Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall 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 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. 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. (NIV) Matthew 5:27-30
Dark green with a wimpy stance, my first car cost $600 and provided semi-reliable transportation through high school and college.
It was easy to work on and I customized it with school colors and custom wheels in keeping with a yard mowing (lawn mower fit in the trunk) and farm labor budget. This practical beauty served me well, but she did surprise along the way.
Like the day I was shifting from first to second and the shifter broke off in my hand. I was stuck in second gear, lurching along, but at least I was moving forward!
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were stuck in the wrong gear too. But, instead of moving forward, their outward focus had them stuck in reverse. Rather than drawing nearer to the kingdom of God, they were backing away – fast.
We might say that the Pharisees were more brand conscious than kingdom conscious. They found their value, security, and meaning in outward things back in ancient times like those of us who name-drop brands of shoes or handbags in present times. This corrupted way of life guided their spiritual journey away from heaven toward hell. It doesn’t have to be that way for us!
Our relationship with Jesus and others is all about the heart. Explaining why God chose David (Jesse’s youngest of twelve sons) to replace Saul as king of Israel, the prophet Samuel said, “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV).
With God’s perspective in mind, we shouldn’t be surprised when Jesus says “that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” v.27, (Jesus is not saying that natural attraction is wrong. Only when natural attraction turns into lustful thoughts).
We might ask that if adultery begins in the heart and mind, why does Jesus advise tearing out eyes and cutting off arms to avoid the sin of adultery? He does so to expose the logical outcome of practicing external obedience. The person who practices external obedience must ultimately remove their eyes and hands to stop sinning. This, of course, is preposterous.
Jesus doesn’t expect us to physically kill or maim ourselves to remain pure. The Lord is saying that all of the external disciplines we can imagine will not address a heart that is corrupted by unrestrained lust. Only a heart transformed from the inside out by the power of Jesus can make the big shift from selfish lust to selfless love.
Making the shift from selfish lust to selfless love begins with a cultivated mind. We cultivate the mind of Christ when we replace old ways of thinking with new, starting by taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5).
Instead of allowing our thoughts to run without check, we take them captive immediately, confess them quickly, and direct our minds onto whatever is pure (Philippians 4:8).
To what degree do we take thoughts captive? Paul answers this way, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality or of any kind of impurity or of greed because these are improper for God’s holy people” Ephesians 5:3(NIV).
Taking every thought captive starts with the smallest hint…take it captive immediately, confess it quickly, direct our minds to whatever is pure.
Paul further advises us to, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies” 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (NIV).
The act of fleeing means we must shift with a sense of urgency to take our thoughts captive, not treat them casually.
We are reminded as well to, “behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” Romans 13:13-14 (NIV).
Instead of remaining stuck in the wrong gear with dead patterns of living, let’s shift our time and effort into clothing ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ through prayer, Bible reading and application, and life in community with other Christ followers who can pray for us and hold us accountable.
Shifting our minds and hearts out of the chains of lust is challenging. But, we can be made new from the inside out when we put on the Lord Jesus Christ, take thoughts captive immediately, confess quickly, and direct our minds whatever is pure by the power that Jesus supplies!
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Dear Lord, I am grateful for your love and wisdom. I know that you can make my heart and mind new as I fully trust in you. Holy Spirit, remind me moment by moment to take every thought captive so that my mind, heart, and actions are aligned with pure motives and authenticity. May it be so in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE FOR THE WEEK:
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!