The Gospel, Abortion and the Church - Responding to America's Abortion Crisis - Psalm 106:34-42; Jeremiah 19:1-9
(I gave this message on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, January 29, 2012 at Pines Baptist Church, Pembroke Pines Florida. You may view the PowerPoint slides of this message on Microsoft OneDrive HERE.)
As I begin this message I want you to know that I know it is likely that someone here this morning has been touched by an abortion. Perhaps you have had one. Perhaps someone here as a father, husband or boyfriend, even a grandfather or uncle, has pressured or encouraged a daughter, wife or girlfriend, grand-daughter or niece into having an abortion. Or you paid for one. Perhaps you have lost a son or daughter, grandchild, niece or nephew to abortion.
I want you to know, that I understand, that speaking on this subject might cause you pain or discomfort. In light of that, I will bring this message with two important words in mind. They are both essential parts of the gospel. The first word is "truth." As a minister of the gospel I want to be faithful to address every issue that we face from the truth of God's Word. Equally important, however, is the word "grace."
You see God's grace always accompanies God's truth. The two always go together. They are inseparable. That is why these two words, are particularly appropriate in dealing with this subject because abortion is first and foremost a gospel issue. Pastor Randy Alcorn has said it best, "Grace without truth deceives people. Truth without grace crushes people."
Reading from Psalm 106:34-38 ESV,
34 They did not destroy the peoples, as the LORD commanded them, 35 but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. 36 They served their idols, which became a snare to them. 37 They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; 38 they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood.
Psalm 106:39-42 (ESV)
39 Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds. 40 Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; 41 he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power.
Psalm 106 is a historical Psalm, an account of Israel's relationship with God. Several themes emerge as the Psalmist rehearses some of Israel's history. Their disobedience and apostasy is apparent. The psalmists recites incidents of their repeated turning away from their covenant relationship with God.
The Psalmist remembers God's judgment for their sin and rebellion. But equally prominent in this Psalm is the theme of the grace of God, His faithfulness to Israel when they repented and called out to Him for help. This cycle is repeated over and over in the Psalm as the Psalmist writes of Israel's on and off relationship with God. Sin – judgment - repentance - followed by God's forgiveness. It's the story of God's unrelenting faithfulness and grace to His people. In that sense it's a Gospel Psalm!
Which of us here this morning as we live out our Christian faith have not failed to obey God at one time or another most of us – far more often than we would like to admit? Which of us have not experienced the discipline of the Lord when we have turned away from Him in unbelief and disobedience?
Or perhaps you are here this morning and you remain separated from God by your sin. That is, you have never come to him in repentance and been born again. You have never experienced His forgiveness. You have never been justified by faith in his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. You have not surrendered your life to Christ. In either case all of us should identify with this Psalm!
This text focuses on what has to be one of the greatest sins of Israel -- the sacrifice of their children to the pagan god Molech. As verses 34 through 36 tell us, Israel failed to keep one of the commands given to them before they entered the promised land. Instead of removing the enemy from the land God had given them to possess, as they were instructed to do, they chose to co-exist with some of the pagan peoples with devastating results.
According to verse thirty-six, inevitably they followed after the gods of the pagan peoples with whom they chose to live. You see disobedience at one point led to compromise at another. And compromise led to disaster, even death, as we shall see momentarily. That 's a timeless spiritual truth. Just as true today as it was thousands of years ago. John 10:10 (ESV) "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."
Jesus promises us an abundant life, fulfillment and satisfaction that comes only from knowing and walking with Him. On the other hand, Jesus said the enemy Satan, came to steal, kill and destroy. He offers nothing of lasting value. Nothing that meets the deepest needs of the human heart.
Some of you here this morning, are in a battle. You are teetering on the brink of heartache and sorrow because you are living in compromise. Or perhaps you are resisting God and living for yourself apart from Christ. I'm here to tell you the consequences of disobedience and compromise never measure up to the satisfaction we think we will find in them.
Back to Psalm 106. When they were still in the wilderness after the miraculous deliverance from four hundred years of slavery in Egypt, Moses issued this command. Leviticus 18:21 ESV, "You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD."
Two years ago I shared with you that child sacrifice to the demon god Molech became part of the life of Israel. King Solomon built the first idols outside of Jerusalem in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom for the benefit of his pagan wives. King Ahaz and Manasseh of Judah led their nation in child sacrifice by offering their own children to the demon gods. (2 Chron. 28:3 & 33:11-12)
Ezekiel writes, 16:20-21 (NIV)
“‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols."
