James Merritt - A Matter of Life and Life
The topic we're going to deal with is the topic of abortion. Now, before I even get started, I want to ask every woman that is listening to me right now, just listen to me the next two minutes before you decide to tune me out and turn me off, before you go through your number one, you're a male, what do you know, you're a Christian, what do you know, you're a pastor, what do you know? Okay, you know, I get all of that. Before you kind of go through that litany and think about why you don't want to hear what I've got to say, just listen for one minute, and I think I'll change your mind. This is not going to be your typical message on abortion. I'm not going to bash abortion. I'm not going to bash doctors who perform abortions. I'm not going to bash people who believe that a woman has the right to an abortion. That's not what I'm going to do today, okay?
Number one, I realize a lot of that is counterproductive. Okay? I understand that, and I'm certainly not trying to put anybody here who's had an abortion, or who's listening to me, and I'm sure there's some of you who have, I am not trying to put you on a guilt trip. So, what I'm trying to ask you to do right now, just lower your defenses, just for a moment. You can put them back up if you don't believe what I'm about to tell you. Just let me kind of get this out. This is going to be a totally positive message. I'm not going to stand up here and tell you what I'm against. I want to tell you what I am for. And what I want to do today is tell you why I believe that God's word clearly teaches that God really is all about life...not about death, but about life.
So, I'm just going to present a very positive perspective on this issue, that all I want you to do is take what I've said, think it through, and then you make up your own mind, because at the end of the day, that's what you're going to do anyway. So, I want to begin today with a very legitimate question that deserves a very legitimate answer, and it doesn't matter where you stand on this issue. It doesn't matter whether you're a Democrat or a Republican. It doesn't matter whether you're a liberal or a conservative. It doesn't matter whether you are quote, unquote, pro-life, or you are quote, unquote, pro-choice. It doesn't matter. This is a legitimate question and I think it really is the starting point of where we all are going to land one way or the other, and this is the question that deserves the answer. To what or to whom do we owe our existence? That's the question. To what or to whom do we owe our existence?
Now, you say, well, why do you want to start with that question? Because the way you answer that question will determine how you see this issue, and the way you answer this question will determine the value that you put on all human life, whether it is born or unborn. I'll give you an example. There is a professor at the University of Washington, of psychology. His name is David Barash. David Barash teaches a class every year on animal behavior, a very popular class and I'm sure he's a very popular professor. He'll have 200 undergraduates that take his class, and every year, he always begins this class with the same declaration. So when the students come in, they sit down. He doesn't even introduce himself. This is the first thing he says to his students. The more we know of evolution, the more unavoidable is the conclusion that living things, including human beings, are produced by a natural, totally amoral process, with no indication of a benevolent, controlling creator.
Now, if that is your view, if you agree with this professor that that's kind of how we got here, then quite frankly and honestly, your view of life and its value will be totally different from someone like me that does not hold that view. Now, one of the reasons why a lot of people like to hold that view is because quite honestly, it does make belief in abortion, or the right for a woman to have an abortion, more acceptable to your thinking and more acceptable to your morality. But again, I'm not going to deal with abortion per se. That's not the purpose of the message. I want to deal with this whole topic from a totally pro-life emphasis, but even there, some of you don't even know what I mean, because when I use the term pro-life, you automatically always think two things. You think about abortion, and you think about politics. It's what you think. I want to disabuse you of that right now.
As I preach what I'm about to say to you, I don't want you to think about abortion, because I'm not going to be thinking about it right now. That's not even on my radar screen. And I certainly don't want you to think about politics, because when I talk about being pro-life, let me tell you what I mean by being pro-life. I don't mean that, okay, you ought to be a Republican, or you ought to be on this side of the fence, or that side of the fence, or you ought to be against Planned Parenthood. I'm not even thinking about that. When I'm talking about pro-life, I mean being pro-life the way I believe that God is pro-life, and what I want to do today is I want to take you to two very brief passages of Scripture, one most of you may know about, and one I'll bet most of you have never read in your life. I want to take you to two very brief passages of Scripture on just how pro-life God really is.
