John are saying a believer will never sin again. But they are both saying that a believer will not live in habitual sin, the key phrases being, "continue in sin," "walk in darkness," or "keeps on sinning." Here's Paul's point, If you been saved, justified, chapters three through five, you cannot continue to have the same relationship with sin as you had before you were saved.

There is a warning implied here. As Dr. Donald Barnhouse has written, "Holiness starts where justification finishes and if holiness does not start, we have the right to suspect that justification ever started either."

In other words, when a sinner is justified he or she is declared righteous in God's sight. That's a legal transaction. But at the same time there is a transformation that takes place in the life of the one God has justified, making it possible for them to have a whole new relationship with sin. Paul put it this way, in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come." (ESV) That's why, for Paul it would be unthinkable for one who is justified to continue in sin, because of what took place at the moment of conversion. "We died to sin," verse two. A death took place at the moment of our conversion. In other words, you are no longer who you used to be in your relationship to sin. He goes on to explain, as he asks another question in verse three. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" What was the purpose of our death with Christ? Look at verse four.

"We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life."

That is what water baptism symbolizes. Buried with Christ in His death and resurrected with Christ into a new life. He continues, verse five, "For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."

Notice the words used by Paul is describing this baptism. Verse three, the believer is "baptized into Christ Jesus" and "baptized into his death," verse 5, "united with him in a death," and "united with him in a resurrection." (Emphasis mine)

The word translated "united" means to be "planted together," "grown together, closely entwined together." (Analytical p. 384)  We are planted together with Christ in His death and His resurrection. John MacArthur,

"We have been immersed into Christ and when He died, we died. When He was buried, as it were, we were buried. And when He rose, we rose and everything is different....everything is different. This is a mystery to be taken by faith by a miracle I can't explain, by a mysterious divine act of God. When a person believes in Jesus Christ unto salvation, that person is placed into the death, burial and resurrection of Christ to die in Him, to be buried in Him and to rise with Him to walk in newness of life. We therefore live our lives according to verse 4, in a newness of life that brings glory to the Father...."He continues,
"Planted in His death, in His burial and blooming in newness of life. Christ's calvary was your calvary and Christ's Easter was your Easter. To be saved is not an addition, it's a transformation. It's not getting something new, it's becoming someone new and it flows from this real union of life with Christ."    
What does that new life look like? Verse six, Paul goes on to say, "For we know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, (NIV might be rendered powerless) so that we would no longer be slaves to sin."
There are the three things we need to know, to stop and remember as we daily confront sin and self and the world. First, "our old self was crucified with him (Christ)," verse six. This phrase describes something that "happened to us." (Stott) We did not crucify the old self it is not something we have done. Rather our old self was crucified with him. The word translated "old self" is literally, the "old man." The term refers to the unregenerate man, who we were in Adam. New English Bible, "man as we once were." Who we were before we were saved. This "old self" was crucified with Christ was put to death on the cross, says Paul. A. B. Simpson has written, (Romans pg. 135)
"When He was offered up on Calvary, it was not only for our sins, but for our sinfulness. In Him we were recognized by God as hanging on that cross with Him and dying when He died, so that His death represents our death, and when we recognize it, appropriate it and identify ourselves with it, it becomes the same as if we had been crucified, and our old life had gone out with His."     

Baptism symbolizes death, buried with Christ and raised from the dead with Christ. Verse five, "united with him in his resurrection." Death, by very definition means the end of life. Death brings the life of something to an end. In this case the "old self," the unregenerate man that you were before your conversion. And just as burial, as someone has said is "the proof of death," (MacArthur) resurrection means the beginning of something new!

Again, Dr. Simpson is helpful here. (138-139)

"It is not said that sin is dead. By no means. Sin is very far from dead. It surrounds us on every side, like the dark and murky atmosphere, like an overflowing flood. But we are dead to sin. What is dead? Is it a part of us? Is it one of our natures that is dead? Is it some principle in us that is dead? Is it the evil in us that is dead? Nay, Ye are dead, the whole of you. The old man, as an individual, the person is as if he were not the same person any more, but had passed out of existence, and another person had been born from above and dropped right out of heaven to earth instead." 

