Suppose you are fifty-two years old. Sixteen years earlier you adopted a daughter. She was nine. Both her parents were dead. You couldn’t know all the circumstances of her birth and life. But you believed with all your heart you were doing the right thing. God’s glorious, Father-like grace, you knew, would shine in this. And so you took her into your home.
Now at age twenty-five, your daughter is single, has a child, has aborted four children, and is pregnant again. And suppose that now in her sin and despair, she has one last abortion by committing suicide. And there you are, in the rubble of your dreams for her, grandparents now facing the choice of becoming parents of your grandchild. And again, you believe, deep in your bones, that is the right thing to do. And you do it, embracing the child in whom the effects of trauma radically change your life again. Forever.
That’s a true situation, and a handful of you know who I’m talking about. One of the reasons that I start with that story is to make clear at the outset that the ripple effect of abortion goes far beyond a woman with an unintended pregnancy, or a husband, or a boyfriend, or a moment in life. The ripple effect goes for years and years, and cuts through extended families and friends in ways nobody can predict.
Another reason I start with this story is to make plain that what I’m about to say is designed not only to prevent hundreds of abortions, but also to bring hope and stability — indeed, serious, tear-stained joy — to those of you who have done the right thing for Jesus’s sake, and paid dearly.
Pardon and Power
So, here’s where we’re going. I’m going to pose the question, Where do abortions come from? And then I’ll give three answers — not exhaustive answers as if these were the only three sources — but three very important sources or causes of abortion, and a biblical response to each. And then we will laser in on the third of those causes and show something so wonderful and so powerful from God’s word that this third cause of abortion collapses in the lives of those who see it and believe.
And so I am praying that the embrace of this wonderful, powerful reality from God’s word will not only prevent hundreds of abortions among you and your children and your grandchildren and your circle of influence, but also will bring hope and stability and serious joy into the lives of those of you who have done the right thing at great cost.
“The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only message in the world that gives pardon to the agents of death and power to the agents of life.”
Before I pose the question, Where do abortions come from? let me wave a banner over this message — a sentence taken from the last message I preached on the sanctity of life from this pulpit in January 2012. It’s a banner that I know Steven and Jason and David would all be waving if they were standing here. It goes like this: the gospel of Jesus Christ is the only message in the world that gives pardon to the agents of death and power to the agents of life.
If you long to have power in the cause of life in our day, get it from the gospel. If you long for pardon because you have been complicit in death, get that pardon from the gospel. Jesus Christ crucified for sinners and risen and reigning is the only reality in the world that gives pardon to the agents of death and power to the agents of life — all to the praise of the glory of the grace of God. That’s the gospel flag waving over this message.
Three Causes of Abortion
Now, where does abortion come from? Of the many sources, or causes, here are three.
1. About 83 percent of all abortions come from fornication.
In other words, about 83 percent of the women who have abortions are unmarried (and rape and incest account for less than 2 percent of all abortion). We know that pregnancy points back to sexual relations, and therefore sexual relations outside marriage is the cause of 83 percent of all abortions.
The older versions of the Bible call the sin of sex outside marriage fornication. It’s an old word that hardly even exists today, because the sinful reality that it names is no longer called fornication but recreation. Recreational sex is virtually a given in contemporary entertainment and life. Already thirty years ago, when I was writing occasional editorials for the Star Tribune, for example against distributing condoms in high schools, the blowback from twentysomethings was: “You must be crazy! Are you saying we shouldn’t experience the fullness of our humanity? Do you think we should give up this essential part of our being just because we’re not married?”
You do realize, thirty years later, that to be a biblical Christian in America is to be crazy. To choose not to be entertained by videos at Netflix that celebrate sin, or treat sin as normal, will be called crazy. But not in heaven. The apostle Paul wrote — to make clear what fornication means — “Because of the temptation to sexual immorality [fornication], each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). In other words, God made sex for the beautiful, covenant relationship of commitment called marriage. A few verses earlier he said,
He who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality [fornication]. . . . 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. (1 Corinthians 6:17–20)
Oh, how thankful I am to Ruth Piper, my mother, who drilled into me, “Johnny, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Your 14-year-old body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Your 16-year-old body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Your 18-year-old body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” Oh, what misery my mother saved me from!
