Monday, April 13, 2015

Sermon on 1 John 1:1-2:2, for the 2nd Sunday of Easter, "Walking in God's Light"



Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The apostle John speaks a message to you, over nearly 2,000 years of history. A message that is intended to bring you fellowship with God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son. A message that brings you fellowship with the apostles and the early Christians, down through 20 centuries of history to us today. And long before that, Abraham and all the saints who believe in the One True God. This message that brings us fellowship with God and with one another is also a message that is aimed at bringing us joy that is complete.
What’s John’s authority to speak this message? He and the other apostles speak to us as eyewitnesses; who were there in the flesh, seeing, hearing, even touching the very Word of Life, Jesus Christ, God’s own Son. In concrete, tangible ways, they lived, walked, ate and drank with our Lord Jesus Christ, before and after His resurrection. So he writes not from hearsay, but what he and the others saw with their very eyes and heard with their ears. Neither does he speak of clever philosophies and abstract religions that have no connection to this material world of flesh, blood, and stone—but he speaks of Jesus Christ, who by His rising from the dead, proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that He was God’s Son, our Risen Savior. These are the credentials of John and the apostles—they were there and saw Jesus’ resurrection for themselves, and would all go to their graves proclaiming the same truth and living by it.
This message from Jesus, handed down and taught by the apostles, is “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” Does this describe the way that people think of God today? Hopefully for all Christians, we affirm this without question, that God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him. Darkness embodies the sin, the evil, the death, lies, deception, and suffering that fill our world with so much misery and devastation. None of this is from God or has any place in Him. But does the average unbeliever think this way about God? I think it’s easy to find people who question in themselves, or question openly, whether God is ultimately pure good, or that there is no darkness in Him. With so much suffering in the world, one of the most common questions about God is how can He be good, if evil exists? The question assumes either that God hasn’t or doesn’t do anything about the evil in the world, and that in order to be good, He must do so.
But in Christ Jesus, God has shown Himself to us. He has made an open declaration of who He is, and what He is like, so as not to leave us guessing or wondering. And this self-declaration of who God is, is not merely a grand speech, with no actions to follow it up. Rather the “word of life” is made known to us. Jesus, a living person, living out the perfect, holy, righteous, truth-speaking, compassionate, merciful, self-controlled, loving, self-sacrificial life that God intended for Him. A life that walked completely in the light—not by avoiding sinners, but by meeting them and cleansing and redeeming them. Jesus showed in deed, not in word only, but with His humility, His suffering, life, and death, that God is pure goodness and Light, and that there is no evil or darkness in Him. The worst indignities that could be done to Jesus could not provoke Him to anger or hatred against His enemies, but love was written on His life. Again, not mere words, but words and deeds, life and example.
So if we know and see Jesus, if we can even comprehend what He experienced for our sins, the pains of the cross—we can see that God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him. God’s Light shines down on, in, and through us. We, still today, are the sinners whom Jesus meets in our darkness, in our sin-blindness, and to whom He brings healing, hope, and life. John opens His Gospel with the same light and darkness theme, and says that Jesus is the life and the light of men; the light that shines in the darkness and is not overcome. He is the One who gives us new birth, so that we can become children of God. Not by our finding Him, but by His finding and rescuing us. God’s Light, Jesus’ Light, now shines on us so that we walk in light, and no longer in darkness.
Back to our 1 John passage, verse 6-7, he says that “if we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” “Walking in” something describes our way or pattern of life. Jesus says sinners flee to the darkness in order to hide their sinful actions. That’s not just a problem that is corrected by modern streetlights and plenty of physical light to drive away the darkness—but a deeper spiritual issue of running from God’s light, not wanting for Him to see or know our sin. So we can’t say we have fellowship with God—call ourselves a Christian—if we walk in the darkness. If we do this, he says we lie and do not practice the truth.
