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Dealing With Lust - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Matthew 5:27-30

  • 2012-05-06 AM
  • The Sermon on the Mount
  • Sermons


Turn with me again to the Sermon on the Mount and to Matthew 5. Today we come to a passage in which Jesus discusses the relationship between lust and adultery. In an attempt to help us understand our own times, C.S. Lewis once used this illustration. He said imagine for a moment that you were to go into a dimly lit room where there was a crowd of people who were slowly growing into this excitement as they anticipated something that was about to appear on the stage. Then something suddenly, at first you're unclear as to what it was, actually came out on the stage. It was carefully hidden behind a series of silk scarves. And then sensual music began to play. And as the music played, the crowd grew more and more excited as one by one the scarves were stripped away. Finally, as what was beneath them was revealed, the crowd found itself in an utter, mindless frenzy. And then you looked on the stage and you saw there that the mysterious object that had been hidden and was now revealed, on which the attention of the crowd was focused, was in fact a large cooked ham. Some of you are thinking lunch already. This is not the point of the illustration. Lewis asks, "What would you conclude about that culture's appetite for meat?" Well, you would conclude that their natural God-given appetite for food had somehow been grossly perverted. That is exactly what has happened to our culture and to other cultures down through the history of humanity. Its natural, God-given appetite for sexual intimacy in marriage has been grossly perverted.

Now I don't believe there was such a thing as the good old days. People have been sinful from the beginning. That's clear if you read your Bible. At the same time, in every culture, you can see decay and decline, and you can see this in our own culture. For example, consider the issue of premarital sex. In 1953, by the age of twenty-one, 23% of young women had been involved sexually. In 2002, fifty years later, that number had doubled from 23% to 46% and had come from twenty-one years of age to nineteen years of age. Or consider the statistics about couples living together outside of marriage. In 1970, just over one million unmarried adults lived together in the United States. The most recent census statistics say that that number has grown in the last forty years from one million to fifteen million.

The same increase holds true when you look at the issue of adultery. The General Social Survey sponsored by the National Science Foundation, has tracked social behaviors of Americans since 1972. Their survey data show that, for many of those years in the early part of their history, the average was about ten percent of married people who said that they had been unfaithful to their spouse. But the infidelity rate has grown in the intervening years; in fact, really over the last decade, it has grown significantly. For those younger than thirty-five, it has now grown to 15% for women and has doubled for men to 20%. Almost more shocking, in recent years, the rate of adultery for older Americans has increased dramatically. For men over sixty, it has increased to 28%, one in three; for women over sixty, from 5% to 15%. You can see the sexual decline of the culture.

Tragically, Christians have been heavily influenced by the pervasive sexual atmosphere of our culture. So much so that even those who call themselves true followers of Jesus Christ are perfectly comfortable watching and enjoying television programs and movies that glorify and glamorize sexual sin. Look at their iPods. Turn on their radio stations and you will hear songs that make sexual involvement before or outside of marriage appear fun and enjoyable and desirable and perfectly the norm. Blatant sexuality has become so pervasive that the average Christian really doesn't even see it. Things that would have scandalized Christians earlier in this generation, today have little effect.

It is this very issue of accepting, tolerating, and then later following the sexual norms around us that Jesus addresses in the paragraph we come to today. Let's look at it together. Matthew 5:27

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 lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. 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.

Now obviously, there are some difficult issues in that paragraph and we'll deal with those. They'll come in the next time we look at this passage. But the emphasis of this passage is very clear. It's this: lust in the heart carries the moral guilt of an act of sexual sin. And lust in the heart, as well as sexual sin, renders us guilty of violating the seventh commandment and deserving of eternal hell. Therefore, Jesus says to us who are His followers, we must not tolerate either acts of sexual sin or the lust from which it springs. And we must be willing to take radical, even extreme measures to cut this sin out of our lives.