Eighty-three percent of all abortions (fifty-one million since 1973) — with all the sin of those who kill, and all the misery of those who die — come from fornication. Let it not be known among us.
2. Abortions come from human self-deification.
Deification is another word hardly anybody uses. To deify something or someone means to treat them as God. So, self-deification refers to acting as though you are God. Sounds a bit overblown, doesn’t it? “Whoa, now the preacher’s going to overwhelm us with some fevered talk about turning ourselves into gods when we sin!” Listen carefully. And judge.
In 1992, in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said this: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
When Laws ‘Do Not Apply’
Here’s one of the outworkings of that self-deifying worldview: Minnesota, along with 37 other states, has fetal homicide laws. You can read them online: Minnesota statutes 609.2661 to 609.2691. These statutes distinguish first-, second-, and third-degree murder, as well as manslaughter and assault — all as they relate to an unborn child. For example, statute 609.2661 says,
Whoever does any of the following is guilty of murder of an unborn child in the first degree and must be sentenced to imprisonment for life:
(1) causes the death of an unborn child with premeditation and with intent to effect the death of the unborn child or of another.
And you might say, “But that’s the definition of abortion.” Why doesn’t this statute rule out abortion, which “causes the death of an unborn child with premeditation and with intent to effect the death of the unborn child”? And here’s the answer in statute 609.266, where the definitions are given:
(a) “Unborn child” means the unborn offspring of a human being conceived, but not yet born. [Excellent!]
(b) “Whoever” does not include the pregnant woman.
In other words, when the statute says, “Whoever causes the death of an unborn child with premeditation and with intent to effect the death of the unborn child” will be guilty of murder, the “whoever” does not include the pregnant woman. If she causes the death, it is not murder. And in statute 609.269 it comes right out and says that all these sections protecting the unborn child “do not apply to any act described in section 145.412” — that is, to abortion.
Who Determines Personhood?
Here’s the implication: It is illegal to take the life of the unborn if the mother wants the baby, but it is legal to take the life of the unborn if she doesn’t. In the first case, the law treats the fetus as a human with rights; in the second case, the law treats the fetus as nonhuman with no rights.
“The strong decide which of the weak are persons. We reject this in the case of Nazi anti-Semitism. We reject this in the case of Confederate, race-based slavery.”
Humanness — existence as a human being — is decreed by the will of the mother. The baby is young and weak and cannot cry out, “I am a human being!” Therefore, the will of the older, the stronger, holds sway. By her will, she may, under the law, confer human personhood on her baby or not. If she does, no one may kill the baby. If she does not, the baby may be killed with impunity. That is legally enshrined self-deification.
The strong decide which of the weak are persons. We reject this in the case of Nazi anti-Semitism. We reject this in the case of Confederate, race-based slavery. We reject this in the case of Soviet Gulags. But in the case of the unborn, millions of people, even in the church, embrace this self-deifying principle: the human will of the strong confers personhood. If she wants the baby, it’s a baby. If she doesn’t, it’s not. But according to God’s word, both inside and outside the womb, only God confers life personhood.
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. . . .
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
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. (Psalm 139:13–16)
God’s divine, person-forming work in the womb is not to be preempted by any self-deifying human will.
So, I say again: a second cause or source of abortion is human self-deification.
3. Abortions come from a failure to believe that doing the right thing never ruins your life.
Throughout history, and millions of times in recent decades, unintended pregnancies have been met with the devastated cry: “If I stay pregnant for nine months — if I keep this baby — my life will be ruined.” Or another devastating cry: “If you stay pregnant — if you keep that baby — our lives will be ruined.”
