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Study in Matthew’s Gospel

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  1. Study in Matthew’s Gospel Presentation 20

  2. Sermon On The Mount The Inwardness Of The Law: Adultery Chap 5 v27-32 Presentation 20

  3. Introduction A recent marriage statistic for the U.K. suggested that 7 out of 10 marriages end in divorce giving the UK. the highest divorce rate in Europe! A number of experts have attempted to explain this frightening statistic. But how might the Christian attempt to do so? First, we live in a land where the Bible is considered passé, no longer something to be trusted to regulate and shape our lives. And so, its specific teaching has been devalued, not least where sexual relationships and marriage are concerned. Presentation 20

  4. What Is Adultery? In Jesus’ day the scribes had so diluted the law of God that divorce had been made possible for the most trivial of reasons. Deut24v1 makes provision for divorce for the husband who ‘finds something indecent about her’. However, some scribes interpreted this to mean that a man could divorce his wife if he did not like her cooking! The law, which should have safeguarded women, was turned into an escape route for indulgent men. Jesus addresses these distortions of God’s word by clarifying God’s law on the matter of adultery. Presentation 20

  5. What Is Adultery? This instruction is so important for many Christians have shipwrecked their lives on the rocks of sexual relations. Jesus knows what takes place in the minds and hearts of men and women. He knows that none of us are free from temptation nor are we free from the influence of indwelling sin. Notice that in dealing with this issue, the locus of Jesus discussion is not upon outward behaviour but with the inward thought processes of man. And so, the man who looks lustfully on another woman is described as already having committed ‘heart adultery’ with her. Presentation 20

  6. What Is Adultery? Some men have responded to Jesus’ teaching here by labelling all women as ‘channels of temptation’ to be avoided at all costs. They refuse to speak to them far less look at them. As a result women are devalued and treated with contempt. It is necessary to remind ourselves that God made men and women to be attracted to each other and o sustain a relationship with one another at a physical, mental and spiritual level. The gift of sexual relations is God’s good gift. However, it is a gift to be exclusively enjoyed within the marriage bond. Presentation 20

  7. What Is Adultery? Men and women are brought together by God primarily for companionship. God brought Eve to Adam because, ‘it is not good for man to be alone’ Gen.2v18. And within that bond, family life was to be established and sexual instincts fulfilled. Notice that in order for marriage to be what God intended ‘a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife’. Gen. 2v24 Why? Because at the very heart of this relationship lies the idea of commitment and the creation of an indissoluble bond. Marriage is God’s creation ordinance and cannot be breached without harm being done at both a personal and a societal level. Presentation 20

  8. What Is Adultery? Adultery, including ‘heart adultery’, breaches the marriage bond and breaks a number of commandments. It is disobedience to a specific command which forbids it. It involves coveting that which belongs to another. It involves theft, stealing the companion of another. It involves idolatry, for idolatry involves transferring a legitimate love to another who has no right to it. Adultery is serious because it shatters people’s lives, disrupts family life and challenges God’s order. The seriousness of adultery can be measured by the consequence laid down in God’s law cf. Lev. 20v10. The severity of the sentence was intended to awaken God’s people to appalling nature of the deed. Presentation 20

  9. What Is Adultery? Jesus had good cause for bringing together his teaching on adultery and the practice of divorce, which had been in existence since Moses’ day. Jesus was saying in effect, that simply to be in possession of a certificate of divorce, a little bit of paper, does not annul marriage in the eyes of God. For divorce then, as now, is often [though not always] merely a tool for legalising adultery. To say nothing of the practice of temporary marriages in some lands today which are no more than an attempt to legalise lust. Jesus’ instruction exposes the heart! Presentation 20

  10. Encouraging Adultery! It is foolish to believe that the society in which we live cannot erode our value system. It most certainly can and only once we recognise that can we begin to guard against it. Never since the death of Greek and Roman paganism has adultery, as Jesus defines it, been so prevalent within society. Why should that be so? One obvious cause is that our eyes are bombarded with raw flesh as never before. Presentation 20

  11. Encouraging Adultery! Some years ago an MP in the UK. unsuccessfully tried to introduce a private members bill to ban the Page 3 pin ups in newspapers. He argued that there was a link between pornographic photographs and rape. He ridiculed by many who described such photographs as, ‘good, clean, fun.’ Surely it is ridiculous to suggest that such photos cannot excite lustful thoughts. Think too of the increasing number of sexually explicit novels that find their way onto school reading lists. These books shape and contaminate the thinking of many of our young people. Presentation 20

  12. Encouraging Adultery! But perhaps an even greater danger are the many images that confront us on our TV screens. Why are they of greater danger? While we consciously choose to buy certain books or newspapers, often the images that appear on TV do so before we can change the channel, so that the damage is already done. Others who may be too embarrassed to buy certain books or magazines, feel safe watching certain things in the privacy of their own homes. They convince themselves that no harm is being done! Presentation 20

  13. Encouraging Adultery! Many TV programmes subliminally erode our value system by presenting sinful behaviour in a winsome way. The man who abandons his wife for another women wins the heart of the audience because he had been depicted as a poor downtrodden creature whose battle-axe wife has made his life miserable. Comedy programmes make light of sexual perversions and appear to operate on the premise that if they can make people laugh at something then its seriousness is minimised. Presentation 20

