Sorry about the earlier "mistake post" that went out earlier. Please disregard that one. The post below has all the right links and text, etc. (I hope).
To LISTEN to this week's sermon online click here. To DOWNLOAD an MP3, first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as".
To download a PDF of Pastor Paul Naumann's helpful paper (referenced in the sermon), "Addressing the Temptation of Internet Pornography" first right click here then choose "save link as" or "save target as"
This week we’re continuing our study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. One of the things that Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the Mount was explaining the commandments of God. He was filling up the commandments with meaning like we might fill a cup with water.
Last week we heard Jesus talk about the fifth commandment, “You shall not murder”. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law taught that this commandment meant don’t take anyone’s life. Jesus says that it means more. It means don’t hate anyone. Don’t be full of anger. Don’t call anyone hurtful names because you’re angry with them. In God’s eyes, sinful anger IS murder.
This week Jesus moves on to the sixth commandment, “You shall not commit adultery”. And He’s going to do the same thing with this commandment. He’s going to explain it. He’s going to fill it up with meaning.
Jesus going to express three thoughts here: 1) You know that adultery is wrong. But lust is the same thing. 2) Take whatever action is necessary in order to separate yourself from what causes you to sin. 3) Only God can free you completely from what causes sin, because the source of sin is internal.
You can open up your Bibles to Matthew 5, verse 27. It’s also printed in your bulletin as the sermon text. Preaching to the crowds on the side of the mountain, Jesus says,
“27“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27-28 NIV).
Jesus says, “Lust = Adultery of the heart, Lust = Fornication of the heart. Lust is bad.”
The Greek word for “lust” (“Epi-thoo-meh-oh”) is a bit more picturesque than the English word. The “epi” means “toward”. “Thoo-meh-oh” means “to breathe hard”. To breath hard toward. You get the idea.
God is the one who built the response of attraction into the human being. But God says that this kind of strong desire belongs only between a man and a woman who are married.
Popular opinion in Jesus’ day, and in ours, says something different. Our culture teaches us that lust is “naughty”, but healthy in small doses. The Television teaches us that lust is only bad if it’s undesired. You know, the creepy guy who looks at you at the health club. Or the unattractive girl at work that dotes on you more than on anyone else. In other words, the world teaches us that lust is great, but only when you want it.
When Jesus spoke these words in the Sermon on the Mount, He spoke them in a culture that was very much male dominated. So, He spoke these words to men, about a problem that men have – the wandering, lustful eye.
But, that doesn’t mean that women don’t have issues with lust. Just because Jesus addresses men doesn’t mean that He’s saying, “You women out there in the crowd don’t have to listen to this. Find something else to think about for a few minutes because only men have this problem.”
I’m not a woman. I am a man. I don’t pretend that every man is like me, but I have at least some idea what other guys deal with when it comes to lust. What I certainly DON’T understand fully, is all the things that a WOMAN might experience in connection with this temptation.
So, I asked my wife.
She said that yeah, it’s not always the same. A woman can be physically attracted to a man, but the attraction is more likely to be in other areas.
She kinda smirked at one point in our conversation and said something like, “Yeah, you don’t see a lot of pictures of half-naked men around because most men just aren’t that good looking.” To which I said, “Thanks a lot.”
When a women struggles with lust, it may be different than when a man does. Perhaps she has a husband at home who doesn’t pay as much attention to her as he used to. He used to actually listen to her, now he just glazes over when she’s talking. He used to spend time with her, now it seems like he’s always gone somewhere else. She’s begun to see in other men what she wishes her husband was: Considerate. Thoughtful of her needs. Dedicated to providing for her. Focused on her. Romantic. In a word, more loving towards her. She sees in other men, the husband that she wishes he was. More than that, she looks to see in other men the husband that she wishes he was.
Lust isn’t just desire of a person because of their visible, physical qualities. It is the sinful desire of a person whom God has not given to you.
When people think of adultery, they usually think about the physical act. But Jesus takes the sin back to the lusting and farther.
If you’re following along in the New King James Version of the Bible, you’ve got a good translation at verse 28. Let’s look again at that verse, Matthew 5, verse 28.
“28But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28 NKJV).
The flow of thought is this: If a man’s eyes are moving toward a woman for the purpose of looking at her with sinful desire – the sin of adultery has already been done.