Paul put it this way, Galatians 2:20. (ESV) "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me."

Friends, this is the very essence of Christianity. We must know this truth if we are to progress in our sanctification.

Notice secondly then, in verse six that, the "body of sin" is rendered powerless. What is the "body of sin"? William Newell writes, (Romans Verse by Verse 92) "The 'body of sin' refers to our bodies as yet unredeemed, and not delivered from sin's rule..."

The term "body of sin" refers to the authority of sin or the rule of sin in our lives. Remember how Paul described the condition of the Ephesians before their conversion to Christ. Their lives were dominated by sin. Sin was their master. He describes their condition before coming to Christ, Ephesians 21-3,

" were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience -- among whom we all once lived in the passions [lusts] of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body [flesh] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind." (ESV)

Before we are saved the testimony of Scripture is that we live in bondage to sin. Apart from Christ our lives are dominated by sin. In other words, before the new birth, sin is our master. At the end of verse six Paul describes our pre-conversion state as being a "slave to sin." But, says Paul, that all changes when we come to Christ. The "body of sin" is rendered powerless. So J. B Phillips translates it, "let us never forget that our old selves died with him on the cross that the tyranny of sin over us might be broken."

As John Stott says, "We were thus crucified with Christ,...that our sinful nature might be deprived of its power." Notice Paul does not say that the body of sin is destroyed. Rather it has been rendered inoperative. It has "been deprived of its strength." Sin has not been annihilated, but is "robbed of it's power." It's been "put out of business," as someone has said. So Newell explains further, "...the 'body of sin' is to cease to have any power to bring the believer into bondage to sin..."

Friends, we must know this truth if we are to live a sanctified life. The "old self" is dead and buried with Christ so that we can walk in newness of life, verse seven, and the body of sin has been rendered powerless.

Thirdly then, we are no longer slaves to sin, verses six and seven,

"We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, (rendered powerless NIV) so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been freed from sin." (ESV)

 Paul uses a very powerful metaphor in describing the ultimate outcome of what God has done for us with regard to the Christians' relationship with sin, the metaphor of being set free from slavery. Slavery was prevalent in his day. Every audience Paul spoke to or wrote to was familiar with slavery. Slaves were a part of every day life in the Roman empire. Slavery not only spoke of the loss of individual freedom but of bondage and loss of dignity. The slave lived in subjugation dominated by and controlled by his owner, living as though he had no will of his own. That is the imagery used here of the unbeliever's relationship to sin. The word translated "freed" is the word "justified." Because we have been united with Christ in his death and resurrection, we have been set free from slavery of sin. We are no longer bound by the power of sin in our bodies.

Remember, Paul is speaking of what we should know. Do you understand this truth? Do you understand the power of this truth? Are you living in the power of this truth?

So Paul can repeat in verse fourteen, "...sin shall no longer be your master." And in verse eighteen, "You have been set free from sin and become slaves to righteousness." And Paul goes on to describe the irrevocable nature of this transaction that has taken place. The finality of what was accomplished in the life of the believer through our death and resurrection with Christ in verses eight through ten.

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ being raised from the  dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God." (ESV)

Let me illustrate it this way. Let's say you came to the United States as a political refugee from a foreign country. You had lived under the repression of a communist state. You suffered economic deprivation. You suffered persecution for what you chose to believe. You were deprived of certain personal freedoms, free speech, the right to dissent and so forth. But once you stepped on American soil and were granted the rights afforded an American citizen you were free from the bondage of an oppressive, tyrannical state. The communist government that oppressed and controlled you no longer has any legal right to limit or interfere with the personal freedoms that you now enjoy under the authority of the United States' Constitution.

Friends, if you are a believer born again by the Spirit of God you have died with Christ and you have been united with Him in his resurrection. The penalty for you sins has been paid. The person you once were, the "old self" has been put to death. Dead and buried! The "body of sin" has been rendered powerless. The power of sin has been broken. You are no longer a slave to sin! Friends, do you know this truth? If you know this truth, are you living in the power of this truth?

