Month: July, 2016

The Function of God’s Law

 

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

Martin Luther had much to say about the law of God, which makes sense when you consider that he firmly believed that God had revealed His holy will to mankind in the Moral law we have been studying for the last nine weeks, known as the Ten Commandments.

He said of the 10 Commandments, “(In them) we have a summary of divine teaching. They tell us what we must do to make our whole life pleasing to God; and they show us the true fountain from which, and the channel in which, all good works must flow. No deed or conduct can be good or pleasing to God unless it is in accord with the 10 Commandments, however great and precious it may be in the eyes of the world.”

We look at the world today and we see what he must have been talking about. When you have no truth, there can’t be any law because the law is based on truth, and our world has been struggling with truthfulness. People understand that if we can make the truth foggy enough in people’s minds then the law can’t stop them from leading any life they wish. They promote things that are great and precious in their eyes like same sex marriage and the villainization of God’s holy church and they find the world following step by step. All the while furthering themselves from God. Those who have lost truth have also lost their direction.

So, because there is definite truth, God gave us direction through His law. And, because law is only developed between people in a particular relationship and He is the one true God in relationship with His people, it was only right that He would give us rules to live by. In our Old Testament lesson in Exodus 19 it says:

“while Moses went up to God. The LORD called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.

Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

This being said, we have found that the law, though it is good for direction and guidance, can’t save us. It can’t save us because of the sin we have inherited, and because of this we all stand damned on our own. And this was the reason for Christ, the perfect sacrifice who took that sin upon Himself so that we might be made right with God and sanctified as His adopted children. So what was originally bad news, became supremely good news because of Christ. So, let’s talk about the role that the law plays in the Christian life.

First, the law serves as a form of justice and, as odd as it sounds, the death of Christ was a demonstration of God’s justice. We can see the importance God puts on the law when we are reminded of what He had to lose to satisfy that law. Christ had to die so that justice by the way of the law could be satisfied.

And because Christ put upon Himself the penalty for our sin, we have been given the incredible gifts of repentance and forgiveness that effectually wipe the slate of the charges against us clean. By this God is not pretending that the law does not exist or that it doesn’t matter. To the contrary, He shows us how much it means to Him by sending His only Son to fulfill the requirements of the law. God has done everything that was needed so that He could justify the ungodly and he doesn’t violate His own righteousness in this way by declaring us righteous.

This is the glory and wonder of God’s amazing grace. Even though we deserved damnation, he did what He had to do to fulfill the law so that we might be with Him for all eternity, free from the sin that plagues us on earth.

We are no longer justified through the law we had no hope to keep. Because of Christ we are now justified by faith. Acts 13:38-39:

Let it be known to you therefore, brothers, that through this man (Jesus), forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and everyone who believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.”

Now we are free to be God’s children without the curse of sin that once separated us. This is why they call the Gospel “Good News.” Even though we didn’t deserve it, God guaranteed our salvation purely by His grace alone. There can be no better news than that.

So, if law is given and it is good but cannot save us, then what is the role of the law in the Christians life? The law exists because, even though we have been made righteous by God, sin still exists. Rules must still be established to keep us in that Gospel grace through faith.

People of faith, by their nature, want to please God. They want to do their best to live a godly life so they might set a godly example. They realize that the law has been satisfied through Christ but they yearn and even look forward to pleasing God by obeying His statutes.

The believer’s relationship with God is strengthened by the law because it has been turned from an instrument of judgement into an instrument of faith. Just because Christ fulfilled the law does not mean that rules in that relationship no longer exist, but we obey them now, because of our love for God and our want, through faith, to obey Him in all things.

Too often, people think of religion as if its little more than a list of rules. God didn’t want us preoccupied with rule keeping to the extent that our love of God would become something we had to earn. Our relationship, therefore, had to be based on faith and not in the keeping of the law. He wants us as His children, not His hired servants.

To make this possible, God had to provide a new kind of righteousness. God’s law then had to become the law of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 9:21 Paul says:

To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (Not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.”

Now under the law of Christ, forgiveness is given for every sin, this forgiveness that has been granted by faith and received by faith, not by works lest any man may boast, and not by paying a certain penalty for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28). This is the kind of law, we as believers in Christ, have grown up with.

Christianity is and has always been a faith, not a set of rules and Christianity has always been based on God’s grace by that faith we hold so dear. God not only wants us to be saved by His grace but He wants us to experience the new life we have in Him because of that grace. Once we were selfish, living only for ourselves. In our study in Jeremiah we can see how far that might get us. But now we are sanctified through the blood of Christ and we live for our Savior. We do all this because, by God’s grace He sent us a helper, the Holy Spirit, to live in us, not because we have suddenly become righteous ourselves, but because of the righteousness we may now claim through Christ.

Now, even though by God’s grace we are saved, that does not mean we no longer have certain expectations which we must live by. But these laws should be seen as a result of faith and not blind obedience. The law should never be the basis for our faith, it must be something we obey naturally because of the confidence we have in Christ crucified. The law is no longer a measurement of our righteous standing with God, and that is good because we would fail to measure up every time.

Because we have no righteousness on our own, we put our confidence and trust in God to make us righteous through faith. Paul speaks of Abraham’s faith in Romans 4:21-25:

“No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was fully able to do what He had promised. But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

We now have peace with God through Christ and a new righteousness that doesn’t come from the law. Its fulfillment only comes by God’s grace.

Any righteousness then, is not really ours, it is Christ’s. When God looks down on His people, He does so through the prism of Christ. Because Jesus Christ was the only truly righteous person, it is on His righteousness we should depend. Not only that, but He works in us through the Holy Spirit to live righteously.

When our minds are firmly set on Christ, on truly knowing and loving Christ, then the Holy Spirit can work in us to bring forth fruit in keeping with that faith. When our minds are set on sin, then the only fruit we produce is sinful and we are condemned by the law.

It’s only because of Christ that we have the hope that we share and it is only because of Him that we are able to be seen as righteous in the eyes of God. Because Christ overcame the condemnation we all shared based on the law, all the glory is His.

We are no match for the sin that so easily entangles us, but when we are in Christ, the victory over sin and death has already been won. We no longer are governed by rules we had no hope to keep, we no longer have to let sin rule our lives, because it no longer has any power over it. The condemnation of the law has become the sanctification we can now claim.

So we keep our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. For those who believe, our weakness has found new strength and our battle with sin has been won.

