Last week, when we looked at the portion of this Sermon that deals with ANGER, after the service, several of YOU came up to me and accused me of preaching directly at THEM.  Well, all I can say is, with what we will look at this morning, the portion that deals with LUST, the REST of us should be feeling the pinch.

So first of all, let’s remember what Jesus was doing with this message: He was intending to take the LAWS that God had handed down, but which the SCRIBES and PHARISEES and RABBIS had then CHANGED into something that was CONTRARY to God’s intentions.

Take something as BASIC as the 10 Commandments…the Jewish teachers looked at them from a purely MECNANICAL aspect.  They determined that, as to the 10th Commandment, “Thou Shall Not Covet”, as long as they didn’t make any actual attempts to TAKE that which his neighbor had…in this case that would be his WIFE…as long as he made no attempt to TAKE his neighbor’s wife, he had OBEYED the Commandment NOT to COVET her.

Obviously, WE understand that God’s Laws included the importance of the HEART, but the teachers were completely IGNORING that, and this is where the Lord is intending to bring BACK that aspect.  Unfortunately, many people TODAY still think they can DO this…that they can worship God, and can obtain His Salvation, based strictly on what THEY have done, or NOT done.

And THAT means they do NOT truly UNDERSTAND the way of Salvation.  NOT doing certain things, or making SURE that they DO certain OTHER things, will NEVER make them RIGHTEOUS in the Eyes of God.

The TEACHERS said “as long as you do not commit the actual ACT of adultery, you have KEPT the Law.  But JESUS said “If you look at a woman…or a MAN!…I’m not letting you LADIES off the hook…look at someone to LUST after them in your heart, you HAVE committed adultery ALREADY”!

I will maintain that THIS interpretation, in the Words of Jesus, does more to expose the ENORMITY of sin in America, than anything else you can think of.

It makes it extremely difficult for ME, as a red-blooded man of French descent, because I can find SOMETHING beautiful, in ANY woman.  I enjoy LOOKING at them…and in truth, THAT is something that GOD has placed in our DNA.  If WOMEN were NOT attractive to MEN, the whole RACE would have died OUT, back there in the Garden of EDEN.

BUT, there is a FINE line between ADMIRING a member of the opposite sex, and actually LUSTING after them.  And that is something that the people of the WORLD don’t seem to understand.  Do you remember the example of Jimmy Carter, during his Presidential campaign?

HE was at the time, a consummate Southern gentleman, a Sunday School teacher and card-carrying member of the Southern Baptist Convention.  And he was asked by a magazine writer if he had been faithful to his wife in all the years of their marriage.

Just being asked that question should have caused Jimmy to say “Why don’t you ask me something about my platform instead of sticking your nose into my personal affairs”?

But he didn’t.  Instead he said “Well, I will confess to having LUSTED after women in my heart”.  Now, another Christian, hearing that, would have understood that Jimmy was just confessing to being HUMAN, and would have responded “Amen, Brother.  We’re all weak”.

But that magazine writer didn’t KNOW that, and in the article he wrote following that confession, portrayed Jimmy Carter as a first-class PHILANDERER.  And I think WE, as believers, can understand how that writer was thinking, because the whole IDEA of “SIN”, isn’t all that well understood WITHIN the CHURCH, let alone out there in the WORLD.

And unless we DO gain a very CLEAR understanding OF the doctrine of sin, we can never understand the true way of Salvation.  I mean, WHY did Jesus have to DIE, in horrible AGONY, on the Cross of Calvary?

Unless you understand that SIN is a matter of the HEART, and NOT so much a matter of the FLESH, YOU CANNOT understand WHY Jesus had to DIE!  Obviously, God demanded a PERFECT Sacrifice for the sins of Man, and ONLY Jesus, as a PERFECT Man, could SUPPLY that PERFECT Sacrifice.  In fact, if not for God’s demand FOR a Perfect Sacrifice, the whole INCARNATION event would NEVER have HAPPENED.

