INTRODUCTION: JESUS RAISING THE STANDARD.
This section of scripture is part of one sermon, spoken by Jesus. I would like to identify a pattern that Jesus was establishing in this sermon. To do so, why don’t we read a few other verses.
“You have heard that it was said…But I say…”
Jesus established an interesting pattern here. What does the saying, “you have heard that it was said…” mean? Well, Jesus was referring to the Old Law. When Jesus said, “but I say…” he was saying something that was quite courageous to say. He was not only claiming to be God, but was raising the standard of the Law.
Refraining from committing adultery should be a relatively easy command for any Jew to follow. Committing adultery would condemn people to death in the Jewish culture. But, what Jesus said, was something entirely more difficult. His challenge was not only an outward physical act, but also an inward discipline. He said, that “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
It would seem that Jesus was emphasizing the Heart here…we will look at the heart a little more later, but lets continue with the rest of these verses. Matt.5:29,30
This seems like Jesus was showing how serious looking at a woman with lustful intent is. He went so far as to say we should cut out our eye if we continue to sin in such a way. Then, if that analogy weren’t enough, he says to cut of your hand for the same reason. Why? Because as he says, it is better that we lose one member than our whole body be thrown into hell. He was saying, forsaking our spiritual lives and our heart for the sake of worldly pleasure and sin is a horrible mistake. Gouge it out and cut it off before it causes you to stumble again.
Now, right here I think it is important to make a couple points: First, this verse does not only apply to men. Second, this verse is not a loop-hole encouraging divorce. The very next verses in the context discourage it in fact.
SECTION 1: GOD WANTS OUR TOTAL FIDELITY
Women: How might this apply to you? Jesus was explaining how lusting is the same as committing adultery in a man’s heart. He was raising the standard for a man’s conduct, correct? If this is the case, perhaps women have a similar problem with physical lust? Maybe not. Perhaps women have a different weakness. If her husband were not showing her sufficient love and attention, and he was failing to lead her in an appropriate godly fashion, is it possible that a woman might desire another man that she sees embodying these qualities? And for the women that are not married, is it possible for a woman to desire men more than her relationship with God? What was Jesus saying here? If we desire something with lustful intent, and then indulge those lustful fantasies, we have already committed that sin in our hearts.
The heart is what God seeks. We can see that he desires the heart with the example of King David. The Lord chose him from the beginning because he was “a man after God’s own heart”.
Later in Matthew 22:23-40(read here), Jesus is asked a couple of questions. How did Jesus respond? To the Sadducees he explains: you don’t understand the scriptures, and you are missing the point. Here is what the scriptures really mean. That silences them immediately. To the Pharisees he explicitly states: The most important commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
God wants all of us. He wants all of our heart all of our soul and all of our mind. He wants our whole being.
Let’s see how Paul describes the same subject.
Let’s read Romans 6:1-23, especially paying attention to verses 12-23.
What was Paul asking? He was asking: How can we that have given ourselves, our hearts, to the Lord still allow ourselves to be slaves of sin? The Lord has set us free from the shackles of our sinful desires, yet we return to our old masters, and we refuse to surrender our hearts, our souls, and our minds. That is inconsistent and foolish.
This principle can clearly apply to both genders, and it clearly points away from divorce.
If we, both men and women, are loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, and mind, will we be committing adultery with our eyes and with our desires? Will we be fantasizing about people that we are not married to? I don’t think we would. If we were loving our neighbors as we love ourselves and loving the Lord with all of our being, would we divorce our spouse because the law says that we are allowed to? Or would we be listening to Jesus when he was raising the standard? Would we seek to love our spouse as Jesus has loved us in our unfaithfulness to him? I would hope that I could…and that I would. All of this seems to be pretty reasonable, but what do we do with it? The “what” and the “why” are always great motivators, but are useless without the “how”.
SECTION 2: CHOICE
How do we stop looking at women with lustful intent? How do we stop fantasizing about others of the opposite gender that are not our spouse? How do we love our spouses more than ourselves? Most importantly, how do we give ourselves wholly to God and let him have our heart, soul, and mind?
