SERMON TITLE: Lord of Life
TEXT: Exodus 20:13 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
If you have your Bible, please turn with me to Exodus chapter twenty. We’ll be looking at one verse today — verse thirteen. And — as we continue in our series on the Ten Commandments — we’re going to see that the commandments get shorter and shorter. Last week’s commandment didn’t give me a lot to work with. And — if you thought last week’s commandment was scarce on material — just wait until you hear the sixth commandment — which is our commandment for today.
And — preaching through the Ten Commandments — just so you’re aware — forces me to preach on topics that are a bit uncomfortable. For example, our topic in two week’s wouldn’t make my “go to” list of things to preach on. And this is because I have two problems. One is — if I’m honest — preaching a topic like ours today or in two week’s — which is adultery, by the way — so parents — you may want to check your kids in to Kidway if you don’t want to have an interesting conversation after church. But preaching on these types of topics — murder and adultery — these topics aren’t a great way to attract people to church. I don’t imagine that any of you have ever thought, “Adultery, what a great topic to invite my friend to come hear pastor Josh preach on.”
My second problem is that if I did pick topics to preach on I know I’d be tempted to pick topics that would either be easy for me to preach on — topics I don’t have to study up on — or I’d be tempted to pick topics that would address your greatest struggles based on what I know about you. And I don’t want our relationship to turn into topics for my sermons.
Thus — instead of picking topics — I preach through long sections of the Bible. Sometimes we go through entire books of the Bible. Other times we go through a few chapters. Or — like in this series — we’re looking at a few verses over the course of ten weeks. And I do this so the Bible — not me — I do this so that God — who Authored the Bible — is the One picking the topics for us each week. And my hope — in sharing this with you — is that each week when you come to Gateway Church — you don’t come to hear what Josh has to say. But that you come to hear what God has to say — for the Bible is God’s Word and we should come each week anticipating that we are going to hear from him through Scripture — no matter the topic.
And — with that — here are the words found in Exodus chapter twenty — verse thirteen.
“You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13 ESV)
Like I said — not a lot to go on — and not a topic many of us would pick for a sermon. But we’re trusting that this is the topic God wants us to hear him speak on today.
“No murder” is essentially what this commandment states in the original language of Hebrew. And — it’s just two words — though our English translations stretch it out to a whopping four. It’s a command telling us what not to do. And what it tells us — what it commands us not to do — is no murder.
And — as we’ve done in previous weeks — we’re going to begin by looking at what this commandment is teaching us. Then we’ll look at how we’re supposed to obey it — we’ll do this by looking at some of the most blatant ways we’ve disobeyed this commandment. And then we’ll see why we’re to obey this commandment.
What does this commandment teach? How are we to obey it — intertwined with how we’ve disobeyed it? And why should we obey this commandment?
First…what does this sixth commandment teach us? Again, the sixth commandment says, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13 ESV)
We’re told to not murder. Which leads to an interesting question: What does this commandment mean by the word murder?
If you grew up reading the King James Version of the Bible, you may remember that this commandment had the word “kill” in place of “murder.” “Thou shall not kill,” is what many of us memorized if we grew up in church. But notice how our Bible translation uses the word “murder” instead of “kill.” And there’s a reason for this — an important one, in fact. One that brings a lot of clarity and should answer many of our questions as to what this commandment is and isn’t teaching us.
In the Hebrew language, there are many words used to describe the act of “killing” someone or something. The word in our verse appears less than fifty times in the Old Testament — much less than some of the other words used to describe the act of killing. And — if any of the Hebrew words for killing meant “murder” — this is the word. So — of all of the words that mean “to kill” — in the Hebrew language — this is the word that we’d understand as the act of murder.
Now why is this important? Well if this word in our commandment means the specific act of murder — and not killing in general — then we can better understand the limitations that this command has on our life.
For instance, this sixth commandment cannot be used to justify pacifism. It can’t be used to argue against the death penalty. It can’t be used to argue against whether a person should be able to defend themselves — including self-defense that requires taking the life of another person. For the killing that happens in war or when a criminal is sentenced to death or in self-defense would not fall under this commandment — which means “to murder.”
