[THEME MUSIC PLAYING]
All right. Let's open our Bibles to Exodus chapter 20, as we continue these Ten Commandments. Father, part of our worship today is to sit in your presence and to hear your Word being taught. It's no less a part of worship than singing or giving. It's where our minds, our bodies, our hearts are still in your presence. We're open, we want you to speak. Some will apply to some, some will apply to all, but we pray it would be your Spirit that does the work. In Jesus' name, amen.
Well we've come now to the seventh commandment, which is summed up in just a few words in verse 14, "You shall not commit adultery." Abigail Van Buren, who was responsible for those Dear Abby columns for a number of years in newspapers around America-- her daughter now, Jeanne Phillips, still under the same name, Dear Abby, has taken over.
A letter came in that was published "Dear Abby, I am in love, and I'm having an affair with two different women. I can't marry them both. Please tell me what to do, but don't give me any of that morality stuff." Abby's answer was classic. "Dear sir, The only difference between humans and animals is morality. Please write to a veterinarian."
You know adultery is a weed that grows in a marriage that if grown can devastate a family totally. Some will say in hearing these words, well, I'm never going to fall into that. I have a great marriage. No problem. My spouse and I, we love each other.
And I say that's great. In fact, just see this message as preventative maintenance. But I will add some advice to that. Be very careful how you boast, because I've met many people who have bragged about a lot of different things, including this, who have later fallen. We must all be on our guard, men and women alike.
In fact, Paul wrote to the Corinthians and he said, "Whoever thinks that he stands, take heed lest he fall." I don't know, but maybe I'm addressing someone here who's currently, right now, in an affair. Or maybe you're contemplating having one, and maybe you've even rationalized it by saying, well, not one person can totally satisfy me.
A few years back, a talk show host was interviewing a very famous movie star at the time, Ricardo Montalban. Remember him? [IMITATING RICARDO MONTALBAN] You look fantastic. And he had played many romantic roles in movies.
The talk show host asked him a simple question, "What makes a great lover?" His answer surprised the audience. "A great lover," he said, "is someone who can satisfy one woman her entire lifetime and be satisfied with one woman his entire lifetime. It's not someone who goes from woman to woman. Any dog can do that." Close quote.
And yet, isn't it odd that we in our culture elevate dog-like behavior? In sports heroes and musicians and actors and actresses, even in politicians. And promiscuity is the stuff that songs are written about, movies are made about, and prime-time television. In fact it seems that the only weird person these days, the odd man out, is a virgin.
The Brazilian supermodel Gisele was having an interview conducted, and she said, well, today no one is a virgin when they get married. And she went on to tell the newspaper, "When the church made these laws centuries ago, well, women were expected to be virgins."
First of all, the church didn't make these laws. This comes a way before there was ever a church on the Earth. This goes all the way back to the very beginnings, almost, of the Old Testament, here at Mount Sinai when the laws were given. But C. S. Lewis was absolutely right when he said, "Chastity is the most unpopular of all Christian virtues."
It is unpopular, but understand something about all the Ten Commandments, and maybe here's a time to think about it in terms of this commandment. The Ten Commandments aren't meant to be restrictive as much as protective. I know it's filled with thou shalt not do this and thou shalt not do that and shalt not do the other thing. And so some people say, boy, God is really negative.
Understand that God put those there to protect us. That's a very positive reason. So think about the fourth commandment, "Honor your father and your mother." God is putting a protective fence around the family. Or the sixth commandment, "You shall not murder." God is putting a protective fence around life. Or "You shall not commit adultery." God, again, is putting that hedge around the marriage relationship.
In fact, did you know that the ancient Jews used to refer to the law as in Hebrew [SPEAKING HEBREW] Torah, "the fence of the law." They saw the law as a protective wall around those that God loves.
