Jesus, Lust & Adultery

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I am preaching through the Sermon on the Mount. I don’t usually post my sermon notes on this website but it is a topic so critical in our culture today that I wanted to put my notes out for anyone to use them.

Matthew 5:27-30 Adultery & Lust

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.

They got married and loved each other more than anything else in the whole world. They bought a home, had children and built a life together. They lived life and supported each other through good times and bad.

Then he has an affair with another woman. She was “happily” married too —a devoted wife and mother. She says she still loves her husband. Of course she loves her children and doesn’t want to hurt them… but she needs this. She can’t help it. She deserves to be happy.

  • It is not amazing that men and women get involved in sexual sin.
  • What is amazing is how much they are willing to pay for it.

Long-standing relationships of love and trust are shattered.

  • Kids lose their parents and are scarred by sorrow and guilt.
  • People surrender their careers, their reputations, their homes, their savings, their friends and their relationship with God—all in the pursuit of happiness or sometimes they admit, just the thrill of sex — a thrill that inevitable vanishes and leaves the stench of guilt and destruction.

Why do people risk so much to gain so little?

  1. First, you don’t realize how much sexual sin is going to cost.
  2. Sex is a powerful force that must be diligently constrained to the God ordained confines of marriage. Any other expression of it outside marriage ALWAYS is destructive.
    1. Sexual rewards are deceptive initially offering HUGE incentives but always paying out a pittance and attaching a huge penalty
  3. Sexual sin is sneaky… you don’t wake up one day as a good and faithful Christian spouse and decide “I think I’ll commit adultery”
    1. It starts with something very small and innocent—something that looks so harmless, it’s easy to allow. It starts with a desire.
    2. It creeps up on you one lust at a time, one allowance of sexual sin at a time
    3. It is a little comprise here, a little sin there, the dulling of guilt and shame
    4. It doesn’t help things that society promotes, encourages and enables lust and adultery relentlessly (there is even a website where you can sign up and meeting other people who want to “discretely” commit adultery)

Jesus Addresses Adultery

Many commentaries immediately discuss sexual immorality in a general sense when discussing Matt 5:27-30 but Jesus is not talking about sexual immorality in a general sense here. It’s speaking of ADULTERY.

  • Adultery is a very specific sin.
  • Adultery is a sin that is committed by a married person who engages in an illicit intimate relationship outside that marriage.
  • Adultery is a very specific sexual sin (Greek = moicheuo).
  • Porneia is another Greek term, used more broadly for sexual immorality, but it is not what we are talking about here.

Adultery is a marital sin; it is a sin that is to be taken very seriously. Here’s how serious God takes it:

Deuteronomy 22:22 (NKJV) —22 “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die—the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel.

Malachi 2:13–16 (NKJV) —13 And this is the second thing you do: You cover the altar of the LORD with tears, With weeping and crying; So He does not regard the offering anymore, Nor receive it with goodwill from your hands. 14 Yet you say, “For what reason?” Because the LORD has been witness Between you and the wife of your youth, With whom you have dealt treacherously; Yet she is your companion And your wife by covenant. 15 But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. 16 “For the LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce, For it covers one’s garment with violence,” Says the LORD of hosts. Therefore take heed to your spirit, That you do not deal treacherously.”

A Male sin?

  • It seems that males are the first to fall to lust generally speaking in culture but the Bible makes clear in Romans that as a society degenerates, women follow the same path.
  • Women now account for just as much adultery, divorce and (almost) porn watching as men
  • The feminist movement has sought to remove the distinctions from male and female and with regards to sexual purity and adultery, they have pretty much succeeded.

Mental Adultery

Jesus speaks of mental adultery. Everybody is guilty of this. Nobody gets off the hook on this charge of mental adultery.

“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27).

  • The form of this word, “looks” emphasizes not just a look, but much more than a look. It is “leering”: looking or gazing in a lascivious or unpleasant way.

It’s not a sin to see and recognize BEAUTY or attractiveness.

  • “Looking” is not called a sin. “Looking with lust” is… its more than just a mental  observation or our instant and natural evaluation of whether someone is “good looking” or not.
  • It is the stopping, the going back with the eyes and “locking on” with sexual imagination, wishful thinking and desire that Jesus is speaking about.
  • It is looking at a person that God has placed OFF LIMITS to you sexually and yet you entertain and invite those desires and indulge them… even if just in your mind

IMPORTANT NOTE #1:

  • The verse says “committed adultery in the heart”
  • There is a difference in the physical act of adultery versus the mental act
  • Both are condemned as sexual sin in God’s eyes but there is no doubting that the physical consummation of adultery brings with it a whole set of destructive consequences in the life of the adulterers
  • This is to warn the mental adulterer who may think “well I’m already guilty of adultery in my heart, I might as well act on it”

IMPORTANT NOTE #2: this has nothing to do with “looking” in the marriage relationship, ie. longing looks at your spouse that stir up sexual desire.