This brings us to the second word that I spoke of earlier. It all starts with what we know. But there is another essential step. Secondly, Paul says, verse eleven, "So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus." The older versions use the word "reckon." Some translate it "count." Someone has said,  (J McArthur) consider can "refer to calculating in the mind, or reasoning in the mind, or affirming in the mind that something is affirm it as true."

The idea here is to live in the light of the truth that you have come to know. It is helpful to point out that while the crucifixion Paul has been speaking of happened only once in the past, the reckoning or counting happens over and over again. What we are counting on, the truth we are considering took place once in the past but you will have to go back and count on it over and over again. John Stott,

"Now 'reckoning' is not make believe. It is not screwing up our faith to believe something we do not believe. We are not to pretend that our old nature has died when we know perfectly well that it has not. We are rather to realize that our old self -- that is our former self-- did die, thus paying the penalty of it sins and putting an end to its career. So Paul says 'reckon yourselves' (AV), or better 'consider yourselves' (RSV), or better still 'regard yourselves' (NEB), as being what in fact you are - dead to sin and alive to God.'" He continues, "Once we realize that our old life has ended --the score settled, the debt paid, the law satisfied --we shall want to have - nothing more to do with it."

What happens when we are tempted? When I find myself tempted by those thoughts that I should not think? When what I see with my eyes stimulates desires that I should not entertain? This is when the power of "counting" or "considering it"  comes into play. Again Dr. Simpson,

"When the old self seems to return, refuse to recognize it as yourself, and that attitude will destroy it. When the corpse insists on rising from the grave, and thrusting itself upon you consciousness, let the wand of faith wave over it and bid it back to its grave, and it will return to its place in the cemetery of the soul." 

Friends, this is the theological basis, the theological grounds for Paul's promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13. (ESV) 

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it."

Did you hear what he said? There will never be a temptation that a believer cannot overcome in Christ. Provision has been made in Christ for victory over every temptation we will ever face. That is an astounding statement and promise. The question is, do we believe it? Or perhaps the more honest question, do we want to believe it?

This brings us to the third word. First we know the truth. We know who we are in Christ: our "old self" was crucified with Christ; the "body of sin" is rendered powerless; we are no longer slaves to sin. Second, we are to "consider" this truth, "count" on it. Affirm it as being true.  In other words, believe the truth you have come to know. Take ownership of it. Over and over again, at every point of temptation, in every time of temptation. But thirdly, we must, present or offer our self to God, verses twelve through fourteen. (ESV)

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. (so that you obey its evil desires  NIV) Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under the law but under grace."

If step one, what we "know" involves the mind, and step two, "consider" it or affirm it involves the heart, in other words, believe it, step three, "present", "offer" or "yield" involves the will.

In verse 12 there is a "therefore" and a command. The "therefore" connects what he has just been writing about, with what he is about to say. Paul is saying, for this reason "Let not sin...reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its evil desires." Here Paul identifies where the battle will be won or lost. If we let sin rule our lives we will obey its evil desires. So Paul goes on to say what we would expect him to say, verse thirteen, "Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness." And then a positive command, "present yourselves to God and "your members to God as instruments for righteousness." The word translated "instruments" is the word "weapons."

Here is what Paul is saying: We have the choice of offering the parts of our bodies to sin as weapons of wickedness, or to God as weapons of righteousness. We have the choice of offering the members of our bodies: our eyes, our ears, our tongues, our arms and legs, our sexuality, our brains with its thoughts, our hearts with its emotions, to sin as weapons of wickedness, or to God as weapons of righteousness.

Paul is reminding us we are in a spiritual battle that we cannot afford to take lightly. It's like saying, okay reader, "the balls in your court." "Don't let sin rule you life!" The process of our sanctification will depend on us making the right choice, not once, but over and over and over again.Thomas Schreiner in the English Standard Version Study Bible summarizes it so well.

"The tension surfaces here between what God has already accomplished and the responsibility of his people to obey. They are still tempted by desires to sin and must not let those desires gain control. Each day they must give themselves afresh to God."