But that is how PROFOUND this matter of SIN is.  Just TELLING Man what to DO, and NOT do…isn’t enough.  God proved THAT, with the GIVING of the Law, at Sinai.  In all the CENTURIES the LAW was in effect, NO one managed to KEEP it, until Jesus.  That’s why the Bible tells us “There is NONE righteous, No, not one”!  That’s Romans 3:10, quoting Psalms 14:1.

Until you understand how SERIOUSLY God views sin, you can’t understand that you cannot be Saved by ANYTHING that you DO!…that there is NOTHING in your FLESH that you can DO to satisfy God’s demand for PAYMENT for sin.  The FLESH is forever drawn to sin, and in order to BE Saved, you “MUST BE BORN AGAIN”, as Jesus told the teacher of Israel who came to Him at night.  ONLY by the means of a NEW Birth, can you gain a vessel worthy of containing God’s Holy Spirit; that’s that NEW NATURE we looked at earlier.

So Jesus took the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees, and turned it around, from a prohibition of giving way to the flesh, and made it a matter of the HEART.  He said ‘just not DOING the deed isn’t enough.  You must CONDEMN even the THOUGHTS of the HEART.

There are people in EVERY church who are actually SMUG in self-satisfaction, based on what they do NOT do.  They don’t MURDER…that’s what we looked at last week.  They have never actually taken a gun and KILLED somebody.  But there are PLENTY of people walking around that they HATE!  That would be people that don’t AGREE with them, that they are so PERFECT, based on what they DON’T do.

And there are people in churches saying they are Christians, but also saying “Oh man, I’d never cheat on my wife, but BOY HOWDY if I COULD, I’d sure take a run at that cute little blonde in the choir”!  And never do they realize that they just then COMMITTED Adultery in their heart.  They wouldn’t BELIEVE you, if you TOLD them.

In 2nd Corinthians 13:5, Paul told those who claimed to be Christians, to “examine yourselves, as to whether you are in the Faith”.  Every month, when we observe the Lord’s Supper, and we read the verses in 1st Corinthians where Paul recalled how the Lord had appeared to him, and told him HOW we are to MAKE that observance…he also gives us a WARNING, before we partake of the elements, that we “examine ourselves”…to SEARCH our hearts, to see if we find any EVIL there…any SECRET SINS there”…any HIDDEN FANTISIES that we would NEVER THINK of actually ACTING on!

We say “those are just MIND GAMES!  I’d never actually DO them, so there’s no FAULT…no SIN”!…and then we come here to Jesus’ Words that say “If you only THINK of the deed, you have as much as COMMITTED it, and have become GUILTY”.

Just like MURDER is not so much the ACTION of taking another’s life, but it is the ANGER, that we allowed to become HATRED, that COULD lead to the commission of the deed.  HERE He says that ADULTRY is NOT just to commit the physical ACT, but to harbor LUST in your HEART, whether you ever ACT on it or NOT, that makes you GUILTY!

To COMMIT a sin, is just a SYMPTOM of a DISEASE called “SIN”, and it is not so much the SYMPTOMS that matter, but the DISEASE, that POLLUTES the SOUL, and WILL KILL the body.  That is the TRUTH the Lord is presenting here.

The fact that you haven’t committed the ACT of adultery, doesn’t mean that you are not GUILTY of adultery, and that is because SIN is not a matter of the FLESH so much as it is a matter of the HEART.  That’s why God said in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”, and it’s ONLY within the heart, that sin must be dealt with.

And for that reason, Jesus went on to explain about the PERVASIVENESS of sin, in verses 29-30…to say that “if your EYE causes you to sin…” the King James Version says “offends thee”…or “if your HAND causes you to sin…CUT it OFF, and cast it from you…for it is better that you go through life MAIMED, rather than have a WHOLE body, and be thrown into hell”.

