In this sermon Tim tackles a challenging part of the Sermon on the Mount: tackling lust, adultery and pornography and how we can be set free! Tim reminds us of the grace and mercy we find in God when we bring these things into the light, repent and find accountability as Jesus transforms this area of our lives!
Sermon preached by Tim Giovanelli on Sunday March 6, 2022.
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I want to start today’s sermon in our series on what did Jesus teach, on lust, by reminding you how for you Jesus is. He is so, so for you!
- Today’s passage is probably one that cuts pretty close to home for a lot of people. Either as something you struggle with or you are affected by.
- So a reminder that Jesus is so for you.
- He desires your life and heart in order to set you free and renew your humanity
- He is so for your relationships and their sanctity.
- He wants to save you from your sin in order that you may flourish and be salt and light in this decaying and dark world.
So apparently all of you have copies of Playboy in your pockets right now! (hold up phone)
- Victoria went to a seminar on children, technology and porn. Someone asked at what age should you allow a kid to have a phone.
- The speaker answered was, “when you are ready for them to have access to pornography”
- We bizarrely live in a time when we all have unfettered access to the 1 billion plus pornography website pages that we can access with a simple swipe and search.
- We live in a sex saturated world.
- And like gambling, alcohol and drugs, it can become an addiction that changes our brains….
- Came across this image of what porn can do to our minds…
This is a real struggle for many. And the stats are scary…
- 79% of men, ages 18-30, actively seek out pornography weekly or more often.
- Women now make up a third of visitors to porn sites. And first access to porn is now estimated to be at 12 years of age.
- Porn sites receive more regular traffic than Netflix, Amazon, & Twitter combined each month.
- A 2015 study found that the consumption of porn was significantly associated with increases in verbal and physical aggression, among males and females alike.
- So this is scary stuff. And a lot of men particularly have said to me, that their addiction to sexual images leaves them feeling shameful, hurts their relationship with their partner and damages their spiritual lives.
- I read 56% of divorces involved one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.” This is serious, serious stuff.
So we want to get real today at church and tackle this complex and damaging area of modern life that affects all of us directly or indirectly!
- If the statistics are right, many people even in the church are walking around with this hidden shame.
- And the consequences of not dealing with lust can be very damaging.
A friend many years ago disclosed to me that a couple in his church suddenly separated.
- Neither came and spoke to him nor would they return his messages.
- Through the grapevine came the usual finger pointing and accusations.
- And then eventually what came out was an addiction to porn that had been discovered.
- And what a mess… feelings of betrayal, shame followed by separation, fights over custody and finances…
- It has been said, porn titillates and then it assassinates….
So what does Jesus have to say about this sex saturated world? Matthew 5:27-30
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, 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. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, 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.
Before we launch into this… Some things from the past 3 weeks… it is a series after all…
Firstly, a reminder that we must not separate the preacher on the mount from the sermon on the mount…
- If we do, we can end up with a merciful Jesus who demands nothing of his followers
- Or we can end up with a sermon that become oppressive legalism or frustrating idealism.
- But held together and we get the one in John’s gospel who we are told came in grace and truth.
- Who loves the sinner but calls us to leave our sin behind
- Who hangs out with the prostitutes and tax collectors, but also calls us to be perfect like our heavenly Father is perfect. Grace and truth!
Next, a reminder that this sermon is about the coming of the kingdom of heaven.
- I don’t have time to give you a theology of the kingdom again…
- But needless to say Jesus calls disciples to follow him as he establishes the reign and rule of heaven on earth….
- A kingdom that involves healing and casting out of evil…
- But also crucially, this ethic of the kingdom in the sermon on the mount. This is what a renewed humanity looks like with Jesus as King.
Next, we talked last week about what righteousness means…
- This righteousness that Jesus says must “surpass the religious teachers” in order for us to enter the kingdom of heaven.
- This righteousness being a relational word meaning our right relatedness…
- So this section is about restored relationship and what can get in the way.
- Hence last week on anger, this week on lust and next week on retaliation.
And I really like what Greg Beech was saying to me this week, about this “not entering the kingdom of heaven.”
- He said to me, this is not about salvation but about enjoying the benefits of the life in the Kingdom. Right?
- The reason Jesus wants righteousness is because that right relatedness brings the life of the kingdom.
- That is why Jesus last week went after anger. If your life is riddled with anger and unreconciled relationships…
- Then you are not entering into your inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.
- Is that good? Thank you Greg!
So we said, how might our righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees?
- Well you might keep the law by never murdering anyone throughout your life…
- Or today, by never committing adultery…
- But Jesus is saying, what good is keeping the law if actually on the inside you are riddled with anger and lust and sin?
