************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 108-109 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 9, 2011
Q & A 108-109
"The Seventh Commandment"
At a recent Rotary meeting, my table was talking about weddings. I explained the kind of things I cover in pre-marital counseling. One of the guys interrupted me by saying something I could hardly believe. 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?
I can't preach on the seventh commandment without also mentioning Mexico City. Do you remember the promise made in marriage? Couples promise to love each other until death do them part. Mexico City is considering a reform to the civil code in which couples promise to love each other – but only for two years until 2013. After the two years, couples can renew the marriage contract if they are happy or they can split without going through the hassle of divorce if the relationship is not stable or harmonious. This is being proposed because half of Mexico City marriages end in divorce, usually in the first two years.
Mexico City finds itself at the cutting edge when it comes to sex and sexuality. Abortion, for instance, is legal in Mexico City, even though the Mexican Supreme Court ruled this past week to uphold state laws in Baja California that say life begins at conception. And, in late 2009 Mexico City became the first Latin American city to legalize gay marriage.
I believe we need to ignore the politics. There is only one question we should ask: What does the Bible say about sex and sexuality? Once we hear that answer, nothing else matters.
I God's Good Creation
A Let's begin by acknowledging there are so many wrong views of sex and sexuality. For instance, too often in the history of the church women have been degraded and downgraded. From the early Christian theologians we hear that woman is weak, slow-witted, mentally unstable, childish, a necessary evil, and the devil's gateway to man. Tertullian, an early church father, shouts to all women, "How easily you destroyed man, the image of God!" And, "Because of the death which you brought upon us even the Son of God had to die." Not a very nice picture of women.
Among Christians today, even in our own community, women have often suffered the indignity of not being taken seriously.
What does the Bible say? In our study of Genesis we have learned that woman was created as man's suitable partner (Gen 2:20); in other words, she is not to be treated as a child or a servant because she is man's help-meat, his companion, his equal. We learned that God created man and woman to become a two-in-oneness: "they will become one flesh" (Gen 2:24). We learned that woman is bone of man's bones and flesh of his flesh (Gen 2:23) – this means she is not less than man; rather, she is the same as man.
Has it ever occurred to you that it is not the Bible but evolution that puts down woman? Those who hold to an evolutionary past for mankind pictures man as a hairy cave-dweller who captures or wins a woman. He uses her as he wishes and then swaps her for a spear or a bear-skin. Under this view, woman is not man's equal but man's possession.
B Let me highlight another mistake in the area of sex and sexuality. I am thinking of two attitudes: the first looks down on sex and the second over-emphasizes sex.
The first attitude is that of the prude. A prude thinks sex is dirty and regrettable. In the eyes of the world, Christians are prudes who find it hard to rejoice in their sexuality.
The second attitude – which stands at the opposite extreme – is that of the playboy or playgirl. The playboy or playgirl view sex as an amusement ride to be enjoyed whenever and wherever and with whomever they want. This view thinks the bedroom is the most important room in the house. This view pities virgins and grimly seeks the ultimate sexual experience.
What does the Bible say? In our study of Genesis we have been reminded that everything God made was good. In fact, God pronounced it to be very good (Gen 1:31). This includes our creation as male and female (Gen 1:27). This includes our creation as sexual creatures. This includes the divine institution of marriage (Gen 2:22). In fact, all these existed before the human race was ever polluted with sin.
C The Bible is very clear in how we are to relate to another as male and female. In our study of Genesis we learned that marriage is between one man and one woman (Gen 2:24). We learned that a man is to leave his father and his mother and be united to his wife (Gen 2:24). We learned that husband and wife are to be united to each other in a lifelong exclusive partnership of love and fidelity – which means marriage is not a contract that ends after two years or twenty years. We learned that the husband is the spiritual head of his wife – which means he is to love her with a sacrificial love in the same way as Christ loves the church. We learned that a wife must submit to her husband's spiritual leadership.
D The Bible also makes clear that God has ordained a place for sexual feelings and desires. That place is marriage. Not engagement. Not a live-in relationship. Not a one-night stand. Not a casual hook-up.
The Bible compares sex to a fire (1 Cor 7:9). Like a fire, sex is a powerful gift which can not only draw us to its warmth but can also burn us painfully. Like a fire, sex needs a fireplace. And that fireplace is the lifelong union we call marriage.
II The Seventh Commandment
A It is within this context I have just laid out that we are to hear the words of the seventh commandment. God says, "You shall not commit adultery" (Ex 20:14).
What is adultery? Remember President Clinton and his affair with Monica Lewinsky? As was made clear by President Clinton, only married people can commit adultery. Because, technically speaking, adultery is having sex with someone married to another.
In our Bible reading, Jesus makes clear that the seventh commandment speaks to both the married and the single. Based upon the Bible, the Catechism teaches the same thing.
