SERMON TITLE: Purity in Christ
TEXT: Exodus 20:14 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
Watch the sermon here
Take notes here
As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
If you have your Bible — please turn with me to Exodus chapter twenty — we’ll be looking at verse fourteen together. And — parents — this is the week you’ve been warned about — not the usual kind of topic we tackle together. So if you want to avoid having an interesting conversation with your children later today — you may want to make a quick exit and get them checked in to Kidway.
And — for all of us who aren’t panicking right now — we’re in a series looking at the Ten Commandments — God’s Top Ten list of how people who believe in him are to live. But — as we’ve been reminded time and time again in this series — it’s important for us to recognize that these Ten Commandments come after God’s miraculous rescue of his people.
The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for hundreds of years. They were beaten, abused, and unable to rest as they endured hard labor for many generations. And then God raised up a leader — Moses — to lead the Israelites out of slavery and into freedom. And God’s people were set free to live free for him — no longer having to live for Pharaoh as slaves.
And — after setting them free — God gives the Israelites the Ten Commandments to show them how to live in their new freedom. And these commands were given to keep the people from becoming slaves once again. Not slaves to Pharaoh — but slaves to sin and death. Slaves to things that — in many ways — are even more demanding than a wicked and evil tyrant of a king.
And — here’s why this is relevant to you and me: this is how God relates to people today as well. He first sets people free — and then — God tells them what living a life of freedom looks like. He first rescues us from our enslavement and bondage to Satan, sin, death, and Hell — and then he shows us what it means to live this new rescued life.
Now — like we saw with our last commandment — the topic we’re looking at today isn’t something that would be on my top ten list of things to preach on — and — it wouldn’t be on any of your lists either. Why not? Because it’s an uncomfortable topic. But as we continue in the Ten Commandments — we’re trusting that this is his Word for us today.
And — with that as our introduction to give parents plenty of time to make their decision — here are the words found in Exodus chapter twenty — verse fourteen.
“You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14 ESV)
Adultery. Adultery is an age-old enslavement for mankind. Go back to the earliest recordings of history and you’ll find mention of it. And — although adultery has been a problem for thousands of years — it’s important for us to recognize that adultery is still a problem in our day. You see, we humans haven’t come up with a solution for adultery — just like we haven’t found a way to solve our problem of breaking the other commandments. We keep looking for ways to monitor and regulate our behaviors that cause harm to others — but we keep coming up short.
For example, I once came across an article about a husband who was supposedly cured of his infidelity by electric shock treatments. The treatments were administered by two psychiatrists in a London hospital who reported the experience in an English medical journal. Supposedly the psychiatrists showed the guilty man colored pictures of his wife and his mistress on a screen for thirty minutes each day for six days. And when his mistress’ picture flashed on the screen the unfaithful husband received a seventy volt electric shock on the wrist. But — when his wife’s picture appeared — a recording told him of the harm he was doing to her and to their marriage.
Now — supposedly this helped him — though I couldn’t find anything to confirm whether this was true or not. But — if society really saw this as the cure for adultery — do you think we’d be hearing more about it? I have no idea because — one — I’m not sure our society sees adultery as that big of a deal — and two — most of us are afraid of being shocked with electricity — understandably so. So — even if this actually worked — I can’t imagine many people signing up for it.
Yet adultery is a real problem in our country and it’s a problem in the church. Adultery may have affected friends of yours, family members, or coworkers. I know the sin of adultery has affected people in our congregation. The sting of the sin of adultery is felt by many among us.
So let’s explore our commandment and see what the Bible has to say about adultery and what the real cure for it is.
And we’ll begin by asking…what is this commandment teaching us? Our verse is an easy one to memorize for all of you who think that Bible memorization is impossible. I bet you don’t even need the verse to be put up on the screen — you’ve got it memorized already. Verse fourteen tells us what? It says, “You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14 ESV)
So what is adultery? In its simplest definition — adultery is the act of having sex with someone other than your spouse. Adultery is the act of having sex with someone other than your spouse.
