The Power of the Mind (Exodus 1)

55 Million. 55 million Americans have lost their lives since 1973. 55 million children have been killed through the legal act of abortion. 55 million. That is almost 6 times the number of deaths in the Holocaust. That is an average of 1.2 million children killed every year, which is twice as much as the next leading cause of heart disease. Abortion is the greatest travesty in American History. Over 55 million children have been aborted. 55 million sons and daughters have been killed. The number almost doesn’t seem real. But, beloved, it is very real. It is easy to become numb to a number like that, but we must allow that number to become alive to our hearts. We must know that every one of those 55 million children was fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God. Everyone one of those 55 million children has an eternal soul that will never die. Everyone one of those 55 million children were precious in the sight of God. Let the number become real to us, for if the number is not real, we will never be motivated to act.

But no matter what we think of abortion, it is not the unforgivable sin. With the number as high as 55 million, it is safe to say that we or someone we know have been impacted by abortion. The statistics show that one of 3 women in America or 30% have had an abortion before the age of 45. This also means that 30 % of men have had a part of an abortion. Abortion’s reach is vast, so before we even go any further, we need to know that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. The sin of abortion is not outside the grace of Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ died to pay for all of your sin; even the sins that you may have a hard time forgiving in yourself or forgiving in others, for even those are forgiven in Christ. Allow the flowing fountain of God’s grace to cover you this morning so you know that all of your past, present, and future sins were paid for in the cross of Calvary. Christian, abortion is not the unforgivable sin for Jesus, himself, asked God to forgive those who crucified and killed him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” There is room at the cross for you.

Let us look at the power of the mind. It is hard to underestimate the power of our thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Where we set our minds is of utmost importance!! Romans 8:5-6, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” Gathered here this morning, there is a variety of people on the political spectrum, but this is not primarily a political conversation; it is a biblical and moral one. My prayer this morning is that you would set your mind on the things of God, for if we do not set our minds on the Lord, it will be on the flesh. And the mind set on the flesh is death, which is our first point this morning; the mind set on the flesh is death.

The Mind Set on the Flesh is Death

Exodus 1:8, “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.” We remember how God used Joseph to help Egypt during the famine in the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream. Joseph was eventually promoted to run the Egyptian kingdom under Pharaoh. During the famine, Joseph’s family was brought to the land and lived there under Pharaoh’s blessing. But we see here a new King arose over Egypt that did not know Joseph. In not knowing Joseph, he did not know of Joseph’s God. He did not know of Yahweh and how, through Joseph, Yahweh saved the people of Egypt. So we see a ruler who has his mind set, not on the things of God, but on the things of flesh. Watch the result of the mind focused on the flesh.

Verse 9, “And he said to his people, “Behold, the people of Israel are too many and too mighty for us. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, lest they multiply, and if war breaks out, they join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad. And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel. So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field. In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.”

Pharaoh’s mind was fixed on self-preservation. He wanted to preserve his kingdom and his rule. The people of Israel were growing in number, but they were living peacefully with the Egyptians. Pharaoh saw their numbers not as a blessing to his kingdom, but as a threat. He was worried that as they grew, they would turn from peace to war and fight against them. So in order to preserve his kingdom and the lifestyle of his people, he changed his relationship toward the Israelites. He began to oppress them, but as he oppressed them, the Israelites continued to grow and expand throughout the kingdom. So we see in verse 12, “The Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.” Why were the Egyptians in dread of the people of Israel? They were afraid of the change in their lifestyle. We, also, can relate to that fear. Isn’t our anxiety often brought on by the same concern; that we may lose some comfort or face an unwanted and unexpected change?

We are worried about a doctor’s diagnosis because we are concerned with how it is going to affect our lifestyle and our families. We are worried about a new boss because we are concerned with how it is going to affect our lifestyle with a potential job loss. We are worried about our kids living the house or getting married because we are concerned with how it will affect our relationship. We worry because of the potential change to our lifestyle and comfort. This is natural, but it is a mind that is set on the flesh. The Bible says in Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” We have our agenda and our wants for our life, but God is the sovereign ruler over all history. When our minds are fixated on the changes in our future circumstances, we are not putting our trust in God. The Lord allows trials in our lives, the Lord allows difficult circumstances, and the Lord will protect us during those seasons of trial. Romans 5:3-5, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” The Egyptians were living in dread of the future. We are called to live by faith in our loving and gracious Heavenly Father. God has a purpose in our trials.