In fact — last week — we saw that — in the next chapter of Exodus — God tells the Israelites to enact the death penalty on any child who strikes or curses their mother or father. Which would be a blatant contradiction if this sixth commandment was meant to eliminate all types of killing.
All that to say — if you want to argue in favor of pacifism or against the death penalty or things like that — this is not the verse to use. You’d have to see if there are other places in the Bible that defend your beliefs if you’re making such claims from a biblical viewpoint.
So — right away — here’s what we’ve learned: the word “murder” — in our verse — does not mean “all killing.” It has a very specific meaning: the act of murdering another human being.
Now let’s move on to how we’re to obey this commandment and look at two ways we’re disobeying this commandment in our country. And — as a warning — this is where things are going to get pretty divisive. I’m going to speak on things that are hot button issues in our country. Two topics that are labeled political, but that’s because we’ve allowed politics to hijack important beliefs of our Christian faith. So let’s all put on your big boy and big girl pants.
No murder — that’s our command — so how are we supposed to obey this commandment?
The majority of the people in our country would agree that murder is bad. Very few people would say we’d be worse off — as a nation — if we eliminated murder altogether. Christian, not a Christian, religious, non-religious — it doesn’t really matter — the vast majority of people in our country believe that murder is wrong. It’s bad. It’s evil. That’s why we have laws against murdering other people.
But Jesus — as he often does — gets to the heart of the matter — meaning — he gets to the point of this commandment — the practicality of it. One time — Jesus wanted to make sure his listeners understood that it’s not just the physical act of murder that’s our problem — there’s a deeper heart issue at play. So in one of his sermons Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…” (Matthew 5:21-22a ESV)
And angry — here — means — well it means angry — to be furious — even the polite anger that we like to call “being irritated”. And Jesus says that to be angry with someone is comparable to murdering them in your heart. And this is something that all of us are guilty of — Christian or not.
Irritated — our polite spin on being angry — think about that word for a moment. Think of how often you’re irritated with others.
Now — let’s all pause — and consider how seriously Jesus takes this commandment — to not murder — by connecting it to being angry with others. It seems like a pretty radical connection, right? To be angry or irritated with someone is the same as murdering them — come on — really Jesus? Yet this is how different God’s people are to live. We’re not even to be irritated with people — or angry with them. Why? Because we’re to be like Christ who’s set us free from our slavery to anger, hate, and irritability with others. Anger — irritation — these are characteristics of our slavery to sin — not the characteristics of the freedom we’ve been given.
Now — at this point — some of you may be thinking, “Well Josh. You didn’t really do your homework because Jesus got angry. Don’t you remember when he got angry and got a whip out and started going all Indiana Jones on people in the Temple?” I remember — and you’re right — Jesus got angry. But — he did so — without sinning. And the cause of his anger was God being dishonored.
So if you want to claim that you’ve got that down to perfection — that you can be angry without sinning all of the time — because your anger only happens due to God being dishonored and never due to anything else — well then you feel free to take a timeout for a minute. But — for the rest of us mere mortals — what we’ve realized is that we’re not pe like Jesus. In fact — we’re all so imperfect that — the Bible tells us Jesus lived as our perfect substitute. So — yes — though we’re commanded to “be angry, but do not sin,” (Ephesians 4:26) — the problem is we can’t always do that — we’re not perfect. So Jesus did for us what we could not do ourselves. He got angry — without sinning — as our substitute.
My point is that we’re all guilty of breaking this commandment. For — as Jesus’ younger brother — James — writes, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as (what? The person who keeps 99.9% of God’s law, but not 100% of the law is what? They’re as…) guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. 11 For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.” So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.” (James 2:10-11 NLT)
If you’ve broken one of God’s commandments — you’ve broken them all. So all of us are guilty of breaking all of God’s Law. I bring this up because — too often — we Christians say we believe that all people are equally guilty of breaking God’s Law — but then we speak and act as if we’re actually better than murderers. Or adulterers. Or LGBTQ+ folks. Or Muslims. Or Democrats. Or Michigan fans.
And we Christians need to take a look in a mirror and admit that we’re guilty of breaking this commandment — at least according to Jesus. Because if you’ve ever been angry or irritated with someone — you’re a murderer — again — according to Jesus. And — if you break one commandment — you’ve broken them all — putting you on the same equal playing field as everyone else who’s broken God’s commandments.
