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Matthew 5:27-30

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Introduction

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. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Last week we looked at Jesus’ phrase, “You have heard that it was said...” and we saw that what Jesus was referring to was not specifically what the Scriptures taught, but rather what the scribes and Pharisees taught and understood those Scriptures to mean. So, in verse 21 he begins a string of teachings that will again and again contrast the teachings of Israel’s religious leaders and that of the true meaning of the OT texts.
Reforming the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees
And again, Jesus isn’t attempting to reform or to correct the law of God, but instead correct the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus comes to us and his disciples here in Matthew’s Gospel as a faithful expositor of God’s Word. Just like the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago Jesus intends to bring his people back to the original intent and plain meaning of the Scriptures. It’s why he assured them back in verse 17 and said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Jesus’ teaching is nothing new or heretical
Jesus wasn’t introducing some kind heretical teaching to the Jewish people, instead he was calling the Jewish people back to God and to his Word. And inevitably this meant he would encounter severe opposition by the teachers of his day, because, in essence, what Jesus was saying was that much of what they had been taught concerning God’s law was wrong, and you can imagine how this challenge to the ruling paradigm would ultimately get him killed. Jesus was an incredibly bold individual, and in more ways than one he was very unpopular with the religious authorities of his day.
And so we read here again, today, “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It isn’t as though the OT had been misquoted by the scribes, because we see here Jesus quotes verbatim and . So, again, we must remember that Jesus isn’t taking issue with the text itself, but instead he’s concerned with how this text had come to be understood by God’s people.
Now, of course, we’re reading this account some 2,000 years later so when we read it we can easily find ourselves lost by what Jesus is saying here. The question quickly becomes, ‘In what way had the scribes and Pharisees wrongly understood God’s commandment not to commit adultery?’
Well, I think the answer to that question is found in verse 28, which says, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus is saying that we not only commit adultery by manifestly engaging in such behavior, but also by lusting after another person in our hearts, or within our minds.
The heart behind God’s law
So what this tells us is that the accepted teaching of their day included a woody and shallow understanding of God’s law. That there was no emphasis on the intent or the heart behind God’s law, therefore communicating to God’s people that his only intent was for them to restrain their external actions, rather than calling God’s people to restrain their hearts. In fact, we should not be so foolish to think that we can merely restrain our outward conduct while neglecting the sin that rules the affections of our hearts.
Chastity is a matter of both the mind and the body
Jesus is teaching us here that chastity is a matter of both the mind and the body. While we ought to restrain our lusts in our speech and our actions we ought also to restrain our hearts, our minds and our gaze. We ought not to believe that our sexually immoral thoughts are of no consequence, for to merely restrain our actions, and not our thoughts, is a vain endeavor, because sin will surely show us to be fools if we think we can restrain it and yet give it a foothold in our hearts.
Think about it, if sin gains dominion over your heart, then by what instrument do you expect to restrain that sin in your outward conduct? Now, you may be able to do it for while, maybe even a long while comparitively to others. But have you ever taken a garden hose and tried to hold your thumb over the end of it and see if you can completely stop the flow of water? Sometimes at first it seems like you’re going to be successful but all of a sudden the pressure becomes to great for your finger and the water begins squirting out around your thumb. In the same way the force and the pressure of our sinful passions will eventually overcome our attempts to control them.
If we don’t walk over to the spigot, or faucet, and turn the water off at it’s source we’ll never successfully stop the flow of it, we’ll never stop sin’s relentless pursuit to overwhelm us. In the same fashion we must put to death the deeds of the body at their root, namely, the heart and the mind. And if we don’t the consequences are deadly. It’s why Jesus uses such strong language in verses 29-30,
“For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” () and later in chapter 7 Jesus says this when speaking of the religious leaders in Israel,

every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

We should not think that a diseased tree can bear good fruit.
This is why Jesus uses such strong language in verses 29-30,

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.