Now, before I even do that, think about this. The very fact that you're in this room, or you're watching by computer or TV, or you're at another campus, wherever you're listening, just the very fact that you're sitting here listening to me right now tells me that God is pro-life about your life. It tells me that God is pro-life about you. We're in Jeremiah 1. Now, let me tell you what's going on. Jeremiah is having a dialogue with God. God is talking to Jeremiah, and God says something to Jeremiah about his life and about his existence. He had absolutely no idea it was true. Now, it's a very short sentence. It's a very, very succinct sentence. But, I want to tell you, when you read this sentence and we unpack it, there's enough truth in there, the whole universe could not hold the truth that's in this one simple sentence, and I guarantee you, many of you have probably never, ever read this verse of Scripture before.
Now, this is what God said to Jeremiah, and let me just go back and say one other thing. What God says to Jeremiah, God says to you and me. What God says is true about him is true about every baby that's ever been born, or every baby that every will be born, every baby that's ever been conceived, or every baby that's ever been conceived. All right? Now, listen to what God says to this prophet. He says, "Before I formed you in the womb" just keep that in mind. "Before I formed you in the womb, before your mother even knew she was pregnant, I knew you". Now, can I just stop? I could stop right there and walk off the stage. That's a mic drop moment for a lot of you in this room.
So, if you want to talk about this issue, I'm glad to talk with you about it all day long. I'm just going to...look, I'm just a messenger boy. If you don't like it, take it up with Him. Okay? He said before your mom even knew she was pregnant, I knew you. Before you were born, before the doctor said you owe me this big bill, before you were born, I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. Now, that one verse, in that one brief passage, we're going to find three powerful truths on why this elephant in the room we're dealing with is a matter of, not life and death. It's bigger than that. It is a matter of life and life. In fact, it's bigger than that. It is a matter of life and love.
So, here's the three things we're going to pull right out of this text. Here's what we know about every one of us that are here right now. Number one, God personally creates us. God personally creates us. Now, the Lord says something to Jeremiah that's just astounding. He says, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you". Now, some of you guys are really going to like this. Some of you guys are going to enjoy this, because, I mean, this is kind of a medical deal here. You see that little word, formed? "Before I formed you in the womb". That word, formed, moms, means to weave. It means to knit. You know, maybe some of you mothers out there, when you found out you were pregnant, found out maybe you were having a boy, or girl, or whatever, some of you knitted those little booties, or maybe your mother knitted the little bootie, or the little blanket, you know, for her grandchild? Well, that's exactly what that word means. It means to knit. It means to weave. It refers to putting together, like you put the pieces of a puzzle together. So, what He's talking about here is the birth process from conception all the way up to the birth.
Now, in order to get a fuller understanding of what Jeremiah just said, King David does us a favor. He expands on it so we can kind of understand what God was telling Jeremiah. So, over in Psalm 139, here's what we read from King David's hands. "For you created my inmost being," it's talking about him in the womb. "You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well". Now, watch this. That little phrase, "you knit me", is exactly the same word that Jeremiah uses when he said, God formed me, the same exact word. God knit me. God put me together. From the time that I was conceived, it was God that was putting all of this together. And then he goes on to say this, in Verse 16, David does. He says, "Your eyes saw my unformed body. All of the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be".
Now, if you remember your biology class, or you remember when you first studied human anatomy, you'll know what I'm about to tell you. When the sperm of the male meets the egg of the female, the first thing that we call what that conception, that person, I'll call it a person, that is formed, it starts with the letter E. What is that word? It's an embryo. Guess what? That is the only time in the entire Old Testament that the Hebrew word for embryo is used. What he said is, your eyes saw my embryo, that is, you were watching me from the time when that first conception actually took place, because now we learn that not only does God personally create us, but God powerfully claims us.
Now, listen to what He says. I want to go back to what He said to Jeremiah, and I want to show you something I've never seen before in all of my life. You know, one of the things I love about preaching is when I get the opportunity to teach things that I'm pretty sure you've never heard before or never thought about before. So, it really blesses me when most of you can walk out of here, and I hope this is true in every service, and you go, I've never thought about that before, I've never heard that before, that's never occurred to me. Well, I really love it when I get to share with you something I've never seen before. Now, I've read this passage hundreds of times in my life. I had never seen this before. It is one of the greatest testaments to the value and importance of every life, from its very conception, you'll ever see anywhere that's ever been written down.
