Dealing With Lust (Part 2)

Matthew 5:27-30

Tom Pennington  •  June 10, 2012
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I'm sure that you heard and followed the news as I did in early May when our president announced that he had changed his position on same-sex marriage. On May 9, President Obama told Robin Roberts of ABC News that he now believes that same-sex couples should be able to get married. Now the actual announcement didn't surprise me very much. I really anticipated it at some point. But what interested me was the argument that he used to justify his new position. Speaking for himself and his wife Michelle, the president said this: "We're both practicing Christians. And obviously, this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others, but you know when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is not only Christ sacrificing Himself on our behalf, but it's also the golden rule, you know? Treat others the way you'd want to be treated."

Essentially, our president said that his profession of the Christian faith and his profession of following Jesus is what changed his view on homosexuality. Let me respectfully say that in doing this, in saying what he said, he ignored the fact that in the very same sermon in which the golden rule appears; in that very same sermon Jesus affirms every single letter of the Old Testament and every stroke of a letter. That includes, of course, the prohibitions against homosexuality. He also ignored Jesus' clear prohibition against what is, in Greek, 'porneia' – a word that includes all of the Old Testament sexual prohibitions including homosexuality. What is crystal clear is that what has shaped our president's views on this subject is not Jesus, but the changing public opinion.

But public opinion doesn't get to determine what is sexually acceptable to God. God created human sexuality as a gift to His creatures. And as its Creator, He has every right to dictate exactly how it will be used. Now most of us here would agree with everything I've just said; in fact, I sense sort of some pent-up amens. We would be equally insistent on fidelity within marriage between a man and a woman. We are unwavering in our insistence that we must be loyal with our bodies to our mates. And although most of us would never go along with redefining or excusing the sins of homosexuality or adultery, far too many Christians in our day are easily tempted in their own minds to redefine, even excuse the equally serious sin of lust. And it's understandable in a sense because we live in a society that has become drunk with the sin of lust. Marketers sell everything from toothpaste to web addresses using overt sexual messages or at least innuendo. Magazine racks in bookstores are filled with covers and articles that have explicit sexual references and scenes that are intended to hold up what is smutty and salacious. Television and movies and pop music are loaded with explicit sexual references intended to excite sexual desire. So much of our culture intentionally panders to sinful sexual desire, to personal satisfaction and even to infidelity.

Without question, at the lead of this parade is what can be an effective tool but what mankind has turned to evil, as he does so often and always, and that is the internet. The internet has given this generation freer access to the pursuit of and the satisfaction of human lust than ever before in human history. What just a generation ago was illegal is now available day in and day out in every single home unless there are guards and protections put in place. And many Christians, including men and women and youth listening to my message this morning, have been enticed by, have given in to and have even become enslaved to the deceitful siren song of lust. But our Lord wants us to know, in the Sermon on the Mount, that those who are truly a part of His spiritual kingdom hate the sin of lust and they battle it with their whole being. And ultimately, by God's grace, they will not let it reign over them as their lord and master.

We're studying really the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. Let me remind you that Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the beatitudes; that is, a description of what those who are a part of His spiritual kingdom look like, how they can be described. But beginning in Matthew 5:17 and running down through 7:12 is the heart and soul of the Sermon on the Mount. And in this section, Jesus describes how those who are actually a part of His spiritual kingdom live, what the righteousness of life in the kingdom is like right here and right now. In 5:17-19, Jesus describes the very essence of kingdom righteousness and it's this: whole-hearted obedience to the Scripture. In 5:20, He explains that His disciples' obedience to that Scripture is radically different from the kind of obedience offered by the scribes and Pharisees. It's radically different in that it is not mere external conformity, behavior modification, but rather it is obedience from the heart. There is in the heart of every kingdom citizen, as He said in the beatitudes, a hungering and a thirsting after true righteousness at the level of the heart.

Now in the rest of chapter 5, Jesus gives us six illustrations of how the righteousness of His disciples goes beyond that, surpasses that, of the scribes. We have already studied the first illustration. Back in verses 21 to 26, our Lord exegetes the sixth commandment and He explains that not only does that commandment forbid the act of murder, but it forbids anger in the heart from which that murder springs. And if we're going to be His kingdom citizens, we have to not only be concerned about avoiding the act of murder. We have to be concerned with sinful anger in the heart.

Now several weeks ago, we began the second illustration. It was several weeks ago because I was obviously gone to South Africa for a period of that time. I opted not to preach this message on Mother's Day, which I think was the better part of wisdom. And last week of course, coming back I had something I really wanted to share with you–sort of how we as a church should become involved in the global mission on which God is at work in the world.

