After answering a number of critical questions, David Platt turns his focus to contemporary applications of this teaching. In this session of Secret Church 22, Pastor David Platt helps us think through difficult cultural issues. He focuses on how humanity relates to sexuality, race, abortion, infertility, eugenics, artificial intelligence, and the metaverse. David Platt provides a biblical teaching on each of these topics which are so pressing for our cultural moment.
- Humanity and Sexuality
- Humanity and Race.
- Humanity and Abortion
- Humanity, Infertility, and Artificial Reproductive Technology
- Humanity, Genomics, and Eugenics
- Humanity and Artificial Intelligence
- Humanity, Digital and Social Media, and the Metaverse
[First 2:32 minutes is a prayer given in Spanish]
All right. Most critical foundations have now been laid, I hope faithfully from God’s Word, for us to now stand on them and think together through all kinds of issues that touch on our humanity in this world. Before we do that, I want us to do a bit more biblical meditation, this time with Psalm 8. Turn back to the beginning of your Study Guide, right after Genesis, there was Psalm 8, doing the same thing we did with Genesis 1. I want to give you just a few moments right now to meditate on this chapter—just you, God and his Spirit. Read this chapter slowly. Circle words or phrases that stick out to you. Think about what it means. If you have time, summarize this passage in one sentence; it’s a whole chapter of the Bible. How would you put in one sentence what God is saying through his Spirit in Psalm 8. Just spend the next few minutes with this passage, between you and God.
Let me pray again for us.
God, we want to hear from you what you say about us, so we ask you to open our eyes and minds. Help us understand you, your Word and what your Word says about us in Psalm 8 right now. Lead us, direct us by your Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
All right. Let’s come back together from meditating on God’s Word. Is this not a great Psalm? Let’s just dive in together. Did you notice anything that Psalm 8 repeats that might clue us into its meaning? First, look at verse one: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” That’s the first and the last verse. From beginning to end, this seems to be the main point of this Psalm, so let’s just camp out on this phrase for a minute. When it says, “O Lord, our Lord…” did you notice anything unusual about those two words, “Lord”? The first time you see Lord. The second time you see Lord. They’re spelled different. It’s helpful to remember that every time we see Lord—capital “L” followed by small caps—that’s Yahweh in the original language of the Old Testament. This is the name by which God revealed himself to his people when he was delivering them out of slavery in Egypt. So this is the name for God that’s translated with a capital L, then small caps “ord.”
Then the second time you see Lord, it’s capital “L” then lower case “ord.” Whenever you see Lord like that in the Old Testament, it’s usually the word Adonai which is more like a title for God, kind of like “king.” The word Lord—Adonai—literally means “the sovereign one.” When you put these together, think of a king’s position, like King Edward. Edward would be his name; king would be his title.
So the picture here is the psalmist saying, “O Yahweh—Lord! Adonai—king, who was and is and is to come, who has power over all things.” Then he says in the middle, “You are our lord.” So there’s a personal relationship there. You’re not just the Lord ; you’re our Lord, our King. Just these four words—O Lord, our Lord—lead us to pause and worship.
O God, you are Yahweh, you are the one who was and is and is to come. Throughout history, you have seen people in their suffering, and by your power you have been their help. Not just their help, our help, you are the helper of all who trust in you. You are our Lord. You’re my Lord, Yahweh, Lord over history. You’re my king; you are majestic. Majestic is your name in all the earth.
Let’s put this together. The God whose majesty is over all the earth is our God. He’s my God. Right now, we are meeting with him, listening to him speak to us through his Word. We are praying to him, just like Jesus taught us to pray. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name in all the earth” (Matthew 6:9-13). The Bible leads us to worship.
Then keep going. The Psalm says, “You have set your glory above the heavens.” So God’s glory is above the heavens, beyond what we can see or imagine. But did you notice that this word “glory” is also repeated in this Psalm? Jump down to verse five and you’ll see “glory” again. “You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” So you might circle “glory” in both those places. Hold that in your mind because we’ll come back to it in a minute when we get to verse five. God’s glory is repeated twice here.
Come back to verse two: “Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.” So just briefly, there’s a lot of difficulty in understanding this particular verse with a few different ideas among biblical scholars about how it fits into the overall point of the Psalm. Instead of getting caught up in what’s unclear, let’s think about what is clear. What do we know we can learn from this verse? Well, first, God’s strength—see the picture of strength here—and his power are evident in the mouths of babies and infants. So even little babies who can do nothing but babble are in some sense a picture of God’s strength and power. Anybody who has seen the miracle of birth knows it is a picture of the power of the God who formed that baby in a mother’s womb. It’s amazing. Then, another thing that’s clear in this verse is that God has foes. He has enemies who oppose God. This verse says they will be still.
So these things we know: God’s strength and power are evident in babies and infants, and God’s enemies will be still. Something to picture here is how the strength and power of God, evident in something so simple as a little baby, is greater than the strength and power that God’s enemies could ever portray in all their might.
Let’s move on and see if we get more clues into what this means. Verse three says, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place…” The moon and stars. Let’s think about this verse. “When I look at your heavens,” which he describes as the moon and the stars, “I realize that they are the work of your fingers. They’re like your artwork.”
Let me show you my artwork here on the screen. Here’s what I can draw; it’s a stick figure. I can also draw a house with a door. Of course, the stick figure is just as big as the house. I can draw a sun. That’s my artwork. That’s what I can do. I know, there are many of you who can do better than that.
Now let me show you what God can do. This is the work of God’s fingers. He set every single one of those stars in place. Scientists tell us there are about a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is only one of about a million galaxies that we can see with our best telescopes, each one of them filled with billions upon billions more stars.
Isaiah 40 says God brings out the starry host one by one and calls them each by name. By name! Like, “There’s Bob. There’s Mary up there. There’s Z14369er.” I don’t know what their names are, but our God knows all their names. He has set them in place. Does this not just lead us to worship and praise God? “When I look at your fingers, your heavens, what they create. You have set them in place.” See the repetition there in verse two. “The heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars, what you’ve set in place, your artwork.”
So now we get to verse four; feel the wonder of this in a whole new way. In light of your glory in and above the heavens, “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man, that you care for him? ” Now, this makes sense to all of us, doesn’t it? When you see scenes like stars over mountains, you don’t stand underneath a night sky and feel like you’re big and everything around you is small. You feel the opposite. You start thinking, “Who am I? ” Thinking about a world with seven billion people, billions and billions of stars, a universe that is so vast and so big—you just start to feel small. You don’t stand under those stars and think, “I feel so big right now.” You’re like, “I feel so tiny, so small, so insignificant.” But this is where we see the wonder of this Psalm, because the conclusion here is not that the heavens are so majestic, which makes me so insignificant. No. The conclusion in this Psalm is actually the opposite. “What is man,” verse four says, “that you, God, are mindful of him. You, the God who made all this. It’s all the work of your fingers. It all belongs to you and you are mindful of me, the son of man?” This is another way of saying mankind—obviously a reference to humanity here—“That you, O God, are mindful of us, that you, O God, care for us? ”
This is what blows the psalmist away. Not ultimately the heavens, the work of God’s fingers—as astounding as that is—but it’s astonishing that this God is mindful of humanity. Men and women made in God’s image are what’s on God’s mind. He’s mindful of us. You and I are what’s on God’s mind. God is always thinking about us, about you and me. And not just thinking about us. He’s mindful and cares for us. He’s concerned for us, such that he provides for us.
What is this Psalm teaching us? God is majestic over all the earth. His glory is above the heavens. The work of his fingers is all over the heavens. And in all his glory, he thinks about you and me. He desires to care for you and me. This is astounding.
And it gets even more astounding when you get to verse five: “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.” Now, we won’t spend a ton of time here on heavenly beings because there’s some debate about what that’s a reference to. Is God a heavenly being? Well, yes, but there’s only one of him. Are angels heavenly beings? Yes, so we know this is a picture of you and me, mankind, humanity, made just a little lower than the angels or even God himself. This sounds like an overstatement, until you read the next phrase: “You have…crowned him with glory.” There it is, the same word we saw back in verse one, where the psalmist said, “You have set your glory above the heavens.” So God’s glory is above the heavens, but now we see that his glory is also on earth, in man, in you and me. This is truly breathtaking and life-changing. Do you want to see the glory of God on display? Yes, go outside tonight, look up at the stars and stand in awe.
Do you know what’s even easier? Look at the people sitting next to you right now. They are God’s glory on display. Look at the people in your family. Look at the people at your work. Look at the people in the store, the restaurant, the gas station, the gym. They are God’s glory on display. The Bible teaches that God has made men and women in his image as a reflection of his glory, which is why I say truth like this is life-changing.
When you realize all people are made in God’s image and crowned with glory and honor, then:
- Racism is detestable to you. Now you work to honor all people, no matter what they look like, no matter where they’ve immigrated from.
- Now abortion is abhorrent to you, because a little baby in a mother’s womb is crowned with glory and honor.
- Now injustice of all kinds is intolerable to you because you actually believe that every person around you and every person in the world is crowned with glory and honor which totally changes the way you live.
This is why we’re about to dive into all sorts of issues in the world, flowing from these truths in God’s Word, so please don’t miss this. This should not just change the way you think about other people. This is where things get even more breathtaking and life-changing. Do you want to see the glory of God on display? Look in the mirror and realize that you are crowned with glory and honor by God himself. The God of the universe is mindful of you and cares for you. God has crowned you with glory and honor. You do not need this man or this woman, this person or that person, to accept or acknowledge you in this way or that, because you are crowned with glory and honor by God.
