In today’s Spectator Magazine the author Martin Amis is quoted as saying ‘years and years ago, someone defined pornography as hatred of significance in sex. That’s what pornography does.’ Below is the third part of my sermon from last Sunday evening on the 7th commandment ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ In this extract we consider how through lust we all break this command.
C: How we all break the 7th commandment
We saw last Sunday in Jesus’ sermon on the mount that God is as concerned with how we think as much as how we act. You shouldn’t measure obedience to God’s word by what you do or don’t do but by what we would like to do or not do.
We saw that ‘You shall not murder’ is not an excuse to hate because hate is really murder in the heart. So in that second reading we had this evening (Matthew 5:27-30) we saw that ‘You shall not commit adultery’ speaks to our hearts that are full of lust. And that really matters because Jesus won’t allow us to divide the room this evening into two categories of people; the sexually pure and the impure. No, for the reality is that when it is the attitude of our hearts that are held to account surely we are all sexual failures.
Kevin DeYoung writes: The 7th commandment doesn’t just forbid adultery and pornography. It forbids every action, look, conversation, thought, or desire that incites lust and uncleanness.
To lust is to look at a person in a way that leads to sexual arousal and so again we find God’s purpose in the commandment to reveal to us that we are all adulterers in the heart.
1. Be radical
Jesus warns us what a serious sin lust is when he says ‘ If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.’
Jesus wants you to know that there is a difference between being sorry and being repentant.
Being sorry means regretting sin, being repentant means running from sin. Joseph when seduced into bed by Potiphar’s wife ran for his life. He fled the house. A friend of mine I met with to read the bible each week left his job because of a growing attachment to someone at work.
Maybe we would run from an inappropriate relationship but the bigger challenge for some of us is that we naturally have a pretty forgiving attitude to inward sins, we’re just much less concerned about the sins of the heart not least because no-one else knows about them.
The pastor who looks at pornography then preaches on purity is a dangerous person.
Not only do we sometimes simply forgive ourselves for our sin but we even use the gospel as an excuse to sin. We say well God has already forgiven me so I can sin anyway. Well it is true that the gospel does forgive sin but it is a dangerous thing to turn a truth into a half-truth because as Jim Packer has said ‘a half-truth, masquerading as the whole truth becomes a complete untruth.’
The same gospel that forgives our sin also teaches us (Titus says) to say ‘no’ to ungodliness so if there is no fight for purity in our hearts is there evidence of grace in our lives?
So are you ready to take urgent and radical action in battling sexual temptation in our lives. That might mean not having a TV license or having accountability software on our computers or changing gym membership or even job. It would certainly mean stopping sleeping with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
If you are here this evening as a non-Christian I want you to know how totally amazing is the grace of God through his Son’s death on the cross he has dealt with our sin whatever our sexual sins, however we have lived, no-one is too far from God. Grace is always amazing but it is never cheap.
The sign that God is at work is real repentance.
2. Be honest
We do need each other in the battle. Married couples we need to help one another think through how to keep investing in our marriages. To help us in the battle with sexual sin we should seek support and we should make ourselves accountable. DeYoung comments ‘No one fights a war by himself, and no one will get victory over sexual sin on his own.’
3. Be real
About your own vulnerability. Recognise that if a man like King David, a man after God’s own heart, could fall into scandalous sin then why not me or you?
I don’t know why guys wouldn’t want to put some kind of software on their computers to take away temptation. Maybe you need to honestly face up to the fact that you are not ready for a relationship because you know that you could not control yourself physically and would only damage the person you were dating. Maybe you need to recognise that you are flirting in a dangerous way with a housemate.
Being real means recognising that you and I are weak and that the sexual impulse is very strong. And being real means recognising that sexual temptation sometimes comes from an unexpected direction at a time when we least expect it and in a way we’ve not gone looking for it.
King David’s adultery with Bathsheba began with David simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was at home when he should have been with his army he was on the roof of his palace when he stumbled across beautiful Bathsheba bathing on the top of a near-by building. The results of a man with time on his hands was scandal.
Peter Hitchens has written an interesting piece in this weeks Spectator (sadly not available to read on-line) in which he argues that those who are opposing gay marriage are fighting the wrong battle. It is in his words ‘a stupid distraction from the main war’.
Rather than form coalitions to oppose the tiny number of gay men and women seeking to marry (relative that is to heterosexual couples) we need to face up to the fact that
‘The real zone of battle, a vast 5,000 mile front along which the forces of righteousness have retreated without counter-attacking for nearly 50 years, involves the hundreds of thousands of marriages undermined by ridiculously easy divorce, the millions of children hurt by those divorces and the increasing multitudes of homes where parents, single or in couples, have never been married at all and never will be.’
There is a lot that is right with this argument but what Hitchens overlooks is that the gay marriage argument is not really an argument about gay marriage at all. It is an argument about every marriage and an argument about gender.
1)It is an argument about every marriage. If the law is changed then that changes marriage for everybody. My marriage of 18 years is overnight redefined.
Not least it means that the centuries old, universal, understanding that marriage is inextricably linked with children will be broken for ever. This has unseen and probably unintended consequences that I will explore in a future post. But let it be known now that the redefinition of marriage will cause much harm to our children and children’s children.
2) It is an argument about the eradification of gender.
Perhaps the very last place where difference between gender is recognised is in the institution of marriage. When this is gone the language of male and female, husband and wife, father and mother will be gone, perhaps for ever.
So I share Hitchens concern – where have we been for the past 40 years? But also appeal for a recognition that there are bigger things at stake than the right or not of a few thousand gay couples per year to marry.
In this Spectator article Parris is, as always, uniquely insightful on matters of faith and refuses to see the wisdom offered by those who find religion useful without a personal belief in God.
‘As I get older the sharpness of my faculties begins to dull. But what I will not do is sink into a mellow blur of acceptance of the things I railed against in my youth. ‘Familiar’ be damned. ‘Comforting’ be damned. ‘Useful’ be damned. Is it true? — that is the question. It was the question when I was 12 and the question when I was 22. Forty years later it is still the question. It is the only question.’
Fraser Nelson writes in the Spectator of the growing threat to Christians in the Middle East.
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