So today, I want us to come back to this second illustration in verses 27 to 30 where Jesus exegetes the seventh commandment and He shows us the relationship between adultery and lust in the heart. Let's look at it together. Matthew 5:27

You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.

Our Lord here tells us that lust in the heart carries the moral guilt of an act of sexual sin and renders us guilty of having violated the seventh commandment. And therefore, it renders us deserving before God of eternal hell. As Jesus' followers, we must not tolerate either acts of sexual sin or the lust in the heart from which those acts spring. And we must be willing to take even extreme measures to cut this sin out of our lives.

Now again, because it's been several weeks, let me remind you of what we've already studied together. We looked first of all in verse 27 at the law against adultery recited. Verse 27: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'" - our Lord here quoting the command that's given both in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 and He explains that essentially this law forbids all sexual sin. And it requires, on the positive side, sexual purity. God is not content with our abstaining from acts. He instead wants us to be truly pure at heart as He is pure at heart.

Now in verse 27, we also looked at the law against adultery misinterpreted. Again, just to remind you, our Lord here isn't really teaching something entirely new from the law. He is instead correcting misinterpretations that were contemporary, of the law itself. You see this down in verse 43 with the sixth illustration. He quotes the misinterpretation: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor (that's from the Old Testament, Leviticus 19:18) and hate your enemy.'" That is not in the Old Testament. That's the interpretation, the spin the scribes gave to that command. Now while Jesus doesn't specifically state the misinterpretation of this command against adultery, we can piece together what the misinterpretation was from what Jesus says and how He corrects them, because the very fact that Jesus applies this seventh commandment to lust in the heart implies (what?) that that isn't the emphasis of the scribes and the Pharisees. Although some Jewish writers and rabbis had made the connection between lust and adultery, for the most part Israel's leaders found it convenient to ignore. In fact, one of the leading rabbis in the first century taught that if a man saw a woman more beautiful than his wife and desired her, he could legitimately divorce his wife and marry the other woman. They essentially encouraged and supported the sin of sexual lust.

So Jesus sets out to correct their misunderstanding and ours. What exactly does the seventh commandment mean? What did God intend it to mean? Well, Jesus here gives us an authoritative interpretation. Notice how verse 28 begins: "I say to you…" The rabbis may say it's okay, but let me tell you the truth. Let me tell you what God intended. And that brings us today to new territory, to verse 28, and to what we'll call the law against adultery explained. Look at verse 28: "but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Now we want to take that explanation apart so let's look first at the specific sin that Jesus condemns here. In verse 28, it says: "I say to you everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her…" The issue, the sin that He's attacking here is the sin of lust. Literally, the Greek text says: the one looking at a woman in order to lust for her.

So what exactly is this sin, the sin called lust? Well, let's back up and make sure we understand the word. There's a lot of confusion about the word itself. The Greek word for lust is simply a word that means strong desire. It is a longing of the soul for what will give it delight. In fact, the word, if you have any knowledge of Greek, you'll recognize the word. It's the word 'epithumia'. It means a strong desire. It's a neutral word. It's either good or evil depending on the nature of the desire. God has planted within the mind of man an abiding principle and that is to desire and to choose what brings him delight. He can delight in and therefore choose what's good, and this word is used for desiring good things, in the Scripture. For example, it's used in the gospels of the normal and natural God-given desire for food when you're hungry. It's given in Matthew and in Luke. It's used to describe desiring to know God's revelation, to know the truth. It's used of desiring anything good. We're told to desire what is good. In the Septuagint - the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that was finished about a hundred or so years before Christ and was the Bible really used in the first century - in that Greek translation, it uses this word 'epithumia' for desiring the Word of God in Psalm 119. And in Isaiah, it uses it for desiring God Himself. And so this word is a neutral word and it can be good, to have a strong desire if the object is good.

But most often, the Greek word that's translated lust here is negative. In fact, if you look back in the Old Testament at the Ten Commandments; in Exodus 20:17 when God gives the tenth commandment "you shall not covet", in the Septuagint the word 'epithumia' is used – you shall not lust, you shall not crave, you shall not strongly desire. Paul used it the same way in Romans 7 to translate the tenth commandment. Most often in the New Testament, this word lust refers to sinful desires. It is a strong desire for what God has forbidden or has currently withheld from us.

On several occasions in the New Testament, on a number, the word lust is used not in that generic sense of a strong craving for something God has forbidden, but in a very specific sense of craving sinful sexual interaction. It's used this way in Romans 1:24 when people don't worship the true God and instead become idolaters, God gives them over to evil desires. Evil sexual lusts is the idea there. In Colossians 3:5 it's again used of sexual desire. Sinful sexual desire in 1Thessalonians 4:5. That's exactly how Jesus is using it here in Matthew 5. In fact, the leading Greek lexicon explains exactly how this word is used in this passage like this: "the one who looks at a woman in such a way that desire for her is aroused in him."

So what does it mean to sinfully lust after someone else? Well, before we look at what it means, I think it's really important to understand what it doesn't mean, because there can be even false guilt on this issue. In his helpful book Not a Hint, Josh Harris has a list of what it does not mean to lust. It is not lust to find someone physically beautiful or attractive. The Scripture will sometimes comment on the physical beauty of someone. Secondly, it is not lust to have a strong desire for sexual intimacy in marriage. If you're unmarried and you're looking forward to that time when, within the context and confines of marriage those God-given desires can be fulfilled, that is not lust. God made us with that desire and to enjoy it is a part of what it means to be human in this life. It is not lust to anticipate and be excited about enjoying sexual intimacy with your spouse if you're married. It is not lust when the body becomes sexually excited without any sinful thinking or any conscious decision to do so. And finally, he says it is not lust to experience an external sexual temptation. Martin Luther is famously quoted as quoting one of the early church fathers on this point. He's saying there's nothing you can do to prevent an external sexual temptation. He says, "You can't prevent a bird from flying over your head, but you can certainly prevent it from building a nest in your hair."

Now what is our Lord forbidding us from? If that's not lust, what is lust? What is He forbidding us from? Well, He's forbidding us first of all from tolerating any kind of lust in our own hearts. But what exactly does that mean? Let's see if we can go down just a little further here to understand what is lust. Let me give you two basic definitions of lust in our hearts . First of all, looking at a person other than your spouse in order either to excite or to fulfill sexual desire. Jesus says: "the one who is looking in order to desire." It doesn't matter, by the way, what means you're using to look. It might be looking in person or you might be sinfully looking using some medium such as drawings or paintings or prints. Or it might be, as it normally is in our world, electronic – television, movies or especially the internet. But it's looking in order to stimulate or to further sexual desire.

A second expression of this is creating or recalling sexual images in your mind or imagination. This is a kind of looking that is conjured in the mind. It consists of mental images played on the IMAX 3D screen of your own brain. It may be choosing to recall explicit images that you have seen at some point in your life or it may be creating your own fantasy, but it is creating or recalling sexual images in your mind or imagination. For some, and I think especially this is a temptation for women, sinful images may be drawn on your mind as you read a romance novel or something like that. But that is what our Lord is forbidding. He's forbidding looking in order to create or fulfill sexual desire, whether it's with your eyes or whether it's in your mind.

But not only is our Lord forbidding lusts in our own hearts by this statement, but also by implication He is forbidding doing anything that excites lusts in others. If lust is a sin, and it is, then to excite it in others is also a sin. So how exactly do we violate our Lord's words here by causing others to have sexual desire for us? Well, there are several ways. Of course the human heart is endless in the ways it can create this so I'm just going to give you a couple of primary ways: moving your body in a way that is intended to produce lust. In fact, it's interesting. In Proverbs, the immoral woman in Proverbs even uses her eyes to stimulate lust in the young man who is unwarily being trapped by her. You remember in Proverbs 6:25? "Don't let her capture you with her eyelids." There is an intentional creation of sexual desire using the body and various parts of the body to accomplish that.

A second way that we can create lust in others is by clothing ourselves (or not clothing ourselves) in a way that is intended to elicit sexual desire. Sometimes it's intentional; other times, it is negligence. The person is simply unaware and isn't careful and does so. And by the way, in our culture, this happens with both male and female. It's interesting. In Proverbs 7:10, the immoral woman is known as such by how she dresses. She reveals things that, in that particular culture, are not appropriate to reveal. She intentionally clothes herself to be sexually alluring. In 1Timothy 2:9, Paul commands women in the church to dress modestly and discreetly. To do anything less than that is to be part of this sin.

Another way that we can excite lust in others is by using words that are intended to seduce or to tempt sexually. Words have always been a part of this process all the way back in Solomon's time. Look at Proverbs 5:3. "For the lips of an adulteress drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech;" She uses her words to attract and to excite sexual desire. Look over in chapter 7. You see exactly what one immoral woman says and how she uses her speech. Proverbs 7:16.

I have spread my couch with coverings, with colored linens of Egypt. I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with caresses. (We're not going to be caught.) For my husband is not at home, he's gone on a long journey; he's taken a bag of money with him, at the full moon he will come again. With her many persuasions she entices him; with her flattering lips she seduces him."

She uses her words in order to sexually seduce.

Now these last two expressions, the clothing yourself or not clothing yourself in a way that's intended to elicit lust, and using words; these come together in our day in a couple of modern mediums that weren't available in Solomon's time. For example, sexting – that is, sending words or pictures intended to create sexual desire in others. Let me just speak to the youth for a moment. You know, this seems like something the culture does. This is a violation of God's law and to do so is a violation of God's holy nature. It is a slap in His face. It's not something you can take lightly. And that goes for all of us - looking at and enjoying words or pictures that are sent to you with that intention, posting images or text on your Facebook page that is intended to make yourself sexually appealing and desirable, using speech that is filled with sexual innuendo or explicit, off-color dirty jokes. And by the way, can I just say this also includes talking about the body parts of members of the opposite sex? This has become a problem with both men and women in our culture thanks to some very popular television programs, but it is unacceptable to our Lord.

Look at Ephesians 5. He's talking in context beginning in Ephesians 5:3 about sexual sin. And he says about sinful sexual speech, this, in verse 4: "there must be no…" And then he uses three different Greek words. The first word filthiness is a word which is overt, sexually explicit talk. The second word which is silly talk is dirty jokes. It's crass, vulgar dirty jokes. That's the idea behind that second expression. The third expression, coarse jesting, is neither of the first two; instead, it is that sort of suave, polished sort of talk that intentionally has a double meaning, a double entendre. All of them are forbidden for us as believers.

Another way that we elicit lust in others is engaging in any sexual contact intended to arouse sexual excitement in a way that cannot be biblically fulfilled. By the way, again the immoral woman does this in Proverbs 7:13. She seizes this young man who's walking by her house and she kisses him and with a brazen face she speaks sexually and seductively. In 1Thessalonians 4, Paul says you better guard your body, you better keep your vessel in honor and if you go beyond and defraud a brother or sister in this matter sexually, God is the avenger of all sorts, of all those sorts of things, he says.

So the specific sin then that our Lord is confronting here is looking at another person, regardless of how that looking might happen, in order to provoke or to fulfill sexual desire. And by implication, doing anything either intentionally or negligently that excites lust in others. This is a deadly and dangerous sin, this sin of lust. Let me show you some of the places it goes, left unaddressed. Turn back to Genesis 34:1.

Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the daughters of the land. When Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, (he coveted her, he lusted after her) he took her and lay with her by force.

The sordid story of the rape of Dinah. Sexual lust can lead and does lead to that sin.

Turn over a few pages to Genesis 39. You're familiar with the story of Joseph in Potiphar's house. Verse 6.

He left everything he owned in Joseph's charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. It came about after these events that his master's wife looked with desire (she lusted) at Joseph and she said, 'Lie with me.' But he refused. . .

And you know the story. Eventually, in her case, it led to lying and false imprisonment.

Turn over to the most famous example of course in 2 Samuel 11:1

It happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, (and they fought). But David stayed at Jerusalem. (Verse2) Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king's house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. (Rather than guarding his eyes and looking away, David lusted for her) And he sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, 'Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?' David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.

and of course becomes pregnant. And out of that sin of lust comes adultery and murder and, read the rest of 2 Samuel–a series of sins in David's house. Lust is not a harmless peccadillo, a little sin that can be tolerated and coddled. It leads to other sin.