There is a hard lesson here in hypocrisy—that when our words and deeds go in opposite directions, this is deadly to our faith. It’s interesting that John says we lie and “do not practice” or literally do not “do” the truth. Normally we would say lying is not speaking the truth. But notice the strong connection between our words and actions. The truth we live should reflect the truth we speak. Christian life is not polishing up the exterior while nurturing pet sins and hidden wrongs inside, but Jesus’ light and life is to shine through our whole being. Our talk must not be “cheap talk” but “authentic living” in doing as well as in speaking (Schuchard). Just as Jesus walked in the light, so are we to walk in His light.
Do you need light to see? Or to walk in safety? Do you produce that light? Are you the source of the light? Yes you do need light to see and walk, but no, you are not the source of light. In the same way, to walk in the light, and not the darkness, comes from God’s Light shining down on, in, and through you. John has no illusions that we are sinless in and of ourselves or that we produce the light. Our walk in the light relies on Jesus cleansing us from all sin. He knows the reality of forgiveness that shines down on us from Jesus. This is how we walk in the light. God is the Light, not us.
The way that we walk in truth, is expressed in the next verses, are familiar from our weekly confession of sins. 1 John 1:8–10 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” Walking in the truth means confessing our sins. Confessing our sins is to speak the same reality about our sin that God speaks—that our sin is damnable and wrong—that it’s not justifiable or excusable, but deserving of God’s punishment. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us. It’s one thing to just admit we are sinners, as though that were any news—but another thing to say that my choices, my words, and my actions are hurtful and wrong, and that they break God’s eternal law. That my actions are in need of correction. Confessing our sin is saying with the Psalmist, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:4). Confessing is saying that God is true, His judgment is blameless, and we are in the wrong.
But the amazing thing is that this painful confession, this humbling of our pride and perpetual need to be right, or get the last word—this confession to God doesn’t end in a walk of shame, or further humiliation from God, or His scornful, “You should have known better”. Rather, this confession, telling the truth on our part, ends with God being faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It ends with God’s declaring us innocent, because the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sins. In other words, this confession ends in absolution—the word of forgiveness! It ends with God setting you free from the paths of darkness, the chains and guilt that enslaved you.
There is a world of difference between abusing God’s grace as a free pass to continue sinning, and ignoring the wrongness of our actions—and someone falling at Jesus’ feet for mercy, and asking His continual, daily, side-by-side help to fight and wrestle against the sins that  we still struggle and wrestle against. It’s the difference between saying we want grace but living as though we don’t, and saying we want grace and living in total dependence on Jesus. Live in that total dependence on the God who is faithful and just, and bring your sins constantly before Him in confession, to receive His forgiveness. John goes on, “my little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” We daily strive not to willfully continue in sin. But there is no illusion that we can come to a complete stop in sinning. Sin is a reality in our life till our dying day, and then it will be gone forever when we are raised and glorified with Jesus. But for every fall, for every stumble along the way, Jesus is our advocate, our comforter, and defender. He speaks for our forgiveness, and for our reconciliation with God.
And more than just speaking for us, more than just words, He dies for us. He takes our sins to His cross, and buries them in His grave. He is the propitiation for our sin. That big, rare word contains a load of good news—that Jesus has turned away God’s wrath from our sins, and sacrificed Himself for what we have done. He has done this not just for a special set of people, but for all the people of the world. All of the sins of the world He took upon Himself, and all who believe in that gift, who look to Him and receive His Word of Life, will live forever in His life. The cross of Jesus, you see, is God’s greatest—not the only, but the greatest—intervention in the evil of this world. It’s when He willingly offered Himself up as the sacrifice for our sins, and created a way by which He can rescue us from the evil and sin that is so pervasive in our lives. He opened up the way to forgiveness and mercy and climbs down from heaven to bring it to us. Week by week He blesses us with those old but infinitely good words of forgiveness. Week by week He brings us His body and blood, given and shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Why? So that you may know and receive the good news that His salvation that is for the sins of the whole world, is also given for you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen to audio at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

    1. 1 John 1:1 echoes John 1:1, the opening words of John’s Gospel. What does the “from the beginning” tell us about Jesus and about God? Cf. Genesis 1:1; Romans 1:28.