Now, go back and listen to what He said again. He said, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you". Now, the word there for know is not the word that just means to recognize or say, oh, yeah, I'm familiar with that person, or whatever. The word there for know is actually the word that's used for the way that a husband and a wife get to know each other on their honeymoon. It refers to that real personal, that real powerful, intimate love.
Now, I know you know that God loves you. I get that. You've heard that before. But, what Jeremiah really wrote was this. What God really said to Jeremiah was, Jeremiah, before I formed you in the womb, I loved you. Not just before you were born did I love you. Jeremiah, before you were even conceived, I loved you. Before I even put a planet in orbit, I loved you. Before I ever put Adam and Eve in a garden, I loved you. Before your mom and dad ever even met, I loved you. Before they conceived you, I conceived of you. Jeremiah, I've got news for you and your parents. You weren't their idea, you were my idea. I'm the one that came up with the idea of putting you on this planet. You know, somebody will say about a friend of theirs, oh, I've known him since he was a kid, or I've known him since he was a baby. God knew us before we were ever even conceived. Before your parents even met, before your parents even knew each other, God said, I knew you and I loved you.
Now, I'm going to say three words right now, and if you don't hear anything else I say in this message, these are the three words I want you to write down. These are the three words I don't want you to ever forget, because if you really want to know what this elephant in the room we're talking all about is, it really comes down to this principle, and I'm going to give it to you in three words. You ready? Love precedes life. Love precedes life. God said to Jeremiah, Jeremiah, I loved you before you even had life. I loved you before your parents had life. I loved you before there was any life, that's why I gave you life. That's why, can we just be real honest now? This whole matter of unborn children, and this whole matter of, you know, what I'm trying to hopefully convince you of today? It's bigger than pro-life. This issue's not just a pro-life issue, it's a pro-love issue. Love precedes life.
God says, you know what? I did not love you because I created you. I created you because I loved you. I loved you before you were conceived. I loved you, that's why you were conceived. I chose you before you chose me. As a matter of fact, I chose you whether you choose me or not. It makes no difference, I still chose you. I love you whether you love me or not. Now, if what we're reading is true, and I'm just asking you to think about it. If what we're reading in Scripture is true, you have to draw one conclusion. I don't know how you could draw any other conclusion. Every life is precious to God, born, unborn, conceived, or not even yet conceived. Every life is precious to God. But listen, our life takes on even more value from conception, because listen to what God says to Jeremiah.
This is where it really gets deep, because God says, "Not only did I conceive of you before you were even conceived, and not only did I conceive you when you were conceived, but from the moment you were conceived, I claimed you". Because, listen to what He says now. "Before you were born, I set you apart". Before you were born. Well, setting apart for what? The same thing He sets you and I apart for. He had a plan for his life. He had a purpose for his life. He said, Jeremiah, you're not here by accident. I put you here for a reason. I put you here for a purpose. No, life is not a random existence, coming from nothing and headed to nothing. Life is not about luck. Life is not about lottery. Life is about the Lord. He said, I brought you here. I put you here. I conceived of you. I conceived you. I made the birth process happen, and I brought you into this world for you to serve me.
Because again, go back and listen and hear what David said, because David totally agrees with what Jeremiah said. He said, look, your eyes saw my embryo, my unformed body. All of the days were ordained for me, that is, after you were born. "All of the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be". Wonder what David was saying? Look! "From the day you drew your first breath to the day that you will draw your last breath, every breath is to be breathed fulfilling God's plan and purpose for your life".
So, whenever God conceives us in the womb, it's not the end, it's just the beginning. He's not finished, he's just getting started! So, here's what I want to tell every one of you that's listening to me right now. You know what your life is? Your life is a story that God is writing right now, and God wants you to play your part in that story. Your life is a play, and God's written the script for that play, and He wants you to have the starring role in that play. He said, you know, before you were born, I claimed you. Before you were even born, I staked my claim to you. Before you were even born, I planted my flag on you. I want your life to belong to me. So, the one thing I know that's true about every human being that's ever been born or ever will be born, number one, God personally creates us. Number two, God powerfully claims us. But, it gets deeper. God purposely calls us.