Contrary to what science or technology would try to tell us today, we’re not created a little higher than animals or machines. We are created a little lower than angels, a little lower than God himself, so in this way we have inherent glory and honor. We also have responsibility. Verses six to eight go on to say, “You have given him dominion over the works of your hands.” So we see that word “dominion” again. “You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.” We have already seen this in Genesis 1. God has entrusted responsibility in this world to divine image bearers, you and me, to live and lead in such a way that we display his glory and honor in the world around us. God has given us responsibility to reflect his goodness, honor, love and justice—his character and his glory—in the world around us. You and I are called to reflect the character of God to all creation around us.
Back to verse nine, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” We reflect the character of God so that through our lives—as men and women crowned with glory and honor by God—will reflect his majesty, love, justice and glory in all the earth. And that leads us right back into the next part of our study guide. We still have one part left in our answer to the question: how can I/we experience the good life as human beings in this world? I didn’t stop there just because it was time. It was definitely time, but I also stopped there because the last part of our answer to this question leads us directly into all the other topics we’re going to look at tonight.
So remember where we left off. All who follow Jesus are being conformed into the image of Jesus in a gradual process of transformation that will one day be complete in heaven. That will be the perfectly good life.
The good life now involves doing and promoting justice and righteousness as a reflection of the God in whose image we are made.
Now, think about this statement in light of all we’ve seen so far and the foundations upon which we’re standing concerning humanity. Remember the three Rs. As men and women made in God’s image:
- We Resemble him. For those who are in Christ, we are going to resemble him, and we’re growing to resemble him more and more.
- We’re in relationship with God.
- We’ve been given the responsibility to represent God in this world. We’ve seen this picture of dominion—subduing and ruling—now in Genesis 1 and Psalm 8, in a way that reflects the character of God.
So it’s no surprise, then, to see God say to his people in Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” So there it is. Do you see it? The good life, according to God, not just the good life for us, but also for others—for humanity in general. Do justice. Love kindness. Walk humbly with God.
Now, we could easily do a whole Secret Church on this verse right now. Maybe we will one day. But for now, let me give you a biblical flyover of justice. By flyover, I mean we’re going to hit a lot of biblical truths really, really, really fast.
So here’s my best attempt at a biblical definition of justice: Justice is that which is right for all people, as exemplified in the character of God and expressed in the Word of God. “Justice” is used hundreds of times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, it’s often accompanied by the word “righteousness.” The focus is on that which is right for all people as exemplified in God’s character, including the poor, the oppressed, the sojourner, the widow, the orphan, the afflicted, the hungry and the needy So God loves, cares for and provides for all people, especially thee groups of people. As expressed in his Word, his law communicates what is right for all people. So justice is that which is right for all people, as exemplified in God’s character and expressed in God’s Word. There’s so much more we could unpack here, but let’s move ahead.
As a result of sin, injustice abounds in humanity. Injustice is the opposite of justice. It’s that which is not right for all people, as exemplified in God’s character and expressed in God’s Word. In our sinfulness, we as humans, individually and collectively, harm and hurt and oppress others. We do not do justice. And God holds his people accountable for injustice, specifically in places like Jeremiah 22:3-5 and Matthew 23:23 and so many passages. In the words we’ve already read in Micah 6, God requires us to do justice. This requirement leads us straight to Jesus because the gospel of Jesus Christ is our only hope for ultimate justice. When you think about the biblical definition of justice—that which is right for all people as exemplified in God’s character and expressed in God’s Word:
- Jesus perfectly reveals the character of God.
- Jesus perfectly fulfills the Word of God.
- And in this way, Jesus perfectly demonstrates the justice of God.
This is why prophecy about his coming in Isaiah 9:7 talks about how he’ll establish his Kingdom and uphold it “with justice and with righteousness, from this time forth and forevermore.” John 5:30 makes it clear that Jesus is the just judge of the world, and he came to proclaim justice to people in all nations, to proclaim that which is right for all humanity, knowing all humanity was sinful. This is why he came to endure the judgment that people from all nations deserve. He was unjustly treated, in the words of Isaiah 53:6-9: “By oppression and injustice he was taken away.” He endured the injustice of man and the judgment of God due sin on the cross, as we’ve already talked about, “for the whole world,” (1 John 2:2). As we’ve seen, he came to die on the cross for sinners, so that anyone from any nation may be justified before God by grace through faith in him.
Romans 3:21-26 is one of the greatest paragraphs in the entire Bible. We are justified before God by the grace of God through faith in Jesus. God forgives us of our sin, fills us with his Spirit in such a way that justification by faith before God now leads to works by faith to glorify God, including efforts to do justice. That’s the clear message of James 2:14-16: What good is it, brothers, if you claim to have faith, but you have no works? You don’t do anything for people in need. Your faith is worthless. It’s empty. It’s hollow. It’s not true faith. True faith leads to works.
Let’s go back to Jesus’ statement on the two greatest commandments (Matthew 22:37-40):
- Love God with all our hearts.
- Love others as ourselves
This is part of the process of becoming more and more like Jesus and being in his image. The more we become like Jesus, the more we will do justice. The more we’ll love God with all our hearts, love others as ourselves, and the more we’ll do what’s right for people.
So how does that play out practically? In a million ways. I’ll list some of them biblically here.
- We do justice by proclaiming the gospel among all people. It is right for us to proclaim the gospel among all people in all nations. As we saw in last year’s Secret Church, the greatest injustice in the world is that over three billion people have never heard the gospel, yet we’re sitting back with the gospel, practically turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to them. That is not right.
- We do justice by doing and teaching others to obey everything Christ has commanded us. Think about all the ways Jesus in his Word commands us to do that which is right for others. Here’s a firehose of ways we can do justice along these lines.
- We model and teach justice and mercy in our families (Deuteronomy 4:1-9).
- We work hard and honestly at our jobs that contribute to the good of society and enable us to share our resources with others (2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; Ephesians 4:28).
- We give generously and sacrificially of our resources to people in need (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
- We steward advantages we have for the sake of the disadvantaged (2 Corinthians 8:1-9).
- We use any leadership, authority or influence we have to serve others, just like Jesus did (Mark 10:42-45).
- We care for widows, orphans and sojourners. This is how we do justice, what God has required of us.
- We do justice by understanding the needs and defending the rights of the poor (Proverbs 29:7 and 31:8-9).
- We correct oppression. We learn to “do good; seek justice, correct oppression” (Isaiah 1:17).
- We refuse to show partiality, specifically to the rich over the poor (James 2:1-7).
- We honor, pray for and subject ourselves to government leaders under God. That’s right and just before God (Romans 13:1-5;1 Peter 2:13-17).
I could keep going on and on with other commands like this in Scripture. But again, that’s a whole other Secret Church. To summarize here, we live to do righteousness at all times. Psalm 106:3 says, “Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” We don’t just do justice individually which is another place we could spend a lot more time.
To the extent we’re able and have opportunity according to God’s leadership in our lives, we promote justice in the world around us. The just king in Psalm 72:1-20 is a picture of what we long and work for in the world around us, with the responsibility God has given us as humanity to represent him and rule like him, with justice and righteousness that reflects him, as imitators of him in this fallen world (Ephesians 5:1).
Ultimately we are longing for the day when Jesus, the just judge, returns, and his justice reigns on the earth. In this fallen world, we find ourselves asking, “How long? How long will injustice reign? How long will wars continue to be waged? How long will sin and evil be exalted in so many ways? ”
Our Father in heaven, bring your Kingdom here. In the words of the martyrs in Revelation 6:9-11, how long before you judge this earth?
We’re told to wait, as more injustice continues, as more Christians even are unjustly killed. As we think about the persecuted church, the biblical reality is clear:
- As long as sin remains in this world, it will not be perfectly just.
- So what do we do? We pray for injustice to end.
- We pray for God’s Kingdom to come.
- We live to hasten his coming. That’s the language from 2 Peter 3:11-13. As we wait and live lives of holiness and godliness to hasten the coming of the day of God, continually crying out, “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
Now, here’s why the last part of this answer to our question—how can things be made right and how can I/we experience the good life?—is so important. Let’s put this all together. Jesus has not just made it possible for us in our humanity to be forgiven of our sin, filled with the Spirit and transformed into his image. Yes, yes, yes to all of that. But if that was the whole story, then Jesus could take you or me to heaven right now and everything would be great. Our salvation and glorification would be complete! But that’s not what he’s done, yet, at least not with any of us.
He’s left us here, in this time and place, with great commandments: to love God with everything we have while we’re here and to love others around us and around the world as ourselves. This leads to a great commission to go and make disciples of all the nations, to lead more and more people to be conformed into the image of Jesus. And in all of this, to do that which is good, right, just and merciful for other human beings.
From Genesis 1 to Psalm 8 to the rest of Scripture, it’s clear. God has left us here in this world for now, in this time in humanity, with a responsibility to rule with dominion, to rule justly and mercifully for the good of humanity all around us, for the good of other image bearers all around us—over all seven billion of them.
Humanity & Sexuality
So in a world of sexual confusion, abortion, ethnic discrimination, racism, reproductive technologies, gene editing, digital media and artificial intelligence—what is good? What’s right for people as exemplified in God’s character and expressed in God’s Word? How does what we’ve seen in God’s Word about humanity now apply to all of these issues at the forefront of humanity in this world. That’s what I want to do during the rest of our time tonight. Certainly I won’t be able to do an exhaustive examination of all these issues, but hopefully I’ll get us thinking about what the Bible teaches about humanity and how that affects the way we think about these things.
