Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thou Shalt not Commit Adultery

Text: Exodus 20:14

Sermon Statement
Adultery is bad for you and your marriage

In 1631, someone discovered an omission in the hot-off- the-press King James Version of the Bible. The omission has to do with one word in the seventh Commandment. The 1631 King James Version of Exodus 20:14 read ‘Thou shalt commit adultery.’ The little word ‘not’ had been omitted! Archbishop Laud, leader of the Church of England was so enraged by this mistake that he fined the printers £300, which was a lifetime’s income then. From that time onwards, the 1631 edition of the King James Version of the Bible became known as ‘The Wicked Bible.’ Now check your Bible by turning to Exodus 20:14.

Exodus 20:14 is one of The Ten Commandments (20:1-17 pp—Dt 5:6-21)

Ex 20:1 And God spoke all these words:
Ex 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
(1) Ex 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
(2) Ex 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
(3) Ex 20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
(4) Ex 20:8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
(5) Ex 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
(6) Ex 20:13 “You shall not murder.
(7) Ex 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery.
(8) Ex 20:15 “You shall not steal.
(9) Ex 20:16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
(10) Ex 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

The Webster Dictionary defines adultery as ‘voluntary sexual intercourse of a married man with a woman other than his wife or of a married woman with a man other than her husband.’

In 1988 Christianity Today, a Christian magazine started by Billy Graham and others conducted a poll of its readers. The results are:
• 23% of its readers has have extramarital intercourse
• 45% has done something that they considered is sexually inappropriate.
• Readers of Christianity Today are considered committed evangelical Christians
Most of its readers are in North America. I wonder what the results will be if we do a similar poll among Christians in Malaysia?

In today’s sermon, I shall deal with the following;
1. What is wrong with adultery?
2. What are the roots of adultery?
3. How do we prevent adultery?
4. How do we deal with adultery as God’s people?

1. What is wrong with adultery?

a. The sacredness of marriage
When God formed Adam and Eve, our first parents, he initiated the marriage relationship, a relationship in which ‘a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh’ (Gen. 2:24, NIV).

In Matthew 19:5–6 Jesus quotes this verse from Genesis, and states that it is the Creator who has made the pronouncement. Then Jesus adds, ‘So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate’ (NRSV). The ‘one flesh’ relationship of marriage involves a joining together of the man and the woman at all levels, social, economic, emotional, and physical. Adultery is the violation of this one-flesh relationship, the intrusion of an outsider into the total, unique and exclusive commitment which husband and wife are to have to each other.

Marriage is the basic building unit of a society. A marriage will produce children so a family is formed. These children grow up and marry. A community is formed, then a clan, a tribe and then a nation. Social studies have shown that societies that build strong marriages and families thrive. Broken marriages produce broken children and social disorder.

b. The marriage covenant
Christians are a covenant people so we should be familiar with covenant. A covenant is like a contract. As God has made a covenant with us, in a marriage, the man and woman have made a covenant with each other. This is a serious covenant, often known as the marriage vows. In a Christian wedding, this vow is made publicly so that God and members of the congregation are witnesses.

c. Issue of trust
Adultery is also an expression of disloyalty to the marriage partner, to whom alone one is to be united through sexual encounter: ‘she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant … do not break faith with the wife of your youth’ (Mal. 2:14–15, NIV).

In most places where the word ‘adultery’ is used, it refers to a physical act. However, Jesus also applied the term (Matt. 5:27–28) to the thought and intent of the heart. The act of adultery most frequently results from allowing an illicit attraction to move from thought into action, and Jesus identifies the lustful look as the beginning of the sin. That first step, the lustful mental dalliance, is in itself disloyalty to one’s spouse. The sin of adultery begins in the mind and heart (Matt. 15:19; Mark 7:21); adultery usually takes place because, to use Jeremiah’s vivid picture (5:8), people are like ‘well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife’, or another woman’s husband. Job (31:1–12) recognized the temptation which results from letting one’s eyes and imagination linger upon the sexual attractiveness of another person (Prov. 6:23–29). And 2 Peter 2:14, possibly in an allusion to the words of Jesus, speaks of those who have ‘eyes full of adultery’.

d. Sexual union
‘Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit’ 1 Corinthians 6:19. on v.18, Paul says “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”
Sexual intercourse is not just a physical act. It is also an emotional and spiritual act. It involves joining to two bodies and souls. Adultery is destructive because it of its physical, emotional and spiritual dimensions.

2. What are the roots of adultery?

Adultery does not occur suddenly. Though most divorces cited adultery as the cause, the marriage is usually in trouble long before the adultery occurs.

a. Breakdown in marriage
Marriage breaks down because married couples do not work at it. We work hard at our jobs building relationships and networking. We work hard in church building and mending relationships with each others. We put priorities in these relationships and work at it. Yet, how many of us can honestly say we work hard at building relationship with our spouses.
Newly married couple,
Husband: “Darling, may I have a glass of water?”
Wife: “Sure, sweetheart, let me get it for you”
After one year of marriage,
Husband: “Darling, may I have a glass of water?”
Wife: “Okay, but let me finishing wiping the table first”
After five years of marriage,
Husband: “Darling, may I have a glass of water?”
Wife: “Get it yourself!”