That is why it’s so important to be disciplined in our Christian walk. That is why it’s so important to keep ourselves grounded through Bible study, prayer, worship and service. These are the basic duties of the Christian life apart from the law but every bit as valuable. God is never going to force you to dedicate your life to Him but He has given you every opportunity to do just that. He has given us every resource we need to keep ourselves “tuned in” to Him. He has given us truth to believe in and depend on. He has loved us as His children, eager to protect and direct us. He has given us the courage to stay faithful even in a world that seems lost to the law.

God’s grace and power are wonderful beyond description and because of them we no longer have to depend on the law to save us. Now we obey because we want to be with God and directed by His mighty hand. Martin Luther told us that the law, “tells us what we must do to make our whole life pleasing to God; and they show us the true fountain from which, and the channel in which, all good works must flow.”

May God grant you the passion to follow His law so that He may direct you onto the path of righteousness. Amen.

 

Bible Study: The Law of God

 

What is the law of God? Is it more than the Ten Commandments? Psalm 19:7-11; Romans 7:12-14

What does keeping God’s law have to do with our love for God? John 14:15

What does keeping the law have to do with God’s love for us? Deuteronomy 6:17-18, 7:12-14; Matthew 5:17-19; 1 John 5:3

What was wrong with the church leader’s zeal for the law in Jesus day? Matthew 15:3-6; Mark 7:1-13

Did Jesus come to change the law? Explain in detail

Though we know that the law is still binding, we also know that it does not, indeed cannot, save us.  Galatians 3:21  How then do we understand the relationship between law and grace?

What contrast did Jesus make with each aspect of the law mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount? Matthew 6:21-44; Exodus 20:13-14; Deuteronomy 5:17-18; Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21

How did Jesus expand the meaning of the law?

To what authority did He appeal in each case? Why?

What did He say in Matthew 5:29-30? How are we to take these words?

Consider the scribes’ and Pharisees’ attitudes as described in Matthew 23:3-5, 23-28. How can we obey God’s commandments wholeheartedly without falling into similar hypocrisy and legalism?

What is grace as defined in Scripture? Romans 3:21-26, 5:15, 11:5-6; 1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 8:9, 9:8, 12:9; Ephesians 2:8, 6:24; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Hebrews 4:14-16; James 4:4-6; 1 Peter 4:8-10; 2 Peter 1:2

What crucial role does understanding grace play in sparing us from legalism?

What did the Pharisees ask Jesus in Matthew 19:3, and why was it a trick question?

What is Jesus saying in His answer? Matthew 19:4-6 (compare with Matthew 5:31-32)

In what ways might people be seeking little technical loopholes in order to avoid doing what’s clearly their duty to God?

In what ways can we fall into the temptation of being legalistic in our observance of the law, as the Pharisees were?

What danger exists when we assume that loving God exempts us from obeying His law?

“You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s House”

 

Text:  Mark 7:14-23

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

French author, Guy de Maupassant was one of the greatest writers of short stories the world has ever known. Within ten years he rose from relative obscurity to fame. Just what he thought he’d always wanted. His material possessions showed a life of affluence…a yacht in the Mediterranean, a large house on the Norman coast, a luxurious apartment in Paris. It was said of him that “Critics praised him, men admired him and women worshipped him.” He had all the trappings of what the world would call the “fulfilled dream life.” Yet at the height of his fame he went insane, brought on by what those close to him called a “Promiscuous lifestyle.” On New Years Day in 1892, he tried to cut his own throat with a letter-opener, and lived out the last few weeks of his life in a private asylum on the French Riviera. He died at the age of forty-two, but before he went insane he prophetically wrote what was to be his epitaph. Guy de Maupassant wrote, “I have coveted everything and taken pleasure in nothing.”

In the last nine weeks we’ve looked at the first 8 commandments, today will be the ninth. What’s been most interesting to me, as I have written the sermons, is in how much they have to do with each other. You can pretty much pick any commandment and plug it into any other commandment and make it fit somehow.

Our 9th commandment is no different because we talk today of the mother of all sins, covetousness. While the first 3 commandments talk of the relationship there is between God and humans and the fourth through eighth govern public relationships between people, these last two govern private thoughts and that’s where our sins are born. All the other commandments are rooted in it. The other commandments deal with actions, but these next two deal with attitude.

Covetousness is defined as an inordinate or wrongful desire of wealth or possessions; greediness. And while this definition from dictionary.com paints a rather dark picture in its explanation, there is nothing wrong with some types of covetousness. You can covet something that will strengthen your family. You can covet a stronger faith. I covet Maryanns love for everyone or Richard’s knowledge of church history or Dee’s musical ability. In fact, there is something wonderful I covet from each of you that I might not have in such great amounts. These are things we all should covet.

The ugly side of coveting something comes in the excessive desire that compromises our positive convictions toward something we want. The negative excessive want for something we don’t currently possess. God’s wish for us in this commandment is to stop the sin in the temptation faze.

A familiar story of covetousness can be found in the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19. The young man wants to know what good deed he must do to have eternal life. Jesus tells him, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man then says to Jesus, “All these I have kept. What do I lack. Jesus responds, “If you would be perfect. Go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.” Here covetousness can be seen in all its hurtful glory when the young man walks away sorrowful because he had great possessions. He could not part with his wealth. This story shows that we can even covet the things we already have. A person might talk themselves into believing, somehow, that they haven’t broken any of the commandments the rich young man claimed to have never broken, but no person in their right mind can say they have never wrongfully coveted something.

These last two commandments stand out from the rest because, in them, we see the heart of God’s law. When we think of sin, we think of the actual act. But sin starts much sooner than the act, it starts in the temptation. It starts in the coveting. “You shall not covet” boldly states that our very thoughts, feelings and inclinations – the matters of the heart – matter a great deal to God.

Last week we talked about the false witness we have seen in Scripture and in the background of each of these sins is covetousness. The serpent in the Garden of Eden coveted souls, Cain, coveted Able’s standing with God, Delilah coveted the secret of Samson’s power, David coveted Bathsheba, Judas coveted money and the false witnesses that spoke against Jesus coveted the Pharisees favor. Behind every one of these sins lurked covetousness. They saw, they coveted and they acted upon their sinful desires.

The sin of negative coveting turns a person from the person God created into a person no longer listening to God’s direction. 1 Timothy 6:9-10:

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”

People caught up in the act of coveting are deceived from the beginning and what makes it especially dangerous, is that they usually don’t even perceive it. It’s hidden deep within the thoughts. When people ask God for the forgiveness He so freely offers, they often forget the original sin that brought it on, the sin of desire and wrongful want.