And now that many of you are offended — let’s offend the rest of you so no one’s left out. For just as there are many Christians — who are in denial of how they break this commandment — many in our nation have been in denial of how we’ve been breaking this commandment for nearly fifty years. And this is where some of you are going to think I’m getting political — but my goal isn’t to be political. My goal is to make this commandment real to us — to show us that these “political” topics are actually theological and biblical.
So let’s do this. Abortion has been a blatant way our nation has disobeyed this sixth commandment — for abortion is the murder of unborn human beings. And it’s practiced because children are seen as an irritation in our culture.
Now I know there are all kinds of arguments for abortion. Some will mention rape or incest while ignoring the fact that less than one percent of all abortions are performed due to rape or incest. Let me say that again — less than one percent of all abortions are performed due to rape or incest (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/05/24/rape-and-incest-account-few-abortions-so-why-all-attention/1211175001/). So — for argument's sake — let’s take that less than one percent out of the discussion — not to ignore these tragic situations — but because I want us to consider the other 99+%. If we take rape and incest cases off the table we’re left with roughly sixty-two million babies who we’ve murdered during Roe v Wade. Not due to rape. Not due to incest. But due to convenience. Because that’s what abortion is — it’s murder for convenience.
“Really, Josh? Abortion is murder?” Now — if you’re not a Christian — I know there are all sorts of reasons for wanting women to have their choice. Honestly — though — I’m baffled by people who get excited about whether we’ve found “life on Mars” while ignoring life inside the womb. Science is used to confirm one and to deny the other — which is simply a sign of the depravity of our minds and hearts.
But if you’re a person of faith — a Christian — there’s no way you can be pro-abortion and say you’re following Jesus. For to be a Christian means God’s Word has authority over you. You allow what it says to be true — and for what it says to be true for you. You allow it to shape what you believe. And when you come to something in the Bible — that contradicts your beliefs — you have a choice. You either submit to the Bible or you make the Bible submit to you. But make no mistake — if you make the Bible submit to you — willfully ignoring, disobeying, or rewriting what the Bible says — you’re not following Jesus. You’re your own god and authority. You're the author of truth for yourself. You’re attempting to be your own savior. And — in love — I’m warning you that you’re walking down a path that leads straight to eternal judgment — and not just when the topic is abortion.
And the Bible says that Jesus is the Lord of life. Which means — if you call yourself a Christian — you’re a follower of the Lord of life — he’s not the Lord of death. So to say you follow Jesus — and to be pro-abortion — is to supposedly make Jesus out to pro-murder. While also claiming that Jesus was murdered so that the sin of murder would be defeated. Can you see the hypocrisy?
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke — there’s an account where Jesus is approached by a rich young man who wants to know how he can receive eternal life. He wants to know how he can make sure he goes to Heaven when he dies — not a bad question to ask Jesus — if I do say so myself. And — in response to the young man’s question — Jesus quotes from the Ten Commandments — and he specifically refers to our “Do not murder” command.
I bring up this story because of its context — meaning — do you know what happens just before this man asks Jesus how he can be sure he’ll go to Heaven? In Matthew and Mark’s gospels — just before the young man came to Jesus, “Children were brought to him (that’s Jesus) that he might lay his hands on them and pray.” (Matthew 19:13 ESV)
But — in Luke’s gospel — something caught my eye. Luke records, “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them.” (Luke 18:15 ESV)
And I asked myself, “Why do Matthew and Mark use the word ‘children’ while Luke uses the word ‘infants’?” So I looked up what the Greek word for infant — used by Luke — who was a medical doctor by the way — I looked up what the word meant. And the word “infant” — used in Luke’s gospel — the word used by a medical doctor to describe who was being brought to Jesus to be blessed by him — is a word that means a child — born or unborn. This word can mean an embryo, a fetus, an unborn child, or a newly born infant.
It’s the same word Luke uses when he writes about Mary — Jesus’ mother — approaching her cousin Elizabeth — who was pregnant. As Mary approached — the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy. And the word Luke — the medical doctor — uses to describe the unborn baby inside Elizabeth’s womb — is the same word he uses to describe the little ones that were being brought to Jesus. These little ones — whom Jesus said — the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to. These little ones — whom Jesus said don’t stop them from coming to me. These little ones — that Jesus loves — are the little ones our nation has been murdering.
