The Offense of Lust

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

The offense of lust Jesus is referring to begins in the mind. It’s not the act of adultery itself, as wrong as it is, but its initiation point that is the issue at hand. It’s the act of wanting something that isn’t yours and probably never will be. Ligonier Ministries defines it as such:

“Lust may be defined as the desire to engage in or enjoy illicit sexual activity. Given this definition, a whole host of things qualify as lust, including the viewing of pornography, adulterous fantasies, homosexual behavior, incest, sexual abuse, rape, bestiality, and other perversions. In prohibiting lust, our Creator prohibits all of these things.” 

But all of it starts in the mind as it begins to fantasize about what could be.

Lately I’ve been encouraging this audience to continue memorizing Scripture. Just as memorizing Scripture restores the spirit when we think on pure and holy things, dwelling on lustful thoughts affects the mind and spirit in a destructive, harmful way.

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

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Agree to Disagree

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. Matthew 5:25-26

On the face of it, you could say that Jesus was arguing for settling out of court, but the application is much broader than that. The last three section we discussed being peacemakers, hating, and reconciling ourselves to others. This is merely a continuation of that.

In fact, if we compare it to “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18), it makes much more sense.

I recall heated church discussions when I was a new Believer. In the end, one lady said, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree” and left it at that. They didn’t see eye to eye on a very unmemorable point, so rather than having the issue escalate beyond what was necessary, she dropped it. What she did with that anger after the meeting is anybody’s guess. Even though she couldn’t convince someone of her viewpoint, she realized that it was better to drop it than to proceed.

This very wise and certainly matches the spirit if not the letter of Jesus’ words here.

Agreeing to disagree‘ is great if the matter is dropped and there are no hard feelings. If resentment lingers, then the problem really hasn’t been resolved.

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Clearing the Air

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. Matthew 4:23-24

In the previous verses, we see what happens when we become bitter against someone else, but what happens if someone we know becomes bitter and resentful against us (and we know about it)? That’s the issue presented in these verse.

We know that Jesus Himself had hundreds if not thousands of people who were against Him at everything He said, but He could not reasonably go to each of them and reconcile them to Him. It was just not practical. If, however, one of His disciples had a grudge, Jesus would be compelled to speak to him about it. That’s the level of relationship He was referring to here.

I’ve had to go to people numerous times when I believe the person was offended, and it isn’t pleasant. It’s awkward and humbling, but it clears the air in the relationship. It’s even happened that I only perceived that there was an offense when none existed.

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The Hate Will Destroy

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. Matthew 5:21-22

When you ask non-Believers people about their sins, they’ll frequently mention that they’re not as bad as the murderers or other hard core criminals.

Jesus made a stunning revelation in this verse (and several more to come).

Of course most have not murdered, but have you hated? Have you hated so much that you’d like to kill that person?

We all have, even those who think they have all kinds of love in their hearts toward mankind.

The realities of life, of bills, work, relationships, and society bear down on us hard. People frustrate us.

As an example, after six or seven successive frustrating encounters in the same afternoon, we want to lash out at Number 8 even though she had nothing to do with the first seven, and is only one tiny frustration for that afternoon. Scenarios like that have happened to all of us.

Day after day of these frustrations wear down our defenses and we can become embittered and spiteful.

If we’re not careful we can lose the joy and peace we have. Much worse, though, we can damage our reputations – the same reputations we’ve been trying to build for years. Lastly, we can be a poor witness for Christ.

So, what’s the remedy?

Daily connectedness to Christ.

Better still, hourly connectedness.

Give the frustrations to Him early and often. Give over anger and bitterness before they become a problem.

As the old song says,
Give them all (give them all)
Give them all (give them all.)
Give them all to Jesus
Shattered dreams, wounded hearts, broken toys
Give them all (give them all)
Give them all (give them all.)
Give them all to Jesus
And he will turn your sorrows into joy.

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Open Your Bible App This Morning…

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 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. Matthew 5:17

There used to be a time in America where the Word of God was highly revered. Preachers would ask congregants to stand as the Word was read. People would tote their Bibles to church every Sunday; now they keep it on an app in their back pockets.

It’s not wrong necessarily, just a different way of viewing and treating the Bible.

Is the Bible read more in an app than on the physical page? Who’s to know? Only we as individuals can know that (plus the app manufacturer who is keeping digital records for their usage).

The Word of God is powerful. It’s certainly more powerful when it’s read and correctly applied regardless of how or when we’re able to access it.

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