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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:The gospel leads Christians to honour and protect life
Text:LD 40 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 6th Commandment (Murder)
 
Preached:2019
Added:2019-12-29
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 96:1-4

Psalm 119:60

Hymn 49

Hymn 1

Psalm 96:5-8

Scripture reading: John 11:1-44

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 40

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

Have you killed anyone yet today?  Maybe that sounds like a strange question, but it’s one that Lord’s Day 40 leads us to ask.  From the Catechism’s summary of biblical teaching, we learn that the Sixth Commandment goes a lot further than physically ending someone’s life.  So it’s possible that you’ve broken the Sixth Commandment -- there’s a sense in which perhaps you’ve killed someone.  So maybe it’s not such a strange question after all. 

This commandment runs deep and addresses a common problem in our lives.  It’s difficult to go through a day where we don’t dishonour someone with our thoughts, words or gestures.  It’s challenging to put away your envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge.  And even if you manage to avoid breaking the negative side of this commandment, did you love your neighbour as yourself?  Did you show patience, peace, gentleness, mercy and friendliness?  Did you do good even to those who have it in for you?  Yet all that is what the Sixth Commandment requires of us. 

At this point we could despair, throw up our hands and throw in the towel.  We can’t do it anyways, so why bother trying?  This is where we need the gospel, where we need some good news.  This afternoon we’ll learn how the gospel gives us redemption from our failures.  We’ll also learn how the gospel gives us power to begin a new life of obedience to God’s law.  Our theme is that the gospel leads Christians to honour and protect life.  We’ll learn how we have:

  1. A Saviour whose life rescues us from death.
  2. A Spirit whose guidance directs us away from death.

We don’t have to look very far past the fall into sin in the Bible to see humanity turning to murder.  In Genesis 4, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  But we might forget that there were two more murders in Genesis 4.  Cain’s descendant Lamech boasted to his wives Adah and Zillah about his being a serial killer, or at least his willingness to be one.  Lamech said, “I have killed a man for wounding me, a young man for injuring me.”  The family line of Cain continued to be bloodthirsty and murderous.  This develops further in the time of Noah when one of the reasons God sends the flood upon the earth is the violent and murderous ways of men.

That was a dominant feature in the family line of Cain.  But what about the family line of Seth, the line that would lead to the Saviour?  After the flood, God reminded the line of Seth that man was and is created in God’s image.  Therefore, if someone sheds the blood of man, he has to pay for it with his own blood.  The message seems to have been clear to the Patriarchs, at least to Abraham and Isaac.  But when we get to Jacob, we find numerous instances of deceit and unkind actions in the line of Seth.  This continues with Jacob’s sons – the sons who show anything but love for their brother Joseph by selling him to human traffickers. 

When we come to the book of Exodus, we see a mediator named Moses.  But Moses doesn’t hesitate to kill a man, an Egyptian who had been beating an Israelite.  Blood stains much of the Old Testament – the book of Judges is full of it.  When we get to David, the man after God’s own heart, he too has blood on his hands, the blood of Uriah the Hittite.  And with all that, we haven’t even gone into the breaking of the Sixth Commandment in its full meaning. 

You might think it was our Lord Jesus who first taught that God’s people are to love their neighbours as themselves.  However, that principle was there already in the law of Moses.  Leviticus 19:17-18 says clearly that God’s people were to love their neighbours as themselves.  Yet so often they didn’t.  The entire Old Testament portrays a people lost in sin, also in deep sin connected with the Sixth Commandment. 

And are we any different?  Perhaps it’s true that none of us literally have someone else’s blood on our hands.  But as we’ve already noted, that’s not all this commandment speaks about.  It’s not just about physical life – it’s about the holistic view, all of life.  Life isn’t only physical, but also spiritual.  And all of it is a gift from God.  When we break it down in any way, shape or form, we’re attacking God.  By ourselves, apart from the gospel, all of us are in trouble.  We need someone to rescue us from our murderous selves.  We need someone to rescue us from the wrath of God we earn with our murderous thoughts, words and actions.  We need someone to save us from our lack of love for those around us. 

Thankfully, we have a Saviour whose life rescues us from death.  John 11 is one of the best places we see that in the Bible.  Jesus had a friend named Lazarus who died from some illness.  When Christ finally arrives in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead for four days.  Martha is mystified as to what took Jesus so long and she almost rebukes him when she says that if he had been there, Lazarus wouldn’t have died.  Yet she expresses her faith that Christ can still do something about it.  At that point he says, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”  Note his question.  He is asking you too:  “Do you believe this?”  Martha replies (and we need to reply with her), “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Jesus Christ is life.  He’s the source and giver of life, life in all its dimensions.  And because he is life, he can rescue us from death.  He can save us from our murderous selves and the consequences of our sin.  In Acts 3:15 he is called the author or the prince of life.  In John 10:10, he says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  And of course, there are those well-known words from John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  Loved ones, when we believe in Christ we’re rescued from spiritual death.  Believing in Christ, we can come to the Father and have life to the full.  When people break any of God’s commandments, they’re under the curse of God’s wrath.  But fleeing to Christ, we’re safe, we’re rescued from death.  The curse of sin no longer weighs on us. 

