************ Sermon on Matthew 5:27-30 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 30, 2002

Matthew 5:27-30

Today, we look at the sin of lust. As I said last week, lust is one of the seven deadly sins identified by the medieval church. The seven deadly sins are those attitudes which, if unchecked, lead us to sin and destructive behavior and, ultimately, to hell's destruction.
Topic: Lust
Index: 667
Date: 12/1997.2458
Title: Lust Kills

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources reports that more than 17,000 deer die each year after being struck by motorists on state highways. According to Paul Shelton, state wildlife director, the peak season for road kills is in late fall.
Why? The bucks are in rut in November. "They're concentrating almost exclusively on reproductive activities," he said, "and are a lot less cautious than they normally would be."
Jesus warns us this morning that deer aren't the only ones destroyed by preoccupation with sex.

As I also said last time, because of original sin all of are born with the seven deadly sins; all of us are born with a predisposition to sloth, lust, anger, pride, envy, gluttony, and greed. However, if you are a Christian then in Christ you are a new creature whose desire is to produce the fruit of the Spirit rather than the sins of the flesh.

I Fallen Men and Women Lust Instead of Love
A 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.

I was amazed to discover this when you consider that the position of women in Israel was better than in the surrounding pagan countries. This was a result of God's revelation. From the Scriptures, the children of Israel knew that Eve was also created in the image of God. They knew that woman was man's equal, given to him not as a servant, not as a sexual slave, but as a suitable helper and fit companion. Because of God's Word, the women of Israel as compared to the women of the pagan world had an exalted and superior status. Think, for instance, of the role many women played in the history of salvation.

However, I need to add that the Jewish rabbis did not regard women with great respect. The worst ones went so far as to start off each day with the prayer, "Thank you, God, that I was not born a woman." Furthermore, according to the Talmud the Jewish book of rules the rabbis were of the opinion that a man should not have any private conversation with a woman other than his wife. They thought this to be dangerous, because in their eyes all women were evil seducers.

So, when it comes to lust, the rabbis put all the blame on the woman. What an outrageous opinion! Today, many cultures and religions still blame the woman for lustful thoughts and acts. Muslim extremists think that way; that's why their women must wear the "chedar" and are never allowed out of the house without an escort or chaperon. Unfortunately, rapists and other sick men in our culture also try to blame the woman for lustful thoughts and acts.

Jesus took an entirely different stand. He did not treat women as the lustful, panting creatures the rabbis claimed they were. Remember the time Jesus openly had a one-on-one conversation with the woman of Samaria? None of Christ's disciples dared to ask Him about this; yet, they were quite surprised to find Him talking with this woman. Moreover, Jesus had several female friends whom He allowed to serve Him with their goods. He often stayed at the house of Martha and Mary and considered them to be His friends. He allowed prostitutes to embrace Him. There were women at the cross and women were also the first visitors at His empty tomb on Easter morning.

In our Scripture passage Jesus turns on its head the teachings of the rabbis about 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.

B When we look at the Bible, we realize that lust is a perversion of love. In love we put aside our own needs and gratification and seek the joy and fulfillment of others; but in lust we put aside the needs and gratification of others and seek the joy and fulfillment of ourselves. Lust is the result of a demonic twisting of love. It is only when we are converted by the Holy Spirit and made new in Christ, that we are or can be motivated by love rather than lust.

It is clear from Paul's writings that there is a clear-cut difference between those who are made new in Christ and those who remain in sin. Those who are made new in Christ live life to express love while those who remain in sin live life to fulfill lust (cf Gal 5:19-23; Col 3:5-14). Paul divides humanity into one group made up of love-motivated Christians and another group made up of lust-motivated sinners.

C Does this mean that no Christian ever experiences lust? You and I know better than to say something so foolish. We all have our lusts and sinful passions. The problem is that though we are made new in Christ, the old man of sin still lives within us. So, as long as we live in this body and on this earth, the old man of sin and the new man of the Spirit are at war within us. And, it is not until we are done with this life that the demons of lust are finally driven out of us.

D Of course, what I am saying this morning runs contrary to the message given by the world. Through movies, magazines, books, and even advertisements, the world displays lust as being good, as being fun, as being safe and harmless. Typical of this viewpoint is the following quote from Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy:
Topic: Lust
Index: 667
Date: 7/1989.24

Sex is a function of the body. A drive which man shares with animals. Like eating, drinking and sleeping. It's a physical demand that must be satisfied. If you don't satisfy it you will have all sorts of neurosis and repression psychosis. Sex is here to stay. Let's forget the prudery that makes us hide from it. Throw away those inhibitions, find a girl who's like minded and let yourself go.
Notice, Hefner advocates lust instead of love.

II The Problem with Lust
A The man or woman caught up in the demon of lust, is caught up in an illusion. They mistakenly think that to satisfy one's lusts will lead to fulfillment; however, lust is one appetite that is never satisfied. To feed lust is to generate an ever greater hunger for its gratification.

