Today as we continue our series “The Ten Suggestions” my hope is that you have discovered that the Ten Commandments were much more than ten suggestions. That the privilege of freedom brings with it responsibility. Responsibility to use that freedom wisely for the glory of God and the good of others. When God gave the Ten Commandments, they were much more than a list of laws for governing life. In the law God's reveals his righteousness; it’s a mirror showing us our sins and stripping us of our self-righteousness, so that we would cry out for the mercy and grace of God. My prayer throughout this series and always, is that you would hear me bringing God’s Word to you in a practical and helpful way.
So this morning we’re continuing our study of the Ten Commandments and we’re in Exodus 20:14, commandment number seven, which simply says this:
“You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)
One day I was out in the yard with the weed eater and I was just buzzing along when in a careless instant, I took out a flower my wife had been caring for. Have you ever been there… ever done that… well I was shocked in that instant, because I realized there was nothing I could do to fix this. I had just destroyed in a split second, months of my wife’s caring and nourishing for this plant.
And you know what? Adultery is just like that. It betrays. It crushes. It destroys our relationships… but we can prevent it.
In Psalm 128:3, the psalmist says that a wife is “a fruitful vine” and that children are like “olive shoots” blessings that sit around your table. I think that is such a perfect illustration that the Holy Spirit gives comparing marriage to a vine. Because in marriage, you’ve got to tend to it carefully, you’ve got to invest, you’ve got to wait, you’re going to need to be patient as it grows and becomes fruitful.
But suddenly, the temptation is there, and adultery is literally cutting the vine off near the base. Like with my weed eater, that once healthy fruitful vine is now just a twig sticking out of the ground and the plant begins to wither. But here is what we need to do. We need to go back to that same vine and continue to nourish it, to reinvest, to wait patiently, to start over, and give it the time to grow and bear fruit again. And for some of you today, I hope that’s the path that God would help you to choose; because whether you’re married or not yet married, eventually the vine will come back and over time it will be a fruitful vine, it will be back to where it originally was.
So God our Father, meets with his kids at the base of the Mountain, Mt Sinai, and he wants to protect us, to do what’s best for us, and so he speaks to us and says, “You shall not commit adultery.” And I know there are some of you, who have already done this, and you are wondering what to do next. You know, you’re like me standing there with the weed eater in your hand looking at this little twig sticking out of the flower bed. And some you haven’t yet done this… and maybe you don’t feel the sense of urgency that you should.
So to begin with, I want to share a little bit about what marriage is. You know we hear that a lot these days. We live in a day that is confused about everything. Creation, sexuality, and particularly the institution of marriage are under attack. So let me just start by saying that marriage in the Bible is a very sacred thing. It is holy and it is created by God. He’s actually the minister who officiates the first wedding between Adam and Eve. He brings the first man and the first woman together. And so God is the one who institutes this great gift of marriage.
And according to God’s Word, first of all, marriage is a covenant. Malachi chapter two says, “The LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant” (Malachi 2:14). Marriage is a biblical covenant which is much much more than a civil ceremony or a legal arrangement. It’s not just two business partners merging into one firm. The biblical Christian understanding of marriage is that it is covenantal; meaning that it’s two people in a permanent binding agreement with God who oversees the covenant. And so this is why we see marriage differently than our culture does.
It also means that we don’t allow people to get married who don’t meet the biblical criteria. A believer and an unbeliever can’t get married because to be in covenant with one another, they first need to be in covenant with God. And so our view of marriage in the Church is entirely guided by God’s Word and it doesn’t matter what vote is taken, what the politicians or lawyers determine; what we care about is what God has said.
Now in our culture, people don’t believe that… but here at CCC, the Lord says, we’re not to conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans12:2). You see, the Bible says, “The world through its wisdom did not know God” (1 Corinthians 1:21). In Romans 8:7, “The sinful mind is hostile to God.” That’s what it says in the Word of God. So as Christians, we think differently, we have a different view of marriage. We believe we’re made male and female in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). And that marriage is defined as a covenant, a holy union, between one man and one woman, made with, and in the presence, of God (Genesis 2:24).