Molech was an Ammonite fertility god, as you can see on the slide, an image with a human body and the head of a bull. In the belly of the idol burned a fire. The children were placed live on the
outstretched arms of the idol and would slide into the burning inferno to be burned alive. Those who worshipped this god were willing to sacrifice something of great value to them , their child, in order to gain something at a given point in time that was of more value to them. That it is what sacrifice means.
Our first reaction when we read of this practice is probably righteous indignation. As members of our sophisticated 21st century society we probably ask condescendingly, "How could they do that to their children?"
As we noted two years ago, there is distinct parallel between child sacrifice to the ancient demon god Molech and the practice of abortion today. Note the similarities: First of all, in verse thirty-seven, abortion is the "sacrifice" of the unborn. In ancient times parents would offer their child to Molech the fertility god as a sacrifice in order to gain something, for example a good harvest, financial gain or perhaps victory in battle.
I don't want to minimize the circumstances many women find themselves in when faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Fifty percent of all women who have an abortion feel they have no alternative. The majority receive no counseling and are not told of the alternatives. This is often a complex issue for those finding themselves pregnant in such circumstances. This alone, should move the Church to a practical and compassionate response. That is why Pines Baptist supports ministries like Hope Women's Centers where practical and compassionate help is offered to those facing an unplanned or even unwanted pregnancy. Hope also provide a wonderful ministry of healing and restoration to those who have had an abortion.
As we attempt, however to understand what abortion is really all about, we must note that children are usually aborted because of the inconvenience it would be to bring them into the world. For example, today children are aborted because they interfere with one's education or career. In a recent copy of the Miami Herald I read an article by columnist Dana Milbank. He quoted the owner of an abortion clinic as saying she had an abortion herself because, "I had committed myself to my work" and she did not want to be "diverted" from it by giving birth to her child.
Others have abortions to, cover their shame or for financial reasons. Unfortunately, for many it is a means of birth control, for others reasons related to their personal convenience or lifestyle preferences. Pastor John Piper has said,
"Abortion in America is not done consciously with any desire to get blessing from a d deity. But it is done to gain something 'better' than the baby—The life of a child is being sacrificed for something. What that 'something' is defines the barbarity of our culture."
Note the second parallel, again in verse thirty-seven. When we abort our children we abort our family, our sons and daughters. In other words the unborn are human beings, our children.
I received an email last week from a high school student who was writing a research paper for an English class on the topic of abortion. Her thesis was that abortion should be illegal. She had decided to support her thesis with two points; abortion is murder and the complications and side effects of abortion. I suggested to her that she might begin with the reason abortion is murder. You see, many in our society have been unwilling to come to terms with the evidence that the unborn are human beings and the implications that follow from that truth. Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being. That is the first truth in building a case for life.
The Biblical evidence is very clear. Man was created by God, in his image and likeness Genesis 1:27 (ESV) "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them."(Genesis 2:7 ESV) "…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."
According to the Biblical account, man is not the product of a random meaningless evolutionary process. Man is not the result of a cosmic accident; God intentionally created man with capacities reflective of God himself, in other words, in His image and likeness.
As a human being made in His image you reflect God. You are not God, but were created to be like God. True, the image and likeness of God has been compromised by sin but that is where the gospel comes into play.
Paul speaks of the effect of the gospel in renewing the likeness marred by sin. He uses the metaphor of changing your clothes. After you have been born again by the Holy Spirit, or regenerated – given a new heart, Ephesians 4:22-24 (ESV), "…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness."
In the parallel passage in Colossians, He says the same thing in 3:9-10. Again, having put off the old self we are to "put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."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 a personal relationship with his Creator.
Our founding fathers understood the significance of the Genesis account. In the Declaration of Independence they wrote, "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."
With the discovery of DNA, the scientific evidence proves that life in the womb is a human being from the moment of conception. Randy Alcorn has written, "Conception is the moment when the egg is fertilized by the sperm, bringing into existence the zygote, which is a genetically distinct individual."In other words each unborn child is a distinct living person, with its own unique DNA, from the moment of its conception. Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth, M.D. at Harvard University Medical School agrees,"…It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception." Therefore Scott Klusendorf is correct when he says that, "…elective abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless human being. Killing him or her to benefit others is a serious moral wrong." This is where the pro-choice argument falls apart.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1973 legalized abortion. According to National Right to Life, "In 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions legalizing abortion in all 50 states during all nine months of pregnancy, for any reason, medical, social, or otherwise."