For some time now it has been acknowledged that there is a clear case of progression when it comes to lust. It starts off with soft-pornography, an occasional peek into Playboy or Penthouse or Internet Porn. The next step is hard-core pornography, sex videos, and peep shows. If lust remains unchecked, it eventually becomes an addiction; the person who yields to lust finds that the more the lust is fed, the more demanding it becomes.

Lust is an illusion, but love never fails. As Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:8
(1Cor 13:8) Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
Lust always fails and never satisfies. Love never fails and always satisfies.

B Lust is also a sign of immaturity. In his great love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13, Paul points out that love is mature. He declares that there comes a time when we must stop being children and act like adults.
(1 Cor 13:11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

Lust is a childish thing. This is particularly evident as it expresses itself in the lives of married people. I know of a young 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 others. I love what David Mains says about this:
Topic: Lust
Index: 667

When two people have settled in their minds that "We are going to love each other"; and they take those vows before God and witnesses, then that puts an end to the practice of comparing.
You don't compare your spouse to another man or woman, wondering "what if" you had married them instead. Instead, you stick with and rejoice in the choice you have made.

The inability to make choices and to live with those choices is one of the marks of immaturity. Think of a little child, dollar in hand, standing before a candy counter. There is such a choice that most children are almost unable to make up their mind. And, as soon as the chosen candy is in the mouth or in the hand, the child has second thoughts and wishes another choice had been made.

Being unable to choose is cute behavior for someone who is 5 or 7 years old, but it is not fitting behavior for someone married who is 25 or 35 or 45. By that age people should have the courage to make decisions and to live with those decisions. Those who lust are showing immature behavior. They are saying they regret their choices and wish they had chosen someone or something else.

C We hear much today of the mid-life crisis. A man or woman approaches middle age. They stand in front of the mirror and view with dismay what has been lost and gained. Thighs become flabby, stomachs become paunchy, hair (if there is any) loses its luster. Cosmetics and exercise can only do so much. Some people can't handle this. They look for deliverance and escape so they can deny what is really happening to them.

The lusts of the flesh seem to offer a diversion, causing us to forget that we are becoming old. Getting the sexual attentions of another person leads one to conclude that perhaps the ravages of age are not as bad as once thought.

I have witnessed countless men and woman make pathetic fools out of themselves in this fashion. God, church, job, position, wealth, family all of them thrown aside for lust in a vain and foolish attempt to deny the aging process. Unbelievable, isn't it, the disasters caused by yielding to sexual passion. Think of David destroying the glory of his kingdom in his lust for Bathsheba. Think of Samson forfeiting his strength for the delights of Delilah. Solomon allowed his wisdom to turn to cynicism because of his insatiable cravings for women. I have to shudder when I see what lust drives people to do.

III The Conquering of Lust
A The struggle against lust, as I already indicated, begins with Jesus. We need the blood of Christ to be forgiven the sin we are born with as well as the sin we actually commit. We need the Spirit of Christ to renew us and equip us to fight against this sin. And, by faith we need to be united to and with Christ in His burial and His resurrection so that we are dead to sin and alive to righteousness.

B Claiming Jesus as Savior and Lord, Christians are also expected to work for the purification of the heart and mind. What you and I must do is fight to love and fight against lust. What you and I must do is work with the Spirit to put to death our old man and bring to life our new man. 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 3:19-20) This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. (20) Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
Lust gives us pleasure that we sometimes love more than we love Jesus. So, to have victory over lust we must want to be free of its hold on us.

C Another thing we have to remember is that we must be willing to avoid the situations which tempt us to lust. In our Scripture passage Jesus tells us what He wants:
(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.

It is to be noted that Jesus speaks of our eyes and our hands. 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. I can't believe, for instance, how some parents allow their daughters to dress. They wear skirts so short or so tight that you know they are flaunting their bodies and trying to provoke lust. And, get this, you see some of this in church once in a while. What are these parents thinking of? We know that the fires of lust can also be fed by books and magazines, by newsgroups and Internet sites, by videos and TV programs, by strip shows and nude beaches. Let me mention the Internet. You all should know that you can find every kind of sexual perversion on the Internet, in chat rooms, and in newsgroups; therefore, I hope that every parent has activated Parental Controls in AOL or Content Advisor in Microsoft IE. Avoiding and not creating such stimulations is one way of plucking out our eyes.

Jesus also mentions hands. Hands are often the instruments with which we act sinfully. We touch or want others to touch what may not be touched. We grasp or want others to grasp what may not be grasped. All this demands restraint, or a cutting off of our hands.

We must shun anything that stimulates the sin of lust 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 in ourselves or others. Instead, we should surround ourselves with prayer, Bible study, and the strengthening fellowship of other Christians.

D 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. 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.

Love instead of lust. That's what God always wants in you and in me. But, because of sin it is not going to happen in this life and on this earth. However, Scripture tells us that beyond the grave we will become the people God intends us to be. At that time the Spirit will present us to Christ as a "radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Ephesians 5:27). Finally, at that time, we will be as pure as Christ Himself.
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