Similarly, Paul wrote the Philippian church, " out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

God has made provision for victory over sin but we must choose to take advantage of it. I close with this word from John MacArthur,
"The whole thing can be summed up in saying the old self was a slave to sin; the new self is a slave to righteousness,   that's the change. The old self was in perfect agreement with the fallen flesh, the new self is in perfect disagreement with the fallen flesh. No more bondage, no more bondage. Verse 7 sums it up. "For he who has died, is free from sin." When you died in Christ, you're freed from sins tyranny. The controlling dominating sovereignty of sin has been broken. That's [what] Verse 14 says 'Sin shall not be master over you for you're not any longer under the law, you're under grace.' So that justified person is not only declared righteous, but set free from the dominating power of sin. A  sanctified person set free to the dominating power of righteousness."
© James P McGarvey All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 10, 2014

Responding to 41 Years of Legal Abortion

(NOTE: I gave this message on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday at Riverside Church in North Lauderdale Florida on January 26, 2014. You can view the PowerPoint slides that accompany this message via PowerPoint Web App here. You can download Microsoft Sky Drive free here. You can listen to this message online here under the heading The Church for Life.)
Before we begin I want to acknowledge that I understand that abortion is a controversial subject, and may be difficult perhaps even painful for some to think about. Statistics would indicate that in most audiences I speak to there will be individuals whose lives have been touched by a abortion. I want you to know that I am aware of that. Perhaps you have had an abortion, or in some way were a participant in an abortion. You pressured a girlfriend wife, daughter, grand daughter or niece into having an abortion. Perhaps you paid for an abortion. Or you have lost a child, a brother or sister, grandchild, niece or nephew to abortion.

As followers of Jesus Christ we must be willing to address this subject from the authority of Scripture. But, as we take this journey, we must do so in the context of two very important biblical truths.

Let me illustrate it this way. (SLIDE 2) There are two things a train must have to safely reach its destination. Two tracks. Two tracks that run parallel to each other all the way to its destination. A train will go nowhere without riding on both tracks at the same time all the way to the end of the rail line.

In the same way, we must communicate what God says about abortion in the context of God's grace and God's truth. You see, theologically grace and truth always go together. In fact, they are theologically inseparable. They are like the two sides of the same coin. You cannot have one without the other.

And here's why this is important. Pastor Randy Alcorn has written, (SLIDE 3) "Grace without truth deceives people, Truth without grace, crushes people."

You see, we will never understand (SLIDE 4) God's grace - apart from God's truth. But God's truth will always lead us to God's grace.

And as we begin this morning let me impress this upon you. If your life has been touched by an abortion, while you cannot escape the truth about abortion nor some of the consequences of your abortion, please know that there is forgiveness, there is healing and restoration in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

There is a way to resolve the guilt, shame and hurt that abortion will bring to the human experience. And I want you to know that you are in the right place to hear that Good News.
If your life has been touched, by an abortion in any way you are in a safe place in this church. No one is here to condemn or judge you. On the contrary, we are here to extend love and compassion and a message of forgiveness, restoration and hope available to you because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ on your behalf.

This church is invested in ministry to those at risk for abortion and the post-abortive. (SLIDE 5)
Riverside Church works in partnership with Hope Women's Centers of Broward County. The church provides space rent free for the North Lauderdale center and Hope's administrative offices here in Riverside Plaza.

Brian Brookins, our pastor serves as the President of Hope's Board of Directors and May Gordon serves as a volunteer client advocate at Hope's center just doors down from our youth center. This pregnancy resource center is in need of additional volunteers to serve as client advocates and at the front desk. Please pick up this brochure, People Make a Difference for Life, on the literature table in the foyer, for further information as to how you can be involved.

Hope also has a ministry to the post-abortive. This brochure, Abortion: The Choice that Changes You, is also available in the foyer. It will give you information about the abortion recovery ministry of Hope Women's Centers. Perhaps you know someone whose life has been touched by an abortion. Please pick up copies of the brochure to share with those at work or school, in your neighborhood or family.                                                                    

Palm cards telling of Hope's free services are also available to give to women you know who are facing an unplanned pregnancy.

We believe that the gospel is the solution to America's abortion crisis. We believe that as those who have been saved by grace and regenerated by the Holy Spirit, we are to live as "children of light." as Paul says in Ephesians chapter 5: 8-11 (ESV) (SLIDE 6), We are then to

"Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them."

