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Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; Matthew 5:21-22; Mark 12:28-31
“10 Rules for Faithful Living: #7 Be Faithful”
October 25, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
I read a story about a man who spent days looking for his new hat. Finally, he decided that he’d go to church on Sunday and sit at the back. During the service he would sneak out and grab a hat from the rack at the back door.
On Sunday, he went to church and sat at the back. The sermon was about the 10 commandments. He sat through the whole sermon and instead of sneaking out, he waited until the sermon was over and went to talk to the minister.
“Pastor, I came here today to steal a hat to replace the one I lost. But after hearing your sermon on the 10 Commandments, I changed my mind.”
The minister said, “Bless you friend. Was it when I started to preach thou shall not steal, that changed your heart?”
The man responded, “No, it was the one on adultery. When you started to preach on that, I remembered where I left my hat.”
The only reason this is funny is because it stirs in us a nervous guilt. That’s my guess….
We have invested the last month-and-a-half looking at the Ten Commandments. In The Gospel according to Mark we read where Jesus said (Look at your Sermon Notes page…): (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important Commandment is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’” And we saw that the first four of the Big Ten are about that. Can you name those first four?
- No OTHER gods – all those other things that we allow to take first place in our lives are out of order!
- Make no IMAGES – any image of God we make, any statue, any idea, any philosophy, will fall short
- HOLY be Thy name – God’s name assures us of His perfect presence and power, do not misuse that
- Take a Sabbath REST – the Hebrew people had lived under the iron fist of Pharaoh, God says that under His authority we are meant to find peace, rest, in His presence
These first four Commandments are all about that most important one! Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got, always, never-ending, without fail – have no other gods! Make no false images! Do not misuse God’s holy name! Rest in God’s presence!
But Jesus’ goes a little deeper: In the very next sentence Jesus says, “31 The second is this (in Matthew He says, “the second is just like it:”): ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
That’s what the next six Commandments are about. How do we love our neighbors?
- We Give HONOR until it’s deserved – starting with our parents
- We Respect LIFE – to the best of our ability
- And …
Today we look at Commandment No. Seven. The NIV writes it like this: “You shall not commit adultery.”
This is not, especially in a traditional American mostly Caucasian senior-citizen church, [not] a comfortable subject to talk about from the pulpit! But – it’s in the Bible – and it still applies to us. How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Do not commit adultery!
And, let me add, because of the way Jesus talks about this commandment, and what Paul says in a few places, and what is in the Old Testament Torah-books, and elsewhere in Scripture, I think we can define “adultery” as any kind of sexual ethic beyond what the Bible states as “giving honor” and “respecting life”.
Jesus said, in the Sermon on the Mount, [you have this in your Sermon Notes page if you would like to easily read along – I read a paraphrase this week, by a Bible scholar named John Sartelle, that I think states this so plainly and perfectly; so listen to this paraphrase as you follow along: “‘Jesus is talking, and He says, “By the way, when you attempt to redefine the Law and use it to throw away a wife or a husband at your convenience so you can marry someone more appealing to you – that is nothing but out-and-out adultery. Your effort to legalize it does not make it something moral.” This scholar goes on to say, “Jesus was not setting forth a full treatise on marriage and divorce. He was talking about adultery – that was His subject. The Pharisees were saying, ‘We would never commit adultery. We simply divorce our wives and then we are free to marry more desirable women.’ Jesus was saying ‘That is still adultery! You tried to make it look right through a formal divorce, but it still adultery.’” (Matthew 5:27-32) He even says that just “lusting” after a woman commits your heart to adultery.
Why? Because the two had become one! You can’t, willy-nilly, tear that apart! Not without damaging both halves!
Let’s take a few more steps back – in time and in Scripture: Eve stood before Adam, and he stood before her. God had made them for each other. As they observed each other, there must have been wonder. She saw that he was the same, and yet different. He saw that she was the same, and yet different. However, in their differences they fit each other. Their differences actually enhanced their relationship. They reveled in the Creator’s design for their bodily union. And in short time they would discover that there were other differences as well – emotional differences, personality differences, etc. Daily they would discover that the other contributed something to the marriage that the first could not. Each of these differences made them better as a couple.
And because of these differences, God’s design was that, the two would become one. That was God’s plan. “What God has joined together, let no one tear asunder.”
Now, let’s be honest. Adam and Eve had way fewer extramarital options or temptations than we have today! Whom would they have “cheated” with? Right?
But let’s be just as honest as we look at what is right and what is wrong. The beauty of God’s plan is not made ugly just because we are given more responsibility to be faithful!
Is divorce ever permitted? Ever acceptable? Ever the best choice? Yes. It is not God’s hoped-for plan, but in this very passage, Jesus gives permission to make it right when there has been infidelity! The Command, therefore, is Be Faithful!
And infidelity comes in many forms, including “good, old-fashioned adultery”, but being unfaithful happens with abuse, with estrangement, with “lust”, with pornography, with lack of affection. With all the biblical pictures of “faithfulness”, we are not lacking understanding of unfaithfulness.
It is sometimes the wisest choice to leave an abusive spouse – the right choice for both the victim and the children! When lives are being ruined, by any understanding of infidelity, divorce might be the only right option.
But it should not be willy-nilly simple! God has revealed Himself as the Bridegroom, and Israel and the Church, the fulfilled people of Israel, as His Bride. And He stays with us even though we have strayed away from being faithful! Thanks be to God.
How should we then live? How do we make decisions about marriage, divorce, and remarriage? We must return to the truth and beauty of God’s original design. We must set before the world the wonder and majesty of that physical, emotional, spiritual union that our Creator gave to be an immutable and indescribable blessing to His creation.
Yes, we are still sinners. And God offers the grace of forgiveness to all of us. But He also holds us to the standard set forth in Scripture. And every time we do not give in to any temptation of infidelity to our spouse, we give glory to God, we honor our spouse, and we respect the life that our marriage represents.
For those in the room who are not married – you are not left out in this Command. Be Faithful, like Brelyn Bowman was.
Did you see the story this week of the bride who, at her wedding, gave to her father a certificate, signed by her physician, that she was still a virgin? This couple, and this family, was celebrating their pledge to be faithful to God’s purposes (no sex outside of marriage). And the uproar across this nation has been incredible!
Living with a Biblical standard of sexual ethics might be hard work. That is why God gave us this commandment:
- To reveal to us how much we need a Savior
- To reel in our selfish desires to mistreat each other
- To remind us what God’s character is – and therefore, as people created in the image of God, who claim to be followers of Jesus, what our character ought to be as we grow more and more into His likeness
And God’s perfect grace and offer of complete forgiveness is waiting for all who acknowledge our need, confess our failure, and repent toward loving God better.
Love the Lord your God with everything you’ve got; and love your neighbor as yourself – give honor until it’s deserved! Respect life! Be faithful!
We can do this by acknowledging that God is with us, and nothing is impossible for God!
We might argue and debate over whether these Commandments belong in our Court Houses or classrooms – but there should be no argument that they belong right here, in our hearts and lives and church. If our Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls.
Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, and let us love our neighbor as ourselves, today and forever. Amen.
Psalm 119:105 tells us: “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Amen.
Bowman, Brelyn; ABC Good Morning America; 10/23/2015.
Table Talk: The Christian Sexual Ethic; “What God Has Joined Together”; John P. Sartelle; November 2015; Pp. 4-9.
The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; Pp. 6.