Lust and the Kingdom of God

 
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Series: The Sermon on the Mount

Speaker: Pastor Justin Wheeler

Scripture: Matthew 5:27-30

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Matt 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Is there any Christian teaching more ridiculed than Christ’s teaching on sexuality? Is there any command of God more ignored and broken than the 7th commandment against adultery? Is there a more popular sin in human history than sexual immorality? Our American culture and much of the world thinks that Jesus is crazy for what He says in these 4 verses.

We live in a culture where our entire lives are inundated with sexuality. It’s on our TV, in our movies, and on the catalogues and ads that are delivered to our door. It’s on billboards as we drive into downtown. It’s plastered across the magazine racks in high-gloss photos as we approach the checkout counter at the grocery store. And of course, it’s almost as if the internet was made for the specific purpose of pushing sexuality into our lives in every imaginable way.

This has had a huge impact on our lives and our culture. Adultery is so common that it is simply accepted as a normal part of adult life, especially for our political leaders. In fact, if a political leader takes measures to remain faithful to their spouse they are mocked as being sexually repressive. Sex before marriage is just normal and it has been this way for generations. Homosexuality has been declared a basic human right by our Supreme Court. Transgenderism and transsexualism are just this cultural moment’s examples of sexual deviance being made to look normal and God’s standards being made to look obscene.

There was a time when the Jesus’ teaching on sexuality was largely embraced as good and right, even if it wasn’t practiced. But that is no longer the case. A sexual revolution has taken place.

This revolution is now so complete that those who will not join are understood to be deficient, intolerant, and harmful to society. What was previously understood to be immoral is now celebrated as a moral good. The church’s historic teaching on sexuality in general and homosexuality in specific, which was shared by the vast majority of the culture until very recently - is now seen as a relic of the past and a repressive force that must be eradicated.[1]

Transition…

When it comes to teaching on this topic, Jesus stands in the minority. Jesus, the Son of God and the Savior of the World, says that it would be better for us to live life without eyes and hands than to embrace the sexual revolution and ride it all the way into hell. He teaches us that there are some things that our hearts are naturally oriented around that will lead us to Hell. He wants us to understand that eternal things are at stake and therefore we must do whatever it takes to kill sin before sin kills us.

But before the battle gets underway we need to learn a few things. First, we need to learn what the law says about adultery. Second, we need to learn what Jesus says about lust. Third, we are going to learn how to battle against the temptation to sin in these ways.

Sermon Focus…

I. What the law says about Adultery (V. 27)

The first thing Jesus does is to quote the 7th commandment found in Exodus 20:14.

Matt 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

That’s all this is. Jesus is not adding to the law or taking away from the law; He is simply stating again that this law of God still applies. He is quoting from the 10 commandments and reminding us that God’s standards for sexual purity and marital fidelity haven’t changed. God’s standard was established in Genesis 2.

From the very beginning God made it clear that He created us, male and female, and His intention was for a “man to leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife…and the two were naked and unashamed (Gen 2:24-25).” That has always been God’s designed context for intimacy. Within the context of monogamous, heterosexual marriage sex is an amazing gift of God that is to be enjoyed for pleasure, for procreation and for the joy of intimacy. Outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage sex in all its forms is sin.

Adultery is sinful because it falls outside of what God has declared good and right, but it is also sinful because it seeks to destroy what God set up as the foundation of the world He created. He created this world and designed man, “to be fruitful and multiply and to fill the earth…” This would take place as families grew and children were born, but adultery is an attack upon the family.

Last week we learned that murder is an assault upon the image of God in man and this week I want us to see that adultery is an assault upon the plan of God for man. Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve was aimed to separate the husband and wife from their God. The temptation to commit adultery is aimed to separate a husband from his wife and a wife from her husband as a means of undermining the plan of God for the world.

Therefore, adultery is forbidden throughout the Bible and the punishment for this sin was death. But this wasn’t enough to keep people from committing this sin especially kings. The highest profile case of adultery in the Bible is that of King David and his sin with Bathsheba in 2 Sam 11. But David’s son Solomon was a serial adulterer and as a result the nation seemed to follow his lead. The prophet Jeremiah lamented the fact that, “The land (of Israel) was full of adulterers (Jer 23:10).”

But Jesus wants us to know that there is much more to adultery than the physical act.

II. What Jesus says about Lust (V. 28)

28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Last week we learned that we can commit murder with our words but here Jesus teaches that we can commit adultery with our eyes. Lust is heart adultery. It is the strong sexual desire for something or someone that is forbidden, for something that doesn’t belong to us.

The act of Adultery is forbidden in the 7th commandment and lust is actually forbidden in the 10th commandment.

Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”

So here in Matthew 5, Jesus is bringing these two commands together to show that they are connected. One of the things that God’s commandments show us is that we can commit sin without ever committing the act. When a man looks at a woman (not his wife) with strong sexual desire in his heart or when a woman looks at a man (not her husband) with strong sensual desires in her heart, Jesus says that you are guilty of adultery and sexual immorality. Let’s make this more personal, Jesus is saying that when you look at another person other than your spouse and you entertain lustful thoughts about them, you are committing sin in your heart.