As Pastor John Piper says, "Another way to say this is that God calls his people to be the conscience of the culture. Our individual conscience probes into our behavior and either approves or disapproves what we do. So the children of light are to probe into the life of their culture and approve or disapprove what it does." (Exposing the Dark Work of Abortion)

This last Tuesday, January 22, (2014) (SLIDE 7) we remembered the 41th anniversary of two   U. S. Supreme Court decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. These two rulings of the court legalized the deliberate, premeditated killing of unborn children  at anytime during all nine months of pregnancy right up to the moment of natural child birth for virtually any reason.

This plunged America into a national tragedy that has proved to be unparalleled in our 238 years of history. The National Right to Life estimates (SLIDE 8) that over 56 million unborn children have lost their lives to abortion in the U.S. in the last 41 years, over 71,000 in Florida last year, (SLIDE 9) and 12,024 in Broward County alone. (SLIDE 10)

Last January, U.S. Congressman Chris Smith, made this observation, (SLIDE 11)

"Someday future generations will look back on America and wonder how and why such a seemingly enlightened society, so blessed and endowed with education, advanced science, information, wealth and opportunity could have failed to protect the innocent and inconvenient.”

This morning I raise a two-fold question: How could this happen? And how should we respond? How could a civilized nation historically rooted in a Judeo-Christian heritage and ethic abandon both the metaphysical  and scientific evidence that the unborn are human beings and proceed to legalize abortion?

I suggest to you the answer to that question is found in a radical worldview shift that has taken place in America in the last half century or more. What do I mean by worldview? Here is Whitney Clayton's definition. (“Basics: Defining Worldview”) (SLIDE 12)

“…a worldview is quite literally the filter through which someone interprets, defines, and engages with the world around them. Your worldview assists you in making every decision throughout your day.”

At the risk of being overly simplistic, the worldview issue centers around one question. Who is in charge? Or to personalize it, who do you recognize as being in charge of your world?

A conflict of worldviews has been in play from the beginning of time. Let me begin with the  Biblical or Christian worldview. The stage was set as recorded in Genesis 3:15 (NIV). After Satan successfully deceived Adam and Eve plunging mankind into sin. God said to Satan,         (SLIDE 13)

"...I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel."  

With that, the epoch struggle between good and evil began. It continues today as varying worldviews compete for the heart and soul of man. And Satan has been trying to kill the offspring of Eve ever since.

He was successful in killing Jesus Christ. But the blood Satan shed on that cross came back to haunt him. As Paul said, (SLIDE 14) "...having disarmed the powers and authorities, He [that is Jesus Christ] made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." (Colossians 2:15)

Satan's work of evil became God's provision for his defeat and the salvation of sinful man. So today, though one can identify many different worldviews there are essentially only two. God's and Man's.

There is a worldview chart on a very helpful Christian apologetics website, that identifies six different worldviews: Islam, secular humanism, Marxism-Leninism, Cosmic Humanism, Post modernism and Biblical Christianity. But there is a sense in which there are only two worldviews because all of the five other than Biblical Christianity are in conflict with God's revelation of Himself to man through Scripture and the revelation of Himself by the historical intervention of Jesus Christ into our time and space dimension through His incarnation.

So today there are essentially two worldviews vying for control of every man and woman and the fate of the unborn. One is a Biblical or Christian worldview that acknowledges there is one God who is the Designer, Creator and sustainer of this universe. In other words, He is in charge! As Paul wrote the Colossians, Colossians 1:16-17 (ESV), (SLIDE 15)

"For by him [that is Jesus Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities —all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together."

Friends that is a worldview statement. That is a truth statement that applies to believer and unbeliever alike. It declares in very unambiguous terms who is in charge of our world. He created us. He sustains every breath we breathe. And ultimately we are accountable to him and will face Him in the final day of judgment.

Listen to the words of Paul this time in Athens as he interacted with those who disputed the Gospel he had proclaimed to them. It sparked their curiosity and this is part of his response. Acts 17:24-28  (ESV) Again notice the emphasis on God the Creator. (SLIDE 16)

"The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man (SLIDE 17) every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for in him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.’"