So we see that the mind set on the flesh produced a fear in the Egyptians and that fear lead them to deal ruthlessly with the Israelites. The mind set on the flesh is death. Their minds were set on the flesh and their well-being which led them to make others serve them. In their fleshly minds, the seeds of death started to take root: seeds of full of anger and fear which would grow and produce a culture of death.

Pharaoh and the Egyptians grew in fear. Their minds were focused on self-preservation. And as the mind is focused on the flesh, it will only grow to bear the seeds that were planted in the heart. Like a snow ball rolling down a hill, the more the mind focuses on the flesh the larger it will grow. So the seeds of anger and
fear towards the Israelites grew from making them servants with heavy burdens to making them slaves. Their fear changed their relationship with Israelites. So we see that the mind that stays on the flesh will only reap more of the flesh. See the progression in verse 15, “Then the king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiprah and the other Puah, “when you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” The king’s mind was focused on the flesh. He was afraid for the future. He was afraid for the self-preservation of his people. So, he believed, the best way to ensure their safety against future military attack was to kill all the future warriors that could grow up to fight against them. So the King ordered the midwives to kill all the male children in order to preserve the kingdom of Egypt.

The mind that is set on the flesh leads to death. It does not start in death, but grows in the direction. The fleshly mind perverts truth and makes decisions that are not for the good others, but for the good of self. Pharaoh’s fear drove him to enslave the Israelite people and eventually seek their destruction. Fear leads to self-preservation, and a fear-driven self-preservation is one of the leading reasons for abortions. In 2004, researchers at the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion organization, asked 1,209 women why they had obtained abortions. Seventy-four percent of the women responded with “having a baby would dramatically change my life” and seventy –three percent said, “I can’t afford a baby now.” The two most prominent reasons given for having an abortion were to preserve one’s current lifestyle. The fear of a dramatic change in life and the fear of financial difficulty were the two dominant reasons why these women chose to end the lives of their babies. The idea of self-preservation is not only seen in woman, but many men encourage their partners to have an abortion because they do not want to take responsibility for a child. Listen to Phil McCombs, a post-abortive father and a writer for the Washington Post,

I feel like a murderer. I was not by her side to support her. I turned my face away. My behavior was in all respects craven, immoral. The child would have inconvenienced me. I’d had my fun. He didn’t fit into my plans. His name, which is carved on my heart, was Thomas. I still grieve for little Thomas. It is an ocean of grief.

And listen to Jeff Bradford, who didn’t fight to preserve his lifestyle, but his reputation.

I hid and suppressed the realization that the only reason our oldest daughter was not alive today was due to my own cowardice. I went to my wedding, pretending to be an upright, moral young man with my bride dressed all in white. She was beautiful, and we looked great on the outside. No one could see the brokenness we were both hiding so well. We had aborted our first child just a few months before.

The reasons that women have abortions are very complex. It is impossible to know what brings people to make the decision to end a life. The mind is very powerful. And we know that when it is set on the flesh it will produce death. The flesh blinds the truth. This is the testimony of Scripture. Our culture perverts truth because the mind of our culture is set on the flesh. Our culture encourages people to fight and to save their
own lives, but in the end they will only to lose it. For Jesus says, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

This is the lie of our culture. Our culture focuses on our individual needs. The American message encourages us to do whatever we can to fulfill our own individual desires. Watch commercials; listen to politicians, so much of their appeal is how your desires can be met. Fear and self-preservation are very powerful tools, but our greatest desires will never be met when we try to preserve our lives. We only can discover true joy when we delight in the Lord. For those who delight in the Lord will get the desires of their hearts.

Those on the other side of abortion see this reality. They sought to save their own lives, only to lose them. The guilt, shame and regret is crippling to men and women who have had abortions. But by God’s grace, he is continuing to call people to lose their lives, to lose their comfort, to lose their reputations, to gain the true life of peace. To set the mind on the Flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is Life. Second point, The Mind set on the Spirit is Life.

 The Mind Set on the Spirit is Life

The only way to change our culture is to turn people from the fear of suffering and losing their lives, to the fear of the Lord. I believe one of the reasons that women pursue abortion is that they are consumed with fear. Fear of change. Fear of loss. Fear of condemnation. Fear of pain. Fear produces hopelessness, and hopelessness produces awful decisions. We have to help people have the right kind of fear; the fear of the Lord. Let’s look at the courage of two young women who demonstrated the right kind of fear. Exodus 1:16, “When you serve as a midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but if it is a daughter, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt commanded, but let the male children live.” The women had a choice. They could choose to save their lives, by obeying the highest authority in the land or they could choose to obey the highest authority in the universe. These women made the right choice. They did not seek to save their own lives, but rather chose to fear the Lord. They knew that it could bring suffering into their lives. They knew that it could have even cost them their lives, but they were willing to lose their lives to save the lives of others.