But — as I said earlier — I know not all of us will take the Bible as our authority on this issue — so how about we connect abortion to another topic hijacked by politics — racism. You didn’t know it was going to be such a juicy sermon today did you?
Did you know that abortion is the biggest race issue in our nation that’s rarely discussed? According to the most recent data I could find online (https://www.johnstonsarchive.net/policy/abortion/usa_abortion_by_race.html), if you take the current population in our country of Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics — abortion has taken the lives equivalent to 14% of the current white population in the US. It’s taken the equivalent of 15% of the current Hispanic lives in the US.
Now — I’m already losing some of you who aren’t “math people” — so let’s pause — and I’ll explain what that means. If there were only 100 White people and 100 Hispanics in the US today — there’d be 14 murdered Whites and 15 murdered Hispanics because of abortion. So — instead of there being 100 each — there’d be 86 and 85 respectively.
Now — those are tragedies for sure — but that’s nothing compared to what abortion has done to Blacks in our nation. For abortion has taken the equivalent lives of 42% of the current Black population in the US today. So — out of 100 Whites, Hispanics, and Blacks — due to abortion — we’d be left with — as I said — 86 Whites and 85 Hispanics. But there’d only be 58 Blacks alive. Our nation has murdered Black babies at a much larger percentage than other races. So — all I’m asking — is if we care about blacks outside of the womb — shouldn’t we also care about them when they’re inside of the womb?
And the opposite question is just as powerful. If we care about Black babies — or any baby — inside the womb — will we care about them once they’re born? Now I know we all say we do care — but this is one of the consistent accusations against us Christians. It usually goes something like this. “You Christians care about the unborn, but once they’re born you’re willing to let them grow up in poverty and you want to take away their government assistance because you don’t like people taking advantage of the system.”
Now as soon as I said that some of you got defensive — but here’s a surprising truth. We Christians can easily put a stop to this criticism. And the solution is quite simple — actually. Simple — but costly.
In our country there’s somewhere around 113,000 kids that are adoptable right now (https://www.statista.com/statistics/255375/number-of-children-waiting-to-be-adopted-in-the-united-states/). Also in our country are 380,000 or so churches. What does the number of churches have to do with the number of kids up for adoption? Well we could silence our critics — literally end the conversation about whether we Christians care about the born as well as the unborn — by simply having one family in every three congregations adopt a child that’s in the system. If we Christians did this — we’d force our critics to have to come up with some other criticism of our pro-life position.
What an opportunity we have — the opportunity to demonstrate that we really do care both about the unborn and the born. Just one family in every third church and every adoptable child would be part of a Christian family.
Yet here we are. And there the children are.
Now — I am so thankful — for the many families in our congregation — who — because they worship the Lord of Life — have adopted children into their families. I’m also thankful for the families who foster children who aren’t up for adoption yet — but are in need of a safe place to live. You families help Gateway to be a pro-life church in the fullest sense. If that’s you — if you’re an adoptive or foster family — provide respite care — would you stand up right now so we can thank you for demonstrating what it means to follow the Lord of Life?
Now — let’s make this personal for the rest of us: What is the Lord of Life asking of you — right now — when it comes to being a pro-life follower of Jesus? Pro-life in the womb. Pro-life out of the womb. Pro all of life.
Let’s never forget that Jesus welcomed the little children. He told his disciples — who were a bit irritated by all of the kids trying to get to Jesus — he told them to let the little ones come to him. Because just as he loves you and me — Jesus loves the little children.
And our belief in Jesus doesn’t only affect our actions — although that would be a huge impact in and of itself — our belief in Jesus should affect our thoughts about others as well. No murder — Jesus said — also means no fury or hate — no irritation — no anger towards others. A drastically different way of living, interacting, and viewing other people. Even the hard and difficult people. People like you and people like me.
And now we turn to the why question — why are we to obey this commandment when what seems like an easy one — don’t murder — check, never murdered anyone — has now taken on a whole different, life changing, comfort crushing, getting our skin in the game — kind of meaning. Why should we obey this commandment?
