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Living in the Kingdom

8. Kingdom Morality

(video audio page)

Kingdom Morality

Scriptures: Matthew 5:27-28, Genesis 6:5, Genesis 8:21, Matthew 5:20, Matthew 5:29-30, Matthew 5:28, Job 31:1

1. IMAGINATION: I would like to ask everyone to do something for me. It will help me make my point in today's lesson. I want you to close your eyes and mentally transport yourself to your favorite vacation spot. We will have beach people, mountain people, and city people. How many beach people do we have? Can you see the waves and hear the sand squeaking under your feet? How many mountain people do we have? Do you see the leaves and maybe the ski slopes and hear the fire cracking in the fireplace? How many city people do we have? Do you see the skyline and shops and the shows? Smell the exhaust fumes? You need therapy. Okay, now mentally transport yourself to your childhood table where you ate meals as a child. Do you see the sitting order around the table? Can you see your mom cooking in the kitchen and smell that chicken cooking or that apple pie baking? Okay, come back here. Encouraging you to daydream is probably dangerous when I am about to try and do a teaching.

The point of that exercise is to show us the powerful potential of the imagination. We are created with this fantastic gift of imagination. One thing I can't imagine is life without imagination. The imagination is powerful and has the potential to separate us from the animals or make us like animals. It can take us mentally to where we would love to go or where we have been. It also has the power to excite us emotionally and physically. In today's lesson, Jesus recognizes and talks about the power of the imagination.

Matthew 5:27 "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.'

Matthew 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.It is from the heart imaginations come. The verse where we find the first use of heart is also the verse we find the first use of imagination. If you are a Bible student, then you know the importance of first use. It's the seed use. All other uses will come from the first use. The heart and the power of imagination are directly linked.

Genesis 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 8:21 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

The context of Genesis 6:5 has some sexual implications as it speaks of the "sons of God" and "the daughters of men." The point is there is a direct link between the imagination of the thoughts and the heart. Jesus said that adultery is more than a physical act. The physical act is the external part. That's only half the problem. It has already been imagined in the heart and that too is adultery and that is as bad.

2. YOU HAVE HEARD: Jesus quoted the seventh of the ten commandments. "Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Exo 20:14). What's wrong with that command? Nothing is wrong with the command. The problem is in what they had heard.

What they had heard was sexual fantasies were acceptable as long as they were not carried out. They had heard that it was okay to reduce a person to a sexual fantasy as long as the act was not carried out. How many of us have ever heard something like that or thought something like that? Don't raise your hands. It's basically what we have heard also.

Let's make certain we see exactly what Jesus said. In 5:20 Jesus said that sort of righteousness will not allow us into the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

In 5:29 and 5:30, he said it can cause a person to be thrown into hell.

Matthew 5:29 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 than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Matthew 5:30 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 into hell.

As we saw last time, a "sinner's prayer" will not stop that from happening nor will my giving tithes or giving offerings. Wouldn't it be great if they did?

3. AGE AND GENDER NOT THE PROBLEM: Jesus said this on the mountain side that day in a mixed setting of men and women and children. Can you imagine the gasp that went through the crowd? I can imagine people turning to one another and asking, "What did he just say? Did he say what I thought he said? Does he mean what I think he means? He shouldn't be talking about that if front of my wife and children." Somebody needed to because what they had heard would send them to hell.

I remember a time years ago. I was in my twenties and experiencing all the testosterone that some twenty-year-old experiences. Somehow a man that worked for me who was in his fifties and I were having a 'guy' conversation. I asked him when did the power of that drive subside. He looked at me and said, "Well, I'm fifty-three and it hasn't stopped yet." This isn't something that we will get past when we get older or will one day just go away. I do admit my engine doesn't run at the rpm it used to run. I said something like that a few years ago in a teaching session and a man thirty years my elder came up to me afterwards saying, and I quote, "Speak for your self." Everyone is on equal ground here. We may never have committed the physical act of adultery, but that's not good enough.

4. SOCIETY NOT THE PROBLEM: I was thinking about the society to which Jesus spoke this. That was the most "religious" society that had every existed. Women wore garments that covered every inch of skin. Perhaps their hands and feet were seen, but their faces were veiled and their bodies totally covered. Men's dress was similar except for the veil. What was to create lust images other than the imagination? I saw that society actually has little to do with adulterous imaginations. Fixing society and the magazines and the movies and the Internet will not fix the problem. The problem is not society. The problem is the heart.

