Sanctity of Human Life

“For you formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; My soul knows it very well.”–Psalm 139:13-14

Every year Christians across the country take one Sunday to dwell on and speak to the sanctity of human life. In the midst of the dehumanizing culture we live in, we must look to the Bible, God’s word, to tell us what is the beginning, meaning, and purpose of human life. We must protect human life, foster a life well lived, and live a life of truly eternal purpose. These big and important questions begin with the simple question of, “When does life begin?”

During recent Supreme Court oral arguments related to abortion law, Justice Sotomayor worked hard to cloud this question. She said the nature of life and when it begins has been debated by philosophers, scientists, and religion for millennia and there is no clear agreement. Her line of reasoning is meant to cast doubt on when life begins, to help relieve the guilty conscience, and give moral ground to killing unborn children through abortion. But everyday people know in their hearts what the Bible teaches – life begins at conception.

Determined pro-abortion activists have sadly made much headway under the Biden presidency in making abortion more available by pill. This pill will usually kill the unborn baby, but must be taken early, soon after conception. These abortion advocates know that life starts at conception. If that life is not quickly snuffed out, it becomes increasingly difficult to kill the baby medically and politically, and for the conscience of the mother. Modern medical technology constantly produces images and data that make clear an unborn child is not an undefined blob, but an individual human being with a beating heart, distinct DNA, and their own little personal fingerprints. Often when you look at 3-D ultrasound images of a child in utero, you ask yourself, “How could anyone think that is not a child?” Yet, abortion advocates all across this land argue passionately that abortion is a medical right of the mother for any or no reason, all the way up the point of full-term birth.

Even if you struggle with the idea of life beginning at conception, no true Christian can be at peace with a full-term baby being purposely cut to pieces inside their mother’s womb. Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) exist all across this country and every day effectively bring these premature children into healthy adult lives. Intentionally ending such a life is not a right, it’s murder.

The Bible speaks to how we, as a culture, can end up in such an astonishingly conflicted place. How doctors coming out of the same medical school can work to save prematurely born children or kill them, depending on the mother’s choice. In the first chapter of Romans, Paul begins his explanation of the gospel where the explanation must begin, explaining the sinful depravity of humanity. He writes that sinful people “suppress the truth” (v.18) actively. They reject God and hate His ways. They are aware of the divine nature of God, but they do not honor or obey Him. Because of this, “they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (v.21-22).  God is truth and His ways are right and good. When we reject God, reject His truth, and reject His morality we end up in a conflicted and self-destructive place. We end up living a life that leads to death and is full of contradictory decisions.

This futile and contradictory thinking begins before pregnancy. The Lord created men and women, and He created sex to produce children by design. According to the moral will of the Lord, sex is not to be entered into before, or outside of, marriage. Inside of the bonds of marriage the God-blessed sexual relationship of marriage is designed to produce children, resulting in family. In this context, children are to be rejoiced over and can be nurtured, protected, educated, and raised in hope.

However, in our era, every advance of science possible has been brought to bear to divorce child-bearing from sex. The ungodly want to have sex with anyone they choose, any time they choose, with no consequence. Sex is no longer seen primarily as a means of creating family, but an event of personal pleasure. But God will not be mocked, and His creation purposes cannot be shut out. By the tens of millions around the world each year, despite their best efforts, couples having sex get pregnant and they don’t want the child. The child is seen as a serious roadblock to their personal goals of affluence (accumulating more money and possessions), completing an educational degree, disrupting their career, or (yes, this was seriously argued this year) would get in the way of playing sports.

The obvious answer here is to advise people to be abstinent. Abstinence equals no pregnancy. But the ungodly desire sexual sin. They run to the darkness and fan into flame their sinful passion – and very literally – they are willing to kill as many children as necessary to continue their sexual hedonism. This is the hardened, deceived, and (as the Bible describes it) lost place so many people live in today.

What are we to do with this situation? We are living in it every day. How should we then live? First, we must clearly define, and never give up on, biblical sexual morality. We cannot accept the salvation of Jesus and reject the ethic of Jesus. When we declare “Jesus is Lord” we submit to His mandates for how we should conduct even the most personal aspects of our lives. We MUST hold the line on virginity before marriage and faithfulness in marriage.