Let's say you're walking down a hallway and you see a sign on a door that says, "Keep Out." You could stop and be really cool and go, how come? Why should I? They trying to hide something? Well, read on, friend. "Keep out. Danger. Explosives." Tells you the whole story.
So now we understand the negative sign is so that you don't walk through the door and blow yourself up. It's a very positive sign then, isn't it? The restriction is for protection.
Well, we're going to look at just this one command today, and there's five things about this commandment about this sin of adultery that I want to show you. And that is, first of all, it is fashionable socially, it's fashionable socially. Now obviously it was a major problem or else it wouldn't have made God's top 10 list. God obviously knew that man had a problem with this area, that it was a popular sin.
It is fashionable socially. Have you noticed what Hollywood is doing in the ratings of movies? You'll notice that you can have a theme about adultery, promiscuity, even homosexuality, even frontal nudity in the film, and Hollywood will give it a PG-13 rating. But if there's any hint of any kind of violence at all, it gets an R rating.
And that's because Hollywood is telling you that's fine. That's not. That's their opinion. It's fashionable socially. It goes all the way back to the Old Testament when the children of Israel were tempted with the worship system of the Canaanites. Baal and Ashtoreth worship were very sensual systems of worship that involved sexual activity under the groves, the trees, the altars that dotted the landscape.
It got so bad in their history that the prophet Amos in chapter 2 writes, "Father and son use the same girl and so profane my holy name. They lie down beside every altar on garments taken in a pledge."
By the time we get to the Law of Moses, we discover that not only is this sin outlawed in the Ten Commandments, "Thou shalt not commit adultery," but we get into chapter 21 and we discover that breaking this law incurs capital punishment. They were stoned to death.
Now I'm not advocating that at all. Can you imagine if that were still happening today? Everywhere you drive, you'd see piles of rocks. Everywhere. You move a little closer to the New Testament era, and we discover that the Greeks, the pagan Greeks, viewed sex as merely biological activity with no moral attachment or ramifications at all.
In fact, the Greeks coined a word to describe it. Eros was their word. We get the term erotic from it. Eros. It literally means "to grasp." And the idea of the word is to reach for something to satisfy yourself. And that's really what it is. It's self-love. It's a way that I can satisfy myself through a physical means, hence the word eros, erotic. That's why it's often translated lust not love. Oh, I love her, in some regards honestly could be translated, I lust her. That's erotic love.
Sexual promiscuity is popular and fashionable both before marriage and unfortunately even during marriage. Now we shouldn't be too surprised at this, because even Jesus said that one of the marks of the last days is that they would resemble the days of Noah and the days of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Both of those were times in which both heterosexual and homosexual activity was rampant. Lots of promiscuity. So it is today. 23-year-old actress Jessica Alba says she likes the idea of intimate relationships with many men because she likes to experiment with sex. These are the icons that we elevate. Now that's sort of the prevailing attitude today, before and after marriage.
Two researchers, James Patterson and Peter Kim, said 49% of married Americans consider having an affair. 49%. They go on to say, but only 31% actually do. Did you hear their words only on a mere 1/3 of all Americans do. Moreover, they say today a majority of Americans, 62%, think there's nothing morally wrong with the affairs that they're having.
There are even alibi outfits there's one place called The Alibi Agency. They will provide the perfect alibi for your spouse if you're considering an affair. That includes sending invitations to events you need to attend, providing booking forms to your home, making phone calls to your spouse, posing as a secretary or hotel concierge, even giving out a false number of a hotel in case your husband or wife calls. They can say such and such hotel, just a minute I'll page that person. The Alibi Agency.
I'd love to say it's a problem only outside the church, but I can't say that. I'd be lying. Because so much of our counseling here touches on this very issue. I spoke with a pastor from another state this week. He said, Skip, no joke. 9% of my counseling load deals with this.
So no wonder there are many warnings about this in the Bible. And no wonder the Bible gives examples of those who have been tempted in this area, like Samson, like Absalom, like David, and like Joseph. So adultery is fashionable socially.
