In my previous post, The Sin of Abortion, I talked a little bit about the problem of abortion, but also some of the problems that surround it… that it is not the root of the problem with our society, but a fruit of it. After I wrote these posts, I discovered a link to a couple of really good videos on John Piper’s Desiring God site, discussing the election and the importance that, as Christians, we should place on it. I think he presents a very healthy perspective, and it is one I share as I’m sure these posts will attest. How can we deceive ourselves for even a second by placing our hope in man-made systems of law to solve our sin problems, when man could not even abide by God’s system of law as given to Moses? We can no more look to our government to fix the sin problem in our society than we could look to our own selves to fix it before we came to a saving faith in Jesus Christ. Until and unless the gospel of our Lord creates a new heart in us, we are dead in sins and trespasses. As Paul makes quite clear, no one is made alive in the Law; it has no power to save, only to bring condemnation. In this post, I intend to address the abortion of sin (of which the sin of abortion is just an active member), and the problem with a political approach to that end.
The Abortion of Sin
God gave the law to Moses because the people were rebellious and over and over again, the Israelites collectively (and individually) sought to satisfy the lusts of their flesh and their own sinful natures rather than to submit to God. The Apostle Paul, who was a Pharisee of Pharisees discovered after his revelation of Jesus Christ that the law can only condemn; it has no power to save. The rich young ruler found out the same thing when he asked Jesus Himself what he needed to do to obtain eternal life.
My friends, abortion would not be such a problem if we didn’t live in a society that encouraged us to “live for the moment”, “indulge yourself”, “take what you want”, “jump in with both feet”, etc. Our culture encourages us to look with lust; to take and eat the fruit God has warned us not to eat, to satisfy the desires of the flesh. Our culture–and its multi-headed media–entices us to abandon God, attempts to make a mockery of Him, and peddles the wares of the flesh and the devil to all too eager consumers.
We have an endless stream of messages coming through our televisions, our radios, our computers, our cell phones, and our mailboxes that tell us the most important thing we should concern ourselves with is the satisfaction of our lusts, and that three-letter word “S-E-X” is chief among them. Nothing is peddled with more intensity in our society than the flesh and its pleasures, and marriage, much like God (through the influence of our media) has been chided, derided, and scorned. Marriage in America has lost much of its esteem and has been made into a mockery. Now, given these conditions, is it any wonder that the number of abortions in this country is so high? We have been conditioned to abandon God, any sense of morality, a reverence and esteem for marriage, and even self-control. So long as our lusts are satisfied and we don’t have to delay their gratification, well, that is what our culture has conditioned us to do. Abortion is really just a symptom of an even greater problem with our culture.
Now, consider that for just a moment. Will passing a law making abortion illegal fix the root of the problem? Of course not. Will it cause a mass repentance and revival in the land? I doubt it. Will it do anything to address conditions that lead to its practice? Not likely. My guess is that, just like the majority of the Israelites throughout the history of God’s people recorded in the Bible, the law would not make us any more holy or just, or any less sinful and selfish. Laws were passed and then repealed that prohibited the sale of alcohol; they did little to prevent consumption, and actually led to more crime (law-breaking) as a result. Laws have done nothing to stop people who desire to use drugs from using them. Laws have done little to hinder prostitution. Time and time again, we see that “the law” has no power to overcome “the sin”; it can only show us to be sinners. It does not, however, fix the problem of sin.
I read something recently in one of Vincent Cheung’s freely available commentaries that says much better than I can do some of the problems with the law of the Pharisees in the time of Jesus. This is taken from his commentary on The Sermon on the Mount (p. 65):
Now, the Pharisees and the scribes are legalists, in both of the ways explained earlier. That is, they seek to attain a sufficient righteousness by their works. The problem is that God requires a perfect righteousness, which they can never achieve. Also, they do not go about establishing their own righteousness by truly obeying God’s laws; rather, they have constructed an elaborate system of human traditions permitting them to disobey God’s commandments altogether while still giving people the impression of supreme piety.
