A Brief Update
For those of you who are unable to gather corporately with us this Sunday, you are loved and missed! If this is you, we are providing the songs we are singing together this afternoon and a devotional based on the sermon being preached.
Songs We are Singing Together
Devotional on Matthew 5:27-30
[Read Matthew 5:27-30]
In Matthew 5, Jesus is addressing what it means to live as one who belongs to his kingdom. And, here, he presents himself as the one who comes, not to abolish God’s law, but to fulfill it.
The text we are looking at together today follows the same pattern as the text we looked at in our previous passage. Jesus begins by repeating a command given in the Old Testament. He then goes behind the command to show God’s concerned for what happens in our hearts. And then he gives application for his message.
At the time of Jesus’s ministry, the Pharisees were the religious experts and they promoted a practice of religion that was all about external behavior. It was all about doing the right thing.
And while God cares a great deal about doing the right thing, Jesus comes to show that even more than this, his concern is what happens inside of us.
This text is uncomfortably straightforward and clear. Jesus is addressing the seventh commandment, which forbids adultery, and Jesus connects this commandment not just to our actions, but to our eyes and our hearts. It’s not just what we do that is God’s concern, but what we see and what we think and what we desire.
But lest we get the wrong idea, Jesus is not saying that these sins are equal. Whether we are talking about adultery or murder, these sins come with far greater consequences socially and personally than lust and anger.
But what Jesus is showing is that godliness is not just a matter of what we do; it is a matter of what we think and feel. It is a matter of the heart. Jesus says that the look and thought that desires someone else is sin, just like adultery is sin.
The Pharisees wanted to reduce righteousness only to action. This way, righteousness was something that they could achieve. But this is the broad and easy way, and it doesn’t touch the whole-person. And Jesus came, and later sent his Spirit, that he might sanctify us completely—outside and in.
The “heart” is the very center of a person, not just describing their affections, but their thought and will as well. Those who belong to Christ’s kingdom are to be those who are “pure in heart” (v. 8). And when God redeems, he restores completely and calls for wholehearted, for pure, devotion. The Pharisees had completely forgotten this, and, sadly, we are prone to forget this as well.
Sin takes the good gifts God has given us and perverts them, making them our enemies. Consider that when God created the heavens and the earth he called all that he had made good. And when he created Adam and put him into the garden he called it very good.
But amidst all of the goodness of God’s creation there was one thing that was not good. We read in Genesis 2:18 that God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone.” So, God formed woman out of the man, so that they might share life and be fruitful and multiply together. God gave them good desire for one another and Adam breaks into song in verse 23:
This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
And then, in Genesis 2:24 we read, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” Here, we see God establishing marriage as a tremendous good that reunites what once literally was one flesh.
Seen in this light, the bond of marriage is the most significant human union, even more significant than the bond between parent and child—that’s why a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife. God’s good design was for marriage to be an exclusive and life-long bond between one man and one woman as they share life together.
But sin comes and perverts this. It takes what was a good and God-given desire and directs it elsewhere, to that which is forbidden. Sin turns what is good into evil.
But sin goes further than this because sin ultimately destroys. We see this in Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:29-30, where he says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. . . .”
God and sin are completely incompatible. Because God is holy, sin must lead to hell, and it does. And, get this, it’s Jesus himself who is the one bringing up hell. If hell is something that makes you uncomfortable or that you don’t like, you aren’t disagreeing with me or some other Christian, you are disagreeing with Jesus. Sin leads to death. Sin leads to hell.
And this is who we are before God—sinners. There is none righteous, no, not one (Romans 3:10). Just doing better cannot save us. Our problem runs so much deeper than our actions.
But thanks be to God, he sent his Son—the pure and spotless One who knew no sin—to stand in our place, to take upon himself our sin, our guilt, our shame, our death—so that in him we might have eternal life.
The story of the Bible is a story of divine rescue. It is one of God choosing a people for himself for their good and his glory. It is a drama of a loving and faithful God winning back for himself ‘a pure bride for her one husband’ (2 Cor 11:2).
In the Jesus Storybook Bible, Sally Lloyd-Jones describes the Bible this way. “The Bible isn’t a book or rules, or a book of heroes. The Bible is most of all a Story. It’s an adventure story about a young Hero who comes from a far country to win back his lost treasure. It’s a love story about a brave Prince who leaves his palace, his throne—everything to rescue the one he loves. It’s like the most wonderful of fairy tales that has come true in real life!”
For us—for Grace Church—I think we are in a far better place to walk in purity, when we understand God’s work in the world through this lens, because it highlights why adultery and impurity are so wrong, and why God’s steadfast love and redeeming grace is so remarkable.
I think, in our Christian culture, we can often see marriage as something of an end. In a sense, we try to redeem the follow your heart gospel by saying that completeness is found in marriage.
But God never designed marriage as an end, but merely as a picture of a far more profound relationship—that relationship is the one between God and his people.
All throughout the pages of Scripture we see the picture of marriage used to portray this relationship. In the Old Testament, this is often seen as Israel is often shown to be an unfaithful wife—and there are explicit words used again and again to show this.
God was always very clear. He called his people to be devoted to him and him alone—You shall have no other gods before me.
Just as a bride is to be devoted to her husband, all of the laws that God to his people are meant to set them apart as a people completely devoted to him.
In Numbers 15:38-40 we read this instruction, “Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart and your own eyes, which you are inclined to whore after. So you shall remember and do all my commandments, and be holy to your God.”
God is saying that it is in following after your own heart and your own eyes that will lead you away from my ways, that will lead you into unfaithfulness, into spiritual adultery.
And this is what we say play out again and again in the Old Testament. There is a pattern of ongoing and persistent unfaithfulness within the people God has covenanted with.
What God calls his people to is an unwavering and devoted faithfulness. And the human relationship that this is to be exemplified in is that of marriage. But just as we might wish to hold onto the benefits of marriage while casting lustful looks at others, so we might wish to have the benefits of redemption while we long for the world to love us. This is adultery.
So, just as we are to be faithful to God, so we are to be faithful in our marriages. We must guard our actions, must guard our hearts and eyes because marriage is a small stage that puts on display Christ’s love for his church.
Marriage is precious to God because it points to this far greater reality—the love of Christ for his church and the church’s devotion to him and him alone.
So, as Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.”
And that is exactly what we see Jesus emphasizing in Matthew 5:29-30. He is not calling for literal self-mutilation, but he is showing that the judgment on sin is so great that we must not take sin lightly. We must be willing to deal drastically with sin when we see it.
The world in which we live treats sin, especially sins related to “living your truth,” so lightly. When there is clear wrong, it’s often treated as an illness to be treated, not something to be repented of.
But repent we must. Sin is something to be hated, to be left behind, because its consequences are so great. Jesus is saying that we should be willing to give up that which is most important, most precious—even our right eye or hand—if that thing is leading us to sin.
When we recognize sin for what it is—it’s seriousness, subtlety, and effects—and we see our tendency to sin, then we must be devoted to walking in God’s ways and fighting our sin. As John Owen famously said, “be killing sin, or it will be killing you.” This is what Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, calls us to do.
Song of Response
Sermon Audio from Recent Sundays