Brothers and sisters, you may have dishonoured, hated, injured or been responsible for the death of another human being.  You may have done this with thoughts, words or gestures.  Perhaps the guilt is weighing on you.  Look to Christ.  With him you have a Saviour who takes away your sin and its guilt.  Believing in him, you have a Father in heaven who says, “You are not guilty, you are my child, my son, my daughter.”  You’re received in grace in Jesus Christ and are part of God’s family.  Jesus Christ has come to rescue us from death and bring us to a full life!  Thank God that you have a Saviour who has dealt with the curse of sin.

That’s the gospel.  But the gospel doesn’t leave us there.  It goes on to tell us that our Saviour also takes care of the power of sin.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ leads believers in a certain direction.  Christ does this through his Spirit.  The Holy Spirit lives in us and unites us to Jesus Christ so we’re directed away from death and so we really want to honour and protect human life the way he did and does.

We see this worked out in the first two verses of Ephesians 5.  Paul writes, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”  In these words, we see the positive side of the Sixth Commandment:  it basically boils down to living a life of love.  In this context, love clearly involves another.  Living a life of love doesn’t mean putting yourself first, loving yourself.  Rather, this life of love comes from looking at the gospel and looking at what Jesus Christ has done.  He loved us and gave himself up for us!   The gospel sets the pattern for living according to the Sixth Commandment. 

If we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ, our lives begin to increasingly conform to the life of Christ.  He loved his neighbours as himself.  We will too.  He showed patience, peace, gentleness mercy and friendliness to others.  So will we.  He protected others from harm, even the harm of hell!  As much as we can, we will and must do likewise.  Jesus Christ did good to his enemies.  He even prayed on the cross for them, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  We’re united to that Saviour and our lives are going to more and more look the same. 

Why?  Because his Spirit lives in us and unites us to him.  That’s assumed in passages like Galatians 5 where we read about the fruit of the Spirit.  That fruit is meant to be there in our lives.  And it’s our responsibility to see that it is.  There are commands in the New Testament, and those commands are connected to our thankfulness for the gospel and they grow out of the gospel. We have the power to follow those commands, though not perfectly.  We have the power not because of ourselves but because of the gospel.  We have the power because the gospel includes the gift of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

I want to look at some of those commands, but before I do, I need to briefly say something about murder in our contemporary culture.  We might like to think we live in a civilized society.  We have a civilized society where actually, physically killing somebody is out of the question.  Murder is relatively rare.  There are two exceptions:  those whose lives are deemed useless because of old age or sickness and the unborn.  But God says that euthanizing elderly or sick people is wrong.  It’s sinful and wicked.  We have no right to take someone’s life, even if they’re old or sick or even if they want to die.  We have no business helping someone who wants to die.  We should never help people commit suicide.  That’s not our choice to make.  The time of our death is something that should be left to God.  Assisted suicide, medically assisted dying, euthanasia, whatever term you want to use for it, it’s still sinful and wrong in the eyes of God. 

Similarly, abortion is a grievous evil, a plague on our land.  The Bible is clear that the unborn are human beings.  Unborn human beings bear the image of God.  Because they bear God’s image, they have dignity, worth, and value.  Because human beings in the womb bear God’s image, we ought to protect these weakest and most vulnerable members of society.  Christians must be pro-life. 

Now it used to be that getting an abortion required you to go and see a doctor.  You had to go to a clinic and have a procedure.  But these days that happens far less often mainly because of something called the Morning After Pill.  One of the most popular brands is called Plan B.  It’s advertised as “emergency contraception.”  If you had unprotected sex and you’re worried that you might have gotten pregnant, then you take this and you won’t.  The maker of the drug and the government health department will tell you that it doesn’t cause an abortion.  But that’s not true.  It’s not the full story.  The reality is that the Morning After Pill can prevent a new human life from continuing to live in the womb.  It can cause an abortion.   I’ll just say two things before we move on:  one, no one should be having sex outside of marriage.  That’s sinful and wrong.  But if you do that and then take the Morning After Pill, you add to your sin and guilt because it’s potentially the taking of a human life.         

There may be some among us who’ve had an abortion.  Maybe there’s someone here who’s taken the Morning After Pill.  Perhaps this sermon really hurts and hits a sore spot.  I want to assure you of God’s grace.  Listen:  there’s no sin so evil that it can’t be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ.  There’s room for you at the foot of the cross.  He is a Saviour for you too.  And for all of us, loved ones, we should be careful in how we speak about abortion with one another and those outside our community.  It is a terrible, evil thing.  But when we speak about it, we should always make clear that there is hope and healing in Jesus Christ for those who’ve had abortions and even for those who’ve performed abortions.  Abortion is not the unforgivable sin.  And perhaps it happens and has happened in the church more often than we care to admit.  Let’s be careful in how we speak so that grace, healing and help are always extended to those who need it.  Let’s remember what our Saviour said in Mark 2:17, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Well, let’s now learn about what the Bible says to direct us away from death and to lead us to honour and protect human life.  Let’s focus on matters of the heart.  Proverbs gives us some wisdom on this in 14:30, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”  The Catechism says that envy is a root sin.  Envy is at the root of murder.  Envy makes your bones rotten – in other words, it also kills you!  When you’re not happy with what you have and always want more and want what the others have, you’re dying from the inside out.  When you’re envious of others, you’re not doing any good for yourself or others.  Here again, look to Christ and let his life be yours.  Was he envious of others and what they had in any way?  Note his contentment.  Be who you are in your union with Jesus Christ.

