A look at the first of four very contemporary issues (adultery, revenge, worry and obedience) that Jesus deals with in his Sermon on the Mount; the Service will also include communion and reception into membership.
Most teachers like to avoid so called “hot topics” but not Jesus. He tackled them all including adultery, which he acknowledged that the crowd would know something about – “you have heard that it was said” – because of their familiarity with the 10 Commandments – “Do not commit adultery” and “you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife” (Exodus 20 v 14 & 17.)
On this basis of people saw adultery as a physical act, as exemplified by the woman who was – “caught in the ACT of adultery” (John 8 v 4.) This continues to be the prominent view today, with adultery being viewed as a sexual act between a married person and someone who is not their spouse, something which is contrary to Biblical teaching and involves “playing with fire” (Proverbs 6 v 27 – 29.)
Jesus however takes things a step further from the traditional understanding – “But I tell you.” This is not an attempt to destroy the earlier Commandments (Matthew 5 v 17) but to deepen and develop peoples understanding of their wider meaning. For Jesus then, adultery is not just a physical act, it is also a mental attitude involving looking at someone lustfully. It is still possible to look at and acknowledge the beauty of the opposite sex, but we are not to lust after them allowing our imagination to take us into a sewer of sexual fantasy.
In order to maintain sexual purity in this area Jesus gives some practical instruction based on two familiar parts of the body:-
The Eye & the Hand.
“If your right eye causes you to sin, gauge it out and throw it away ….. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” Such a startling command is not to be interpreted literally; because Jesus, as he often did, (Luke 14 v 26) is using a “figure of speech.” The eye is the medium of temptation to sin (2 Peter 2 v 14); while the hand often carries out the sin itself. So what Jesus is saying is that there is a need for immediate and decisive spiritual surgery so that look does not become lust, and lust does not result in action. Practically speaking such spiritual surgery will involve three things:-
1 – Vigilance – The need to post a moral sentry on the watch tower of our lives to warn us against sexual temptation, so that when it visits us we are ready for the battle.
2 – Elimination – The need to ruthlessly cut things out of our lives that could lead to sexual temptation and our being seduced into sexual sin.
3 – Execution – The need to win the tug of war that rages within us between the desires of the flesh and those of the Spirit by counting ourselves as dead to such sin and by claiming Christ’s victory on the cross over the sinful nature (Galatians 5 v 24.)
Challenges – Will you stand guard over the entrance points to your life? Will you purge your life of anything that could lead you into sexual temptation? Will you crucify the sinful nature and live by the Spirit?
Why is all this so important? “It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” Anything that is harmful to the soul needs to be decisively dealt with so that nothing comes between the believer and their progress towards their heavenly destiny.
Theme: “To look or to lust?”
Reading: Matthew 5 v 27 – 30
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Chris Hughes