    2. In describing himself and the other apostles as those who had “heard, seen, looked upon, and touched”—what is he saying about their role in relation to Jesus? They were ____ of these things. Luke 1:2; 2 Peter 1:16; cf. Acts 1:21-22 for criteria for replacement of an apostle.
    3. The eyewitness message that the apostles proclaim leads to having what? 1 John 1:3. What does this kind of community and support then produce in all of us as Christians? 1 John 1:4.
    4. What does it mean that God is Light, and there is no darkness in Him? What realities are represented by light or darkness? Genesis 1:1-5; Psalm 27:1; Luke 1:79; 2 Corinthians 6:14; John 3:19-21. How does darkness affect sight? Spiritual understanding?
    5. What is the difference between walking in the light, and walking in the darkness? How is confessing our sins part of walking in the light? Vs. 8-10. If we do confess them, what does God do?
    6. Is John writing to people who don’t sin or have stopped sinning entirely? 2:1-2. What is the difference then, between a person who walks in darkness, or who walks in light?
    7. In 2:2, the word “propitiation” means that Jesus, as our sacrifice, has turned away God’s righteous wrath from our sins. He has been held accountable for all we did wrong. How wide and how far does that sacrifice extend, to cover sins?

Monday, April 06, 2015

Sermon on Psalm 16 and Mark 16:1-8, for Easter Sunday, the Resurrection of Our Lord. "Path of Life"



Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! You may or may not know that the Scriptures link up two very important events in salvation history—the Exodus, which happened about 1,400 years before Jesus’ birth, and then Jesus’ own death, burial, and resurrection. A second exodus. There are all sorts of parallels between the two events. Moses was raised up by God to rescue the Israelites, just as Jesus, greater than Moses, was raised up by God to rescue all humanity, Jews and Gentiles. The first exodus was from a physical slavery to the Pharoah in Egypt. The second exodus is from our spiritual slavery to the power of sin, death, and the devil. Scripture describes the Israelites being led across the Red Sea as being “baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea”, just as it speaks of us as being baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection. God accomplished a great deliverance for His people, when they were trapped and seemingly helpless, walled in by the Red Sea. If you know the story, you know that the Israelites were terrified of the oncoming chariots and soldiers of the Pharoah, and they despaired.
We get a taste of that same despair when we see the women gathering at Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning. The second exodus, led by Jesus, seemed to have ended in defeat. In Mark 16, we heard about how they went to the tomb at sunrise, to pay their respects, to give their buried teacher and Lord the honor that was denied them after His death. On the way they realized that they couldn’t move the great stone that sealed the tomb. As darkness still lingered in the early morning light, fears, doubt, and sadness hung over them like a cloud. Can you imagine how the Israelites would have despaired if, when Pharoah and his armies were bearing down on them, walled in by the Red Sea, that Moses, their leader was suddenly struck dead by the enemy? No doubt their despair would have given way to utter defeat. As frightened as they were, before they saw God’s salvation unfold—they still clung to the small hope that Moses would deliver them. But if He died?
If Jesus’ disciples, following the new and greater Moses, the One who came to lead us from the captivity of sin, faithfully follow His leading, but then see their leader, cornered, captured, and killed by the enemy—what hope would survive? The disciples, to a man, to a woman, behaved as if all hope was lost. All was solitude and gloom. If Jesus is still in that tomb, all is lost. We are not set free. We are still dead in our transgressions and sins. In this frame of mind, with no other prospect than to show honor to His dead body, the women arrive, sorrowfully, but lovingly to carry out their duty. Pay the small honor that they could.
And then, as though parting the Red Sea waters, God miraculously intervenes to rescue, when all hope seemed beyond lost. The stone is moved back from the tomb. What else but alarm and shock would overcome them when they do not find Jesus inside, but an angel dressed in white, greeting them and announcing: “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” The tomb was empty! Jesus was gone! But where? On His way to Galilee? As He told us? Can it be? Now that we had all but given up, is rescue still in sight?