And yet, this is probably the sin we should guard ourselves from most. It’s a sin that leads us onto the path of destruction. It’s the beginning of the devil’s process as he deceivingly whispers in your ear. Ephesians 5:5 says, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”

We look at our empty seats and we know that part of the reason is because people too often covet the wrong things. Even some of you have been guilty of skipping church because your desire for something else overcame your desire for God, if even for just a moment. Too often, our cravings pull us away from worship. Our covetousness towards personal comforts or entertainment override any covetousness we have for God. It’s all idolatry.

So, where does coveting come from? Jesus tells us in Mark 7, “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”

Coveting comes from within those dark places in our soul only God can reach for change. Ezekiel cried out in chapter 33 of his book, “…with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their covetousness.”

Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, coveted his neighbors land but his neighbor, Naboth, wouldn’t sell it to him. So he pouted as so many of us do when we don’t get what we covet. Soon Jezebel set the trap that would mean the death of Naboth and the deceitful taking of his land by Ahab. Soon after, Elijah pronounced judgement on him saying, “Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs  licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”

Ahab needed a better outlook in his life as so many of us do who covet what is not ours. The heart of the problem is the human heart that has not committed itself to Christ. The heart of the problem comes when our contentment comes in the things of our desire and not in the things of God’s desire. Hebrews 13:5:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

The only thing that wrongful coveting brings someone is sorrow. The sorrow in what is perceived as an unfulfilled life, the sorrow in not getting what we desire, sorrow in the feeling of hopelessness because we’ve put our trust in something other than God.

Jesus warns us in Matthew 6: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”

How many of you suffer under the pressure of this sin? How many lives are suffering from unnecessary want in their lives? How many are ruining even their very soul as they wait for something to fulfill them apart from what God has already given them?

Jesus gives you a way out of this burden and His solution is complete. Listen to Him as He speaks to you today from His holy Word in Matthew 16: “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Everything you should covet has already been given you. There is nothing wrong in possessions and God has given you these things out of a love we could never even imagine. But He does not wish for us to become dependent on any of them. He wishes for you to find your comfort in Him alone so that He may give you all the good things you need.

1 Corinthians chapter 12 asks us to covet earnestly the best gifts. The gifts of salvation, peace, hope, love, understanding, forgiveness, loyalty, dependability, guidance and a myriad of other good things. These are the things to covet.

We all want the best of things but maybe your Heavenly Father has designed you to play a role that doesn’t get all caught up in the glitter. Maybe He has placed you in another role that is even more exciting.

Our motivation in life should be to covet God’s approval. Instead of being the self-pleaser, be the people pleaser (though even that can be done with the wrong intentions). Instead of congratulating ourselves, find excuses to congratulate others. Instead of coveting praise for yourself, covet it for the person who needs it even more than you do. With God’s help, it is absolutely possible to overcome even the sin of covetousness. And He is willing.

Maybe the greatest force we can muster against coveting is rejoicing in thankfulness for what God has already given us. Thankfulness steers the Christian life away from the dangers of discontentment. In fact, it’s hard to find satisfaction in anything unless thankfulness is part of the equation.

The Apostle Paul, even in His struggle wrote in Philippians 4:

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Every good gift and every perfect gift comes from above and, if we’re honest, we must say that God has already given us much more than we deserve. Therefore, we not only rejoice in what we personally receive, but also in the good gifts that the Lord has granted others.

Look to Christ for your ultimate satisfaction. Live in contentment and thankfulness for all the gifts you have received and send covetousness scurrying from your heart and life. It is a deadly foe, but it is not any match when compared to the overwhelming love of the Savior who would die so that you might have all truly good things. Store up your treasures in heaven and give your trust only to God. Amen

Bible Study: The Ninth Commandment

 

You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s House

Why is ‘You shall not covet’ in the Ten Commandments? Why is it so important? Exodus 20:17; Deuteronomy 5:21

Why is the prevailing attitude in our society one that says we MUST have more, or newer, or something we don’t already have no matter the cost (selfishness)? James 4:1-2

How does this fire one’s dissatisfaction in life? Ecclesiastes 4:8, 5:10-11

What advice should we give someone with this kind of attitude? Proverbs 23:1-8; Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:15; Romans 13:9-10; Hebrews 13:5

Is coveting ever good? Can it ever be justified? Psalms 119:11; John 8:28, 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 1:27, 2:1-11, 4:6-9

These particular commandments are the only ones that deals directly with our inner motives. Why is this kind of motive especially dangerous? Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9, 22:13-16

Would you say that the things we covet become our goals in life? Explain

What happens if we covet the wrong things from a spiritual perspective? Matthew 6:19-24, 19:16-26; 1 Timothy 6:10

Name some examples of how covetousness has damaged this nation and explain how this has happened. Exodus 18:21; Luke 16:14-15; Ephesians 2:1-3

What is the opposite of covetousness? Philippians 4:11-13

Why is covetousness such a great tool for the devil to use? James 1:13-15

Why is our list of the ten commandments different from most churches?

How is covetousness a form of idolatry (give an idol-a-try)? Colossians 3:5-6; Ephesians 5:5

How is covetousness a source of oppression? Exodus 18:21

Can the covetous heart ever be satisfied? Explain

Why is it so difficult to covet God’s will for our lives over our own will for our lives, even for the Christian? Psalm 73:25-26, 119:33-40; Proverbs 30:7-10

What are the gifts given from God that should be enough for us?

What are some of the things we should covet for our church family at Redeemer?

How do we, as a church in Christ, go about to make that happen most effectively?

You Shall Not Bear False Testimony

Text:  Matthew 26:57-64

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

When we look back in our history, we all have certain events in our childhoods that we remember more than others. We remember them for several reasons. It might be that they were exciting or happy or even sad. These were experiences that helped to mold and shape us into who we are today. We remember them because they were big days in our lives.

And then there are those memories that, when we look back, they really weren’t all that important but we remember them anyway. For instance, I remember drawing a weird figure on a piece of paper in seventh grade that I told a friend I would always remember. It wasn’t a special shape and it wasn’t a particularly special day, but because I said I would remember it, I always have.

One such memory is not a very good one. It was the day that, way back when I was five years old, my friends told my dad that I had lied when I hadn’t. No matter how I pleaded my case, my father wasn’t going to hear any of it and he punished me. It was probably only a little swat on the backside and being sent to my room, but I remember that day as if it were yesterday because I was wronged with a lie. I remember it, not because it was a special day, but because of how unfair it seemed.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that relies, many times, on false foundations. We have leaders in our government, business, education and even religion who have built themselves up based on false testimony. In fact, I’m sure none of us can say we haven’t lied. We “stray from the truth” without feeling the guilt of telling an out-and-out lie. We allow ourselves little white lies convincing ourselves they aren’t as bad, and thereby somehow acceptable. So, is there a good lie? A lie that is acceptable?