Second, we must celebrate marriage and children. In the church we must not shy away from, overly delay, or overly hinder the path from singleness to Christian marriage. In the church, we must celebrate children, cherish their coming, and work together to raise them up in Christ. We must understand that entering into marriage, and the good privilege of sex, means accepting the possible responsibility of having a child. If you are not ready, in a basic way, to have a child, you are not ready for marriage.

Third, as families and as the local church, we must actively and sacrificially support marriage and children. The Lord designed us to function in the communities of extended family and the local church. These communities are a two-way street. We must not separate or estrange ourselves from family or the church, and then as members of these communities we must help each other. My wife and I have been, and are continually, helped in material, emotional, and spiritual ways by our extended family and local church. This help is usually with caring for children. As we sacrifice to help each other, we show love and bonds of friendship are built. This is entirely different from paying a worker to do something for you.

Fourth, from a position of strength in family and the local church, we must help those in need. We must have compassion on the lost and those experiencing unplanned pregnancies. This can come in the form of a teenager, a college student, or a married couple. In each case we must speak to them about the good truth of God and help them. They need to hear about the mercy of Jesus, be called to turn away from sin (repent) and ask for forgiveness. When all seems lost, we must press such people to not add death to an already difficult situation. There can be hope from the ashes. There is life in the cross of Jesus Christ, hope through repentance and faith. We need to direct those with unplanned pregnancies to excellent local Christian crisis counseling centers (Choices Women’s Center). We must truly be willing to open our homes and adopt unwanted children that are not aborted but are born with no home.

In closing, some speak lightly on this subject desiring to remove a “stigma” related to it. Let me be clear, we can lie to each other about the subject of abortion, but the “stigma” will not be removed. The guilt we feel being party to killing an unborn child is laid on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. There is only one way to remove such guilt and have true peace. You must recognize your sin before God and call out for forgiveness. You will find Jesus to be a merciful Savior, a Redeemer that will heal your broken heart and set you on a new path of life.

Human life is sacred before God. Let us never give up fighting for the life of every unborn child, adopting every orphan, and pointing every broken sinner to Jesus the Savior,

Pastor Vic

Christmas

“Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And called his name Jesus.”–Matthew 1: 20b-24a

              Christmas is that joyful time of year we set aside to focus on the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Incarnation means, ‘in flesh.’ We must not take for granted the astonishing goodness of God to send His only Son, Jesus, to live in humility with us. He came as the long awaited and long foretold Messiah. God with us, Immanuel. The prophecy quoted here by Matthew is from Isaiah, written approximately 800 years before Matthew wrote his gospel. The faithful in Israel never lost heart in hoping for God to send a Savior, one who would fully and truly make a way for the sins of God’s people to be forgiven. But there was mystery. How could a virgin bear a child? How could the fearful God of Moses who often displayed His presence as fire in the Old Testament, come and live in our midst?

              Yet, at the appointed time, there was a shift from waiting for, to accomplishing God’s will. Everything began to change. An angel appeared to Zechariah. Elizabeth pregnant in her old age. An angel appeared to Mary. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. Suddenly, the normal patterns of life are altered by the Lord breaking in to accomplish the salvation of His people! I want us to see the continued pattern of the Lord to involve and work through normal faithful believing people to accomplish His perfect will.

              Who were Joseph and Mary? They were not exalted special people. They were not at all the type of people that any of us would choose if we were writing this story! They were poor, working-class people, from a little-known town, from families of no particular importance during their lifetimes. They were not people of great learning or great accomplishment. How is it that God chooses to send the mighty angelic messenger, Gabriel, to visit young Mary and proclaim to her, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” Mary is naturally terrified of this angelic messenger, but also seems confused, trying to understand what this all means. She doesn’t see herself as one greatly favored of the Lord. Nothing about her physical life indicates that she is greatly favored of the Lord.

              Why is the eye of the Lord, which is constantly looking upon the earth to see and strengthen the righteous (2 Chronicles 16:9), turned toward this betrothed couple of no earthly account? From the accounts of Joseph and Mary we learn a number of important things about them. First, they were poor. They had no earthly wealth to give Jesus, such that He was born in the poorest possible situation – with animals in a stable. Shortly after the birth of Jesus, according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary present Jesus at the temple for “purification.” They present two birds, instead of the prescribed lamb. This is a permissible sacrifice, but the sacrifice prescribed in Leviticus 12:8 specifically for the poor, who cannot afford a lamb.

