Does God really care about your sex life as a Christian? Of course He does! He is interested in every area of your life! After all, He created you, and He bought you with a price through His Son Jesus Christ. He gave this particular gift to you as a beautiful gift for procreation and as a means of expressing intimacy between you and your spouse in marriage. But, like all gifts God has given, this gift is meant to be treated responsibly. If you are a citizen of His kingdom through your trust in Jesus Christ, He wants you to live a life of sexual purity, to be distinct in this overly sexual-saturated society in which we live.
Jesus talks about this in today’s passage, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount. “You have heard it said of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’” Adultery, of course, is voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person – married or not – other than his or her spouse. This statement – You shall not commit adultery – is part of the Ten Commandments. Adultery is sharply condemned by God from the beginning of Scripture to the end. It is considered totally out of bounds.
We see in this command how highly God honors and glorifies the married life, and how He wants us to honor and maintain it, cherish it and protect it. Martin Luther says, This commandment requires everyone to not only live chastely in thought, word, and deed in marriage, but to also love and cherish the wife or husband whom God has given. For marital chastity to be maintained, it is above all things essential that husband and wife live together in love and harmony, cherishing each other wholeheartedly and with perfect fidelity. Sex is to be only between a husband and a wife who have totally committed themselves to one another at the altar.
Jesus takes this command a little deeper though, beyond the physical to the heart. The heart is our control center. It’s where our will resides. This command is also about the heart! Listen to these authoritative words of Jesus: “You’ve heard that you shall not commit adultery, but I say if you look at a woman with lust (or if you’re a woman – look at a man), you have already committed adultery in your heart. Just as the prohibition of murder included angry thoughts and insulting words, so the prohibition of adultery includes lustful looks and imagination. As we can commit murder with our words, we can commit adultery with our minds.
It’s important to note a couple things here. Jesus, first of all, is not saying it is wrong to simply look at a woman, but to lustfully look at her is wrong. You know the difference between looking and lusting. To lust after something is to gaze longingly at it. To covet it, to desire it, wanting to possess it, letting your imagination run wild and imagine having sexual relations with this person if you could.
This also refers to all forms of sexual immorality being displeasing to God, to let our minds and our eyes go there. But do note the relationship between our eyes and our control center – the heart – that Jesus makes here. Heart adultery is a result of eye adultery. It is stimulated by the eyes of the flesh. Typically deeds of shame are preceded by fantasies of shame and the inflaming of the imagination, which comes by the undisciplined look of the eyes. It is highly doubtful if any human being falls victim to immorality who has not first opened the gates of passion through their eyes. Then the fantasizing begins and trouble follows.
Therefore, the only way to deal with the problem, it appears, is at its beginning, which are our eyes. Jesus talks about that in the following verses. He gives a kingdom principle for maintaining sexual purity in our heart and flesh. “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.”
This seems to be a favorite saying of Jesus. He quoted it more than once. Later in the Gospel, He added the foot to the list as He talks about overcoming the temptation to sin.
Jesus paints a very startling, dramatic picture here, doesn’t He. Pluck out an offending eye? Cut off a hand? What in the world is He talking about?
A few Christians in the past have unfortunately taken this saying literally and mutilated their bodies. It’s too bad, because this command is an example of our Lord’s use of dramatic figures of speech called hyperbole. He’s making a point. He’s trying to get our attention. He is not advocating maiming of the body, but is advocating moral self denial. It is what some would call the mortification of the flesh, a willingness to take up the cross and reject sinful practices so resolutely that we do whatever it takes to put them to death in us.
What Jesus appears to be saying in this passage is if your eye causes you to sin (because temptation comes to you through your eyes), then don’t look. And if temptation comes to you through your hands (the things you do), then don’t do that. And if it comes to you through your feet going where they should not be going, then don’t go there. Don’t put yourself in the position to be tested and maybe conquered by this sin.
We live in an overly sex-saturated society today. Look at billboards and TV advertising, for instance. We know sex sells. It is used to market everything from beverages to cars to vacations. When you watch the TV set, surf the Internet, watch movies, read various magazines, you find a lot of moral sexual filth in this world of ours. Pornography, for instance, is taking over many people’s lives as an addiction. It is wrecking so many marriages and lives these days. As a pastor, I have seen this firsthand in my counseling of married couples.
This stuff works across the generations. I recently came across an article that startled me. The article was called “Retired and Looking at Pornography.” It talked about grandmas and grandparents getting hooked on this stuff, talking in chat rooms, and so forth.
When Jesus talks of watching your eyes and hands, He is issuing a call to be on guard. Like the Old Testament verse says, “Guard your heart; it’s the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23). He is saying that it is, first of all, important for you and me to recognize we’re in a battle. A war is going on for our souls. Paul talks about it in Ephesians 6 where he describes the battle tactics of Satan who wants to pull you away from life with Christ and destroy you. He’ll use this in that way.