Picture this. Imagine I was holding a diamond right now that represents all that God’s Word teaches about humanity. For the rest of our time tonight, I want to shine a light on this diamond , representing the issue of sexuality. Then you’ll have a few minutes to reflect on that. Then we’ll shine the light off this diamond regarding the issue of abortion, then racism, then reproductive technology, then social media and so on. I trust that God, through his Word and by his Spirit ,will make us more like Jesus during this time and in this place, with these issues before us.
HUMANITY & SEXUALITY
Let’s start with humanity and sexuality—again, not in an exhaustive way like we did even in a previous Secret Church—but I hope in helpful way as we think about the sexual confusion in us and around us in our culture today. There is some sense in which we’re currently living in unique days. Look at a place like Corinth during the first century when the Bible was being written. This was a time and a place that was known for rampant sexual immorality, confusion and deception. Corinth was a culture where anything went; they indulged their bodies however they desired. God spoke into that situation and I want us to read what he said about our bodies being made in his image there.
Before we look at these truths in your study guide, jump down to 1 Corinthians 6:12-18. Let’s hear straight from God:
12 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.
What do we learn here about humanity and sexuality? Well, first and foremost, we learn that your body was created by God for his glory and for your earthly and eternal good. When 1 Corinthians 6 was being written, it was apparently a common phrase in that day to say, “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food.” In other words, food was made for the stomach; the stomach was made for food. When people used that phrase in Corinth, the implication was the body was made for sexual activity. Sexual activity was made for the body. But God is saying, “No. The body is made for the Lord God and the Lord God is for the body.” Think about that statement. Think about both sides of what God is saying here.
First, the body is for the Lord, for God. That is a very different starting point than every other message we hear in this world and every way we’re prone to think about our bodies. We are so driven today by whatever can bring our bodies the most pleasure. What can we see, touch, do, eat, listen to, engage in? We’re drowning in a culture that shouts at every turn, “Please your body!” But the Bible is saying at every turn, “Please God with your body.” So are you going to please your body or please God?
That’s a fundamental question—maybe the fundamental question—because this question is at the root of every other question we might ask when it comes to sexuality. The fundamental starting place is asking, “What is our ultimate aim? Are we living for self-gratification in our bodies or are we living for God-glorification in our bodies? ” God is saying, “Your body is not ultimately for you; your body is ultimate for me.”
So follow this: In the next part of this phrase—where God says, “Your body is for me and I am for you” —God says, “I, the Lord, am for your body.” So the Bible is not just saying, “Your body is for God, so do what he says and make your body miserable. It’s not about you; it’s all about him.” No, the Bible is saying, “Your body is for God and God is for your body.” Know this, right where you’re sitting. God is for your body.
As we’ve seen, your body has been created, formed and fashioned by God himself, in his image, for his glory and for your good on this earth (Genesis 1:27). God is not against your body. God is not even indifferent toward your body. which is really important because there were a lot of Christians in Corinth who were thinking—just like many of us are tempted to think today—”God cares about my spiritual life, but he doesn’t care about my physical life.” That is not true.
As we’ve already seen, God is for all of you—spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally, all of who you are. This truth is so vital and fundamental, because if you don’t believe that God is for your body, then you will buy into all kinds of lies from the adversary about your body. You will question if God knew what he was doing when he made you with this disability or that desire. You will question if God knew what he was doing when he made you as a male or a female. You will question why God would say, “Don’t do this with your body,” then you will justify going against what God says because at the root we’re wondering if God is against us instead of being for us. Know that he is for us.
God, the all-wise, all-loving creator of the universe, is the one who formed your body and my body. God knows better than any one of us what is best for our bodies. However, we live in a world where the mantra is, “Nobody can tell me what to do with my body.” Think about it. That kind of thinking is the essence of sin, saying to God, “I know better than you how this body is to be used.” Ah, don’t say that. God is for your body; he is for you. This is where it all starts so if you question this, if you don’t believe this, you will live in all kinds of confusion and deception. Don’t do it. Believe and receive the truth that the God who formed you is for you. God knows the way to satisfy your body, not just your soul.
You want to know how much he’s for you, specifically for your body? Look at 1 Corinthians 6:14. God has made an eternal investment in your body. Verse 14 says God raised the Lord Jesus from the dead and that he will also raise you up by his power. This is talking about God raising Jesus’ body from the dead, then God raising your body from the dead. That’s what I mean by your body was created by God for his glory, as well as for your earthly and eternal good. This is revolutionary. God doesn’t just love you enough to save your soul. God loves you so much that he wants to redeem your body, to restore and raise up your body for all of eternity. This is what 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 is all about.
The whole argument for many of the Corinthian Christians was, “We’ll fulfill the body’s pleasures in life” —which is temporary”—then our souls will go on to eternal life, so we’ll have the best of both worlds.” Does that sound familiar? How common is this, even in the church today? We’ve created a whole version of Christianity where we see our souls as sealed in heaven, but we go on living however we want for the temporary pleasures of our bodies in this world. And we’re okay with it, as long as we’ll get to heaven. But that’s not Christianity. That goes totally against the Bible.
In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says, “Listen. I’m laying down my body. I’m dying every day and missing out on a lot in this world, because I believe that God is for me. I know that one day he’s going to raise up this body, just like he did with Jesus.” Listen to 1 Corinthians 15:51-57:
51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting? ”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Did you follow that? God, in his power, raised the body of Jesus from a tomb, and one day he’s going to raise the bodies of all who trust in Jesus, from the grave, through the same power. So let’s put all this together and think about it. If your body had this identity—that you’ve been molded personally by the hands of the creator God who loves you so much—and if your body has this destiny—to thrive forever in a perfectly redeemed state—then why would you trust yourself or anyone else in this world more than God with your body?
Your body is created by God, for God, for your good—now and forever. The problem is we doubt or reject this. Which leads to this second truth: in this broken world, we all have broken bodies. This goes all the way back to what we saw earlier in Genesis 3, right? The first sin in the world started with a man and woman using their bodies outside of God’s good design for their bodies. God had said, “Do not do eat from a particular tree. Don’t satisfy the physical craving of your body in this way.” Ah, this is so significant. Pay close attention here. God had created them with a physical desire for food, which was good. But that physical desire could lead them to fulfill that desire outside of God’s design, which was not good. So God tells them, “Here’s the good way to fulfill your physical desires. Eat from and enjoy all these trees. However, here’s a harmful way to fulfill your physical desires; don’t eat from this one tree.”
So from the very beginning of the Bible, before sin even entered the world, God gave man and woman physical desires that were not intended to be fulfilled in certain ways. What happens in Genesis 3 is man and woman decided to fulfill those desires in ways contrary to God’s good design for their bodies. The result was brokenness—brokenness between man and woman and God, between each other and the world around them in ways that would not just affect them, but every single person who would come after them.
We live in a world that has been broken by sin, and this brokenness affects all of us in all kinds of ways; not all in the same ways. Let me list some of the ways our bodies are broken in this world. Fundamentally we live in a world of disability and weakness in our bodies, many bodies don’t function the way they should and every body will wear out one day.
Let’s take this brokenness a step deeper in light of sexuality according to 1 Corinthians 6. Some of us have physical desires for the opposite sex that lead us to think thoughts about others or have desires for others or do things with others that are not pleasing to God according to his Word. Some of us have physical desires for the same sex that lead us to think about or desire to do things that are not pleasing to God according to his Word. Some of us have questions about the way God has made us sexually, to the point where we sometimes feel like we don’t fit or belong even in our physical bodies. Some of our bodies have significant struggles, such as sexual disability, infertility, abnormalities, cancers or sicknesses. Amidst all of this, each one of us are prone to fulfill physical desires in ways that are contrary to God’s Word. All of us have at some point—most of us at many, many points, whether past or present—sought to fulfill physical desires in ways that are contrary to God’s Word.
In addition to all of that, some of us have physically been hurt, abused and broken by people who have done things to our bodies that are contrary to God’s Word. I could go on and on here, but the point is each one of us is different. Our experiences and even some of our desires are different. There are even different degrees to which we have experienced brokenness in this world.
In the end, in this broken world, we all have broken bodies in ways that significantly affect all of us. Look at 1 Corinthians 6. The Bible is showing us how bodily sin harms inevitably—sin we carry out with our bodies or sin that someone carries out against our bodies. In 1 Corinthians 6:12, some Corinthians saw no harm in practicing prostitution. “All things are lawful,” they said. But God is asking, “Is it helpful to your body and to others’ bodies? ” God is saying, “Just because you’re allowed or able to do something with your body doesn’t mean it’s helpful for your body.”
Bodily sin harms inevitably, and second, God says bodily sin controls quickly. “All things are lawful for me,” the thinking in Corinth went. But the Bible says, “I will not be dominated by anything.” Bodily impulses can cause you and me to do foolish things in an instant that can leave consequences that last for a lifetime.
Which leads to this reality that bodily sin devastates painfully. That’s what verses 16 and 17 are all about. The Bible is saying specifically that sexual immorality unites you with another person that affects all of who you are in ways that are different even from other sin. Verse 18 states, “Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” The Bible is saying here, “Don’t underestimate the effect of bodily sin, particularly sexual sin.” It destroys lives. It breaks marriages. It shatters homes and kids. It causes heartache, hurt and pain. It leads to all sorts of other sin, such as lying, stealing, cheating, bitterness, hatred, slander, gossip, unforgiveness, even murder. Think of David in the Old Testament, who, in a moment of physical desire, sinned against Bathsheba in a way that eventually led to the murder of her husband, Uriah, the death of a baby, plus a sword that would never depart from David’s house. David’s life and the life of so many others were devastated as the result of that one moment.
