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Silent Prayer

On this Sanctity of Life Sunday, this Right to Life Sunday, I want to reaffirm in your hearing that we are a congregation that is for life.  We are for life for all people whether born or unborn.  The topic of abortion is obviously a controversial one.  Opinions are all over the map if you poll society.  On this issue, the opinion of society isn’t what is paramount.  For me, God’s Word is the definitive answer, and I stand with the God who stands for life.

I actually have a new friend whose story is a courageous story of choosing life.  After her first ultrasound with her first pregnancy she was told she would have a repeat ultrasound at the hospital.  The heart, lungs, and limbs were fine.  There was a problem with the baby’s head.  The second ultrasound revealed the baby’s skull hadn’t closed.  The back part of the child’s brain was missing, the part that controls the ability to move, eat, and breathe.  My friend’s doctor told her he would be scheduling her for an abortion.  He told her she should not plan to take care of a vegetable child for the rest of her life.  She contacted her doctor to let her know she would not follow his order with an abortion so he told her he was dropping her as a patient.  He told her that her child wouldn’t live and he didn’t want to bear the responsibility of the death.

A new doctor was secured.  She would deliver her baby in Cincinnati.  She was born with a type of spina bifida which could cause walking and other issues.  She would have surgery on her head the third day of her life.  Spinal fluid was draining into a bulge on the back of her head since the back part of her brain was missing.  She had a shunt put in to absorb the fluid.

She was transferred to a neurosurgeon in Dayton, OH.  Her shunt kept malfunctioning.  During one surgery her spinal cord slipped out of its sac, so that had to be taken care of.  The little girl made progress. She actually learned to walk.  While that was a praise, it was also a concern.  Her heartbeat could be seen on the back of her head.  The only thing protecting her brain was the skin over the hole in the back of her head.  Should she have fallen while walking, it could have been bad.  A plate was placed on the back of her head for her protection, but it turned in and detached from her skull and had to be removed.  She continued to have several shunt malfunctions.

In time it was decided a new plate would be put in.  During the surgery, infection was discovered from an infected stitch.  The little girl was just two.  Antibiotics.  More surgeries were followed by a grand mal seizure.  Doctors prepared my friend and her husband for what could be the baby’s passing due to having so many procedures.  My friend got pregnant with her second child during this time.  Another seizure followed, and then a pastor laid hands on this baby and prayed.  There was quite a break in the medical drama after that. 

In first grade, this little girl had another grand mal seizure.  She lost her ability to walk downstairs or to step into a sandbox.  She began anti-seizure meds.  It hasn’t been an easy journey, but every step of the way, this family has chosen life and fought for life.  I’d like you to meet my new friends Craig and Ann Swick and their miracle daughter, a sophomore at Hurricane High School, Beth, and their son, CJ.  And Beth is alive and thriving because her parents chose life.

Being for life is about so much more than being against abortion.  And let me just say that if you have had an abortion or encouraged someone to have an abortion, there is forgiveness for you.  God loves you and wants you to have life in Him and an abundant life which includes receiving His forgiveness. 

  1. Being for life means we look at life and value life the way God does.

It means we stand against secular principles such as evolution.  To believe in evolution is to devalue the life God has given us as men and women created in the image of God.
Animals were created by God in the beginning.  God had a purpose for animals.  They were to serve people.  Animals were created by God, but they were not created and given a living soul by the breath of God.  Animals were not the ones who were created in the image of God.  To bear God’s image is a privilege reserved only for humankind.  Nothing else in the created order shares this privilege.  Psalm 139 tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Our value isn’t determined by our ethnicity, race or gender; nor by our age, ability or location.  It’s our divine membership in the human family that sets each of us apart as sacred.

Genesis 1:26-27 26  Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 2:7 7  the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

To say that we accept evolution is to distance ourselves from the biblical account of the creation of life and to lose the distinction between humans and animals that was ordained by God in the beginning.  If we believe what the Bible says about us being made in the image of God, we cannot believe we evolve from animals that were not created in the image of God.  We cannot evolve from something that does not contain the image of God in it.  Does that make sense?

In addition, if we believe what the Bible says about Adam being breathed upon and becoming extra dimensional in the sense that he became a living soul, we cannot believe we evolved from apes who do not have that same eternal makeup as we who have been fashioned by and breathed upon by the Spirit of the Living God. 

Sanctity of Life is about valuing what God has set apart as sacred by His very breath and by stamping His image upon our being.  One of the Ten Commandments is, “You shalt not murder.” (Exodus 20:13) To murder is to be about the opposite of what God is about.  We are to give life, not to take life.  That is why abortion isn’t a political issue, but a moral one, a biblical one.  We are to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8).  This is why we uphold the value of every life regardless of a person’s disability, challenge, or sickness.  We are life people because we believe the image of God in each person calls for honoring and caring for and supporting each life.