Lust alone is enough to defile us before God.

Matt 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. 20 These are what defile a person.

Those childhood/teenage crushes that so many think are innocent, those wild fantasies that we never discuss, those emotional romance novels that our culture has grown to adore, the pervasive spread of pornography; all of these things have caused us to consider lust a common and respectable sin. But Jesus says that any of these is enough to condemn us before God. And just so we’re clear, any and every sexual practice which God declares immoral in deed is also immoral in thought.

The fact that we live in the 21st century does nothing to change, altar or undo God’s command for sexual purity. C.S. Lewis wrote this in 1952 in the culture of Great Britain and it is true of our culture today.

Chastity is the most unpopular of the Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it; the Christian rule is, either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your spouse, or else total abstinence. Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong.[2]

I agree with his conclusion about where the problem lies. It is not Christianity that is the problem it is our sinful sexual instinct that is the problem.

Human sexuality was created by God as a pleasurable gift to be enjoyed, as a means to build families, and as a way to strengthen intimacy/unity between a husband and wife. But the sin in our hearts has the power to corrupt the best of God’s gifts.

In a world filled with sinful people we find a world filled with sexual immorality. In every way imaginable humanity has explored the scope of sexual sin and the result is more serious than we might want to think. In Romans 1 as Paul is teaching on the pervasiveness of sin in the world he tells us that the root of the problem is that mankind has, “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images of man and beast…mankind has exchanged the truth of God for a lie…mankind has exchanged what is natural for what is unnatural and the result is that the Wrath of God is ready to be unleashed against mankind.”

The vertical dishonoring of God (exchanging of God’s glory) is ultimately what has led to the horizontal idolatry of man, beasts, and sex.

When you exchange something, you express your preference. You express your greater desire. And if you prefer God’s creation over God, then you find God less desirable than what you prefer…if you see anything as more beautiful, more attractive, more desirable than God, you are in the dark and not seeing reality for what it is…This exchange of God’s glory for other things - this preferring human glories over God’s glory – is the root of disordered sexuality.[3]

In other words, sex is about worship. Our sinful heart’s refusal to worship and submit to God is what gives rise to the sexual immorality and idolatry in our hearts, our lives, our homes and our culture.

So at this point the question is, “What hope do we have to see real change in our lives when it comes to sexual sin?” Well let’s start with what Jesus says here in Matt 5 and then think about what Jesus did on the cross.

III. What must we do about Lust and Adultery (V. 29-30)

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Now, most of our world disagrees with this and many of us may as well. Jesus says it is better to go through this life without a hand or an eye than it is to indulge in sinful pleasures and go to hell. Our world lives like this statement from Jesus is a lie. But Jesus isn’t trying to take our joy and pleasure away from us. He is trying to lead us into the deeper and greater joy that He made us for.

We don’t like to entertain deep thoughts like this but the truth is that intimacy with God is eternally more enjoyable than a one-night stand or lustful thoughts. That’s what Jesus is saying here and if he were able, that is what King David would tell us.

(Illus…David looked upon a beautiful woman and desired her, so he had his guards go and get her and then he sinned with her. The sin in his heart led to sin in the bedroom and then it spilled out into his army when he orchestrated the death of one of his own mighty men, Uriah.

If he were here, David would tell us that Jesus is right and that we should make war with our flesh rather than to give into the temptation to sin with our eyes or our bodies.

But what about this command to cut out our eyes and cut off our hand. Notice that he says to eliminate the right eye and right hand. He is not speaking literally as some throughout history have supposed. Jesus is speaking metaphorically and using dramatic figures of speech to show us that sin must be dealt with radically. The value of the right eye and hand as the most important or valuable part of us shows that “in order to avoid sin one is to give up everything, even what is most important and most treasured” (Luz, Matthew 1– 7, 247).[4]

So one step in our approach to battling sin and temptation is, “If our right eye causes us to sin…don’t look.” Behave as if you had actually plucked out your eyes. That is what mortification is all about. It is taking real and drastic measures to battle against sin and temptation. For some of us that means you need to put filters on your computers and home network. For others, this means that you need to stop reading the books you’re reading. For others, this means you need to delete your social media accounts, or stop watching the movies or HBO and Netflix shows you enjoy so much.

Yes, I’m sure that your friends will say, “What are you talking about? You’re not going to know how this end. If you’re not going to watch this new show or read this new book…you won’t be as culturally educated as you could be.” That may be true, but it is better to be culturally maimed and preserve your purity. The question is whether you are willing to go to this extreme to battle sin and temptation.

Jesus says that it is better to live life culturally maimed, to avoid certain experiences in this life, than to risk final destruction in the life to come.

Now, in many ways, this approach to change is good But this approach is not enough because this approach doesn’t address the root of our problem. This approach is simply not complete because it focuses on the outward behaviors only and the root of our problem with sexual sin is the heart. Behavior modification alone will not solve this problem of our hearts. Only Jesus can solve this problem.