So as Jesus explains the law against adultery, we have first seen the specific sin Jesus condemns, and that is the sin of lust. But I want you to notice, as He continues His explanation here in verse 28, the legal verdict Jesus pronounces. Look again at verse 28: "I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Now this is not, strictly speaking, new revelation. In fact, contained within the Ten Commandments was the key to this very interpretation our Lord gives here, because, as I've already mentioned to you, the Septuagint uses the same Greek word that's translated lust here for the tenth commandment you shall not covet. You shall not lust after your neighbor's spouse. Jesus is essentially saying here, Listen, if God's law forbids the act of adultery, then God's law forbids the thought, the lust from which that act springs. He says the one looking in order to lust has already violated the seventh commandment. He has committed adultery in his heart. The desire brings the same degree of guilt as the deed. Mental infidelity is still infidelity after all. Adultery always begins with adultery in the heart. You remember in Matthew 15:19, our Lord lists a series of sins including adultery and He says that comes from where? Where does adultery come from? It comes from the heart. Now listen carefully. This is what Jesus is saying. According to Jesus, coveting another person sexually renders you guilty before God, of adultery. Now that's really amazing because Jesus here sort of fast forwards to the judgment when He will sit as the judge of all mankind. And He says, When I sit on My throne and I'm rendering verdict about one's righteousness or violation of the law and you come before Me and you have lusted in your heart after a woman, as far as I'm concerned, you have already violated the seventh commandment. Just as with the command against murder, if we are guilty of lust, we have violated the command against adultery. And if the divine intention behind the law were enforced, we could be found guilty in a human court of having violated the seventh commandment and sentenced to death as adulterers in Old Testament Israel were. But even more importantly, according to Jesus' comments in Matthew 5:29-30, lust alone would render us sufficiently guilty for God to cast us into hell.

Why? Why is lust so wrong? Well, Paul explains in Ephesians 5. I want you to turn there with me. Ephesians 5:5. He says: "For this you know with certainty, (you absolutely know this) that no (notice there are no exceptions here, no) immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God." Now just to remind you what those words mean, the word immoral refers to all illicit sexual intercourse with another entity other than your spouse. It's an act of sexual sin. Impurity – that word includes all misuses of the gift of sexuality that are not included in the word porneia or immorality.It includes all kinds of sexual aberrations including the sins, for example, of sadomasochism. So with these first two words, immorality and impurity, Paul forbids any sexual acts except the honorable enjoyment of a sexual relationship within the context of marriage. But look at the next word: covetousness. In context, this is all sexual desire to have someone other than your spouse. He's talking about sexual lust. And notice what he says: no person who practices those sexual sins is a part of the kingdom of God.

Now Paul does not mean that Christians can't sin in these ways. We just saw David, who was obviously a true believer. And for a period of about nine months, David lived in a pattern of unrepentant sexual sin. Christians can sin sexually and they can remain unrepentant for a time. Paul is not here denying that, but he's saying of a person who is characterized by these sins, a person who habitually practices these sexual sins without restraint or repentance, doesn't belong to the kingdom. One commentator puts it like this: "What is envisaged here is the person who has given himself or herself up without shame or repentance to this way of life." If you are characterized by these sins, if your life is an unbroken pattern of these sins, if you're seeing an increasing pattern of these sins in your life, you have no part in the spiritual kingdom over which Christ rules. Those in slavery to sexual sin are not under the rule of God and Christ. Why? because at the root of sexual sin is sexual covetousness. And sexual covetousness is what? Look at verse 5: idolatry. It's idolatry. If you are engaged in an unbroken, unrepentant pattern of sexual covetousness, you are an idolater. It doesn't matter to God whether you fall down in front of a rock or a piece of wood or your computer screen or a person with whom you're having a sinful sexual relationship. Either way, something in the creation has taken the rightful place of the Creator. Peter O'Brien writes: "Sexual lust is an idolatrous obsession. It places self-gratification or another person at the center of one's existence and thus is the worship of the creature rather than the Creator." Ephesians 5:5 is a serious call to self-examination.

John Stott writes: "Assurance of salvation (which is what, you know, we all tend to default to) is neither a synonym nor an excuse for presumption. And if we should fall into a life of greedy immorality, we would be supplying clear evidence that we are after all idolaters, not worshipers of God, and so heirs not of heaven but of hell." To crave another person sexually is adultery and a single episode of sexual lust renders us guilty of hell.

Listen. Do you understand that your only hope is Jesus Christ and the gospel? Because if you had lived your entire life perfectly obeying God, and only one time in your entire life did you engage in the sin of lust in your mind, that alone would render you guilty of having broken God's law and worthy and deserving of eternal hell. The only hope we have is the gospel. The only hope we have is that Jesus Christ came and lived life here and then died for our sins, so that a holy and just God, instead of declaring us guilty as we deserve to be declared, would declare us righteous. And the only way we can get there and enjoy that forgiveness is by being willing to repent of our sins. That means you have to be willing to say about your sin what God says about your sin and express a willingness and desire to Him to leave that sin and then embrace His Son as your Lord and your Savior. That is your only hope – your only hope of forgiveness and your only hope of true, lasting change.