  1. Sanctity of Life is about protecting, promoting, preserving, and providing life whenever we can.

On the first Sunday of this month I preached a message where I talked about what Jesus said and what He didn’t say while He was on the cross, and what He did and didn’t do while He was on the cross.  One late observation I have made as I have prepared for this message is that as Jesus died He was giving life in two ways to two different people.  To the thief on the cross who heard, “Today you will be with me in Paradise,” Jesus was giving spiritual life, eternal life.  To His mother who would mourn His passing and have to find a “new normal” without Him, He was giving quality of life as He asked John, His disciple, to become a surrogate son to His mom.

Life flowed from a cross.  Life was issued out of sacrifice.  The Cross is life.  As Jesus was dying others were being given life.  It is where life was given.  It is where eternal life was created.

  1. The cross is life.

Isn’t that amazing?  Jesus came to bring eternal life and abundant life (quality of life) to us all, and we see it all throughout His life and even in the last few moments of His death.  He died doing what He had come to do and lived to do.

On the cross of sacrifice, Jesus was showing us how we are to live, and it included more than eternal life and quality of life.  It included those elements in light of the cross.  In other words, Jesus showed us as He died what our mission is.  Our mission involves helping others find eternal life and helping others achieve abundant life or a better quality of life through a life of sacrifice. 

Perhaps we are “all-in” for the receiving of eternal life.  Anyone here who doesn’t want to go to heaven when you die?  Right.  Perhaps we are thoroughly convinced on the abundant life idea when it comes to our own personal experience.  Does everyone want to experience the best possible life here on earth with God’s help?  Right.  But what about the sacrifice part?  What about the sacrificing so that others can experience eternal life and a better quality of life for themselves?  Do we stop short if we just make it to the cross, but never pick it up to carry it ourselves?  Are we just called to come near to the cross, or is there a cross for us to experience?  Do we just make it to the cross to receive forgiveness, or does the cross become our own personal call and mission?  Is there a difference between life near the cross and life in the cross?  Should the cross become more than a place of conversion?  Should it become our daily preoccupation?

We often talk about the fact that Jesus died on the cross in our place as if we are now somehow off the hook.  He took our place, so we are free.  It is true that He paid the price for our sin so that we can have eternal life and so that we are connected to Him in order to have quality of life or our best possible earthly life, but Jesus never said there wouldn’t be a cross for us to carry.  Jesus never said there wouldn’t be a sacrifice for us to make.  In fact, He said just the opposite: 

Matthew 16:21-25 21  From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. 22  Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” 23  Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” 24  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.

Do you see the end of verse 21?  Jesus was explaining that life was going to come from death.  He would be killed, but He would be raised to life.  There would be a sacrifice, but it would be worth it.  There would be a death, but there would be a resurrection.  There would be a cross, but it would bring salvation for all who would believe.  Peter couldn’t wrap his mind around his idea.  He started rebuking Jesus, telling Him this plan was a “no go.”  Jesus didn’t rebuke Peter back.  He rebuked Satan.  It was Satan that was trying to convince Peter that life couldn’t come from sacrifice.  And then Jesus went on to tell them just what discipleship, just what “cross life” involved.

Denying self is not the same thing as self-denial.  If you practice self-denial, it makes you are giving something up occasionally.  You are giving up chocolate cake, or chocolate brownies, of chocolate cupcakes, or chocolate candy or chocolate ice cream or all things chocolate!  We’re not talking about giving something up in order to get into better shape or postponing a purchase so you can have something bigger and newer rather than getting something used you can afford.

Denying self means living the life of Jesus.  It means that our lives are to be spent helping others find life.  That is cross life.  That is life in the cross.

Following Christ isn’t the same as coming to the cross.  Following Christ means picking up a cross.  Following Christ means taking on a mission for life, and the mission is lifeFollowing Christ means seeking to take eternal life and abundant life to as many people as possible, even when it isn’t convenient and even when it costs us something.

From the human standpoint, losing your life and living someone else’s life may not sound desirable, but when you realize that the way of the cross also brings YOU LIFE and adds value to your life, when you realize that you truly find yourself and who you were meant to be once you pick up that cross and follow after Christ, the more you desire to embrace every facet of the cross.  Cross living for us is depicted so beautifully in the cross of Christ as He gave eternal life to the thief on the cross and as He was concerned about the quality of life for His mom.

  1. The Great Commission commands us to talk life and to teach life. Matthew 28:18-20 18  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The Great Commission commands us to talk life and to teach life.