Hyperbole to make a point of the seriousness of sin
Jesus is using hyperbole to make a point. He doesn’t intend for us to literally tear out our eyes to avoid sinning, but he’s exaggerating to emphasize the seriousness of the subject. In short, what he’s saying is that “… you ought rather to part with your eyes, than to depart from the commandments of God.” (Calvin)
Remove anything that hinders our obedience to God
Anything that hinders us from yielding obedience to God should be cut off, it should be removed. That hindrance, no matter how beneficial, no matter how seemingly important or good, if it causes you to sin, or to disobey God, it’s never worth your soul. Just think about Jesus’ analogy here, our eyes are immensely important to our every day lives. We would consider ourselves severely wounded and impaired without them, but Jesus tells us that it would be better to lose your eyes than to be thrown into hell. So we also ought to have such concern for our sin. We aren’t to think lightly of it. It’s dangerous, it’s destructive and it only ever brings death.
Which leads us to Jesus
Look at the end of verse 29 again, “For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” This is no trivial matter, it is of supreme importance. We are not to play with sin, we are not to entertain it, we are not to keep it as a pet, instead we are, by the grace of God, to root it out of our hearts, even if it wounds us to do so.
If you’re secretly looking at pornography, don’t think that such sin won’t destroy you, don’t think that it won’t destroy your marriage, don’t think that you won’t be found out. It will bring harm to your marriage, it will be found out. It will cause you to be thrown into hell. What I mean is that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. The key word there is ‘practice’, those who practice such things, because, you see, as Christians we are a people who bear fruit in keeping with repentance. It isn’t that we don’t stumble, it isn’t that we don’t fall, it isn’t that we don’t sin, but it does means we don’t make a practice, or habit, of sinning. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” You see, practiced sin is unrepentant sin.
Make no provision for the flesh
Make no provision for the flesh
This is why sin must not to find safe harbor in our hearts and in our minds. Paul says in ,
We are not to play with sin, we are not to entertain it, we are not to keep it as a pet, instead we are, by the grace of God, to root it out of our hearts. Sin ought not to find safe harbor in our hearts and in our minds. Paul says in ,
"... make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." ()
"... make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." ()
In other words, don’t do anything that gives ground to your sinful flesh. Paul warns in chapter 8 verse 13,
"13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." ()
As our minds go, so go our eyes and hands
So remember, as our minds go, so go our eyes and our hands, and this is precisely Jesus’ point. It’s, no doubt, why, I think, he uses our eyes as part of his analogy. “Oh, be careful little eyes what you see.”

What we can get away with rather than how we can please God

The Israelites had, over time, created a system of law keeping that was more concerned with what they could get away with versus what they ought to do. This is why they were more concerned with the letter of the law than the spirit of the law.
Jesus’ words here are reminiscent of a story all of us are likely very familiar with. ,
What we can get away with rather than what we ought to do

2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.

This act of adultery did not happen by accident. David see’s a woman from his rooftop bathing, there’s little doubt of his lustful intent, so he inquires of her, sends a messenger to her to take her, and he lays with her. And we read later that in order to hide his sin he orders her husband to be put in harms way while away at war and becomes complicit in his death.
On one hand we find much warning in Jesus’ words and in this story of King David, but there is also
What we can get away with rather than what we ought to do
This is the what the scribes and Pharisee had missed. You see, the Israelites had, over time, created a system of law keeping that was more concerned with what they could get away with versus what they could do to please God. This is why they were more concerned with the letter of the law than the spirit of the law. They were more concerned with their outward appearance before men than whether their lives were pleasing before God. Do you see the difference? In the first scenario the person is concerned with only themselves, and in the second scenario the person is concerned only with God. The one person has affections only for himself and the other has affections only for God. It’s why Jesus would later say in ,
Their intent was not to please God but to boast in their flesh. Their law keeping was rooted in pride and a secret love for sin. They justified their sin even under the pretense of keeping the law. And we are far from being immune to such temptations. We often point fingers at the religious leaders, and for good reason, but let us not forget we are born with the very same propensities toward sin.

8  “ ‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

9  in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”

