“Life” Over “Choice”

3.12.2007

I’ve heard and read a lot of arguments for and against abortion.

It appears that the issue boils down to whether an unborn baby’s right to live or a woman’s right to choose is more important. In my opinion, the Bible seems pretty clear that “life” is more important than “choice.” The implications of this statement are pretty crazy though.

When people say that a woman’s right to choose is important, this means she should be able to choose how her future plays out. An unwanted/unplanned pregnancy has serious social and economic implications. The social stigma of being a young, unwed mother is not a light thing, nor is the idea of supporting and nurturing a human life. Having a child at an early age will likely prevent someone from getting a college degree or pursuing whatever career they dream of because they must provide for their child. Then there’s always the knowledge that the child of an unprepared mother or a child sent through the system of foster homes and adoption will have a very difficult life.

Christians may say that many women are choosing convenience or their love of themselves (which includes their comfort, futures, and lifestyles) over the life of another. To a large extent I believe that is true. But make no mistake, we ask these women to do a very, very difficult thing. In order to care for this life, we essentially ask people to give up their own. And we have no right to ask this of them if we are not willing to sacrifice our own futures and comfort for the lives of others.

Christians often have a very clear stance on the issue of abortion. But the implications of our argument (“life” over “choice”) extend far beyond this one issue. We’re simply inconsistent when we ignore how the value of life ought to shape our daily choices. Even though we may not have had to deal with the issue of abortion personally, we would be foolish to believe we don’t struggle with the dilemma of “life” versus “choice”.

By the way we use our money, time, and energy we proclaim to the world whether we value “life” or “choice.” We value the choice to have financial stability, social status, and comfortable and convenient lives. Due to our exaggerated sense of entitlement, we believe our right to such privileges outweighs the value of one, ten, hundreds of lives in the third world.

To be “pro-life,” we don’t have to change the way we live at all. Maybe we’ll get a new bumper sticker for our car (though some do live out their convictions by adopting or supporting the cause). But to value “life” over “choice,” everything we do comes into question. What we do with the resources God has given us (money, education, talent) becomes a very serious thing because as we waste, others die.

Are we willing to give up our expensive toys, our financial stability, or perhaps even the hours we would otherwise spend on ourselves for the sake of life? Will we be outraged for the unborn and dismiss the millions who have been born and are suffering?

So often “outreach” and “social justice” are simply minor side issues we dabble in now and again to relieve our guilty consciences. Among university students, it has become trendy to be socially and politically aware. Yet our knowledge is rarely used for anything other than yelling at people who don’t know as many depressing statistics as we do. We speak so loud and accomplish so little.

The heart of the issue is this. We love very little. We simply don’t love enough to make a difference.  Now we can’t force ourselves to love, but we can acknowledge our tragic lack and ask God to give us new hearts. We can refuse to be self-satisfied, thinking ourselves noble, compassionate people for the one hour a week we “sacrifice.”

I don’t intend to guilt or discourage people. Good works fueled by anything other than love are not only hypocritical but ineffective. And being depressed at our humanness is entirely unnecessary because God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. He chose us because we are weak so that we would rely upon Him and identify with the downtrodden all over the world. We rejoice in our weakness because everything depends on the One who cares deeply about social justice and is strong enough to bring forth the kingdom.

But in order to be used, we have to acknowledge the true state of this world, our hearts, and the church. My hope is that you and I will wake up to what’s outside of our bubble. The world is dying and we cling to “choice.” May we finally admit that we are selfish to the core, so we can call upon our amazing God to change the world and change us so that we might be used for the flourishing of human life.

The need, as always, is great and our lack, as always, is great. Our God, as always, is greater.

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Faith and Suffering

The Message of 1 Peter
Edmund Clowney

[13] Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? [14] But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, [15] but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, [16] having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

1 Peter 3:13–16

Hope is the form that faith takes under the threat of death.

