2006-06-18_Cut It Off_Matthew 5.27-30
Cut It Off!
Matthew 5:27-30 | Shaun LePage | June 18, 2006
A. The 1990 Kinsey Report states that around 50% of all married people will commit adultery during their lifetime. The number is usually about 5% higher among men. Women are less likely to commit adultery but not by much. Researchers also interviewed nearly 1000 subscribers to Christianity Today. Of those 1000 people, 23 percent had engaged in extramarital sex. The numbers are good because the level of adultery within the church is half of what the national level is. But, the numbers are bad news because they are way too high: 1 in every 4 Christians has committed adultery and 1 in every 10 ministers has committed adultery, thus ruining their ministries and tainting the church. (Contributed to sermoncentral.com by Rob Morton)
B. The year I graduated from Dallas Seminary, Dr. Charles Swindoll was the President of DTS. It was his practice to sit down with four or five graduating students and just talk for awhile. Toward the end of that talk, he got real serious. He warned us about the various troubles we would encounter in the ministry, but he especially warned us about the sexual temptations we would face. With a great deal of passion, he pleaded with us never to commit adultery. “If you choose to go down the path of sexual sin,” he said, “please do Dallas Seminary one favor. Either mail back your diploma or burn it.” [Show my diploma] I still have mine!
1. In the first twelve verses of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus described the heart of a kingdom-minded disciple of Christ. The beatitudes are all heart issues that seem upside down compared to the world’s way of thinking.
2. In vs. 13-16, He described the kind of influence kingdom-minded disciples of Jesus Christ should have: Salt and Light. Preserving society by having a higher moral standard than the world around us. Bringing glory to God by lighting up the world with truth that stands in contrast with a dark world.
3. Then, in vs. 17-20, Jesus explained that righteousness—a surpassing righteousness—was the aim of a true disciple. Trusting in the righteousness that Christ provides not only makes it possible for us to be in heaven with a righteous God, but it also makes it possible for us to live a righteous life here and now.
4. Then, in vs. 21-26, Jesus gave His first example: The spirit of the sixth commandment was to deal with the heart issue of sinful anger—not just refrain from the act of unlawfully ending someone’s life. The inner man is the key—not just the outer behavior. We must deal with our sinful anger and seek reconciliation with everyone we butt heads with.
5. In verses 27-30—which we’ll look at today—Jesus gives another example which serves as one of the best examples I can think of for showing how different the disciples of Jesus Christ are supposed to be. This is a difficult message to deliver, but one which we all need to hear.
II. Matthew 5:27-30
A. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’…”
1. Here we have the Seventh Commandment.
a) “Adultery”—the Greek word moiceuw (moy-khyoo-o) means “to have unlawful intercourse with another man’s wife.” Not just sexual sin in general, but home-wreaking, sexual activity in which at least one person was married. Adultery is the violation of marriage.
b) In the Old Testament law, those who committed this sin were to be put to death (Leviticus 20:10-12). Why such a severe penalty—it seems so extreme to our ears? Why? Because it destroys the family. What destroys more lives than adultery? I can think of very few things. A study of the life of David shows that even if the adulterer seeks forgiveness and is truly repentant, his life and testimony and family always suffer permanent damage.
c) Here is a short list of several of the reasons why God—in His wisdom—has given this commandment. And, several of the reasons why it is obviously wise to obey it:
(i) Physical consequences. Romans 1:25-27 makes it clear that there are sometimes physical consequences to the sin of sexual activity outside marriage—that’s part of it. In the 1950’s there were only two widespread sexually transmitted diseases. Both could be cured with antibiotics. Today, there are more than 25 major diseases. Most cannot be cured. Several can cause a woman to become sterile and some even cause cancer and death.
(ii) Financial consequences. Divorce is expensive. Alimony. Child support. Many men spend small fortunes paying for their secret life. If a disease is contracted, there will be on-going medical expenses for cure or treatment. If disease is brought into the marriage bed from an adulterous relationship, there can be on-going medical expenses for the spouse.
(iii) Emotional consequences. The adulterer is usually full of guilt and self-anger and has constant fear of getting caught. The injured spouse suffers the emotions of abandonment, rejection, betrayal, anger and hatred. Imagine the emotional conflict for a couple if one of the spouses brings a sexually transmitted disease into the marriage bed.