We find ourselves in the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. Beginning in Matthew 5:17, running down through 7:12, Jesus describes how those who are citizens of His spiritual kingdom live–what the righteousness of His kingdom is like. He's not talking here primarily to unbelievers. He's talking to His disciples. This is what I expect. Now in chapter 5, as we've already seen, beginning in verse 17 down through verse 19, Jesus describes the essence of kingdom righteousness as obedience to the Scripture. This is what marks a true disciple – a heart for and a love for the Scripture and a desire to obey it. In verse 20, He explains that His disciples' obedience to the Scripture is radically different from that of the scribes and Pharisees. It's radically different in that it is not incomplete; they don't pick and choose commands. It is a wholehearted obedience. It's radically different in that it's not selfish, but rather for God's glory. And really the focus here is His disciples' obedience to the Scripture is not merely external. It's not about cleaning the outside of the cup so we look good to others, but it's internal. It's a matter of the heart. That's how the righteousness of Jesus' true disciples surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.

Now in the rest of chapter 5, Jesus gives six illustrations of how the righteousness of His disciples surpasses that of the scribes. Over the last couple of weeks, we've looked at the first illustration Jesus gives. It's the sixth commandment against murder. Jesus says if you're really My disciple, then you're not content merely to avoid the act of murder; instead, you understand how sinful anger is, whether it's in the heart or expressed in words, and you want to eradicate even anger from your life. And when we do sin in anger, and Jesus makes it clear that He expects that we will even though we're to desire and pursue eradication, total eradication, we still will sin in anger. And when we do, we are to be quick, He says, to seek reconciliation with others.

Now today we come to the second illustration Jesus gives of how our righteousness, His disciples' righteousness, exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and He uses the seventh commandment against adultery. Now this second illustration unfolds in much the same way as the first one did. So first of all, notice the law against adultery recited. Jesus quotes one of the Ten Commandments. Verse 27: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'…" Now it's interesting to note that both in this second illustration in verse 27, as well as in the third illustration down in verse 31, they both have to do with the seventh commandment against adultery. In verses 27 to 30, Jesus explains to us that lust is a violation of the seventh commandment. In verses 31 and 32, He explains that wrongful divorce is a violation of the seventh commandment.

Now look back at verse 27. Jesus here quotes verbatim. (You can see it's in all caps) He quotes verbatim the Septuagint – that's the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, translated a couple hundred years before Christ. It was the Bible that, for the most part, was used in the first century. He quotes verbatim from Exodus 20:14 and the second law, 'deuter nomos', Deuteronomy 5:18. It is, as you see, the seventh of the Ten Commandments. It appears in what is called the Second Table of the Law. Are you familiar with that description? You remember that when Moses received the law from God, God gave it to him on two tablets of stone. The first table or the first tablet contained, had engraved upon it, the four commands dealing with our duty to God: "You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol… You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain… Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." The second tablet or table – it contained the six commandments that deal with our duty to one another, including this commandment against adultery.

Now have you ever asked yourself why in the Ten Commandments does God only include the sexual sin of adultery? Is that the only sexual sin? Is that the worst sexual sin? And the answer to both of those questions is obviously not. You need to understand the purpose behind the Ten Commandments because the really larger question we have to ask is why did God select these ten commands and set them apart from others? Let me explain it to you. This is so important to understand. Each of the ten commands is really a summary of a huge body of God's commands about a particular area of life. Think of each of the Ten Commandments as a hook on which to hang the rest of the commandments about that area of life. They're like an easy to remember outline of all of God's requirements of us. And this was important. Remember, for hundreds of years, the Israelites didn't have their own written copy of God's Word sitting in their laps as you do this morning. But God gave them an outline of everything He required of them in ten Hebrew words. Everybody can remember ten words. They could carry it with them as a constant reminder of God's requirements of them.

And so each of the commandments then, addresses one aspect of human life, one aspect of our responsibility either to God or to others. Let me give you an example. Take the fifth commandment: "Honor your father and mother…" That is not just about the way we ought to respond to our parents. It is about how we ought to respond to our parents, but it's much larger than that. It is a reminder that God has established all human authority, whether it's in the home or in the government or in the church or in the workplace. God has established all human authority and we are to respect human authorities and submit to human authority unless they tell us to do what God forbids or forbid us from doing what God commands. That's how each of the Ten Commandments work. They each deal with a large category about how we are to relate to God or to one another. So when a specific sin like, for example the ninth commandment, bearing false witness is mentioned, that is simply a reminder. It is there to remind us that God forbids all forms of the sin of lying and deception, not merely bearing false witness.