Now — the Hebrew word for adultery — specifically the Hebrew word used in our commandment — isn’t as broad as other words found in the Bible’s teaching on sex — even sinful sex. For instance — the Hebrew word in our commandment — translated as adultery — doesn’t include pre-marital sex, pornography, or things like that. There are other words and verses in the Bible that teach on those sexual sins. Our commandment focuses solely on the act of a married person having sex with someone other than their spouse. And the consequence — for committing adultery in the Old Testament — was what? Any guesses?
It was death. Death was the consequence for breaking this commandment. Why — have you ever wondered why death? Well here’s one reason why: God’s people are to take their marriages seriously. And what more serious of a consequence could there be for breaking this commandment than death? For this consequence — death — shows both the seriousness and the sacredness of marriage.
What we’ve learned is that what this commandment teaches is straightforward: If you’re married — don’t have sex with anyone other than your spouse.
Now — having said all of that — as Jesus often does — especially when he teaches using the Ten Commandments — Jesus takes our commandment and shows us that there are ways to break it — ways to disobey it — without committing the physical act of adultery. Jesus takes our definition and expands it to show how his people today are to be sexually pure — even more so than the bare minimum that this commandment requires of us.
What do you mean Josh? Well — if you still have your Bible open — go ahead and turn to Matthew chapter five. Matthew is the first book in the New Testament — it’s one of the four gospels — or histories — of the life of Jesus. We’ll begin in verse twenty-seven of Matthew chapter five.
And — what we’re going to see is that — with this commandment — just like the other nine in God’s Top Ten list — you can — in one sense — obey the commandment — while disobeying it in another sense. Wait, what? We can both obey and disobey this commandment — and do so at the same time? Yup. You see — so often the problem we have is that we outwardly obey these commandments while — inwardly — we’re disobedient. Outwardly we submit to the commandment — but inwardly we’re rebellious. Like the child who’s told to tell their sibling their sorry for pushing them to the ground. They say “I’m sorry” — but you know they didn’t mean it.
Here’s how Jesus describes it for us. In Matthew chapter five — beginning in verse twenty-seven — Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ (So there’s our seventh commandment. And look at what Jesus does…) 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed (what? Whoever’s lusted has already committed…) adultery with her in his heart. (And — to show us how serious this is — Jesus goes on to say…) 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body 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 your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:27-30 ESV)
Jesus wants us to understand that lusting for someone — who’s not your spouse — is just as evil of a sinful act as committing the physical act of adultery. Why? Because to lust for someone who’s not your spouse is to break this commandment. And our reaction to this is, “Really?!” Because we Christians — and even non-Christians — love our little sliding scales of sin, don’t we? You know — where adultery is more wicked than lust. Because — everyone knows, right — that an adulterer is a way worse person than someone — who’s never committed adultery — but just struggles with lust. At least that’s what all of us think.
“Why do you say that Josh? And how dare you tell me what I think.” Well, I’m looking around the room and I don’t see that any of you have plucked out one of your eyes or cut off a hand — and neither have I. Why? Well — maybe you’re not a follower of Jesus — so I understand why you haven’t taken him at his word. But — for those of us who are Christians — why so many eyes and hands still attached to our bodies? Because lust isn’t really that big of a deal, right? Wrong!
Jesus said to lust is to commit adultery. And — ladies — although men usually get the deserved bad reputation for lusting — ladies you’ve got your lust issues too. As one theologian has written, “What husband has not looked at another woman and lusted? What wife has not thought, “Why did God give me this husband? Would I not have been happier with another?”…What single person has not been tempted to idolize a longed-for marriage partner rather than trusting God for the sufficiency of his love?” (Ed Clowney)
All of us — male, female, married, single — all of us have committed adultery according to Jesus. For we’ve lusted — we’ve longed-for — we’ve desired intimacy with someone other than our spouse. And Jesus says that’s adultery.