Do you see it? The Gospel is our worldview. That's why abortion is a gospel issue. God created man in His image and likeness for his purposes, and because He values each human life, He sent His Son to the cross in an obedient act of sacrificial love to pay the penalty for our sin that by faith in Him we might be forgiven, justified and adopted into His family where we will spend eternity in the presence of He who is both our Creator and our Savior.

When I spoke here three years ago, on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, I make the case for the sanctity of unborn human life from both a Biblical and scientific perspective. I hope you understand that the two are never contradictory.

And as we've just noted the Christian worldview begins with creation. This is the explicit teaching of the Genesis creation account. Genesis 1:27 (ESV), (SLIDE 18)
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them...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)

As we've noted this is the consistent and repeated declaration of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. The apostle Paul saw it as the foundation of a Biblical worldview, the denial of which prompted God's response to the ungodliness and unrighteousness of man. Romans 1:18-25 (ESV) (SLIDE 19)

"18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. "
What is the truth we suppress?
"19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, (SLIDE 20) they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God gave them up (SLIDE 21) in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves,..."  
Now listen, "25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen."
As Peter Jones writes, (One of Two? pg. 89)
"To speak in postmodern terms, there are only two 'metanarratives'---an ultimate story from within the universe, or an ultimate story from outside the universe. A word from within, or a Word from without. Either creation is divine or the Creator is divine. It is one or the other, but cannot be both. To claim that creation is divine is to deny true divinity to the Creator."

Contrary to modern evolutionary theory, that denies the existence of the Creator, man was not the product of a meaningless, random evolutionary process over billions of years. Man was not the result of a cosmic accident. On the contrary the Genesis account speaks to us of a Creator who intentionally created man in His image and likeness with capacities reflective of God Himself.
The Psalmist wrote these stunning words, identifying God as the creator of what John Piper calls "independent personhood." Listen to what David wrote of his life in the womb. (SLIDE 22)

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mothers womb. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." Psalm 139:13,16

The Biblical evidence can be summarized this way: (SLIDE 23) The unborn are created by God and for God. They are created in His image and likeness. That is, they resemble God and they represent God. They are recognized by God as distinct and unique persons from the moment of  conception. Therefore to take the life of a preborn infant would constitute a violation of God's moral law, specifically the sixth commandment "You shall not murder."

Four and a half years ago, when I spoke here on this subject we identified the spiritual forces- behind child killing. Jesus on at least two occasions revealed the nature of the Devil 's work. (SLIDE 24)

In John 8:44, He refers to the Devil as " a murderer" and "a liar and father of lies." Making him the Architect of Abortion. (SLIDE 25) In John 10:10 Jesus exposed Satan's agenda. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy."

As I shared back in 2011 there is conclusive scientific evidence that human life begins at conception. That debate ended years ago with the discovery that the first cell of human development contains its full complement of DNA. (SLIDE 26)  As Dr. Jerome LeJeune, M.D. summarizes, "after fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being."

You see, whether you approach the issue of the personhood of the unborn from a Biblical or scientific and biological perspective, the inescapable conclusion is that life begins at conception. The unborn are distinct living persons while in the womb worthy of our protection.

In light of this evidence, how is it that abortion could remain legal in America for forty-one years? To answer that question we look no further than the prevailing worldview of our nation's educational, governmental, and judicial institutions, and the entertainment and media establishment.

Dr. Francis Schaeffer, over thirty years ago wrote in his book, A Christian Manifesto, (pg. 24)         (SLIDE 27)

"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."

Man suppresses the truth about the Creator. Romans 1:25, "they exchanged the truth about God or a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator."

Again, Peter Jones, "The main enemy of the gospel is no longer secularism but religious paganism."

In essence, you have the deification of man according to this worldview. Man is the center of his own universe. He has put himself in charge, accountable to no one but himself! G.K. Chestertson, "When men cease to believe in God they do not believe in nothing; they believe in anything."

It parallels naturalism that denies the existence of God, believing that matter is all there is. Therefore the cosmos, as someone has said, "...exists as a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system," a closed system that excludes God, transcendent truth and God's intervention in and sovereignty over the affairs of man. As someone has said, man is but a complex machine "products of valueless processes" and the afterlife consists of the extinction of personality and individuality." In other words, when you die that's all there is. It's all over. Life is void of any intrinsic meaning or purpose. 