In the military, the posting of sentries is a common military tactic. Likewise, moral sentry duty at the perimeters of your life is equally vital. We need to be on guard. To obey this command of Jesus, then, involves eliminating the source of temptation from our lives. We have to be willing to take extreme measures to control where our eyes see and our hands take hold because some of these things can cause us to fall. It means declining to read certain literature or watch certain movies or visit questionable Web sites. What you feed your mind and imagination really does matter, Jesus is telling us, and it’s better to accept some cultural amputation in this world than risk final destruction in the next.
The Apostle Paul would tell us to instead, fill your mind with good healthy, uplifting things. Healthy hearts need a healthy diet. So we take His words to heart, “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” (Phil. 4:8). Feed your mind good stuff.
Remember the old gospel hymn, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus”. I was reminded of it when I read this article by John Piper, a pastor who has recently retired. “We must not give a sexual image or impulse more than five seconds before we mount a violent counterattack with the mind. Five seconds. In the first two seconds we shout, ‘NO! Get out of my head!’ In the next two seconds, we cry out, ‘O God, in the name of Jesus, help me! Save me, now. I am Yours.’
“Good beginning. But then the real battle begins. This is a mind war. The absolute necessity is to get the image and the impulse out of our mind. How? Get a counter-image into the mind. Fight. Push. Strike. Don’t ease up. It must be an image so powerful that the other image cannot survive. There are lust-destroying images and thoughts.
“For example,” Piper says, “have you ever in the first five seconds of temptation, demanded of your mind that it looked steadfastly at the crucified form of Jesus Christ? Picture this. You have just seen a peekaboo blouse inviting further fantasy. You have five seconds. ‘No! Get out of my mind! God help me!’
“Now, immediately, demand of your mind – you can do this by the Spirit (Romans 8:13) – to fix its gaze on Christ on the cross. Use all your fantasizing power to see His lacerated back. Thirty-nine lashes left little flesh intact. He heaves with His breath up and down against the rough vertical beam of the cross. Each breath puts splinters into the lacerations. The Lord gasps. From time to time, He screams out with intolerable pain. He tries to pull from the wood and the massive spikes through His wrist rip into the nerve endings, and He screams again with agony and pushes up with His feet to give some relief to His wrists. But the bones and nerves in His pierced feet crush against each other with anguish, and He screams again. There is no relief. His throat is raw from screaming and thirst. He loses His breath and thinks He is suffocating, and suddenly His body involuntary gasps for air and all the injuries unite in pain.
“Now I am not thinking about the blouse anymore. I am at Calvary.”
Turn your eyes to the crucified Jesus. And stand firm. Be resolute. This is an imperative Jesus gives us.
You must keep in mind, this kind of thinking runs counter to our present-day standards of permissiveness. It might make you an object of ridicule amongst your peers who call your attitude prudish. My response to that is, So what? Jesus talked about carrying a cross and denying Himself for us, didn’t He? Jesus’ instructions are based on the principle that eternity is more important than anything else this world has to offer. You and I have to decide, quite simply, whether to live for this world or the next. Whether to follow the crowd or follow Jesus Christ. Christ is unveiling for us a whole new way of being human in the kingdom of God. It might look strange to this world, but Jesus Himself pioneered it and invites us to follow.
I want to conclude this message, though, on a note of grace. If you have fallen prey to this kind of sin, if you are struggling with today’s message from Jesus, I have some hopeful good news for you. You have a Savior. His name is Jesus Christ, and He went to the cross to pay for all your sins. He rose from that grave, and forgiveness is yours for the receiving. A new, clean slate awaits you. It’s a matter of repentance, leaving behind the old and moving toward Him. It’s a matter of faith. Trusting in what Jesus Christ did for you at the cross and that He, as your Lord, knows what makes life work best for you – doing life His way. Forgiveness and rescue await those who turn to Jesus Christ for rescue. That is good news!
You have a promise about the faithfulness of God to help you along the way. Paul says, “No testing has overtaken you except that which is common to everyone. God is faithful; He will not let you be tested beyond your strength. But with the testing, he will provide a way out so you may be able to endure it” (I Cor. 10:13). You are not alone in this!
Finally, if you’re struggling with an addiction in this area of your life, with Christ’s help you can be free of this. In Christ the Holy Spirit resides in you. The power of God is available that changes people. So pray, fill your heart with His Word, and find someone to whom you can be accountable.
I recommend another step to take as well. It is wise to seek out a Christian counselor and a support group to help you get on the road to healing and then keep you on a healthy trajectory.
These are life-changing tools that God has provided for you to live distinctly in this area of your life for Jesus Christ. May you fight the good fight and run the good race for Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer