Robert Jeffress - Preserve Life - Part 1
Hi, I am Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway To Victory". It seems like every day the headlines are filled with reports about violent crimes. We see fights erupting on city streets. Smash and grab crimes are all too common, and we hear about senseless murders as well. The Bible teaches that preventing these tragedies begins with implementing God's sixth commandment. My message is titled, "Preserve Life," on today's edition of "Pathway To Victory".
A key indicator of whether a society is healthy or not is whether that society is just. And a key indicator of whether a society is just, is how it values human life. I'm reminded of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Cormac McCarthy entitled "The Road". It's the story of a father and son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. As a result of a nuclear holocaust, all the animals, birds, fish had been destroyed. The little boy has never seen a blue sky or green grass before. Human beings roam around like packs of dogs in search of food, which means because the animals are gone, other human beings, they resort to cannibalism. And in a particularly bleak moment, the father says to his son, "You must carry the fire".
What did he mean by that? He meant you're to do more than just survive. To carry the fire means to value human life not to fall into the trap of thinking it's worthless, like those around you, you must carry the fire. That reminds me of another story this one happens to be true. It's found in the Bible in Genesis 6, "The world was filled with violence," the Bible says. "Every thought of man was only evil, continually," God said, and because of that, because of the disregard for human life, God said he was sorry he ever created man and he would blot him off the face of the earth, save one man and his family. You know his name, Noah. And after Noah and his family spent over a year on that ark, they finally emerged into the world that God had saved.
And the very first command that God gave to Noah and his family in this post flood world was this one, carry the fire. But he didn't exactly say it that way, but that's what he meant in Genesis 9:6. The very first command to Noah and his family was this, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God, God made man". "Human life is so valuable," God said that anybody who takes it presumptuously shall have his life taken. Many years afterwards, that same principle was enshrined in what we call the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 20:13, God said, "You shall not kill," "You shall not kill". And that's where we are in our study of "The 10: How To Live And Love In A World That Has Lost Its Way". We've come to the sixth commandment, "You shall not kill".
It's interesting that commandment six, seven, and eight, are all three in the same form, two short words. Commandment number six, no killing, commandment number seven, no adultery, commandment number eight, no theft. In other words, all three deal with the value of human life. Human life is so important that you're to value life, you're to value a person's marriage and you're to value a person's possessions. This is all about the dignity, the value of human life. Today we're going to look at the first of that triplet of commands: "Thou shall not kill". And today we're gonna answer three important questions to help us apply this commandment.
Now I know what you're probably thinking it's what I thought when I began studying this message. "At least this is one commandment I haven't broken". Well, two, okay, we'll figure that one out. But you know, I felt like I was in pretty good shape until I started studying the implications this has for all of us. There's more than one way to take a person's life as we'll see in just a moment. So we're gonna answer three key questions about this commandment. First of all, what does the commandment say? What does it say?
Now the King James version translates the word kill, "Ratzah" as kill, "Thou shalt not kill". We learned that as children, didn't we? One of The Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not kill". But any student of the Bible knows there is no absolute prohibition against killing. There is some killing that is actually sanctioned by God. For example, God gives the state government the power to take a life. In Genesis 9:6, again, the first command was for capital punishment. People who said, "Well, that's just the Old Testament law". This came hundreds of years before the law. "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed". In the New Testament that's repeated in Romans 13. Paul said, "For government does not bear the sword for nothing. It is an avenger, bringing wrath against those who do evil".
God has given government the right to take a life. There's another form of sanctioned killing, and that is a just war. Sometimes war is not only allowed, it's commanded by God. Do you remember a few years ago when North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, was threatening the world with a nuclear Holocaust? And I made the comment to the Washington Post, but I thought the President at that time had the power, the moral authority to take out, assassinate, Kim Jong-un. People went ballistic over that. In fact, I pulled up last night when I said that, the comedian Stephen Colbert, on his program, "The Late Show" did a whole skit about me receiving a message from God to kill King Jong-Un. They thought that was just, you know, unbelievable. People went ballistic. I didn't get that message directly from God, I got it from God's Word.
The Bible says, "There's a time that you need to get rid of the evil doers". Deuteronomy 20 verses 10 to 18 says, there is such a thing as a just war. Here's one other occurrence where killing is allowed in the Bible. Exodus 22, verse 2 says that if somebody breaks into your house at night and threatens your life, you have a right to take their life. When we talk about the sanctity of human life, it's not just life in the womb, all life is sacred. And if somebody is threatening your life or the life of a loved one, you have the right to take their life as well. That's why kill is not the best translation of this verse. The better translation is, "You shall not murder".