This is the premise of Darwinian evolution. As Dr. D. James Kennedy & Jerry Newcombe have written,

"Evolution simply says that (SLIDE 28) the whole universe is made up of nothing but matter; that matter, time and chance -- the trinity of materialism -- have brought all things into existence. Therefore there is no God." (Lord of All, pg. 24)

This mindset not only denies the inherent value of each human life but it denies any notion of purpose to his existence. After all, if man is the product of random chance he exists in the absence of any transcendent truth or moral compass that would assign purpose and meaning to his life. This worldview has had a significant impact on the fate of the unborn.

The Founding Fathers wrote, in the Declaration of Independence, (SLIDE 29) "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Founding Fathers recognized the truth of Genesis one, that the Creator endowed man with the unalienable right to life, not the Federal Government, not the Supreme Court, not the state of Florida, but their Creator.

Again, Dr. Schaeffer, (CM pg. 25-26)

"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."

This is the reason why a modern, educated, highly advanced society can deliberately and legally kill its own off spring.

Some advocates of abortion, are now acknowledging that life in the womb is human. But in an attempt preserve their right to choose abortion are sliding further and further down the inevitable slippery slope of those who deny the intrinsic value of human life.
Listen to the words written by Mary Elizabeth Williams that appeared in the January 2013 progressive online magazine Salon. The title of the article was, "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." She 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, a diabolical line of reasoning. 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."

Similar words to the defense of abortion by Psychologist and professor Dr. Ginette Paris,"It is not immoral to choose abortion; it is simply another kind of morality, a pagan one.”

When man is considered to be nothing more than the product of a meaningless, random evolutionary process over millions of years, or the result of a cosmic accident; when he is no longer assigned the intrinsic worth given to him by His Creator; he therefore becomes expendable in the struggle of the survival of the fittest. Might becomes right, and evolution triumphs.

And when the Supreme Court gave women the right to kill their unborn children, the inevitable has taken place. You've just heard the admission. The stronger, in every case the mother, has used her power to take the life of the weaker--her unborn child, allowing millions of mothers and fathers to sacrificed their own posterity to further their own convenience.

The denial of transcendent truth has come at a very high price to our nation. When man becomes his own god, all hell breaks loose in society, and the civility of a civilization is lost.

Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who helped to legalize abortion and who was personally responsible for 60,000 abortions before his conversion, wrote the following.                                                         

"The abortion holocaust is beyond the ordinary discourse of morality and rational condemnation. It is not enough to pronounce it absolutely evil....The abortion tragedy is a new event, severed from connections with traditional presuppositions of history, psychology, politics and morality. It extends beyond the deliberations of reason, beyond the discernment of moral judgment, beyond meaning itself....This is an evil torn free of its moorings in reason and causality, an ordinary secular corruption raised to unimaginable powers of magnification and limitless extremity. extremity." ("Pro-Choice 1990," New Dimensions, October 1990)

Do you see why this is a gospel issue? The Gospel has not failed abortion. The church has failed to apply the gospel to abortion. I have said it before, I know of no greater issue facing our nation to wrap the gospel around than abortion.

Just turn the page to Romans 3:21-26. Paul writes,  (SLIDE 30)

"21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as a propitiation (SLIDE 31) by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus."

A propitiation is a blood sacrifice that covers sin, so that God’s wrath and judgment will be averted! There is only one remedy for the shedding of innocent blood the innocent blood shed on the cross.

You see, Jesus died in our place. He paid the penalty for our sins; your sin and my sin, any and all sin. The sin of killing your unborn child; the sin of pushing a girlfriend, wife or daughter or granddaughter into an abortion; the sin of paying for an abortion; the sin of performing an abortion; the sin of doing nothing to end abortion. It matters not what sin it is. We can be forgiven and justified, declared righteous in God's sight, our sin no longer being held against us.

Listen to what Don Schanzenbach posted last year (January 20, 2013) in his blog "Roe v. Wade--40 Years and Counting (to 55 million Abortions), part 1." 

