Sex, Lies... and Purity

Matthew 5:27-30

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt. 5:27-30)

Intro: Grandmother and 10-year old granddaughter were spending the evening together when the little girl suddenly looked up and asked, “How old are you Grandma?” The woman said, “Well, honey, when you’re my age you don’t share your age with anybody.” “Aw, go ahead, Grandma, you can trust me.” “No dear, I never tell anyone my age.” Grandma got busy fixing supper and suddenly realized she hadn’t heard her granddaughter in over twenty minutes and started checking around the house. She found her upstairs in her bedroom with the contents of her purse dumped out on the bed, and there in the middle of it all was her granddaughter holding her driver’s license. When their eyes met, the child announced: “Grandma, you’re 76.” “Why yes, I am. How did you figure that out?” “I found your birthday on your driver’s license and subtracted it from this year – so you’re 76!” “That’s right sweetheart, Grandma is 76.” The little girl then added, “It says you also made an F in sex, Grandma.”

I don’t have to tell you that we live in a sex-starved, sex-satiated world – we are drowning in it – but how can that be? It is a tragic irony – like a glutton who has just gorged and stuffed himself and then goes looking for something to eat.

What once could only be seen in X-rated movie theaters on the seamy side of town is now pumped into our living rooms through cable for our children to see with the click of a remote, or pull up on the computer with the click of a mouse. More remarkable than that is the change of attitude that has occurred. We are no longer shocked or horrified, instead we yawn and ask, “what’s the big deal?”

It’s an amazing paradox – there is more information (explicit information) pumped out – on TV, in movies, even commercials and billboards, 900 numbers, sex education classes in schools, condoms handed out in school health clinics. And we are told that the more children know, the more responsibly they will act. Tragically, the opposite is true. Rather than stem the tide of teenage pregnancies, they are skyrocketing. Rather than making sex something significant and sacred, it has been cheapened and degraded, and made into an animal response to a hormonal urge that a person has no control over.

Sexual sin didn’t start with adolescent teens exploring forbidden taboos. If we want to go to the heart of the attitude problem, it comes to roost on the doorstep and in the bedrooms of adults. And we would expect it of the world – but it has infiltrated the body of Christ – it’s in our churches! We speak of infidelity without embarrassment – heads unbowed, hearts unbroken, indignant when the word “sin” is associated with a little moral indiscretion.

And this isn’t a new phenomenon. Paul wrote to a Corinthian church who thought that being tolerant was the sophisticated response to immorality – and he wrote to them – It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that does not occur even among pagans: A man has his father’s wife. And you are proud! (1 Cor 5:1-2)

Illust. - J. Allen Petersen , The Myth of the Greener Grass

And so Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” Jesus quotes the seventh commandment. But as we noticed last week, we must understand what Jesus is challenging. He is no way undermining the validity of the commandment. But he is contrasting and challenging the legalistic and minimal obedience taught by the teachers of the Law, compared with God’s intent for the Law.

Under the Mosaic Law, adultery was punishable by death (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22). It was clear and concise. But wait a minute… When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery before Jesus in John 8, while they were correct in their assessment of the sentence deserved, where was the man? Should he not also have been there waiting for the stones to be hurled at him? They zealously prosecuted the woman, but for what purpose? Surely not justice.

Technically, adultery is committed when there is a sexual relationship between a man and a woman where one or both are married – but not to each other. The operative word is “technically” – that was what the teachers of the Law specialized in. Minimization exempts us from guilt. Legalization creates loopholes. Thus, as long as I can justify myself, I can go along guilt free.

Jesus continues: “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
“Anyone” (or “everyone”) – Jesus extends this command to the broadest application. There is a wider context for sexual sin than just between the married. He includes the married and unmarried. There is no room in God’s definition for legal loopholes and carefully crafted exemptions. And what he says is just as applicable to women as to men. As Paul would write in Romans 3, “We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God…”

“Who looks at a woman lustfully…” – Jesus declares that it was God’s intent for sexual sin to be understood first as a matter of the heart.

Let’s ask what Jesus is really implying here:
Let me take you back to high school English class for a minute and talk about a couple of important points that we can learn from the grammar of the passage: The word translated “looks” is a present participle, referring to the continuous act of looking – not a casual glance, but intentional, repeated gazing.

While the NIV translates the Greek word “epithumesai” as an adverb – “lustfully,” the original language uses the infinitive to describe the purpose of the looking – he is looking “in order to lust.” It suggests that the goal of the repeated looking is for the act of lusting. The very word Jesus uses describes the most intense type of inner urge, the deepest kind of desire.

Let’s bring this a little closer to the intent. Jesus isn’t just talking about “looking” as though it were restricted to the physical eye contact. “Looking” occurs when your thoughts dwell on someone, when you fantasize about them, when you make plans to be where they are. Sometimes it is a non-specific lusting – some people are enslaved to pornography, they live vicariously through the erotic lives of their favorite soap opera stars, they are addicted to pornographic web sites on the internet.

You see, sexual sin is so much broader than the narrow definition created by the teachers of the Law. At the same time, Jesus reminds us of the progressive, deepening nature of sin. Adultery doesn’t begin with a sudden statement, “I think I’ll commit adultery today.” It begins with a look…lingering thoughts…a rehearsed touch…flirting and half-serious propositions… It may take weeks and months before the thought is acted on, but the adultery began back with the first lustful thought – when you threw out that first flirtatious comment hoping for a positive response.