Now you can see this basic principle of interpretation woven into the Ten Commandments themselves. They teach us to interpret it like this. Consider the tenth commandment. In Exodus 20:17, God said: "You shall not (what?) covet…" Now God goes on, then, to give us a series of examples showing coveting of all kind. He's not talking about one kind of coveting. He's talking about all kinds of coveting, whether it has to do sexually or whether it has to do with someone else's property. He goes on to say: "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." That shows us how we are to interpret each of the commandments. The one sin is covering a category of sins.

So with that in mind, look again at verse 27: "You shall not commit adultery…" Obviously, that is not the only sexual sin God forbids, but by including this one kind of sexual sin, God is reminding us that He forbids all of the same kind. So what then is forbidden in the seventh commandment? Is it just adultery? No! All sexual sin. Now clearly as a specific command, it's talking about one category of sin: adultery. "You shall not commit adultery…" Jesus affirms that the marriage relationship must not be violated by sexual sin. The Greek word that's translated 'commit adultery' refers to a married person having sexual intimacy with anyone other than his or her own spouse.

Now to put you back in the sort of cultural climate a little bit, you need to understand that, outside of Israel, this would have been novel. In the pagan world of the first century, this was a novel idea because it was generally considered acceptable for a married man to be unfaithful to his wife as long as it wasn't with another married woman. Because in the pagan world, to commit adultery was really to steal something from someone that belonged to them. A woman on the other hand – she was to remain pure both before marriage and completely faithful after marriage. So there was this double standard. Jesus, however, cuts across all of that and He makes it clear that purity is demanded of everyone, male or female, because He quotes the commandment from Exodus verbatim and the commandment from God has no reference to the gender of the guilty party. So clearly, Jesus is here speaking to both sexes of His disciples. And then in verse 28, He specifically addresses men – not because women can't be guilty of lust, but because of the free pass that was often given to men in the culture. So Jesus here quotes the Old Testament law against adultery and in doing so He made it clear that everyone who claims to be His disciple – for that person, adultery is absolutely forbidden. That's the specific statement Jesus makes.

But as I've already explained to you, the seventh commandment is making a much larger statement about human sexuality. In this one commandment forbidding adultery, every other deviation from the divine intention for human sexuality is clearly forbidden. That means this commandment also forbids being involved in any sexual intimacy outside of the context of a heterosexual marriage. The Scripture couldn't be any clearer. There are so many places, but look at Hebrews 13. The writer of Hebrews has just explained the incredible superiority of Jesus Christ. And in chapter 13, he says if you believe that, if you've come to embrace that superiority, then it better affect how you live. Hebrews 13:1, he says: "Let love of the brethren continue. (You need to be loving others) Don't forget to show hospitality to strangers. . .(verse 3) Remember the prisoners . . ." And then in verse 4, he gets to marriage. He says: "Marriage is to be held in honor among all…" The institution of marriage was created by God and it is to be honored and held honorable. And, just in case you're not clear, that includes the physical relationship in marriage: "the marriage bed is to be undefiled…" Don't do anything that destroys the beautiful picture God intended for physical intimacy in marriage to be. Don't defile it in any way. And just in case we're unclear as to how it's defiled, he says: "for fornicators and adulterers…" Those are two different kinds of sexual sin, two different categories. The one is specific – adultery. That's a married spouse violating their faithfulness to their spouse. Fornication has to do with the word which implies all kinds of deviation. And in context, it's probably referencing sexual sin outside of marriage. You're not married and you get involved in sexual sin. You are still sinning against the institution of marriage. And then God says: "for fornicators and adulterers God will (what?) judge." God takes this very seriously( in all men) in those who claim to be His own.

