Matthew 5:27-36 – Lusting, Liquidating, and Lying

Sermon on the Mount by Argentine artist Jorge Cocco Santángelo

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall 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 stumble, 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 stumble, 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.

“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce. ’But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

“Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. (New International Version)

Adultery. Divorce. Oaths. Jesus chose these topics from the Ten Commandments (7, 9, and 10) to uphold the ethical law of God.

In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gets to the heart of immorality and unethical behavior. The physical act of adultery arises from mental adultery. Divorce results from hardness of heart. Breaking oaths as a form of lying.

Adultery

Pornography is a 60 billion dollar a year industry, worldwide. It is the church’s problem, as well:

  • 53% of Christian men consume pornography.
  • 51% of pastors say porn is a temptation.
  • 69% of pastors started looking at porn out of curiosity.
  • 37% of pastors say it’s currently a struggle.
  • 35% of men have used pornography in the past month.
  • 4 in 10 of pastors looked at porn today.
  • There are 100,000 websites that offer illegal child pornography.
  • 90% of 8-16 year old’s have viewed porn online (most while doing homework).
  • 20% of men, and 13% of women, admit to viewing pornography at work.
  • 70 percent of all internet porn traffic occurs during the 9-to-5 workday.

Adultery initially occurs when someone feeds on mental sexual activity with another person. As with most of Christ’s solutions, he lays out a radical means of overcoming it.

Jesus is not condemning normal gender attraction, nor sex itself (which is a gift of God). Rather, Jesus condemns the leering upon another with sexual fantasy. All adulterous relationships and inappropriate sexual relations start with the “look.”

“Lust” is to intensely desire and burn for something, to seek mastery over another. The reason people stare, and lust, is not because of the other person’s manner or dress; it’s because they already have an adulterous heart. 

Whenever we are caught in physical or mental adultery, decisive and drastic action is needed. Jesus used hyperbole to drive his point home about the need of dealing with adultery. The approach is not applying a band aid; it is amputation.

The reason many men and women are snared by adultery, and seem unable to stop, is that they deal with it on their own. The radical action needed is accountability; confession must be offered.

Trying to manage lust on our own is like one individual attempting to contain a nuclear meltdown.

Jesus leaves no room to think it is okay to lust in the heart because I am not hurting anybody. Pornography enslaves its users and degrades women.

As powerful and addictive lust is, God’s grace is bigger and more powerful. There’s no need to be burdened with shame and guilt when the cross of Christ has already taken care of it.

There would not be a multi-billion dollar industry if there were not places in our hearts that are black. Now is the time for forgiveness, grace, and healing.

Sermon on the Mount by American artist Bill Bell

Divorce

Today in America more than one-third of all adults have experienced divorce.

Unfortunately, many divorced persons feel their faith community provided rejection rather than support and healing. There is a lot of room for improvement when to help families, and those having experienced divorce.

Please know Jesus condemns the cavalier divorce, and not all divorce. Anybody who doesn’t like their spouse doesn’t have ground for divorce. They entertain the thought of having a better spouse, even though there is no marital unfaithfulness. 

This is yet another form of mental adultery (and idolatry) which believes someone else can better meet my needs. 

Jesus clearly makes provision for divorce to occur in certain circumstances. Yet, he will not bend to liquidating a marriage over unhappiness with what God has joined together.

The intent of Old Testament legislation on divorce is to avoid a casual stance toward marriage (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). Over the centuries, people found creative ways of getting around the law. Although a divorce may be legal, it might not be ethical. Jesus wanted divorce practiced with concern for the woman, so that her rights and needs were considered.

Many took a loose view of divorce and focused solely on “indecency” as grounds for divorce. They did not interpret the term solely as sexual infidelity, as Jesus did, but had a broad understanding of indecency.

For example, if a husband did not like his wife, or, in the words of one rabbi, she continually burns the supper, he may “put her away” (divorce her). Jesus, however, insisted divorce must not happen because of a hard time getting along; or don’t love your spouse anymore; or that your spouse keeps irritating you. 

Being frustrated or unhappy are not biblical grounds for divorce. The answer to most marital problems does not lie in a new spouse, but in the hard work of identifying the idols of our hearts, overthrowing them, and re-connecting. Sin is crouching at the door, but you and I must master it.

Jesus said the ground for divorce is marital unfaithfulness, that is, any sexual activity outside the bounds of the marriage relationship. And, even in this case, divorce need not be an option, if the two people can reconcile.