(iv) Relational consequences. The relational devastation caused by adultery is astronomical. Spouses are betrayed. Marriages are destroyed—if not, the damage takes years to overcome, if ever. Children are often confused and blame themselves somehow.
(v) Spiritual consequences. No Christian who is participating in an adulterous relationship can—at the same time—be walking with the Lord. Those who reject God’s commands and refuse to obey them will never experience the blessings of fellowship with God and will eventually be disciplined in some way by God.
(vi) Eternal consequences. Christians who commit adultery will dishonor the name of Christ and rob God of the glory He should have received in their lives. They will cheat themselves of eternal reward because their sin is a tragic misuse of the time they have been given to live for God.
2. Most of us—if we stopped with v.27—would feel pretty good about ourselves. We’re doing pretty well. But hang on. Jesus takes this commandment to the heart level—God’s true intention behind the seventh commandment. Listen to vs. 28 again:
B. “…but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
1. Philip Yancey wrote about professor Virginia Stem Owens in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew. Prof. Owens assigned the Sermon on the Mount to her composition class at Texas A&M University. She asked her students to write a short essay on this passage of Scripture. Here is what one student wrote: “The things asked in this sermon are absurd. To look at a woman is adultery? That is the most extreme, stupid, unhuman statement that I have ever heard.”(The Jesus I Never Knew, p. 130).
2. That student’s comments reminds us of how radically different the disciples of Jesus Christ will be if we live up to the teachings of Jesus. This was radical in Jesus’ day and perhaps even more so in our day.
3. Remember the context: Jesus is telling His disciples that their righteousness must surpass the superficial righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Their interpretation of this commandment was shallow—if I don’t do the dirty deed, then I’m in full compliance. But Jesus’ point is that the heart condition is the true issue. The external, dirty deed of adultery simply reveals what is already in the heart.
4. Remember also that Jesus came to fulfill the Law. Why is this important? Because apart from the supernatural intervention from God, no man alive could fulfill this one. So, there’s two messages here:
a) Apart from Jesus we cannot obey this commandment. Every man in this room knows this commandment is an impossible standard. Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins and fulfilled the Law and then credits righteousness to all who trust Him to be their Substitute. If this were not true, we would all die in our sins—because we all have adulterous hearts.
b) In Jesus, we can obey this commandment. Since Jesus Christ has done such a great thing for us, and since we are new creations in Christ, and since we have been given the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can obey this Law. Doing so—striving to do so—is one of the ways which we express our gratitude to God for what He has done for us, and it is one of the ways in which we can be salt and light in this world, bringing glory to our Father who is in heaven. Trusting in the righteousness that Christ provides not only makes it possible for us to be in heaven with a righteous God, but it also makes it possible for us to live a righteous life here and now.
5. Notice that Jesus said “everyone who looks”. And if we stopped there, we men would think this was impossible even with Christ and the Holy Spirit—even with blinders! Impossible! But Jesus didn’t stop there.
6. Jesus said, “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her” commits adultery. “With lust” qualifies what is meant by “looks”. In other words, men, if “a woman” pops up on the TV screen or walks past you in a public setting or is posted up on a billboard and you happen to glance in her direction, your glance does not equal sin. It is the “look” plus the “lust” that equals sin. That little word “with” is the key. Looking “with lust” means you are looking for that purpose. For the purpose of lusting or desiring that which is forbidden. In other words, it’s what you do after the “glance” that really matters. It’s what happens in your heart and mind after you realize the temptation is there that really matters. A couple observations:
a) Jesus’ teaching shows a recognition of the fundamental difference between a man and a woman. A man is most strongly stimulated sexually by what he sees. This is not true for women—generally speaking. While men lust for what they see, women and girls have a tendency to lust for the lust of men. They lust for men to see them as physically attractive. We’ll come back to that.
b) Jesus here obviously means “a woman” who is not that man’s wife. The word “lust” is not inherently sinful. It is used elsewhere in a positive way. In 1 Timothy 3:1, for example: “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.” The point is, it is not wrong for a man to “look at (his wife) with lust for her.” That is good, healthy, and biblical.