Death had struck its blow. It’s fatal blow against Jesus. Sin stung in all His wounds like the poison that it is. Death struck it’s blow and the world had gone reeling. An earthquake shook the land as Jesus died on Good Friday. The Temple curtain was torn in two. People cowered in fear, not knowing what was happening. Death had done its worst, and Jesus, the hope of mankind, was laid into His grave. But a second earthquake that Easter morning declared that it wasn’t over. Death was through, and had done its worst, but today Life would speak from the grave. Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, has risen! Christ has Risen! He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia! He was alive and waiting to greet His disciples in Galilee. They had forgotten His promise, forgotten that He told them three times, that He would die, and in three days be raised again. Hope and Life were back on their feet, as Jesus was alive again. And death has no more answer to Jesus—it’s done its worst, its power is broken.
Psalm 16, which we recite earlier, is one of the oldest prophecies about Jesus’ resurrection. It’s a Psalm that King David wrote, some 1,000 years before Jesus, expressing His hope in the face of death. He wrote these words, about His confidence in the Lord: Psalm 16:8–11, “8 I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure. 10 For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption. 11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Contrast this confidence in the face of death, to the fear or uncertainty that faced the Israelites, the first disciples, or even us. We too face death, never knowing when our own end may come. But this Psalm speaks to us of the confidence that is ours if we set the Lord always before us.
Jesus had this unshakeable confidence, which was why the worst that sin and death threw at Him, could not rattle His trust in God. Those words: “You will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption,”—they describe Jesus. Jesus knew that the grave would not “finish Him.” He knew that His body would not see decay, but that God would uphold Him. And rising from the tomb that Easter morning, Jesus’ confidence in God was vindicated.  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Jesus had walked through the valley of the shadow of death, but He knew the path of life. Jesus, by His innocence and by God’s mighty deliverance, had passed the boundary of death, and navigated His way back to life. He was leading the way out, just as God had planned—just the deliverance that humanity, enslaved to sin and death needed.
Remember that parallel? First and second exodus? Here’s another—the word exodus means “a way out”, or exit, or departure. For Israel, in the first Exodus, God miraculously made a way out from Egypt, as He delivered them from Pharoah. Moses parted the Red Sea waters by God’s almighty hand, and what seemed like certain death opened up to a way out and into life. Jesus leads our exodus. He exited, or departed by death—which seemed certain defeat to all His followers. But He knows the path of life. As sure a guide as we could ask for, His exodus into death opened up for us the way to eternal life. Jesus desires to set your feet on that level path. He desires to be set before you at all times, so that you will not be shaken.
Do you fear that now, or on some day yet to come, that death may have you cornered? That your sins have caught up to you, your guilt will cover your head in shame, and hound you to your grave? Do you fear that cancer, or heart disease, or tragedy may spell your ruin, and that death will finish you? Then look to the cross, look to the empty tomb, look to Jesus! He is your deliverer and Lord, and He has gone this way before. The enemies of sin, death and the devil, their accusations of guilt and shame, their weapons of fear and doubt—Jesus has faced them all and finished them. His deliverance was not a narrow escape from death—but a full encounter with death. Heart stopped, life gone, eyes closed in death. Buried, in the tomb. But three days more and Christ has Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Your enemies, your fears, your guilt and sin are nothing to match our Jesus. He is alive! He stands at your right hand so that you may not be shaken. With Christ beside you, you can defy death, and know that you can gladly follow after Him, because He makes known to us the path of life.
Our heart is glad, our whole being rejoices, and our flesh dwells secure. Our security, our rejoicing, and our gladness this day, is that death is overthrown. Jesus, God’s Holy One, is risen from the dead, never to die again. He waits for us in heaven, with fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore awaiting us. Do not be alarmed! Do not let the dread of sin and death defeat you or cause you to despair! The tomb is empty, Jesus is risen! Did He not tell us He would do this? Today, Easter, life begins anew. Our journey is on the path of life; we are headed for the Promised Land. Death no longer haunts our tracks, but Jesus leads us on to life. Live with the sight of Jesus’ victory in your heart and in your mind. Live with the confidence that your sins have been forgiven, and that whenever death comes, it going to be but an exit into life eternal. Live with the solid confidence that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Alleluia! Amen.
