God’s Heart for Life
The topic of abortion is one wrought with controversy and struggle-even in today's churches. Join pastor and author Bob Lepine on FamilyLife Today as he shares a compelling and compassionate word from Scripture that focuses our attention on the heart of God.
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The topic of abortion is one wrought with controversy and struggle-even in today’s churches. Bob Lepine shares a compelling and compassionate word from Scripture that focuses our attention on the heart of God.
God’s Heart for Life
Bob: God is an amazing God, who designed the process/who superintends the process so that the physical body is connected now, inseparably, from the soul of a human being whom God is creating. That miracle is something we ought never take for granted.
This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 21st. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Today, we’ll talk about how each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I know what has been on my heart this week—been on your hearts as well—as we have just inaugurated a new President, as this Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. There’s just been a heaviness/a sobriety about the issue of the sanctity of human life in our culture/in our country—how we think about these things—so we thought, “We’re going to take a little time with that subject this week and just reflect on: ‘What does the Bible have to say about life and how we’re to think about life?’”
Dave: We’re going to listen to a sermon by Pastor Reverend Bob Lepine; right? [Laughter]
Bob: This is a message that I shared with our church last year on Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, talking about what the Bible says about these things. I mean, just the ongoing count/the ongoing toll of what’s going on with life in this country is something that ought to sober all of us.
Ann: I was going to say—I feel discouraged sometimes about that because the numbers are, not only sobering, they’re staggering.
Bob: They are.
Dave: And we need to think, biblically, in: “What is God’s perspective?” I commend you, Bob, for preaching on this. There’s a lot of pastors that just won’t touch it; it’s controversial in some ways. Yet, if we claim to be Christ follower’s, we need to know: “What is God’s heart on this?”
Ann: —and “What does God’s Word say?”
Bob: Well, and that’s what I hope our listeners will hear today—a look at—“How does the Scriptures define this issue for us?” and “How are we to think, biblically, about how God views life and how He wants us to view life?” Let’s listen together.
Bob: I have to tell you I’ve not always been prolife. I was a junior in high school on January 22, 1973, when the news came out that the Supreme Court had handed down its landmark ruling in the Roe v. Wade decision: the constitutional right for a woman to be able to pursue an abortion. It’s interesting—that same day—the news was that former President Lyndon Johnson had died. The headlines on the papers looked—here’s the New York Times from that day: “LYNDON JOHNSON, 36th PRESIDENT, IS DEAD; WAS ARCHITECT OF ‘GREAT SOCIETY’ PROGRAM”; and then underneath it, “High Court Rules Abortions Legal the First 3 Months.”
They were competing news stories on that day. Although, in Los Angeles, they put out a late afternoon edition. The day before, before they had the news that Johnson had died, they already had the news about abortion; so they put this out: “ABORTION RULING: MOTHER KNOWS BEST.” I was a junior in high school, and I really didn’t think much about the issue when it happened. I heard on the news the Supreme Court ruled abortion is legal.
Here’s what I knew: I knew that Roman Catholics were opposed to abortion—that’s about it—I hadn’t really thought much about it. I think I had a general thought, like a lot of people thought, “I’m sure that’s a hard thing. I would hope nobody I knew ever had to go through it, but it may be necessary for some folks.” That’s probably the last I thought about it until we got to college.
When MaryAnn and I were in college, we had a mutual friend, who called MaryAnn one day. This was a woman, who was involved in student ministries at the time. She told MaryAnn that she had become pregnant and that the father was a married man. She asked MaryAnn if MaryAnn would drive her to and drop her off at the abortion clinic, and so MaryAnn did that.
We talked about it later and we thought, “This was a sad thing for our friend.” We both thought getting an abortion was probably the right thing for her; because she was unmarried; she was a student; she was in college; the baby’s father was married. We just didn’t think she had a whole lot of options; so dropping her off at the clinic, we knew that this would have been a hardship for her, but we thought, “It’s probably the right thing to do.”