Bodily sin devastates painfully, and ultimately bodily sin condemns eternally. Look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. What’s God saying right before the passage we read earlier? Listen closely:
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the Kingdom of God.
Obviously bodily sin is addressed here in many different ways, but don’t miss the language pertaining to all these ways. Those who sin, who go outside of God’s design for their bodies, will not inherit the Kingdom of God. He says it twice. How we use our bodies on earth affects our lives for eternity.
So put all this together. This is not a good picture of our bodies. Picture it this way: it started out good, like a piece of pottery. Each of our bodies was beautifully formed and fashioned as clay by God in his image, for his glory and for our good on this earth and for eternity. But we’ve all sinned against God with our bodies. Some of us have even been sinned against in our bodies. Sin, whether we’ve committed it or it’s been committed against us, has inevitably harmed, quickly controlled and painfully devastated us. Sin in our own bodies eternally condemns us. The picture is clear and this is the problem with clay. As beautiful as it is, it breaks. This is the problem with all our lives in this broken world. We all have broken bodies and the evidences of this brokenness are scattered all over our lives.
It looks different in different ways, but I think about the hurt and pain that some of us experienced that doesn’t ever seem to go away. For some, it’s guilt from the past that you can’t ever seem to shake. Maybe it’s struggles in the present that you can’t ever seem to escape. Maybe it’s questions about why you have this or that desire, why you give in to this or that temptation. Maybe it’s confusion about why, if the body is good, do you experience all these things that God says are not good. Maybe it’s just a constant battle with unfulfilled desire in a world where sometimes it feels like nobody else understands what you’re walking through.
It’s broken hearts. It’s broken homes. It’s broken relationships. It’s broken bodies. This is all of us. So is there any hope for broken bodies in a broken world? The good news tonight is there absolutely is hope.
Jesus gave his body to make your body new. Hear it straight from God in 1 Corinthians 6:11. “Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Did you hear that? “Such were some of you. But…” So something has happened to change this. “But you were washed…” Jesus takes that which is dirty and makes it clean. “You were sanctified…” You see that word? Do you know what it means? It means to be made whole; to be made holy and perfect. “You were justified…” That word means declared ‘not guilty.’ So how is it possible for the dirty to be made clean, for the guilty to be made innocent, for the broken to be made whole? It is only possible in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
You ask, “What’s so special about Jesus? What makes him the only one who can make my body new? ” Well, listen to God in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” You were bought with a price. Here’s why Jesus is your only hope for a broken body made new. Because God himself came in the flesh, into this broken world, with a body, to die on a cross and rise from the grave so that you and I can be forgiven of all our sins committed in these bodies. So that now these bodies can be filled with his Spirit. We can know that one day when these bodies die, we will live with a fully redeemed, fully restored, completely new body that is free from all sin, free from all suffering, free to experience the full pleasure God has designed for our bodies forever, not just in the future, but now.
As men and women made in God’s image, God commands us to flee sexual immorality. This is the clear command in 1 Corinthians 6:18 and 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8. Remember, whenever God gives us a negative command like this—“Don’t do this. Run from this. Flee this.”— he’s always giving us two positives:
- God is always pointing us to something better.
- God is always protecting us from something worse.
Always remember these two things whenever you see God saying, “Don’t do this. Run from that.” He’s always pointing us to something better and protecting us from something worse. So don’t rise up in prideful resistance when you see a negative command from God, thinking, “God is trying to keep me from having fun or fulfillment.” Remember, that’s exactly what Adam and Eve thought in the Garden of Eden. God said, “Don’t eat from this one tree.” What was God doing when he gave them that negative command? He was pointing them to something better, positive, good—namely every other tree in Eden that he designed for their good. And God was protecting them from something worse; he was protecting them from death. But Adam and Eve didn’t believe him. They said, “God must be keeping something good from us. That must be really good fruit.” So they ate it, convinced that it would fulfill them. But they were deceived. They were dead wrong. And we’re all prone to think the same way.
Picture it this way. When my four-year-old is playing outside in the yard and I tell him, “Don’t run out into the road,” I’m telling him that for his good because I know what could happen when a car comes racing down the street. So I lovingly give this restriction, because I know it’s good for him. I want to point him to the place where playing is safe, then he can flourish and have all the fun he wants in the yard. I want to protect him from that which could be harmful out in the road.
Wouldn’t it be the height of arrogance for a four-year-old to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about when it comes to cars in the road? That’s exactly what you and I are prone to say to God regarding our bodies. “You don’t know what you’re talking about. I know the way to fulfillment in my own body.” That’s arrogance. We live in a culture today that celebrates arrogance, that actually encourages you and me at every turn to speak this way to God.
Meanwhile God is saying, “Don’t run out into the road. It will harm you. It controls. It devastates, It condemns forever, It leads you to miss the Kingdom of God altogether.” So what’s the road we’re not supposed to go near? What are we supposed to avoid, flee from, run away from as fast as we can? First Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality.” These four words in this command are some of the most countercultural words in all the Bible, meaning this command goes against the grain of everything our culture is shouting, even the way many of us in the church are prone to think.
Here’s what sexual immorality means. The New Testament word in the original language is porneia. It’s a general term that refers to any and all sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman. So in this negative command, where God is saying, “Don’t do this. Don’t run out in this road,” God is saying, “Flee any and all sexual activity outside of marriage between a husband and a wife.” The Bible clearly and consistently teaches that sexual activity is exclusively for marriage between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife, to the point where there’s not one place in God’s Word where God celebrates sexual activity outside of marriage between a husband and a wife.
Are you seeing how countercultural this is in the world? How pervasive this is in every single one of our lives. Are you getting the point? None of us is immune to this. None of us is immune to sexual temptation. We’ve talked about how we’re all tempted in different ways, many of us with different desires. But all of us are prone to not trust God on this one. Students, you are. Senior adults, you are. And everyone in between. This is why we must all avoid selective moral outrage, pointing out sexual immorality in others while ignoring it in ourselves.
I am, we are, all guilty at multiple levels of sexual thought, desires, speech, action outside of marriage between a husband and a wife. In our hearts, Each one of us is prone to turn aside from God’s ways to our wants which inevitably affects our sexuality.
To make matters worse, we were born this way. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, every single person born of man and woman has inherited this sinful heart. We may all have different biological heritages, but we all have one spiritual heritage—it’s called sin. Which is why—and this is really important—none of us can or should say, “Well, God wouldn’t allow me or someone else to be born with a bent toward a particular sexual sin., No, the Bible is clear that all of us are born with a bent toward sexual sin. Just because we have this bent doesn’t mean we must act on it. This is so significant to understand in a culture where it’s assumed that a natural explanation implies a moral obligation. Our culture says if you physically have a desire, it’s essential to your nature to act on that desire. This is one reason why the contemporary discussion of sexuality is wrongly framed as an issue of civil rights. There’s so much we could talk about here. We’ve so elevated personal desires to the highest level of moral authority, so that people think they have a right to fulfill whatever sexual desires they prefer. To say that someone should not fulfill that right is akin to racism.
This way of thinking, unbiblically, unwisely and unhelpfully conflates ethnic identity and sexual activity. Ethnic identity is a morally neutral attribute. The Bible is clear that black or white or brown is not an issue of right or wrong. Any attempt to say otherwise should be opposed. We’ll talk about that more in a few minutes, as we see clearly and biblically that God says all people are equally created in his image, no matter what their skin color is. But sexual activity is different. It is a morally chosen behavior. Sexual activity, to be clear, is similar to how we may have different skin colors—we may possess different desires or have different dispositions or different behaviors—but where our ethnic makeup is not in any way determined by a moral choice or contrary to a moral command, our sexual behavior is a moral decision. Just because we’re inclined to certain behaviors doesn’t make those behaviors right and good. We all know this.
Some researchers say that infidelity may be in our genes, but we all know that doesn’t mean a married man who has a desire for a woman who is not his wife must fulfill that desire in order to be happy or be fully himself. No, the presence of a desire does not mean we must act on that desire in order to be whole, in order to be fully ourselves.
Do you see this?
- It starts with sexual desire. We want something.
- We then equate that with sexual identity: we are someone. We assume that what we want is who we are, so we define ourselves according to our desires.
- Which then means if I’m going to be who I fully am, then I must do this—which leads to sexual activity. We act on our desires.
This is the way of the world. We’ve already seen how foolish it is. Just because a married man has a desire for someone who is not his wife does not mean that in order to be fully himself, he must act in unfaithfulness to his wife. God help us to see this, not just in others’ lives and situations, but in our own lives. We all have sinful hearts that are prone to want our ways over God’s Word, specifically here in 1 Corinthians 6:18. We are prone to desire sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman.
We live in a world that says that’s who we are. That’s what it means to be a teenager. That’s what it means to be a male or a female, transgender or gender neutral, straight, lesbian or gay, or so many other identifications that this world designs. In this world, we tend to identify ourselves in these different ways and convince ourselves that satisfaction and fulfillment will only be found as we act and live according to these desires. Yet what we’re actually living out is an age-old lie that’s been around since Adam and Eve, from the beginning of time. It’s summarized in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” There are ways that seem right to us, but in the end they lead to death for us. Which leads to the last truth here about humanity and sexuality.
As men and women made God’s image, God calls us to satisfaction in him and his Word. Jesus, God in a body, comes to this broken world, to every single one of us, no matter what our desires, questions or real struggles may be, and Jesus gives the same invitation to every single one of us. John 6:35 says, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
What a statement! To illustrate this, Jesus uses a bodily desire—a desire more fundamental than even sexual desire—the desire for food that we all have. It’s something we all need in order to flourish. Jesus says, “I am the fulfillment of all your desires. I am the one you need to flourish. Come to me and you won’t be hungry. Believe in me, trust in me, and you shall never, ever thirst.” It makes sense. Jesus is, God in the flesh, the one who created your body in the first place. Come to him, believe in him. Don’t go to this world. Don’t believe what this world says. Don’t trust this world. Don’t trust yourself. Trust in God. God loves you. God is for you. God has made a way for your soul and your body to be satisfied in him.