C. “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
1. These verses ought to make every man in the room very nervous. Dr. Jay Adams—a Christian Counselor and pastor—tells the story of one time having to deal with a patient who took these verses literally and cut off his hand. Is that the way we should go here? Should we take these verses literally? This is where Biblical interpretation gets serious.
a) First of all, no! We must not take these verses literally! Please don’t! If you did tear out your right eye, would that make you stop lusting for women who were not your wife? If you did cut off your right hand, would that keep you from touching women who are not your wife? Would mutilating one’s external, physical body help him overcome the sinfulness of his inner, spiritual heart? NO!
b) Obviously, Jesus is speaking figuratively. As I’ve said before, we don’t believe in interpreting the Scriptures in a “literal” way—technically speaking. We interpret the Scriptures in what is called a “plain” way. This means we look at a word or verse or passage in context and find out what the original writer or speaker “plainly” meant.
(i) For example: When Jesus said, “Take up your cross…” He did not mean get yourself crucified. He could not have meant that because He added the word “daily.” If you get crucified once, it’s over. There’s no tomorrow. Daily means the cross is figurative.
(ii) For example: When Paul told us to present ourselves as sacrifices in Romans 12, he was not telling us to crawl up on an altar and present ourselves for human sacrifice. He added the word “living”. A “living” sacrifice is one who lives his life entirely for God.
c) Jesus’ point in saying, “Tear out” your right eye and “cut off” your right hand is: Get serious in the battle against your sin—especially sexual sin. Don’t play around with it. Take drastic steps to remove the temptations. This brings me to two major applications.
III. Two people are mentioned in these verses: “You” (men) and “a woman.”
A. Men: Be militant about your sin. Women also need to be militant about their sin, but in this context, the challenge seems to be aimed at men.
1. Guard your heart—your inner man.
a) Did you notice that word? Jesus said “everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Adultery begins in the heart. If you wonder—in your heart—what it would be like to touch her. If you wish—in your inner man—you could touch her, that is lust—the beginning of adultery.
b) We’ve got to cut it off at that point—at the heart level. We’ve got to cut it off long before there’s physical contact. Listen to Proverbs 4:20-27.
2. Discipline your body—your outer man.
(i) Listen to 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 and 1 Corinthians 9:25-27.
(ii) Again, this is what Jesus was getting at by saying, “tear out” your right eye and “cut off” your right hand. Discipline your body. Be militant! It’s a war! Fight.
(a) Don’t play around with internet access (the easiest source for pornography in the history of man). If you or your sons are being tempted, cut it off! Maybe we need to consider the possibility that we can survive without internet access. I know that’s a radical idea, but in a situation where a man or his sons are unable to resist the temptation, don’t we have to ask whether the convenience of internet access is worth the damage that could result in that marriage or in those hearts? Perhaps you can cut it off by having the computer out in the open where a person can be held accountable by the rest of your family. Ask yourself what it means to “cut it off.”
(b) Don’t play around with a friendship or a relationship that is dangerous. If someone other than your wife or husband is flirting with you, cut off the relationship. If it’s a work relationship, perhaps you can cut it off simply by refusing to speak to the person, or involve a superior. Cutting off the relationship may require drastic measures: You may need to fire the person, you may need to quit the job or ask for a transfer. The relationship may be at school or even at church. You can tell when it’s going the wrong direction. Ask yourself what it means to “cut it off”!
(iii) Old Job—around 5,000 years ago—had this one figured out. Listen to Job 31:1: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” Make a covenant with yourself—with your eyes. Be militant about what you put before your eyes. Be militant about turning your eyes away from temptation.
3. Again, in this context, I think the message is obviously aimed at men, but women also need to guard your hearts and discipline your bodies.
B. Women: Be modest with your bodies.
1. Women have a role to play here and I’m not aiming this message at any particular person—you evaluate yourself. If the slipper fits, wear it.
a) Do you have the freedom in this country to wear whatever you want? Yes, you do. But, do you also have a responsibility as a disciple of Jesus Christ to be modest? Yes, you do. The focus for you, ladies, is also on your hearts. Modesty is an issue of the heart, not just the appearance.
b) Listen to 1 Timothy 2:9,10 and 1 Peter 3:3,4.