Now again in verse 4 there, you have this sort of sweeping statement about all sexual sin being defiling and forbidden, but let's get a little more specific. I was very interested and I would encourage you to read 'The Westminster Larger Catechism'. The Westminster Divines put together a catechism to teach people the faith, and part of that catechism has to do with the Ten Commandments. Listen to their answer to this question. This is question 139 of the Westminster Larger Catechism: "What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?" Now I'm going to read them to you. I've kind of made them a little more contemporary so you don't get lost in the language, but listen to what they share. And this is absolutely right; they cite, by the way, biblical references . If you have a copy of the Westminster Larger Catechism, you can look at it - biblical references to defend each of these. But let me just read you the list. Here's what is forbidden in the seventh commandment: obviously adultery, premarital sex, rape, polygamy, incest and homosexuality. But then it goes on to other things: all sexual desire to engage in any of those sins - lust in other words, what Jesus is going to get to in verse 28 and where we'll get the next time we discuss this passage. That desire, whether it's in the imagination or the thoughts or in your plans or in your affections – that is, you love these things. Talking about sexual sin, including crass sexual jokes or more subtle innuendo or listening to those who joke in that way. Sexually charged looks or displaying sexual hunger, (and our advertisement media are filled with that) being flirtatious, wearing immodest clothes, forbidding legitimate marriage, being involved with prostitutes, deciding to remain single when you've not been given the gift of singleness, undue delay of marriage, unbiblical divorce, deserting your spouse, entertainment that excuses or promotes sexual sin, anything that stirs up lust or sexual sin either in ourselves or in others. That is what the seventh commandment forbids. You can see how all-encompassing, all-inclusive it really is intended to be.

But what does it require? It requires sexual purity. Have you ever noticed that eight of the Ten Commandments are negative? You shall not…You shall not…You shall not… But two of the Ten Commandments are positive: "Remember the Sabbath day…" and "Honor your father and mother…" Have you ever wondered why? I mean, that seems inconsistent, doesn't it? I mean, why would you give eight negative and two positive? Why didn't God just make them all negative or all positive? Because He wanted us to know how to interpret His commands. They are at the same time, each of them, both negative and positive. Not only does each commandment forbid certain sins, but each commandment demands the opposite virtues as well. It's not enough simply to obey your parents. You have to honor them in your heart. There's a positive virtue that's required. In the case of the seventh command, it's not enough to keep from committing adultery. You also have to pursue sexual purity in mind and body. We could summarize what the seventh commandment is teaching like this: God has given us the gift of sexuality and He insists that it be enjoyed only in keeping with His design and intention. That's the seventh commandment.

Jesus affirmed this. Although He Himself was never married, on several occasions He directly affirmed marriage and the relations that go within marriage as being from God. In fact, where was the first miracle of His ministry performed? At a wedding. It's interesting because if you go back to Genesis 1 and 2 and you believe as I do and most do that that was Jesus (that is, a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ) that was with Adam and Eve walking in the garden, the One who made Eve as a complement to Adam. It was Jesus Christ as the preincarnate Son who performed the first wedding, who brought the man and the woman together. Jesus affirmed the Old Testament Scriptures as we've seen in Matthew 5. And both Proverbs and the Song of Solomon celebrate the wonder and the beauty and the joy of married love and sexual intimacy. So the seventh commandment then affirms the God-given gift of human sexuality. And at the same time, it demands that that gift be enjoyed, but only in the way God intended. So what then is required in the seventh commandment? Listen again to the Westminster Larger Catechism in answer to the question: "What are the duties required in the seventh commandment?" Here's what it requires of us positively: complete purity in body, mind, affections, words, and behavior, being careful to guard our own purity and the purity of others, guarding our eyes and all of our physical senses, hanging around only those who are committed to sexual purity, dressing modestly, pursuing marriage if you don't have the gift of singleness, keep your heart and body for your future spouse, being faithful to enjoy the physical relationship within marriage except for a short time by mutual consent, living with your spouse and not being away and apart from them for long periods of time, staying away from all circumstances that tempt you to sexual sin, and resisting all temptations that come to you tempting you in this way. That's what is required. So when Jesus recited and affirmed the seventh commandment here in verse 27, He was affirming both the sins it forbids and the duties it requires and demands of us as well.

But when He did this, and as He will explain it in verses 28 and 29 and 30, our Lord was seriously confronting what the scribes and the Pharisees taught. Let's look briefly at the law against adultery misinterpreted. The scribes and Pharisees – they believed in the seventh commandment, they quoted it, but the problem was their interpretation of it; it didn't go far enough. Now we know that in each case here in chapter 5, Jesus is taking issue with their interpretation of the law, not the law itself. You can see this if you look at the first illustration, as we have been doing over the last few weeks, where they added something to it, connected something to it. And in the sixth case, if you look down at the sixth illustration down in verse 43 "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor (there's the Old Testament quote) and hate your enemy.'" You won't find that in the Old Testament. That was the scribe's misinterpretation of the Old Testament law. In every case though, Jesus is correcting their misinterpretation. In illustration one and six, it's stated; in illustrations two through five, we can only get what their misinterpretation was by looking at how Jesus corrects their misinterpretation.