But do we hear this? Do we obey this? Sometimes, I think we as a congregation fool ourselves. We think we are a cut above the "sinners" out there in the community. With that in mind, let me burst the bubble – not to offend, not to break confidences, but to let you know we struggle in the area of sexuality as much as the people of the world. We need to repent as much as the world and need to be on guard as much as the world. Let me tell you the kinds of things that the elders and pastors deal with:
-We've dealt with adultery and with husbands and wives who threaten to leave their spouse for someone else.
-We've had women telling us how their husband "hits" on all their girlfriends.
-We have counseled more than one person on cases of child sexual abuse in our church.
-We have dealt with at least two cases of rape in our church.
-We have dealt with unbiblical divorce and remarriage.
-We've heard from men and women telling us they are addicted to internet pornography.
-Girls and women in our church have had abortions to get rid of unwanted pregnancies; others have given birth to children outside of marriage.
-We've dealt with a woman who, while dating, enjoyed the attention and desires of an array of men; after she was married, however, she was not content to settle down with one man – she still wanted the attention of other men.
Based upon the Bible, the Catechism says, "God condemns all unchastity. We should therefore thoroughly detest it and, married or single, live decent and chaste lives." Doesn't this cover everything I just mentioned?
B "Does God, in this commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?" That's what the Catechism asks in Q & A 109. Its answer: "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." This is based upon what Jesus says in our Scripture reading. Jesus talks about looking at a woman, or a man, lustfully. Jesus talks about the imagination and the sinful desires of the heart.
At the time of Jesus the rabbis put all the blame for lustful thoughts and acts on the woman. She was the main culprit, not the man. Although the man was sinful, he was only a victim.
In our Scripture passage Jesus turns on its head the teachings of the rabbis about women and their lustful, evil desires. He says,
(Mt 5:28) But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.Of course, in this respect women can also be guilty, but Jesus did not mention that. Over against the teachings of the Pharisees, He emphasized the equal fallenness of man and woman.
C The Catechism, based upon the Bible, makes clear that we need to fight against lust and unchastity. It tells us we need to keep ourselves clean, body and soul.
How do we do that? Our struggle against lust begins with Jesus. We need the blood of Jesus to be forgiven the sin we are born with as well as the sin we actually commit. We need the Spirit of Jesus to renew us and equip us to fight against this sin. And, by faith we need to be united to and with Jesus in His burial and His resurrection so that we are dead to sin and alive to righteousness.
Claiming Jesus as Savior and Lord, Christians are expected to work for the purification of the heart and mind. What you and I must do is work with the Spirit to put to death our old man of sin and bring to life our new man of righteousness. We must press on toward becoming what Christ expects us to become. However, many Christians are like Saint Augustine, who once prayed, "O Lord, deliver me from lust – but not yet."
The Bible hits the nail on the head when it tells us that we love our sins and lusts and adulteries.
(Jn 3:19) This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.According to John, we sinners find more pleasure in lust and unchastity than in Jesus. So, to have victory over lust and unchastity we must want to be free of its hold on us.
Another thing to remember is that we must avoid the situations which tempt us to lust and unchastity. Says the Catechism, "God ... forbids everything which incites unchastity." In our Scripture passage Jesus tells us what this means:
(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.It is not Jesus' intention to say that we have to mutilate ourselves by plucking out an eye and cutting off a hand. It is Jesus' intention to emphasize the necessity of getting rid of whatever inflames us.
Jesus first speaks of our eyes. Many temptations come to us by way of our eyes. It is all too easy to look at a woman or a man lustfully or to dress in such a way that others look at us lustfully.
Jesus also mentions hands. Hands are often the instruments with which we act sinfully. We touch what may not be touched. We grasp what may not be grasped.
We must shun anything that stimulates the sin of lust and unchastity in ourselves or others. We must keep away from the sights and sounds that tempt us and others. We must not permit situations or circumstances which fan the flames of lust and unchastity in ourselves or others. Instead, we should surround ourselves with prayer, Bible study, and the strengthening fellowship of other Christians.
When it comes right down to it, the best thing to do with our hands and our eyes is to fold them and to close them and to pray for the strength and power and grace of Christ. In the final analysis, that is the only real remedy for the sin of lust and unchastity. We have to realize that we are powerless on our own to fight sin and evil and lust. Relying on our own strength, all that we end up doing is falling further and further into sin. But, as Paul tells us, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:13). To be changed and strengthened by the grace and power and strength of God – that's what we need, that's what we must pray for.
Finally, keep in mind the setting of both the Ten Commandments and the Catechism. We are dealing with the life of gratitude. We are talking about those who have been born-again by the blood and Spirit of Christ. We are talking about those who are saved from their sin and misery.
Those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb do not commit adultery. Whether single or married, they live decent and chaste lives.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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