Now as if this isn’t bad enough because — again — some of us came here today thinking “Adultery? Never did that one. I’m good to go,” and now you see that this commandment is much more of a heart issue than it’s even a sexual act issue — at least according to Jesus. And I’d like to suggest that it’s always wise to go with what Jesus says — his interpretations of the Bible are always the best.
But — with all of the bad news we’ve heard thus far — and this may be hard for you to believe — there’s an even more significant way that you and I — and every person who’s ever lived — break this commandment. There’s an even more wicked way that all of us are adulterers than what we’ve already seen.
In the Old Testament — there are some rather odd stories buried deep in the part of the Bible that most of us don’t tend to read that often — the minor prophets. For instance — did you know that there’s an entire book in the Bible where the plot line is God telling a man to marry a woman who’s going to be a chronic adulterer? The man’s name is Hosea and his wife’s name is Gomer — you should go and read the book of Hosea some time — you’ll be shocked at what’s in the Bible if you take time to read it.
But here’s an interesting question to consider: What’s the point of God telling Hosea to stay married to his wife even though she’s a chronic adulterer? Not like a one time act of adultery — she’s unfaithful again and again and again to her husband.
Well — the point of God telling Hosea to stay married to his wife — is to highlight a theme that’s found in the Bible over and over and over again. What’s the theme? I’m glad you asked — you all ask the best questions.
The theme is God’s faithfulness to his adulterous people. Get this: a theme — found throughout the Bible — is God’s faithfulness to us and our adulterous behavior towards him. In fact — I have a book in my office that’s two hundred pages long on this subject. And the book is titled God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery written by Ray Ortlund Jr. who was a guest here a few years ago.
You see — this theme — of our adulterous relationship with God — is so prevalent in the Bible that an entire book has been written about it. Now — the hope of this biblical theme is that God is always faithful to us — his people — just like Hosea was faithful to his wife — but that’s only part of this biblical theme — here’s the other half of it. God is always faithful — and — we’re a cheating, adulterous, unfaithful people — just like Gomer was to Hosea. “Really Josh? Even me? Even you, Josh? Yes and yes!” Even the best of us are adulterers for we’ve all turned our backs on God time and time again. We’ve all been disobedient and rebellious. We’ve all distrusted him even though he’s proven himself only to be faithful and worthy of our complete trust.
And — throughout the Bible — we find our relationship with God being compared to that of a marriage. And — always — again — always in Scripture — God is presented as the faithful husband and we’re the bride who so often is unfaithful. We — Christians — are the adulterous spouse. We’re the unfaithful ones. We’re the ones with a fickle heart that chases after other lovers.
These lovers may be wealth and riches or fame and reputation. They may be simpler things like comfort and ease or Facebook friends and Instagram followers. These other lovers may even be spiritual things like a ministry we’re passionate about or being seen as someone who can help others solve their problems. But what’s all too true about you and me is that we’re all lovers of many — instead of faithful lovers of the One who first loved us.
And we’re warned about this in Scripture with words like, “You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4 NLT)
And we read our Bibles and ignore these warnings — believing that we can love other things equal to or more than God — and yet not be his enemy. Or worse — we read these passages and think, “Good thing that’s not me. I know ‘so and so’ has got a problem, but not me.” And I know how hard it is to admit that we love “fill in the blank for yourself” — that — equal to our love for God — and especially more than our love for God. But I wonder — for example — what would happen if we had permission to look at each other’s calendars and bank statements and screen time on our phones? Would our calendars and bank statements and screen time prove us innocent or guilty of loving something — or many somethings — more than we love God?
When I think about how much time Emily and I spent together when we first started dating — it’s kind of crazy. I honestly don’t know where all of that time came from — but all I do know is that we made time for each other — a ridiculous amount of time for each other. Why? Because we were beginning to love each other — and we make time for those we love, don’t we? And those you love most — should get the most of your time, right? That’s like — “duh” obvious, right?
