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The Severity of Sin (Matthew 5:27-32)

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“The Severity of Sin”

(Matthew 5:27-32)

Series: God’s Fulfilled Promise [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

October 7, 2018

Introductory Comments:

We are in the middle of our study of Jesus’ famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mountainside. 

The InterVarsity Press commentary on Matthew says, “To read the Sermon on the Mount legalistically as a set of rules is to miss the point; it represents demands more radical than any legislator could conceive, still less enforce.”

You see, the standards that Jesus lays out for us are extraordinarily difficult to keep for someone bound by the curse of sin, as all of us are, or once were. 

The standards that Jesus lays out for His followers in His sermon point us to our need for redemption. 

Jesus will say later, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s a pretty impossible standard. Yet, it is an aspirational standard for the true follower of God. 

Once we have been changed by Jesus, we are to pursue this picture of holiness and perfection given to us by Jesus. 

Today, as we study this passage, I want us to think about our pursuit of holiness. 

As we do so, I want us to be aware of how sin affects us in our pursuit of godliness. 

Let’s look at this passage together as we begin. 

Read the Passage

Read Matthew 5:27-32

27 “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce. 32 But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Let’s pray together.

(Prayer)

Jesus is continuing line by line to give us standards of holiness for those that are following God, and He doesn’t pull any punches. 

Obviously, there is some content in this passage that can be uncomfortable for some of us to discuss, particularly lust and divorce. No one likes talking about those issues. 

Yet, Jesus talks about them so we will talk about them. 

We also have to be careful to understand what Jesus means when He tells us to cut our hands off or gouge out our eyes. We need to be sure to understand that correctly, so we’ll look at that as well. 

I want us to look at this passage as three ways in which we sin, while also looking at some specific issues along the way. 

Let’s look now at these three ways that we sin.

First, . . .

I. We sin with our thoughts (v. 27-28) [on screen]

Remember, Jesus will say six times in this section of the sermon on the mountainside, “You have heard that it was said . . . but I say . . .”

He’s not disagreeing with the law, He’s clarifying the law. He’s showing us how to fulfill the law correctly. 

Last week He taught us that we’d heard that murder was sinful and worthy of judgment, but anger is sinful and worthy of judgment also. 

Today, we see that not only is adultery wrong, but lust is wrong as well. 

As anger was to murder, so lust is to adultery. 

Anger is the mother of murder; it can lead to murder. 

Lust is the mother of adultery; it can lead to adultery. 

Jesus is making it clear again and again, that’s it not just the action that is sinful, but the thought also.

We can sin with our thoughts. 

We have to get to the point that we realize holiness and being like Jesus involves much more than us just following a list of rules. 

Adultery is rooted in much more than just the physical act, and so is every other sin. 

We must be careful about what we look at and what we think about. Lust will destroy us, as will other sinful thoughts, as those sins will lead to even greater sins. 

Temptation for sin abounds in our society, particularly in the area of lust. Young boys and girls the ages of my eight-year-old son can innocently come across an indecent image, which will be seared into their minds and lead them to lustful thoughts. 

Likewise, teenagers, young adults, and older adults can easily access all sorts of sinful temptations that will lead us to sinful thoughts. 

We must be aware of the danger, lest we fall. 

We can sin with our thoughts. We must be intentional and cautious not to do so. We must withstand the temptation to sin with our thoughts. 

Second, . . .

II. We sin with our actions (v. 29-30) [on screen]

Jesus begins to paint with a broader brush that goes beyond adultery and lust. He says we can sin in many different ways with our actions. 

When we do, we should do whatever we can to stop it. 

Look again at verses 29-30. 

29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Jesus is super serious about us doing whatever we can to avoid sin. 

He gets so drastic in His language that He tells us to mutilate ourselves in order not to sin. 

Some throughout church history have taken this verse literally and have caused themselves harm in order to not sin. 

Of course, that’s not the point, is it?