Christ sought to defend women who are genuine victims. In biblical times, if a wife was given a certificate of divorce, she had four options: 1) Return to her family of origin; 2) Become a beggar; or 3) Become a prostitute to make ends meet; or, 4) Marry again, thus committing adultery if she was divorced because her husband didn’t like her. 

Jesus doesn’t take sides between spouses. Instead, he lifts the original intent of marriage: oneness. Divorce was never meant to be. Separating two people is damaging. However, it obviously occurs. (Matthew 19:1-12)

Divorce exists because of the heart’s hardness in one or both of the marriage partners. Divorce, really, is a legal testimony verifying that a separation has already occurred. It’s a recognition that disunity and non-oneness is already present. Legal divorce affirms that a terrible break already happened, damaging the people involved.

Just as God is one, two marital partners are to be one. Oneness is the primary goal of any marriage relationship. God did not institute marriage for people to live as roommates, but to be a new entity operating as one.

If God found it necessary to divorce his own covenant people, then it is inevitable divorce will occur among people (Jeremiah 3:1-8).  Therefore, let’s be discerning in how we handle each individual situation of marital difficulty.

Sermon on the Mount by Janice Elizabeth Steward

Oaths

“I swear on a stack of Bibles I won’t…” “I will, if I get around to it….” These are a few of the caveats we give when making a promise or oath. Oaths communicate our level or ability of getting it done, or not.

That’s fine. What isn’t fine is making excuses or false promises with no intention of doing what you say you will do. So, Jesus wants all the extraneous language out. Say “yes” or “no” and then follow through. And if you don’t, you’re a liar.

We often lie because we don’t want to do something to begin with. “Yes” and “no” are clear boundary words. Boundaries are needed so there is no oath-breaking.

Boundaries define where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to take and not take responsibility for gives me freedom.

  • Boundaries keep the good in and the bad out. Setting boundaries involves taking responsibility for your choice of “yes” and “no” and living with the consequences.
  • Boundaries protect us from “gaslighting.” Gaslighting is a form of emotional abuse. The abuser manipulates another into doubting their thoughts, feelings, judgments, perceptions, and/or memories.
  • Boundaries hold people accountable for their words and actions. Without boundaries, we can easily feel used and mistreated.

Jesus wants us to clarify our values and live them out; make wise decisions; identify what we will accept and reject; and follow through on what we say we will do.

Conclusion

Adultery, divorce, and oaths are related. Boundaries – making and keeping promises – deals with outside forces trying to compromise our values. Accountability in naming our struggles mitigates covetousness.

Dissolved marriages and broken promises still happen. Yet, Jesus is there offering grace, not judgment. We may become emotionally damaged, however, there is healing available through the mercy of Christ. Amen.

Psalm 119:9-16 – How Can a Young Person Live a Pure Life?

How can a young person live a pure life?
    By obeying your word.
I try with all my heart to serve you.
    Help me obey your commands.
I study your teachings very carefully
    so that I will not sin against you.
Lord, you are worthy of praise!
    Teach me your laws.
I will repeat the laws we have heard from you.
I enjoy following your rules
    as much as others enjoy great riches.
I will study your instructions.
    I will give thought to your way of life.
I enjoy your laws.
    I will not forget your word. (ERV)

Pornography is a multi-billion-dollar a year industry and is steadily growing. The younger generation is particularly susceptible in this internet age of easy access and multiple porn websites.

  • 35% of all internet downloads worldwide are related to pornography.
  • Teen-aged boys are the largest consumers of pornographic internet sites. 

The following percentages of children report having seen pornography in some way:

  • 50% of 11-13-year-olds
  • 65% of 14-15-year-olds
  • 78% of 16-17-year-olds
  • 75% of parents believe their children have not seen pornography online.
  • 53% of the children said that they had seen pornography online.

Into this terrible muck of impurity an impropriety enters the biblical psalmist with his ancient, yet truly relevant question for us today: How can a young person live a pure life? 

The answer the psalmist gives is this: By guarding the heart through obedience to God’s Holy Word. The psalmist himself stored up the commands and teachings of Scripture in his heart so that he might not sin against God.

A solid tried-and-true activity parents can do for themselves (the statistics for adult use of porn are staggering) and for their kids in this area of purity is for the entire family to do some old school Bible memorization. Yes, I mean getting down to rote memory work. 

This is to be neither a legalistic practice nor some fetish that will keep evil away. Instead, memorizing verses and large sections of the Bible provides a solid foundation from which to construct of base of operations for the work of meditation. When temptation occurs, there will be something to stand upon in the heat of the moment.