When interpreting and applying God’s commandments, they find ways to get away with as much as possible, but more than that, they redefine the terms and heap up traditions in such a manner as to do away with having to obey the plain demand of the commandments altogether. This is why Jesus says elsewhere, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!” (Mark 7:9).
In the passages immediately following verse 20, Jesus will give us a number of examples on how God’s commands have been distorted and subverted, and what it really means to obey them. As Stott rightly observes:
What the scribes and the Pharisees were doing, in order to make obedience more readily attainable, was to restrict the commandments and extend permissions of the law. They made the law’s demands less demanding and the law’s permissions more permissive. What Jesus did was to reverse both tendencies. He insisted instead that the full implications of God’s commandments must be accepted without imposing any artificial limits, whereas the limits which God had set to his permissions must also be accepted and not arbitrarily increased. (John Stott, Message of the Sermon on the Mount, p. 79)
Nowadays, many people have the misconception that Jesus condemns the Pharisees and the scribes because they are too meticulous in studying and obeying God’s laws. They think that a strict and precise application of God’s laws constitutes legalism. Precisely the opposite is true. The Pharisees and the scribes – commonly considered legalists – are the ones who relax God’s commandments and teach others to do the same. In contrast, Jesus calls his followers to exhibit a genuine righteousness by truly practicing and teaching God’s laws and their various implications (v. 19). What all this entails is explained in the upcoming sections.
So, what is my point? And what do we do about abortion? What do we do about the sickness in our society?
I wish I knew. I can say that based on the light God has given me through the gauze over my eyes, it does not appear that a legal approach will work for abortion any better than it has throughout all of history in addressing any other sin in any other sinful society. But I do know that God’s grace can effect changes that His law can only suggest. What I mean is that without God’s redeeming grace, we are all powerless to counteract the sinful nature that will otherwise carry us away in direct contradiction to His law. We are powerless to stop it.
One thing that we need to do is remove the cancer of our culture from the church. We cannot be effective agents of His grace when we go the way of Baalam, alternating between proclaiming God’s word and serving our own selfish interests. We can not hold to the things of this world and the things of God, or as Christ said, we cannot “serve both God and mammon”. God’s church should be a mighty helper for His purpose; she should be as the woman described in Proverbs 31, not a limping leper with a blind eye to her sin.
That the church has so little power and ability to effect change in people’s lives that it would seek to do so through government as opposed to the grace of God should bring about a sense of conviction within the Church, causing her to repent and turn again to her first love. That the church is relying on men and man-made legal systems and church leaders are spending more time informing the body about government legislation than the gospel of Christ is a horrible indictment of just how far the inroads of culture have found their way into the pulpit. This is NOT the way of the Master, nor of the Master’s men. It is approaching adultery on the behalf of the church; the bride of Christ needs to stop flirting with governors, senators, and judges and return to the groom who has called her to Himself. Isn’t Jesus good enough? Shouldn’t we look to our provision in Christ to affect the change of heart that “the law” can never accomplish? Isn’t there something tragically ironic about the church attempting to establish “the law” and demand obedience? Am I reading this wrong when Paul said to the Galatians:
Gal 2:15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles;
Gal 2:16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.
Gal 2:17 “But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be!
Gal 2:18 “For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor.
Gal 2:19 “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God.
Gal 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
Gal 2:21 “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”
Unless I am mistaken, Paul is chastening those churches he had visited and ministered to because they were turning away from the grace of Christ and instead placing their trust back in the tenants of the Jewish laws. The people that Paul called Judaizers were going in to the churches where Paul had painstakingly preached the gospel, and attempting to convince the believers there that the grace of the gospel was not really sufficient. A greater demand must be met for salvation; they must adhere to the Mosaic law if they were to be saved. And yet these believers were Gentiles; they were not even Jews. Paul took them to task for “so quickly deserting Him” who had called them; for adding to the gospel of grace of Christ some additional work of law as necessary for salvation.