Now, to be clear, this means saying no to desires in your body, in your flesh. Remember Jesus’ initial words to anyone who would follow him in Luke 9:23-24: “And he said to all, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.’”
This is Jesus’ invitation to every single one of us: to find life in dying to ourselves and turning from our desires—all kinds of desires. Jesus beckons all of us—single or married, male or female, whoever we are with whatever desires we have—to turn from ourselves and, as we’ve already seen, to find new identity in him (Galatians 2:20). Jesus totally turns the table, as we find an entirely new identity that’s no longer defined by the sexual desires in our bodies, but that’s defined by the Savior who died for our bodies. And he died not just to save us, but to satisfy us.
- This call to follow Jesus is not a call to unfulfilled desire.
- The call to follow Jesus is a call to the fulfillment of our deepest desires, in dying to ourselves and living in Jesus, in the one who loves us and gave himself for us, for you.
For every person who has put your trust in Jesus, I want to remind you tonight—in this broken world with our broken bodies—that Jesus has bought your body on a cross and has filled your body with his Spirit. Jesus is right now in your body and:
- He’s committed to making you new.
- He’s committed to bringing healing amidst your hurt.
- He’s committed to bringing victory in your struggles. In this broken world, Jesus loves you, and
- He is committed to giving you everything you need to experience earthly and eternal good, as you glorify God in your body, if you will only keep trusting in him, looking to him, leaning on him, and believing that he will make your body new.
I know there is an adversary and an accuser who is saying to some of you right now, “Don’t believe this. Healing? Victory? Made new? You’re broken way beyond that. Just look at those broken pieces. You can’t put them back together. Even if you could put every piece in place, there would still be breaks. You’re broken. You have messed up too much. You’ve been hurt too deeply. You are broken beyond repair.” To anyone who is tempted to think that, I am here to tell you on the authority of Jesus himself—as if he is speaking directly you right now—that you are not beyond repair.
Let me give you a picture. There’s a Japanese art form called kintsugi. I’m not 100% sure I’m saying that right, but the word means “golden joinery.” It’s a form of art that takes broken pottery and actually puts the broken pieces back together. Then instead of hiding the breaks between the pieces, they actually fill those breaks, those gaps, with gold. The whole idea is that the artist intentionally takes something that’s broken, but instead of seeing those breaks as something to hide and disguise, to pretend like they’re not there, the artist actually fills those breaks with gold, turning it into an entirely new piece of pottery that is beautiful in a completely different, altogether stunning way. Where there were once breaks, there’s now beauty.
Right now in this moment, I want you to see what the master artist, the God who formed you in the first place, is able to do with the brokenness in your life. I am not saying this is easy. I’m not saying this doesn’t take time. I am saying this is the whole reason Jesus came. He came to give his life, his body, to make your body new, in a way that takes your brokenness and makes you beautiful, not with gold, but with his blood that is more precious than gold. Jesus has the power to make your body glorious.
So with this picture in our minds, here’s what I want to do. Knowing that we are all different, with different experiences, temptations, hurts and brokenness, I want to give you a few minutes to reflect on this before we move on. Specifically, I want to ask you to reflect on this question: how are you tempted to go outside of God’s good design for your body in your thoughts, desires and actions? Where do you need God to bring healing in your body?
Maybe write out your thoughts there in your study guide. If there are certain things that are really sensitive, that you don’t even want to write down, that’s totally fine. Just put a star or some other symbol on the page. You know what that stands for; God certainly does. During this reflection time, you could write out a prayer for God’s help for you to trust him with your body, to heal your body, for his help as you desire to glorify God with your body in these ways. Just spend a few moments between you and God, then I’ll come back and close this reflection time with prayer.
— Interlude —
Let’s come back together and pray.
God, help us, in this broken world with broken bodies. We want to experience your healing. We want to experience your good design for our bodies. So help us in all the ways that you brought to our minds and our hearts over the last couple minutes. Jesus, thank you for dying in your body for our bodies and for the hope of resurrected bodies one day. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
All right, we could spend the rest of the night here, on any one of these issues. But we’re going to keep moving on from one to the next. Just a couple moments to reflect does not give us sufficient time and attention for an issue like we just walked through. That’s going to be the case for each of these issues. But hopefully we’ll see there are biblical foundations for all these things and we’ll at least have a moment to have it soak in before we then move on.
HUMANITY & RACE
I might very well say throughout this night, “There’s easily a whole Secret Church we could dive into here.” But for now, we’re going to do a flyover. How does God’s Word about us as humans apply to race and racism? Obviously we’re not looking at man’s thought or theories about race, but what does God say? God speaks very clearly about this.
First, regardless of who we are or what we look like, we share universal dignity and value before God and before one another.
- We all have a common ancestry from Adam and Eve.
- We are equal members of a common race.
Second, we are united in our humanity, yet diverse in our ethnicity. Not far into the Bible we begin to see various clans dwelling in distant lands, as separate nations, with assorted languages, particularly after Babel. By Genesis 12, in the picture of humanity in the Bible, we see an extensive and extraordinary diversity with a basic and beautiful unity which is then described later in Acts 17:24-29 as all the nations and peoples of mankind living on the earth.
This leads to a third reality we see in Scripture: God loves and pursues all people in all people groups. God loves the world (John 3:16). Jesus died for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). And he doesn’t want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). God blesses the people of Israel for the spread of his blessing to all peoples (Genesis 12:1-3).
In Psalm 67:1-7, Jesus commands his church to proclaim the good news of his grace in all the nations. In Matthew 28:18-20, he fills his disciples with the power of his Spirit for this purpose. In Acts 1:8, he makes clear that the gospel is not just for Jews, but for Gentiles, for all nations. God loves and pursues all peoples and all people groups, which is why repentance and forgiveness of sins must be proclaimed in all people groups. That’s part of the essence of the gospel, according to Luke 24:45-49.
God is worthy of glory, honor and praise from every people group, and his worth will one day be worshiped by people from every nation, tribe, tongue and language according to Revelation 5:9-10.
There’s one more reality worth noting from God’s Word before we get to race and races in the world today. The church is referred to in Scripture as a chosen race, a holy nation and a distinct people for God’s own possession. That language is straight from 1 Peter 2:9-10, where we basically see one physical race of humanity divided into two spiritual races: those who are in Adam and are condemned by God because of sin, and those who are now in Christ and are redeemed by God through faith in Jesus.
How does one become a member of this redeemed race?
- Humanity’s standing before God cannot be improved by individual accomplishment or biological bloodline.
- Justification before God is only possible by grace alone through faith alone, in Jesus alone.
- Jesus’ revolutionary bloodline creates a counter-cultural family of multi-ethnic unity called the church. In this family, as we’ve seen—and now we’re beginning to see the application of race—dividing walls of hostility are destroyed, between Jews and Gentiles, or any ethnicities for that matter.
In the words of Aubrey Sequeira, an Indian brother pastoring a multi-ethnic church in Abu Dhabi, “While homogeneity in churches simply reinforces the status quo of society, the biblical evidence shows us that the gospel broke down and cut across ethnic, social, economic and cultural barriers in ways never before seen in history.”
Indeed, reconciliation before God has paved the way for reconciliation with each other, regardless of ethnic differences or divisions in this world. In the words of Colossians 3:11, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.”
- We are one eternal family and one household.
- We share one Holy Spirit, and
- We have one heavenly Father.
So what does all this mean for how we understand race and racism in the world? Well clearly, according to what God teaches about all of us without exception, as men and women made in his image with equal dignity and value, racism is a fundamental perversion of God’s good design for humanity. Let me define racism here so we’re all on the same page with this word.
As sinners, we pervert a biblical concept of race by classifying groups of people into different races based on arbitrary characteristics in order to assign different values and distinct advantages to some groups over others. So think of characteristics like skin tone, hair texture, facial features, class, caste, geography, ancestry and language. We classify groups of people into different races based on these characteristics in order to assign different values or distinct advantages to some groups over others. In the process of denying our shared roots in the human race by devising a hierarchy of different “races,” we are committing the sin of racism, which, as we’ve seen, goes against God’s Word from the start—.
- We value one “race” over another in our thoughts, feelings, words and actions.
- Or we are devaluing one “race” beneath another in our thoughts, feelings, words and actions.
There are various expressions of racism that could include thoughts, feelings, words, actions, expectations, relationships, laws, policies and procedures, or systems and structures which comprise a lot of the above that either value one race over another or devalue one race beneath another.
So while the word “racism” is not in the Bible, expressions of racism are clearly rooted in sins that are in the Bible. These would include pride before God and pride before others. See Jonah’s hatred for the Assyrians and his desire for them to not even be saved (Jonah 4:1-11). He’s disgusted when God saved them.
- Racism is also rooted in partiality toward people, like we see in Jesus’ story of the good Samaritan when the priest and Levite responded—or did not respond—to the man who was hurt (Luke 10:25-37).
- Racism is rooted in a propensity toward prejudice, much like Peter, along with many other Jews, experienced at one point toward the Gentiles.
- Racism can also be rooted in personal preferences, as we prefer one type of person over another for a variety of unjust, unrighteous and unholy reasons.
In all of this, God calls us to resist racism and every expression of racism in every way.