Another thing I want to point out even from the text itself is that it is formed inwardly. It's formed inwardly. It's more than an action outwardly. It's an attitude inwardly. Look at the commandment itself in the 14th verse, "You shall not commit adultery." Now we could be misled by reading this in English, because it sounds like it's only the action that is being addressed, right? Don't commit it. I never committed it.
Except in Hebrew it's only two words. The entire commandment is two words. Lo na'aph. Lo na'aph. No adultery. Lo na'aph. And though it could refer to a single activity, because it's in the Hebrew imperfect tense, it suggests a process. It suggests an ongoing process. And I want to show you where it begins.
Turned with me. Now to Matthew chapter 5. Once again we look at the Sermon on the Mount. Once again. Jesus quotes one of the Ten Commandments and raises the bar. Matthew 5 verses 27 and 28. Must be those two verses in which all of the men in the audience that was listening to Jesus dropped their jaws and kept their mouths open when He said these words.
Because it says in verse 27, "You have heard that it was said to those of old you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
Can't you picture that crowd of men who were there? Because they were all busted. They could have been priding themselves, I've never committed adultery. But Jesus said if you've ever looked lustfully, you've already committed adultery. In other words, the heart is the soil where the weed grows before it's ever an action.
In fact, look at verse 28. And as odd as it sounds, look at the word look in that verse. "Whoever looks." In Greek that's a present participle. That suggests an ongoing continual process. In other words, it's not the glance, it's the gaze. It's not the unmistakable, unavoidable temptation of a woman entering the room or a scene on television. It's not the first take it's the double take. It's the gazing and playing and imagining and fantasizing in one's mind.
David walked out in his house as king one night, surveying Jerusalem. He got an eyeful, because not far away down the slope on the top of a house was a woman named Bathsheba bathing publicly. Now what David should have done-- and he couldn't help seeing that-- but what he should have done is just done this, and walked back into the house.
But he didn't do that. He couldn't avoid the first glance. He could have avoided the second gaze. And he gazed, and he thought, and he imagined, then he used his power as king to bring to fruition that which he imagined. And he slept with her. It began in his heart.
That's why when these sex experts say, fantasizing is fine. It doesn't hurt anybody. It's all inside your mind, and as long as it doesn't get outside of your mind, it's just your own fantasy, it won't hurt anyone. That's a lie. In fact, that's stupid, because that's where the battle is fought, and every man knows it. Every guy knows that it happens, it's won or lost in the thought life.
I never forget talking to this one guy some years back. I just noticed as I was talking with him that every girl that entered the room, his head would move. Wasn't looking at me anymore. His head bobbing everywhere. And he was following young ladies across the room with his eyes. I brought it up to his attention and you know what he said? He goes, well, I'm just admiring God's creation, Pastor. So I said back to him, gee, I don't see you looking at trees that way. They're God's creation.
So it's fashionable socially, but it is formed inwardly, and third this sin is fatal relationally. I know that's a strong word, fatal, but keep in mind in the Old Testament that was the punishment, wasn't it? Stoning to death. But there are many consequences short of death when I say it's fatal relationally.
You see, adultery can damage a person spiritually. You lose your peace, you lose your joy, you break fellowship with God, or it could indicate something much worse. A person who, over a prolonged period of time without any repentance any remorse whatsoever follows that path, simply indicates, no matter what they profess, they are not saved.
First Corinthians 6 verse 9 Paul says in very strong terms, "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites will inherit the Kingdom of God." So speaking of a person walking down that path without the deep remorse like Psalm 51 or any repentance, it will damage you spiritually.
Two, it will damage you physically. Today we are very aware of the sexually transmitted diseases that can wreak havoc on a human body over time-- gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, the AIDS virus.
In fact, in Proverbs 5 when Solomon is telling his son what to what to watch out for in life, and one of it was sexual temptation, he describes for his son what could ultimately happen physically when he writes in Proverbs 5 verse 11, "until you mourn at last when your flesh and your body are consumed." That's a very graphic description of what a sexually transmitted disease could do to the human body.
It can damage you spiritually. It can damage you physically. It can also damage you emotionally. There is guilt associated with this. There is anxiety that comes because of that guilt from all of the deceit. And sometimes people involved in an affair get so warped in their thinking, they come to a place where they go, well, I'll marry her. We'll start over. Whole new life.
You'll start over? You're asking her to trust somebody who has deceived their former spouse for months and months? That's the foundation you're going to build it on, deceit? that's a happily-ever-after relationship? That's the foundation that it's being built on. It's built on deception from somebody who's habitually deceived.
And it can damage your family, your mate, your kids. Whatever trust was there is eroded instantly. Everything you built and worked for is gone. Ask King David. He was so remorseful, and the prophet said, you're forgiven, David. And he was. But look at his life afterwards.
His son, Absalom, his other son, Amnon, both eventually followed in their father's moral footsteps. So it's more than the sex. It's the months of deception, betrayal, and lies.
USA Today had an article that featured Fred Humphrey, the president of the American Association of Marriage and Family. The article said-- it's brief-- "Experts say extramarital affairs rarely have happy endings," quoting Humphrey. "One-half of married couples either divorce or separate when one spouse learns of another's affair. Others anguish over trying to salvage the relationship. Learning about it results in instant pain and anger. Then there will always be a barrier, to some extent."
So it can damage spiritually, physically, emotionally. It can damage the family. There's something else. It will damage the community, and I mean the Christian community. The Bible says when one member of the Church suffers, we all suffer. Think of it this way. Every obedient Christian strengthens the cause of Christ. Every disobedient Christian weakens the cause of Christ.
So imagine now unbelievers looking at the church community. They're thinking, why should I be one of them? There is no difference between them and us. Their activities morally aren't much different. Change what?
That was the prophet's point when he said to David, yes, David, you are forgiven. But because of this you have given great occasion for the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme by this very thing.
Here's the bottom line. This sin is very, very expensive. Very expensive. Hollywood won't tell you that. They'll say it's fun. It's free. Buy now, pay later. And you will pay.
Something else I would want to add before we move on to this fatal relationally. It displeases God primarily. Really we should move that up to the top, and I've left it for the last because God is usually the last one ever considered in an affair. And I wonder if God were considered first that might stop a lot of affairs.
David said in Psalm 51, " Against you, Lord, you only, have I sinned and done this evil in your sight." See purity begins with loyalty. This commandment is related to the first commandment. "I am the Lord your God. No other gods besides me."
So adultery is really a form of idolatry. It's putting self or sex before my loyalty to God. I've always marveled to carpenters who are really good at their craft. It seems that they can put a nail in a stud, big nail, with one hit of the hammer.
Sometimes, if they're really good, they'll move that hammer back, and it's as if they can steady the nail and balance it, move their hand away without their hand being there, or their hand's close at least but not all the way touching it, and put the nail all the way in.
If you had asked carpenter the secret of that trick, they would say, here's the secret. You'll hit whatever you look at. So always look at the nail, never the hand holding the nail. Because if you look at your thumb, you'll hit it. If you keep your eye on the nail, you'll hit the nail.
It's a good principle for life. If our eyes are on Him, our worship and loyalty supremely is of God, everything else will take its structure based upon that commitment. Keep your eye on Him.
So it's fashionable socially. Adultery is formed inwardly. It's fatal relationally. We need to say this at this point. It's forgivable ultimately. It's forgivable ultimately. We need at this point in the message to be reminded of 1 John chapter 1 verse 9. You know it well probably. Most of us memorized it the first week we were Christians when we found this verse.