The U.S. Supreme Court wrongly ruled that a preborn baby is not a person, and therefore lies outside the protection of the U. S. Constitution. Justice Harry Blackmun who wrote the prevailing argument in Roe v. Wade acknowledged that his case would fail if the personhood of the unborn could be established.
"If this suggestion of personhood [of the unborn] is established, the [abortion rights] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment."
Therefore, the advocates of legalized abortion focus the abortion debate on a woman's "right to choose" or "reproductive rights" granted by the Court. They know they have lost the argument that life in the womb is merely a "tissue mass" or a "product of conception."
You see, from both a legal and moral perspective, the central issue in the abortion debate is not "women's rights" but the "human rights, the "civil rights" of the unborn. You cannot extend to a woman the right to kill her unborn child, as the Court has done, without at the same time denying her child the right to live.
The question we should ask, In light of the irrefutable evidence that life begins at conception, is why has the Supreme Court not reversed its ruling that denied the personhood of the unborn? Why do politicians continue to support state sanctioned killing of unborn children? Perhaps Pastor John Piper has exposed the reason. He writes,
"…when people benefit from wrongdoing - or wrong-thinking, they will turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the mounting evidence for what is right and what is true. The mind selectively sees what will justify the desires of the heart. In the end that is what must be changed."
Church, this is why abortion is a gospel issue. We must communicate the truth about abortion in the context of the Gospel that alone can change the heart to receive the truth.
Thirdly, abortion sheds innocent blood, verse 38. Abortion is the premeditated and violent killing of an unborn human being while still in or partially in the womb of its mother. Priests for Life have a saying, "America will not reject abortion until America sees abortion." If you have not seen what an abortion does to an unborn human being,- I urge you to do so.
Fourthly, verse 37. "They sacrificed…to demons." The blood of the unborn constitute a blood sacrifice to demons. Down through the millennia Satan worship has always involved the shedding of blood. Roman Catholic theologian, Rev. Thomas Euteneuer who specializes in the area of the occult, writes,
"The spiritual dimension of [abortion] is its systematizing of ritual blood sacrifice to the god of child murder, Moloch.…this demon appears in many forms and cultures through history (Phoenician, Carthaginian, Canaanite, Celt, Indian, Aztec and others) but is always the same blood thirsty beast that demands the killing of children as his form of worship. The modern abortion industry offers ritual blood sacrifice to the ancient abortion demon. It is in every way a demonic religion."
The unborn children killed by abortion are the casualties of a war between heaven and hell. The battle lines were drawn early in human history. After the fall of Adam and Eve into sin, we read in Genesis 3:15 (ESV), I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Pastor Randy Alcorn has written,
"As the devil loved the sacrifice of children in the ancient heathen cultures, so he loves the sacrifice of children in our modern culture. Whether children are sacrificed to a heathen god called Molech or to the god of our own convenience, he does not care." He continues, "…there are demonic forces behind child killing. Abortion is Satan's attempt to kill God in effigy by destroying the little ones created in God's image. We are not dealing here with 'one more social issue,' but a unique and focused evil in which Satan has deep vested interests…"
I hope you see another reason why abortion is first and foremost a gospel issue. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV) "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers over this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms."
Finally, notice God's response to the shedding of innocent blood. Look again at Psalm 106:40-42. "Then the anger of the LORD was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power.
The National Right to Life Committee has reported that there have been 54,559,615 abortions since the U. S. Supreme Court sanctioned abortion 39 years ago. That's an average of 3,832 unborn babies killed every day, for last 39 years. The verses we just read from Psalm 106 speak of the judgment that God brought to bear upon His people for the shedding of innocent blood. God called the prophet Jeremiah to go to the Valley of Ben-Hinnom where the child sacrifice took place and deliver His message of judgment. The message is sobering and it is graphic.
Jeremiah 19:4-9 (ESV) "Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind—therefore, behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when this place shall no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter. And in this place I will make void the plans of Judah and Jerusalem, and will cause their people to fall by the sword before their enemies, and by the hand of those who seek their life. I will give their dead bodies for food to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the earth. And I will make this city a horror, a thing to be hissed at. Everyone who passes by it will be horrified and will hiss because of all its wounds. And I will make them eat the flesh of their sons and their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his neighbor in the siege and in the distress, with which their enemies and those who seek their life afflict them.’"
You can read about the 18 month siege of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC in 2 Kings chapters 24 and 25. Food was so scarce that God's people sought survival by practicing cannibalism just as Jeremiah had prophesied.
The question America and the church must consider, can a Holy God remain just and ignore the ritual bloodshed taking place in America every day? That is the question the church should be asking. Do we really think that God can respond to this holocaust in any way different than He did in Jeremiah's day?