Then what about those penetrating words of 1 John 3:15?   John says that the message has always been there from the beginning:  love one another.  Cain didn’t and murdered his brother.  Hatred for other people is something we find in the world, in the line of Cain.  The line of Seth is to be different.  1 John 3:15, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”  We need to understand those words as saying, “Anyone who continues in hate for his brother…”  In other words, if you found yourself hating someone yesterday, that doesn’t mean you’re lost.  However, if you enjoy hating another person and you don’t think there’s anything wrong with hating someone and you’re just going to continue living in that sin because you don’t care – you may very well be unsaved.  Christians still sin, but the difference is that we repent from our sins. When we’ve hated someone, we confess that sin to God and ask him to forgive us.  We turn our backs on that sin and instead of hating the other person, we hate our sin.  We put the hate where it belongs.  We don’t listen to the snake-think which tells us that we have a right to hate someone.  We say, “No, ongoing hatred, when we live in hatred, that’s evidence that I don’t really believe in Jesus Christ.  I believe in Jesus Christ, and he didn’t hate.  I’m in union with him through his Spirit, so I’m going to turn my back on this hatred.  I’m going to hate the hatred and not hate my neighbour.”                                

There are more Scripture passages we could look at, but let’s finish off back at Ephesians, this time at Ephesians 4:1-2, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love…”  Love is the foundation of what the Holy Spirit commands here.  We’re told elsewhere in Scripture that love covers a multitude of sins.  In the world around us, love is a confused thing.  Many unbelievers can’t understand this idea that we would love our enemies, that we would love strangers, that we would still love our spouse after having had an all-out yellathon.  For many today, love is merely an emotion or feeling, a feeling oftentimes confused with sex or sexual attraction.  The idea that love is a decision or a choice, something that we have to work towards and work at keeping is foreign to many.  In their minds, love isn’t something you can command others to do.  You either love or you don’t.  It’s not that way in the Bible.  In Scripture, we’re commanded to love.  Love is something we need to do, something we can decide to do.  Because of our union with Christ, we can do that.  Because of the Holy Spirit who lives in Christ and in us, we can and must do that.   And it’s all based on God’s love. 

Author and counselor David Powlison describes God’s love as “active, intrusive love.”  God’s decided to love you when he could have justly condemned you.  He’s not simply tolerant.  He is actively merciful and involved with your life.  He hates sin, yet he pursues sinners by name.  God is so committed to forgiving and changing you that he gave his Son to die for you.  He welcomes the poor in spirit with a feast.  Powlison says, “God is vastly patient and relentlessly persevering as he intrudes into your life.  God’s love actively does you good.  His love is full of blood, sweat, tears and cries.  He suffered for you.”  Now all that being true in Jesus Christ, the result has to be what we read in Ephesians 4:2: being completely humble with one another, being gentle with one another, being patient and bearing with one another.  That’s what love is going to look like in our lives.

As I said, there are more passages we could consider.  But I trust you can see that we have a wonderful gospel, we have a wonderful Saviour and as a result, our lives are going to be transformed and changed.  The process of sanctification isn’t easy.  There are lots of ups and downs.  We’ll have struggles.  Remember we have a peace which has started a war.  We have peace with God, but now we have war with our sin.  But we have Christ’s promise that he will never leave us or forsake us.  After saying to his disciples in John 14 that if they loved him they would keep his commandments, he added that the Spirit of truth would come and dwell in them.  The promise has been fulfilled and will always be kept.  The Holy Spirit will always be there to help us.  Believe it, loved ones.  AMEN. 

Prayer:

Lord God in heaven,

We thank you for your patience with us, for your love for us.  We’re filled with love for you when we consider that you gave your Son for us while we were your enemies.  We thank you that there is room at the foot of the cross for each one of us sinners.  The gospel grabs our hearts and we want to thank you with our lives, with our thoughts, words, gestures and deeds.  Lead us with your Spirit away from death and whatever leads to death and destruction.  Teach us more and more your ways of love, patience, peace, gentleness, mercy and friendliness.  Help us to live out of our union with Christ so that we would protect those around us and do good even to our enemies.  Father, we also pray for our nation, a nation which does not consistently protect the lives of unborn children.  We pray that our nation would repent of this great evil.  We pray that our government would change its thinking and desire to do good for those unable to help themselves.  We also pray for anyone here among us who may have had an abortion.  Please help them to look to you for forgiveness and healing.  Please give your forgiveness through the cross of our Saviour Jesus.  Please work with your Holy Spirit to give comfort and the assurance of your love.      




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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