Then not long after we were married—so I think this was in early 1980—we got married in 1979. Early 1980, there was a church in Tulsa, which was where we were living, that announced that they were going to have a film series. They were going to show a five-part film series that featured an author and a Christian philosopher—a guy named Frances Schaeffer. Frances Shaffer had written a book, together with a doctor/a physician named C. Everett Koop. Dr. Koop went on to be the Surgeon General in the United States during the Reagan administration. But Frances Schafer and Dr. Koop had written a book called Whatever Happened to the Human Race? That book had been turned into a film series/a five-part film series. A church in our neighborhood said that they were going to show the film series, and we decided to go to see Episode One.
We’re sitting in the audience for this film series. It was interesting—it was not just a talking-head video—they had really put some production value into this. But 26 minutes into the film series, as we’re sitting there watching this, there was a scene that came up that I’ve never forgotten. It was a scene where Dr. Koop was standing on the shore near the Dead Sea in an area that would have been close to where Sodom was; and around him on the shoreline of that, there were baby dolls. I saw that, and I looked at MaryAnn and I said, “Oh my.” That’s when MaryAnn and I became prolife.
In that moment, the central issue at the heart of the whole issue of abortion became really clear to us/crystal clear. Abortion is not the termination of an unwanted pregnancy; abortion is a procedure designed to end the life of another human being. This is a human being we’re talking about—not a potential human being, not an embryo, not a fetus, not a clump of cells, not tissue—a person. In fact, those words/those euphemisms have been entered into our language as, I believe, a satanic attempt to disguise or to obfuscate what’s really going on with an abortion. If you call it a fetus or an embryo, it doesn’t sound the same as if you say it’s a baby or a person.
What is inside of a pregnant woman is a life—a human being with a body and a soul—with DNA that is different from the DNA of the mother. That’s important; it’s different DNA. It’s a new life that’s entirely dependent in that moment on its mother for protection and for care. The infant child in his or her mother’s womb is attached to the mother, but the child is not an organ—not like a kidney, or a liver, or a pancreas—it’s a person. This is the defining central issue in the abortion debate. If you don’t believe that, then a surgical procedure is not a big deal. If you do believe that; we’re talking about something very different.
You can talk about a woman’s right to choose, or about overpopulation, or about keeping government out of the bedroom, whatever—all of those issues—we can talk about those things; but the question that governs all of that is: “Is abortion taking a human life?” If it’s not, it’s a simple surgical procedure to remove tissue; if it is, it’s something completely different.
We would all agree that a woman ought to have a right for a medical procedure. She can decide to have Botox, or she can decide to have a hysterectomy, or have her wisdom teeth removed. I mean, that’s any individual’s choice. But she shouldn’t be able to decide that, if her son or daughter has a become a problem/an inconvenience to her, then she has the right to terminate. We would all say that’s clear if the son or daughter, who is a problem, is outside the womb—three months old, no one would say, “If it’s a problem to you, you should terminate,”—but take it back six months, the same child is in the womb; “Now, is it okay?” The question on the table here is: “Whether the decision to terminate a child in the womb is somehow different than terminating a child outside the womb; what’s the difference?” The only difference is time/age. It’s the same person, before, as it is later.
Scripture is going to give us guidance on this this morning. There’s Scripture in a number of places. I zeroed in on this one passage from Psalm 139, because it is so clear and eloquent in this. Let me just set up a context before we read the passage. Psalm 139: David the psalmist is declaring the attributes of God, but he is declaring why those attributes make a difference to him. In the outline of this, in verses 1-7 he says God is omniscient/God knows everything. His point is: “God knows me completely. He knows all things, and He knows me through and through.”
Then the second part, verses 8-12, are about the fact that God is omnipresent/He’s everywhere: “Where can I go from Your Spirit?”—he says—“I can’t go anywhere; You’re everywhere.” The psalmist’s point is: “Wherever I am, God is with me. He knows me; He’s with me.”