Most people understand that the commandment not to bear false witness is about our interaction with others in a trial setting, but there is much more to this commandment then simply testifying against another person. This commandment also condemns gossip which leads others to believe a lie, following the world instead of testifying to the truth, following our perverted culture and its worldly values which counter God’s values.

When the church accepts homosexual marriage, they are bearing false witness to the truth in their attempts to blend into society. When our government accepts abortion they bear false witness to the truth of when life truly begins. When laws are passed to let anyone go into any bathroom stall they wish simply by claiming they are something that they clearly aren’t, we bear false witness to God’s creation.

And, in case you haven’t noticed, we are in the midst of a very nasty and bitter presidential campaign. On either side, we see our possible future leaders bearing false witness. On the one side we see someone who has clearly lied in very dangerous and criminal ways about her dealings as our Secretary of State, yet she is the front-runner to be President of the United States.

On the other side, we see a candidate who will seemingly say anything, no matter how hateful, to get elected. He embellishes the truth and manipulates the facts and, most shockingly, it seems to be working.

It’s come to the point that we expect our leaders to lie because it happens so often. Both parties blatantly stray from the truth about seemingly every issue. They distort, twist and warp the facts without so much as batted eye.

Now, before we start wagging fingers, let’s also be honest about the truth. You see, if you perpetuate the lie or even ignore it, you’re as guilty as the liar themselves. It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and judge but is that what we are called to do. No, our calling is to stand up for the truth. Yet we look at things changing for the worse in our culture and we as Christians are doing very letting to change it. Sure we complain with the best of them, but we do it in the comfort of our living rooms and churches. Who will stand up against all the false testimony that is condemning us where it will make the most difference if not us?

So as the election cycle progresses, a blanket of mistrust is covering this nation and from it a layer of hate we haven’t seen since the 60s. We are in very dangerous times. Yet the problem with this commandment is not limited to the United States. No, it’s much bigger than that.

All around the world we are being flooding with untruths and deception. Everyone trying to get the upper hand by any means possible. Hypocrisy is infecting the whole Christian church and it seems the world is headed for its greatest crisis yet. An event so terrifying that Jesus Christ felt the need to warn His disciples. Jesus says in Mathew 24:4-5: “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name saying, “I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.”

We look at our world and we see many false Christs advertising their various virtues. Man-made Christ’s promising salvation for the right price. False prophets spewing false doctrine to satisfy worldly desires. People claiming the name of the one true God yet acting as if they have never known Him.

With determination and supreme purpose, God established His Ten Commandments and included within these commands, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” This was a command to preserve those things within any relationship that are so vital, love and trust.

Within this commandment lies the structure for preserving family relationships, marriage relationships, business relationships and every other relationship under the sun. Within this commandment lies the structure for honoring God’s holy name and reputation. Within this commandment lies the protection against the lies, slander and gossip so prevalent in society. A thief comes at night to steal but our false witness steals at all times of the day or night. Little tongues shattering lives by their lies.

When we stop and take the time to think of what the breaking of this commandment has done to our world, it’s shocking. Untold human suffering and damage caused by people who only thought of themselves and their causes first. Proverbs 10:18 warns us, “The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.”

James tells us in chapter 3 of his letter, “Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.

The damage of false testimony is widespread and we can all see what it is doing to our country. We are told to stand for the truth but it seems those of the world really don’t know what truth to stand for. Our politically correct ways have shaded the truth so much we don’t know what truth is anymore. Is a man a woman if he claims to be, even though he has the anatomy of a man? Is a white person really a black person if they associate themselves more with black people than white people? Is killing an unborn fetus really murder if it hasn’t been outside the womb yet? It baffles the mind how we could have gone so far from reality and still call it reality. It’s like an episode of the Twilight Zone. False testimony is killing society as we know it because there really is no truth anymore to so many people.

Consider the personal damage that is being causes by false testimony in marriages. Custody battles built on lies that damage the children more than the parents. These poor children become scarred for life simply because one parent or the other wanted the upper hand. Innocent people put to death because of the lies of someone who might have wanted revenge or who pins the blame on someone else to escape execution themselves.

Consider our own plight as Christians. Sin came into the world through the false testimony of the serpent and Jesus Christ was killed based on false testimony from false witnesses.

Let’s face facts. Breaking the 8th commandment has cultivated attitudes of suspicion, hopelessness and uselessness in society so much so that we just as soon give up then try to change anything. We are all paying a great price because of the lies of our fathers yet it seems as if its progressed to far to have any hope of change.

Yet, our God is bigger than even this. Something can be done and with God it will be done if we are committed enough to see it through. First, we must come to understand the enormity of the problem. Why do people lie? Why is revenge such a stimulating emotion? Why does vanity seem too often to win over reality? King Solomon recognized the problem when he said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” Every sin has its root in vanity and bearing false witness could be its poster child.

Man and women lie first and foremost because they put themselves first above all else. The benefit of others is rarely considered. They avoid the truth because it paints an ugly picture of them so they try to pretty it up with lies, gossip and slander. When it comes down to crunch time, God’s will for us is packed away in favor of more worldly rewards. And this has been happening since the very beginning of time. The serpent lies to Eve. Cain lies when God asked Him about Able by withholding the truth. Delilah lies when she wants the better of Samson. David lies to Uriah the Hittite so he may take advantage of his wife Bathsheba. Judas lies by living a life he didn’t believe. False witnesses lie and it condemns our Savior.

Why do humans so easily give in to the temptation to lie? Some so much that they can’t seem to live without at least embellishing the truth. It’s because in every ear there is the voice of the father of all lies, the devil himself. In a world that seems to have lost its belief in Satan and hell, he thrives because of the ignorance and our lying ways give proof to his power.

From that day in the garden until now, the devil has been filling God’s people with lies to turn them from their righteous ways towards the sins of vanity and deceit. He promises you everything and laughs as you crumble because of his trickery. He leads you to the wide path of destruction all the while convincing you his way is the best way. He broadcasts a spirit of discontent, disobedience and disunity and we fall for it nearly every time because his lies make it seem to be something its not.

We can see that his lies have even effected the church. So many living religious lies – the most dangerous kind of lying, because it leads the very people they want to save down the path of destruction all the while promising a greater reward.