Are we so naïve as to think America will escape similar divine judgment? The notion that there is a consequence for the shedding of innocent blood is found throughout the Scriptures Old and New Testament. (See Genesis 9:5,6 and Revelation 6:10) Listen to God's response to the first murder,of Able by his brother Cain. Genesis 4:10 (ESV) "The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground."
May I suggest - that the blood of 55 million unborn is crying out to Him from the ground or our nation. Before Israel even took possession of the promised land God warned them against child sacrifice. But He also warned those who turned a blind eye to the killing. He said, Leviticus 20:5 (NLT), “I myself will turn against them and their families and will cut them off from the community.”
Our silence and disregard of the killing of the unborn is not going unnoticed any more than the killing itself. Rev. Flip Benham, of Operation Save America has said, "… [abortion] is THE major issue. It is why God is draining America's wealth, it is why 19 guys with box cutters can bring this nation to its knees, it is why there are many judgments on this land. We are sacrificing His children."
In Ezekiel 5:14-15 (ESV) the prophet warns Israel of the impending judgment Jeremiah spoke of. But notice his warning extended beyond Israel to other nations, I believe, even to 21st century America.
"Moreover, I will make you [Jerusalem] a desolation and an object of reproach among the nations all around you and in the sight of all who pass by. You shall be a reproach and a taunt, a warning and a horror, to the nations all around you, when I execute judgments on you in anger and fury, and with furious rebukes—I am the LORD; I have spoken—."
With those words, I believe we have been warned. George Mason, one of the Founding Fathers of our nation, stated, “As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, Providence punished national sins, by national calamities.”
Rev. Rusty Lee Thomas of Elijah Ministries and Operation Save America, has written, “To those who have ears to hear, it is time to bear the reproach and follow Jesus outside the mainstream camp of American Christianity (Hebrews 13:3). We must unashamedly connect the dots to God’s truth, warnings, and judgments with the corresponding reality facing our nation. These natural disasters, pestilence, plagues, wars and civil strife are not the results of coincidence or a string of bad luck. America has sowed to the wind and we are reaping the whirlwind.”
The Church should be willing to shoulder the responsibility of ending abortion. We need to repent of abortion in the Church. Repent of our silence. Repent of our ambivalence in the face of the holocaust taking place around us. “For the time has come for judgment, and it must begin with God’s household.” Peter said. (1 Peter:4:17 NLT)
We must obey the Great Commission. Abortion has always been first and foremost a gospel issue. The Gospel is the only power that can change the heart of an abortion minded mother to make a life affirming decision. It is the only power that can change the heart of those who participate and are invested in the abortion industry and those in government protecting their practice. And it provides the only hope of forgiveness, healing and restoration for the post-abortive.
King Manasseh of Judah sacrificed his own son to Molech as he led his nation in the killing. (2 Kings 21:6) He was known for the depth of his wickedness. 2 Kings 24:4 says that he, "filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord would not pardon." 2 Chronicles reports that he, "…led the people of Judah and Jerusalem to do even more evil than the pagan nations that the Lord had destroyed when the people of Israel entered the land. (2 Chron. 33:9) King Manasseh paid a high price for his sin. The Assyrians put a ring through his nose, bound him in chains as they led him away to Babylon. But later, he had a change of heart In deep distress, he sought the Lord. In His mercy, the Lord heard his prayer and returned him to Jerusalem and his kingdom. (2 Chronicles 33:6-13)
God in His mercy will treat us with the same forgiveness. For those of you whose lives have been touched by an abortion in any way, God will respond to you the same way He responded to King Manasseh if you turn to Him for forgiveness. The blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cover the sin of abortion. The penalty for your sin has been paid. It has been paid in full by Jesus' death on the cross. There is nothing you can add to what He has done for you. And this morning, Jesus Christ extends his forgiveness to you. Come to him and receive it. He will take your guilt and your shame. He will bring forgiveness, healing and restoration to your life. And be sure you understand this. I know your pastor's heart. This church is here for you. You are in a safe place to deal with what you have done.
In conclusion, the words of Pastor Flip Benhan "...the time is now, for the Church to rise up and wait not for political parties, or the president, or Congress, or the Supreme Court to take care of the issue. It is our responsibility. The gates of hell will not prevail against the Church of Jesus Christ. Abortion will come to an end, when the Church of Jesus Christ makes up her mind it will end - and not one second s sooner."
© James P. McGarvey All Rights Reserved