And then the third section, which we’ll look at this morning, verses 13-18: these are the verses that say God is the Creator of all things and His power is on display through His creation. He’s the omnipotent Creator of everything. As a result, what you create, you have ownership over; so He created everything; He owns everything; He is powerful; and He has ownership over me.
Then the last section is that God is holy. The psalmist is making the point that the One who created us is calling us to holiness as He is holy. Then it ends with a prayer—verses 23 and 24—“Search me, know me, see if there be any wicked way in me, lead me in paths of righteousness,” is the prayer.
To this God—who is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-present everywhere, the Creator God, who is a holy God—“Lord, search me and know me and lead me in your paths.” That’s what this Psalm says. That’s the overview; but we’re going to zero in on verses 13-18 that talk about God as the Creator.
Father, as we come to Your Word now, we come with anticipation. We come wanting to hear clearly from You. Lord, we want our hearts and our ways to be conformed to Your heart and Your ways. We want to be remade in the image of Your Son, so we ask that your Holy Spirit would be at work during this time/in this place. As we look to Your Word, would You do a work in us? Change us; make us more like Jesus we pray. In Your name, amen.
Psalm 139: this is the Word of God for the people of God, beginning in verse 1. You follow as I read along.
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
Where shall I go from Your Spirit?
Where shall I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there Your hand shall lead me,
and Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to You;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with You.
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.
My frame was not hidden from You,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.
Oh that You would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against You with malicious intent;
Your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
Amen. May God add His blessing to this reading of His Word.
It’s a beautiful Psalm; isn’t it? I’m going to point you back to verse 13, where the psalmist is making clear that he understands that human beings are not autonomous; we are not our own; we are not an evolved higher life form; we are not self-existent people. David says about God: “You formed my inward parts; You are the Creator of me.”
Now, I want you to think back with me for just a minute about the miracle that takes place when life begins. We’re going to go back and do a little 9th grade biology; okay? Here’s a picture of a human egg; that’s the egg inside of a woman. Now, an egg, interestingly enough, is the largest cell inside a human body. It’s about the size—that egg is about the size of a strand of hair—about 100 microns big—bigger than any other cell in our body. Here are the sperm cells then around the egg; can we show them? This is what a sperm cell looks like. When sperm cells are released into a woman’s body, there are about—are you ready—about 100 million of them that get released. I mean, does that just blow your mind?—a hundred million of them.
Show the next one. So here they are; they’re all swimming around, looking for the egg. If one of those sperm cells penetrates the egg—which is what the next picture shows/penetrating the egg—as soon as that happens, here’s what WebMD says: “It takes about 24 hours for a sperm cell to fertilize an egg. When the sperm penetrates the egg, the surface of the egg changes at that point so that, immediately, no other sperm can enter.” Okay, that, to me, is miracle enough—one sperm hits the egg, the shell of the egg hardens up, nobody else gets in—“I got the one.”
At the moment of fertilization, the baby’s genetic makeup is complete. It is a boy or a girl at that moment, and it has its own unique DNA at that moment; it’s a new person. Once the sperm penetrates the egg, a new life has begun. Now, forgive me for repeating your 9th grade biology; but think about this for a minute. As this process unfolds and begins to explode, the inward parts of a person are beginning to develop. What happens next is that this one fertilized egg/this cell begins to divide; and pretty soon, you’ve got this clump of divided cells that attaches itself to the uterine wall.
Show the next one; so that’s what it looks like as it starts to divide and attaches itself to the uterine wall. What’s going on inside of there?—it’s making heart, and lungs, and brain, and teeth, and toenails. The miracle of this happening is happening inside this little cell. How does this happen? God is an amazing God, who designed the process/who superintends the process, who is at work in the middle of normal human biological processes. All that’s taking place in a human body, God is overseeing it; and in addition to that, when the sperm and the cell come together, God implants in there a soul so that the physical body is connected now, inseparably, from the soul of a human being, whom God is creating. That miracle is something we ought never take for granted.