A blind person can still lust. 

A mute person can still be hateful. 

A one-armed person can still be a thief. 

Someone with no money can still max out a credit card (that’s a sermon for another time). 

Jesus is not speaking literally here. He is speaking hyperbolically. 

Some of you just woke up when I used that word. 

Hyperbole is extreme exaggeration used to make a point. 

Jesus is exaggerating in an extreme way to make this point: you should go through extreme measures to rid yourself of sin and to pursue holiness. 

I’ll say that again: you should go through extreme measures to rid yourself of sin and to pursue holiness.

Whatever ways you are sinning in your actions, you should take extreme measures to rid yourself of that sin. 

Maybe you need to set-up filters on your internet because you look at things you shouldn’t. 

Maybe you don’t need a smartphone if it causes you to lust, or covet, or idolize something rather than God. 

Maybe you need to stay off of Facebook because you can be hateful, or prideful, or not compassionate. 

Maybe you need to avoid alcoholic beverages or places that serve alcohol because of your temptation to drunkenness. 

Maybe you need to not speak about yourself publicly because of your tendency to be selfish and prideful.

Maybe you need to not buy things for yourself because you can be greedy. 

Maybe you need to get rid of that boyfriend or girlfriend because they are keeping you from following God. 

Maybe you need to quit your specific job because it keeps you from your family, or church, or whatever. 

I don’t know your situation like you know your situation, and you know where you are tempted to sin in both your thoughts and your actions. 

We must take sin seriously. We have a far too relaxed view of our sin. 

(pause)

We must realize that we must sacrifice that which is temporary in order to gain that which is eternal. We must turn from our sin and turn to God. If you’ve not done so, do so today. Give your life to God; turn from your sin. After you’ve given your life to Him, continue to turn from your sin. 

Don’t take action in order to sin, take action in order to not sin, take action to be holy. 

First, we sin with our thoughts; second, we sin with our actions; finally, . . .

III. We sin in our relationships (v. 31-32) [on screen]

Jesus spends some time here speaking specifically about divorce. 

Now, I realize that some of us are sensitive with the topic of divorce, but we must not ignore it. 

Let’s see what Jesus said. 

Look at verses 31 and 32.

31 “It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce. 32 But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality, causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

First of all, let’s think carefully about what Jesus is getting at in light of the context of all that He’s said in today’s passage and the surrounding passage. 

Jesus has just said that just as murder is worthy of judgment, so is anger. 

He’s just said just as adultery is a sin against God and others, so is lust. 

Now, He’s saying just as adultery is a sin against God and others, so is divorce. 

At the heart of adultery is a broken covenant and a broken relationship that has been shattered by sin; sin brought about by one or more parties. 

At the heart of divorce is a broken covenant and a broken relationship that has been shattered by sin; sin brought about by one or more parties. 

Many of the Jewish people of Jesus’ day thought that divorce wasn’t a big deal. In fact, there were some schools of rabbis that were teaching that divorce was never allowed except for marital unfaithfulness, and there were rabbis who taught that you could divorce your wife for any reason, even if she burns your food. 

Apparently, some had just as loose of a view of divorce then as some of us do today. 

Jesus says we must take the marriage covenant seriously. 

He says that sexual immorality is the only legitimate reason for a divorce. 

Of course, even in the case of sexual immorality you don’t have to get a divorce. Forgiveness and reconciliation are still available in that situation as well. 

(pause)

Jesus is saying that adultery is sinful, lust is sinful, and divorce is sinful. 

Everyone knew that adultery was sinful, but Jesus is saying, “Lust is like adultery! Divorce is like adultery!”

We must take all sin seriously!

Jesus will continue to take us down this road of holiness in the coming weeks. 

If we’re not careful to pursue holiness our sin will destroy not only us, but it will destroy our marriages as well. 

Not only our marriages, but our sin will destroy other relationships also. 