The 8th Commandment requires us to speak the truth in all areas of our lives and to proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ to all who are willing to listen. Jesus said in John 14, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the Father, but by me.” It is the goal of the Son of Man to save all of creation from the lies the devil leads them to.

He died so that truth might be victorious. He died so that His truth could rule in people’s hearts and minds forever. He died so that we might be His hands and feet and voice in this world. Hands and feet and voices of truth sharing the good news of Christs victory over sin and death. The 8th Commandment demands that we come to acknowledge this truth in all sincerity and honesty. Do you believe in this or are you too lost in the devils lies to understand?

We must all come to that place of dependence on the God and Creator of the universe. We must recognize Him as our only way of salvation from this world that has abandoned Him. We must be converted to the only truth that will save us and we must take as many as we can with us to paradise all the while standing for the truth openly and honestly. To live any other way is to perpetuate the lies we have too often found ourselves victims of. Jesus said in John 8, “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

We must live for truth and abandon the lies, even the little white ones. If we persist in our lies, we can expect our hope to fade as we become more twisted in deception and there is enough Christians already claiming to be something they really aren’t. We must free our minds from the vanity that so often lets us down and think more with a clear mind focused only on Christ and Him crucified. It is said, “A man is only as good as His word.” What kind of man or woman do you want to be?

The Word of God reveals what is acceptable in His eyes and He has made it clear what type of person he expects you to be, a person of honesty and integrity. Live as though loving God were the only thing that was truly important in your life because, by loving God, you come to once again love those he gave you in a more godly and righteous way. A way that always bears the truth.

Live as if there were no value in life apart from God because then you will be living in truth. When our lives have eternal significance they become significant to those around them. God has great plans for each and every one of us, but to reach the goal, truth must always prevail.

Jesus Christ is the light of the world and we are children of that light. That light shines on truth and God has commanded that that light might shine on all men so that they might be drawn to it like bugs to a zapper. This kind of life is only possible to those who hold to the truth of God’s holy Word, the only place where pure truth can be found.

May God always lead you to truth and may no false witness ever cross your lips. May you accept the offer from a loving God to give you the salvation He has promised you. Walk by faith and not by vanity, looking with expectation for God to rule in your hearts and shine through your life. Amen

Bible Study: The Eighth Commandment

 

You shall not bear false witness

Text:  Matthew 26:57-64

What does it mean to bear false witness? Name some examples

How did bearing false witness get us into the problem of sin we find ourselves in today?

Why do people lie?

What harm does bearing false witness do?

Can you name some problems that the world has seen by breaking this commandment in history?

Is this a problem we are having in this country? If so, how?

What does God have to say about bearing false testimony? Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 19:16-18; Proverbs 6: 16-19; Psalms 27:12, 35:10-12; Matthew 26:57-64; Acts 6:8-13; Colossians 3:9-10

Is lying ever justified? Ephesians 4:25-29

What about “white lies”?

What about the story of Rahab lying to protect the Israelites she was hiding? Was she blessed because she lied? Joshua 2:8-11; Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25

What is the spiritual perspective of lying? Proverbs 30:5-6; Matthew 24:4-5; John 8:44; Romans 16:17-18; Ephesians 4:11-14

What is meant in the words “God of Truth?” Numbers 23:19; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 100:5; John 14:6, 17:7, 18:37

How would the world be different if everyone told the truth? Explain how you think the legal system would improve.

How does truth sanctify a person?

Why does God want us to have two or three witnesses as evidence before one accuses someone of something? 1 Timothy 5:19

What does this commandment have to do with honesty and integrity?

Why does God discourage us from swearing an oath? Matthew 5:34-37

Do you feel you could put away (stop) lying? How difficult would it be?

What are some ways to encourage telling the truth?

“You Shall Not Steal”

Text:  John 5:19-24

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

A burglar broke into a house and began to steal all of the valuables. At that moment he heard a voice that said “Jesus is watching you.” He was so scared he froze for a second. He regained his composure and started stealing again, when the voice came louder, “Jesus is watching you.” He just about lost it right there. After regaining his composure he began to steal again this time watching very intent around him when he heard the voice again this time he recognized a shape in the corner as he approached he realized it was a bird cage. He removed the cover to find a parrot. He almost laughed. “What is your name?” The parrot replied “Moses”. The thief then said “what kind of person would name a parrot Moses?” The parrot replied “the same kind of person that named their Rottweiler “Jesus”.”
A Sunday school teacher was teaching her class about the difference between right and wrong. “All right children, let’s take another example,” she said. “If I were to get into a man’s pocket and take his billfold with all his money, what would I be?” Little Johnny raises his hand, and with a confident smile, he blurts out, “You’d be his wife!”

We joke but we all know that stealing is a terrible thing. In fact it’s such a common and terrible sin that God included it as His 7th commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.”

We look back at all the other commandments we’ve covered and we’ve learned that, in fact, most of us have been guilty in one way or another with each of them. Thank God for His forgiveness and direction. But here we are to the 7th commandment, “thou shalt not steal,” and we think, well, there is one that I haven’t broken. I’ve never stolen a thing in my life.

Oh, really? Most people don’t think they have a problem with stealing and I’m sure none of us even know someone who was an armed robber or burglar. But is that all that is meant by stealing? Did you know that there are 138 synonyms for stealing? See if you might be guilty of any of these:

You get too much change back when you buy something and fail to return the overage.

You find some money and neglect to try and find the owner. After all, losers keepers, right?

You “borrow” something from your work or from church like a pen or a book and you neglect to return it.

You do personal work or spend time doing personal things at work.

You copy your favorite music CD or movie DVD for someone so they won’t have to pay for it or you accept a copy for yourself.

You buy the buffet and both eat off the plate.

You call in sick when you’re not really sick.

Maybe we’re not so innocent after all. A couple of the biggest attributes of the Christian should be honesty and integrity. After all, the world is watching to see if we fall.

In looking at our 7th commandment, I see three wrongs with stealing. And we can put them into three categories in which stealing is a violation.

First, stealing is a violation of the law. Billions of dollars are lost every year in this country over the theft of goods and services. When I managed a drug store I was amazed at the amount of theft that went on and the amount of dollars it cost the store every year. One estimate says that 1 out of every 52 shoppers carries something out of the store for which they haven’t paid. According to the U.S. Dept of Commerce, 4 million people are caught shoplifting every year. At the store we were told that for every 1 we caught, 35 got away with it.