2. The fact is, clothing choices should be very important to the female disciple of Jesus Christ.
a) Look at Proverbs 7:6-23. “Dressed as a harlot” (7:10)? This passage doesn’t say she is/was a harlot/prostitute. It just says she was “dressed like a harlot.” What images come to mind? Don’t you think that means she wears clothing that draws attention to her body? She’s got a product to sell and the way she dresses will help her sell that product.
b) Kim Alexis was a super-model in the ’80s [ppt]. Her picture was on over 500 magazines covers including Vogue and Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. She’s had a change of heart, and today she realizes that she made a lot of mistakes. Here’s what she said recently, “Many women are playing with fire in the way they dress. Dressing like a floozy tells the world, ‘Look at me, want me, lust after me. I’m easy, and you can have me.’”
c) Nancy Leigh DeMoss is a wonderful Christian communicator. Her ministry to women is called Revive Our Hearts (see CBC website). Ms. DeMoss recently shared a letter—in one of her speaking engagements—from a friend who is a wife and a mom. This woman wrote, “Five years ago I learned about my husband’s failures with his thought life which led to an affair with a woman at work who dressed very sensually. My heart was broken.” Listen to what Nancy Leigh DeMoss said about this: “Let me ask you this question: who was responsible for this affair? Was my friend’s husband responsible for his sexual failure? Absolutely, no question about it. He was completely 100 percent responsible for his sinful choices and responses to that woman at work. However, let me ask you this question: was the woman at work who dressed sensually, did she have any responsibility in this affair? Absolutely…how much responsibility do we have as women? Well, the Scripture teaches us that we are responsible for one another’s well being. Romans chapter 14, verse 13 says it this way, “Therefore let us resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” …The apostle Paul says to the Romans, “Let us resolve this, let us be determined about this.” It does take a determined effort. It’s a principle of deference. What does deference mean? It means the willingness to limit our liberty for the sake of others who are weak, others who may be caused to stumble or to fall. Listen, there is nothing necessarily inherently sinful about certain articles or items of clothing. What makes it sinful for us as women to wear is if in so doing we are…putting a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way. Let me go back to my friend who learned five years ago that her husband had had an affair with a woman at work who dressed sensually. She said, “My heart was broken…At the time I would have considered myself a modern Christian woman who for the most part was very modest.” However, after learning about her husband’s affair, she said, “I immediately began to see the clothes in my own closet with new eyes. With tears streaming down my face, I began pulling every immodest item out of my closet. I suddenly saw things that were too tight, too short and too low cut. I wanted to get rid of anything that would cause another woman’s husband to fall into that same pit. I carried bags of clothes to the trash can and spent the next day buying modest skirts and feminine tops that would honor God but still look stylish. I had never noticed those kinds of clothes before because I was not looking for them. I was looking for things that promote the world’s philosophy. Unfortunately, my husband’s coworker had bought into a lie, and so had I. Our marriage has been restored,” she says. I know this couple, and it is really true, “but I often cringe as I sit in church and see the way some women still choose to dress. When I talk to teen girls,” she says, “I challenge them to dress for Jesus and to look in the mirror and ask, ‘God, is this all right with you?’ I also plead with them not to make my husband or my sons fall morally because of their pride.”
d) I cannot recommend more highly the radio messages and articles Nancy Leigh DeMoss has put together on the subject of modesty.
A. A group called “Every Student’s Choice” ran this ad in several newspapers recently. “What to wear when you’re planning on safe sex: A wedding dress!
B. In Texas, I had the privilege of teaching an abstinence-based sex education course in the public school system. One of the things we used to say to students was, “There is one thing you can wear that will prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease 100% of the time: Pants!”
C. Adultery is the perversion of something beautiful. God made men and women to be attracted to each other and then act upon that attraction at the right time the right place with the right person—in the context of marriage. It’s beautiful and it’s wonderful and if you and I will white knuckle the Bible and obey God’s commands in this area of our lives, we will save ourselves and those we love so much heartache and trouble. And we will enjoy the blessings God intended for us to experience.