- God desires righteousness… not just external conformity to the law… he desires right relatedness in your relationships and inner being.
Ok, and then finally as we set up today from what we have been learning so far…
- A reminder that this sermon is Jesus saving you from your sins. This is an act of love.
- Yes Jesus saves you from your sins on the cross. Yes.
- But Jesus wants to save you from your sins this side of heaven too.
- That is why when Jesus says some pretty hard things today…
- We remember that he is saving us from the diminished life. From the counterfeit life. From the broken sinful life.
- Jesus is going to go after lust and adultery today because he doesn’t want to leave you in your broken state, breaking other people…
So… Matthew 5:27-28 (next slide)
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
My lecturer Darrell Johnson who has been a big help to me in this series so far….
- Reminds us that Jesus does not say this to shame us, or to guilt us. Nor does he go after lust and adultery to rob from us the joy of living.
- Jesus says this to heal us and free us and to make us whole.
- Jesus says this to protect our relationships and marriages.
At another point in his teaching Jesus reminds us that marriage is a blessed and sacred union.
- It is to be between a man and woman, to the absolute exclusion of all others, for life, and within which we are to enjoy sexual intimacy.
- In the OT book Song of Songs we see God’s delight in our sexuality and the gift of pleasure that comes with intimacy with our spouses.
- So sex, although at times, a very primal urge and temptation, is to be protected and cherished and honored before God.
Oh wouldn’t it be amazing, if we all had a clean sheet in this regard…
- It’s tough isn’t it… and I know that before I got married… although I never had sex with anyone before Victoria, I certainly got loads and loads wrong in this regard.
- My guess is most of us identify somewhat with the woman caught in adultery, brought before Jesus, ready to be condemned.
- But instead of stones, thank God Jesus says to her accusers; “you without sin may cast the first stone”
- And as they drop their stones and leave… Jesus says “neither do I condemn you, now go, leave your life of sin.”
So as we said last week, this section is called the fulfillers.
- Jesus says, “You have heard it 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.”
- Jesus is working here with the full implication or meaning of the 7th of the 10 commandments. “you shall not commit adultery.”
- The teachers of the law thought they were fulfilling that by not sleeping with a woman not their wife…
- Jesus says there is more to it than that… I’ve come to fulfil this… Once again I am going after your heart!
- Whoever looks lustfully, violates the inherent meaning of this command…
There is a lot at stake here right?
- Maybe you have committed adultery and know the shame and brokenness and hurt this brings to those around you.
- Maybe you have been cheated on and know the devastating consequences of betrayal.
- But Jesus is saying, if we are going to get to the cause of adultery, we need to tackle lust.
- Afterall, adultery starts with lust. We sow thoughts that become acts, and we reap the destiny.
So what is Jesus saying here?
- Well this is not a casual glance at a beautiful woman or man walking past.
- The Greek word for “lust after” is Epi-the-meoh…
- It means the desire to possess… this is beyond appreciation to wanting to possess… to take hold of and have as you desire. To have your way…
- Maybe the expanded wording of this verse would be “Whoever keeps on looking at a woman in order to lust after her… has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The Protestant reformer Martin Luther taught that lustful thoughts come but you don’t need to invite those thoughts to stay…
- He famously said, “I cant stop a bird from flying over my head… but I can stop a bird from nesting in my hair.”
So Jesus challenges not just external conformity to the law not to commit adultery but to the inner condition of lust…
- What a protector of our lives he is!
- He is going after what truly diminishes us, our lives and our relationships.
- Lust shifts our attentions and desires off our spouses and onto another who we do not belong to. We epi-thee-meoh, we desire to possess another.
- This could be watching porn or sex scenes in a movie… it could be imagining getting it on with a work colleague or neighbour.
- That is why lust is so dehumanizing… in your appetite to titillate over the image or thought of a naked person, or people having sex, you are reducing them to an object for your pleasure.
So Jesus says, take some drastic action… so important is winning this battle, that if your right eye causes you to stumble, if your hand causes you to stumble… gouge it out, cut it off.
- Tough words… because what is at stake is the wholeness of our soul and the bonds of your relationships…
- Now is this literal? I don’t think so. I can fantasize with my eyes closed….
- But he is talking about the seriousness needed of our actions…
- So deadly is unchecked lust, that it would be like treating an amputated leg with a band aid.
So if this is a struggle for you, how do we break the cycle and get whole? 3 things…
- First drastic action: We guard our eyes!
Matt 6:22-23 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.
So Jesus says the eye is the lamp of your body… the eye is the gatekeeper into your life.
- So what we focus on and look at impacts the health of your life.
- It is through our eyes that our body will either be filled with light or darkness..
- So, just as we can cultivate healthy eyes by focussing on pure wholesome things, we are warned against unhealthy eyes that lead to bodies full of darkness.