This is important, because according to God in the Scriptures, marriage is an illustration… it’s a foreshadowing of something greater. It tells us that marriage is a picture of Jesus’ love for the church. You can read this in Ephesians chapter five, where it says that, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
The reference here of presenting her to himself as a radiant church, is the image of a bride walking down the aisle, and is seen in the culmination of history where the Bible says, “For the wedding of the Lamb has come and his bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7). Now how many of you love a wedding? The reason why everybody wants to have a wedding is because they’re made in the image of God. And even if they don’t know God, even if there in rebellion against God, deep inside they know and long for that day. The Bible says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” (Revelation 19:9). And so the ultimate, the greatest wedding of all, is the wedding between Jesus and his people. The Bible tells us that world history ends when the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, presents the Church to himself in Heaven, like “a bride beautifully dressed for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).
Now of course, those of us who are men have a difficult time relating, but together as the Church we can relate to Jesus with love, respect, commitment, and faithfulness. So we don’t worship other gods because that’s cheating. That’s why in the Bible, idolatry, is called adultery. When we have misplaced priorities, when we’re worshiping other gods, we’re cheating on Jesus. When we participate in false religions and spiritualities, we’re cheating on Jesus. And so the Church is to be like a bride, Jesus is the groom, and the blessings of marriage are to prepare us for that ultimate reality in Heaven.
Therefore marriage is something greater than cohabitation recognized in a civil ceremony. Marriage is covenantal, it’s an illustration of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Church, and the eternal kingdom of God. And therefore, the blessings of marriage, are for those people who are in covenant… in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and the consummation of that relationship is spiritual. You see, after the resurrection, just like a bride would go to live with her husband, all of God’s people will go to his kingdom, to the place that Jesus is preparing for us right now (John 14:1-4).
So the picture in the Word of God is clearly of a bride and a groom. In Genesis 2:24 God tells us, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife...” Now get this… this is so important, that Moses records it, Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul restate it (Matthew 19:4; Ephesians 5:31). And you know why? Because it doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter what you or I think. If God, Moses, Jesus, and Paul voted, that trumps all other votes, even the Supreme Court vote. This is something greater
This is why it’s a covenant. It’s important. It’s a binding agreement. Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate." (Matthew 19:6). So we want to be faithful; Christian marriage is between a man and a woman in covenant with God; who joins, seals, and ratifies the agreement. God who created us, who is faithful to us, and who instituted the sacrament of marriage, says in Genesis 2:24: “They will become one...”
So, what happens… what happens when you violate the terms of the covenant? What happens when you’re unfaithful and commit adultery? Well there are penalties in the Bible: one in the Old Testament, one in the New Testament, and one in the kingdom of God. In the Old Testament, the penalty for adultery is death. “If a man commits adultery with another man's wife — with the wife of his neighbor — both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10).
You see, under the Old Covenant there wasn’t a program for repeat offenders. You commit adultery, you die, and life goes on. So in the Old Testament the penalty was death; in the New Testament, in the New Covenant, the penalty was divorce. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus says, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery." So the allowable clause, the exception for divorce is marital unfaithfulness (adultery). It is the only thing that is hurtful enough and destructive enough to take that marriage covenant and tear it in half.
So in the Old Testament, the penalty for adultery was death. In the New Testament, the penalty for adultery was divorce. And in the Eternal Kingdom, the penalty for adultery is damnation. You can go to hell for this. I know I’m going to get in trouble with this sermon anyway, so let’s just jump in with both feet and look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
The Bible says, “Do not be deceived”. You see, there are things that we in America have parades for that God sends people to hell for. They will have no part of the Kingdom of God. So what I am saying is that we should be concerned; not everyone is saved. Not everyone knows Jesus. Not everyone is forgiven. Not everyone is going to heaven. You can read the list right here.
