Pastor Mark Driscoll
October 27, 2013
Some years ago, Grace and I had a vine that we were trying to get to grow alongside the garage. I had big dreams for this little vine. My goal was to get this little vine to grow up alongside the garage and then along a trellis over the garage door. And my hope was to nurture this vine that it would become long enough that it would actually go over the front porch of the house. And there was a small trellis there, and I had a vision that if I was patient and nurtured this vine, eventually it would actually cover the front of the house. I’d be very beautiful, and I could sit out there and enjoy that spot with my wife and with my family.
I’m not a gardener. I know that’s going to be surprising. I don’t have a lot of gardening experience. This was my first real committed gardening project, so I started with one simple little vine and found that they grow very slow and you’ve got to be very patient. So lots of nutrients in the ground, lots of water, keeping an eye on pests, anytime there was a dead branch, trimming it, keeping all of the life and nourishment going. Well, eventually the vine grew up the trellis, got it all in the trellis, grew over the garage, started to grow over the porch. Started to get some of the results that I’d been waiting years for.
Then was out one day mowing the grass, and I had the Weed eater and was just trimming around the edge and in a careless instant, I severed the vine, the vine I had been nourishing and tending to for years. I was shocked because I realized there’s nothing I could do to fix this. I just killed it in an instant. Adultery is like that. Adultery is like that.
In Psalm 128:3, the psalmist says that a wife is a fruitful vine and that children are like olive shoots that are a blessing that sit around your table. God rightly compares marriage to a vine. You’ve got to invest a lot and you’ve got to wait a long time, and you’re going to need to be patient and tending to it if you want it to grow and be fruitful. And adultery is literally just severing near the base, the vine.
What was interesting is the vine began to die is that it didn’t die all at once. The leaves stayed green for some days and then over time, you could see that nourishment wasn’t coming from near the base. And so eventually, it began to wither. What I decided to do was go back to that same vine and continue to nourish it, to reinvest, to wait patiently, and to start over.
For some of you today, I hope that’s the path that God would help you to choose. Eventually the vine did come back and eventually over time, we were back to where we originally were.
WHAT IS MARRIAGE?
This will be one of those very difficult sermons for us both, where, as your pastor, my hope is to have a father’s heart and to talk to you as if you were one of my sons or daughters, which spiritually you are. My hope is that you would hear me as bringing God’s Word to you in a practical and helpful way. We find ourselves in the Ten Commandments. We’re a Bible-teaching church, and so we like to study the Scriptures. And we’re in Exodus 20:14 as we examine the Ten Commandments. We’re in commandment number seven, which simply says this: “You shall not commit adultery.” “You shall not commit adultery.”
One of the great joys that I have in being your pastor is seeing people meet Jesus and meet one another, and then get to know one another and then sign up for premarital and then get married. And it’s a great honor to be there on your wedding day. But the most important day is not that day; it’s the last day of your marriage. Will it come prematurity? Will you sever your own vine? Will it come painfully? Will it come pleasantly?
As we read in the Bible, the first wedding between our first parents was immediately preceded—the wedding rather was then followed up with a war. Satan didn’t even show up to Adam and Eve until they were married. I always find that very curious timing. Some of you are single, you think, “As soon as I get married, they will relieve some of my temptation.” Actually, Satan didn’t even show up until our first parents were married. The storyline of the Bible is from a wedding to a war, and there’s been a war from the beginning surrounding marriage, especially the marriage of God’s people.
So God speaks to us and he says, “You shall not commit adultery.” I’m going to spend the rest of my time dealing with this in some very practical ways, and there are two categories of you: Some of you have already done this and you are wondering what to do next. Some you have not yet done this, and you don’t feel the sense of urgency that you probably should.
To begin with, I need to do a bit of a teaching, and I need to answer this question: “What is marriage?” We live in a day that is profoundly confused about everything, particularly marriage. Marriage, in the Bible, is a very sacred thing. It is created by God. He officiates the first wedding between the first man and the first woman. He brings them together and he is the one who institutes this, this great gift of marriage.
