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Reset // Matthew 5:27-30 // Week 3

CityRise October 19, 2020 sermons, lust, Matthew, Reset, Roger Patterson,

The following is a transcript from the sermon presented by Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday October 18, 2020 at our West U Baptist Campus and in our Online Experience on youtube.com/cityriseorg. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTube page.

I want to begin today with a Question: What are you willing to give up that you might have freedom?

Aron Ralston loved climbing mountains so much, he set himself the goal of climbing all 59 of Colorado’s peaks over 14,000 feet solo in 1997. In 2005, he became the first person to do it. What is most remarkable is that two years before completing it, he was in a climbing accident that cost him his hand.

Ralston was climbing alone, without even informing his family of his plans, when an 800-pound boulder was dislodged and landed on his right hand. He spent five days sipping his water and slowly eating food he had brought. After videoing his last goodbyes, he went to sleep not expecting to wake up.

He had considered amputating his arm, but his tools weren’t capable of cutting through bone. But when he woke up, he realized he could break the bones and then cut it free.

It took an hour to cut the arm free.

“After freeing himself, Ralston climbed out of the slot canyon in which he had been trapped, he rappelled down a 65-foot sheer wall, then hiked out of the canyon, all one-handed.”

Still eight miles from his vehicle, he encountered a family which provided him food and water and contacted authorities. They made a movie, 127 hours, based on his autobiography about the ordeal. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aron_Ralston]

In one speech about the incident he talked about, “…how he did not lose his hand, but gained his life back.” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aron_Ralston]

Transition: So many of us are like Aron Ralston, yet we don’t even realize it. Our hand is stuck under what seems to be an 800-pound rock that we can’t move, and so we have resigned to give up the fight.  Today, we are going to look to Jesus to get help us gain our life back.

Let’s look at our text today. It’s Matthew 5:27-30.

Matthew 5:27-30

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 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. 30 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.”

Here’s our simple outline today as we look for a freedom that only Jesus can give.

When it Comes to Lust, We Must…

  1. Recognize the Truth
  2. Resolve to Fight
  3. Renew the Mind

So, let’s dig into this significant topic, and let’s keep in mind that we will be partaking of the Lord’s Supper, so we want to prepare our hearts.

Our first point today is that…

When it Comes to Lust, We Must…

I.          Recognize the Truth

Look at verse 27-28 once again.

Matthew 5:27-28

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 

Now, our President likes to call certain media organizations “Fake News,” doesn’t he? In saying this, he is saying that their reporting is set against him…that their reporting is bias…and that they even make things up to dictate what the narrative is going to be.  That’s the accusation.

For Jesus, this is a Fake News Moment.  In other words, he is telling his disciples, “Hey, you have been misled.”

Notice what he says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’”

Now, when we hear the word adultery, we think of a husband cheating on his wife, or the wife cheating on her husband. As Christians, we understand that this can be a “biblical” reason for divorce…if the wife is unfaithful to the husband, if he chooses, he can divorce her. Likewise, if the husband is unfaithful to the wife, she too, can divorce him.

But for us to grasp the significance of this teaching, we must get our minds around what the people understood as adultery and how it played itself out in their laws.

As David Garland explains, the rules surrounding adultery require unconditional respect for the rights of the (male) neighbor, but are not as concerned as much about the purity of the individuals.

“Consequently, a man guilty of intercourse with another’s wife does not violate his own marriage or commit adultery against his wife; he violates the marriage of another married Israelite.”[1]

Quote: D.A. Carson explains the same thing, noting that the command not to commit adultery (the 7th commandment)…

“is often treated in Jewish sources not so much as a function of purity as of theft: it was to steal another’s wife.”[2]

Now, notice this.  There is a double standard here that required unconditional fidelity for the wife but not so much for the husband.

Illus: Consider the story of the woman caught in adultery. I’ve always wondered why the man was never present for the accusation as well, just the woman. Well, it’s because by their laws, the man isn’t impacting his own marriage negatively, so he isn’t to be held accountable.

But guess what?  The Gentiles rules were even worse.  Notice their interpretation of laws surrounding adultery.

Quote: This is from Attic Nights, in a work by Gellius.

“If you should take your wife in adultery, you may with impunity put her to death without a trial; but if you should commit adultery or indecency, she must not presume to lay a finger on you, nor does the law allow it.”[3]

What’s the deal here?

Women were objectified. These interpretations of the law led to the objectification of the women as property, as less than humans.

And Jesus is calling these interpretations of the law, “FAKE NEWS.” There isn’t truth in them. These men and these interpreters of the law have set things up for their own exercise of immorality. They are creating the narrative that they want.

So, Jesus words here are so significant. It’s as if he says something like this…

“Here’s the real problem…guys, you have a problem with lust in your heart…and that’s where adultery begins…and if you are confused about this, know this…It’s bad enough to land you in the Lake of Fire.”