  14. Encouraging Adultery! The views that shape Western society have been conditioned by the ‘New Morality’ which teaches; actions are no longer to be conditioned by objective external standards, such as God’s law. Instead, our behaviour should be dictated to by the situation in which we find ourselves. It argues adultery is not wrong as long as the one committing it has everyone’s best interests at heart and if ‘it feels good’. The basic flaw of this approach is that the long term effects only become apparent after the event. Few adulterers set out intent upon breaking the hearts of their children and partners. Presentation 20

  15. Adultery’s Pressure How do we live in today’s disintegrating society and remain faithful to God’s word? First, we need to recognise that there is nothing wrong with appreciating other men and women, be it their looks, their gifts, or their graces. Jesus is not forbidding looking but he is warning against lusting. In other words, we must recognise our tendency to sin and stay within the boundaries that God has set us. We must guard our hearts, our actions, our gestures and looks within those boundary lines. Job said, ‘I have made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.’ Job 31v1 Presentation 20

  16. Adultery’s Pressure What does this mean for us today? First, we will not invite temptation to take root. It means not reading certain magazines and books or watching certain films or, attending certain places of entertainment. It will mean avoiding certain parties and, like Joseph, running away from certain situations. Sexual temptation, unlike other temptations, does not allow us to sit down and use our reason. Paul warned the Corinthians to, ‘flee fornication’ 1Cor. 6v18 and Timothy to, ‘flee youthful lust’ 2Tim.2v22. Presentation 20

  17. Adultery’s Pressure Secondly, we need to be persuaded that sexual infidelity will ruin marital joy, whether it takes place before or during marriage. Sexual infidelity can both harden our hearts and blight our Christian marriage and it can sear our conscience and create a guilt which God may forgive but which we will not easily forget. Jesus also makes it clear that it can ruin the whole of our spiritual pilgrimage. David was never the same man after his adultery with Bathsheba despite knowing God’s pardon. We need to be on our guard against momentary gratification which leads to life-long recrimination. Presentation 20

  18. Adultery’s Pressure Jesus uses a second graphic picture. ‘If your right eye causes you to sin gouge it out’. If it is our eye that is causing us to sin would there be any point in substituting the cause of our problem with something else? No! Yet many people attempt to live in a world of substitutes. They offer God substitutes rather than deal with the real cause of their sin. They say: “If we can hold onto our favourite lust we will sacrifice other things to God. We will do more Bible reading, pray longer, give more sacrificially, anything except give up our lust, our ‘right eye’.” But our failure to gouge out, or deal radically with our sin cannot be remedied with substitute offerings. Presentation 20

  19. Adultery’s Pressure It is important to learn to act decisively with sin and engage in what the Bible calls ‘mortification’. Mortification is like gouging out an eye or cutting off a limb,. It is not just giving it a slap, or wearing an eye patch for a few days. Jesus is not suggesting that we engage in some kind of ritual self harm- some Christians have mistakenly misunderstood mortification in these terms. Mortification means making a break with sin, it means amputating it from our lives. It will be painful! The consequences may seem to us unbearable. But the drastic nature of the remedy is an indication of the radical danger of the sin. Obedience in dealing severely with our sin is not something we can negotiate. Presentation 20

  20. Adultery’s Pressure Jesus gives a final encouragement to help us deal with sensual lust namely, view it from the standpoint of eternity. We need to weigh against its influence all that will become ours by abandoning it. ‘It is better to lose your eye and keep your body than to lose everything in hell’. Specific sins can bring unbearable pressure to bear. Satan is a great blackmailer and says, ‘If you deal with sin as drastically as Jesus says then what will there be left for you to enjoy?Spiritual recovery is always such hard work. Think of what you will lose if you say ‘no’ to sin.’ Notice the demands of sin are all-consuming. It demands all that we can give. Presentation 20

  21. Adultery’s Pressure Jesus wants us not only to have a clear understanding of the power of sin but of the value of making a radical break with it; ‘Gouge out the offending eyes and save your life. You may have committed a sin, the memory of which you will find difficult to erase, even although it has been forgiven. However, by dealing radically with it, you will have broken the dominion of the lust that is eager to carry you into hell and you will have returned to the pathway of life and to the favour of God’s smile’ . Presentation 20

  22. Conclusion Jesus’ definition of adultery is one that points the accusing finger at so many. For he points not just to the act but to the lusts that exercise our minds! Have you found God’s word and Jesus teaching pointing the finger in your direction. Many of Jesus original hearers would have been shocked to discover that that they were ‘heart adulterers’. Drastic action is called for. “Oh” you say, “this business of mortification seems too demanding!” But this is a task we do with the help of God’s Spirit. He will remind us that the death of Jesus has defeated the most powerful lusts that linger in our lives, and his goal is that sin will no more have dominion over us! Presentation 20

  23. Conclusion We need to grasp the hope that Jesus gives. Remember his words to the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, ‘Go and sin no more’ John 8v11. Jesus never asks the impossible of us. He is able to forgive the past and equip us to take drastic action against sin in the present and face any future temptations, that seek to stir up the lusts that lie resident in our fallen natures. For Jesus has secured not only our forgiveness but victory over the power of sin in our lives. Presentation 20