- MARRIAGE IS A COVENANT
Well, marriage is two things. It is—and we could debate this all day, but I’ll boil it down as simple as I can. It’s covenant and consummation. It’s covenant and consummation, according to God’s Word. So first of all, covenant, you’ll find it in Malachi 2 and elsewhere. “The LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth.” He’s speaking to the men here. “She is your companion and your wife by”—what? “Covenant.”
Now, this is the big debate in our day is, is marriage a civil contract, or is it a biblical covenant? A civil contract is really just between two people. It’s more of a business arrangement; it’s a legal arrangement. It’s like two business partners merging into one firm. It’s civil. The Christian understanding, the biblical understanding, is that it is not merely civil but covenantal—meaning, it’s not just two people. It’s two people in God who oversees the covenant.
This is why we see marriage differently than the greater culture does, because we’re Bible-believing Christians. It also means that we do not allow people to get married who do not meet the biblical criteria. We would never marry a believer and an unbeliever because to be in covenant with one another, they first need to be in covenant with God. Two unbelievers can marry, two believers can marry, but a believer and an unbeliever cannot marry, because if they’re not in covenant with God, they should not be in marital covenant with one another.
This is why if a couple comes to us and says, “I’d like to be married,” we put them in a premarital process to help them understand the terms, conditions, and requirements of God’s marriage covenant. It’s why we would never marry anyone unless we were convinced that they took their covenant before God seriously. It’s why we would never officiate or allow someone to officiate a wedding in one of our churches unless they were covenantal in their thinking.
People call all the time, “Could we rent your building?” Not for a civil marriage, only for a covenantal marriage. We don’t want to confuse people who think, “Well, we don’t have a covenant with God. We’re not entering into a covenant with one another, but we’d like to do it in the church because grandma’s very traditional. It looks better for the photos.”
We want to be very clear: that which is civil is civil and that which is covenantal is covenantal. And our view of marriage is entirely guided by Scriptures. And it doesn’t matter what vote is taken or what the politicians or the lawyers determine; ultimately, what we care about is what God has spoken. So it covenantal. This means that it is permanent, that it is exclusive, and that it is sacred.
- MARRIAGE IS CONSUMMATION
Number two, marriage is covenantal and it includes consummation. Two people who are sleeping together are not married because they don’t have the covenantal aspect—all they have is the consummation aspect. Two people who are really good friends and love one another and spend time together, but have not entered into covenant and consummated it, are not married.
This is why it’s covenant and it’s consummation: it speaks of this in Genesis 2:24. Here is God speaking, Moses’s recording of our first parents: “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife”—there’s the covenant—“and the two shall become one flesh.”
A CIVIL MARRIAGE IS NOT A COVENANTAL MARRIAGE
There’s the consummation. It’s between a man and a woman. Everything I say today will be offensive, OK? And I hope that everything I say today will be true. Marriage is between a man and a woman, because God created us, in the previous chapter of Genesis, male and female. In our culture, we don’t believe that people are made male and female; we believe that God makes androgynous people who then determine their gender identity. So you’re not a man or a woman; you’re a person who gets to decide if you will live as a man or a woman. So a man can dress like a woman, or a woman can dress like a man, or you can undergo some sort of gender reassignment surgery and change your entire biological identity.
God made us male and female. And I want to be pastorly sensitive to those who are born in such a way that anatomically and physically, there are complicated variables, but that’s a small minority. It’s led to the point in our culture then, well, why can’t a man marry a man, and why can a man marry a woman? And so what we have today is not a definition of marriage, but the absence of a definition of marriage.