 
Sermon Talking Points
Read past sermons at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.blogspot.com
Listen to audio at:   http://thejoshuavictortheory.podbean.com

1.      What connections does the Bible make between the Exodus, and Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection? How is it like a New Exodus? Luke 9:30-31 (see footnote on v. 31). 1 Corinthians 10:1-6. What kind of slavery are we in, from which Christ sets us free? John 8:31-36
2.      Why were the women so despairing on coming to the tomb? Where were the disciples, and what were their emotions that morning? What would it mean for us if Jesus were still dead and in His tomb? 1 Corinthians 15:12-20.
3.      When the angel stood at the tomb, reminding the women that Jesus had told them in advance of His resurrection, and where to meet Him, when had Jesus said this? Mark 14:26-28. What was happening when Jesus gave this promise?
4.      What awesome signs surrounded Jesus’ death, pointing to the extraordinary event that had taken place? Mark 15:33, 37-39; John 19:34; Matthew 27:51-54. What similar signs occurred on Easter morning? Matthew 27:53; 28:2-4.
5.      How does Psalm 16, especially verses 8-11, predict Jesus’ resurrection? How does it describe it? See Acts 2:22-34. What confidence does Psalm 16 express in the face of death? What is the source of this confidence?
6.      Where did Jesus’ journey take Him? What “path” did He know, that allowed Him to travel that journey without fear?
7.      What fears, guilt, or sins face you? Does death seem near or far? Where is your confidence and hope? Where does Jesus reign for us? Acts 2:32-36. What awaits believers in Christ Jesus? Psalm 16:11. How does this affect how you will live?

Monday, March 30, 2015

Meditation on the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, for Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion, based on Mark 14-15




See Jesus. Traveling dusty roads to Jerusalem, fully aware of what lies ahead. See Him mount the donkey, receive the praise and joy fit for a king. A new hero! One who can save us! But did they really know what they were asking for? See a beautiful act of worship, done to Jesus—a woman pours rich perfume, anointing His feet. Scolded and ridiculed. But acknowledged and appreciated by Jesus. See His Last Supper with His disciples. A new covenant established in His blood. The cross was very near. See the trouble brewing—disciples scattering, fear overtaking each one, betrayal on the lips of one, denial on the lips of another. Arrest. Mockery, lies, a sham trial. See Jesus. He makes no protest. A lamb goes uncomplaining forth, the Lamb of God, in the hands of sinners, carrying the sins of the world away. Thankless sinners, blind to their rescue, blind to their Savior.
With none to stand in the way, none to speak for justice, the hatred gives way to aggression. Abuse, names, laughter. Mocked as king, traded for a murderer, sentenced to the cross. See Jesus. Why is He standing there? So forsaken, so alone? So misunderstood, so wounded. He stands there for you. For me. See Him stumble under the weight of the cross, and see Him affixed there. For you, for me. Do you see yourself? Do you see the price our sins have earned? Do we pass that cross, not noticing, not caring what happened there, not sorry for our sins?