              Second, Jospeh and Mary had no earthly status. Though Joseph is in the linage of King David, to fulfill prophecy, but at the time of Jesus Joseph is far from royalty. Instead, he is a working-class man. We assume that Joseph was a carpenter because Jesus was trained as a carpenter (Mark 6:3). Joseph is a working craftsman, who teaches Jesus to also work with His hands. Third, Joseph and Mary are not people of any educated status. Throughout the ministry of Jesus the crowds marvel at His theological learning, because he did not come from a background of formal education.

              If nothing about their lives points to worldly “favor,” why are these two people so blessed of the Lord? The overriding answer is that they are appointed by God for this task, but in that appointment, they live out what is most valued by God. Jospeh and Mary are both humble, devout, godly, and pure people. The Lord does not look to the outward appearance but looks to the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). First, the heart of Mary and the heart of Joseph, are both earnest in their love for the Lord. Their earnest godly hearts are proved out in the same way as every other truly godly person. Their devotion is proved by their obedience, “he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” For Mary, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord” (Luke 1:38). By faith they believed and obeyed the Lord. Second, the various passages about them speak directly to their sexual purity. Part of their obedience to the Lord before this calling was their obedience to the sexual morality that the Lord had commanded. This purity was part of why the favor of the Lord was upon them.

              In the same way that the favor of the Lord came to Joseph and Mary for spiritual reasons, the favor that was granted to them was of a spiritual nature. In the birth and life of Christ, earthly favor does not seem to be upon Joseph and Mary. They lived a working-class life, with a large family (Mark 6:3), in a small town, and apparently Joseph died before Jesus’ ministry began. Gifts worthy of an earthly king were only given once early in Jesus’ life. The rest of the time there was daily work. There was no palace. There were no servants. There was no luxury and ease. The kingdom of God is not of this world.

              It’s likely that Joseph never understood the ministry of Jesus, but he believed and obeyed. We still now struggle to understand the spiritual work of Jesus in our time. We naturally want to see a very visible work, a work that fully transforms the here and now. But now as then, the work of Jesus Christ continues to be primarily a spiritual work. The salvation of Jesus is a work that begins in soul, transforming that most important part of us – the seat of our person. From the salvation of the soul the entire person begins to change. That change is certainly real, and the salvation of the soul changes all our priorities. Whereas once we were people of a worldly mind, loving the things of the world, we become by the grace of Jesus, people who awaken and look to heaven with new eyes. By the Spirit of the Lord, we understand new realities and live in a new direction. The Lord promises to provide our physical needs, but accumulation of what the world offers is no longer a priority. The Kingdom of God is compared to a mustard seed, beginning so small and only much later growing into an overwhelmingly large reality.

              As we look to Christmas this year – over 2,000 years after the heavenly visitation of Jospeh and Mary, long after the birth and ministry of Jesus – is the Lord still accomplishing His saving work? We have been met late this year with unsettling news of dramatically rising violent crime, the lowest per capita attendance in Christian churches that has ever been recorded, young people abandoning Christianity, the lowest rate of marriage ever recorded in America, fear of disease, fear of war, and fear of crumbling social structures. And yet there is the promise of Jesus, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

              In the midst of the struggle of our time the Lord Jesus continues His spiritual work of salvation! Not among the rich and powerful, but in our very midst. Amidst the struggle of my life and yours. For such a time as this the Lord Jesus has formed our local church. A local church where many people may hear the good news of the salvation of Jesus in the midst of endless angry rhetoric. A place where people may experience the real peace and safety of Jesus in the midst of rising turmoil. A work that has more than doubled in the past year instead of fading away. A work that displays the power of the Lord instead of the weakness of humanity. A work where youth gladly proclaim, “Jesus as Lord” and are not ashamed to live for Him. A church where marriage is held in honor and sought after (I’ve performed five weddings in three months, and as a church, we have four more on the horizon. Rejoice!). A church that is pressing outward to new places to new people. A church that loves the weak and is not ashamed of the poor. A church not characterized by fear of the world and division, but one filled by the fruit of the Holy Spirit which brings love and unity and joy.

              Yes, the salvation work of Jesus continues in our time! Come near. Be a part of what Jesus is doing in our time!

May Jesus be exalted in our hearts this Christmas,

Pastor Vic