The Adultery in Your Heart
Topic: Default Scripture: Matthew 5:27–5:30
As most of you know, we are walking through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and this week and next week are passages that test our philosophy of preaching. If you are a member of OGC or currently in our Discover OGC class, you know that a great value of ours is that we would teach the whole counsel of God. We don’t want to skip anything or only teach the things that I’m excited about or knowledgeable on. We call this expository preaching. That just means doing our best to expose everyone to all of the Bible.
So, this morning and next Sunday we have two passages that I might be inclined to skip over if I’m completely honest. Lust and adultery this week and divorce next week. These aren’t topics that gather the masses and fill seats these day. But, that isn’t our call as Christians or my call as a pastor.
Jesus has been teaching that we are a part of a different kingdom with different values, different ethics and a whole different economy. Christianity isn’t simply a religion of what not to do, but a whole worldview that has a higher value of humanity, a higher value of love and, as it pertains to our passage this morning, a higher value of sexuality.
Remember, this section began by Jesus saying that if we want to enter into the kingdom of God, our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. And the way our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees doesn’t have to do with the external, but the internal. The Scribes and Pharisees are boasting about their outward behavior, but on the inside their hearts are dark.
So, in our passage Jesus is saying, “Yes, maybe you’ve never committed the act of adultery, but adultery is in your heart.” In the same way that Jesus used the 5th commandment, do not murder, last week to show the Pharisees that murder is in their heart, this week Jesus is using the 6th commandment, thou shalt not commit adultery to show them that adultery is in their hearts and the proof is in the way they look with lustful intent.
Now, my goodness, if there is a topic in our culture that I need to be incredibly careful with, it’s sex. Whenever I talk about sex, whether to college students, my kids, people in the church or conferences, I feel like I’m walking through a field filled with landmines. Now, that shouldn’t make us scared to talk about this topic from a Biblical perspective, but it should make us more careful and more loving because if you have a Biblical understanding about human sexuality, you are in the vast minority of our culture today.
And this was reinforced in the strongest possible way to me about a year ago. Angela and I were speaking at a marriage conference and we were talking together about sex. And I did something that I probably shouldn’t have done. We had about 15 minutes to spare and I went off script and put my phone number up on the screen for about 1,000 people to see and I said I would answer any questions they might have on the topic of sex in the context of marriage. Now, remember that this is a “Christian conference.” The vast majority of the people there were at least church goers.
Well, the questions came flowing in and I can’t tell you what they all were, but when I say there was NOTHING they didn’t asked, I mean NOTHING! Anything you could probably imagine, and I just started to take each one. The conference planners were in the back texting “Davis has gone rogue!! What do we do??” Angela, who was standing next to me could not have been a brighter shade of red. She comes from the Deep South where proper people just don’t talk about such things in public.
But, this was one more affirmation to me that our culture, even the Christian part of it, has less and less understanding of God’s beautiful plan for sex and that makes it harder to understand what in the world Jesus is saying here. So, here is what I would like to do this morning to help us understand what Jesus is saying. I want to look at God’s plan for sex, then the lie of lust and, finally, the path of true satisfaction.
- God’s plan for sex
In short, God made sex for us and it is good! The Biblical view of sex isn’t prudish, nor is it flippant. That’s really important to see because a prude view of sex devalues its goodness as much as a flippant view does. We obviously live in a culture that has a flippant view of sex because there is now more embarrassment for a single adult person who is still a virgin than a single adult person who has multiple sexual partners.
But, it is important to not go so far from flippant that we begin to have a prudish view of sex. There have been those like Thomas Aquinas who taught that sex is only for reproduction so if you’re not actively trying to have children, there is no place for sex. Church tradition says that the church father, Origen, actually went so far as to castrate himself which is a total misunderstanding of what Jesus is teaching. Now, likely, no one in here holds those extreme views, but if we are not careful, we can unintentionally teach our children that sex is just bad...don’t do it….until you’re married, then somehow it becomes ok.
You can’t read the Song of Solomon and have a prudish view of sex. The author of that book is really excited about sex and, as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with reproduction. And the English translations actually dull it down a bit. I’m told by Hebrew experts that if the words ‘caress’ and ‘hug’ were more literally translated, everyone in here would be as red as Angela was on that stage.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul is encouraging married couples to not abstain from sex because that could cause the enemy to have a foothold in their lives. God wants sex to be experienced and He wants it to be experienced in the most magnificent way possible. So, what is that way? First, we have to understand the design of marriage.
This could be a whole other sermon, but marriage exists to point us to God. Do you realize this? The Bible begins and ends with marriage. You could rightly say that the whole narrative arc of the Bible is a story about marriage.
In Ephesians 5, Paul is talking about marriage and says this: This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. - Ephesians 5:32 So, how exactly is that? In marriage, we see a picture of Jesus’ pursuit of His great love, His treasured possession, His bride, the church. Jesus’ love is forever, it is
unconditional and it is sacrificial. The goal of all of our marriages is to paint a picture of Jesus’ relationship to His bride, the church. In marriage we leave our parents and cleave to our spouse for better or worse, richer or poorer, till death do us part. In the same way, we leave our old lives, cleave to Jesus who will never let go, never fail us and, most importantly, will never stop loving us.
