Just so you all know, I have not lived the majority of my life as a follower of Christ. For most of my adult life, I actively avoided God, avoiding reading the Bible, and avoided anyone who tried to encourage me to do so. So, when I tell you these stories, understand that these are examples of the man that I was, and not the man that I am seeing to be.
When I was younger, I was in a rock band. We never got to be famous, and you’re not going to find any of our music on iTunes, but we were together for about 4 ½ years. During that time, I did a lot of things I’m not proud of. I drank heavily, smoked cigarettes, and was wildly promiscuous. Even on nights that my band wasn’t playing, I went out with the main intention of finding someone to go home with that night, and I was usually fairly successful.
This week, we are continuing our Sermon On The Mount Series by talking about adultery and divorce. Jesus touched heavily on this topic because it was (and still is) one of our biggest struggles.
The definition for lust is a very strong sexual desire, and sex is what most of us attribute lust to, though there are other things we can lust for. Matthew 5:27-30 (NLT) talks very harshly about lust. It says “You have heard the commandment that says ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye – even your good eye – causes you to lust, 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 hand – even your stronger 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 be thrown into hell.” My first point is this:
1. Adultery Is More Than Just Having An Affair
Matthew 5 talks very specifically about not looking at a woman lustfully. Jesus tells us that we are to love one another, and to look at each other as spotless, the way Christ sees them. When we lust for someone, we begin to see them as an object rather than as a person, and it begins to define how we treat that person. If we are looking at someone as an object, we are less likely to value that person beyond what pleasure they can give us. In my life, I have fallen victim to this on numerous occasions. Right after I graduated high school, there was a woman that I had been dating off and on for almost 2 years, and we had crossed every boundary that we could physically. It became a relationship that only had value when we were having sex. I had ceased to look at her as a woman whom I should love, and I only looked at her as an object to be desired. Because of that, the only time that I valued our relationship was during those times, and when she wasn’t around, I was always looking for someone else to fill that void. You see, our lust is something that can never be filled, which is part of what makes it so dangerous. Matthew 5:28 (NET) says “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” When our desire becomes so strong for something, there’s nothing that we won’t do to attain it. I’m going to go into more detail on lust for possessions in a few weeks using this example, but do you remember the character Gollum in Lord of the Rings?
He was once a hobbit, but his lust for the one ring drove him mad, and it twisted him into the creature Gollum that we meet in the books (or movies, depending on how you were introduced). When we desire something with that type of lust, we cease to be ourselves, and are warped by a false sense of satisfaction by something that ultimately leaves us longing more.
Paul talked about sexual sin in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 – 8 (NLT), which says “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body, and live in holiness and honor – not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” This brings me to my next point.
2. We Are Called To Purity
This is not a popular idea in today’s culture. Our society puts a high emphasis on sex. It’s all around us, in music, television, movies, books, even some of the commercials we see. It’s getting harder and harder to avoid. A recent article in Men’s Journal stated that anywhere between 20% – 50% of women watch porn at least once a week, and the number is higher for men. We live in a world where, unfortunately, sex does in fact sell. 50 years ago, married couples on TV didn’t even sleep in the same bed. Now, you can’t find a show where there isn’t at least some form of sexual talk or conduct going on, and often, there is infidelity involved. We have normalized this behavior to the point that it now seems to be glorified for people to cheat on their significant other, whether in the confines of marriage, or simply in a relationship.
1 Corinthians 6:18 – 20 (NLT) says “Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God. You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” This does not just refer to the act of sex with another person. Paul is also saying that we are to keep our minds and our hearts pure.