The lure of adultery – the lie of adultery – is that another person will be able to meet my needs and gratify my desires – in ways that my wife or my husband cannot. This is compounded by the thinking that no one will be hurt, that we can somehow violate God’s will and our marriage covenant and we can escape unscathed.
Let me tell you the truth:
· Adultery always causes deep pain to your mate – It violates the covenant you have made with each other in marriage. It violates the integrity, not only of the exclusive sexual union, but the emotional and spiritual union you have with each other.
· Unfaithfulness is always self-destructive –
· 1 Cor. 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.
· Prov 6:27-29 Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.
· We think we have deceived others, but we end up destroying ourselves.
· Sexual immorality always violates our relationship with God – 1 Cor. 6:19-20 Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

The lie of pornography is that it is a harmless, victimless activity that doesn’t hurt anybody. But the truth is that it leaves a path filled with victims in its wake.

So, what do you do? How do you deal with these deep seated urges that call to you? Jesus proposes a response to lust and adultery that is decisive and radical:

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt. 5:29-30)

It is a way of escape from the temptations of sexual sin that highlights how absolutely devastating sexual sin is in a life – not only in human relationships, but in our eternal destination. And because of that, he is compelling us to the most radical kind of diligence in order to avoid it.

But, without question, what Jesus says here is figurative and not literal. He is not legislating self-mutilation as an answer to sin. And truthfully, simply cutting off body parts would not accomplish the objective – for while it might discontinue the physical act of sin, it would not affect where the sin originates – the heart and mind.

This is one of those areas that we can’t legislate what people must or must not do to avoid temptation – what to do or not do, where to go or not go, what to watch or not watch. But what Jesus did and what we must do is to place in people’s value systems a personal responsibility and accountability that goes beyond the legalist avoidance of an activity to the very heart of God.

There may be some things that you can look at that I can’t – some things you can touch that I can’t. There are some things that I know will short-circuit my ability to think and function in a right way in my relationship with God. Whatever those are – get rid of them. If that means you can’t trust yourself alone with a computer, figure out someway never to be alone in a room with one. If you have channels on your TV that you know will tempt you to watch things that will destroy your soul – cancel them. If there is someone you work with that you are tempted by, don’t ever be alone with them. You know where your weaknesses are – and so does Satan. So, if you are going to be victorious, you need to take away his weapons.

I’m glad the Bible includes stories about its heroes’ weaknesses and failings; I’m glad it doesn’t whitewash its characters and only tell us about their victories and successes. I’m glad the Bible includes the story of David and Bathsheba, because I need to know that I’m not the only one who struggles. I’m glad the Bible includes the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, because I also need to know that there have been men who have been men who have been tempted, but acted with integrity and holiness.
I’m glad David wrote Psalm 51 – “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me…”
And I’m also glad David wrote Psalm 101:2-3 “I will be careful to lead a blameless life— when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with blameless heart. I will set before my eyes no vile thing.”

What did God intend? It was tragic that in the 5th century that a prominent church leader named Augustine created a virtual equivalence between sex and sin, and that view has persisted in the church ever since. We have hidden it in the closet, embarrassed to talk about it, embarrassed to admit we struggle with it, but also afraid to admit we enjoy it. What was God’s intention?
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
2:22-24 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

God created sex – he made man and woman to enjoy this gift of his. It was his idea. Don’t ever think of it as cheap and dirty.

The Bible reminds us though, that anything God created, Satan can twist and corrupt, and that sex, taken out of its God-given context, is one of those drives that can enslave and consume a person. It is not just a habit or a vice, but something that reaches into the very being of a man or a woman. To treat it lightly, to abuse it, is to violate the very essence of God’s creation.
So God placed guidelines and restrictions on that relationship – not to deny us some legitimate pleasure, but to create the conditions for the greatest enjoyment of that relationship.
· Outside of marriage: Abstinence
· Inside of marriage: Faithfulness
· In all of life: Holiness

The world has substituted a glandular response in place of true intimacy. Pre-marital sex and living together without marriage are accepted as perfectly normal and acceptable. We are characterized as animals who have no choice but to yield to our instincts. The world longs for true intimacy, but accepts cheap substitutes.

As God’s people, we need to model in our lives and our marriages true faithfulness and real intimacy. We need to be old-fashioned – not to a prudish Victorian era, but to a biblical, God honoring era. But unfortunately, the most recent statistical data gives us an “F” in sex. Christians are just as likely to be involved in extra-marital affairs, just as likely to divorce as worldly marriages. It ought to break our hearts, but more than that, it ought to drive us to recommit our lives and our marriages to a faithfulness and a holiness that is going to honor God and uphold his will.

And we need to teach our children that abstinence isn’t because of the danger of punishment, or because of the consequences of pregnancy or disease, but out of a purity and holiness that mark us as God’s children. We need to teach our children, out of a profound personal conviction, that what is most important is that sex matters to God and that his word and his will is for our holiness and purity. We need to teach our children, not only to guard their bodies, but their hearts.

At the same time, we need to model an attitude of compassion and forgiveness when bad choices are made and our loved ones fail to live up to God’s will.

What was Jesus’ response to moral failings? Let’s return for a moment to the story of the woman caught in adultery in John 8 – as the Pharisees gathered around Jesus and the woman, with stones in hand, convinced of their moral high ground, Jesus said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” When all had turned and left, Jesus looked at this woman and said, “Go and leave your life of sin.”

I pray that you may never have to face a moment like that in your life, but I pray that if you do, you will remember to be like Jesus.