Unfortunately, many Christians own misconception. They think the Old Testament and New Testament are two different religions that to them, the Old Testament teaches about law while the New Testament teaches about grace. To them, those under the Old Testament are justified by the works of the law, while those under the New Testament are justified by their faith in Christ. For them, the Old Testament is a religion, while the New Testament is a relationship. For Christians who hold this idea, they will have a great difficulty when they come to Matthew chapter 5, where Jesus says, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5: 18). In other words, the law shall stand. The commandments were given in three reasons:
- 1. The law was given to prove to us that we could not do it. Fulfilling God’s legal demand is trying to pay off billion-dollar debt while earning minimum wage. The reality is that we are hopelessly evil and we are unable to live up to God’s standards. The law was given to humble us, to destroy any sense of self-righteousness.
- 2. The law was given so that we would wait for its fulfillment. If we could not pay off billion-dollar debt, then our only way out is to have someone else pay it for us. God promised that He would send someone to pay for our sins. And Jesus Christ came according to God’s promise, He fulfilled the law for us, He forgave our sins and He claimed all God’s blessings for us.
- 3. The law was given so that we know what it means to live according to God’s will. The law is a description of moral and spiritual perfection. While we certainly cannot reach perfection in this life, we know what it looks like. We tried our best to live out the law, because we loved God, because we want to thank Him for all that He has done for us so we are no longer bound by the law as slaves filled of fears but instead, we are led by the law as sons filled with thanksgiving.
Jesus begins His teaching the law by once again quoting one of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not commit adultery.” Adultery means to have sexual relationship with someone outside the marriage covenant. For those who are married, this commandment encourages you to enjoy sex with your spouse, but only with your spouse. For those who are not married, the commandment forbids that you should not have any sexual relationship with anyone. Now, is this commandment easy to follow? Pharisees certainly thought so. We Christians too can sometime have the same mentality as the Pharisees. It is so easy to be self-righteous when we are not the ones slipping around. It is so easy to wield the will of God as a weapon to condemn others while justifying ourselves. But Jesus turns the law back at the Pharisees when he says in verse 28, “But I say to you”. Is Jesus saying that the Pharisees teachings were wrong? Certainly not. The Pharisees were quoting the seventh commandment directly. So, what is Jesus trying to point out here? It is simply the fact that God demands purity that flows from the heart to the actions.
We see this clearly in the previous passage, when Jesus taught the sixth commandment, “You shall not murder.” But like all sins, it always begins with the heart. Because what we do on the outside comes from what is happening on the inside. Before the sin of murder shows on the outside, the sin of hatred already appeared on the inside. Jesus says if anyone is angry at His brother because of hatred, he has already committed the sin of murder in his heart. And this was the classic sin that people of Israel committed back in the Old Testament times. God said, “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Our God is the God who sees the hearts. All our thoughts and motivations are naked before His eyes. If so, don’t you think it is highly offensive to God when we pretend to be holy and righteous on the outside, but our full of evil and darkness on the inside? When Jesus says “But I say to you,” He challenges the Pharisees teachings by saying it is not God standards. This is human standard. It is a cheap replacement. It is a hypocrisy. It is an offence to God. This is why Jesus says to His disciples, “Your righteousness has to exceed the scribes in the Pharisees.
Once again Jesus is not denied the Old Testament here. His dual focus on both the hearts and the actions is nothing new in the Bible. When we understand God demands purity in heart, His command becomes hard to follow. Because the seventh commandment no longer condemns just the adultery, but also all sexual sins that less severe but more common. As long as it stands from the adulterous heart, it is the same sin. And what makes the obedience even harder is that we live in hypersexualized society. We see this phenomenon in the media, our society published many songs that normalize adultery. We see the advertisement on the online or billboard that appealed to sexual desire. We see massage parlors popping up all over the city. We see more and more young women considering joining the porn industry as a career pathway in their lives. And there is less and less social stigma surrounding us. Why is the media selling sex? Because sex sells. Other than the media, we also see the collapse of sexual ethics at home and private lives. But there is even a harsher reality that we must face in this sexual pandemic, it is that it infiltrated our Christian churches and our Christian families. At this point, we simply cannot assume that the sin of adultery has not touched the Christian community.
Why are we often so weak when fighting the sin against adultery? Jesus provides two reasons in His preaching. The first reason why we often failed is that we seldom deal with the sin at its roots, and the root of sexual sins runs very deep. To deal with the sin of adultery at its root, it is first to acknowledge that you need to deal with your heart and its desires. And secondly, it is to reason with your heart. To force your heart to make a promise with you and say that I won’t desire it in my heart. And if you still find that the desires to be rampant in your heart, you pray and pray until it subsides. And throughout your day you should guard your heart, not just your eyes. Sometimes we focused too much with our eyes, we say to ourselves don’t look just scroll away, just walk in another direction. But long before that, the sin of adultery has taken over our heart.
The second reason why we often failed that the solutions to sexual sins is often painful and radical. This is how Jesus describes dealing with sexual sins: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away! And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away!” Of course Jesus is not telling you to really do so. If you’re struggling to let go, I just want to ask one question, “Do you really think that Jesus who died for your doesn’t want you to be happy and blessed?” “Do you really think you have a better idea of a joyful life means?” Then Jesus who says “The thieves who only come to steal and kill and destroy, I came that they may have lives and have it abundantly?”
I like to close my sermon today by speaking to those who committed sexual sins in the past. I know there will be a lot of guilt, shame and pain attached to your memories. Perhaps if you feel very powerless listening to this sermon, because there is nothing you can do to undo the things you have done in the past or to prevent any hurt that you have caused to others. I want you to know that God’s forgiveness is even extended to you. Jesus has not asked you to undo your past, all He asked from you is to come to Him in repentance and to live a new life for Him, starting today.