- So what are we to avoid? What comes to mind for you?
- What are the things that can captivate your attention that lead to darkness rather than light?
- If you were to do a stocktake of your last month… where have your eyes been that don’t fill your life with light and life?
You know, the enemies intention is to blind us to truth and corrupt our minds, and he uses our eyes to gain entrance to our hearts.
- So in this life, he parades before us all manner of evil, from the deluge of pornography on the internet to the temptations at the beach from scantily clad bodies…
- He deludes us into believing that these things will make us happy, fulfilled people, when all the while they are robbing us of the very joy we long for.
- He wants us to allow more and more darkness into our minds through the books we read, the movies we watch, and the images we allow our eyes to linger upon.
I think I have shared this before…. I am incredibly prudish with what I let my eyes see…
- I got to the place about 10 years ago, where I decided for my own spiritual health and the sake of my marriage that I’d cut out seeing any nudity in any form that wasn’t my wife!
- And I am not just talking about the horrendous scourge that pornography is. I don’t even watch movies or television shows with sex scenes… because my eyes are the window to my soul.
- So that may seem really over the top… but I’d say from my perspective… I am missing out on absolutely nothing… and gaining everything!
- Sow a thought, reap an action, form a habit… right?
- See I’d rather miss a few films and keep my mind clean… than possibly go down the slippery slope of unhealthy images and even addiction.
So if this is something that you struggle with, let me encourage you to look into internet filters, and I want to recommend a site called netsanity.com that will help.
- I heard a Pastor this week say: “Why resist a temptation in the future when you have the power to eliminate it today.” (REPEAT)
- You can get filters and settings put on your phones and computers that will block adult material.
- Jesus said “When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light.”
- Jesus says “if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away.”
- So don’t let your eyes be unhealthy… take drastic action.
You’ve got to build some muscle around this area of your life. But it comes through training our minds, living according to the Spirit and getting strong in this area.
- It’s been over 20 years since I looked at porn. And I don’t say that triumphantly but to show that it is possible.
- It’s been 10 years since I watched a sex scene in a movie. And to be honest, it’s not a temptation for me anymore.
- In fact if something does come on, it is just second nature to leave the room or turn it off..
- But I have a great sex life with my wife and praise be to God, a mind cleaned of these images.
- Second drastic action: Bring your sin into the light
Proverbs 28:13 says; “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”
- That’s the promise of God… concealing any type of sin ultimately comes to bite us in the butt! We do not prosper. I told you the tragic story of that unravelled marriage…
- But if we bring the hard bits of our lives into the light by confessing and renouncing… we find mercy!
- Can I simply encourage you to find accountability for this or any other type of sin in your life.
- Confess to God, confess to someone safe and encouraging in your life… and begin healing. What is brought into the light loses its power.
- Third drastic action: Flee
Now if you graduated out of Sunday school and into a youth group you will have been told the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.
- It’s the story of Joseph being seduced and tempted by one of Pharoah’s official’s wife to sleep with him.
- And what does Joseph do? Does he sit down and say; “well maybe we could just be friends…” Haha. No.
- He flees. He runs away… and takes the consequences of then being falsely accused.
- That’s why in 2 Timothy it says; “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace.”
- So flee. Run in the opposite direction to temptation. Do not linger and let the birds nest in your hair!
Well as I come into close… if you want to take drastic action… guarding your eyes, living in the light and fleeing temptation… what will happen?
- There is a good article on the net titled “what porn does to your brain and how to quit.”
- It talks about a 90 day period… that’s how long it takes to retrain your brain.
- First few weeks and months expect an incredible battle. Anxiety, heightened temptation to give in. Probably set backs.
- Your brain craves the dopamine hit that porn and masturbating gives you!
- And it says it takes 3 months before you will find emotional stability and peace and wholeness in this area of your life.
- But then it gets a whole lot easier. And that is my story.
Now obviously, no life this side of heaven will be completely full of light and life… that’s why we need Jesus. And we need each other to be gracious and loving!
- We are complex, complicated souls… we are all works in progress.
- We are Christians because God first loved us! Not because we have it all worked out!
- And only Jesus is the true light of the world…
- And yet we are being brought into a kingdom of light!
- And we are to cooperate with this process by keeping our attention on healthy things in order to live light filled lives!
So are you hungering and thirsting for righteousness?
- As I said last week, there is too much at stake to just acknowledge this teaching on adultery and lust and just move on
- You may get to end of your life and have never committed adultery!
- But too many of us have settled, that lust and addictions are too powerful and given in to what diminishes our lives.
- Jesus is calling you higher…
- Jesus has come to move you into the fulfilment of the prophets and the law.