When we figure it out that means that there are over 140 million incidents of shoplifting in America’s stores every year. And most are from they’re own employees. What’s even more shocking is that only 10% of shoplifters come from low income families.

70% are middle income and 20% are classified as wealthy. One new hotel reported that in their first ten months of operation they lost 38,000 spoons, 18,000 towels, 355 silver coffee pots, 1500 finger bowls and 100 Bibles. Apparently, America is a country of thieves. No matter the reason, God declares that stealing is wrong.

Now, of course, getting profits and gains is not a sin when gone about correctly. It can be as a reward from work, 1 Thess. 3:10 – “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.”

Or it can be given as a gift, “Give and it shall be given unto you.” We all have received gifts from loved ones and this is as it should be, especially if you’re giving them to me. (LOL) The early church was characterized by the gifts it gave to those who were less fortunate. Even today, this is expected from us as a Christian community.

It can also be as a response to prayer, Matthew 21:22, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive. John 14:14, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” During my time in seminary, I kept hearing the same thing from former and present students. “We were down to our last dime and we took it to God in prayer and He provided.” We were told, “If money is your only reason not to come to seminary, then come because God always provides.” And he always did.

But there are also corrupt ways to gain and profit by taking what is not rightfully yours, Ephesians 4:28, “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” Theft costs American merchants more than 120 billion dollars each year and, as I said, most theft comes from their own employees. Christians should be the best employees, employees of honesty and integrity.

Stealing is also a violation of loyalty. Again we go to workers. USA Today reported that 48% of all American workers took something from their employer last year, almost half. Pastor F.E. Marsh put it this way in an illustration. A young man came to see him and said, “Pastor, you have put me in a bad fix. I’ve stolen from my employer, and I’m ashamed to tell him about it. You see, I’m a boat builder and the man I work for is lost. I’ve talked to him about Christ, but he only laughs at me. In my work, expensive copper nails are used because they won’t rust in water. I’ve been taking some of them for a boat I’ve been building for myself in my backyard. I’m afraid if I tell my boss what I’ve done and offer to pay for them, he’ll think I’m a hypocrite, and I’ll never be able to reach him for Christ.”

When Pastor Marsh saw him again the man was excited. He said, “Pastor, I’ve settled that matter and I’m so relieved.”

“What happened?” asked the Pastor. “Oh, he looked at me intently and he said, ‘George, I’ve always thought you were a hypocrite, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe there’s something to this Christianity after all. Any religion that makes a man admit he’s been stealing must be worth having.”

Next we’ll look at employers. They’re not so innocent either. Colossians 4:1 says, “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.” If an employer is underpaying, overworking and mistreating employees then they are stealing also.

It’s easy to pick on employers and employees but we are all guilty at times. Borrowing something and not returning it, not honoring your debt in a timely manner, cheating on your taxes. It’s easy to fall into the trap that would have us break the 7th commandment. Sometimes people do it so often it becomes an after thought. After all, doesn’t everyone cheat on their taxes? No they don’t and neither should we.

Finally, stealing is a violation of love. As Christians, the love of God should be enough to keep us from stealing. In fact, it should cause us to give as He has called us to do. So when we steal, how do we violate God’s love? Malachi 3: 8-10, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed me, even this whole nation.

 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,” says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it.”

We violate God’s love by stealing time. How much time do you give God on a weekly basis. Is it enough for you to come to church on Sunday on occasion and crack open your bible every once in a while out of guilt? Look at the empty pews, many can’t even give God that much time.

We violate God’s love by stealing tithes. Jesus is Lord and we should live by the example He gave us when He said, “Not my will but Thy will be done.” Do we believe that God will provide? Do we believe that if we fill his storehouses, like it says in Malachi, that He will provide more then we could ever store? By the way most of us are living, we are saying to God, Not they will but mine be done.”

And we violate God’s love when we steal His talents. God gave us all spiritual gifts. Some are gifted with song, others with intellect. Some can speak others can teach. These are to be used in the body of Christ, the church. Are you using the gifts God has given you to further His kingdom? If not, then you are stealing from God.

 

Danny Simpson robbed a bank in Ottawa, Canada. He used an old hand-me-down Colt 45 and stole $6000. When the Royal Mounted Police caught up with him and confiscated the gun, they sent it to the lab. The laboratory found out the gun was a collector’s item and worth well over $100,000. Danny didn’t have to rob the bank, he was already wealthy and didn’t know it.

Stealing, for people of God, is like that. We all have blessings but we aren’t using them. Instead we stoop to the world’s level and steal, cheat and bargain away our integrity.

The Bible says, “Let him who stole steal no more.” We need to walk in honesty and integrity if we are to count ourselves among the saved. Recommit yourself to God today. Surrender your life to Christ….today. Trust in Him. The Bible says, “times of refreshing will come” when your honest with God. It’s really again about honor.

We honor God when we love our spouse, obey our parents, keep from anger, stay true to our marriage vows and also when we focus only on what is ours, away from the unrighteous want the devil would want us to have.

 

That is why I picked our Gospel lesson for today from John 5. It says that our Father in heaven has given the right to judge to His Son Jesus Christ and that whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Honesty in our everyday walk honors God and dishonesty disgraces His holy name. It is not just yourself that you affect by your dishonesty, because you belong to your earthly family as well as your holy family and everything you do represents them as well. And as Christ Judges, His heart breaks for those who tarnish His Holy name with deceit.

Your Savior died so that you might do better things. He gave you the promise of eternal life so that you could focus on that instead of any dishonest gain you might find in this life. He gave you the amazing gift of repentance so that you might stop your life of sin and work towards a life of righteousness. He gave you all things so that you would no longer be in want.

So be grateful for the gifts you have been given and honor the giver by living a life of integrity. Be satisfied with the gifts you have been given in this world because, in the world to come, you will live without the need for anything but God’s abundant love. Be honest with all those around you, even those who might not be honest with you, and honor God by being Christ in this world, glorifying Him in all you do. And may God’s many blessings be enough for you. Amen

Bible Study: The Seventh Commandment

“You Shall Not Steal”

What causes someone to steal?

See how many ways you can think of to break this commandment? Exodus 21:16; Leviticus 19:11,13, Deuteronomy 19:14; 22:1-4, 24:15; Proverbs 20:10, 29:24; Psalm 37:21, 62:10; Luke 3:14; 1 Corinthians 6:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12; 1 Timothy 3:8; James 5:2-5

How is this a getting/being given problem? Matthew 5:42; Luke 3:11; Acts 20:35; 2 Corinthians 9:7; Philippians 4:10-13

How is stealing from each other also stealing from God? Psalm 24:1; Job 41:11; Haggai 2:8; James 1:17

What occupations can you think of that the world expects stealing to be a part?