David says: “You formed my inward parts, God. You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Now isn’t that interesting?—fearfully. What does that mean? Why are we fearfully made? What’s fearful about that? Well, what’s fearful about that is—the God that has the wisdom, and the power, and the design to do that in you is a God you should not take lightly—you should have a reverence/a holy, healthy fear that you don’t want to get on the wrong side of the God, who is able to take a sperm and an egg and make a human being out of that. That’s a powerful, creative, amazing God; and you ought to approach that God fearfully.
It is fearful and wonderful—wonderful that we are made—David says: “Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You,”—it was hidden from everybody else—“I was in secret, and You wove me together; and my days, everyone of them, were numbered before I even began.” That’s what this Psalm is saying.
James Montgomery Boyce who was, for years, the pastor at the Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia—he says about this verse—he says:
The problem with trying to determine the point before which the developing child is fully human is that there isn’t one. There is an uninterrupted development of the child from the very moment in which the sperm of the father joins the ovum of the mother and the cells begin to divide. The father’s seed cannot multiply by itself; the mother’s egg can’t either; but as soon as the two sets of chromosomes combine, not only does development of life continue steadily, unless interrupted either accidentally or deliberately; but the life that is developing is a unique life. There is no other combination of chromosomes exactly like the new one. The fetus—the baby/the child—is already a uniquely-determined individual.
Now, listen, if that’s true—if life has begun at this moment/if this is a new person, who has been created in the image of God, with value, and worth, and dignity—then we have a responsibility/all of us have a responsibility to protect this child, who is conceived, to love this child—to love our neighbor as ourselves—to protect and defend this person. That’s our responsibility with all of us, as brothers and sisters, to protect and defend one another, to bring justice into our world, to care for each other, to love our neighbor as ourselves. Well, we ought to love this neighbor, who is inside a mother’s womb.
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to the first part of a message on the sacredness/the sanctity of human life. As we’ve said, this Sunday is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday as we reflect back on the legacy of Roe v. Wade. We’re coming up on almost 50 years since that Supreme Court decision was handed down. I do have to wonder what future generations are going to think when they look back at this era in history.
Dave: I wonder what we think because it’s—you know, when you said that—I was like/I was a sophomore in high school that year; and in the moment, I knew it was, in my opinion, a bad decision.
Dave: I had no idea that it would lead to 60 million—
Dave: —deaths since then and counting. I hope/man, I hope the next generation looks at it that way and says, “We have to do something.” I mean, you hit it right there at the end. It’s so—I’ve never thought it the way you explained it—but that baby in the womb is a neighbor; and we are called to love our neighbor, and you don’t kill your neighbor.
Ann: It’s so interesting—because I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, I would have had an abortion, without a doubt; because it would have complicated my life. And yet, I have so many friends/great friends, that have gone through abortions; and they’ve struggled. It’s not an easy thing to live through/to talk about. I don’t judge anybody, because I could have been that person. I do hope this next generation has a love and a protective spirit over these unborn children.
Bob: I know a lot of people think, as they hear this: “What about this situation…” “What about this argument…” We’re, actually, going to dive into that as we hear Part Two of this message tomorrow. You can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and download the entire message if you’d like. Or there’s a link to the video if you’d like to watch the message as well. Again, our website is FamilyLifeToday.com to download the message you’ve heard today; or again, you can view the video, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Let me also mention, David Platt wrote a book, a few years ago, called Counter Culture: A Compassionate Call for Counter Culture in a World of Poverty, Same-sex Marriage, Racism, Immigration, Abortion—a number of subjects like this—and he addresses, not just the abortion issue, but so many cultural flashpoints in our world. We’ve got David’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information on how to get a copy. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of David Platt’s book or to download the complete message that you heard a portion of today. You can also call to order David’s book; our number is 1-800-358-6329—1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,”—that’s the number to call.
And we hope you can be with us, again, tomorrow as we explore the common objections made to a prolife position and see what the Bible has to say about those objections. I hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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