"If you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from," don't you love that word, "all unrighteousness." Yes, even this. Adultery is not the unpardonable sin. Some will bristle and say, but it's sin nonetheless. You're right. It is sin. That's precisely why it's forgivable. It's exactly why Jesus came to die on the cross.
When that woman was caught in adultery in John chapter 8-- you know this story-- Jesus said when they said, we got to stone this lady. She's committed adultery. Jesus said, you know, you're right. The law does say that. OK, you guys, you're without sin. You throw the first rock. Go ahead. Aim well.
Something else the text says. It says Jesus bent down and started writing with His finger in the dirt on the ground. We don't know what He was writing. My guess-- just a guess-- maybe He was writing their names, these guys, and the sin they thought nobody knew about. Maybe He started with Shlomo, lust. David, thief. And maybe He just went down the list and they kind of looked and went, oh. They dropped those rocks and hightailed it.
In the Corinthian church there was a gross type of sexual sin that Paul writes about, he addresses. And what Paul was disturbed about is here you have a group of Christians, a church, and they knew that one of their members was involved in this gross sexual sin, and they were tolerating it. They didn't do anything about it.
You know what Paul says that they ought to do? He writes in 1 Corinthians, how can you tolerate this? Kick that guy out of your church. Disfellowship him. Do not have fellowship with him at all. Get him out. And he tells why. A little leaven leavens a whole lump. So they disfellowshipped him. They put him out because he was unrepentant.
But over time, the unrepentant man repented, had a sorrowful heart, wanted to get back in his heart was right with God. So Paul writes 2 Corinthians. And he writes these words, "Now instead rather, you ought to forgive and to comfort."
So it's not the unpardonable sin, and God's grace is bigger than any sin. In Romans, Paul will write, "Where sin abounded, grace overflowed."
I've dealt with couples who have been torn by this very sin of adultery. And I've watched some who, through humility, trust, commitment, not only get their marriages back together, but in some cases, those marriages become very, very strong.
Fifth and finally, I want to close with this. It's fixable presently. Right now. I don't want to end on just really bad, it'll destroy you, but God will forgive you. What I want to end with is that it's preventable. It's fixable presently. I'm going to show you how.
Look at Matthew 5 again. We read two verses. If you think their jaws dropped with that, wait till you read the rest of the paragraph. "You've heard that it was said to those of old you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you, whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
So here's the solution. "If your right eye causes you to, sin pluck it out"-- I know you're thinking, that's good news?-- "and cast it from you. For it's more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. For it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell."
You read that, you go, that's gross. This is gross. That's the intended effect. This was to be shocking as they heard these words. Now obviously this is a figure of speech, and you believe that it is, because if you didn't think it was a figure of speech and if you thought it was to be taken literal, we'd see lots of anatomical changes in the next several weeks probably.
It's obviously hyperbole. What Jesus is saying is, hey, deal radically with sin. Deal radically with it. I'll paraphrase it as Martin Luther did. He said, "You can't stop birds from flying around your head, but you can stop them from building a nest in your hair."
It's preventable. It's fixable presently, and here's how. Two ways. Kill the weeds. Cultivate the flowers. Kill the weeds. Cultivate the flowers. Kill the weeds is the idea here in verse 29 and 30. Something that needs to be killed, severed, stopped in your life, because it's taken you to the brink of temptation, do it.
So for instance, if you're in a relationship, you're married, but you have an emotional attachment to somebody else other than your spouse, sever it immediately. Immediately. Don't do it slowly. Well, I want to be polite about it. Don't be polite about it. Be mean about it if you have to.
How can you say that? I can say it because Joseph did it. Joseph was eye to eye with a young wife who felt neglected by her husband. She was Mrs. Potiphar. It's In the Old Testament. And she was very blatant. She grabbed and said, have sex with me. Go to bed with me. Lie with me.