In this way, the Hebrew midwives lived as an example pointing forward to Jesus Christ. For Jesus Christ laid down his life for his friends. He chose to die that others may live, and because Jesus obeyed the Father, God raised him from the dead. God showed favor to Jesus in the resurrection making him (as it says in Romans 8:29) the first-born of many brothers. God honored Jesus’s willingness to die in that if anyone would call upon the name of Jesus and trust him as Lord then they would be saved. Jesus chose to suffer and die so others could live. This is exactly what the Hebrew midwives did. They knew the cost, but feared God. So they chose obedience even in the face of potential death so that others could live, and God honored them for it.

Listen to verse 18, “So the king of Egypt called the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and let the male children live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the
Egyptian woman, for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives. And the people multiplied and grew very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” The very thing Pharaoh was concerned about was happening. The people multiplied and grew very strong. The actions of two Hebrew midwives helped the people of God grow. God also specifically honored the women by giving them families. They made a decision that should have cost them their lives, but God showed them favor and actually gave them the desires of their hearts.

The arguments put forward from the pro-abortion side are centered on individualism and self-preservation. The world says the decision to keep or take the life of a child belongs to the woman or with the woman and her doctor, but all life belongs to God. “None of us lives to himself or dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, if we die, we die to the Lord. So then whether we live or die, we are the Lords (Rom 14:7-8). The reasons that women have abortions may be complex, but it is always wrong. Choosing to keep a child will change one’s life dramatically, it will bring financial hardships, and it will costs you, it may even bring judgment from others, but choosing life honors God. And God honors those who chooses life, but brings judgment on those who chose murder. This is grounded in our faith in God. Our faith that He exists and rewards those who love him. Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” So we cannot please God, if we do not acknowledge Him. And when we do not acknowledge Him, we are given over to do things that are unspeakably awful, like the killing of unborn children. Romans 1:28, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done…They were are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness.”

The only way to change the direction of the culture is to change their acknowledgement of God, to set the mind on the Spirit of God which brings life. It is not enough to stand on the sidelines. By standing on the sidelines, we are giving approval. Romans 1:32 goes on to say, “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them, but give approval to those who practice them.” There is no middle ground. You either fear God, like the Hebrew midwives, and choose life, or you choose to give approval to what God hates. And if we give approval for what God hates, we are storing up wrath for ourselves on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. We must set our minds on the Spirit and find life. We must help others turn from self-preservation to lose their lives for the sake of God and the sake of the unborn children made in his image, and you cannot help others until you set your mind on the Spirit.

My prayer is that through this message that you would become advocates for life. My prayer is that your
lives are so filled with grace and mercy that when a woman is contemplating this decision that she would be drawn to you because of your grace, and you give her the word of life. I pray that everyone here today would be an advocate for the Spirit. Set your mind on the Spirit, for the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace. Help others find life and peace.

For if we do not turn people from a mind set on the flesh it will only continue to escalate to death. Look at verse 22, “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile, but you shall let every daughter live.” The mind set on the flesh will only produce death. For the mind set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God, but we know there is hope, for the next thing God reveals, after the pronouncement of the killing of children, is the birth of the deliverer, Moses. Let me close by quoting Pastor John Piper who says it so well:

   In the very darkest season of the worst child-killing, Moses was born. Moses,.. the deliverer. Moses, the ,    rescuer, the savior of the people. And then the prophet like Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15; Acts 3:22)—the   Son of God, Jesus Christ, the final decisive Rescuer, Savior, Deliverer—was born, and barely escaped the   slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem. He lived a perfect life and died for sinners and rose again. And here’s   one of the great differences between him and Moses. Moses delivered the people who were being      oppressed. Jesus delivers oppressed and oppressor. Moses delivered the hated race. Jesus delivers the        hated and the hater. Moses couldn't deliver the strangled babies or babies thrown into the Nile, but Jesus    delivers the babies, the mothers, the abortion providers, the irresponsible boyfriends. He loves and saves  every sinner who trusts in him. So let us join hands and say with a clear voice as one in Christ: there is a  better way to freedom than killing the babies. And that way is Jesus Christ.