What emotions come out from having been stolen from? Explain

How is the sin of omission stealing? How is it stealing from God?

How is stealing really a question of honor?

Is stealing ever justified? Proverbs 6:30-31 How can this be abused?

What is God implying when He gives us this command? John 10:10

How serious is God about this command not to steal? 1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Is this sin only a God thing? Roman 13:1-7; Ephesians 4:25-27

So, what must we do in light of this commandment? (1)Matthew 6:21; (2)1 John1:9; (3)John 8:11b

What are some of the consequences of stealing both worldly and heavenly?

Few people question the attitude of getting the best of someone else. Where does this kind of attitude come from and why is it so widely believed?

What kind of responsibility do we hold to protect the property of others? To what measure should we go to do this?

Does gambling break this commandment? Ephesians 4:28

What of the other commandments fit into this commandment?

How can stealing be a violation of loyalty? Of integrity?

“You Shall Not Commit Adultery”

Text:  Matthew 5:27-32

Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father…

Please pray with me…

If you have heard any of my sermons, you’d know that I’m not a big fan of worldly values and, as hard as it is, I believe we have choices to make several times a day that concern them. Do I keep my mouth shut when someone says something contrary to my Christian values? Do I love my neighbor like I should? Do I put God first in all things? Do I truly value the relationships God has given me? These are questions we face with almost everything we do and, I believe, if we’re honest with ourselves, we follow worldly values much more then we should.

I want to take one section out of our Gospel lesson for this morning because I believe that, as always, Jesus was on to something. Jesus knew that even the thought of sin could lead to sin so he placed the thought as equal to the actual act.

Today, in society, one can hardly avoid the proliferation of sex and sexuality in the media. Sex sells, they say. I believe that this is true because of the temptation that so easily haunts us when we see someone of the opposite sex in a provocative illustration. We are hard-wired for it and Christ knew that to avoid the sin, we must avoid even the thought.

According to the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy, there is an estimated 12 million sex addicts in the United States. Due to the accessibility of sexual material available on the Internet, cable television and videos, these numbers are increasing. Despite common misunderstandings, this addiction is not simply about “too much sex.” This goes much deeper and the result is lost trust, increased guilt, and divorce that is becoming systemic.

The commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery.” This is one value that the world has watered down so that it might continue with its passions. We’ve only to turn on our television or computer to see how acceptable infidelity has become. There is even a web-site to make it easier for cheating couples to meet. Hollywood has been given a great deal of power to change the way in which we think.

The Center for Media and Public Affairs did a survey back in 1992 and they talked to 104 leading television writers and executives. What they found is that their views differed dramatically from public perception. In the study they found that though 85% of Americans believe that adultery is wrong, only 49% of these writers and executives did. While 59% of the public believed in the right of abortion, (a number shocking enough) 97% of the Hollywood people believed in it. Now this study was done 24 years ago, do you think it’s gotten any better?

It’s no wonder that our society has been saturated with messages that are contrary to God’s 6th commandment. Our divorce rate and the number of married couples in counseling over extra marital affairs has never been higher. It’s time we made the choice to stop listening to Hollywood and listen to what God is telling us.

Scripture tells us that healthy marriages are built on commitment and honesty and that the healthiest intimacy comes between one man and one woman in marriage for life.

Genesis 2:18 says, “The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable helper for him.” In Hebrew, the word for helper means counterpart or partner of equal value.

To understand a healthy marriage it is necessary to understand its purpose. First God created marriage as a partnership. Adam was productive before Eve was given to him. He had already started the work that God had required but he was not complete without Eve.

Men need to understand this. While they might get satisfaction and fulfillment from their work or play they often feel an emptiness emotionally. They often feel incomplete without the kind of relationship only a committed marriage can provide.

What sexual temptation leads to is a replacement of any real relationship. The fantasy replaces reality. The yearning for conquest clouds the mind into thinking that this is where true happiness lies. The result is the kind of frustration that ruins marriages and causing one to be alone with an addiction that will never be satisfied. The value of a spouse is replaced by the devil’s deception. The thought leads to the sin. The sin leads to destroyed relationships with both one’s spouse and one’s children.

God values relationship. He is a God of relationship and the relationship He created between man and women was and is a sacred bonding through marriage. God looked at Adam and said that it was not good for him to be alone so he gave him Eve. There was nothing said that she was merely created to have babies. She was created as a partner first and foremost. He gave dominion over the earth to both of them, not just Adam. Eve was different in her function and in the roles she played but she was never intended to be of lesser value. God’s purpose for marriage was clear from the beginning, one woman for one man for life. God didn’t make any other woman for Adam or any other man for Eve. Eve couldn’t talk about the man she might have married and Adam couldn’t complain that his mother was a better cook, the perfect union.

In a world that changes partners much like it changes cars or favors living together to avoid the commitment of marriage, God’s purpose for marriage cannot happen. Every attempt by society to change God’s intended purposes for marriage has been a step backwards. Though the world tries to inundate us with values contrary to God’s will and purpose, though more and more, the fantasy replaces reality, the evidence in lost relationships prove these values to be wrong and that what God intended for marriage is superior. The most successful marriages are first built on partnerships in trust both between each other and with God.

One of the greatest purposes for marriage was pleasure. In Genesis 2:22-24 it says, “Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. The man said, “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken out of man.”

When God presented Eve to Adam, his first words were, “this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Sounds kind of straight forward but in my research I found that this was a statement of excitement and pleasure.

Marriage was to be enjoyed. It was meant to be a relationship that brought great pleasure much like our relationship with God before sin entered the scene. It was to be a mutual commitment and it came with responsibility. It wasn’t some accident. It required commitment from the very beginning.

Today, too many young couples enter into a marriage expecting pleasure without the responsibilities that are required to find it. The happiest couples understand and are responsible and disciplined. True pleasure is a product of responsible behavior.

Finally in Genesis 3:20 we come to procreation. “Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.” Only after partnership and pleasure do we come to making babies. Eve was valued as an equal and not just a baby factory. The loss of this value in the Old Testament created problems for generations. Women became valued only so far as they could produce children for their husbands and that was clearly not God’s plan for marriage.