Consider this: we live in a culture which celebrates lust and adultery. I mean when’s the last time you heard a popular song about a faithfully married couple, who loved one another, grew old together, and didn’t cheat on one another? We’re living in a culture that’s absolutely unrestrained, out of control, and celebrating things that we should be ashamed of.
Romans 8:6-8 addresses this saying, “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”
And what we’re talking about is two minds. The mind set on the Spirit submits to God and his word, submits to God’s laws, and wants to obey God’s commands. The mind that is hostile, doesn’t submit to God’s law, and it isn’t just passively indifferent, it is actively defiant. And you can go to hell for that.
So as we close my question to you is, what’s your mindset?
For those of you who are single. Let me give you some practical advice. You don’t have to have sex. Jesus lived, died, and rose a virgin okay? And part of the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness and self-control. I know in our day, we make jokes about forty-year-old virgins, but let me assure you that sexual immorality, which is any sexual activity, before or outside the boundaries of marriage, is practicing to cheat; because if you’re sexually involved with, sleeping with, or have slept with multiple people, that’s not preparing you to be faithful to one person. Sleeping around never results in not sleeping around. This is why the Bible describes abstinence before marriage and faithfulness in marriage.
Okay now how about those of you who are married. Once you get married, the best defense against unfaithfulness is frequency and freedom (1 Corinthians 7:4-5). I know there are young people here so I’m not going to go into any detail, but you married couples get my point right?
So anyway, I want to share some practical things with you and first there’s never an excuse for adultery. You see, sexual sin starts with your eyes. That’s why Job says, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (Job 31:1). Adultery starts with who you look at, what you look at, what you click on, and what you’re enticed by. So guard your eyes and then Romans 12:1 says, to “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship”. You see, we are worshipers, we worship with our bodies, because that’s what we were created to do. So we just need to be more purposeful and nurture our deepest desires.
Paul says in Galatians that the Spirit and the flesh (or the sinful nature) war against one another and that the flesh keeps you from doing what you want to do. So he tells us, “Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:16). So if you’re a Christian, you may have temptations, but your deepest desire is for purity and the things of the Spirit. You’ll want to be faithful to your spouse. You’ll want to grow old together. You’ll want to take care of one another. So nurture your deepest desires. If you nurture your deepest desires you’ll stay out of trouble.
On the other hand, if you settle for pornography and adultery the problem is not that your desires are too weak, you just need to be more passionate and nourish your deepest desires. You see, faithfulness requires both a passion to want to be faithful and a plan for how to be faithful. If you don’t want to be faithful, no plan is going to work. If you want to be faithful, that’s a good start, but then you need a plan for how to maintain your faithfulness. And I would suggest that in the world in which we live, you need to know your strengths and weaknesses. And what I am saying is you need a little personal legalism. That’s where, in addition to the teachings of Scripture, you know where you’re weak and vulnerable so you put some safeguards, some boundaries in your life. Not to impose them on others, but for yourself. Does that make sense?
And then you look down the road, you look at your goal, what you want for your future. I can tell you what I want: I want to grow old with Dana. I want to be friends with her. I want to hold her hand when we’re old and wrinkled. I want to see our grandkids running around our house. I want to see that look in Dana’s eye and that smile on her face as we see our kids and our grandkids enjoying life together in our home. That’s what I want.
So all the decisions you and I make along the way need to be decisions that help lead to that end. You see, when we get shortsighted, we ultimately damage our future. But let me just say this, hear me on this, there is hope!
Maybe right now, you know you’re a guilty adulterer. You feel as if Jesus is standing over you. And you know He has every right to kill you.
Well let me just tell you that Jesus is indeed over you. But not in condemnation. He’s hanging over you in crucifixion. He went to the cross and he died for your sin, for your adultery. Jesus went to the cross and he paid the penalty of death so that we could receive life, and he tells us to “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).
I’m going to give you a moment to reflect and I’d like to pray with you, but remember that Jesus is the one who had the right to condemn you and instead, he died in your place to save you.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
December 07, 2014