Christmas Is for Those Who Hate It Most

Matt Redmond

I think we have it all backwards. We have it sunk deep into our collective cultural consciousness that Christmas is for the happy people. You know, those with idyllic family situations enjoyed around stocking-strewn hearth dreams. Christmas is for healthy people who laugh easily and at all the right times, right? The successful and the beautiful, who live in suburban bliss, can easily enjoy the holidays. They have not gotten lost on the way because of the GPS they got last year. They are beaming after watching a Christmas classic curled up on the couch as a family in front of their ginormous flat-screen. We live and act as if this is who should be enjoying Christmas.

But this is backwards. Christmas—the great story of the incarnation of the Rescuer—is for everyone, especially those who need a rescue. Jesus was born as a baby to know the pain and sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus was made to be like us so that in his resurrection we can be made like him; free from the fear of death and the pain of loss. Jesus’ first recorded worshipers were not of the beautiful class. They were poor, ugly shepherds, beat down by life and labor. They had been looked down on over many a nose.

Jesus came for those who look in the mirror and see ugliness. Jesus came for daughters whose fathers never told them they were beautiful. Christmas is for those who go to “wing night” alone. Christmas is for those whose lives have been wrecked by cancer, and the thought of another Christmas seems like an impossible dream. Christmas is for those who would be nothing but lonely if not for social media. Christmas is for those whose marriages have careened against the retaining wall and are threatening to flip over the edge. Christmas is for the son whose father keeps giving him hunting gear when he wants art materials. Christmas is for smokers who cannot quit even in the face of a death sentence. Christmas is for prostitutes, adulterers, and porn stars who long for love in every wrong place. Christmas is for college students who are sitting in the midst of the family and already cannot wait to get out for another drink. Christmas is for those who traffic in failed dreams. Christmas is for those who have squandered the family name and fortune—they want “home” but cannot imagine a gracious reception. Christmas is for parents watching their children’s marriage fall into disarray. Christmas is really about the gospel of grace for sinners. Because of all that Christ has done on the cross, the manger becomes the most hopeful place in a universe darkened with hopelessness. In the irony of all ironies, Christmas is for those who will find it the hardest to enjoy. It really is for those who hate it most.

Link: Complete Blog Post

A Funeral Sermon for My Friend Who Committed Suicide

Michael Horton

We find ourselves filled with a variety of emotions: pity, sorrow, rage, puzzlement, resentment and despair, and we wonder how things could possibly have ended this way. We wonder how someone who believed and preached the sufficiency of God’s Word and his grace in the face of all trials of life could leave us this afternoon wondering, “If it was not sufficient for him, is it indeed sufficient for me?” What happens when Christianity doesn’t work?

So often, when people come to Christ, they are promised “victory in Jesus.”

Smiling, happy people tell about how they once were unhappy, and now they are filled with buoyant exultation. Broken marriages are fixed, wayward children are returned to the straight and narrow, and depression is banished to the old life.

But, of course, those of you who knew Tim and his preaching are fully aware that this was not his message. He did not see Christianity as the solution to every earthly problem, nor did he worship Jesus as Mr. Fix-It, but as the Friend of Sinners, Redeemer and Shepherd of his sheep. He knew that there was a greater problem that we as fallen creatures faced, though he did not dismiss as irrelevant or trivial earthly challenges, but he placed them in their proper eternal perspective.

But even if Christianity does not answer every problem we have in this life, surely that eternal perspective helps us cope with them, so why, we wonder, did our father, brother, husband, friend and pastor cut his life short?

Whatever was wrong in Tim’s life, he had an unshakable conviction that his witness is in heaven. He knew that Jesus Christ was his intercessor, a friend to whom he could pour out tears to God and he knew that Jesus Christ, his Elder Brother, was pleading on his behalf with God as a man pleads for his friend.

So why didn’t this confidence keep our brother from ending his life? We cannot answer that question any better perhaps than Job’s friends could resolve the riddle of their friend’s suffering. But I can say this: Even if we are too weak to hang on to Christ, he is strong enough to hang on to us. Even though we may not be able to face tomorrow, Christ has already passed through death to the other side and has taken away death’s sting for us.

