************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 41 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on August 12, 2018

Lord's Day 41
Matthew 5:27-30
"The Seventh Commandment"

There is an old movie which shows some shipwrecked men drifting aimlessly on the ocean in a lifeboat. As the days pass under the scorching sun, their rations of food and fresh water give out. The men grow deliriously thirsty. One night, while the others are asleep, one man ignores all previous warnings and gulps down some salt water. He quickly dies.
Ocean water contains seven times more salt than the human body can safely ingest. Drinking it, a person dehydrates because the kidneys demand extra water to flush the overload of salt. The more salt water someone drinks, the thirstier he gets. He actually dies of thirst.

Jesus speaks to us this morning about lust and adultery. He tells us that when we lust, we become like this man. We thirst desperately for something that looks like what we want. We don't realize, however, that it is precisely the opposite of what we really need. In fact, it can kill us.

I Lust and Adultery are Sin
A Before we go any further, we need to recognize lust and adultery for what they are. They are SIN. This runs counter to what our culture -- especially what our media culture -- teaches. In the media, lust is celebrated and adultery is a fact of life. Advertisers use lust to promote products from beer to cars to exercise equipment to luxury cruises. I remember a news article in one of the major news magazines about "True Love Waits." The editors thought it newsworthy to report on teenagers who decided to abstain from sex before marriage. Underlying this article is a sense of surprise and amazement that any teenagers would be willing to live this way. Also underlying this article is the assumption that it is normal and natural for young people to engage in sexual behavior. In contrast to this, Christian young people and adult singles and marrieds know that lust and adultery and pre-marital and extra-marital sex are sin.

I've told you before about a discussion I had with the father of a 19-year-old girl. His daughter had a steady boyfriend. The father wanted to know what I cover in pre-marital counseling. It became clear we have totally different views about pre-marital sex. He said, "I told my daughter she could not get married until they had lived together for at least a year." Do you hear what this father was saying? He was telling his daughter, his precious daughter, to have sex before marriage. What kind of parent talks this way to their kids?

B Lust and adultery. They are sin. Listen to what the sound doctrine of the Catechism says:
God condemns all unchastity.
We should therefore thoroughly detest it
and, married or single,
live decent and chaste lives.

Lust and adultery. They are sin. To put this into perspective ask yourself why Jesus set His face to go to Jerusalem? Why the tears in Gethsemane? Why the beating, the crown of thorns, the purple robe? Why the cross and its curse? Why death and the grave? Your sin, my sin -- including lust and adultery -- caused Jesus all this suffering and pain.

Lust and adultery. They are sin. They require repentance. And, like all sin, they are forgiven at the cross. Like all sin, they have no place in the new life Jesus gives us when He arose from the grave.

II The Importance of the Heart
A Listen to what Jesus says to each one of us in our Scripture reading:
(Mt 5:27-28) "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' (28) But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
What is Jesus talking about here? He is talking about the imagination.

We know that the imagination is a gift of God. Without it the world would be incomparably poorer, for imagination has given this world art and poetry and fairy tales and inventions and novels. Hence looking with the eyes and imagining with the mind are not by themselves wrong. Looking can be okay. But Jesus knew that looking with the eyes can so quickly turn into lust.

B "You have heard that it was said ..." Jesus is contrasting His view with that of the Pharisees.

The Pharisees looked down on women. They were of the opinion that a man should never have any private conversation with a woman who is not his wife. They thought this to be dangerous, because women are evil seducers. According to the Pharisees, the woman is to blame for lustful thoughts and acts. Men are but helpless victims.

Today, the pendulum has swung too far the other way. Now, women are regarded as the helpless victims and men as the sexual aggressors who cannot control their appetites.

Jesus takes an entirely different stand. He, for instance, had an open conversation with the woman of Samaria. He had several female friends who served Him with their goods. He counted Mary and Martha as close friends. There were women at Golgotha. Women were not only the first visitors at His empty tomb on Easter Sunday but also the first witnesses of the resurrected Christ.

As far as lustful desires are concerned, Jesus blames the sinful desires of both men and women. Both can be guilty of looking "lustfully." Both can be guilty of committing adultery in the heart.

C "You have heard that it was said ..." The Pharisees looked only at the outward appearance. The Pharisees stuck with the letter of the law and ignored its spirit. They reduced the law of God so that the seventh commandment speaks only of actual, physical adultery. Jesus, on the other hand, says adultery is not merely a matter of actions and deeds; it is also something within the heart that leads to the action. Jesus knows that
(Mt 15:19) ... out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.

The Pharisees had a mechanical view of obedience. It doesn't matter what your attitude is, it doesn't matter what shape your heart is in, just so long as you keep the letter of the law. What counted with them, above all else, was external appearances. But Jesus tells us that outward appearance is not enough. What counts is the heart and the mind.

D I want to ask you, congregation, about your heart. You may not have committed physical adultery but this does not mean you are guiltless. How is your heart? Is there disease there?