Proverbs 6 and 7 talk in depth about adultery, for both men and women, and it uses some pretty harsh language. Proverbs 6:20 – 35 (NCV) speaks to and about the men, and it says ‘My son, keep your father’s commands, and don’t forget your mother’s teaching. Keep their words in mind forever as though you had them tied around your neck. They will guide you when you walk. They will guard you when you sleep. They will speak to you when you are awake. These commands are like a lamp; this teaching is like a light. And the correction that comes from them will help you have life. They will keep you from sinful women and from the pleasing words of another man’s unfaithful wife. Don’t desire her because she is beautiful. Don’t let her capture you by the way she looks at you. A prostitute will treat you like a loaf of bread, and a woman who takes part in adultery may cost you your life. You cannot carry hot coals against your chest without burning your clothes, and you cannot walk on hot coals without burning your feet. The same is true if you have sexual relations with another man’s wife. Anyone who does so will be punished. People don’t hate a thief when he steals because he is hungry. But if he is caught, he must pay back seven times what he stole, and it may cost him everything he owns. A man who takes part in adultery has no sense; he will destroy himself. He will be beaten up and disgraced, and his shame will never go away. Jealousy makes a husband very angry, and he will have no pity when he gets revenge. He will accept no payment for the wrong; he will take no amount of money.”
Proverbs 7:6 – 27 (NCV) speaks about women, and it says “Once while I was at the window of my house I looked out through the shutters and saw some foolish, young men. I noticed one of them had no wisdom. He was walking down the street near the corner on the road leading to her house. It was the twilight of the evening; the darkness of night was just beginning. Then the woman approached him, dressed like a prostitute and planning to trick him. She was loud and stubborn and never stayed at home. She was always out in the streets or in the city squares, waiting around on the corners of the streets. She grabbed him and kissed him. Without shame she said to him, ‘I made my fellowship offering and took some of the meat home. Today I have kept my special promises. So I have come out to meet you; I have been looking for you and have found you. I have covered my bed with colored sheets from Egypt. I have made my bed smell sweet with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let’s make love until morning. Let’s enjoy each other’s love. My husband is not home; he has gone on a long trip. He took a lot of money with him and won’t be home for weeks.’ By her clever words she made him give in; by her pleasing words she led him into doing wrong. All at once he followed her, like an ox led to the butcher, like a deer caught in a trip and shot through the liver with an arrow. Like a bird caught in a trip, he didn’t know what he did would kill him. Now, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Don’t let yourself be tricked by such a woman; don’t go where she leads you. She has ruined many good men, and many have died because of her. Her house is on the road to death, the road that leads down to the grave.”
The last part of this message is on the topic of divorce, which I thought was fitting, since many divorces happen because of adultery. Sadly, we live in a culture where divorce is all too common. Many people hit hard times and decide to give up on the relationship or marriage instead of working through the problem. Hebrews 13:4 (NLT) says “Give honor to marriage, and remain faithful to one another in marriage. God will surely judge people who are immoral and those who commit adultery.” This brings me to my last point.
3. Marriage Really Is Meant To Be Forever
J.R.R. Tolkien said “Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one), both partners might have found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to.” This October, my grandparents will have been married 65 years, and never once in their marriage has the word divorce ever come up. I realize that’s a rare feat these days, but I don’t believe it’s unattainable. The problem comes when we begin to tell ourselves that it would be easier to walk away than to fix what’s broken, or we tell ourselves that we didn’t marry the right person. Romans 7:2 – 3 (NET) says “For a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law of the marriage. So then, if she is joined to another man while her husband is alive, she will be called an adulteress, but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she is joined to another man, she is not an adulteress.” When you get married, you make a vow that says “Til death to us part.” It never once says “As long as it never gets hard”, or “Until we get tired of each other.” It doesn’t even say “Until someone better comes along.” Til death do us part used to mean something more than just a line we say. There’s a reason that God refers to us as His bride, and He is the bridegroom. Our relationship with Christ is forever, and He loves us regardless of how difficult we may be to love, and that is the way marriage was intended to be. I’m very thankful that God has promised never to leave me, and we should all be equally thankful for that.
We thank You today that You have promised never to leave or forsake us, but that we are Yours for eternity. Lord, I pray today for anyone who has felt the pain of losing a marriage or relationship, and I pray that You would comfort them, and show them that are still loved by You, no matter what their situation. Father, we have all fallen short, and I am so thankful for Your grace that covers us when we have lust in our hearts. Help us to turn to You when the world attacks us with it’s images and messages, and keep our hearts pure. It’s in Your name we pray. Amen