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

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 96:1-4
Hymn 1A
Psalm 119:60
Psalm 116:1,2,5
Psalm 96:5-8

Reading: John 11:1-44
Text: 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,

Back in 1991, three friends from some American city decided to go on a two-week Southwest cattle-drive vacation.  That was the premise behind the movie “City Slickers.”  At a certain point, Mitch Robbins (the character played by Billy Crystal) is riding alone with Curby, the old crusty trail boss played by Jack Palance.  Mitch asks Curby, “So Curby, killed anyone yet today?”  Curby looks straight ahead and says, “No.”  Mitch looks relieved.  But then Curby looks Mitch right in the eye and says, “But the day’s not over yet!” 

As we look at the sixth commandment, Mitch’s question is one we could be asking ourselves, “Have you killed anyone yet today?”  Because we know that the commandment goes a lot deeper than physically ending someone’s life, it’s quite possible that we have.  It’s quite possible that we will. 

So, it’s true that 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 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 this 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 morning we will see that it is the gospel which gives us redemption from our failures.  We’ll also see that it is the gospel which 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 see that we have:

A Saviour whose life rescues us from death.

A Spirit whose guidance directs us away from death.

As we turn to the Scriptures, we don’t have to look very far past the fall to see man turning to murder.  In Genesis 4, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.  But we often 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 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 the predominant feature in the line of Cain.  But what about the 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 is 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 into slavery. 

When we come to the book of Exodus, we see a mediator named Moses.  But Moses does not 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 of that, we haven’t even gone into the breaking of the sixth commandment in its full breadth and depth.  We sometimes think that it was the 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.  The reality is that the entire Old Testament portrays a people lost in sin and misery, also in deep sin connected with the sixth commandment.

And are we any different?  Oh, I suppose it’s true that there are none of us who 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 is not 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 are attacking God.  By ourselves, apart from the gospel, all of us are in trouble.  We need someone to rescue us from our murderous selves and the wrath of God we incur with our murderous thoughts, words and actions.  We need someone to save us from our lack of love for those around us. 

Thanks be to God that we have a Saviour whose life rescues us from death.  One of the most powerful revelations of Christ in that capacity is found in what we read from John 11.  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 the Lord 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 is 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 are 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 are under the curse of God’s wrath.  But fleeing to Christ, we are safe, we are rescued.  The curse of sin is no longer in effect! 

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 killing 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 are received in grace in Jesus Christ and are part of a 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 the 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 that we are directed away from death and so that we earnestly desire 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, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as 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 is determined by 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 will begin increasingly to 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, even praying on the cross for them, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”  We are 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 is 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 there is a very real sense in which it is 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, albeit imperfectly.  We have the power because of the gospel, 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 live in a civilized society (so we think) where actually, physically killing somebody is very much out of the question.  There are only two exceptions:  those whose lives are deemed useless because of old age or sickness and the unborn.  Let us acknowledge that euthanizing elderly or sick people is wrong, it is sin.  Let us also acknowledge and insist that abortion is a grievous evil, a plague on our land.  The Bible is clear that the unborn are human beings and thus, as those who have the image of God in its general sense, deserve our protection.  Christians must be pro-life. 

Now, having said that, there may be those among us who have secretly had an abortion.  Perhaps this sermon really hurts and hits a sore spot.  I want to assure you of God’s grace.  Listen:  there is no sin so evil that it cannot be forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ.  There is 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 have had abortions and even for those who have 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 survey 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, it 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.  In this way, envy is not only at the root of murder, but could also be said to be a root of suicide!  That’s not to say that suicide in every case is caused by envy, but that when you are 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, he who is your wisdom.

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 that we find in the world, in the line of Cain.  The line of Seth is to be different.  1 John 3:15, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life 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 that you are 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 give a rip – you may very well be unsaved.  Christians still sin, but the difference is that we repent from our sins. When we have 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 did not 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 my neighbour.”                               

There are many more Scripture passages we could look at, but let’s finish off back at Ephesians, this time at Ephesians 4:2, “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  Love is the foundation of what the apostle 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 a 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 is not 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 are commanded to love.  Love is something that we need to do, something we can decide to do.  Because of our union with Christ, we can 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 many more passages we could consider.  But for now, I think we 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 is not easy and there are lots of ups and downs.  We will have struggles.  Remember we have a peace which has started a war.  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.  Believe it.  AMEN. 


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.  Father, please forgive us our guilt in this as well.  We pray that Canada 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.  Father, here too, we plead for your mercy and help.  We ask all this and offer our prayer in the name of Christ Jesus, AMEN.     

* 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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