Now what did Joseph? Did he say, well, I don't want to be impolite. I don't want to just walk away. In fact, I'd like to witness to her right now. Mrs. Potiphar, do you know the four spiritual laws? The Bible says that he hightailed it out. In fact, she was holding his coat. He streaked out of the room naked. Better to lose his dignity than lose anything else by staying there. He walked away, ran away, he severed it. He killed the weed.
So keep appropriate distance in your relationships. Some places, some things, internet sites, television programs. Don't go in the store and even go to the magazine rack if it's an issue. Hang out where the cotton balls are sold or something, or the candy or something else.
A few years ago I got a letter. It was disturbing. I opened it up. It was from a gal. I don't know who or how old she was, but she confessed in the letter that she came to church and she had lustful thoughts toward me. She wanted to confess it, wanted to deal with it, here's my phone number. Would you pray with me through this?
Do you think I called her? Not at all. The first thing I did is call my wife and I told her about the letter. Second thing is I gave a letter to my secretary and had her make the phone call. I said, "Please talk to this gal. Deal with her. Pray with her. Restore her. Whatever it takes."
And then I told all my pastoral staff about the letter. Don't be a dartboard for the devil's temptations. The Bible says flee temptation. Now a lot of people will flee temptation, but it seems like leave the devil they're forwarding address, if you know what. I mean. I rebuke you devil, but here's my number. Later on we'll get together. Kill the weeds. Kill the weeds.
Secondly, and I close with this. Cultivate the flowers. You're married? Meet each other's emotional needs. Be the helpmate. Learn to gracefully grow old together, appreciating one another, loving one another. You know marriages never collapse overnight. It's always a long, slow erosion. It might seem like they divorce so suddenly. They did not. It was something growing that was never dealt with.
So a couple of ideas for this. You could reaffirm your vows to each other. Even if you don't remember them all, you could come up with something and sit over a candlelight dinner and say it right there. I take you as my lawfully wedded husband/wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part. And reaffirm that love.
Or how about writing a letter, remembering what you felt like on your wedding day, all the emotion-- scared, excited, joyful, fulfilled. And then be committed to meeting one another's needs, as I said, emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
Paul is very, very candid about this, 1 Corinthians 7, "Do not deprive each other of sexual relations. The only exception to this rule would be the agreement of both husband and wife to refrain from sexual intimacy for a limited time so they can give themselves more completely to prayer. Afterward, they should come together again so that Satan won't be able to tempt them because of their lack of self-control."
Don't be a dartboard. Kill the weeds. Cultivate the flowers. I want to close with a story I read. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources tells us that every year in their state highway system 17,000 deer lose their lives from motorists. People run into them and kill them. 17,000 a year, mostly in the late fall. You want to know why? Even if you don't, I'll tell you.
Their report says in November they're concentrating almost exclusively on reproductive activities, and they are a lot less wary than they normally would be. I read that, and I thought deer aren't the only ones destroyed by a preoccupation with sex. OK, 17,000 deer die. Thousands of people a day ruin their lives because of a preoccupation with sex. Abigail Van Buren was right. The difference between animals and humans is morality. So why live like an animal when you can live like a son or a daughter of the living God?
Let's pray together. Heavenly Father, this is obviously serious stuff. It's in the top 10 list. You knew it would be a problem. You knew that every culture, every society would somehow incorporate this, in the ancient times through the worship system of Baal and Ashtoreth, in modern times through the worship system in Hollywood.
We understand that it's more than an action. It's a seed that grows in the soil of the heart, and to follow it can be fatal, can damage us spiritually, physically, emotionally, with our family, the community, and with you primarily. Thank you, Lord, for the grace, thank you for the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses a man and a woman from all sin. Thank you for that.
Thank you for the cross. Thank you for the forgiveness that takes the filthy and the vile and declares them to be totally righteous by an act of faith. Lord, thank you that you just don't leave it there. You tell us how to deal with it. And you say deal with it. Cut it off. Kill the weeds. Cultivate the relationship. Help us by your grace do these things. In Jesus' name, amen.