The rich young man — that I mentioned earlier — walked away from Jesus feeling pretty depressed. You see — after Jesus quoted from the Ten Commandments — the guy felt smug because — like some of us at the beginning of this sermon— he thought, “I don’t have a murder problem.” But because Jesus loved this man — he revealed to him his heart issue. He tells the man to go and sell everything he has and give it all away and then he can follow Jesus and discover the gift of eternal life. And the young man walks away depressed and dejected because the cost of eternal life was too much for him — for it’d cost him everything — including his life.
And then Jesus’ disciples came up to him and “The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” (Matthew 19:25-26 NLT)
But thank God that what’s impossible for us is not impossible for him.
As we’ve seen — everyone who’s broken God’s Law is going to be judged — and all of us have broken the law. So we find ourselves in a dilemma. We’re all guilty and deserving of judgment. And the judgment we deserve is not eternal life — but eternal death.
But God had a plan and it’s a glorious one!
To make eternal life possible for us — God judged Jesus in our place as our substitute. And the crazy thing is that our eternal life is possible because this sixth commandment was broken. For it’s through the murder of Jesus that eternal life is possible for you and me. Christ was murdered on a cross where he was judged by God for our sins. Our sins of hate and anger and being irritated with others. Christ was judged for our thoughts towards others that he said were like murdering them in our hearts — including the stain of sin due to racism in our hearts and in our nation’s heart. And Christ died to be judged by God for every baby that’s been — and will be — aborted in our country. If you’ve had an abortion — know that Christ died for your sin. If you’ve ever forced a woman to have an abortion — he died for your sin too. And he died for every time we’ve fought for a child in the womb to live — only to ignore them — or even worse — complain about them abusing the system — once we got what we fought for — their life.
You see — the beauty and hope and shame lifting power of the gospel is that Christ was murdered so your sins could be forgiven. So let’s stop thinking of sin generally — but make what Christ did on the cross more personal than maybe it’s ever been. Jesus died for your sin of breaking this commandment — whether your sin is abortion, hate, irritation, anger, or actual murder. And — by believing in him — what’s impossible is now possible: You’re given eternal life. And Heaven is your reward. And guilt and shame — because of an abortion or racism and hate in your past — or even the sin of murder — is clothed in the forgiveness and mercy of God.
But like the rich young man — there’s a cost — and it’s a bit of a twist in the story. For what the rich young man was asked to give up was one the thing he loved the most — his wealth. Because — for him — his wealth was his life. Which tells us that what each of us must give up — to receive eternal life — is the thing we love most. Ourselves — our life.
To follow Christ means you die to being your own authority. You die to being in charge of your life. You die to defining what is and is not acceptable anger. You see — there is one thing that we are to murder — the sin in our lives — and we do so by the power of the cross. And we’re to murder the sin in our lives so we live for God’s glory and his alone.
Many people claim to be a Christian — yet they haven’t died to themselves. They still live as if they’re in charge of their life. But Christ says to all of us, “I’ve lived for you and I’ve died for you. Will you die for me — so you can live for me?” That’s the call of the Christian faith. A call to die — so that you may live for the Lord of life. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, remind us often that Christ was murdered and judged for our sins, so that what is impossible for man, has been made possible by you. Help us all to believe that eternal life is found by dying to ourselves and living for you. And this is possible because Christ first died for us, so we could be set free to live for you. This is the message of the gospel.
Spirit we ask you to reveal to us how our thoughts betray the love we’re to have for all people. Reveal to us how our actions can demonstrate to the world that we’re really pro-life people. Pro all of life. Life in the womb — life out of the womb. May we fight for the rights of the unborn and may we demonstrate our love for the children whose lives we’ve fought for in the womb — through adoption and supporting families who adopt and foster your children.
And — Jesus — I ask you to be gracious — as you always are — to anyone here who may be carrying guilt and shame because of their past. Whether their past includes an abortion or being irritated by others — justifying their short angry temper or being a racist. Oftentimes, we’re unwilling to allow you to forgive us of our sins — so I pray for anyone listening — who feels unforgivable. Jesus, show them the beauty of your grace and mercy and forgiveness. Wash them clean — Jesus — so they find joy and hope and eternal life in you. In your name we pray. Amen.
Having died to yourself — may you now go living for the Lord of Life. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
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