To Beth and the rest of the family, I know you have lost your husband, son, father and brother. Although I myself have lost one of my closest friends, I cannot begin to know your suffering, but God knows what this is like. For he too lost his Son. He committed his Son to dreadful suffering and a cruel death because through it, he could save people who hated him and make them his own sons and daughters.

Link: Complete Sermon

The Hope of Sovereign Grace

The Problem of Repentance and Relapse as a Unifying Theme in the Book of the Twelve
Gary E. Yates

Beginning with the book of Joel, a pattern emerges that is repeated three times in the Book of the Twelve. An episode of repentance is followed by a relapse into sin. In the first instance, Israel’s repentance in Joel 2:12–27 is followed by a relapse into sin that leads to the judgment of exile for Israel (Amos) and for Judah (Micah, Habakkuk, Zephaniah). The book of Jonah tells the story of Nineveh’s repentance, but the announcement in Nahum is that Yahweh is prepared to destroy Nineveh for its violence and bloodshed. In the postexilic period, the books of Haggai and Zechariah document the repentance of the people in response to the prophets’ calls to rebuild the temple and return to the Lord, but the message of Malachi indicates another relapse into disobedience and rebellion. This pattern that emerges in the Twelve reflects Israel’s persistent disobedience and refusal to return to Yahweh. The postexilic community is as guilty of unfaithfulness toward Yahweh as Israel and Judah before the exile. The inclusion of the Nineveh narrative in this pattern reflects that the story of the nations is essentially the same as that of Israel in terms of their persistent rebellion against Yahweh as the one true God.

The significance of this literary pattern is seen in three specific ways. First, the pattern of repentance and relapse reflects the pervasiveness of Israel’s unbelief and attributes the “day of the Lord” judgments associated with exile in large part to improper response to the prophetic word. In the three centuries of prophetic activity reflected in the Twelve, there are only limited examples of turning to Yahweh, and one of those examples comes from the pagan Ninevites.

Second, the problems of partial repentance or repentance and then relapse also explain why the conditions of exile and alienation from Yahweh persist for Israel even after the return from exile. The people would only fully enjoy the blessings of return when they had truly turned back to Yahweh. Geographical return to the land without a spiritual turning back to Yahweh was inadequate. Thus, the calls for repentance in the Book of the Twelve and especially in the postexilic prophets serve as a call for successive generations reading these books to always be returning to the Lord.

Finally, in light of Israel’s persistent inability to return to Yahweh, the Book of the Twelve reflects the reality that the only hope for Israel’s future lies in Yahweh’s work of sovereign grace that would internally transform the people so that they would be able to faithfully follow and obey him.

Link: Complete Article

Genesis 22

[1] After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” [2] He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” [3] So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. [4] On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. [5] Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” [6] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. [7] And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” [8] Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 

– Genesis 22:1-8

The Lord instructs Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Isaac was miraculously born to Abraham when he was 100 years old. He is very much the son whom Abraham loves. Yet Abraham obediently takes his son to Mount Moriah and prepares to sacrifice him there.

juan_de_valdes_leal_-_the_sacrifice_of_isaac_-_wga24224But why?  Is Abraham just resigned to the fact that he has to obey God since He’s God? Abraham is aware that Isaac is a gift directly from the Lord. Perhaps, he reminds himself of Job’s words: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21b).

I believe Abraham is not driven by resignation, but by hope. Prior to Isaac’s birth, the following exchange between Abraham and God took place in Genesis 17:18-19:

[18] And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” [19] God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him.

Abraham remembers the promise of God. He knows that God can be trusted. Abraham does not know how God can establish a covenant with Isaac if he is dead.  Abraham does not know how God can establish an everlasting covenant with Isaac’s offspring if Isaac passes away before he even has any offspring.  But Abraham knows that God is not a liar and He will do what He says.  Perhaps God will raise Isaac from the dead.  Perhaps God will provide a sacrificial lamb.  Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how God does it, but He is certain to fulfill every word.