  • The marriage relationship is where sexual desiring, sexual looking, sexual wishes are appropriately fulfilled.
  • There is no hint here of sexual relations within marriage being anything other than God-given and beautiful.
  • It is precisely because the gift of sex is God-given that Jesus seeks to protect it by stating this prohibition on both the act and attitude of adultery.

Looking To Lust

It is a very purposeful act, something we choose to do.

  • Its not the instant temptation that you quickly refuse and rebuke.
  • Its not lust rearing its head for a moment and you quickly turn from it.
  • Here the look is a lingering look that has lust as its purpose and goal.
  • Jesus has in mind using a woman’s “visual presence as a means of savoring the fantasized act”

Jesus is focusing on the look which longs to possess another person you are not married to for expressly sexual purposes.

  • Jesus connects the 7th commandment, the prohibition of adultery to the 10th, the prohibition of covetousness.
  • Lusting in your heart is the coveting a person you are not entitled to effectively committing adultery because the truth is, if you could get away with it with NO PENALTY OR DISCOVERY, you would do it.

A Very Thin Line

The distinction between “looking” and “lusting” is not a great chasm but a razor’s edge!

  • I’ve heard it said “the first look is free, it’s the second that is sinful
  • I think this is too simplistic because that would lead many to a habit of “one lustful look is okay, just don’t take the second look”.  The person who thinks like this would not try to avoid the first look but create a habit they don’t feel guilty about

The safer approach is to admit our tendency to lust and try to cultivate the self discipline of not “checking out” people (that is, looking at the attractive parts of their person for the sake of a quick sexual attraction evaluation).

  • It is a habit (“checking out”) that is either cultivated or actively must be suppressed
  • The habit of looking at a person and immediately evaluating them for sexual attractiveness

Admiring beauty… or lusting? Only you and God can decide which you are doing. A razor’s edge!

Sight & Sin

Look at the connection the Lord draws between sight and sin.

  • Other senses can be turned into instruments of sin too but sight is primary.
  • Stott said, that “deeds of shame are preceded by fantasies of shame, and the inflaming of the imagination by the indiscipline of the eyes”
  • Very little sin makes its way into actuality without having passed first through the eyes of the sinner.

Job 31:1 (NKJV) —1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?

Matthew 6:22–23 (NKJV) —22  “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Psalm 119:37 (NKJV) —37 Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, And revive me in Your way.

A Problem Unparalleled in History

No matter how decadent a society was (Rome, Greek, Corinthians, pagans, etc) they still had limited opportunity to see skin, immodesty and alluring images compared to us today.

  • Sexually alluring images are available instantly on any electronic device
  • Our culture is saturated with sexual images: mags, billboards, events, public display
  • Clothing is specifically designed to promote sexual desire
  • Biblical teaching on modesty is virtually absent from Christianity
  • Any attempts at modest dress guidelines are routinely ridiculed and harassed
  • Any application of shame or embarrassment about overt sexual display or immodesty are not shameful anymore (“slut shaming”)
  • Feminism has brought us a culture where a woman (or man) can be as lascivious as she pleases and it must never be “judged” or discouraged (called “empowering”)
  • It is never taught in culture (rarely in Churches) that dressing or acting immodestly and encouraging others to lust after you has a personal responsibility for the sin that it produces… only the person who lusts has any responsibility, if any

Deal With It

Matt5: 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.

We must deal drastically and radically with sin. “We must not pamper it, flirt with it, enjoy nibbling a little of it around the edges. We are to hate it, crush it, dig it out”

Colossians 3:4–5 (NKJV) —4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. 5 Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

  • We must never toy with sin or press its boundaries to discover how much we can get away with before we transgress.
  • In the case of adulterous lust, if your eye leads you astray, “tear it out.” If your hand is the culprit, cut it off.

Its not meant to be a literal act because lusting is in the heart and mind.

  • A lustful person would still lust even if they were blind and had no arms or legs.
  • They would lust in their mind

The point Jesus was making was DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to avoid lusting in  your heart, especially when it comes to adultery which doesn’t just affect your personal holiness, it affects your marriage.

Flee & Fill

2 Timothy 2:22 (NKJV) —22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

  • Don’t stand and fight lust. RUN! Turn away, get away from it.
  • Stay away from places, events, situations and devices that you know will offer up a lust buffet for you

Philippians 4:8 (NKJV) —8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

  • After you flee, push out the lustful thoughts with Godly thoughts

1 Thessalonians 4:3–7 (NKJV) —3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. 7 For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.

Practical Advice

  1. Desire is an alarm.
    Like a proximity alarm. Action needs to be taken to avoid a collision. “Pull up, pull up” says the airplane cockpit when flying too low
  2. Recognize you are vulnerable.
  3. Watch your input.
  4. Dress thoughtfully.
  5. Watch your circumstances.
  6. Think consequences.
  7. Find satisfaction in marriage.
    Proverbs 5:15-20 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer– may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man’s wife?
  8. Tell someone else.
  9. Run away.
    2 Timothy 2:22 (NKJV) —22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.
  10. Rely on God’s Spirit for power, protection and help.