You see, we have to RECOGNIZE THE TRUTH. We can’t create mental gymnastic interpretations of things to allow us to do things we know are wrong and immoral.

And so, Jesus, wanting his hearers to grasp the depth of the problem says, “I want to talk to you about lust…not just adultery. I want to talk to you about where the problem begins.”

You see, Jesus is doing three things here.

  1. He is declaring that it isn’t just sufficient to refrain from the physical act while harboring lust.

As a young man, I remember being with someone who said to his 12 or 13 year-old son, “Son, it’s okay to look, as long as you don’t touch.”

In other words, “It’s okay to lust after a beautiful girl as long as you don’t do bad things with her physically.”

Jesus is saying, “Nope…it’s not okay to look as long as you don’t touch. Looking with lustful intent is where the adultery happens.”

  •  Jesus is denying men any extra liberty in this area that the interpreted law might have given him.  In other words, he is putting responsibility on all of his hearers, not just the women.

Listen to the story of Rabbi Joseph, to get a sense of just how prevalent this interpretation of the law was.

A second century Rabbi named Joseph caught a man peeping through a fence to catch a glimpse of Joseph’s beautiful daughter. The intruder exclaimed that he was not worthy enough to marry her but thought he might be worthy to catch a glimpse. The Rabbi then turns on his daughter and exclaims that she is a source of trouble to mankind and should return to the dust so that men may not sin because of her. This outlook locates the problem not in the male’s lust, which is viewed as uncontrollable, but in the woman who is the occasion of the male lust.

  • Verse 28 is accusing the man of being the adulterer and it is a sin also against the woman, not merely the husband. 

You see, Jesus isn’t warning these disciples about women.  He is warning these disciples about themselves.  He accepted women into his group of followers because they were not the problem.  He also had an expectation that his followers exercise control over their desires.

Quote: As David Garland notes…

“The solution for lust is for one to purge one’s own heart so that one is able to see a person, not an object for self-gratification.”

Application:  Let’s stop right now and search our hearts. We will be taking the Lord’s table momentarily. What is the Holy Spirit saying to you about lust in your heart? Do you try to do mental interpretations and gymnastics to justify your actions? Do you objectify people as a means to your own gratification?

Application: Friends, we have to RECOGNIZE THE TRUTH OF JESUS’ WORD, AND SUBMIT TO IT!

Beyond recognition…

When it Comes to Lust, We Must…

  1. Recognize the Truth
  2. Resolve to Fight
  3. Renew the Mind

We have to…

II.        Resolve to Fight

Look at verses 29-30.

Matthew 5:29-30

 29 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. 30 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.”

Now these are some challenging verses and they have led some to take some very drastic action.  The radical treatment of parts of the body here in verse 29 has led some such as Origen (3rd century AD) to castrate themselves. But as D.A. Carson points out, that is not radical enough, because lust still exists and is not removed by that act![4]

Of course, it is not sinful to have an eye, and even a keen one at that. But as Spurgeon explains,

“Anything, however harmless, which leads me to do, or think, or feel wrongly, I am to get rid of as much as if it were in itself an evil.”

Lust begins with what the eyes see, then turns into something physical that we do (thus, the hands, the very organs that we “do” most things with—in this case, reaching out to touch or take).

To be clear, we should understand Jesus’ charge to cut off or gouge out the offending part as a way of saying that we must deal radically with sin.

All sin, not least sexual sin, begins with the imagination. Therefore, what feeds the imagination is of maximum importance in the pursuit of kingdom righteousness.

So, why is Jesus’ teaching so radical? Why does he call us to deal radically with sin?

I think it is because he knows we overestimate our ability to manage it and underestimate the real challenges that come with it.

Illus: I was on the phone one time with a couple who lived in another town. I’ve known them for a long time. One of them was drunk and the other was complaining. In our conversation, I asked the one who was complaining about their spouse who was drunk, “If you are so upset by this, why do you allow alcohol in the house?”

They answered because they really liked it and didn’t believe that they should have to suffer if their spouse couldn’t handle it.

My thought was: Wow! How selfish! And how Short-Sighted!

For whatever reason, we believe we can manage our struggles and they don’t really have a stronghold upon us. So, we overestimate our abilities and underestimate the power and entanglements of sin.

Application: But here’s the truth: if you are serious about following Jesus, you are going to live a maimed life.

Quote: John Stott states…

“To obey this command of Jesus will involve for many of us a certain ‘maiming’. We shall have to eliminate from our lives certain things which (though some may be innocent in themselves) either are, or could easily become, sources of temptation. In his own metaphorical language we may find ourselves without eyes, hands or feet. That is, we shall deliberately decline to read certain literature, see certain films, visit certain exhibitions. If we do this, we shall be regarded by some of our contemporaries as narrow-minded.