- We must reject any and all semblance of a hierarchy of different races, from our personal thoughts to the practices of the world around us, like Peter needed to learn in Acts 10,
- We repel any and every inclination in us to exalt or devalue any race over or beneath another. .
In the words of Francis Grimke, who was a prominent African-American pastor in the DC area during the late 1800s and early 1900s, “Race prejudice can’t be talked down—it must be lived down.”
God’s Word compels us to refrain from partial ways of relating (James 2:1), biased ways of thinking(Philippians 4:8-9), derogatory ways of speaking (Ephesians 4:29-32) and discriminatory ways of acting (Matthew 7:12) toward anyone because of any of these arbitrary characteristics.
We must repent of all intentional expressions of racism, even as we recognize how our actions can unintentionally either express racism or contribute to the effects of racism.
We must be careful to resist any way in which racism around us—whether from our family upbringing or surrounding culture—has influenced our thoughts, feelings, words or actions regarding different groups of people. We resist being conformed to the ways this world thinks (Romans 12:2). Just like God told his people time and time again to put away foreign gods who were worshiped by their forefathers, we must be intentional about making sure we resist expressions of racism that may have been passed down to us.
At the same time, we must rejoice in all the ways God graciously works in our hearts to overcome evidences or expressions of racism in and around us. We acknowledge and celebrate God’s grace in these ways.
We don’t just resist racism but on a more proactive level, in Christ God calls us to commit ourselves to true multi-ethnic community, to community with people who have different characteristics than us, that comprise different ethnicities from us.
In true multi-ethnic community, we appreciate our ethnic differences without assigning more or less value to them. It’s not that we disregard our differences, nor discount or erase those differences altogether. When Paul says in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” he’s not saying you’re not a man or a woman anymore. You’re no longer a Jew or a Greek. Yes, you are these things. But you don’t assign more or less value to each other based on these things.
- Instead we see our diversity as God sees our diversity: as a stunning portrait of his creativity that exalts his glory as our creator, much like we’ll see in heaven for all of eternity. But as long as we’re here on this earth, in the context of true multi-ethnic community, we listen to, learn from, lament with and love one another. Especially when talking about racism, expressions of racism or the hurt and pain involved in both past and present, we are quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19-21). We don’t just share our opinions (Proverbs 18:2); we seek to understand others. We weep with those who weep (Romans 12:15) and are with patient love (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
- We don’t assign or attribute guilt or shame to one another for expressions of racism in others, including those who have gone before us, or those who may look like us, or even sin for which we have repented. True multi-ethnic community is grace-saturated community. It doesn’t gloss over sin.
- We grieve over the existence and effects of racism—in us, around us, in the past, in the present.
- We appropriately confess corporate sins of racism and take appropriate steps of repentance, much like we see throughout the Old Testament. It’s right to pray prayers in which we identify with others in sin and our desire for repentance.
- We’re zealous in the present, not to prolong or replicate in any way racial injustice from the past. We are to remove those high places, to use language from 2 Kings 14:4.
- We examine our hearts humbly and continually for expressions of racism, with the help of the Holy Spirit and the help of brothers and sisters in Christ who enable us to see sin in us and sins effects around us in ways we might not see ourselves. In all this, we examine our hearts. “Search my heart, O God. Open my eyes to any grievous way in me” (Psalm 139:23-24). We all need this in our lives and in the church. Jesus makes that very clear in Matthew 18:15-20, Acts 6:1-7 and Galatians 6:1-5.
In true multi-ethnic community, we do all of above in relationship with one another, marked by grace, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another as the Lord bears with us, forgiving one another as the Lord forgives us, just as Colossians 3:12-17 outlines. Remember, as we’re being conformed to the image of Jesus, he is transforming the way we relate to each other, love each other and care for each other in all these ways. This is the kind of community—true multi-ethnic community—that God is calling us to as his church.
As we pursue this kind of community in the church, we pray and work as the Lord leads us for justice for people, all people, regardless of race. Go back to Micah 6:8, Genesis 1, Psalm 8. God has told us to do this for the good of humanity and for the glory of his name. So we do justice and deplore any hierarchy of race in the body of Christ or the world around us.
- We celebrate interracial marriages and multi-racial families.
- We train our children to hate racism.
- We work against any injustice that is in any way due to a person or a group of people because of their race. Look back at what we saw about doing justice and apply that specifically to any person or group of people who are being treated unjustly in the world because of their race.
Know that this battle against racism is a spiritual battle at the core. We battle “against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…” (Ephesians 6:10-13).
- Race is more than a social construct; it is a spiritual stronghold (2 Corinthians 10:3-6).
- We need to remember that Satan is the ultimate agitator behind human discord, throughout history and in the on-going reality of racism in our world. Racism is the outworking of his utter hatred for humanity.
- We need to realize that the devil and his demons are actively deceiving people into thinking and acting like they are intrinsically superior or inferior to others based upon a sinful perversion of the biblical concept of race. They are actively trying to destroy individuals, relationships and entire groups of people.
- The devil and his demons are attempting to rob people of their God-given dignity and keep people from their God-given rights.
- They are actively working to divide people, especially God’s people in the church of Jesus Christ. So don’t be surprised when you see divisions along these lines in the church.
This is a clear strategy of Satan, which means the battle against racism is a battle against Satan. We need to see his fingerprints in racism, in expressions of racism and the havoc they cause. Once we see this spiritual battle for what it is, we realize there’s only one way to win the battle.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is our only hope in the battle against racism (Colossians 2:13-15; Hebrews 2:14-15). Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we know Satan has ultimately been defeated and will one day be destroyed (Revelation 12:7-12). Which means all who are in Christ know Satan’s destiny ( Revelation 10:1-3) and need to embrace our identity in Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).
- We are new creations as we’ve already seen in 2 Corinthians 5:17.
- We’re now a diverse family of brothers and sisters.
- We’re joyfully united by the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- We’re on a mission to make disciples among all the nations.
So as the church, we humbly, kindly, lovingly and confidently lock arms together across all ethnic dividing lines. Philippians 1:27 encourages us this way: “…standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
Together we proclaim the Judge of the world while we do justice in the world. We proclaim the gospel, and “do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed” (Jeremiah 22:3). We do right for the sojourner, fatherless, widow and needy in a way that reflects God our Father (Ephesians 5:1). As we proclaim the gospel and do justice, we look forward to the day when Jesus will return and racism will be no more, when people from every tribe, language and nation are one Kingdom and priests to our God, reigning together in a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 5:9-10).
Let’s pause for a moment before we move on. In light of this quick flyover, we’re going to take a few minutes for reflection. I hope and pray that the Spirit is speaking to you now through His Word. Don’t just move past this sort of thing as if this is not an important time in this whole study tonight. Treat this time like it’s just as important as anything else we’re doing.
What are one or two practical steps God may be leading you to take that you are not already taking to address racial injustice in the world—or even racial division in the church? Starting in your own life, your family, your church family, then broadening out to the world around you. Maybe more than one or two things come to your mind. By all means, keep going as long as God is bringing things to your mind. Spend a couple of moments reflecting on this, then I’ll come back and pray for us.
— Interlude —
O God, we hate racism and expressions of racism around us and within us. We pray, God, for your help to apply your Word about who we are as one human race, who we are in the church as a chosen race, as your people. Help us to apply your Word in ways that build unity in your church across ethnic lines. In our culture and the world around us, In ways that promote justice and that which is right for all people, regardless of the arbitrary characteristics that we have as people. In so many different ways people are classified. Lord, help us, we pray, in our lives, our families, as your church in this world. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
HUMANITY & ABORTION
As we’re running through these things at a pretty good pace, I feel like these are things we could spend so much more time on. I hope you’re getting foundations that you can go back through, process through and really spend more time reflecting on individually, or as families, as church families. None of these are issues we need to fly over but we’re definitely flying over them at a pretty good clip tonight. We’re going to hit one more issue in a flyover fashion, then take our break. Like with racism, we’re about to go really fast here, not because this isn’t important, but because there’s so much we could cover. We have covered this before in a previous Secret Church, but I could not leave this issue out because it applies so directly to what I would call the most clear and present physical danger to humanity on a daily basis in the world, specifically in my country.
I do want to say before we begin, and not in a fast way, that I know there are women and men listening right now who have participated in abortions. This is so hard to walk through in ways I don’t presume to imagine. Some have chosen abortion, others have had abortions forced upon you, both of which lead to all kinds of emotions and scars. And again, I don’t presume to fully understand, but I so want to empathize with you, even as we see stark truth from Scripture about abortion.
Yes, I want to show the seriousness of how God’s Word addresses this issue. As I was praying through this topic, even tonight, I think about the teenage girl or the woman who may have just found out that you’re pregnant; your mind is probably spinning in all kinds of directions. Or others who’ve thought about abortion in the past, or might think in the future about having an abortion. I want us to hear what God’s Word says about how serious this issue is. To be clear, I’m not just speaking to women but also to men who often either encourage or stand silently by an abortion. At the same time I want to be compassionate in every way to the countless women and men who have been affected by abortion. More than anything else, I want you to see, hear and feel the love of God in Christ for you in these moments. So hang with me to the end of this section as we think about the seriousness of this issue.
In the United States, over 50 million abortions have occurred since 1973. Some research says over 60 million. That’s 50-60 million lives lost. On an average, that’s over a million abortions every year; nearly 3,000 abortions every day. That’s an abortion every 20-25 seconds. Approximately one-third of American women have had an abortion at some point in their lives.
Then when we broaden this out to the world, over 50 million abortions occur every year. That’s over 130,000 abortions every day. A woman has an abortion almost every second of every day. So let’s think about this reality in light of what we’ve seen about humanity.