Our sin can destroy relationships in our workplace, in our friendships, in our neighborhoods, in our schools, in our families, in our government, in our churches, among different races, among different nations, among different socio-economic groups, and you better believe our sin can destroy our marriages. 

So, what do we make of this?

Some of you might say, “I’m divorced, pastor. What does this mean for me?”

Here’s a secret: we are all sinners and we are all affected by sin.

I’m a product of a divorced family. My wife is a product of a divorced family. I know about this reality and I know that every situation is different. I know that there are innocent parties involved with this at times. I also know this, what sin can destroy, God can heal. 

In all of our relationships, we must flee sin and pursue holiness. Where sin has had devastating effects, we must seek God’s forgiveness and healing.

Let us all make a commitment to holiness right here and right now. 

(pause) 

One more clarification here: some have said that this passage means if someone is divorced they should seek to remarry their original spouse. 

Honestly, that may work sometimes and that can potentially be a beautiful picture of the gospel. 

However, at other times that would be a terrible idea. Particularly if it involved getting divorced again in order to make it happen.

Jesus’ point is that we should understand that adultery is a serious sin, lust is a serious sin, and divorce is a serious sin. 

So, if you’ve experienced brokenness in any relationship, be it marriage, or any other relationship, seek forgiveness, seek healing with God and with others if possible, and seek to be as close to holiness as you can from now on. 

Concluding Thoughts:

As we begin to wrap-up, I want to take us back to where we started. At the beginning of this sermon I said that as we go through this I want to think about our pursuit of holiness. 

Now, I remind you again as we conclude. Let us think about our pursuit of holiness. 

As we pursue holiness, we must be serious about our sin. 

That takes us to our bottom line:

Bottom Line: We do not regard sin with enough severity.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Sometimes we think that it’s hard for us to fight against sin in our lives, and indeed it is. 

However, the consequences of allowing sin to reign will be even harder for us and for those involved. Indeed, the consequences can be devastating both in this life and after this life. 

Let us identify sin and flee from as we run towards Jesus. 

Challenge yourself this week in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Identify some sins which you must take more seriously.  [on screen]

We have a few listed in the passage this morning: adultery, lust, and divorce. However, maybe something else comes to mind for you. 

Perhaps you’re convicted now of your greed, or your selfishness, or racism, or hatred, or apathy, or laziness, or gluttony, or pride, or addiction, or whatever.

Reflect this week on your sin. 

Why would I ask you to do that? Not so you can sulk in guilt, but so you can identify your target and kill it!

That takes us to our next challenge. 

  1. Reflect upon the work of the Holy Spirit in putting your sin to death.  [on screen]

Identify your sin and put it to death!

When you’re shooting something in archery, you want to focus on what you’re shooting at down to the very last detail, then you shoot it!

Identify your sin, so that you can be specific and intentional in killing it. 

Ask God’s Holy Spirit to guide you in this process. He can do it! 

By the work of Jesus and the power of the Spirit you can be set free from sin and live as Jesus calls you to live!

Don’t give into sin, fight for holiness.

Fight against adultery, lust, divorce, and every other sin!

Closing:

Jesus is again painting for us a picture of righteousness that is impossible for us to obtain on our own. 

He’s showing us how a true follower of God lives. 

No one has obtained this level of righteousness except Jesus Himself, and He opens the door for us to do so as well. He changes our hearts so that we can be devoted to Him.  

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Living for Jesus

Benediction:

If you have any sort of spiritual decision that you would like to make, you can contact me or Pastor Richard and we would be glad to talk to you anytime.

Be sure to be back here tonight for “An Expedition in the Bible.” Our study through the grand story of the Bible. 

Next week we will have Dr. Jay Brinson with us again starting a three-part series called, “The Adam and Eve Effect.” I’ll be out one week in October, November, and December, so he’ll be with us. Be sure to come and hear what he has to say from the Word of God. 

Let’s dismiss by singing the Doxology. 

(Sing Doxology)

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