My question is, why two people? I mean, the only way you get two people in marriage is in the Bible. A lot of cultures are polygamists. I believe that you will see polygamy legalized in my lifetime. I believe you’ll see polyamory legalized in my lifetime. I believe that those who are bisexual will say, “I’m both; I need two partners.” I believe that certain religious groups will push for polygamy, and I believe in the absence of a definition of marriage—and that’s what we have today—we don’t have a definition of marriage; we have the absence of a definition of marriage—you will see others continue to add to the list of what qualifies for a civil marriage.
But let me tell you this: It’s not a covenantal marriage. It’s not a biblical marriage. And it comes out of this misunderstanding of gender. It has gotten to the point now where recently it was passed as law in California that if a boy feels like he’s a girl, he can use the girls’ locker room or restroom. If a girl feels like she’s a boy, she can use the boys’ locker room or restroom, because who are we to judge? Gender is not determined by anatomy or by theology, but by individuality. That’s the world in which we live.
“Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” the Bible says. “That the world in its wisdom does not know God,” the Bible says. “The mind that does not know God is hostile to God. “It does not understand his laws, in fact, it cannot submit to them,” says the Word of God.
Christians think differently about everything, not just this thing. We believe we’re made male and female in the image and likeness of God, that marriage is not just civil and contractual, it is covenantal, it is for one man and one woman, and it is defined by covenant in the presence of God and consummation between the husband and the wife.
MARRIAGE IS A PORTRAIT OF SOMETHING FAR GREATER
Here’s why this is so incredibly important, because according to the Scriptures, marriage is an illustration—it’s a pattern, a precedent, a foreshadowing of something far more significant and greater.
People say, “Well, those two people love each other. Why can’t they get married?” My question is, well, what about the brother and sister who love one another, all right, and they’re not going to hurt anybody and they’re consenting adults? In the absence of a definition of marriage, you will see all kinds of insanity in the name of tolerance and diversity. That’s the world in which we live.
According to the Bible, marriage is a portrait and a picture of something far greater. The Bible tells us that marriage is a portrait and a symbol and a picture of Jesus’ love for the church. You can read this in Ephesians 5, where it says that Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, to present her to himself as a radiant bride without blemish or spot. The history culminates in Revelation 19 near the end of the Bible with a wedding.
How many of you love going to an amazing wedding between a bride and a groom who love each other? The reason why everybody wants to have a wedding is because they’re made in the image and likeness of God, and ultimately if they don’t even know God, they are being prepared by God for that eternal day when they are in his presence. They want that wedding.
Ultimately, the greatest wedding of all is the wedding between Jesus and his people. Revelation 19 says that history ends with a wedding supper of the Lamb, and that the church is like a bride wearing white. So you men, we’re not individually brides, but collectively we relate to Jesus with respect, followership, adoration, covenantal affection, and fidelity.
We don’t worship other gods because that’s whoring. That’s why in the Bible idolatry is adultery. When we’re worshiping other gods, we’re cheating on Jesus. We participate in false religion and spirituality. We’re cheating on Jesus. TAnd that the church is to be like a bride and that Jesus is like a groom, and that marriage is to present and to prepare people for that ultimate reality.
The result is that marriage is far more than just a man and a woman. When it is covenantal, it includes the Lord Jesus, a portrait of the church and the eternal kingdom of God. And it is for those people who are in the New Covenant with Jesus—they’re in saving relationship with Jesus Christ. And the consummation is not sexual, but it is spiritual, where after the resurrection of the dead and all things are made new, just like a bride would go to live with her husband, so God’s people will go to his kingdom, the place that Jesus is preparing for us right now.
What happens is, if you’re confused about marriage, that covenant, you’re ultimately confused about salvation and that covenant. This is why people who support same-sex marriage also support universalism, the idea that all peoples and religions will be saved. If you’re confused about how God has covenant with us, you’ll be confused about how to have covenant in marriage. Or vice versa, if you’re confused about the covenant of marriage, you’ll be confused about the covenant of salvation.
This is why the liberal churches not only ruin the covenant of marriage, they ruin the covenant of salvation. They won’t draw any lines around who can be in the covenant of marriage because they don’t believe that God has a right to draw any lines about who participates in the covenant of redemption. It’s all very theological. It’s all very theological.