Abortion & God
In Psalm 139, the psalmist writes:
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
This passage makes clear that abortion is an affront to God’s sovereign authority as Creator. He is the giver of life. He is the taker of life, not us.
An abortion is an assault on God’s glorious work in creation, the work God is doing in the womb. The way God creates people compels praise (Psalm 104, 139) The psalmists didn’t even know what we know now, how God takes a little egg and sperm, brings them together, then how two weeks later a human heart is beating, circulating its own blood. Within a few more weeks, the fingers are forming on hands and brain waves are detectable. After just six and a half weeks, these inward parts are moving, then two weeks later, there are discernable fingerprints and discernable sexuality. The kidneys are forming and functioning. Then a gall bladder. By the twelfth week, all the organs of a baby’s body are functional and the baby can cry. All that within three months, the first trimester: heart, organs, brain, sexuality, movement, reaction. God on high is doing all of this in a way that evokes awe, amazement, worship and praise.
So imagine during this time period, inserting a tool, taking a pill or undergoing an operation that takes the life God is designing, instead destroying it.
This is without a question an assault on God’s glorious work in creation. There’s no way around this. Most abortions take place between 10 and 14 weeks of gestation, the optimal time for dismemberment and removal. The beauty of what God is doing and the intricacy of the person God is forming is destroyed. This is in large part the crux of the debate concerning abortion. What is going on in the womb? The Bible is clear: the womb contains a person formed in the image of God. Just as we’ve seen in Genesis 1, God is knitting together a human being, crowned with glory and honor.
Now, many people have argued—and will continue to argue—about what full personhood is. When does an embryo or a fetus become a person? This is the most important question. Virtually every argument in the abortion controversy comes back to this one question: what is the unborn? What or who is in the womb? Once this question is answered, every other question comes into perspective. If the unborn is not human, then no justification for abortion is necessary. Some say the unborn is not a human person; it’s just a nonviable tissue mass, merely part of a woman’s body. Others say it’s only a potential human or a human that’s not yet a person. The reality is, if that’s true, then the argument is over. Have the abortion. If the unborn is not human, no justification for abortion would be necessary.
On the other hand, if the unborn is human, no justification for abortion is adequate. This is where I’m indebted to Greg Koukl, who wrote a great little booklet called “Precious Unborn Human Persons.” It’s a great little resource. People say abortion is such a complex issue. There are just no easy answers. If that which is in the womb is a person, then this issue is not complex at all. Think about it. If it’s true that what is in the womb is a person, then every single justification for abortion falls apart.
- People say, “But women have a right to privacy with their doctors.” Well, certainly. We all have a right to a measure of privacy. No privacy argument, though, is a cover for doing serious harm to another infant human being. We have laws that invade all our privacy when we start harming another human’s welfare. Privacy is not the real issue here.
- Some might say, “But women should have the freedom to choose.” Well, yeah, some things, but not all things. Yes, we have freedom to choose whether to have children or not, but we don’t have the freedom eliminate toddlers or teenagers who are inconvenient to us. No woman has the freedom to harm her child if it’s a child, right?
- Others say, “But making abortions illegal forces women to find more dangerous ways to abort their babies.” Well, if it’s dangerous to harm a person, do we make it easier for them to do that? If it’s dangerous to rob a bank, should we make it convenient for bank robbers? Of course not.
- Then some think, “But more children will create a drain on the economy.” When human beings get expensive, does that mean we get rid of them? That’s actually in part what Margaret Sanger was saying, but more on that later.
Just think about it. Koukl mentions a little girl named Rachel, the daughter of family friends of his. He describes her this way.
Think of a little girl named Rachel. Rachel is two months old, but she is still six weeks away from being a full-term baby. She was born prematurely at 24 weeks, in the middle of her mother’s second trimester. On the day of her birth, Rachel weighed one pound, nine ounces, but dropped to just under a pound soon after. She was so small she could rest in the palm of her daddy’s hand. She was a tiny, living, human person. Heroic measures were taken to save this child’s life. Why? Because we have an obligation to protect, nurture and care for other humans who would die without our help, especially little children. Rachel was a vulnerable and valuable human being. But get this…if a doctor came into the hospital room and, instead of caring for Rachel, took the life of this little girl as she lay quietly nursing at her mother’s breast, it would be homicide. However, if this same little girl—the very same Rachel—was inches away resting inside her mother’s womb, she could be legally killed by abortion.
This makes no sense. It’s utterly ludicrous when this is a person, a child in the womb. Everything revolves around what is happening in the womb and God’s Word is clear. The womb contains a person being formed in God’s image. You can’t believe God’s Word and deny that. Once this is realized, there’s absolutely no adequate justification for abortion.
One of the wonderful things Psalm 139 does for us is it gives us a glimpse into what God sees and what God does in the womb. When we read it, we realize that although the unborn is visibly hidden from man, he or she is never hidden from God. God sees and works. He’s forming, knitting, creating, nurturing, shaping, crafting in a way that evokes praise and awe. Abortion is an assault on that glorious work of God. The way God creates people compels praise.
All of God’s works are wonderful (Psalm 139:14). This is key, because much of the contemporary defense for abortion involves denying this reality. Abortions here and around the world happen because childbearing is seen as inconvenient, costly or inadvisable. With the advance of medical technology, even the ability to detect sexuality is an option in countries where boys are preferred over girls.
In cases of disability, it’s possible to determine whether or not a baby in a womb has Down’s Syndrome or some other particular debilitating disease that will affect this life. So should abortion be permissible in these circumstances? Not if you believe Psalm 139:14. Not if you believe all of God’s works are wonderful. When you believe this, when you know this, you know that God’s work is wonderful, even or especially in the case of disability.
This is throughout Scripture. In John 9:1-3 regarding a man born blind, the crowds ask, “Whose fault is this? ” Jesus answers, “This is not his parents’ fault or this person’s fault. This happened so the wonderful works of God might be revealed to and through him.” God did this so that one day this man would see, declare and delight in his glory.
Now, I don’t presume to know all the difficulties involved with disability. It’s one of the many things I love about the church I have the privilege of pastoring where we have many families with special needs children. When I think that many other children like them had their lives taken before they were even born, it’s inconceivable. Don’t deny the wonderful work of God, even (or especially) in disability. God’s works are wonderful, even (or especially) in the case of disability, even (or especially) in the midst of difficulty.
God delights in taking difficult circumstances, even evil circumstances, and turning them into good (Genesis 50:20). He takes all things, even what seem to be tragic things, and works them for good. This is who our God is (Romans 8:28).
To this point, some people ask, “Well, what about cases of incest or rape? Is abortion justifiable then?” I cannot presume to know what it’s like to be in such a situation. I shudder at the horror of these evils. I know people who have walked alongside people who have walked through this. I don’t presume to know all the physical and emotional toll this takes, not only upon a woman but also on her family.
Let’s bring this back to the fundamental question: is this a baby in the womb? Is this a person? If so, then everything changes. Would we take the life a child who is out of the womb because they were conceived by rape? Of course not. Then why would we take the life of a child in the womb because they were conceived by rape? Why should a child pay for his father’s crime (Deuteronomy 24:16)? How should we treat an innocent child who reminds us of a terrible experience? With love and mercy.
People say, “Well, what about the emotional toll on the woman and others? ” Think about that. If the rapist was caught, would we allow the woman to take the life of the rapist in order to have emotional relief? No. Then why would we take the life of the innocent child? Again, I’m not saying this is easy. I’m not saying it’s easy at all. I am saying this, though, because Scripture is saying this. This is the message of the gospel, that God takes unimaginable evil and turns it into ultimate good. God took Joseph’s brothers’ attempt to murder him and turned it into saving an entire people (Genesis 50:20). God used the incest between Judah and Tamar (Genesis 38). Then look at Matthew 1, the genealogy of Jesus, and see that incest was way back in the family line that led to the coming of Jesus, the Son of God.
Then in Acts 2, God takes the murder of his Son and makes it the means of our salvation. The gospel says we can trust God, that all his works—even the ones we least understand—are wonderful. Abortion is an affront to God’s sovereign authority as creator, an assault on his glorious work in creation.
Abortion is an attack on God’s intimate relationship with the unborn. God fashions them (Job 31:15), he values them (Exodus 21:22-25), he knows them (Jeremiah 1:5), he relates to them (Psalm 22:9-10), he calls them (Galatians 1:15), he names them (Isaiah 49:1) and he anoints them (Luke 1:15, 1:44). They’re his image bearers. That’s what the Bible teaches.
Abortion & The Gospel
God is the judge of sin and sinners, including mothers who have aborted babies and fathers who have encouraged abortion. And I would add, people who forced others to have abortions, parents and grandparents who have supported abortion, doctors who have performed abortion, leaders who have permitted abortion, whether in the church or in government.
As a side note here, I would simply draw your attention to Romans 13, where Paul in the New Testament addresses the role of civil authorities and our responsibility to civil authority. The picture there is clear: government is given by God for the good of all the people, including those in the womb. And government is given by God for the legislation of morality. This is foundational. Many people have said, “But it’s not the state’s job or the job of the government to legislate morality.” That’s a sham argument and we all know it. The state does have responsibility of legislating morality, saying that stealing is wrong, lying is wrong, murder is wrong and a host of other things are wrong.
When it comes to the issue of abortion, people immediately say, “Well, we should not take someone’s right to choose away from them.” But the government exists to take people’s right to choose away from them. You can’t choose to steal; if you do, there will be consequences. You can’t choose to do a whole host of things for which there are laws against—and it’s good that government says those things.