Christ as Lord in the midst American Intolerance (1 Peter 3:15)

Garrett Kell, pastor of Del Ray Baptist Church in Alexandria, VA, wrote this following our recent presidential elections:

A great tragedy unfolded less than one week ago on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.

The tragedy was not found in the celebrations of elected officials or the concessions of defeat. It was not colored red or blue, and it wasn't wrapped up in meaningless campaign promises.

The tragedy of the 2012 election is that in this land of the free and home of the brave, many people were not allowed to vote. Their voices were silenced. Their votes were not cast. Their opinions not expressed. Why?

Because they were dead.

The great tragedy of the 2012 election is that roughly 33 million would-be voters had been murdered. From 1973 to 1994, roughly 35 million babies were aborted. That's roughly 35 million 18- to 39-year-olds who could not vote from the grave.
This is an unspeakable tragedy.  The numbers are shocking, but on average 7 babies are aborted every 3 minutes in America.  But Pastor Kell goes on:

  This is a tragedy that hits close to home. When I was 19, I chose to end the life of my first child through an abortion. My friend and I were in a scary place, we didn't plan to get married, and we had nowhere else to go. So we opted to end the life of our child.

   That child would be 16 today. They'd be excited about driving a car and, in just a couple of years, they'd be excited about voting. But they won't be doing any of that. We won't be sitting down together as I explain how to think about policies and the candidates who represent them. I won't be able to tell them about freedom and justice for all. I took that freedom away with my injustice.
I cannot undo what I've done in the past. None of us can. Only Jesus, who shed his blood for sinners like me, can heal those wounds. Jesus gives us great hope in the midst of this tragedy, and all the other tragedies we face in this life. 

    When we start the discussion of abortion this Sanctity of Life Sunday, we must hold two core truths side by side.  Abortion is an unspeakable tragedy and the shed blood of the Lord Jesus forgives that tragedy.  Abortion is not the unforgiveable sin.  There is no sin that cannot and will not be forgiven when people turn to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith.  

If you or a friend or family member, have been impacted by abortion, can I encourage to firmly grasp on to that truth? 1 Timothy 1:15 “This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  Jesus came to pay the penalty of sin, including the sin of abortion.  
The Church is in a unique place in American History.  The State is becoming more and more hostile to the Christian Faith.  I believe Peter’s warning to the first century church is very applicable for us today.  “Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? (Like fighting for the unborn) But even if you should suffer for what is right you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” 
We will suffer so set apart Christ as Lord.

It is clear that the persecution that is happening against the church is only going to rise in the near future.  We will suffer.  We will suffer in our efforts to do good and honor the Lord and His Word. The recent healthcare law passed by Congress has approved the use of federal funds for abortions.  As Christians, we cannot support such regulations.  Christian Universities, Catholic Charities, and even secular businesses run by Christians are fighting this law. Most notably, Hobby Lobby, which has refused to honor this bill is being fined $1 million dollars per day for being eager to do what is good.  Persecution and penalties are going to come so how do we stand against them.  First, we set apart Christ as Lord.  We have to make a decision that no matter what happens in our lives, we are going to serve Jesus Christ as Lord. As Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Well beloved, “As for me and my church, we will serve the Lord.” We do not yet know how this aggressive secularism against the things of God will affect the church.  But regardless of consequences or penalties, we must set apart Christ as Lord in our lives.  So I pray this morning that I will offer some help in how we can set apart Christ as Lord in the midst of American Intolerance.  The first way from the text,

Be Prepared with Gospel Reasoning

Look back on how Peter starts to encourage the church in verse 15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” We must be prepared with gospel reasoning.  In order to be prepared we must think and study why we hold the position we do. Today as we look at the issue of abortion, I hope to provide reasons why we support the pro-life position from the scriptures and why we disagree with the pro-choice positions. (This will be posted on our church website later today, so if you miss anything you can find it there).

The reason that there is wide-spread disagreement even within churches is because there is no clear verse of Scripture that says, “Thou shall not have an abortion.” But that does not mean that Bible is not clear about abortion. The emphasis of the Scriptures is that life begins at conception and therefore, abortion would be murder, the taking of a life, which is explicitly forbidden in Scripture; (Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.”) Listen to the following verses: 

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

The foundation of the biblical argument is that every human being is created in the image of God and therefore every human being has dignity and a right to life.  The crux of the entire debate is whether or not the fetus is a person and when that personhood is established.  The Bible is clear that a fetus is a little man or woman created in the image of God and deserved the right to live.

