The man writes, “When I was twenty-five I believed I could change the world, and I set about that task with all my strength. I was a go-getter. I had plenty of fuel in the tank and wind at my back. At forty I have come to realize that I can’t change my wife, my church, or my kids, to say nothing of the world. Try as I might, I have not been able to manufacture outcomes the way I thought I could either in my own life or other people’s.” Then he cites Samuel Johnson, the great 18th century thinker and writer who documented in his diary his efforts to overcome sloth by getting up early to pray. He wrote:
- 1738: “Oh, Lord, enable me to redeem the time which I have spent in sloth.”
- 1757: “Oh, mighty God, enable me to shake off sloth and redeem the time misspent in idleness and sin by diligent application of the days yet remaining.”
- 1759: “Enable me to shake off idleness and sloth.”
- 1761: “I have resolved until I have resolved that I am afraid to resolve again.”
- 1781: (3 years before his death): “I will not despair, help me, help me, Oh my God. I resolve to rise at eight or sooner to avoid idleness.”
Last week we examined Jesus’ command for righteousness in Matthew 5:20. There Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you will not see the kingdom of heaven.” Immediately following, Jesus does something very unusual, He describes this excessive righteousness with six antitheses, each showing righteousness to be internal, whole-hearted, and God-serving rather than self-serving. A quick summary of these antitheses is as follows: From no murder to no anger; from no adultery to no lust; from divorce to faithfulness, from oath-keeping to simple honesty; from retaliation to loving contentment; from limited love to loving our enemies.
This week we will single out the second antithesis: “You’ve heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery, but I say to you everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.’” It was this commanding observation of Christ that got President Jimmy Carter in trouble with the media back in 1976.
As we can see from the balance of Matthew 5, the issue for Jesus is not just the behavior, it’s the condition of the heart. The righteousness that Jesus demands is not born of moral acts, but the purity of heart behind the external chastity. And that is why the imparted righteousness the Holy Spirit brings to the life of the believer is so critically important.
That’s what we will be focusing on this Sunday in a message entitled, “Looking at Lust,” from Matthew 5:27-32.
In preparation for Sunday you may wish to consider the following:
- Biblically, speaking, what is an antithesis?
- Why is Jesus’ use of six of them in chapter 5 so profound?
- How does His use of them promote the crowd’s reaction in Matthew 7:28-29?
- How does His use of them fuel the religious leaders’ hatred of Him?
- The world says, “The man who refrains from doing bad things is good.” What does Jesus say?
- How is Jesus’ perspective reflected in I Samuel 16:7?
- How does Paul’s message in Romans 7 comport with the struggle Jesus alludes to in verses 29 & 30?
- What was the effect of verses 28-30 on men like Marcion and Origen in church history?
- What is an alternative answer to the struggle given by Paul in Romans 8, Colossians 3, and Galatians 5?
- The same man whose words we led with ends his thoughts this way:
- In other words, the older I get, the more smitten I become by the fact that God’s love for me, His approval and commitment to me, does not ride on my transformation but on Jesus’ substitution. Jesus is infallibly devoted to me in spite of my inconsistent devotion to Him.”
Do you agree? Are these words a cop-out and excuse for sin, or the gist of divine power?
See you Sunday!