What God is talking about is premeditated murder that comes out of anger. And that leads to a second question to answer, what does the sixth commandment cover? What's encompassed in "Thou shall not murder"? Three things, first of all, overt acts of murder. That's the most obvious acts of murder. There's several kinds of murder. First of all, there's homicide. That is, taking another person's life out of anger. We'll talk about that in a moment in the first commandment or in the first murder in Genesis 4 when Cain killed his brother Abel. But since that time, people have been killing one another. The book of Hosea contains this lament from the Lord himself to the people of Israel. He said in Hosea 4 beginning with verse 1, "The Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, because there is no faithfulness, or kindness, or knowledge of God in the land".
Notice the reason for the killing and the violence. There is no knowledge of God. Why? Thank God for a Texas legislature that is willing to say, "We're gonna start posting The Ten Commandments in classrooms". Why shouldn't our students see the words "Thou shalt not kill"? There's no knowledge of God. Hosea goes on to say, by the way, he said, "Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I shall forget your children". You can't separate these mass killings in schools that are so horrific from the lack of a knowledge of God, the two are tied together.
Notice verse 2, "There is swearing, deception, murder, stealing and adultery. They employ violence, so that bloodshed follows bloodshed. Therefore the land mourns, and everyone who lives in it languishes". Isn't that a great description of America right now? Bloodshed follows bloodshed and the land mourns. People take life without even thinking about it now. Have you been keeping up in the news what's happened, these horrific shootings? A group of cheerleaders outside of Austin, stop at an H-E-B grocery store. Coming outta the grocery store, one starts to get into the wrong car. She apologizes, goes and gets in her car with the other girls and the passenger inside that car gets out and opens fire on those cheerleaders.
A little six year old girl and her father shot because her soccer ball went into the wrong yard. We read even on our roads here in Texas, road rage, people taking the life of another person because they got cut off. That's the land in which we live. And you know, the fact is you say, "Well why is this increasing"? Well, there're 330 million guns and there's nothing you're gonna do about those guns, they're in circulation. You can try to, God bless you if you can do something about it, but the fact is, it's a heart problem. We have an all-time high in mental illness in our country right now. You look at the stats, whether it is anxiety, anger, loneliness, all of these things are at an all-time high and when people feel desperate, they do desperate things. And the Bible says, we have to change hearts before we can change behavior. In fact, this homicide is rampant in our land right now, but that's not the only way to kill a person.
Secondly, I think this law includes suicide, not just the taking of another life, but even the taking of our own life. You know, one of the saddest experiences I ever have as a pastor is talking to families who have lost a loved one through suicide. And when I do so, I remember an experience I had many years ago in this church when I was the youth minister here back in the dark ages. I remember being over in the old sanctuary and going to a funeral that Dr. Criswell conducted. It was of one of our deacons who had taken his own life and I'll never forget what Dr. Criswell said to that family. He said, "When people become ill physically, we don't damn them because they are physically ill, we show compassion toward them. But just as people get sick in their bodies, they get sick in their minds. We don't damn a person for that, we deal compassionately with them". And he said, "I disagree with those who say suicide is the unpardonable sin. Any sin can be forgiven".
Those who succumbed to suicide have become a victim of Satan. In John 8, Jesus said, Satan is a murderer, he is a deceiver, he is a liar, he is the father of all lies. The person who takes his own life has succumbed to the lies of Satan who says, "Your life is worthless". You become a burden to other people, your struggle will never end, you're better off dead than you are alive. No, suicide is not the unpardonable sin, but we have to be clear, it is a sin. It is wrong for you to take any life including your own that you didn't create. The Bible says, "For we are not our own, we're the sheep of his pastures. It is he who has made us, not we ourselves". And that's why we need to say that suicide is wrong.
Julie Gosick is a Christian writer who suffered through the suicides of five of her family members. She wrote, "Suicide is not a genetic trait nor is it a family curse, suicide is a sinful choice made by an individual. This statement is neither unloving nor disrespectful, it is the truth. I dearly loved my family members that committed suicide, but their choices were sinful and not righteous". You know that word sin, the most common word is "Hamartia" in Greek. It means to miss the mark. When somebody takes their own life, they have fallen short of God's standard. They have missed the mark and we need to be compassionate, but we need to be very clear that no one has the right to take a life including his own life.