A man is sitting at an outdoor café and he sees a woman’s foot pass by. He knows from the kind of shoe that this woman is wearing that she is not likely to be modestly dressed. Even before his eye finds its lustful target, God says, “the sin has been done” –even before the coveting look ever takes place, the sin has been done –in the heart.
Sexual sin is like an infection. Incubated in the heart, it moves out from there to the eyes. To the hands. To the whole body. But Jesus says, “God sees it the whole time, and it’s sin from beginning to end.”
Now I don’t want you to think that every time you notice someone who is beautiful or handsome, that you’re lusting after them. That’s not true. We can recognize and appreciate physical form and beauty without sinning. But we can also recognize when we’re doing more than “appreciating physical form and beauty”. Here’s barometer for you: if you’re uncomfortable with anyone else seeing you look, chances are, you should stop.
The world says, it’s okay to look, as long as you don’t touch. “Roving eyes, hands in the pocket”, that’s how one young man put it. It’s okay to fantasize, just don’t act on your fantasies. But that’s NOT what God says. And it’s NOT what human research shows either.
Studies show that when people get into looking at images that they shouldn’t, those images lead to harder images. Then to darker ones. Then to fantasizing. Then to acting out those fantasies in real life.
Do not mess with lust.
If you have a problem with pornography or lust, tell someone you can trust. Confide in someone. If you can’t talk to your pastor, please, talk to one of your brothers or sisters in Christ.
It’s been said that if a pastor isn’t dealing with pornography problems in his congregation, it’s not because they aren’t there, it’s because he doesn’t know about them. Talk to me. Talk to someone. There is help for this temptation. And with Christ forgiveness waits and all things are possible.
If you go online to our church website, www.redemptionclc.com, and go to the “Church” tab, you’ll find a link to this week’s sermon. At the beginning that sermon you’ll find instructions on how to download information on how to combat internet pornography in your life. It’s there. Our website. Church tab. This sermon. Link at the beginning.
One of the reasons why lust is so dangerous is that it damages and destroys relationships. Sometimes lust prevents relationships from ever getting started. Sometimes it destroys dating relationships. Sometimes lust damages and destroys marriages. The sin of lust also destroys the faith relationship between a person and God.
The apostle Paul talks about this in his first letter to the Corinthian congregation. You can follow along if you turn to 1 Corinthians 6, verse 9.
“9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIV).
Sin completely destroyed the relationship that Adam and Eve had with God in the beginning. But God, said, “I still love you, and I’ll fix this. I will send my own Son to suffer the punishment that YOU deserve. I’ll restore our relationship by taking your sins away.”
Jesus did just that. He suffered for our sins of adultery. Our sins of lust. He suffered for sexual sins He never even thought of doing. Our record of sexual sin, whatever it has been, is forgiven and washed away in a flood of God’s mercy through Jesus’ cross.
As followers of Jesus we know this. We know the Good News of sins forgiven through Jesus. But we need to be told again and again. These sins are hard to escape, and their guilt lingers too. In Christ, there is forgiveness. Full forgiveness. Complete forgiveness.
What we don’t want to do is pick our sins back up off the ground and run with them, that’s like pouring acid on our restored relationship with God. Eventually, the acid of sin will eat through faith and separates us from God again. Sin is damaging and dangerous. Always has been, always will be. That’s why Jesus says what He does in verses 29-30.
I’m at Matthew 5, verse 29. The last verses of our sermon text. Here Jesus says,
“29If 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. 30And 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” (Matthew 5:29-30 NIV).
Jesus is saying that sin is so dangerous that we should take whatever action is necessary in order to get ourselves free from the things that cause us to sin. If the sinfulness is REALLY in your RIGHT EYE, get rid of it. If the evil is REALLY in your RIGHT HAND, by all means cut it off!
Recently I read about a guy who actually did this. Cut his own hand off. Not for the purpose of avoiding sin, but for the purpose of saving his own life.
Aron Ralston was hiking in Utah in 2003. He was in a narrow canyon when a falling boulder pinned his arm to the canyon wall. For six days he was trapped until finally he used a dull multi-tool to cut the lower part of his right arm off.
Aron cut his arm off because his life was on the line. Jesus says to do the same. Your life is on the line. Identify the sources of sin in your life and cut them away!