The love of no ordinary man or woman works this way. To forgive His enemies, to look back at those who hated Him—looking back with eyes of deep compassion—piercing us with the knowledge that He loves us! He bears all this suffering gladly—since it means that He can heal your sin. Since it means you will be forgiven. Since it means He can change your heart, and make an enemy of God become His friend—to make from a coward and a sinner, a disciple, a faithful follower. See this Jesus. He is here for you. For me. The Son of Man, the promised Savior. Showing the greatest love and self-sacrifice, and showing that the worst hatred and sin cannot extinguish the goodness of God. Sin and death were at war with righteousness and life. And we know the winner. He’s in the fight for us. “See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down!...Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all. Believe the good news that Jesus dies and lives again for you! Amen.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Sermon on Psalm 10, for Life Sunday, "Helper of the fatherless"



In the Name of the Father—Life Creator, the Son—Life Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit—Life Sanctifier, Amen. Psalm 10, which we just recited, is a passionate outcry of the righteous against the wicked. The Psalmist asks God, where are you to help? Why do You hide Yourself in times of trouble? He sees the wicked pursuing the poor and the helpless, being greedy for gain, cursing and renouncing the Lord. He hears them denying God’s existence and believing that for generation after generation, they will be able to get away with this oppression. Murdering the innocent in secret places, preying on the poor, the helpless, and the afflicted. The Psalmist cries out to God—how can this be? He cries for God to remember the afflicted, hold the wicked accountable, and to take this violence and injustice into His hands, and break the power of evildoing. The Psalm ends on the confident note that God will hear the cry of the afflicted, will encourage and strengthen them, will do justice for the fatherless and the oppressed, and call the wicked to account.
Today we observe Life Sunday, and I ask that we pray Psalm 10 as an outcry against the great evil that continues daily in our land. An evil that is hard even to comprehend. Did you know that on one day, there were 2,977 victims killed? It rocked our country and shook us to our core. The unanswered questions still haunt us, and the disastrous effects are still with us today. Most of all those who were directly impacted. But the effects rippled far beyond. That day was September 11, 2001, when terrorists struck our country. Those who were alive and remember it, each know the emotional impact and shock that hit us, and will never forget. But approximately 700 more lives—an average- of over 3,700 lives have been lost—every single day—in the United States of America, since 1973, when abortion was legalized, in Roe v. Wade. That’s the daily average of what has amounted to over 57 million abortions, just in America, since 1973.
Even the loss of one innocent life, by acts of terror, or abortion, or even natural causes is a tragedy. But shouldn’t tragedies of this proportion, that are intentional, rock us or shake us to our core? Do you have any doubt that—realize it or not—there has been a tremendous nationwide impact from those 57 million innocent deaths? Does that innocent blood cry out to the skies, unanswered, with no hope for justice? With the grim promise of millions to follow each year? Do millions of surrounding lives—the mothers of those children, the fathers, the siblings, the families, the abortion workers themselves—suffer the ripple effects of the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual consequences of this ongoing evil? There are countless women and men who were involved in abortions, and even a few children survivors of abortion, who have broken the silence and spoken of the damaging effects on their lives. Equally important, they have spoken out about the forgiveness and healing they’ve found in the Good News of Jesus Christ. Later this year, we expect to have a young woman speaker here on Maui, to speak for our pregnancy center, who actually survived an attempted abortion, and is alive today because a nurse rescued her.
I urge that we pray vigorously for the power of evildoing to be broken, and that this great evil and shame would come to an end in our land. I urge that you pray Psalm 10 for the victims of such evil. Our situation is very much the prayer of Psalm 10. The abortion industry has pursued evil and harm for generations, for incredible profit, and most often at the expense of the oppressed, the poor, minorities, the unmarried, and the fatherless. And we must commit this injustice to God’s hands, and fervently pray that He break the power of injustice. And as we pray, we should also be ready for God to call us into action to use us to make a difference. God is answering our prayers, and He is calling Christians to action.
A few weeks ago we talked about the Godly zeal and passion that drove Jesus to cleanse the Temple, and that Christians should likewise be motivated with a zeal directed by knowledge, truth, and compassion. This is one issue in particular where God can use our Godly zeal to love our neighbor as ourselves and to care for the “least of these.” There is a tremendous upswing of pro-life support across the country, and it is overwhelmingly among young people. And people of all ages are getting involved in a variety of ways, that are open to each of us as well. A difference is being made. 73% of the nation’s abortion clinics have closed in the last 10 years, leaving less than 600, and compassion pregnancy centers are taking their place, and now outnumber them by 5 to 1. Local communities are leading the change. The former Planned Parenthood clinic near where Pastor used to work closed down and was replaced by a Pro-life compassion pregnancy center. The director of that abortion clinic made a 180 degree turn from being pro-choice, and has become an outspoken advocate and speaker for life. Prayers are being answered. Lives are being changed for the better. The annual numbers of abortions are in decline and may finally have fallen below 1 million/year. But that’s still 1 million too many.