Now, I am not saying that abortion should be legal and protected under the law in the United States. But it is. And despite all the rhetoric from any politician to the contrary, it will remain so because this country is full of sin and selfishness. It is not full of Christians. Despite what the checkbox on the questionnaires might say, the vast majority of people who call themselves Christians in America are far more like the masses that turned away from Him in John 6:66 than the few who remained in John 6:67. The vast majority of people who call themselves Christian in this country will abandon Him the moment their profession prohibits them from their heart’s true desires, which unless He has done a real work in them are rooted and selfishness and sin.
Abortion is evil. And just like the vast majority of people in this country will call themselves Christians, so will the vast majority agree with this statement. It is evil and detestable in the sight of the Lord. It is murder. It is wrong. But it is only one of ten commandments that this selfish, sinful people break every day despite all the laws in effect under the United States justice system. And while it sounds great to trust in the law for protection, the law can only affect a change in behavior and not a change in heart. Christ and Christ alone can affect a lasting change in heart that will have profound effects on our behavior. As long as we continue to focus on the outside of the cup, the inside will remain full of filth. The allure of politics and of legislative efforts to curb sins that stem from our selfish, wicked hearts will never address the heart of sin like the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I think it is time for many of us who claim His name to repent, to turn away from the world and its worldly systems, and to once again make the power of the gospel of grace more important in our battle against sin than the legal systems of men.
I think many of us have a problem just “sitting back and doing nothing” as sin seems to overtake the world, and that is why political involvement poses such a great temptation to us. It seems better than just accepting the world on its terms, and I am sad to say that for most evangelicals it is much easier than going out and sharing the gospel with a lost world. But as “painful” and “hopeless” as it might seem at times to put your hope in the power of God instead of the systems of man-made governments, it is the only way any soul have ever come to repent, to turn from sin and trust Christ. Think of the prophets, of Moses, and more importantly our Savior Himself. Think of the Pharaohs, the Pharisees, the Roman Empire, and the Roman Catholic Church prior to the Reformation. And think of men like John Hus, Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and John Calvin. Reflect on our roots, and those who have walked these roads long before we did. And as you consider the history of sin and salvation, ask yourself honestly if there is any real hope in a political or legal solution to sin.
As evangelists, preachers, teachers, and disciples of the gospel, I think it is time to return to our roots. May we abandon our hope in governments, in courts, in senators, and the leaders in the world. Let us remember that God is in sovereign control of all and that everything He does, He does for the purpose of His glory. Let us remember that when we see and revile the sin of this world, that He has allowed it and that He causes ALL things to work together for good to those who love God, and who are called according to His purpose. Let us remember that no man has come to power if not by His hand. Let us not to lose our hope in His eternal promise because of a temporary change in power in our government! Let us remember that even the wicked Pharoah was appointed by God for the purpose to which he was called; that is, the purpose of His glory. No sin ever beset a man, good or bad, throughout the entire redemptive history that has been laid out for us in His Holy Word that did not serve that same purpose. Let us trust in Him, above all else, that His will and His purpose is being accomplished just the way He has foreseen and foreordained, and not be troubled or anxious for anything. And let us be faithful ministers of the good news of Jesus Christ, even (and most especially) in the most troubling of times. And my friends, we here in America, do not have it that bad.
There are men and women who give their lives for the gospel every day in places that most of us would never dream of going. Many (if not most) of us will not even give twenty minutes of our time to someone across the street that we know needs to hear it. We are much more comfortable trying to accomplish His purpose through political means than Biblical ones. We are much more comfortable condemning the sins of people we’ve never met in a public forum, than we are confronting people we know intimately in a private one. This is not the way of the Master. This is not the method or the manner or the message that we have been given. Again, I say, let us return to our roots. Let us return to Christ. And let us find our satisfaction in Him, full and complete.
Peace & Blessings,