‘What?’ they will say to us incredulously, ‘you’ve not read such and such a book? You’ve not seen such and such a film? Why, you’re not educated, man!’

They may be right. We may have had to become culturally ‘maimed’ in order to preserve our purity of mind. The only question is whether, for the sake of this gain, we are willing to bear that loss and endure that ridicule.

Application:  Here are a few questions to ponder…

  • Have you resolved to fight against lust? Oh, my friend, you will struggle and fail, but are you still in the fight? It’s evidence of the Spirit of God at work in you.
  • Are you willing to live a maimed life, not going, seeing, looking or engaging, in order to live a holy life?

Friends, we’ve got to pursue a maimed life, resolving to guard our hearts and minds. 

But what we also must understand is that following Jesus isn’t about what we don’t do.  It isn’t simply playing defense with our lives. Following Jesus also involves playing offense, living proactively, which leads us to this third point.

When it Comes to Lust, We Must…

  1. Recognize the Truth
  2. Resolve to Fight
  3. Renew the Mind

III.          Renew the Mind

Before we go any further, let’s look back at a significant statement Jesus makes before he begins to address these relevant topics.

Matthew 5:20

20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

I’m sure this statement was one that blew his listeners away. I’m sure that they were looking at one another saying, “How can this be?”

  • And You may say, “This is a difficult command—who can obey it?”  The truth is, the only one who can obey it is Christ alone!
  • You may say, “The penalty for disobedience is steep—what can we do?”  The Scripture tell us to trust in Christ alone!
  • You may say, “How can we ever overcome this sin?” The reality is that we can overcome this sin, only through Christ alone!

Our only victory is in Christ alone!  Our spirit is willing, yes…but our flesh is weak.  But, we also have the mind of Christ.  And greater is he that is in us than he that is in the world.  So, my friend, we can have victory over lust, sexual sin, and infidelity. 

So, how do we get victory?

 We must allow Jesus to purify the desires of the heart and take disciplined action of the body, because appetite leads to action!

Let’s look at a few scriptures to assist us on this journey.

Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world,  but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

  • V. 1 challenges us to present our bodies to the Lord.
  • V. 2 tells us to resolve to fight…not being conformed to the world.
  • V.2 then tells us to be changed…transformed by the renewal of our mind.

And we renew the mind by dwelling on the word of Christ.

Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

We can’t listen to trash, view trash, and engage with trash without becoming trashy! Where we look, our heart will go.  Where our mind dwells, our bodies will follow.

We must dwell on that which is:

  • true
  • honorable
  • just
  • pure
  • lovely
  • commendable
  • excellent
  • and praiseworthy

And as we renew our mind, we will feel compelled to discipline our bodies.

Look at Job 31:1.

Job 31:1, NIV

“I made a covenant with my eyes
    not to look lustfully at a young woman.”

Notice the discipline of what one will look at and what he will not look at.

Make this covenant with yourself daily if you have to.

And continued renewal involves continued discipline of our bodies. The Apostle Paul proclaims this in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27, NIV, 1984

 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Application:  Friends, each of us is capable of utterly devastating our homes and our relationships by giving into our flesh.  As I was finishing up writing this message, I received a letter from a missionary partner from many years ago. I was grieved and saddened by what I read. I won’t share any names, but these are some of the last folks I would have envisioned taking this road.

Dearest Friends and Ministry Partners,

I confess I do not know how to write what I need to share with you. The past six months have been challenging for so many of us…Certainly our family has been impacted by the pandemic too. Everything looks different. The past months have also uniquely been a painful time of grief for me and the kids. This summer it becamse clear that (my husband) had not been honoring our marriage covenant. He has decided he no longer wants to be married and has moved out of our home.  Even as I write this, I struggle to accept this in our new reality…

Allow me to be honest with you for just a minute.  What happened to this family started with lust.  And now these boys are devastated. This wife is broken. The light of the gospel has been dimmed because of this man’s inability to deal with the clamoring of his flesh.

This entire Sermon on the Mount is like a big mirror. And every week, we are going to be looking at it and thinking, “There’s no way I can live up to Jesus’ standard.”

  • And you are right…there is no way…Except by the grace and help that comes from Jesus.  But you have got to allow this truth to ruin you…to utterly show you the inadequacy of your abilities.
  • And you have got to let this truth challenge you to keep fighting, for the consequences of giving up the fight are devastating, both in this life and the life to come.
  • And you have to turn to the power and grace of Jesus to help you overcome…to renew your mind and to discipline your body!

My friend, we can do this together as we link arms and cling to the grace of Jesus.

May our Lord bless you and keep you! May our Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you! May our Lord lift his countenance upon you, and give you peace!

[1] David E. Garland, Matthew, 66.

[2] D.A. Carson, Matthew, 151.

[3] Gellius, Attic Nights, X.23.5.

[4] D.A. Carson, Matthew, 151.