Scripture Matthew 19:1-6, Genesis 2:18-25, HCLD #41 p. 912

PICKET FENCES

(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg


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Psalm 119: 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

Turn to the Heidelberg Catechism, p# 912

108: What is God's will for us in the seventh commandment?

God condemns all unchastity.    We should therefore thoroughly detest it and, married or single, live decent and chaste lives.

109: Does God, in the commandment, forbid only such scandalous sins as adultery?

We are temples of the Holy Spirit, body and soul, and God wants both to be kept clean and holy. That is why he forbids everything which incites unchastity, whether it be actions, looks, talk, thoughts, or desires.

These two passages that we will read this morning are the foundational passages for our look at the scriptures for today and Next Sunday morning.

Genesis 2:18-25 NIV

18 The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

19 Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man's ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.

23 The man said, "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman, ' for she was taken out of man."  For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Matthew 19: 1-6

1 When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there.

3 Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?"

4 "Haven't you read," he replied, "that at the beginning the Creator 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Matthew 5:27-30

"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell."

Brothers and sisters in Christ:

What is one of the shortest words in the English language that is the hardest to say?

Let me give you a hint:

Children, aged two and three say it all the time. They like to say it. Its fun. It gives them sense of power, of differentiation, of autonomy. But as we grow older, especially toward our teenage years, we seem to loose the capacity to say the word, especially in social settings, among our peer groups. And as adults, its the one small English word that it seems we have to learn all over again.

I suspect you know the answer by now.  The word is "NO." Saying "No" can be very hard! Yet it is a most basic discipline in life, especially when it comes to the area of marriage and our interactions with others.

Saying "NO" is at the very heart of these two scripture passages that we read. Here we are told that for the purpose of being united as wife and husband, we first must leave. In fact, in both the original languages of these texts, the word we have in the NIV translated "Leave" can have much stronger connotations, nuances which include "forsaking, abandoning, leaving behind, giving up." In short, to cleave to our spouse, for the sake of this relationship with the one person, we are called to say "NO" to the most fundamental relationship of our lives, our relationship with our parents.

By that scripture does not mean that we are to abandon our parents in their old age (Honor your father and your mother was regarded as a life long commitment for an Israelite). It does not mean that we choose not to have anything to do with them any more. What it does mean is that for the sake of this one relationship with this one man or woman, we place boundaries around ourselves, around our marriage relationships so that they are off limits to everyone else, including parents. Even to them, we need to learn to say "NO!"

As I said though, saying "NO" can be very difficult at times, difficult for a host of reasons inside of our hearts and outside of us. Let me start today with inside of us, our hearts.... Next week outside us.

To commit adultery is to say YES!  It is to permit a relationship that betrays our trust with the person we are committed to. To commit adultery is to seek the satisfaction of our desires, our thirst, from the wrong cistern. Now Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew 5:28 that adultery is something that starts on the inside, in our hearts.  He tells us that lust as in  lusting after a women (or man) is adultery. Listen to his words:

"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

Very simply, lust is the mental form of adultery. It is marital infidelity that remains a thought or an emotion. It's promise is to fill our emptiness and sooth our woundedness, but its promises are empty. In the end, lust gives no satisfaction, just intensified desire, sometimes gripping, even crippling desire causing the spiritual and emotional turmoil called sexual addiction. And lust most often demonstrates itself by the movement of the eyes.

"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

And our culture has learned the power of visual appeal. It whole heartedly affirms sexual desire illicitly focused. We see that in statistics.

88% of dialogue regarding and or actual scenes of sexual activity on TV happen between unmarried partners.

One statistic from "News in Focus" Radio program indicated that a typical adolescent sees explicit scenes or hears sexually suggestive commentary up to 40,000 times per year on prime time TV. (As I read that, I thought to myself - "Now what kind of teenager would be hit with in excess of 100 such scenes and comments per day. But with a little reflection, between soap operas, MTV, and some of our slapstick comedies, it is quite possible.)