The design of marriage is that a man and a woman would experience such oneness that the gospel is more clearly seen and understood. And sex, when it is experienced between a man and a woman in an environment of the highest trust and commitment, the covenant of marriage, acts as a bonding agent. When we are married, in some way, we become one emotionally, psychologically, financially, physically and spiritually. That is why Genesis two says 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. - Genesis 2:24-25 Sex, then, is designed to reinforce the oneness we are meant to experience in marriage.
I love when science catches up with the Bible. Do you know that research now shows that sex releases something called oxytocin into our brain and scientists call this (are you ready?) the bonding agent. At a chemical level we can scientifically prove that sex emotional bonds us. That is why, unless there is significant emotional trauma, it’s just not possible to have a one night stand and not think about that person again.
God has designed it so that every time a married couple has sex, it is a covenant renewal. A recommitment of two people who are fully revealed, yet fully accepted and loved. And when that happens, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the news that we are fully revealed in front of God, yet fully accepted and loved because of Jesus Christ, is more deeply communicated than maybe any other act.
Now, I know this raises a bunch of questions, some of which I hope to address at the end of this sermon, but, my point is that we can’t understand what Jesus is teaching unless we understand that in His kingdom, sex is beautiful, special, significant and purposeful. So, with that in mind, now let’s turn to the lie of lust.
- The lie of lust
The literal translation of the word ‘lust’ in our Bible is ‘over desire.’ A desire that has gone beyond the boundaries of what is designed and, so, beyond the boundaries of what is good for us. This is why Jesus says 27 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. - Matthew 5:27-28
The Pharisees have been minimizing the law to only deal with the physical act of adultery, but Jesus is saying that the 6th commandment encompasses everything that leads up to that act including the first look of lustful intent. Now, this phrase ‘lustful intent’ is really important to understand. Jesus isn’t saying that we can’t look at and even admire beauty. You can certainly begrudgingly admit if your sister is pretty or your brother is handsome and obviously not be in the wrong in any way. I think you can even admire the beauty of a painting of a woman, a sculpture of a man or even a real person. That’s fine! It’s when this admiration turns to fantasy of something that isn’t’ good for your body or should that it becomes wrong.
C.S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, says it like this. Imagine if you went into a society and they had places you could pay to go into, you take your seat in a dark room and as the curtains were pulled back, there on the stage was a moderately covered piece of bacon. The more the bacon was revealed, the more the crowd was drawn in until the bacon was completely exposed. What conclusion would you come to about that society? Probably that, as good as bacon is, this society has an out of place desire for bacon. And over desire, a lust.
The lie of lust is that it cannot deliver on its promise. In the same way bacon will never satisfy the desires of the crowd, nor will any lustful thoughts about sex. Not only will they never satisfy, these desires can actually cause great harm if pursued. So, staying in the world of food analogies, food, like sex, is a good gift from God. But an out of place desire for food would cause us to eat too much, to eat the wrong kinds of food or even to eat food that has gone bad. And when this over desire for food takes hold in us, the gift of food begins to harm us. It can be like the sirens in Homer’s Odyssey look attractive, they sing a beautiful song, but once the sailors get close, the sirens devour them.
That is the lie of lust. When we lust, we aren’t just breaking trust with our spouse, we are breaking a covenant with God in the form of the sixth commandment. The Christian worldview isn’t against lust because we are prudish, we are against lust because it is outside of the design of God for human flourishing. And the more outside we are of God’s design, the more harm we will experience.
I could probably give us ten ways lust harms us, but for time sake, I’m going to give two. First, when lust is pursued, it disables the bonding agent that is sex. Sex is meant to reinforce a pre-existing commitment. But, just like anything else, when we use something in a way that it isn’t intended to be used, it can dismantle the original function. If we take a new car off-road, we can damage the car’s ability to drive well. If we attach a sticky note to multiple surfaces, it loses its ability to stick. In the same way, when we have sex outside of the design of marriage, the bonding agent doesn’t work the way it was intended to.
Now, this doesn’t in any way change someone’s value or worth as a person. I’m simply saying the design of sex is dismantled. Outside of God’s design, sex doesn’t accomplish all that it was designed to accomplish. Let me explain some ways this happens.
Maybe you’re dating someone and when you are having sex, but not married, sex can make you think you really care for someone that in the absence of sex, you really wouldn’t. It could lead you to marry someone that, otherwise, you wouldn’t choose to marry. Or, if you are having sex with multiple partners, the less sex is able to be the bonding agent it is designed to be. The more this bonding agent is dismantled, the harder it becomes to experience the depth of oneness with a person and, ultimately, with God Himself.
That is the first way lustful intent harms us. The second is that it chips away at our humanity. We are God’s image bearers. Our humanity is meant to communicate something about the character of God, but pursuing lustful fantasies chips away at that humanity. And the best place I can go to show this is the epidemic of pornography in our culture.
Never in the history of the world has pornographic material been accessible the way it is now. Currently, 40,000,000 Americans are regular consumers of pornography.