Psalm 139:13-16
13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,16  your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God is active while the child is in the womb; forming the child into a unique human being.

Isaiah 49:1
Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar. The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.

Jeremiah 1:4-5
4 Now the word of the LORD came to me, saying 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

God knows us and calls us while we are still in the womb.  We could spend hours dissecting other passages, but for the sake of time let me just say this: The weight of the biblical evidence is that life begins at conception.  So positively our gospel reasoning is that the Bible is very pro-life.  
But we also must be prepared with gospel reasoning to refute the arguments of the opposing side. My goal is not to provide exhaustive evidence against these positions, but merely to point out some flaws in their argument. 

  1. A Woman has a right to her own body – Although there is a lot of truth to this claim, a woman does not have an absolute right to her body.  For example, a woman cannot use her body as a battering ram to injure other people and she does not have the moral right to sell her body as a prostitute.  So although a woman has a right to her body in some cases, it does not mean she has a right to her body in all cases.  We should also note that this position assumes that the baby in the womb is a part of her body.  Now the baby is in the woman’s body and is sustained by the woman’s body, but the baby also is uniquely different than the woman’s body.  A genetic DNA mapping of the woman and the baby will show two unique individuals rather than two identical ones.  So the fetus is essentially not a part of the woman’s body as the child has a unique genetic fingerprint.
  2. The decision is between a woman and her doctor – This is a common view held by those in the pro-choice camp.  And this is one of the reasons, why men often are persuaded not to involve themselves in this matter.  This, they say, is a woman’s rights issue.  All I will say here is that the right to privacy does not trump the right to life.  We see that in every other facet of society.  What people do in their own homes is allowable unless it infringes on one’s rights to life.  And men should be able to speak on the issue of life because we should care about life.  Would the apostle Paul not be allowed to speak on the matter because he was male? Or Jesus Christ? 
  3. If abortion is made illegal, then women will resort to back alley abortion that will potentially harm their lives. – If abortion is made illegal, there will be some women who resort to unlawful and harmful abortion practices that may injure their life.  But if abortion was illegal, they would be breaking the law and the consequences would be by personal choice.  It is not the government’s job to protect people who willfully place themselves in danger when they break the laws.  This argument also implies that the lives lost of women who continue to pursue abortions are more important than the millions of children that would be saved if an abortion was illegal. We lose approximately 1.5 million children to abortion every year.   In a simple comparison, the argument does not hold water.

Those are only a few of the arguments of the pro-choice position. If we want to set apart Christ as Lord, we must prepare ourselves with Gospel Reasoning.  God has given us minds to think and reflect.  One of the greatest successes in the pro-abortion movement is that they have convinced people (and some Christians) to be pro-choice.  They may not personally believe in abortion for themselves, but do not feel it is their right to take the choice from someone else. If you are here and fall into the pro-choice side, can I challenge you to study the biblical evidence and work to protect life?  

Beloved, we are going to suffer for the position we hold.  One danger of a democratic society is the tyranny of the majority.  As the majority of our culture, moves away from biblical truth, we are going to suffer more and more persecution.  We are just beginning to experience tyranny of a Anti-God majority in our culture. Set Apart Christ as Lord by preparing yourself with Gospel Reasoning.  

Be Equipped with Gospel Respect

Secondly, we must be equipped with Gospel Respect.  Go back to verse 15, “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. BUT do this (giving answers and reasons for our hope) with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God’s will to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.” Christians are not always known for their gentleness and their respect. The public square often characterizes Christians who stand for Biblical truth as angry, arrogant and annoying.  But our convictions come for a God that is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. 

We must portray a Christ-like demeanor and response when we suffer for what is right.  

Peter gives three reasons why we should have gentleness and respect. The first is so our conscience may be clear.  God has given us a conscience to help us determine to see what is right and wrong. The Holy Spirit speaks to our conscience to convict of sin and lead us to righteousness.  It is important to have a clear conscience. Listen to 1 Tim 1.18-19, “ Timothy, my son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith.” The “these” that the some have rejected are faith and a good conscience which leads to a shipwrecked faith meaning a false faith or no faith.  We want to do things in keeping a good and clear conscience so we will protect our faith.” Peter wants you to act with gentleness and respect for the sake of your own faith.  