There are men and women who would never dream of committing adultery; yet, they enjoy sinning in the mind.
Imagine a drug so powerful it can destroy a family ... Picture an addiction so lethal it has the potential to render an entire generation incapable of forming lasting marriages and so widespread that it produces more annual revenue ... than all of the leading technology companies combined. Consider a narcotic so insidious that it evades serious scientific study and legislative action for decades, thriving instead under the ever-expanding banner of the First Amendment.
According to an online statistics firm, an estimated 40 million Americans use this drug on a regular basis. It doesn't come in pill form. It can't be smoked, injected, or snorted.
This comes from the National Review. Any idea what it is talking about? It is talking about pornography.

We all need to recognize the danger of pornography -- for men and women, for young and old. It used to be you had to go to a certain kind of store and buy a magazine kept behind the counter. Now, it is available to anyone and everyone on the internet. Sexually explicit offers come via email, text-messages, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Craig's List, and more.

"You shall not commit adultery." Of course not! But is it in our hearts? Is it in our imagination? Do we like it? If we can be satisfied with our holiness because we have never committed an act of adultery, I say that we do not know ourselves nor the blackness and foulness of our own hearts. Do not think -- even for a moment -- that I am only talking to the young. Those who operate nursing homes know this is problem among the elderly too. God forbid that any of us should be able to look at the seventh commandment and feel satisfied with ourselves. God forbid that any of us point the finger at pregnant teenagers or prominent adulterers as if we are any better.

There is only One Who is spotless and pure and clean. He alone can look without sin. He alone can enjoy without falling. It is He -- even Jesus Christ -- Who takes away my uncleanness. He washes me in His precious blood. He gives me His new nature.

III Avoid Temptation
A Seeing all things, Jesus knows there is lust and adultery in the hearts of us all. What are we to do about it? Jesus tells us:
(Mt 5:29-30) If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away ... (30) And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away...
What does this mean?

Some think, wrongly, that Jesus is teaching mutilation: pluck out your eyes, cut off your hands. But I ask, "Where would such mutilation cease?" If a man were turned on by a woman's perfume, should he proceed to cut off his nose? Or if a woman finds a male voice seductive, should she lop off her ears? And, why does Jesus talk only of the right eye and right hand? We are more than capable of sinning with our left eye and left hand too.

B Jesus speaks of our right eye and our right hand. At the time of Jesus people viewed the right eye and hand as more important than the left. So what Jesus is saying, in effect, is this: "If the most precious thing you have is causing you to sin, get rid of it." Sexual sin is so real and so terrible, you must get rid of anything that makes you stumble and fall.

I have said this before: Parents, what Jesus says means you are to supervise your kids. Do not let them have web-capable devices in their bedroom. Put the computer in the living room so everyone can see what is being done. Look at what is on your kids' phones. Know all their passwords. Check their Facebook page. Keep track of what is being said on their social media sites. Our children, our teens, are conceived and born in sin, so keep watch.

I spoke earlier of pornography. People here are addicted. Cut the cord. Get rid of your internet connection. Or, put a porn-blocker like covenant-eyes on your computer. That's what it means to cut off the hand and pluck out the eye. Don't put oil on fire, because the fire will only get worse.

Everyone knows that alcoholics and drug users have to go cold turkey; they have to do without the alcohol and drugs. In the same way, our eyes and hands have to go cold turkey when it comes to what excites adultery in the heart.

There is a children's song, "Oh, Be Careful." Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see ... little ears, what you hear ... little tongue, what you say ... little hands, what you do ... little feet, where you go. This is good advice when it comes to lust and adultery.

Listen to what the sound doctrine of the Catechism says here:
We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul,
and God wants both to be kept clean and holy.
That is why he forbids
everything which incites unchastity,
whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.
God forbids everything which incites unchastity. So keep away, cut it off, get rid of it.

C Jesus speaks of our eyes and our hands and the sexual temptation that comes by way of them. The best remedy I have not mentioned yet: close your eyes, fold your hands, and pray. Pray for the strength of Christ. Pray for the presence of the Spirit. Pray for renewal. Pray for forgiveness -- that is, repent. When you break the seventh commandment -- either physically or in your heart -- repent. Implore God for His grace and mercy. Ask Him to root out the sin.

IV The Importance of the Soul
Why is it so important that we deal with lust and adultery? Again we turn to the words of Jesus:
(Mt 5:29-30) If 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. (30) And 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.
Two times Jesus warns us about hell-fire if we don't deal with lust and adultery.

What's the most important thing you have: your spouse, children, home, job, career, dairy, business, money? No. The most important thing you have is your soul. And, the most important thing you can do is prepare your soul for eternity. We are all so very concerned about this life. But are we equally concerned about our soul and spirit and eternal destiny? That's the question the Lord is asking us. It is better to be a cripple in this life, says the Lord, than to lose everything in the next. Put your soul and its eternal destiny before everything else.

So repent. Turn away from your sin and turn to Jesus. Before it is too late. Before you end up in hell.

Lust and adultery. They are sin, says Jesus. We all struggle with them, says Jesus. Be careful what you see and touch, says Jesus. And, put your soul first, says Jesus.
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