Well — get ready — cause here it comes — and some of you know where this is headed. Let’s all think of our past week — our last seven days on this planet. How much of your time was spent with God — I mean — really spent with God. Not multitasking and doing other things — while kind of reading our Bible or listening to a sermon — but let’s use the definition that we mean in all other areas of our life. For instance — ladies — if the only time your guy is willing to spend with you is while the game is on and his face is glued to the TV — is that the kind of quality time together that really will strengthen your relationship? Of course not. And — men — well — I couldn’t think of an illustration for men because we’re usually the big old dope in the relationship. Most of you men had to think about whether or not my watching the game illustration was actually a bad idea. In fact — some of you thought that’d be the best relationship ever — which is the problem. So let’s just return to our point.
If we know our human relationships need time, focus, energy, and intentionality for love to blossom — why do we think things suddenly change when we’re talking about our relationship with God? Yet we often treat our relationship with God as if we’re satisfied with him being in the room with us — as long as he doesn’t distract us from the game on the TV.
And this reveals to us that we’re all adulterers — for we’re all guilty of committing spiritual adultery in our relationship with God. We play the whore — the unfaithful spouse chasing after and enjoying the presence of other lovers — all while our faithful Husband has and continues to love us unconditionally. And — his name — is Jesus.
Jesus — the one who said that to lust is to commit adultery — Jesus is the One who has and will always be faithful and loving to you. Faithful and loving to those of us who’ve committed the physical act of adultery — and faithful and loving to all of us who’ve lusted. And — even more convicting and moving — Jesus is faithful and loving towards all of us with our fickle hearts that are eager and excited to chase after other lovers instead of finding our delight and satisfaction in him who’s demonstrated perfect love and faithfulness to us.
And — when we think of the absurdity of our unfaithfulness to him — we’re to be both humbled and repentant as we remember the apostle Paul’s words. “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor (who? Nor the…) adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (No one on this list will inherit the kingdom of God. Adulterers will not have eternity with Christ as their reward. And — what we’ve discovered — is that we’re all adulterers. And — if Paul would’ve stopped here — we’d all be utterly hopeless. But the Good News is this.) 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV)
The Good News of the gospel — the hope of the Christian faith — the reason we have joy — is because no matter if you’re guilty of physical adultery, or lusting after others, or spiritual adultery — Jesus forgives adulterers. And — he not only forgives — but he washes us clean. He sanctifies us — which means he makes us holy. And he justifies us — he declares us not guilty of our sin. Jesus demonstrates such faithfulness to his people that he not only lived a pure, holy, and faithful life for us — but he gives to us his faithfulness, his holiness, and his purity. For — when you believe in Christ — he makes you pure.
One day — Jesus was speaking to a crowd — and the religious leaders brought to him a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. And they questioned Jesus as to what her punishment should be for breaking the Law. Now — they knew that the punishment for committing adultery was death — we talked about that earlier — they knew the punishment — they just wanted to see if Jesus agreed with the Law. “Jesus, should her punishment be death?” — would Jesus sentence this woman to die? And I know what all of you are thinking, “There’s no way — Jesus wouldn’t do that.” Why not? Has Jesus ever said anything to make you believe that he doesn’t respect God’s Law? Quite the contrary.
In fact, Jesus has the most remarkable response to their question. He said, “Let the person who has never sinned be the first one to throw a stone.” You see — the first stone thrown would begin the process of her death sentence — and here’s why Jesus’ response is remarkable. Jesus didn’t disagree with the Law — he didn’t object to her being stoned to death due to her sin. He just gave a little caveat as to how her death sentence should be carried out. Only a sinless person could throw the first stone — only someone who’s never broken a commandment can be the person to initiate judgment on a commandment breaker. And — remember from last week — to break one commandment is to be guilty of breaking them all.
And — these religious leaders — despite their hatred for Jesus — understood the power in his statement. And they all walked away — for they each were honest enough to admit that they were guilty of sin — guilty of breaking God’s commandments.