Now, you understand that Jesus isn’t really condoning SELF-MUTILIATION, because EVEN if you DID that, it wouldn’t CURE the CAUSE of your sin, which is YOUR HEART, and you KNOW you’re not capable of removing your own HEART!  He’s using this GRAPHIC, DRASTIC illustration, to point out the SERIOUSNESS of SIN and EVIL DESIRE.

And that graphic illustration is; it would be better for you to live with a MAIMED body, than to allow your EVIL HEART to cause you to be thrown into hell with a COMPLETE body.

So if your EYE constantly draws you to SINFUL SIGHTS…or if your HAND continually causes you to COMMIT sinful ACTS…then you must DISCIPLINE yourself…CHASTISE yourself!  UNDERSTAND that it is the FLESH that is DRAWN to sin, and in the HEART where sin is carried out, FIRST…BEFORE it EVER takes place out in the WORLD.

Remember, the ACTUAL sin, is the SYMPTOM, it is what LEADS you TO the sin that MATTERS.  That’s why He said if your RIGHT hand offends YOU.  The RIGHT hand, usually, is the CLEVER hand, the more IMPORTANT hand…at least it is for ME…I can’t even wave ‘good-bye’ with my LEFT hand!

But the METAPHOR He’s making here is that it may COST you something, to get right with God.  It might mean that you have to make some SACRIFICES, in severing certain RELATIONSHIPS, or cutting out certain favorite ACTIVITIES.  But the ALTERNATIVE, is the possible loss of ETERNITY!

And then in verse 31 we come to the Lord’s teaching on DIVORCE, and you might wonder what does THAT have to do with the SIN of the BODY?  This same subject will be discussed in the 19th chapter of Matthew, as well as the 10th chapter of Mark, the 16th chapter of Luke and the 7th chapter of 1st Corinthians.  In each of those incidents, the teaching was the same and the teaching was CONTRARY to the teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees.

God Himself had instituted marriage, and was very clear about what it meant.  Jesus, in answering this charge, was referencing Genesis 2: 24, where God created marriage as the very first human institution, and made it a permanent relationship.  That verse read “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and be ‘JOINED’ to his wife, and they shall become one flesh”.

The King James Version says “CLEAVE unto his wife”.  The idea being expressed, in our modern time, could be stated “super-glued together”.  It was a PERMANENT union and intended to REMAIN that way until the death of either of the partners.

But the RABBIS, when THEY spoke of divorce, were referencing Deuteronomy 24:1, which says that they are to remain married until the HUSBAND finds no FAVOR in her, or discovers some UNCLEANESS in her.  So the Rabbis taught that if a man simply GOT TIRED of his wife…or even if she BURNED his BISCUITS, he could just give her a PAPER on which he had written “I divorce YOU”, and he could then be free to marry someone else.

And HERE is where Jesus tied ADULTERY and DIVORCE together.  Man is a cunning creature, and when his wife starts showing signs of AGE, and his neighbor’s DAUGHTER looks YUMMY, all he had to do was DUMP the WIFE and then MARRY the NEW one.

But his REASON for DOING that, was SEXUAL, and therefore ADULTERY, as he was INTENDED to remain with the woman that God GAVE him as long as both were alive.  And since the woman treated so shabbily in this incident, will now have no means of support and will need to find another marriage partner for that purpose…EVERYone involved is guilty of adultery.

Remember, Jesus introduced this example by saying “It has been SAID…” NOT “It has been WRITTEN”.  So He’s not comparing His own teaching with the teaching of MOSES, which was given by God…but rather He’s speaking of the way the CURRENT JEWISH teachers have CHANGED the teaching.

So to terminate a marriage after one of the members had committed adultery, and here Jesus uses the WIFE as the offending party…since this action would usually be instigated by the HUSBAND…but in the example He cites, the DIVORCE is simply recognition that the marriage has already BEEN dissolved, by introducing a THIRD party…BUT, He says, any OTHER reason is invalid.