With that in mind, when you look at verse 28, we can discern by the simple fact that Jesus applies the seventh commandment to lust in the heart that the scribes didn't. That isn't how they thought about the seventh commandment. So obviously, their misinterpretation of the seventh commandment against adultery was very similar to their misinterpretation of the sixth commandment against murder. They made it almost exclusively about the act of sexual sin. For them, they felt like if they avoided the act itself, they had satisfied God's commands. Now this is really neat and tidy. Kent Hughes, I love what he writes about this. He says: "In their eyes, you were either an adulterer or you were not. And if you were a caught adulterer, you were dead. That really made it simple. How convenient! And how deadly! It is very natural for those of us who are non-adulterers to feel smug and conceited: 'I haven't committed that sin. Jesus is speaking to the rest of you sinners, not to me. Listen up, all you reprobates.'" That's exactly the idea Jesus wants to destroy. Because you see, the scribes and Pharisees, in their self-righteousness, had become hard-hearted and severe toward those who committed the act of sexual adultery. Read John 8. You remember the story? They bring this woman to Jesus. What did they want Jesus to do? What did they want to happen to that woman? They wanted her to be stoned. Now the Old Testament allowed for stoning, but there was a glaring inconsistency in their attitude. Remember what they said? "We caught this woman in adultery (what?), in the very act." Now you don't have to be very old to figure out that there were two people involved. They only bring the woman. That tells you all you need to know about their attitude regarding sexual sin when it came to men. And if they were lax toward men on the issue of adultery, they practically ignored the sin of lust. And you know, that shouldn't surprise us. We're going to find out as we get later in this sermon Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees false teachers. And guess what's always true of false teachers? What does Peter say in 2 Peter 2:14? "Always having eyes full of (what?) adultery…" They're in it for the money or for the sexual favors that they can get.

Now in the next couple verses, Jesus shows how badly they had misinterpreted and misapplied the seventh commandment, and He absolutely crushes their proud smugness and their self-righteousness. But I want you to remember this: Jesus wasn't talking that day to the scribes and Pharisees. He was talking to (whom?) His disciples. He was talking to us and He's still saying this to us: If you're going to follow Me, if you're going to be My disciple, don't imitate the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. It doesn't go nearly far enough. I not only forbid you to violate the gift of human sexuality by acts of sexual sin. I demand that if you're going to belong to My kingdom, you must not even tolerate sinful thoughts and desires. The kind of righteousness for those who are truly in Jesus' kingdom is this: they long for, they desire purity with all their hearts. In fact, look back in Matthew 5:8. You remember the beatitude that said, in describing those who are truly citizens of His kingdom, they are pure in heart. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." Only those who are clean in their hearts will ever enter God's presence.

Now what I want you to see is that both that beatitude and the passage we're studying on the seventh commandment are devastating to us all. We have no hope by that standard because Jesus is the only One who ever truly kept the seventh commandment in all of its implications. You haven't and I haven't. So how in the world then can we be clean in heart and see God? How can our hearts that are dirty and polluted and guilty be clean? Well, let me remind you of what we looked at when we looked at that beatitude. It's so important to keep this in mind. How can we have clean hearts? Number one: at the moment of salvation, God completely cleanses the heart of the believing sinner. If you're willing or have already in your life come to a point where you acknowledged your sin, you were willing to repent of it and turn from it and put your only hope of heaven in the death of Jesus Christ for your sin, to become His follower, for Him to be your Lord, your Sovereign, your Master – if you've ever come to that point in your life, then at that moment in time your heart was cleansed. Listen to Acts 15:9. Speaking of those who had come to faith, "He cleansed their hearts by faith." I love that. In the expression of faith in Jesus Christ, God gives us clean hearts. It's like David: "Create in me a clean heart." At the moment of salvation, God did. He recreated our hearts. 1Peter 1:22 – "You have in obedience to the truth (of the gospel) purified your souls…" You want a clean heart? You've got to be willing to turn from your sin and come on your knees to Jesus Christ, pleading for His death to become your deliverance.