"The science is on our side. The supposedly scientifically-oriented secularists, are refusing to embrace the science they purport to use as their source of absolute truth. Given the trouncing they have received in these science-related categories, we would expect the battle should long ago have turned in our favor. Yet, this has not been the case. Secularists struggle on with undying emotion in their now scientifically disproven cause..."

He goes on to say,

"The unsaved do not have the power to act righteously. Their minds are at enmity with God. As a group, they will not turn toward the civilization of Christ without His Spirit and prevailing influence... Our only path to success is to preach and teach Biblical truth as it applies to the abortion issue. The only tool God uses to transform people is His word preached. The culture calls it foolishness, but we call it the power and wisdom of God. God truly transforms men, and the societies of men, through the word preached. This then, must be our chosen road for the future."

I remind you this morning that the advocates of abortion are not the “enemy." The doctors who perform abortions and their clients, and those who defend a woman's right to kill their unborn are not the enemy. Paul identified the enemy when he wrote of the unseen reality behind this kind of evil, Ephesians 6:12,  (NIV) (SLIDE 32)

"...our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  

You see, tragically those involved in the abortion industry are themselves the casualties of Satan's deception and darkness. To the Corinthian church Paul wrote 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV), (SLIDE 33)

“The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

Only Jesus can open the eyes of the blind. John Ensor wrote,
"The commands of Scripture exist that we might be compelled to do what does not come naturally." (Innocent Blood)

In Luke chapter ten Jesus helped a lawyer understand what it meant to love his neighbor. (SLIDE 34) He told the story of a man on his way to Jericho from Jerusalem who was robbed and beaten and left half dead alongside the road. Three different individuals had the opportunity to render him assistance -- in all likelihood to save his life. Two of the three did not respond to the needs of the man bleeding by the side of the road. Those two were the church leaders of that day, a priest and a Levite, responsible for the spiritual care of their nation.

And Jesus points out that not only did they fail to respond, but they "passed by on the other side." In other words they went out of their way not to respond. Jesus then pointed out that the one who proved to be the neighbor to the dying man was the one who showed mercy to the badly beaten traveller. He then said, "Go and do likewise."

John Ensor, in his book Innocent Life, defines "Samaritan compassion" this way, (SLIDE 35)

"Doing right in the sight of the Lord means acting to stop the shedding of innocent blood. The only person in Jesus’ parable who is pro-life according to the demands of love is the Samaritan. Only he was willing to make the nearly dead man’s problem his own. Only he was willing to see the victim’s suffering as his own. Only he was willing to act according to what he would cry out for if their positions had been reversed."

The Church in America is struggling with how to respond to America's abortion crisis. We have failed to expose the shedding of innocent blood and proclaim the full pardon available through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. We have failed to grasp the implications of the gospel with regard to the killing of over 3,300 unborn children each day.                                                       
According to Jesus' parable salvation has a moral imperative built into it with regard to the needs of those around us. John Ensor has written,
"Loving God and loving neighbor are not separate choices. One flows sweetly from the other. Loving my neighbor will always mean a desire  to help him or her find the grace of God in all its manifestations. Loving my neighbor will occasionally arrest me, and maybe even require me to help prevent someone from being murdered. Loving God and loving neighbor are never at odds with each other. Those who try to do one at the expense of the other offend both God and neighbor."
 I don't know how or if God has spoken to you this morning. If anything, I barely know my own heart. But if God has spoken to you this morning, I urge you to respond in these moments as we close in prayer.
If God has spoken to you, agree with Him. Yield to Him; surrender to Him. The Apostle Paul wrote, (2 Cor. 7:10) "Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret"          
You will never regret yielding to God. You will never regret obeying God. Remember the words of Jesus in exposing Satan's agenda - John 10:10 (ESV), "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy." Listen to the second half of that verse. I came that they might have life and have it abundantly."
Here's Jesus' invitation: Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV). It comes with a promise. (SLIDE 36)  
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." 
If you hear His voice calling you to salvation this morning, I urge you to surrender to His call, go ahead and do it, cry out to Him. He'll save you and you will never be the same again - and you'll never regret it. If you have sin that needs to be forgiven, repent and confess it. His blood will cover it for all eternity, and you will be forgiven.
(c) James P. McGarvey  All Rights Reserved