Children should be a product of two people of equal value who are partners first and whose relationship is loving and pleasurable, but too often our modern society has put pleasure first, resulting in marriages built solely on “feelings.” If our current relationship is no longer fun, then we try another one and our children are left with the greatest suffering. This then becomes generational and before long, joy in a marriage is left out. We must be partners before we are parents and much too often this is missing.

 

And this brings us to 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 then for your whole body to be thrown in 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 to hell.”

It is very difficult to save a marriage that has experienced adultery. The pain of unfaithfulness can be greater then the pain of death itself. The broken vows and trust in a union can be devastating. Only the strongest of marriages can survive.

And infidelity happens in the heart long before it becomes an outward act. In Matthew here, Jesus is attempting to help explain how important it is to be careful with our thoughts and how it can impact our acts. To look at another woman with fantasy develops lust and is just as sinful as the actual act of adultery, because it too often leads to it. No one wakes up and decides to cheat on their spouse, it’s usually the result of lustful thoughts and desires. The battle rages on but it can be won if we guard our hearts and our minds and avoid the temptations that the devil puts before us.

This is why a society lost in sexual fantasy is so harmful, especially for men who are more visually directed then women. First we look, then we lust after, then we take action to satisfy that desire. It’s also the reason the Bible talks about how we dress so as not to create lust in someone else’s mind. Jesus’ point here is to promote a healthy discipline with our minds because it will ultimately impact how we act.

A healthy partnership in marriage is practical. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, “The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.”

Paul recognized here the importance of purity in a marriage. He encouraged those in marriage to continue a healthy sex life so that neither one would be tempted elsewhere. Paul was even-minded, he is equal in his command that they give each other their due. There is no subservient role of women in a Christian home. Both partners are seen having equal needs and equal responsibility.

In our modern society, we see couples who are away from each other a lot, often for extended periods and that can put a strain on a relationship and create the chance for temptation to occur. For this reason we should make sure each other’s needs are met in a relationship as much as possible. Paul’s point here is to act responsibly. Sexual temptations can cause an otherwise disciplined person to go astray – and the end result is a high price to pay for an evening of self satisfaction.

 

The Illinois Department of Natural resources reports that more than 17,000 deer die each year after being struck by motorists on state highways. According to Paul Shelton, state wildlife director, the peak season for road kills is in late fall. Why? The bucks are in rut in November. “They’re concentrating almost exclusively on reproductive activities,” he said, “and are a lot less wary then they normally would be.” Deer aren’t the only ones destroyed by this kind of preoccupation.

It’s a careless spouse, a careless society and a careless world that thinks adultery is only a minor problem or something that everyone is going to do anyway so we should quit being so uptight about it. Adultery undermines the trust and bonding between two people that God has joined together as one. It’s not just a sexual act, it’s a spiritual one. That is why the damage is so severe and powerful when someone is unfaithful.

Think of what marriage would be like if everyone were faithful. What types of diseases would disappear? What benefit would there be to the children of the world? What lesson would be taught?

The 6th commandment was given to allow marriages to experience the deepest sharing, with the greatest joys, and children who would grow up in the most stable of environments.

And how does this relationship that God has given us mirror our own relationship with Christ? Christ also has a bride and it’s His church. How have we become adulterous to Him? After all you’ve heard this morning, does it relate to how we have become an adulterous nation?

We are the bride of Christ and He loved that relationship enough to die for it. The love that Christ shows to His bride should be the example of the love we show to our own spouse.

Throughout Christ’s ministry, His one purpose was relationship both with Him and with each other. Everything he did, He did for our benefit because the relationship He sought with us was worth it to Him. When He spoke out against the mere thought of sexual infidelity He did so out of love because He understood how important a trusting and committed relationship was to us. When He used the illustration of separating ourselves from the eyes and hands that sin, He emphasized the importance of a proper relationship with the Father.

Jesus Christ died so that by His death we could be in relationship and in His death He challenges us to put that same kind of importance in the relationships we have with each other, especially in a marriage. God loves us with a love that transcends our greatest imaginings and that love is to be reflected even in our thoughts.

We need to think about our actions and how they affect those we love. We have to understand that, though the world teaches us one thing, our direction has to come from God. Jesus said that when a man joins himself to a prostitute they become one – not just in flesh but in spirit also. The relationship of one man with one woman can bring great joy when followed God’s way, or great pain when we ignore his instruction.

God knows our weaknesses. He knows that, by our self, we will consistently fall short. What a great blessing then, that God the Father loved us enough to give us his Son. Our walk in life is never alone. In prayer we always have God’s willing ear. When we fall into temptation, we have the promise of the Holy Spirit to pick us up out of the gutter. When we have wondering eyes, we have the power of God behind us to change our focus. When the devil drags us off the narrow path, we have the grace and forgiveness of God through repentance to get us back on track. When out guilt has driven us to our knees, we have the assurance given us through Christ’s death to get us back on our feet.

So I implore you to seek God first and do away with the fantasies that lead to destruction. No bond can be of greater value than that Bond we have with God. God created marriage to mirror that commitment. Stay true to each other and stay true to God. Amen

Bible Study: The Sixth Commandment

 

“You Shall Not Commit Adultery”

What is Adultery? What is the meaning of Adulterate?

Why do you think God included this law in His commandments?

What is the difference between adultery and fornication?

What advantages are there to abstinence before marriage? Can you think of any disadvantages?

What does God have to say about adultery? Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10-13; John 8:1-5; Proverbs 6:20-35; Jeremiah 29: 22-23; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 5:32, 19:9, Hebrews 13:4

Is there a spiritual perspective to adultery?  Explain. Matthew 5:28; Ephesians 5:22-33; 1 John 2:15-17

How should we deal with the sin of adultery today? Isaiah 55:7; Jeremiah 3:12-18; Ephesians 2:4-7

Is marriage only about love? Explain Genesis 2:18

Do you think this is where the world might have it wrong?

What role does the accessibility to pornography and sexually explicit movies play in the struggles in a marriage?

Why is it important for a couple to be married by a pastor rather than be “married in our hearts?”

When does adultery begin? When does the actual sin occur?

What makes a marriage sacred?

How can someone avoid adultery?

What should married couples do when one of them has committed the sin of adultery? John 8:10-11

How would you answer the following question? “I have tried all to forgive and keep our marriage together, but my spouse has decided to divorce me. What do I do?” 1 Corinthians 7:15

Why are some temptations so hard to overcome?

Is there such a thing as a temptation we cannot overcome? 1 Corinthians 10:13

How do we commit adultery against God? Ezekiel 23:37

What other sins could adultery lead to?

“You Shall Not Murder”