b. Romantic notion of love
Most of us grow up with fairy tales that ends with the prince and the princess living ‘happily ever after.’ Ever heard of a fairy tale that ends with living ‘unhappily ever after.’ Then in our adolescence we are exposed to the Hollywood type of love. Boy meet girl or girl meet boy. Fell in love at first sight. They meet obstacles but overcome it against incredible odds. Then they lived happily ever after. The boy or man looks incredible handsome and the girl or woman incredibly beautiful. Unlike 90% of people on this planet. Or in Bollywood where they dance around a coconut tree. There is always a tree and always plenty of people dancing. Even when they are alone in a desert! We are feed on a diet of romantic love and we expect this romantic love in our marriage. Unfortunately we discovered that it is not so in real life.

c. Covenant people- commitment and responsibility
Marriage is about love but not romantic love. When the Bible uses the word love, it does not refer to a feeling but to a commitment and a responsibility. Paul gave good advice in Ephesians 6: 22-28
22 Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing a her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. (NIV)

Wives, submission is not to be a doormat and let your husband step on you. Submission is to be a co-partner and helpmate to your husbands.

Husbands, love your wife as Christ loved the church. Note, as Christ loved the church. The church has not been always nice, clean and loving. The church is often selfish, nasty, smelly, unforgiving and hostile. Yet Christ loved the church. So husbands are also called to love their wives even when they are selfish, nasty, smelly, unforgiving and hostile. Tough job. So much for romantic love and coconut trees.

3. How do we prevent adultery?

a. Work hard to maintain your marriage
Married couples, the most important person in your life is your spouse. Not your children. Not your elders. Not your cat. Your children are a gift from God. They will be around for about 18 years. Then they leave home, go to university and you have an empty nest. They come back for a while and then get married and leave. They only come back to ask you to be their baby sitters. In the end, there is only your spouse.

Maintaining a marriage
• Remember birthdays and wedding anniversaries
• Talk to one another
• Listen
• Do little things to show that you care
• Learn to Forgive and not keep score
• Keep sexually active

b. Avoiding crossing the line of ‘more than a friend’ with the opposite sex
A marriage break down when there is communication breakdown. When communication breaks down, there is often frustration. “My wife/husband does not understand me.” Then along come a SYT (sweet young thing), often someone we work with who seems to listen and understands us. So we become good friends. We begin to enjoy each other’s company and begin to spend more time together. By then red flags should be flying all around.

Watch out for the danger signs
• You think of the person more than you think of your spouse
• You wish your spouse is more like that person
• You begin to fantasies about a sexual encounter

Flee from temptation
• Break up the relationship
• Be honest
• Never be alone with the person
• Never initial physical contact. Hard to stop.

c. Accountability
Every married couple in church should belong to a small group. In a small group, there are more opportunities to build relationship. Everyone should have a spiritual friend you can talk to – of the same sex. If you cannot find one, ask God to send you one. Everyone in church should be aware of the red flags and danger signals in married couples. Leaders and persons gifted with the counseling gifting should be available to troubled marriages. If necessary, seek marriage counseling before adultery occurs.

4. How do we deal with adultery as God’s people?

Illustration: Shock Treatment For Unfaithful Husband as reported in Christian Victory
An unfaithful husband reportedly has been cured of his infidelity by electric shock treatments. The treatment was administered by two psychiatrists in a London hospital, who reported the experience in an issue of Pulse, an English medical journal.

The psychiatrists showed the guilty man (Mr. “X”) colored pictures of his wife and mistress alternately on a screen in a darkened room, for 30 minutes each day for six days. When his mistress’ picture was flashed on the screen the unfaithful husband received a 70-volt electric shock on the wrist. When his wife’s pictures appeared, a tape recording told him of the harm he was doing to her and to their marriage by the affair he was having with his neighbor’s wife. The unfaithful husband had been married for ten years, and his adulterous relationship had gone on for two years before he sought help.

a. Avoid it like the plague
b. Accountability
c. Confession, repentance and reconciliation
d. Church discipline

Gordon MacDonald was a success. He wrote several best-selling books. He lectured throughout the country. He was pastor of a large evangelical church in Lexington, Mass., until he left to take over the $200 million World Vision Christian relief agency. He parlayed that post into the presidency of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, one of the nation's largest collegiate missionary organizations.

MacDonald left his job at Grace Chapel in 1987 after publicly admitting adultery with little hope of returning. For two years, he went through a "restoration process" much like the one he outlined for President Clinton, supervised by the elders of Grace Chapel. MacDonald outlines the restoration process in "Rebuilding Your Broken World" who prescribes a course of reflection, confession and change that requires time, discipline and, perhaps most important, a separation from daily duties. In 1993, after a contentious vote, the congregation took him back. The church's elders invited him back then in recognition of MacDonald's successful completion of his spiritual probation.

The offer split the church's members: Most believed bringing MacDonald back would be the ultimate expression of forgiveness, but a large minority argued that their minister had forfeited his claim to leadership. Some members left the church after losing the vote in which MacDonald was rehired by a 3-to-1 margin.

MacDonald’s adultery was damaging and painful to many people.

Adultery was the second most commonly mentioned theme in the Bible. The most common theme is the prohibition of idolatry. It was such an important issue that God gave it as a commandment. The reason is that its damages the sacred institution of marriage. Adultery is a bad thing. May God have mercy.

Soli Deo Gloria

picture source

1 comment:

Lynn said...

Hi Dr Alex!
Thanks for your lovely sermon! My memory of the way you share sermons are exactly like this!!
To God Be the Glory!!