Yet it’s the basis by which many—even many in the church—say, “Well, maybe I wouldn’t have an abortion, but I don’t think we should take someone’s right to choose away from them.” We take people’s right to choose evil away from them all the time, every day, in this society, and this is really good for all of us. It is good for us to say, “No one has the right to do evil.” It’s absolute moral silliness, and cultural suicide, to say that everyone should have the right to do whatever they choose to do.
This is where I want to call followers of Jesus out of a muddled middle road that says, “I don’t think we should impose morality on somebody else.” Let’s realize we impose morality on others every day and this is a good things for all of us. When it comes to evil, it is right for us to oppose it—wisely, graciously, firmly, humbly and boldly.
So to say you’re pro-choice, I would ask pro-choice about what? Whether you have this or that kind of food? Where you live? What kind of car you drive? Of course you’re pro-choice about these things. But what about being pro-choice about rape, burglary, kidnapping. Are we pro-choice about taking the lives of children? Brothers and sisters, moral or political neutrality here is not an option.
This leads me then to say that God is the judge of sin and sinners, including Christians who have done nothing about abortion. In the words of Randy Alcorn, “To endorse or even to be neutral about killing innocent children created in God’s image is unthinkable in the Scriptures, was unthinkable to Christians in church history, and should be unthinkable to Christians today.”
God is the judge of sinners, and at the same time God is the savior of sinners. Please hear this, anyone and everyone who has aborted a child, supported abortion, encouraged abortion, performed abortion, permitted abortion, or done nothing about abortion. Feel this. Lodge this deep within your heart, mind and soul:
- God forgives entirely (Psalm 103:11-12; Isaiah 43:25).
- He heals deeply (Luke 7:47-50).
- He restores completely (Romans 8:1).
- And ultimately he redeems fully (Romans 8:28).
Abortion and the church
What do we do with God’s Word to us in light of a world of abortion around us? Look around and learn the facts about abortion. See pictures of abortion. We need to feel the weight of an unborn child’s humanity and recognize the dreadful reality of abortion, not look away from that. We need to understand the reasons behind abortion. What leads a woman, a man, to go this route? How do we serve, love, care and provide for people at that point? Even before that point? How can we listen to and love the victims of abortion whose wounds are tender and deep?
- Look around and step forward. If you’ve had an abortion, share your burdens from the past with brothers and/or sisters. If you’re contemplating abortion, share your struggles in the present with brothers and/or sisters.
- Speak up before God in prayer and fasting, pleading for children in the womb in our world today.
- Speak up before the government to the extent that you’re able. Work for a government that promotes the good of all people, including children in the womb and for the good of children when they come out of the womb. It makes no sense for us to talk about doing justice for moms and dads and children while mom is pregnant with the child, but not do justice for them once that child is born.
- Reach out through working for justice in high-risk communities, through giving to pro-life causes and ministries. Also reach out through serving women and men with unwanted pregnancies, through volunteering at pregnancy care centers, through supporting abortion alternatives. Through fostering or adopting children. And ultimately through making disciples.
I love what CareNet here in the U.S. is doing to make life disciples, encouraging churches to integrate care for men and women with unwanted pregnancies into the fabric of disciple making in the church.
So in light of this real and present danger for so many children, moms and dads in the world, I want to give you a moment to reflect before we close this second session. What are one or two steps God is leading you to take from the list of action steps we’ve mentioned? Take a moment to examine your own heart and life, considering how God is leading you to do justice in a world of abortion.
God, show us right now, we pray, how you are leading us to work on behalf of children in the womb and the precious women made in your image who are carrying them, as well as the men alongside them. God, help us know how to do justice in a world of abortion. Lead us, even now, to think through what this looks like practically in our lives. Are you leading some of us to pursue foster care, adoption or justice in so many different ways? God, speak to us now, we pray.
Take a moment to reflect and listen to him, then I’ll come back and lead us in prayer.
— Interlude —
O God, we praise you for knitting each of us together in our mother’s wombs and the way you fearfully and wonderfully formed us. We pray that you would help us work on behalf of every single person you’re forming in that way right now and in the days to come. Help us work on behalf of moms who are carrying those children, in whom you’re doing this work, and dads who are part of your plan in this whole picture. God, help us do justice for the next generation, even the generation yet unborn. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
All right, before we finish this session, then take a break and go into our last session tonight, I want to speak very specifically to each of you, to all of us together, as we’re about to have a time in prayer again for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.
Think about the opportunity you and I have to hold the rope for them, as they are on the front lines of urgent spiritual and physical need, proclaiming the gospel. What a position, by God’s grace, for us to be in, to be able to use his grace in our lives and the resources he’s given us to come alongside them on the other side of the world from where most of us are. We want to say to them, “We’re with you. We’re holding the rope for you. You’re not alone. We want to help equip you in all the ways we’ve talked about already: with the Word, with microloans, even living there and working there. We want to help you share the gospel, plant churches and meet needs in the name of Jesus and in the power of Jesus.”
This is the opportunity we have, through praying right now, before our Father, on behalf of our brothers and sisters, then through our giving. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). Let’s show that our hearts are with them by putting treasure toward them. I want to personally encourage you to ask God how he is leading you to give, to come alongside our brothers and sisters there, then to put that into practice. What an opportunity we have to do that right now.
I want to pray for us, then lead into a specific time in prayer. Get together with a couple other people. There will be specific things on the screen that we can pray for. Then during this break, as God has put it on your heart, let’s give generously, sacrificially and cheerfully. Let’s come alongside our brothers and sisters on the front lines of urgent spiritual and physical need, letting them know their family is with them.
Heavenly Father, we pray right now, on behalf of our brothers and sisters, your sons and daughter, whom you see and know far better than we do. We say before you, Father, we love them and want to intercede for them right now. We know that this prayer time we’re about to enter into is not in vain, that you, our Father, have called us to this, that you hear us, that you will answer according to what we ask, according to your Word. So hear our prayers now; hear our cries in all these places where we’re gathered, on their behalf.
Father, we pray that you would show us, in our minds and our hearts, how you are leading us with the grace you’ve given us to come alongside them, to support them, to give in order to show them our love for them and our desire to see more and more Afghans brought into your family through our praying and giving. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
So let’s get together with a couple other people near you and start praying according to these points you see on the screen, then let’s give accordingly.
— Interlude, including prayer in a foreign language —
Father, we can call you Father and for that we give you thanks. Thank you for listening to our prayers. Thank you for being here for us at every moment in our lives. Thank you for not only listening to our praise, but that through Christ you are praying for us.
I want to pray for the people of Afghanistan and ask that you show kindness to them, to the country, to those who are in need right now. We pray, Lord, that you will show your favor to them. In particular, Lord, I pray with my brothers and sisters here, that you would show your favor to those who know you and who are struggling right now. I pray for the believing fathers and believing mothers. Show them grace and help them. Give them the right words, the right ways to show them the Scriptures, to lead their children in the way of the Lord.
I also pray, Lord, with my brothers and sisters here, for those of us who have means, that you will move our hearts to help, whether by going or by sending. Lord, there are so many of us who have been blessed in so many ways. We are comfortable here. So I pray, Lord, that you will move our hearts to help and send.
Lord, you are a good God and worthy of our lives. So please, Lord, help us to give our lives for you. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Session 2 Discussion Questions
How Can It Be Made Right? How Can I (How Can We) Experience the Good Life?
1. Even unbelievers may try to change their attitudes and actions because they feel bad for certain sins. Why are these efforts ultimately futile in terms of dealing with our sin problem and making ourselves right before God?
2. How would you answer the following question: “Who is Jesus?”
3. Why is it important that we believe Jesus is fully divine (fully God)? Why is it important that we believe Jesus is also fully human?
4. What has Jesus done to deal with our sin problem? What response is required of us if we are to receive the salvation Jesus provides? (If you’re not a Christian, talk with someone in your group about what it means to have forgiveness and eternal life in Jesus.)
5. How does salvation in Christ change our identity and purpose? What are some practical effects this should have in our everyday life?
*Discuss any reflections from the group based on your meditation on Psalm 8.
Humanity and Sexuality
1. When we think about sexuality, why is it important to begin with God’s design and ownership of our bodies?
2. Many non-Christians view the Bible’s teaching on sex as being restrictive and opposed to our happiness. In what ways does this miss the Bible’s teaching?
3. What are some ways you’ve noticed our culture trying to normalize, or even celebrate, sexual immorality?
4. All people have, at some level, committed sexual sin (either in thought or in deed). What hope does the gospel offer for such people?
5. What biblical truths and promises can you meditate on and apply in order to flee sexual temptation and find your ultimate satisfaction in Christ? (Make a list.)
Humanity and Race
1. What tendencies toward racial pride have you noticed in your own life?
2. How should the Bible’s teaching about our being made in God’s image shape the way we think about people of other races and backgrounds?
3. Why should God’s grace in salvation make racial pride unthinkable for followers of Christ?
4. How does racial division in the church undermine the church’s witness? How does unity around the gospel give credibility to the church’s witness?
5. Given that racism is ultimately a spiritual battle, what are the main “weapons” the church should use in this battle?
Humanity and Abortion
1. What’s s wrong with viewing abortion primarily as a political issue?
2. In what way(s) is abortion rebellion against God himself?
3. Why is the question, “Is the unborn human?” the critical question when it comes to abortion?
4. How does God relate to the unborn? (see Psalm 139)
5. What are some practical ways churches and individual Christians can minister to moms and families who may be tempted to see abortion as an option?
*Discuss any reflections from the group based on your meditation on Revelation 22:1–5.