In our culture pornography is in excess of a 14 billion dollar a year industry. Two porn videos are sold for every man, women and child per year in North America. Three out of five of the most popular news groups on the Internet deal with sexually explicit material. Those who have pornographic web sites on the Internet are getting more and more aggressive at getting their product to your computer. You would think that doing theological research ought to be a fairly safe Internet activity. In the past year, in the process of researching for Sunday messages, I have been surprised two times by sexually explicit material starting to download into my computer under theological topics!

All of this because our culture has said "YES" to lust - adultery of the mind and heart, We are saying: "It's OK, its fun, do it. It doesn't hurt anyone. It doesn't give VD. "  And we buy into this attitude. I have heard wives say to their husbands "It's OK to look, just don't touch." Alone with our culture, they are giving permission, we are saying "YES" to adultery in the mind.

When we are commanded "You shall not commit adultery." we are commanded to say "NO" to one of the strongest influences in our culture. Jesus, in our passage tells us to say "NO" to lust, and he says that with a hyperbolic flair that drives home the point. Look again at our passage...

"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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."

His point is very direct. Lust has the power to set your eternal destiny.  It has the power to  so distort your perception that in the end you miss the grace of God offered.  It has the power to so pervert your character that having lost God's restraining grace (Romans 1), given over, you will become lust impersonated; your destiny destruction. Job (31:12) calls lust a fire that burns to Destruction (with a capital D).

Jesus tells us 'Say NO to adultery, where it starts, in the mind, in the heart.'

How do we say "NO?"

The answer has to do with boundaries.  That is why this sermon, and next week's message will be called "Picket Fences."   Picket Fences are boundaries which ought not be crossed. They mark out for us what is ours to have and what is not ours to have. We are called by Christ to place boundaries around are thoughts, our emotions and our actions.

How can we set up the boundaries in our lives that keep us from the sin of mental adultery?

It starts with a decision made in faith, a response to the will of the living God.   Job wrote (Job 31:1)  "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl." He made a decision before God that his eyes and his mind were to be used for pure purposes, God pleasing purposes. He knew that God was watching every action, God knew every thought, and it was Job's desire to please God. He made the decision to focus his eyes in a certain direction, toward his wife, toward marital fidelity. So too, we need to make a faith decision, a decision in response to God, that our bodies, including our eyes will be dedicated to God as instruments of righteousness.

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.

Second:  Search your heart.  Lust is a demonstration of desire, of thirst inappropriately satisfied. What is it in your heart that makes you look where you should not look?

The answers may be many.

  • Is there in your life a hunger for intimacy, for being valued and loved, for being affirmed?

  • Is there a curiosity that is not God honoring?

  • Have you allowed your mind to become lethargic, bored, undisciplined. (The inactivity of David seems to have been at the core of his fall into sin with Bathsheba).

Ask God to search your heart, expose to you the roots of your inappropriate desire so that by his grace, you can refocus your mind, your heart where your desires ought to be.

Third: Avoid doing things in secret.   Jesus tells us that evil deeds love darkness. Humans love secrecy because their deeds cannot stand the light of day. How especially this is true of lust. Most of us here would be very reluctant to admit we struggle with lust. We like to keep this sin a secret. In John 8, we find a story about a women who was caught in adultery and the righteous pharisees were about to stone her. Jesus bent down, started writing in the sand and then he said to them: "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."   None would because the truth was, in their hearts they too had entertained adultery. They just had managed to keep it secret.

If you have magazines that you have to hide, that you can only read in secret, get rid of them.  If you are in places where you hope no one will spot you, get away from there. Do not place your internet access in a private place, make sure it is public where someone can easily walk in on what you are doing.

Fourth: Do what scripture tells you when it comes to overcoming the temptation of sexual sin. There seems to be one basic response. Like Joseph, run for your life. I Cor 6:18 says "Flee from sexual immorality." Do what ever it takes to stop this sin before it has the power to root itself in your personality and cause the inferno that leads to destruction. At every turn, commit to the battle of purity of heart and mind. Don't ever give up.

"But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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.

Prayer

  • Commit body to righteousness.

  • Search our hearts.

  • Deeds stand the light.

  • Help us to run.

  • Grace that is greater than all our sin.

  • There is great truth in the popular proverb: "Sow a thought and reap an act. Sow an act and reap a habit. Sow a habit and reap a character. Sow a character and reap a destiny."


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(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

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