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Dealing with lust - Matthew 5:27-30

This is a sermon by Lee McMunn from the Riverside Church service on 19th July 2015.

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Dealing with lust

Matthew 5:27-30

How would you feel about running a sex education class in a local school? What would you want to teach the youngsters? What would you be expected to teach?

Sex education classes normally focus on two things - the importance of not being pressurised into doing something you don’t want to do. And then, secondly, when you do know what you want to do then make sure you are protected. The two big areas are pressure and protection.

Do you see what’s absent? There is nothing about the rightness or wrongness of the choices we make. The reason for this is because our society unashamedly allows the individual to determine for themselves what is right or wrong. And so therefore the realm of sexual behaviour is not marked by individual obedience to a set of universal standards but by individual preference. It’s all about what I feel I want to do. And If I feel it and call it love then what’s the problem?

Now can you imagine teaching what the bible says about sex in classrooms dominated by this view of the world? How do we teach this in a world where 50 Shades of Grey is mainstream viewing? To stand before those young people and say that sex is a great gift of God to the human race but it has one context - and that is in the marriage relationship as defined in the Bible, a covenant relationship between one man and one woman for life. And that outside this relationship we are not to be engaged in sexual activity.


What do you think the reaction will be? Probably disbelief and laughter! Does anyone still believe this nowadays? You cannot be serious. Perhaps even, “That’s not possible! Indeed, that almost sounds harmful to us.” You might get some who think marriage is a good idea at some point but the most popular view is to experiment with different partners for a while and then eventually settle down.

What can Christians do to make the Bible’s teaching about sex credible, convincing and compelling? We need to be clear about what it is. Then we need to live it out. By living it out we show the attractiveness of the kingly rule of Jesus to a watching world.

Today we’re going to focus on what Jesus says about the relationship between sex and our imaginations.

Now you’ll see from verse 27 that Jesus starts this section by mentioning adultery. Look at what he says to the disciples who have gathered around him. Read verses 27 and 28.

Remember what Jesus is contrasting. The minimalist teaching of the Pharisees and his maximum application teaching. The Pharisees were continually asking, ‘How much can we get away with?’ Whereas Jesus was offering loving commandments that, if obeyed, would produce a deep righteousness in the lives of his followers.

In this case the Pharisees were teaching that as long as married couples didn’t have sex with anyone else, once they had committed themselves to each other, then they had kept the 7th commandment - that is the 7th commandment in the list of 10 that Moses had received on Mount Sinai.
And Jesus responded, “No, I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Of course Jesus intends for his followers to keep the 7th commandment at the literal level. But he also wants his disciples to keep the commandment in the fullest way possible. And that meant avoiding committing adultery in our hearts, in our High Definition imaginations.

We need to get clear what Jesus is and isn’t saying. He is not talking about looking at another person and finding them attractive. That’s okay. You have been hard wired to be sexually attracted to other human beings.

Jesus is talking about what the NIV calls looking ‘at a woman lustfully’. How is that different from looking at a woman and finding her attractive? The original language literally says, ‘looking at a woman in order to lust.’

So Jesus is not describing how you feel when you walk past a beautiful person. No he is describing the behaviour of someone who looks back again in the rear view mirror. Or the person who deliberately sits in a sunny cafe to admire the view. Or the person who consciously gazes at their work colleague and imagines them without their clothes on. Or the person who puts on the private settings on their web browser and click on a whole range of pornographic websites.

Do you see the point? It is to look in order to lust. It is to gaze with the express purpose of lighting the sexual touch paper of your imagination. And Jesus says that kind of activity is a form of adultery.
Now before we move on let’s get a few things clear.

First, Jesus said it is a form of adultery. He didn’t say it is as destructive or damaging as the physical act of adultery - but he still says it is a serious sin that needs forgiveness.

The good news if you are a Christian is that Jesus has paid for every sin you have committed. But as a child do seek God’s fresh forgiveness for ongoing sin in this area.

Second, although the mental deed and the physical deed are not the same, they are often linked. Physical adultery is often the end result of an internal process that has been unrestrained and uncontrolled.

Third, although it’s important to realise that although the first application of this text is to those who are married, it is not the only application.

Why do I say the first application is for the married people? Because of the word Jesus chooses to use. He refers to adultery and not sexual immorality. Technically, adultery can only be committed by those who are married.

So if you are married then do all you can to keep the 7th commandment in your marriage. And don’t be like the Pharisees and think you have kept this as long as you haven’t actually had sex with someone apart form your wife or husband. No, for the good of your marriage and for the glory of God, think about what is going on inside your head.

What would we see if we were able to plug your imagination into the big screen? What would that reveal about your internal day dreams?
But even if you are not married, we can certainly extend this principle of sexual sin being committed in our minds. It may not technically be a form of adultery when the unmarried folk do it, but it should certainly be classified as a form of sexual immorality.

What is sexual immorality? Any sexual activity outside marriage. We sin in this area not only with our bodies but with our minds.

What can we do about our imaginations?

Can we do anything? The reason I ask this question because we are surrounded by sexual stimuli.

Sexual images are prominent in so much of the world that we see. One of the reasons for this is because advertisers know that sex sells. Adverts for so many things use sexual images to sell the product.

What can we do to keep our imaginations pure?

Listen to what Jesus says in verses 29 and 30. Read verses 29 and 30.

These words are very provocative. What did Jesus intend to communicate to us?

Jesus is no stranger to using extreme language to grab the attention of his hearers and to get across the truth that extreme action is required from them. For example, elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus says that unless we hate our father and mother we cannot be hid disciple.

What did he intend to communicate? It’s extreme language to get our attention and drive him the point that we must prioritise Jesus at all costs.

What does Jesus mean when he says we must gouge out an eye or lop off a limb if it is causing us to sin sexually? He doesn’t want us to go to the department store and buy an axe. But he does mean that we must take radical and decisive action to deal with the routes that cause us to lust in our imaginations.

• What we look at
• What or who we touch

Doesn’t Jesus get this exactly right? It is the things we see and touch that provide fuel for our sexual imaginations.

What’s the motivation for the prescribed extreme action? To avoid hell. Both the taste of hell in this life and the reality of hell in the future.

What decisive action do we need to take to protect our imaginations?

What should we stop doing?

What we look at

First, pornography. There are so many devices that can access this material. Don’t play with fire. Better not to start. It has the power to become addictive. If it is a problem then seek help. There is forgiveness available and power to change.

What kind of help is available? The ultimate extreme is to get rid of the internet in your life. Better to live without broadband than to spend eternity in hell. There are also things like Covenant Eyes.

Second, make a covenant not to take a second glance. I bet you find this difficult at first and then it will get easier.

Third, we can help each other by thinking about how we dress. There is a great difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract! Uncover for your spouse, cover up for everyone else.

What or who we touch

Be careful of how you physically embrace the opposite sex.

What should we start doing?

Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.  9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

In summary

Protect your imagination! Realise why it’s so important and then let’s resolve to do the things that will keep it save. When we live like this we will help make the Bible’s teaching about sex, credible, convincing and compelling.

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