Their intent was not to please God but to boast in their flesh. Their law keeping was rooted in pride and secret love for sin. Justifying their sin under the pretense of keeping the law.
Boasting in their flesh versus pleasing God
Their intent was not to please God but to boast in their flesh. Their law keeping was rooted in pride and a secret love for sin. They justified their sin even under the pretense of keeping the law. And we are far from being immune to such temptations. We often point fingers at the religious leaders, and for good reason, but let us not forget we are born with the very same propensities toward sin.
And we are far from being immune to such temptations. We often point fingers at the religious leaders, and for good reason, but let us not forget we are born with the very same propensities toward sin.
Making void the law of God
So often we become fixated on something or someone so much so that we convince ourselves that God wants us to have that thing or that someone. We want what's in front of us so much so that we almost gladly deceive ourselves into justifying our pursuit of it. Perhaps it's a relationship that we know isn't appropriate or a house that we’re convinced we must have. Maybe that person is someone else's husband or wife, and you've justified the adulterous relationship because of an unhappy marriage. I don't know how many times I've heard people say something like, "God would never want me to be unhappy, that can't be God's will for my life." And my first thought is where in all of the Bible does it say that?
So often we become fixated on something or someone so much so that we convince ourselves that God wants us to have that thing or that someone. We want what's in front of us so much that we almost gladly deceive ourselves into justifying our pursuit of it. Perhaps it's a relationship that we know isn't appropriate or a house that we’re convinced we must have. Maybe that person is someone else's husband or wife, and you've justified the adulterous relationship because of an unhappy marriage. I don't know how many times I've heard people say something like, "God would never want me to be unhappy, that can't be God's will for my life." And my first thought is where in all of the Bible does it say that?
But what this illustrates is that we all have the temptation to try and make void the word of God in an attempt to chase after some kind of sin, or idol before us, and we can do this in all kinds of ways, we sometimes take refuge in our ignorance of the Scriptures, or we sometimes reinterpret them to suit our agendas.
Living in the light
Or how common is it for professing Christians to neglect gathering together to worship, because it means living in the light, and living in the light means I might have to give up some kind of secret sin or idol that I can’t bear to give up, and the only option at that point is to live in darkness, to live outside the church. It's why neglecting the fellowship of the saints is almost always because we're harboring sin.
Importance of church membership
This is why church membership is so important to us here at URC, because it's a visible covenant, or contract, that we make with one another to live in the light of God's Word and God's people. We've decided that we aren't satisfied with merely the label "Christian". We've heard the words of Jesus and earnestly desire to heed them. We're serious about what God says, even if it costs us earthly pleasures or secret sin. This was the difference between the religious leaders of Jesus’ day and the disciples that would follow him even unto death.
Expositing the law of God shines light
So what Jesus is doing here, as he’s faithfully and comprehensively explaining the law to his disciples, he’s in effect shining a light upon the hearts of his people, and what man thinks he can hide in is heart is laid bare before God and man. It’s why it’s important to him that he explains to us the full meaning of law. It’s why it’s important to us here at URC to purposefully position ourselves under the full counsel of God through preaching, and teaching, and reading and singing, and to do everything we can to rightly understand the Scriptures, all motivated out of a deep love for our Lord that seeks to please him.
So what Jesus is doing here, as he faithfully and comprehensively explains the law to his disciples, he’s in effect shining a light upon the hearts of his people, and what man thinks he can hide in is heart is laid bare before God and man. It’s why it’s important to him that he explains to us the full meaning of his Word. It’s why it’s important to us here at URC to position ourselves until the full counsel of God through preaching, and reading and singing, and to do everything we can to rightly understand the Scriptures.
So let us not run from the light but run to the light, because when we live in the light we prove that we children of the light, and when we come to the light we find forgiveness and freedom from our sin. So let us find strength and grace when we gather together. Let us be encouraged by one another, let us be strengthened by sitting under the teaching and preaching of God's word. Let us read Jesus’ words here today and take them seriously.
Christ is our righteousness
And finally let us be reminded as we plod through these teachings of Jesus that he came to fulfill the law. Because as he continues to reveal the righteous requirements of the law the more evident it becomes to us that we will never be able to measure up. That without the grace and mercy of God we’re without hope. But let us rejoice that Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law in our stead, which sets us free from the law, not in such a manner that we continue in sin but in such a way that we obey the law knowing that there’s forgiveness of sin when we fall, that we can, by grace, get back up and grow in holiness until the day of our Lord when we shed this body of corruption and put on the incorruptible.

Prayer

The sin of King David
Jesus’ words here are reminiscent of a story all of us are likely very familiar with. ,

2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her.

This act of adultery did not happen by accident. David see’s a woman from his rooftop bathing, there’s little doubt of his lustful intent, so he inquires of her, sends a messenger to her to take her, and he lays with her. And we read later that in order to hide his sin he orders her husband to be put in harms way while away at war and becomes complicit in his death.
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