************ Sermon on Matthew 5:27-30 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 29, 2001
"Eyes and Hands"
Topic: LustJesus speaks to us this evening 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. So Jesus tells us how horrible lust and adultery are, He warns us of their danger, and He insists that we deal with them and get rid of them.
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.
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 – at least what our media culture – teaches. There 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. A couple of years ago an article in Newsweek magazine was devoted to teenagers who have decided to abstain from sex before marriage; this must be considered unusual by the news media – why else treat it as a news item. Underlying this article was a sense of surprise and amazement that any teenagers would be willing to live this way. Also underlying this article was the assumption that young people have a right 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 sex are sin.
B 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.
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 of 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 – even toward the other sex – are not by themselves wrong. Looking can be okay. But Jesus knew that looking with the eyes can so quickly degenerate into leering with the imagination. Looking with the eyes can so quickly degenerate into wanting to use the other to gratify one's own desires.
B Let us listen again to what Jesus says 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."Jesus talks of men looking lustfully at a woman. We are to see here that 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 and women were also the first visitors at His empty tomb on Easter Sunday.
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 Let us listen again to what Jesus says 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."We notice here that there is also another contrast between the view of Jesus and that of the Pharisees. We see that Jesus looks at the heart whereas the Pharisees look only at the outward appearance. The Pharisees stick with the letter of the law and ignore its spirit. They reduce 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 highly respected men and women who would never dream of committing adultery; yet, they enjoy sinning in the mind. Books and magazines excite their imagination. Others look at pornography. In August 2000, Christianity Today conducted an exclusive survey of its readership – both laity and clergy – on the issue of Internet pornography. For the majority of respondents, Internet pornography is not a problem: 67 percent of clergy and 64 percent of laity have not purposely visited a sexually explicit Web site; however, on the other side, 33 percent of clergy and 36 percent of laity admit they have purposely visited sexually explicit web sites. We are talking about Christians here – the subscribers of Christianity Today. We aren't just talking about men either. According to Dr. Mark Lasser (in Marriage Partnership of Fall 2000) the last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the number of women who are hooked into pornography.
Tuesday's Visalia Times-Delta newspaper informed us of what a local foster mother did for her 17-year-old foster daughter's birthday party. She hired two male strippers to perform at the party. The party got out of control because one of the strippers performed lewd sexual acts with at least three of the juvenile victims, had sex with a 15-year-old female, and did a number of other things as well. To make matters worse, the foster mom took pictures of the party.
Ruth and I were at a resort in Mexico last week. I couldn't help but notice that most of the young couples were not wearing wedding rings.
"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. 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 were any better. If we do not feel unclean at this very moment, God have mercy on us.
There is only One Who is spotless and pure and clean. He alone could look without sin. He alone could 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 Chanel #5 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 hand too.
B Jesus speaks of our eyes and our hands. 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.
Jesus speaks of our eyes and our hands. Sexual temptations come to us by way of the eyes and hands. Our eyes see what they should not see. Our hands grab what should not be grabbed. What we need to do is avoid situations used by the eyes and hands to feed the lust of the heart.
I spoke earlier of pornography, books, magazines, and strip-shows. I didn't mention telephone sex-lines, stag and doe parties, porno channels and movies. Cutting off the hand and plucking out the eye here means we never participate in such things. Don't put oil on fire, because the fire will only get worse.
Topic: LustEveryone should know by now 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.
Experts agree with disgraced evangelist Jimmy Swaggart -- pornography is addictive.
And, incredibly, it was Swaggart's own addiction to smut that led to his downfall.
"Pornography is now considered as addictive as drugs," Swaggart wrote in a 1987 column.
Yet, since his youth, Swaggart has given into the urge to watch unnatural sexual acts, according to a fellow clergyman.
"There has been a history of it for a good while," the Reverend Glen Cole revealed to reporters.
"It would stop for a time and then rise up to happen again." "Something got hold of him and he just couldn't shake it," said Cole, a member of the national governing body of Swaggart's church.
Swaggart's inability to kick the porn habit no matter how hard he tried isn't unique. Experts say it is a compulsion every bit as addictive as any drug -- and far more dangerous.
"There has not been a sex murder in the history of our department in which the killer was not an avid reader of lewd magazines," said a former Detroit, Michigan, police inspector.
If you have the internet at home I urge you to activate parental controls on your web-browser. Don't allow anyone to surf the net in privacy – either put the computer in the open or insist that the door be left open. And, don't give out your e-mail address just to view a web-site; pornographers pay for that information and send you the most disgusting kind of advertisements. Instead, open a junk mail account with hotmail or yahoo and give that address to those web-sites that want your e-mail address. I will give instructions in the next Pastor's Rink on how to do this.
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.
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.
Lust and adultery. It is sin, says Jesus. We all struggle with it, says Jesus. Be careful what you see and touch, says Jesus. And, put your soul first, says Jesus.
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