A third overt act of murder would be, euthanasia. Sometimes referred to as assisted suicide. Did you know that nine states right now, along with the District of Columbia, have laws permitting assisted suicide? Let's be clear, we're not talking about just the cessation of treatment, that's a prayerful choice that an individual and family have to make to cease certain treatments, but this is proactively working to take another life. The problem with that is, those who are affected by these laws, that sphere tends to grow as it has in the Netherlands to include people who are elderly, people who are hopelessly infirmed, those who have become a burden to insurance companies or to the state itself. We have no right to take another life no matter what name we put on it.
Another application of overt murders of course, is abortion. You know, people will ask me all the time, "Well, where does the Bible address abortion"? Well, the obvious place we talk about often is Psalm 139 verses 13 through 16, in which the Psalmist talks about how intricately we have been woven together in our mother's womb, how our days were written in God's book before there was one of them that we lived. But there's another passage that is equally strong about this, and that is in Exodus 21 verses 22 to 23, listen to this law. "If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child and there is injury to the child, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life".
God's Word says that fetus, that unborn baby is a life. In fact is such a valuable life that if it's lost, the penalty is another life be exchanged for that life. Have you heard, you're hearing it right now that this concept of life begins at conception? That's a new idea. That religious people haven't believed that all the time, Christians haven't believed that, that is just something new by the right wing to take control of the government and so forth. Not at all. For hundreds of years Christians have believed that life begins at conception that that fetus is an actual life.
Listen to the words of John Calvin. Now, some of you're gonna get all upset about me quoting John Calvin. "Oh, our pastors turned into a Calvinist," blah, blah, blah. Just because I quote from somebody doesn't mean I agree with everything they say. You know, just because somebody's not right about everything, doesn't mean they're not right about anything. Calvin was right. Listen to what he wrote. "The fetus, though enclosed in the womb of its mother is already a human being, and it is almost as monstrous a crime to rob it of the life which it has not yet begun to enjoy. Life begins at conception".
We have no right to take the life of the most helpless in our society, the unborn child. I think this command certainly commands or includes acts of murder itself, but it also includes attitudes that lead to murder. We talked about that at length in our series "18 Minutes with Jesus". In Matthew 5, Jesus talks about certain attitudes that lead to murder that we need to be on guard against. Certainly anger is one. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that "Anger like fire eventually dies out after leaving a path of destruction".
Somebody has compared anger to an acid that is stored in a container. It's an acid that destroys not only the container in which it's stored, it destroys the object on which it is poured. You know, I saw that vividly illustrated one time. You know how there's just some things that happen to you you never forget and this was the most bizarre thing. One time my brother, sister, and I inherited rent houses and then one of our relatives died and left each one of us a rent house. I quickly learned why my grandfather once said, "If you really hate somebody and wanna get even with them, give 'em a rent house".
'Cause you're always worried about keeping it filled, you know, and keeping it maintained. And you know, I had this rent house, had a couple living in it and I was trying to unload it on the... I mean, sell it to them at a reasonable price. Thought we had it all worked out, had the contract signed. On a Monday morning, the realtor called me, she said, "Robert, that contract fell through". I said, "Ooh, no, not again". She said, "In all my years in the real estate business, I've never had this happen". I said, "Well, what happened"? She said, "Well, that couple signed that contract on Saturday afternoon, Saturday night, the husband bludgeoned his wife to death and left her unrecognizable remains in the back bedroom".
Now, if that were not creepy enough, a few days later I received in the mail that signed contract from that husband and wife. And I thought as I looked at that contract, this couple were unified at least enough to agree on a major purchase in the afternoon, but by evening, anger had entered that relationship and caused that husband to extinguish the life of his life partner. That is the power of unresolved anger. And that's why Jesus said in Matthew 5:22, "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court". Anger in and of itself is not a sin.
The Bible says, "Be angry but do not sin". You need to resolve anger before nighttime comes. "Don't let the sun go down on your anger". Jesus said, another attitude and action that leads to murder is an insult. He goes on to say in Matthew 5:22, "Whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the Supreme Court".
That word translated good for nothing, it's an Aramaic word, it means somebody's mental aptitude. Literally it means empty headed. You dimwit. You know, when our girls were growing up, we tried to keep them from using the s word, stupid. Don't say stupid, stupid. Of course I would undercut myself when I'd yell it out when somebody tried to cut me off, but I tried to as much as possible not have them use the word stupid because you're assaulting somebody's mental aptitude, somebody God made. And that leads to a third wrong attitude in action that leads to murder, defamation. Matthew 5:22 says, "And whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell".