So…I recently preached a sermon. But it didn’t get recorded. Some people wanted to hear it, so here’s the next best thing…I’ll type it out as I remember and from my notes.
If you want to hear the real thing…here are some links to other sermons:
And here’s the one that got away…
Takers or Givers:
Before we go any farther there are a few things you need to know about yourself. To begin with you need to understand what you are worth. Some people will tell you that you are an accident of nature. A blind and indirect process is responsible for your existence. And as such, even your mental processes…everything you love, everything you hate…everything that makes you smile or cry…all these things are nothing more than a chemical reaction that takes place in your brain.
But you need to know that this is not the truth. You are created out of the laughter of a Triune God. You and everyone you know and everything you have ever seen flowed out from this eternal Divine community. You are a part of the creation that God looked at and called it “Good.”
But this isn’t the whole truth.
You are also broken. At the exact same time you walk around with two identities. You are far worse than you can ever recognize when you feel your lowest. And you are far more beautiful than you could ever understand even on your best of days.
So we walk around in this tension. At times we really recognize how low and broken we are. Then at other times we feel the smile of God on us. So as these two realities battle it out in our lives…which “us” wins out?
And this is where the third level comes in. The deck is stacked by God himself. Before the creation of the first atom there was already a plan in place to reconcile us to him. And in Christ that plan is fulfilled.
So as we continue to look at the sermon on the mount we begin to see some of those things fleshed out by Jesus.
And let me give you a bit of a confession. A couple weeks ago I preached at grace foothills about anger and I thought…man…this really hits home for me…all the things I am finding as I explore this passage are horribly convicting for me. I feel like such a huge hypocrite talking about how bad anger is. Well this week is similar.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I have some huge secret sin that I’m about to reveal. But as I have been working on this sermon…working out the implications of what Jesus is saying here…I realize just how dark my heart actually is.
And in a way I think that is exactly the thing that jesus is doing so brilliantly here. Jesus quotes from the ten commandments. A few verses ago he talked about murder. Here he talks about adultery. These two things are the ones that so many of us think we can look at and say… ‘you know…I’ve done a lot of bad stuff in my life…but at least I’m not one of ‘those” people.”
But just as he did with the law against murder, Jesus shows here how this law against adultery goes way beyond our ability to just take a cold shower. He cuts straight to the heart…he goes straight for the jugular and says, “look…you think you have this thing under control, but you really really don’t.
Let’s look at what he says…
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’[a] 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
At first glance this feels like an impossibly huge burden. And in one way it is. Because like I say…there is no way that we have really kept this command in the way that Jesus lays it out here. even if we haven’t committed adultery, can we really say we are free from lust?
But beyond that, have you ever noticed how it seems like so much that is sinful is also a good thing? So often people look at the things that the Bible says are sinful and they say, “how can you be so puritanical?” they believe that the bible is life-denying. That it sets up arbitrary rules against things that are normal, human, and good.
One man said, “Growing up in Texas I learned two things…God loves you, and you’re going to burn in hell. And that sex is the most disgusting depraved thing on earth and you should save it for someone you love.”
Now I don’t mean to insult any Texans out there…but what this guy says is such a common image of how we read the Bible’s view on sex. We read things like what Jesus lays out here about sexual purity and think, man…this is really setting up so many restrictions on my freedom.
But is that what it does?
First of all there is a great misunderstanding of what sin is. The Hebrew word for sin is a word that means, “to miss the mark.” Sin is not wrong on the merit of what it is. Sex is not a sin. It is hurtful when it isn’t what it was meant to be.
Sex is a beautiful thing. It was created by God…it was his idea! It was created for us to enjoy. And It is such an uneasy subject for us to deal with because it is both the most beautiful thing that we can do, but can be equally one of the most horrible things we can do. I can think of no other activity that has ever caused so much joy, and at the exact same time…so much pain.
And it all has to do with where the heart is.
Here is a clip from the greatest show ever…it is an example of how a natural and beautiful thing that God created in all of us can go so completely wrong. You don’t have to watch the whole thing…thought it’s a great episode.
This is a funny clip, but notice what they are saying. The woman in this scene is referred to as “that.”
How many times have you heard something similar come out of someone’s mouth?
Or your own?
And did you notice how the men were behaving? Gathering together in a pack…puffing out their chests…bragging about how they could handle a woman like “that.” They are behaving like animals in the zoo…not human beings. C.S. Lewis says that Christianity is about making us into humans. We become more human, and less bound to our monkey-with-no-tail-ness. The Church has historically called this process “sanctification.”