Now what about for us who are already believers? What do we need to learn from this? First of all, we need to learn to value our justification because every one of us – listen carefully to me. Every one of us, and I say this to our shame, has been guilty of the sin of lust. There's not one exception in this room, myself included. And if I had to stand before Jesus Christ without the gospel, without the death of Christ having paid my debt, I would have no hope of ever being justified before God. And this passage should drive us to appreciate what God has done for us in Christ and the gospel.

Listen to Martyn Lloyd-Jones: "God forbid that any of us should be able to look at this holy law of God and feel satisfied. If we do not feel unclean at this moment, God have mercy upon us. Unless we feel that we are vile and foul and need to be washed and cleansed, unless we feel utterly helpless with a terrible poverty of spirit and unless we are hungering and thirsting after righteousness, God have mercy upon us. I thank God that I have a gospel which tells me that another who is spotless and pure and utterly holy has taken my sin and my guilt upon Himself. I am washed in His precious blood and He has given me His own nature."

Listen. God's standard of sexual purity reminds us of the amazing reality of our justification because we have never met God's standard and we never will in this life, but Christ has. For thirty-three years, Jesus led a single life of perfect sexual purity – the life of purity you and I should have led. He perfectly met God's standard. He was never guilty of sexual lust nor a single act of sexual sin. And if you are in Christ, if you have repented of your sins and embraced the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, on the cross God credited every dirty thought you have ever had, every dirty act, every dirty word you have ever been guilty of to Christ. And for those six hours on the cross, He treated Jesus as if He had committed those sins. He got the wrath your sins and mine deserved. And now in grace, God treats us as if we had lived that perfectly sexually pure life that our Lord lived. That's the wonderful reality of justification and that's our only hope.

There's another response we should have as Christians. Not only should we value our justification, but if you're a Christian, when you are guilty of the sin of lust, now as a believer, you need to be genuinely repentant of that sin; that is, you need to say about that sin what God says. You need to accept full responsibility for it. Don't blame somebody else. It's a reflection of your own heart as it's a reflection of mine. And we need to seek God's forgiveness. And the wonderful thing about our God is, when we do, when we truly express repentance, He forgives. It's His nature. If you doubt that, we just read about the sin of David. It started with lust and it eventually came to adultery and even to murder. But see how God responded to a truly repentant heart in Psalm 32 and Psalm 51. Listen. There's hope for all of us if we repent.

But while we have justification, and we revel in that, and while we have forgiveness even for the sin of lust, listen carefully, believer. As a believer, you cannot, you must not therefore tolerate lust as if it's okay. Ephesians 5:3 says there's not even to be a hint of these things in our lives. The message of Matthew 5 is you've got to cut this out of your life radically. Why? because it's idolatry. You see, we tend to think of it just hurting ourselves. Listen. It is an expression of idolatry. We who are married, we think, Okay. If there's lust in the heart, then we have violated and been unfaithful to our spouse, and that's true. But even more frighteningly, we have been unfaithful to our God. It is an expression of spiritual adultery against the God who loved us and gave Himself for us. And we must neither tolerate it in our hearts; we must not do anything to excite it in the hearts of others. Jesus says, Yes, there's forgiveness. Yes, there's justification. But you better be radical in cutting it out of your life. And next week, Lord willing, we'll look at how to do that practically. Let's pray together.

Our Father, studying this passage humbles us all to the dust because we see who we are in light of Your perfect, spotless holiness. We see, because of our Lord's words here, how it would go for us at the judgment if it weren't for Your amazing grace and the forgiveness that You extend to us in Christ, the justification that's ours because of Him. Father, I pray that You would help us who are in Christ to thank You daily for the amazing reality of justification – that our sins were credited to Christ and He was punished for them and His perfect life of sexual purity has been credited to us. Father, help us to practice regularly the confession of our sin and to seek Your forgiveness. Thank You that You extend that forgiveness where there's true repentance.

But Father, help us, even as our Lord is teaching us here, to hate the sin of lust in our hearts and to battle it at whatever cost until the day we are in Your presence and we are made completely righteous. Father, help us never to give in, never to give up, but may we fight and battle until that day.

Father, I pray for the person here today who is in slavery to sexual sin, who is losing the battle at every front, who is dominated by an increasing pattern of unrepentant sin. Father, help them to see how enslaved they are and help them to throw themselves on Your mercy and grace, begging You to both forgive and to cleanse and to end their slavery with the freedom that's found in Jesus Christ. We pray in His name. Amen.