How do we make disciples of all nations and baptize them and teach them to obey everything Jesus commands?  We do so by lifting up the life that is in the cross.  Here is the thing:  When you explain what happened on the cross of Christ you are helping people to find eternal life.  When you teach them to live as He commanded, you are helping them have quality of life.  Even if a person’s life is characterized by suffering, they can experience quality of life in the midst of their suffering if they are trusting Christ.  Why?  Because God transforms the bad places into beautiful places.  He did it on the cross.  He transforms our trials into testimonies and trophies of His grace.  Why does He do that?  Because He is a life-giver.  Whenever one of His children is experiencing something that is taking life, He will bring renewal.  He will bring healing.  He will bring strength.  He will infuse an eternal perspective.  He will cause that which burdens us to become a blessing, somehow, someway because He is for us. 

Probably many of us in this room who have become Christians have done so because we were excited about heaven and not so thrilled with the alternative.  Hell is a real place, and it is not only a place of torment, but it is a place of spiritual death because God isn’t there.  That is what makes Hell truly hell.  There is torment on earth, but the Spirit of God is available to us as we deal with suffering which makes our suffering bearable.  We have the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  We have the guidance of God.  We have the prayers of Spirit-filled people which give us strength to go on.  There is joy in the Lord, so the Joy of the Lord is our strength in suffering.  There will be no joying in the Lord in Hell because the Spirit of God won’t be there.  Jesus will not be able to be accessed from Hell. 

So, getting to go to Heaven is a real perk for those who come to the cross of Christ.  And for some reason, after that, many people think that once they make the decision to accept salvation, life is going to be easy and wonderful.  To choose eternal life is a great choice, but to choose abundant life every day is the true way of the cross which will lead to abundant life even if our earthly lives stink as you view them from the outside.

We need to teach people to pick up their cross daily and to follow after Jesus.  Look at it from Luke’s Gospel in Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

This is the obedience factor that brings the quality of life factor. 

Turn to II Corinthians 4:6-12.  As you are turning there, let me say, we are supposed to help people understand that cross life, abundant life, involves a daily commitment to obey God and to live the life of Jesus.  When it isn’t easy, we are to obey.  When it isn’t fun, we are to trust Jesus.  When our challenge stretches on for days, weeks, months, and even years, we are to remain faithful and praise the Lord in spite of our circumstances. When it doesn’t make sense, we need to stay the course which means we stay in the cross. And as we do, we are given life, the life of Jesus that enables us to overcome.

2 Corinthians 4:6-12: 6  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

Do you see what Paul just did?  He pointed us back to creation and to the Creator, God.  God created all, and He can recreate all of us as we look to Christ.  Paul goes on to say that the life of Christ becomes a treasure inside of us that gives us life no matter what we face. 
7  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

Do you see it?  If you obey God daily, the message of the cross lives in you, and what is the outcome?  LIFE for others, verse 12.  Paul didn’t have it easy.  Life wasn’t kind to him.  It brought hardship and persecution, but even though his life was tough, ok, even though Paul’s life was awful, it was awesome at the same time.  Why?  What made Paul’s awful life awesome?  What was Paul carrying around in his body, throughout his daily life?  What is verse 10 describing?  What did he mean when he said he carried around the death of Jesus?  He was describing the cross.  In verse 11, just substitute the word “cross” for death and let it read:  For we who are alive are always being given over to the cross for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.  And when that happens, life is given to other people!

The best way to teach others to obey God is to do it ourselves!  And when we do it is life-giving not only to them, but to us as well.  Look at 2 Corinthians 4:16-1816  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

If you live out the message of the cross daily, you will honor the Great Commission to go and make disciples and to teach others how to obey Christ AND you will be renewed inwardly day by day by day. 

There is no doubt that God gives life.  There is no doubt that God gives eternal life and abundant life.  The first one comes as a result of accepting Jesus as Savior.  It involves coming to the cross.  It means allowing what Jesus did on the cross to cover your sin.  It means desiring to repent of that sin, to ask God for forgiveness, and to live differently.  Abundant life involves not only coming to the cross, but picking up the cross daily in order to live in full obedience to Christ.  The question is:  Do we want the life God wants to give us?  There is no eternal life without the cross.  There is no abundant life without picking up the cross and carrying it daily for ourselves.

The plan to save the world involved a cross.  Jesus bore every sin on His cross.  The plan to save the world still involves a cross; it is the one you and I choose to pick up daily, that as we live in the cross and live out the cross’s message, others will receive the awesome life God desires to give to them as well.  Will you embrace life in the cross with me today?

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