But, in Mark’s account of this teaching, Jesus said “Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate”…or “put asunder” as King James Version reads.  My Tyndale New Testament Commentary’s remark on this sections reads like this…”The application of this RADICAL ideal, in a society where divorce is now seen as ‘normal’, will present serious problems for the church.  But those problems are not to be avoided, by failing to take seriously Jesus’ absolute declaration of God’s will on the subject, which is “unbroken marriage, until death do us part”.

One thing we should probably mention is that, in the 24th chapter of Deuteronomy which the Rabbis were using to justify divorce, you need to see that the word ‘adultery’ is not USED in the matter of divorce, for the simple REASON that, anyone found guilty OF adultery, was to be STONED to DEATH, so THAT marriage really WAS ‘til death do us part’.

In the 19th chapter of Matthew, where the Jewish teachers trying to justify themselves, had asked Jesus, in 19:3…”Is it permitted for a man to divorce his wife for ANY reason at ALL?”…which was the current teaching…a man could dream up ANY reason at ALL to justify divorce…but Jesus told them “No!  When two are wed they become one flesh, so what God had joined together let not man separate”.

So they asked Him in verse 7 “Why then did Moses COMMAND that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce, and put her away”?  But of course MOSES never said anything of the KIND.  That was just another example of the Rabbis TWISTING the Scriptures to suit their own desires.

What MOSES had done, under God’s leading, was to ALLOW a man who was DETERMINED to divorce his wife ANYWAY…and his REASON would ALWAYS be that he wanted someone ELSE!…since the subject here is STILL concerned with ADULTERY…he’s GONNA do this ANYway!…so Moses ALLOWED that man to give her a ‘certificate of divorce’, to PROTECT the WIFE,…NOT to EXCUSE the HUSBAND!

This ‘exception clause’ was clearly intended to protect the INNOCENT wife from the STIGMA of ‘one who committed adultery’.

But let me say this concerning this matter of divorce, which was never God’s intention for marriage, but which has now become the NORM for marriage…because it’s easy to overlook.

I’ve been in churches, especially in the deep South, where DIVORCE was considered as the UNFORGIVEABLE sin…where divorced people were not allowed to hold ANY office in a church.

I even knew a guy, Joe Moore, who was divorced, because his wife had run off with another man…but Joe was as faithful as the day is long, and he fulfilled ALL the qualifications for the office of deacon.  But the Pastor OF that church refused to even CONSIDER him, because he WAS divorced.

In that meeting, I brought up the fact that Joe was LIGTIMATELY divorced, but the Pastor wouldn’t budge.  He said “He has the POTENTIAL of marrying again, and then being guilty of ADULTERTY”.

I said “C’mon!  We ALL have the POTENTIAL for sinning!  We’re sinful creatures”!  But he wouldn’t budge.

So let me point your attention to 1st John 1:9…yes, God doesn’t want His people to divorce.  But today divorce is ‘normal’.  Almost HALF of ALL marriages WILL end IN divorce.  How are Christians supposed to deal with it?  “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to FORGIVE us our sins, and to cleanse of from ALL unrighteousness.”

God wants marriage to last.  He wants His children to work out their problems.  But when divorce is inevitable, please remember that God still loves you, and if you will CONFESS that YOU have sinned, He WILL forgive you!

And I don’t want anyone to go home saying “that preacher said it was alright for me to divorce you”.  I DIDN’T say that.  What I said was…God loves YOU.  And when YOU sin and confess the sin, He forgives you.

So let me make a little play on the words of Jesus.  HE said “what God has joined together, let not man separate”.

Let ME say “What God has FORGIVEN, let not man condemn”.

And let’s go into a time of invitation…and obviously, after this teaching there may be some here feeling pretty bad about themselves, so just let me remind you of God’s LOVE as well as FORGIVENESS.

It is in the HEART where these problems begin, so in the HEART, let God’s Forgiveness ease the hurt.