Secondly, our gentleness and respect is meant to serve those who are attacking us.  Peter says should be equipped with gospel respect so that, “those who speak maliciously against our good behavior will be ashamed of their slander.”  We will always be held responsible how we carry ourselves when we are mistreated.  We want those who slander and maliciously speak against us to come to repentance and the knowledge of the truth.  We also have a goal of their restoration with Christ.  I have learned this early in my ministry for as a pastor one of my jobs is to help people with sin, even when that sin is against me.  So when people slander me and speak malicious of me (even those of you in this congregation) I must respond with gentleness and respect in hopes that God would grant you repentance.  

Paul says this to Timothy:
24 And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.” 2 Timothy 2:24-26

Beloved, we all need grace. We all need to grow.  But those who disagree with Scripture, we must pray that God would change their mind and heart for the sinful or worldly mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law nor can it do so and those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God (Romans 8).  

Thirdly, it better to suffer, if its God’s Will for doing good.  Ultimately, we trust the sovereignty of God.  And in his sovereign control, if we are persecuted, we call ourselves blessed.  This is testimony of the early church. This is testimony of Jesus Christ when he said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they are persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).

This past week Pastor Louie Giglio was invited and then dis-invited for praying at the President 2nd Inauguration.  He was asked to pray because of his work to combat human trafficking. Then later he was dis-invited because 15 years ago he made a comment that homosexuality was a sin and that people could be healed and can be forgiven in Jesus Christ.  There is much could be said about this recent event. I believe it shows that people who continue to hold fast to biblical truth will continue to be persecuted, but I also believe that the response from Pastor Giglio is one we can emulate.  He responded by saying: 

I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming Inaugural on January 21. Though the President and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms. Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.

Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President's invitation.  I will continue to pray regularly for the President, and urge the nation to do so.  I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day.

Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever need God's grace and mercy in our time of need.

He modeled gentleness and respect who those who opposed him.  And end this is all we are called to do.  We cannot change people’s mind; that is God’s job.  Ours is to stand for the Lord with Gospel Reasoning and Gospel Respect.  But also must be:

Be Grounded in Gospel Redeemer 

Peter reminds us that we also need a Redeemer. It is so easy for us to forget, especially when dealing with the volatile issues of the day like abortion or homosexuality, that we are sinners in need of a Savior.  Peter writes, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body, but made alive by the Spirit.” Beloved, we must never ever forget our desperate need for God.  We must always show the world that without God we would be destined for eternal death in hell for our sins. Sin separates us from God.  We often comfort ourselves that our sin is not as bad as others (especially in the conversation of abortion), but listen to Jesus, 

 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder,[a] and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother[b] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, ‘Raca,[c]’ is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

Jesus says that people are in danger of hell not because of murder, but the root of murder which is anger. The smallest of sins deserve the death penalty in the eyes of God.  We all are unrighteous because we all have sinned against the righteousness of a Holy God.  But listen to Peter’s words again, “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”  Once for all. For those who are in Christ Jesus, all sin is forgiven, even the ugliest of sins is forgiven for the righteous died for the unrighteous. Why? To Bring you to God. There is no hope for any of us outside of Jesus Christ.  

So what are we to do in this era of American Intolerance against the church? We set Jesus Christ as the Lord of our life by embracing his forgiveness. And after we set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts, we speak.  We speak with gospel respect and gospel reasoning, but beloved, we must speak.  We must in any and every way we can speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.  

We end where we began by hearing from Pastor Kell, one who participated in abortion, he writes,

I have on my wall a picture of a 3-year-old boy in cowboy boots. He nearly wasn't with us today because his mother was in a difficult place. She was unmarried, pregnant, and scared. But my wife met with her, prayed with her, and took her to a Christian doctor who showed her the baby in her womb through a sonogram. That young mother had the courage to keep her child.

That young boy's smile reminds me that God can save children, one at a time. He does this by using his people to come alongside the struggling to lovingly show them the Christ who can walk them through any terrifying situation---even an unplanned pregnancy.

I believe the only hope to turn the trend of this tragedy is for people to turn their hearts toward the God who made them through the way paved by his Son Jesus. Jesus changes hearts, and changed hearts can change a nation. May God give us grace as a country, and may God give us courage to stand up in the midst of this tragedy so that, if he tarries, many more will cast votes in 2030.

Lord Jesus, we need your help.
So like Pastor Kell and his wife, when you have the opportunity to stand up for the unborn whether in a conversation with a family member or a confused teenager or a voting both.  Stand up.  James 5:20, “Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”