Now, when God tells us this, our response is shock and unbelief, “What? You want me to do what?” Then our reaction is disappointment, “Maybe I don’t really want to cut that something out of my life.”
We say, “Jesus, I just want to keep going where I go, and doing what I do, and keep on coming back to you for forgiveness on Sunday.” And Jesus says “Yeah, you can keep coming to me for forgiveness. But I don’t want you to keep going where you know you’re going to find temptation.” I want you to cut those places out.”
When we’re unsure that we really want to make a drastic move in our lives to conform to Christ’s way, we need to remember – whatever Jesus tells us to do WILL result in blessing. His way ultimately CANNOT go wrong.
This past week I pulled up an interview online with that climber, Aron Ralston.
Aron had thought about cutting of his arm off very early in his ordeal. But he try because he knew he wouldn’t be able to cut through bone with the cheap little multi-tool that he had to use. He didn’t realize that he could use a rock to break the bones in his arm, or snap them with leverage until his sixth day in the canyon. And while that sounds absolutely horrific to us, to SNAP the bones in your forearm on purpose and CUT OFF your own arm, the actual experience of it was something quite different for Aron.
Interviewer: “That moment when you finally get that, is so full of both salvation and horror that I can’t even imagine what it was like to go through that.”
Aron Ralston: “Well, and I know that you used the word dreadful to describe the experience of the amputation and I think that’s the way people see it and they have a hard time understanding that for me six days of considering myself a dead man even to the extend that I’d made my farewell messages, my last will and testament on the video tape to my family and my friends, that I’d written R.I.P over my name etched into the wall on the left side of the canyon. The moment when I figured out how I could get free, it was the best idea and the most beautiful experience I will ever have in my life. That it was all euphoria and not a bit of horror. It was having my life back after being dead” (NPR interview by Alex Chadwick first aired on September 13, 2004).
Those are his own words. He says that figuring out how to actually sever his right arm from his body was the “best idea and the most beautiful experience” he’ll ever have.
That’s how we should feel when we figure out how to cut some temptation out of our life. Not horror. Not self-pity. Not anger that Jesus is making us do this, but euphoria. Because what Jesus says always brings blessing. And cutting sin away from our lives means improved quality of life, it means freedom.
We’re not done with Aron’s story just yet. After he successfully amputated his arm, he wasn’t out of the woods yet. He was out in the country and needed to find medical help fast.
After amputating his right arm, Ralston had to sort out his climbing rope with one hand and rappel down a 60 foot cliff. This he accomplished after nearly dropping his rope. If he would have dropped that rope, he would have bled to death in that canyon.
But even after that, Aron wasn’t safe. He had lost a lot of blood. He began to hike up the trail. I’ll give you his own words.
Aron Ralston: ““I had lost almost a liter and a half of blood at the time that the helicopter found me. At the point when the human body loses about 2 liters of blood is medically speaking when it goes into the state of shock at the level where your organs are shutting down including your heart and you have a heart attack and you die. It essentially gave me a window of about another half an hour. During which I could be rescued. Had I had the epiphany to get out anytime before or after that half an hour window when that helicopter was exactly where it was because otherwise it was going to be headed back for refueling and wouldn’t be in the area, I would have bled to death in the bottom of that canyon. It was certain suicide in my mind and the fact that it worked out is just absolutely direct evidence that there’s something bigger going on” (NPR interview by Alex Chadwick first aired on September 13, 2004).
Aron’s experience matches that of every sinner. Because even if we can amputate some of our sins. Even if we can cut out some of the causes of sin in our lives, we’re still bleeding to death with the clock running. And there’s no way that we’ll be able to hike our way into God’s good favor. All our past sins linger behind us, trialing us like some impossibly long criminal record. We need help from above.
And that’s what Jesus is. He’s the rescue helicopter. He came down from heaven to save us, just at the right time. He doesn’t say, “Cut away a few more sins and I’ll rescue you!” He says, “You’re gonna be alright. I’m here. Your past sins can’t hurt you now. I’ve paid for them. Trust me, I’ve paid for them.”
Ralston was right, there is “something bigger” going on here. SOMEONE bigger. Someone who doesn’t ask us to take on our sins alone. Someone who knows we would never make it. Someone who has already arranged events for our success. Someone who will carry us through to the end. Trust in that someone, and in His Son.
The Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.