Let's be realistic. Sometimes we are like the Ostrich sticking its head in the sand. If we were to go to an island with no television, movies, Internet, or magazines, would that stop the imaginations of our heart? It didn't work in Noah's day. I know. All the women can become nuns and all the men can become monks. Surely that will fix it. No, it won't because society is not the problem. It is the heart.

5. SOLUTION: What are we to do? What is the solution? If we won't grow out of it and society is not the problem, then what is the answer? Jesus did not only give the problem. He gave the solution.

Matthew 5:29 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 than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Matthew 5:30 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 into hell.

So what we are going to do is line up and do this. I have a large spoon to gouge out all our right eyes and I have a sharp hatchet to cut off all our right hands. Who would like to be first? I think the elders should be first, and then all the attendants, and then everyone else. You guys don't seem excited about this. Don't you realize that this will keep you from going to hell? How many of us realize that was not what Jesus was preaching on the mountain that day. No one lined up to have their right eye gouged out or their right hand cut off.

Let's reason a second. Could surgery correct the problem? Let's say a person has a horrible problem with lust and is addicted to lust. It's a constant battle. All day long lustful images bombard his or her mind. So, he or she gouges out their right eye and throws it away. After the pain stopped will, their mind stop having lustful images? No. What about the hand? That same person after gouging out his or her right eye cuts off the right hand and throws it away. Will that terminate lustful imaginations? No. How about the removal of his testicles or her undergoing a sex change operation? No because the right eye, right hand, testicles, or organs were not the problem. The imaginations of the heart are the problem.

Let's look at 5:28-30 again. This time look for the true problem.

Matthew 5:28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Matthew 5:29 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 than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Matthew 5:30 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 into hell.

In the example given by Jesus, he said gouge out and cut off the thing that "causes you to sin." The right eye and right hand were not causing the person to sin. What caused the sin was the lustful looking. The way the person saw people was the problem. A man who sees a woman only as a sexual object must gouge out that attitude and throw it away. That person is a treasure of God. A woman who sees a man as a pleasure toy or a security blanket must cut off that attitude and throw it away. Let me go a little deeper. A man who lustfully looks at another man or a woman who lustfully looks at another woman must gouge out and cut off that attitude. That person is a treasure of God. One more step. A person who lustfully looks at a child and reduces an innocent child to a sexual fantasy must gouge deep and cut deep. If not, hell awaits. We have reduced God's most precious treasures - PEOPLE - to sexual objects.

6. JESUS MADE THIS PERSONAL: A final thought on this. Jesus made this extremely personal. He said, "If your right eye . . . if your right hand . . ." The things that fuel my heart to think lustful thoughts may not be the same that fuel your thoughts. It's what affects my right eye and my right hand. You may be left-handed. For example, I told someone once that I was going to walk down the beach, spend some time with the Lord, and do a little praying. He said, "Sure you are! All those half naked women laying around out there will certainly be good prayer environment." I thought, "Do what? All I am going to do is walk and pray." I remember thinking that he obviously had a problem with women on the beach in skimpy swimsuits. That's not a problem with me. Now, I can't go into a theater with a screen filled with lustful images and not be affected even if I cover my right eye and tie my right hand behind me. I know what will fuel my heart. I must gouge out and cut off anything like that. You know what will fuel your heart. "Cut it off!"

Do you remember the story about the mother telling her young son that he would go blind if he continued to lust? The boy asked his mother if he could lust until he needed glasses. Sometimes we are like that as adults. We want to look as long as we can. We want to get as close as we can to lusting without lusting. I learned this and made a covenant with my eyes. Let me show you.

Job 31:1 "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl.

Job was saying that he refused to feed his lust. If he looked too long or too often or with the wrong attitude, he knew he would sin. If we "cut off" the fuel to an engine, the engine will stop running. Some engines are running out of control. Some of us really need to make a covenant with our eyes. Some of us really need to make a covenant not to see certain movies, look at certain magazines, visit certain web sites on the Internet, etc. What is it that you need to "gouge out" of your life? What is it that you need to "cut off" and throw away from your life?

This past week a pastor friend of mine had attended a men's retreat at which the subject of sexual addiction was addressed. The teacher said that his experience had been that in about 80% of the time when a person was delivered from sexual addiction, their income doubled the first year. The mind was clear. They were able to focus and not be distracted. In addition, God blessed them. I just wanted to add that as an incentive.

So, what have you heard about adultery? Is it what Jesus said? What's the main thing you heard today? I hope it's deal with lustful looking. It's serious business.


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