Whose issue is this? Is it just an issue between a women and her doctor, as we are repeatedly told? Is abortion in any way a man’s issue? Statistics show that 85.5% of abortions are performed for unmarried women. Does that tell you anything about the silent involvement or un-involvement of men? I think it really tells us how marriage is an overwhelmingly significant factor in creating the context in which a mother can embrace that incredibly fearful and wonderful responsibility of motherhood. Perhaps we can safely assume that it has something to do with the commitment, security (both financial and emotional), and love that marriage should provide. Half of women report that they have abortions because the father is absent from the picture, or that there are problems with the husband or boyfriend.
So is abortion a man’s issue too? Do men have responsibility and accountability in this area, or is it only a women’s issue? At a minimum, in half the cases, if a man loves, supports, protects and provides for mother and child, the reason for a woman even contemplating that abortion wouldn’t even exist. And on the flip side, I’m convinced that the negative influence of an unsupportive father, or being missing altogether, are huge factors in pushing many women to abortion as well. Fatherhood and the responsibility that goes with it can be just as exhilarating and frightening as I assume motherhood can be as well. But anything truly worth doing is hard, and demands our presence, sacrifice, and effort. And we can each walk with each other in our Christian community, and among our extended families and friends, and show that parenting is truly worth doing, and well worth the love and effort. Even if you are not parents yourselves, you can encourage those who are and point them to God’s own faithful example.
One of the faults of the wicked, as described in Psalm 10, is that they assume both that God does not exist, and also that God will not call them to account. Fatherhood and motherhood both require a high level of accountability, first to God, but also to children and society. Sadly, we have gone so far that absentee fathers have almost come to be expected in our day and age. But before we blame anyone else for the problem of abortion, we should consider that 70% of women who have abortions profess to be Christian. We are first of all accountable. Fixing the problem starts with us, the Christian church. We Christian men need to step up and be good fathers, be faithful and committed to our wives, and to love our children, teach them the faith, and discipline them, as Scripture commands us to do.
And if you feel I’m preaching to the choir, or you’re not a father, or your children are grown—then consider the young men and women who may fall into your sphere of influence. Raising up a new generation of responsible young fathers and mothers who are committed in marital love to each other and toward their children, should be seen as a responsibility of our whole Christian community, not just a few. And it’s a responsibility and task that pays dividends far beyond the immediate family. If you want to talk about the positive ripple effects—mental, emotional, financial, physical, societal, effects of strong, intact families, there is ample evidence of the positive effects on society. Those ripples will go well beyond us and the church.
And then there is the aftermath of abortion. There are those negative ripple effects that touch our many lives. Women suffering from post-abortion syndrome, or health consequences, or unresolved guilt. Men suffering from a sense of lost fatherhood or the failure to be able to protect their child. Families that dealt with unplanned pregnancies in destructive ways, that broke relationships, care, and trust. And more than a generation of missing children, and their unknown missing contributions of love, laughter, and creativity to our families and communities. It is easy for abortion to become a reason for despair, hopelessness, powerlessness, and discouragement. Just like the Psalmist thought, sometimes it seems like the wicked not only get away with oppression, but they even prosper and continue to sin with impunity.
But then hope and faith are stirred in the Psalmist, and Psalm 10 confesses that God does in fact see and hear the evil and injustice that takes place. God does indeed take “mischief and vexation” into His hands. We pray that God would take the fatherless into His hands today, that He would be their Father and protector. That He would “break the arm of the wicked and evildoer; call his wickedness to account till [He] find[s] none.” God is the helper of the helpless and the Father to the fatherless. No one needs to go through life without knowing their True Heavenly Father, the One who truly protects and loves us in all the ways that we as earthly fathers so often fall short. No one who still bears their guilt need carry it any longer. God calls us to confess our sins, lay them down before Him, and receive forgiveness, full and free.