But for those of us that are in Christ, the cleansing doesn't stop there. Secondly, God continues to cleanse the hearts of believers in response to their ongoing confession and repentance of sin. You don't repent once. The Christian life is a life of repentance. That's why 1 John 1:9 talks about our continually confessing our sins: "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just (to what?) forgive us and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." In verse 7, he says: "the blood of Jesus Christ His Son keeps on cleansing us from all sin." So there's how we get clean hearts. It starts at the moment of salvation; God gives us a clean heart. But we continually see our hearts cleansed by ongoing repentance, confession.

But it can't stop here. That's not enough. There's a third way our hearts become clean. We must cleanse our own hearts from the patterns of sin, not in the sense that I can change my heart. I can't, you can't change your heart. But in the sense that we have to deliberately choose by God's grace to pursue obedience. It's imperfect. It's not always the way it ought to be. But pursue obedience. And as we pursue obedience, God does in our hearts what we can never do. He changes us. You can't change yourself. I can't change myself. But God will not change us unless we demonstrate a desire to obey.

Listen to 2 Corinthians 7:1 "Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." In other words, we must, however imperfectly, hate our sin and pursue obedience to God's standard. You know, so many people who are in slavery to sexual sin say, Well, you know. I prayed and asked God and He didn't do anything, and they just keep pursuing their sin. Listen. That's not how a person's heart is cleansed. You've got to demonstrate a holy hatred of that sin, a willingness to pursue the purity of Jesus Christ. As Jonathan Edwards said, "I am resolved never to let up in the eradication of sin, in the battle with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may appear to be." That's what we're talking about.

Specifically when it comes to this sin, sexual sin, look at 1Thessalonians 4. Listen to what Paul says to the believers in Thessalonica. 1Thessalonians 4:1

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more. For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. (let me tell you one of them, Paul says, verse 3) For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality…

The word 'sexual immorality' is the Greek word 'porneia'. It includes all deviations from God's standard for sexual purity. Abstain!

Sanctification is not something you do; that's something God does. Abstaining though is something you do and not something God does. It's the perfect marriage of Philippians 2 where Paul says "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (why?) for God is at work in you to change your will and ability to do." See, it's both and; it's not either or. As you demonstrate a desire to obey God, as you pursue obedience, as you make every effort, as you expend the maximum effort to pursue purity however imperfectly, God will do in you what you cannot do and that is He will begin to purify and cleanse your heart. He will begin to loosen the hold of sin in your life. But don't you for imagine think that God will act toward you that way if you're not expending the effort. And Jesus is going to tell us how to expend the effort. But notice how Paul goes on:

. . .that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and (oh by the way, if it involves another Christian, you better make sure) that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter (in this matter of sexual sin) because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.

Listen. God takes this very seriously. Oh, by the way, verse 8: "He who rejects (what I'm telling you right now) is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you." Paul says you better take the issue of your sexual purity very seriously because to reject this is not to reject Paul. It's not to reject me. It's to reject God.

We're going to learn from Jesus how this commandment very practically applies in the issue of lust and what to do to battle the sin of lust in the coming weeks. But let's start right here with a commitment to pursue, by God's grace, obedience to His command and to seek His grace when we have, as we all have, miserably failed. Let's pray together.

Our Father, thank You for the amazing balance that You give us between grace and obedience. Father, help us not to fall off on either side, to fall off on license or legalism, but to see that our only hope before You is Your grace. And yet, You have compelled us, commanded us to take obedience seriously.

Father, I pray in this area of sexual sin that You would keep us from simply mimicking the world around us, from being absorbed into the mindset of the age in which we live but, Father, help us to think like Christians. Help us to think like disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. Help us to hate this sin in all of its forms in our own lives, both in act and in word and in thought. And Father, help us by Your grace to pursue purity.

Father, I pray for those here today who have not yet experienced Your grace, but who are in slavery to sexual sin. Father, I just ask that You would open their minds to see themselves as You see them and to see Christ as their true and only hope. May this be the day when they fall on their knees before Him and submit themselves to Him as Lord and Savior. We pray it in His name. Amen.

The Sermon on the Mount