Now, one of my deepest Christian convictions is that the gospel is so much more than simply the minimal doctrine that one must affirm in order to go to Heaven. The gospel is the power of God that saves us from sin’s guilt and sin’s control and turns the entire world upside down.

The gospel is so powerful that it can turn an enemy of God into a worshipper of God. It is so powerful that it can change your eternity as well as your life here and now. The gospel changes us at the very core of who we are. It reorients our heart around the weight of God’s glory and when the gospel takes root in our hearts it begins a process of reorienting all of life around our growing love for God over our love for sin.

As believers in Christ our identity as gospel people is going to propel us into battle against sexual sin. Jesus doesn’t command us to embrace a Biblical sexual ethic in order that we can be saved, but instead as the born again people of God he calls us to embrace a God-honoring view of sex. Obedience to God flows out of a renewed relationship to God.

Conclusion…

I think that our battle against sexual sin begins not with what we need to do but with something we need to believe…

Our identity is in Christ, not our sexuality. The culture says, “You are your sexuality.” The culture says that to deny our sexual urges is to deny our humanity. The culture wants us to believe that If we reject its views of sexuality and the practice of those views then we are rejecting what it means to be human.

But the Bible teaches us something else about sex?

a. The Bible teaches us the context in which sex is a gift. Within the context of monogamous, heterosexual marriage sex is an amazing gift of God that is to be enjoyed for pleasure, for procreation and for the joy of intimacy. Outside of monogamous heterosexual marriage sex in all its forms is sin.

b. The Bible teaches us that sex and romantic fulfillment are not the keys to life. They are gifts but they are not the ultimate point of life. Jesus was celibate and lived the fullest and most God-glorifying life ever lived. Therefore, Jesus teaches us that the key to a full life is not intimacy with another person but rather intimacy with God.

In American culture, we have completely distorted this. Our culture promotes the pursuit of sexual pleasure first and foremost and then in the context of our sexual enjoyment we are to then find religious teaching that affirms and supports our sexuality.

But Jesus wants us to pursue our relationship with God first and foremost and then in the context of that relationship we are to enjoy God’s gift of sex in a way that glorifies Him.

Trusting Christ with our sexuality is hard because it goes against the grain of what culture says and in many ways, it goes against the grain of what we feel and want. Our natural predisposition is to sin. It is to go against God’s glory, Gods rule, and Gods word. We are dead in sin, we are enemies of God, we are blinded to God’s glory and through the gospel Jesus calls us out of this and into a life with God that is going to be hard.

But I want us to remember something about Jesus as we seek to navigate through this issue. In His life, Jesus dealt with a lot of sinful people, even those caught up in sexual sin. But something you will notice is that He never seems to want to push those people away. No matter the issue, Jesus invites people in close so that He can talk to them and offer them grace. Even when He encountered people who were involved with deep sexual sins we see that Jesus draws near to them and offers them grace, He is honest with them about their sin, but then He looks them in the eye and He says, “Now, come and follow me.”

Friends, I want you to know that Jesus doesn’t push us away because of our problems with sexual sin; He invites us to come even closer. He offers us grace, He calls us to repent, but He also offers us a place at His table. So let’s draw near to Him and let His grace and truth guide us.

Transition to the Lord’s Supper…

In a few minutes, we are going to put our Bible’s down and we are going to take up a small piece of bread which reminds us of the broken body of Jesus and a small cup of wine or juice that reminds us of the blood of Jesus. And like we have done many times before we will think about these elements, pray over these elements and then eat and drink them together. Now when we do this the historical and theological facts of Jesus’ death will be swirling around in our heads and that is the way it should be.

In that moment, we remember that Christ commanded us to do this for the sake of remembering. He told us to engage our minds and remember His loving sacrifice. But when the Holy Spirit opens up our hearts and pours the reality of God’s love into us, that’s when our obedience becomes an act of worship. That’s when our faith in Christ becomes true spiritual food for our souls.

So as we ready ourselves to eat this Lord’s Supper and to feast upon Christ’s provision for our redemption I would ask that you ready your hearts by clinging with all of your might to the love of God. We have a great need for a Savior and in Christ we have a great Savior for our need. Surrender your life to the love that God has shown us in Christ. Build your life upon Him. Trust your soul to His steadfast

love and pray with me that we would experience this love more and more through the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you are a believer in Christ, meaning that you trust that Jesus is the Son of God who died to take away your sin and was raised to secure your salvation. If you are trusting in Christ alone as your Savior and Lord then we welcome you to join us in observing the Lord’s Supper this morning. As the plates pass you will see clear cups filled with grape juice and purple cups filled with wine.

If you are not a believer and have not come to trust in Christ then we ask that you simply let these plates pass by you. But I would urge you to think deeply about the state of your soul. I would urge you to consider your sin and its offense to God. I would urge you to look to Jesus as your only hope of rescue and to put your trust in Him alone for salvation.


[1] Al Mohler We Cannot Be Silent (Pg. 4)

[2] C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity: Sexual Morality (pg. 95)

[3] John Piper Living in the Light of Money, Sex and Power (pg. 34-5)

[4] Pennington, Jonathan T.. The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary (p. 207). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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