Now, listen to what He says to Jeremiah. Listen to the last half of this verse. He says, "Before you were born, I set you apart". Then, He gets specific. That's general, now He gets specific. "I appointed you as a prophet to the nations". So that is, before you were born, you were born, you were born, you were born, I was born, before any of us in this room were even born, even conceived, before our parents even met, God said, I set you apart. I claimed you. You're mine. You belong to me, and I have a call on your life. There are certain things I have appointed for you to do. That shouldn't surprise us. I mean, we set aside certain times of the year for certain days, right? In the spring, we set that aside for Easter. We set aside December for Christmas. We have set aside November for Thanksgiving. And likewise, we've all been set apart for God. For what? For God's call on our life. You see, God's not finished with us just with our salvation.
Now, God wants all of us to be saved. God wants all of us to know Him. That's just getting started. He didn't just call Jeremiah to salvation. He called Jeremiah to a vocation. He said, Jeremiah, do you know why you're on this earth? You're not here just to make money. You're not here just to climb the corporate ladder. You're not just here to try to make a name for yourself. You're not here to just live a few years, and retire, and curl up your toes and die. I've got a call for you to answer. I've got a mission for you to accomplish. I've got a purpose for you to fulfill. By the way, do you know what the word vocation literally means? It comes from a Latin word that means to call.
Now, I'm going to say something that's going to sound kind of arrogant to some of you, but I can tell every one of you what you ought to be doing for a living. I can! I don't have to know where you went to college. I don't have to know what you like to do. I don't have to even know what you would want to do. I can tell every one of you what you ought to be doing for a living. Here it is. You ought to be fulfilling God's call on your life. That's what you ought to be doing right now, God's call on your life. By the way, that's what God has called a lot of women to, motherhood. It is one of the greatest callings in the world, one of the greatest privileges in the world.
See, God has an appointment for every person to keep from the time they were conceived. So, yeah, it's true that God appoints pastors. But, God appoints schoolteachers, and God appoints...yeah, politicians. We'll just keep moving. God appoints ditch diggers. God appoints doctors and dentists. God appoints baseball players. Everybody has an appointment. And I'm just being honest, I really am. I don't know how you can listen to what we've been saying, and hearing what you've been hearing, and read what you've been reading, without believing that God is pro-life. I want to repeat what I said earlier. My purpose is not, and was not, and is not to put you on a guilt trip, but maybe you're sitting there and you're living with regret, and you're living with remorse, and you're heart is broken because of a decision you made in the past. You wish you could take it back, but you can't, and this has been such a tough message to listen to, and I get it.
So, let me just say something very clearly to you. Abortion is not the unpardonable sin. Abortion does not mean that God loves you any less. Abortion does not mean that when you come to the cross, you'll find anything else than what everybody finds when they come to the cross, because when you come to the cross of Jesus Christ, let me tell you find at the cross of Jesus. You don't find condemnation. You don't find judgement. You don't find Jesus with a rock, ready to throw it and hit you in the head. You don't find any why did you do that. You know what you find when you come to the cross? You find grace, and you find mercy, and you find love, and you find forgiveness, and that's all I want you to find even here in our church, and I'll be honest. I do believe this.
If you take to heart what we have read in God's Word, and if you're objective, I think you can only come to one conclusion. I'll leave you to that conclusion, but I think you could only come to one. So, I'll just leave you with this statement. Jesus is so pro-life, He was willing to give His life that we might have life. Jesus was so pro-life, He was willing to give His life that we might have life. And every time I look at a picture of the cross, and every time I see the Son of God hanging on that cross, it reminds me, every life is valuable, from the womb to the tomb, and every person conceived has the right, according to our founding documents, to life, to liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that is absolutely true, but this is the last thing, and we'll pray.
You know why everyone born and unborn has the right to life, and to liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? It is not because the government gives us that right. It is because God gives us that right. He's the one who created us. He's the one who claims us. He's the one who calls us. And all I ask you to do, if you really, really, believe in God, all I ask you to do is say, Lord, how should I think about this matter? Forget what I said. Forget what anybody on the left or the right says. Forget it. Just take those two statements. "Before you were conceived, I conceived of you". Before your mom and dad knew you, I knew you. Before your mom and dad loved each other, or loved you, I loved you. And I not only created you, I have planted my flag on you. I have a calling for you. And that's true for every child.