Today’s lesson from Psalm 119 is a great place to begin. Expand to memorize the entire psalm, all 176 verses of it. When faced with the decision of viewing pornography or not, it would be wise to dedicate the time to memorizing Scripture so that there will be a delight in God’s statutes rather than a depressed guilt over another fall into impure thoughts and/or actions.

Now, I can feel the pushback from some folks. You might not have memorized anything your entire life, or so you think. One of the reasons many people can freely quote lines from movies is that they have watched their favorites repeatedly. Ah, so we are on to something, right!?

I have been reading the Holy Bible for over forty years, every day. I have large chunks of Scripture memorized – mostly because of all that reading. So far in my life I’ve read the entire Old Testament around 100 times and the New Testament about 300 times – not because I ever had the goal of doing all that reading but because I need God’s Word.

What’s more, I take the further step of spending some time in reflection and ongoing meditation on Scripture, especially at night before retiring. This might seem over the top to some. However, the reading and reflection of Scripture is about a 30-minute venture for me on most days. The goal is engrafting the message of the Bible into the heart and life. Memorization is simply the means of helping that to happen.

There are some memorization tips I use and have picked up along the way to aid in pressing Scripture firmly into my soul:

  • Sleep on it. Studies show that our brains process and store information while we sleep. Try to review some Scripture just before you go to sleep—even if it’s only for a few minutes—and see if it helps embed the information in your memory.
  • Repeat it. There is no substitute for consistent and repetitive reading or listening to Scripture being read to you. This one practice alone has been key to my own ability to memorize. 
  • Write it out. Writing helps deeply encode biblical truth we’re trying to learn because there is a direct connection between our hand and our brain. To increase recall, speak the Scripture out loud and visualize the concepts as well.
  • Sing it. Singing is what got my middle daughter through school. Songs or jingles use your brain’s right hemisphere, helping us to remember. There are already plenty of songs out there for all kinds of biblical passages. And, of course, you can always try making your own music.
  • Sense it. Use as many of the five senses as possible. Our senses enable us to use more parts of our brains and retain information better. For example, when I read Scripture, I use a physical Bible to hold and often use a pointer when reading (touch); have a cross in front of me (sight); read out loud, sometimes with worship music in the background (hearing); light a candle (smell); and, I always have a cup of coffee to sip while reading! (taste)

The biblical psalms are meant to be prayed. So, using them for that purpose has the effect of shaping our prayers and desires in a good direction, as well as helping us to live into the commands of God to “repeat the laws I have heard from you.” In a world of spiritual impurity, emotional assault, and mental adultery, we need the purifying work of God’s Word to wash our souls clean.

May it be so, to the glory of God.

Merciful God, thank you for providing your Word to me so that I might read it, use it, memorize it, meditate upon it, and engraft it into my soul.  Fortify my spirit against the demons of impurity by the power of your Holy Spirit, to the glory of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Psalm 119:9-16

            Pornography is a $12 billion a year industry in the United States.  XXX Church, an internet site dedicated to helping people to kick the habit of porn, reports that 9 out of every 10 boys have viewed some type of pornography by age 17.  In fact, teen-aged boys are the largest consumers of pornographic internet sites.  64% of all American men have visited a porn site in the past month.  1 in 6 women in this country have an addiction to pornography.  In the time it takes for you to read this sentence 84,774 people in this country will visit a porn site.  And this does not even mention the new wave of “sexting” that happens among people who have ready access to cell phones to take and upload pornographic pictures any time of day or night. 
 
            Into this terrible muck, enter the psalmist with his ancient, yet very relevant question for us today:  “How can a young man keep his way pure?”  The answer: by guarding his heart according to God’s Word.  “I have stored up your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you.”  The best thing parents can do for themselves and for their kids in this area of purity is for the entire family to do some old school bible memorization.  Yes, I mean getting down to rote memory work.  This is to be neither a legalistic practice nor some fetish that will keep evil away.  Instead, memorizing verses and large sections of the Bible provides a solid foundation from which to construct of base of operations for the work of meditation.  When temptation occurs there will be something to stand upon in the heat of the moment.
 
            These verses from Psalm 119 are a great place to begin.  Expand to memorize the entire psalm, all 176 verses of it.  When faced with the decision of viewing pornography or not, it would be wise to dedicate the time to memorizing Scripture so that there will be a delight in God’s statues rather than a depressed guilt over another fall into impure thoughts and actions.
            Merciful God, thank you for providing your Word to me so that I might read it, use it, memorize it, meditate upon it, and engraft it into my soul.  Fortify my spirit against the demons of pornography by the power of your Holy Spirit, to the glory of Jesus Christ.  Amen.