I think it starts with choice. It starts with a willingness to choose what is right over that which we know is wrong.
If we turn to Job 31:1-12 we see that Job, a righteous man, made a conscious decision to control his actions, to control his desires and not be a slave to sin. It says here, that he made an agreement, a covenant, with his eyes. He chose to not gaze at a virgin. He truly understood the gravity of his decisions. He knew the evil he would commit if he decided to be adulterous. He, wished that HIS WIFE would have relations with another if he was so careless as to “turn aside from the way”.
We must choose righteousness above sin. So often, I think that we would like to make excuses. Is it hard to resist temptation? Is it difficult to not do what is pleasurable to the flesh? Yeah, THAT IS WHY IT IS TEMPTATION. Why don’t we look at Jesus and his example. Let’s turn to Matthew Chapter 4. This section is the temptation of Jesus. Jesus, in his perfection, was tempted…if he were not tempted, then he cannot claim to know what it is like to be human. Here, Jesus refused to give in to Satan’s silver tongue. Jesus refused to make food for himself, refused to bow to Satan(at the cost of the world…which Jesus was sent to redeem), and refused to test His Father in heaven. Could Jesus turn rocks into bread…I should hope so, he turned water into wine. Could Jesus have bowed to Satan? It is apparent from His life that he bowed to the Lord each and every day. Could Jesus have tested the Lord? I would think that yes, He could. We see that after this temptation, the angels came and attended to him in Matthew chapter 4. All of these things would have relieved pain and been easier than the road that Jesus chose to take…but what was different? How did Jesus overcome this? HIS UTTER AND TOTAL DEVOTION TO HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE LORD. HE WAS NOT FOCUSED ON THE EASY CHOICE GIVEN HIM AT THE PRESENT, BUT WAS FOCUSED ON ETERNITY.
SECTION 3: REACHING TO THE LORD
We must also take this burden to the Lord. Let’s read James 5:13-16
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Prayer is a powerful part of overcoming struggles and suffering in our lives.
But, I think there is another Key in this scripture. What is it? Lets read it again: James 5:13-16
The key here is other people, our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can’t struggle against Satan by ourselves. We need help from the Lord, our Brothers’ and Sisters’ prayers, and the support of those Brothers and Sisters in Christ. The Lord wants us to take our burdens to Him, along with taking other’s burdens to Him. This seems similar to giving our whole selves to God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
So, to summarize: We must avoid sinful desires as much as possible. Why? Because God desires that we no longer follow our old masters of sin and that we give our whole beings to Him. How do we do this? First we must choose to do so, then we must take this burden to the Lord and our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Is there any other step we take? Is there anything you can think of to help us direct our lives fully to the Lord?
CONCLUSION: PLEASING THE LORD IS OUR AIM
Let’s turn to Psalm 1 and see what the Psalmist says.
Staying in the Word. If we delight in the Law of the Lord, and meditate on it day and night, wouldn’t it be hard to focus on our selfish evil desires? Wouldn’t it be hard to lust after another of the opposite sex knowing that God has made that person in His image? Constantly being in the Word would leave little time for us to spend away from God…It would better enable us to give ourselves to the Lord. It would loosen the hold that sin has over us and get us striving, once more, toward the Lord. Being in the Word, ultimately pleases the Lord.
Isn’t that our Aim? Isn’t that why we became Christians? Don’t we want to please Abba Father? To please our creator? To please the One that knows us better than we know ourselves? To please the One that gave us dignity by allowing us to choose Him or not? To please the One that loves us more than any other and has shown us that love greater than any other can, and greater than any other will?
The Lord made himself nothing by coming down to earth. He made himself finite when he was infinite. He became obedient to death, his creation, even death on a cross. He sacrificed his son knowingly and gave himself, as an example. He did so, so that we could share in a newness of life, so that we could be free in Him and because He loves us. He did so, that we might walk in his footsteps.
I want to close this thought, with the words of a song:
Father God, Just for today,
help me walk the narrow way.
Help me stand when I might fall.
Give me the strength to hear your call.
May my steps be worship, may my thoughts be praise, may my words bring honor to your name.