Well, how about it? Do you have the zeal to do good? As we spoke about a few weeks ago, our zeal for good must never lead us into evil actions, with the thought that the end justifies the means—hoping that good may result. Our zeal must seek righteous ends by righteous means. We must never be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
And thank God, there are many good, lawful, and righteous means for us to do good, and to wage spiritual war against this evil. First of all is prayer, and committing it to God’s hands. But we also must answer the Bible’s constant call to rise up to defend the widow, the fatherless, and the oppressed. That theme runs right through the whole Bible. Right here in our community we have Malama Pregnancy Center, which we can and must support with our prayers, time, and offerings, so that we can address the underlying causes and issues that lead women here to choose abortion, and provide them practical and spiritual support to choose life. You may be able to volunteer at the center—as a counselor, a client advocate, or in some other capacity.  We can speak out to help create a culture of life, instead of a culture of death—a culture where the weakest members of society, the unborn, the newborns, the disabled and the aged—are treated with love, dignity, and respect. And that’s not merely a Christian issue—but truly a human issue that reflects on all people.
And there are too many other positive ways to be involved, than I can mention here. But I want to wrap up by returning again to our Psalm and the outcry that God would not remain hidden, but answer our cry for help in a time of trouble. As we’ve already heard, the helpless and the fatherless do actually have a Helper and a Father in our God. And He is not distant from our trouble, but hears our cries and prayers. And the innocent blood that has been shed, does not cry out in vain. Because the innocent blood of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, was poured out into death for our sin. All the grossly immeasurable sin of the world—yours, mine, the whole world’s sins of every sort, shape, and variety. Jesus blood was poured out not only for our sins, but the sins of the whole world. But Jesus’ innocent blood does not cry out in vain for justice, and neither does it cry out for revenge. Rather, His innocent blood bears God’s justice for us, so that we are forgiven. Our immeasurable debt of sin is erased. And His innocent blood speaks for our inclusion into God’s family. It is a family reconciliation and restoration that only God can accomplish, and that crosses even the barriers of death. But it is God’s answer in Christ Jesus to the problem of injustice in this world, and it is the proof that He will reign as King, forever and ever! Amen

Sermon Talking Points
  1. Read Psalm 10. How does this Psalm apply as an outcry against evil and oppression, specifically to the abortion issue? Why should our first step of action against any evil be prayer? Cf. Ephesians 6:10ff
  2. Who are the victims of the schemes of the wicked, in Psalm 10? Vs. 2, 8-10, 12-14. How does God answer the prayer of the righteous? Vs. 12-18
    •  Some notable abortion statistics: 85.5 % of abortions are performed on unmarried women. 70 % of women having abortions profess to be Christian. 51% of women having abortions are younger than 25. 40% of minors report that neither parent knew about their abortion. By the numbers, abortion occurs among minorities at a much higher rate. Black women were 3.7 times more likely to have an abortion in 2011, than non-Hispanic white women. The abortion rate is three times as high among women relying on Medicaid coverage. At current rates, almost 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion. http://www.abort73.com/abortion_facts/us_abortion_statistics/
    • National and State statistics: Since 1973, the legalization of abortion nationwide in the US, there have been an estimated 57 million abortions, or about 3,700 a day for over 42 years. By comparison, 2,977 victims died in the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The abortion rate has been in a decline for more than a decade, and it is believed that 2013 was the first year in decades that the rate has dipped below 1 million a year. As of 2011, about 5,580 abortions were performed in a year, a little over 15 per day. The rate of abortion in Hawaii is about 19% of all pregnancies.
    • Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider in the US, and in 2013 abortions made up 94% of their pregnancy services. During that year, they received more than $528 million in taxpayer funding, in government grants, contracts, and Medicaid reimbursements. They reported $127 million in excess revenue, and $1.4 billion in net assets. http://www.sba-list.org Planned Parenthood Annual Report: Fresh Evidence of Abortion-Centered, Profit Driven Business Model