Then — after the crowd had dispersed — the adulterous woman finds herself left all alone with Jesus. And now she’s in some serious trouble — because Jesus has just said “Let the person who’s never sinned be the one to throw the first stone.” And — uh oh — because now it’s just her and Jesus and he’s never sinned! And he has every right — according to his own words — to begin her death sentence.
And the apostle John tells us, “Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus (who had every right according to his own words to punish her for breaking the seventh commandment…) said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:10-11 NLT)
The woman deserved to die for her sin — for the penalty for breaking God’s Law is death after all — and she knew this. And the only person qualified to begin her death sentence — the only person to never have broken God’s Law — the only One who was holy and pure — didn’t punish her — instead — he forgave her.
And — in forgiving her — Jesus exchanged places with her. You see — the only way Jesus could forgive the woman of her sin of adultery is by taking the punishment of her sin upon himself. And — that’s exactly what he did on the cross — Jesus died for her sin of adultery. He died for her impurity and unfaithfulness. He died to make her pure.
And on the cross he died for my sin of adultery. And on the cross he died for your sin of adultery.
Why did he die — why did Jesus intentionally allow himself to be murdered on the cross? You ready for this? Because he loves you. And he’s the only One who is always faithful in loving his people. Even when they cheat on him — or maybe I should say — especially when we cheat on him — and he will never stop loving you.
I’m not sure how you’re responding to Jesus’ love right now. Many people — and maybe this is you — in the midst of their sin feel as if God is disappointed with them — that Jesus is unhappy with you and is ready to throw the first stone at you. In these moments of life — when you’re weak and frail and give in to temptation — you may feel as if God thinks something like, “I wish I’d never bothered loving that one.”
If this is you — please hear and receive this Good News — for this is really, really Good News. Even in the midst of your sin — even in the moments when you’re chasing after other lovers — know that Christ loves you — and he never stops loving you. He never gives up on you and his love will never fail you. And he’s demonstrated his faithful and loving commitment to you — even at the cost of his life on the cross.
So — please know and receive — that no matter how poor you’ve been at loving him — no matter how powerless you feel against lust — no matter how weak you’ve been at fighting temptation — no matter how lonely you feel when you’re being unfaithful to him — know that Christ loves you. And he will never stop loving you. For he will never stop loving those who’ve believed in him. For he is the faithful One — and he’s faithful to us even when we’re unfaithful to him. Why? Because being faithful is who he is and he cannot deny who he is — and he is always faithful to his people.
And — my hope and prayer — is that Christ’s love for you will overwhelm you with hope, gladness, peace, and joy as this Good News — of God’s love for you and Jesus’ faithfulness to you — penetrates your soul. And — that as he washes you and cleanses you of your sin — and makes you holy and pure — that you will receive this gift for what it is: Christ’s faithfulness, love, and purity given to you by him who is and will always be faithful to you. Receive his love. Receive his mercy. Receive his forgiveness. Receive his purity. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, please remind us often that Jesus forgives adulterers. He forgives those who’ve committed physical adultery. He forgives us of our lust. And — through our faith in him — he forgives us of our spiritual adultery.
Spirit of God, penetrate our hearts with this news that is good and sweet to our souls: Christ loves us. He is faithful to us even when we’re unfaithful to him. He is with us and he’s promised to never leave us. And his love is unconditional and never ending for those who believe in him.
Jesus — give hope to those here who’ve been hurt by the physical act of adultery. Give grace to those who’ve committed adultery and have repented. Give humility to those who’ve never committed adultery — but also have never considered their lust to be equally evil in your sight. And shower your mercy on all who ask to be forgiven of the spiritual adultery we’ve all committed against you.
Free us Lord — set us free from our enslavement to this sin — so we can live for you. And show us what this life of freedom looks like. A life lived confidently knowing that you — Jesus — love us — and will always be faithful to us. For a life lived under these truths is a life that is free indeed. In your always faithful, loving, and pure name we pray. Amen.
May you go living in the powerful freedom of knowing that Jesus loves you. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
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