I heard a woman give a lecture once on sexual freedom. She said something that stuck with me. She said that telling young people not to have sex is like standing at the ocean when the tide is coming in and saying, “hey…stop…”
Are we really that bound to our instincts? Do we really have no choice but to act on our impulses?
Is it really freedom to be allowed to act on every desire we have?
I am reminded of a song by Delta Spirit…the line is, “I just throw these chains on and tell myself that I’m free…” And that’s the thing we have to understand. Jesus isn’t talking about prohibiting sexuality here. Jesus is not talking about all sexual desire here. he is talking about lust. He says…
“…anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
He doesn’t say “whoever finds a woman attractive.” He doesn’t say, “anyone who has any type of desire…” the implication of what he is actually saying here is an intentional looking…a look with a darker intention. And a rightly ordered sexual desire is not the problem here…he is speaking of lust. And lust is the dark side of that sexual desire. It is that sexual desire thrown out of order. It is the desire to own…to control…to use for your own gratification. It is to objectify.
How do we treat women like they are objects?
What about men? Anymore it seems like men are being objectified almost as much. Except that men, at least on the surface, seem to enjoy it. But do they? There is a lot of ego talk that men do but no one wants to admit that they really hate it. Whether you’re a man or a woman…it might be gratifying to be wanted for your physical attractiveness. It might make you feel powerful in some way. But can you call that freedom? Is it really power to be at the mercy of something you have no control over? And really…try as much as you want to…even if you are this “object” of desire…you won’t be forever. No matter how much surgery and diet pills and time at the gym you put in…if that is where you find your worth…you will spend your life in fear of that moment when you inevitably lose this attractiveness that you think gives you so much power.
But I can sit here and talk about how unfulfilling and how damaging all this is. We all know that. I’d argue that most people agree…at least on some level. We all typically agree that it is not good to objectify or to be objectified.
But let me tell you a story….there once was a man with a strange psychosis…he thought he was chicken-feed. He went through much of his life believing that he was food for chickens. Finally after years of therapy the man was convinced that he was actually a human being and not actually chicken feed. Then one day he rushed back into his therapist’s office in a panic. “what’s the matter” the therapist wanted to know…the man said, “it’s terrible! A farmer has moved in next door and he has chickens!” the therapist said, “but we’ve worked on this for so long…you left here last time knowing that you are a human being. You are not chicken feed, you have nothing to be afraid of.” The man said, “I know that, and you know that…but has anybody told the chickens?”
See that’s the real problem. We might know all these things. We might know that it’s not right to objectify people. We might realize that lust is harmful. But no one has told the chickens. Lust is the air we breathe in this culture. In 2006 the pornography industry was estimated to be bringing in around 13 billion dollars a year. This is more than NFL, NBA, and MLB combined.
Baseball is not the great American Passtime.
And even if we steer clear of pornography…we are inundated with sexual images all around us. It is absolutely impossible to escape. Its nothing new. When the movie projector was first invented it wasn’t Charlie chaplin films that were among the first to be shown…it was stag films. Did you know that VHS was the standard for home recording because Sony wouldn’t allow pornographers to use Betamax? Even Steve Jobs from apple is taking all kinds of flack because he has been very intentional about his desire for the iPad to be free from porn.
And lets not pretend that this lust issue is just about pornography. It’s easy to say, “those horrible pornographers.” But what if you aren’t guilty of that sort of thing? What if you just use your facebook account to search for your ex…or to have a flirty online relationship with someone who isn’t your spouse?
And what if you don’t have lust issues in any traditional sense? what is lust really about? It is idolatry. It is using someone to fulfill something in your heart with no care for their wellbeing. It is a parasitic way of life. Sucking off of someone else to fulfill something in yourself. Maybe it’s a need to have your ego bolstered. Maybe it’s a need for security. Maybe you need a father figure to approve of you. Maybe you need a woman to be attracted to you because you feel inadequate.
Maybe its not even sexual for you. Maybe you need praise at your job to make you feel worthwhile.
There are plenty of people having affairs on their spouse right now with their job.
Maybe you’re using your kids performance at some sport to prop up your own ego. Maybe you need the approval of your friends to make you feel complete…even if just for a moment. All of this is lust. All of this is a parasitic need for power and control and ownership. It is using another person for your own gratification. It is an attempt at ownership. It is parasitic. And all of it is a bitter cycle that Jesus is trying to set us free from here.
I bought a key that didn’t work. It was painted up like a tye-dye t-shirt. So of course I had to have it. Because tye-dye is awesome. So at first glance it looks just like the other key…only tye dye. But when you put it in the lock it will not turn the tumblers. It will never unlock that door. It’s an expensively cheap key. It is not cut properly. No matter how many times I try to use that key…it never unlocks that door.
So how insane would I be if I were to put that key on my key ring, throw out the key that works, and keep trying to use it to unlock the door? The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
So how many of us are trying to use a key that doesn’t fit the lock? How many of us keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
- “if I just sleep with this guy maybe he’ll love me and we can have a happy family.”
- “if I can just conquer this next girl and get her into bed…maybe then this hole in my ego will be filled.”
- “if I visit this website one more time maybe I won’t feel so lonely…”
- “if I just devote a little more energy to my job I’ll get the praise I need so badly.”
- “if I can just get that person to flirt with me a little, then my bruised ego won’t hurt so badly for a while.”
All the while we are forgetting that Jesus calls us blessed and God calls us his beloved. Any of these scenarios is a way of denying that. Either about ourselves, or about the person we are objectifying.
Actually it’s a way of denying it for both yourself and the other person. This lust says, “I need something that God can’t provide…it’s something that I need to take. I need to be in control of filling that void myself.” And this lust says, “this other person is less than human…they were put here to fulfill desires in me. They are here to serve my ego in spite of how damaging it might be to theirs. They are a thing to be used and thrown away.”
We are called to something greater than this. Sex was made for something greater than this. There is more to life than what we are making out of it.
So…all of this still feels pretty crushing… If I can be guilty of this even with something as innocent as my job…or with a little so called innocent flirting…or allowing that thought about that girl or guy in my mind just a little too long…then where is the hope?
The hope is that Jesus is not just showing us what we aren’t here. He is showing us what we were created to be!
The sermon on the mount is good news. Every bit of it is good news. This call to purity is good news. It is freedom. With all the fancy talk we have about sexual freedom and not limiting our expression of our sexuality and whatever else…Jesus is showing us that the true freedom comes with the wise limitation.
I had an art teacher who would only let us use primary colors, black, and white. Her thing is…if you go to the store and you buy that specific shade and hue of green, then all you have is that specific shade and hue of green. But if you buy primary colors…if you limit your palate to red, blue, yellow, black, and white…then you have infinite options. You can mix any color you can imagine! There is freedom in the limits. There is nothing but bondage and burden in grabbing at any flashy color that catches your eye.
So what does it look like to be set free from these things? Because for so many people this is not just a poor lifestyle choice…it is a true and honest addiction. It is a sickness…a disease. And you hear so many people say, “well you just lay it at the feet of Jesus and he’ll take it from you.” And in a sense that is true…but it is important to understand that sometimes Jesus sets you free by sending you a good counselor.
Jesus said that the pure in heart are blessed because they will see God. How far away does God feel when we are giving in to things that we know aren’t pure? How hidden is he when we are wallowing in every dark and parasitic desire of our hearts? And what kind of blessing would it be to be set free from that?
Jesus doesn’t just save us from hell. He saves us from ourselves as well. He saves us from slavery. He makes us more human. We don’t just sign on with Jesus in order to be set right with God. That is the starting line…not the finish. We are set right, but beyond that we also sign up to become the kind of people we were created to be and in turn to help make the world into the kind of place it was created to be.
And the kind of people we were created to be is free people. We were made to be free. Free to love. Free to be loved. Free from being simply mammals. Free from being simply hairless and tailless monkeys. Free to enjoy sex in a deeply profound and godly way. In a way that it was made to enjoy…in a way that allows us to transcend earthly reality and touch the face of God. Free to experience sex in a way that is more than just the scratching of an itch.
Jesus says his yoke is easy and his burden is light. And part of what makes that burden so light is the fact that his burden is designed to cast off the rest of your burdens.
One “yes” equals a hundred “no’s.” if I say “yes” to jesus, then I am saying “no” to the things that contradict that relationship. And if I say “yes” to the freedom that Jesus offers, then I will begin to say “no” to the burdens that he wants to free me from.
Lust is a burden. That is a hard thing to believe in the culture we live in…but it is true. Lust is one of the most difficult burdens we have to bear. And so, much like he did with anger a couple verses ago…jesus is not saying, “I know this is fun…but you better stop it, or else.” He says, “listen…isn’t this heavy? Aren’t you tired of carrying this around?”
If you are carrying something around and you’d like to lay it down…I encourage you to ask for help. Get someone you trust to keep you accountable. The help you need is available…stop throwing those chains on and telling yourself that you’re free…get some help and lay it down and step into the freedom that you were created to enjoy.