In other words, abortions happen because pregnant women, and boyfriends, and husbands, and parents, and grandparents look at the implications for years and years of embracing this pregnancy, and this child, with the change of so many plans and the loss of so many dreams, that it can only feel like ruin.
And over against that despair, I am going to show you from God’s word: Doing the right thing never ruins your life. Never!
And you can see right away that the implications of that truth — if it’s true — are relevant not just for people facing an unintended pregnancy, but for any of us facing a decision between doing the right thing no matter the pain, and doing the wrong thing to minimize pain.
Faith in the Right Thing
So, what I want you most to take away from this message ringing in your ears with deep, Christ-exalting, God-grounded, Bible-supported confidence is this truth — this wonderful reality from God’s word: Doing the right thing never ruins your life. Never!
Let me explain it and then support it. By “doing the right thing,” I mean doing the revealed will of God, in reliance on the blood-bought grace of God. It’s never enough to say, “Just do it! Just do the right thing,” because the Bible says in Romans 14:23, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” If we “just do it” without faith — that is, without relying on the blood-bought grace of God to help us do it — we sin. God’s grace is not glorified by our efforts to do the right thing if we don’t rely on his grace to do it. This is why Christ died: so that unworthy sinners might joyfully expect the gracious, omnipotent help of God to do the right thing (1 Peter 2:24).
So, when I say, Doing the right thing never ruins your life, I mean: Doing the will of God by trusting the grace of God will never ruin your life. Never!
And by “ruin your life,” I mean: make your life worthless — not worth living. I mean: make your life meaningless; make your life useless; make your life unlivable; make your life more than you can bear; make your life joyless; make your life so bad that at the end you will regret having lived it. No. No! No! No! That will never happen if you do the right thing — if you do the will of God by trusting in the grace of God. Doing the right thing never ruins your life.
Beautiful, Brokenhearted Life
Let there be no misunderstanding: doing the right thing in reliance upon Christ and for the glory of Christ will bring suffering into your life. The words of Jesus are unmistakable:
- “‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).
- “I will show [you] how much [you] must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16).
- “People [will] hate you and . . . exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” (Luke 6:22).
- “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. . . . And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household” (Matthew 10:34, 36).
- “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death” (Luke 21:16).
And the words of Paul are just as clear: “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). It may be “tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword” (Romans 8:35–36). It may be, from his own experience, great labors, imprisonments, beatings, shipwreck, danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers, toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, in cold and exposure (2 Corinthians 11:23–28).
Welcome to the life of doing the right thing. The unruined life.
“Afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9). Not ruined! Isn’t that what our great apostle is saying? Afflicted in every way, but not ruined; perplexed, but not ruined; persecuted, but not ruined; struck down, but not ruined. Not meaningless! Not useless! Not more than you can bear. Not joyless. Not regretted. Doing the right thing — a beautiful life of brokenhearted joy, and brokenhearted love, and unwavering faithfulness, built out of the jagged fragments of shattered dreams, and infinitely worth living.
Always Good with God
Because the Christian gravestone over every buried dream reads: “Satan meant it for evil, but God meant it for good” (see Genesis 50:20).
“The gravestone over every buried dream reads: ‘Satan meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’”
Because “the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory.” And contrary to all human calculation, “no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11–12 NASB).
Because no matter what you lose in this life, you have “a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34). “Great is your reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12 KJV).
Because our life here is a vapor (James 4:14), a prelude; but the symphony lasts forever.
Because “this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Because Jesus suffered for this: “that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18), in whose “presence there is fullness of joy” and at whose “right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Bethlehem, this is who we are. We are Christian Hedonists. We believe God gets great glory through our contentment in him, especially through suffering. We believe God is shown to be an all-satisfying treasure when our joy — our serious joy, our sorrowful joy — never dies through the pain of doing the right thing.
Doing the right thing never ruins your life. Never. Doing the will of God by trusting the grace of God never ruins your life.
Where this is believed and lived, abortion ceases. And the glory of the grace of God is exalted.