Yep, Jesus leaves no stone unturned and no pride unassaulted as he preached this message that was, actually, an invitation to join his kingdom. Today, we’re in Matthew, chapter 5, verses 27-30. And Jesus continues to reveal that citizens of his kingdom, with him as the king and his Holy Spirit residing in us, are going to begin to look more and more distinct from the world around us. So, let’s read that passage first to get the big picture for today.
Matthew 5:27-30 - You have heard that 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. 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. 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.
Jesus launches this section by quoting one of the 10 Commandments that forbids adultery. And most of his audience would have breathed a huge sigh of relief, “Ok, I’m good. I’ve never cheated on my wife (or husband).” That would have lasted about three seconds, however, because Jesus then drops the grenade, "But I say to you that if you’ve ever looked at a woman with lustful intent, you are guilty of adultery in your heart." And every hearer would have thought, “Oh, no. He just nailed me.” Sex, that magical thing God created to seal a covenant between a man and a woman, can be robbed of its beauty and by the mere thoughts and intents of a mind and heart corrupted. And we’ve all been there. It’s the addiction to lust that Jesus is calling his people to kill, all for something better.
We see the damage from lust and sex misused all around us in our culture. Watch any TV show or movie. Physical attraction or romantic interest has to, and quickly, end up in a romp in the hay. Donna Freitas’ book, The End of Sex; How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, should be must reading on how we are creating self-inflicted wounds when lust unchecked rules our lives.
And pornography has just amped a culture already on lust steroids. It used to be you had to slip into an alley for porn, but now every computer is a potential red-light district. Porn is piped right into your homes, available for men, women, and our kids. And it’s getting more graphic. I saw a Washington Post article this past week that Playboy is going to stop having naked pictures in its print edition. Why? Well, with all the graphic videos available online, mere pictures doesn’t have the appeal it once had. Heck, Playboy can’t even compete with porn masquerading as a box-office hit. Take 50 Shades of Grey—pornographic literature that glorifies abusive and oppressive sex. And that’s not some Christian flamethrower making that claim. It’s coming from professionals who work in the area of domestic abuse and any number of feminist groups.
The Witherspoon Institute, an independent research center—not a Christian outfit, by the way—reviewed the academic literature on the costs of pornography. Here’s what they concluded the research showed:
The neuroscience of pornography consumption is revealed by empirical studies. Some studies show that it undermines marital and other relationships of its users. It can make men sexually incompetent with a real partner, and for some can lead to growing attraction to images of a hard-core nature. Women not only face new expectations of sexual behavior, they also are confronted with increased chances of divorce, infidelity, and less happy marriages. Children, adolescent boys, in particular, are more inclined to violence, aggression, and sexual coercion of peers, and are more susceptible to sexual coercion by peers and adults. Adolescent girls are more inclined to tolerate emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Finally, while much research needs to be done in this area, it appears that pornography continues to be a factor in human trafficking for sexual exploitation. In summary, pornography has social costs for those involved at the primary level—consumers and producers, be they men, women, or children—and secondary level—usually women and children.
Almost to make my point, the news this past week highlighted a major law enforcement bust of a number of human traffickers in Virginia and the rescue of a couple of hundred victims—girls ranging in age from 12 to 17. Think lust isn’t unchecked right here in our own city?
So, Jesus says that we’ve got to be serious about weeding this lust thing out of our lives. Better to end up in heaven with an eye and hand missing than to get to hell whole. Pretty graphic stuff, there, eh? The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:13 that if we live according to the flesh, we will die, but if we put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit, we will live. Living by the Spirit simply means to cooperate with God on the things He’s leading us to and away from.
Let’s be honest. If you’re a Christian, why are you looking at porn? Let me tell you why. Because you love it. Maybe you’d argue with me on that, saying, “Well, when I do look at it, I feel convicted and ashamed.” Yeah, but that’s not enough to stop you, is it? And that’s because your “want to” is greater than your “don’t want to.” See, to be delivered from lust and porn, you have to learn to hate it. And you won’t hate it until you grasp what it’s costing you. There are things God wants to do in your life, to give you, to bring into your life, but lust is in the way. You’ve got to get your mind around what lust is costing you.
Also, to be free of sin, you must first be forgiven of it. And you won’t ask for forgiveness for it until you hate it. God’s not asking you to hate you. He just wants you to hate your sin. And since we are to put to death the deeds of the body through the Spirit, we’ve got to be Christians, because that’s how we get the Spirit.
Now, once the Spirit is at work, he’s gonna help. And his help will normally be in two areas, and both of them are this: RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!
First, RUN AWAY!!!!! 1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us to flee from sexual immorality. So, be aware of where temptation lies for you and don’t put yourself in situations where you are going to lose. Don’t hang out with that crew; don’t go to that bar; don’t go to that party. You can pray all you want to remain pure, but then there you are, all alone with her (or him) at her house. No one else around. It’s late, and she smells so good. Dude, you have put yourself on sin’s home court, and you are going to lose. If you struggle with porn on the internet, don’t sit alone in a room with a computer. Get protection—internet software is available, get accountability.
But you also have to cooperate with the Spirit in RUNNING TO!!! The sinful affections will get driven from your heart when they are replaced by something stronger. Remember vanilla ice cream? It was the best thing ever, right? Yeah, until you had Rocky Road. You never go into a Baskin Robbins and order vanilla. Why? The affection for it has been replaced by something you have a greater affection for. So, ultimately, God makes some huge promises to Christians, his children. Pursue him and let him win you over. Let him prove that he’s better than the stuff you’re craving now. Because God is not trying to rob us of pleasure, but offering us greater pleasures.
I really have basically summarized some key points from the message on 18 October, so to get the full message, please feel free to get onto www.thesurge.cc, click on the media page, and hear the whole thing.