So, if you’re single, you ask, “What does this have to do with me?” Statistically 91 percent of you will marry, 91 percent of you will marry. Now, this verse here in Genesis 2:24 is so important that not only does Moses state it, Jesus repeats it. Jesus repeats it.
Some of you people say, “Well, what did Jesus say?” Jesus quotes this verse: “Have you not heard that in the beginning God made the male and female,” he quotes Genesis 2. “For this reason a man will leave his mother and father be united to his wife, two will become one flesh.” And then later on the Apostle Paul quotes it.
So here’s what you got: God says it, Moses, Jesus who is God, and Paul all restate it. You know why? It doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter what you and I and they vote on. If God, Moses, Jesus, Paul vote, that trumps all other votes, even the Supreme Court vote.
THE PENALTY FOR ADULTERY
So, if marriage is covenantal, what happens when you violate the terms of the covenant? What happens when you commit adultery? That’s the next question. Here is the penalty for adultery. This is why there are penalties for adulteries in the Bible. There’s one in the Old Testament, one in the New Testament, and one for the eternal kingdom of God. In the Old Testament, the penalty for adultery is death. Let that sit for a moment. All right, next time you watch Bridges of Madison County, just remember this: Leviticus 20:10—and it says this numerous places in the Old Testament—“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, “both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to”—what? “Death.”
See, in the Old Covenant, the Old Testament, there wasn’t an opportunity for repeat offenders. You commit adultery, you die, we move on. This is why sometimes when we argue about divorce as Christians, we tend to miss this point. People are like, “Well, could they get divorced in the old—” Well, if your spouse is dead, you don’t really need to walk down to the courthouse and fill out the paperwork to get a divorce. You have the funeral and move on with your life.
If you were born in a different day, some of you would be dead. The only difference between life and death for you is the date of your birth. You’ve committed adultery; you should be dead. You feel that? God takes this very seriously, doesn’t he? When I hear people say things like, “Hey, everybody makes mistake, nobody’s perfect, who are you to judge?” I think to myself, they should be dead, not arguing or defending. They should have some sense of gratitude that they even have breath in their lungs to state their case.
In the Old Covenant, the penalty was death; in the New Covenant, the penalty was divorce. Matthew 19:9, “Whoever divorces his wife”—who’s saying this? Who’s saying this? Jesus. “Whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality”—and it’s a big word, but for our purposes, we’re going to say primarily adultery, but it can include other things because people are very perverted and can find ways around rules. “And marries another commits”—what? “Adultery.”
So what’s the condition? What’s the clause, the exception for divorce? You’re supposed to be married; the two become one. If we’re going to take a cleaver to the one and make them two again, the issue should be for something as strong as adultery.
Now, some Christians are going to come along and they’re going to get really legalistic and say, “No, you should never, never, never get divorced.” Divorce is something that should not be rushed into. For those of you who are hearing this, hear me on this: adultery does not mean you should get a divorce. Adultery means you have that as a possibility—it’s not a requirement. You don’t have to get divorced, but according to Jesus, you have a right to be divorced.
But, but, I would encourage nearly all of you, if I knew your personal case, to do all you could to go back to that vine and to nurture it and to feed it and to water it and to tend to it to see if you can’t get it to grow again. If you’re going to go do that with someone else, put all that time, energy, effort, and investment in, oftentimes it is good to make that same investment in the relationship you already have.
This is why I would discourage anyone from rushing into divorce in the moment of hurt. And if you are a victim of adultery, your spouse has cheated on God and cheated on you, your proclivity can be out of anger, hurt, or frustration, or out of shock, horror, or embarrassment to just run into divorce. Don’t do it under those kinds of emotionally draining, straining circumstances because, well, it’s like getting married. I would never encourage anyone to rush into marriage, and I would never encourage anyone to rush out of marriage. These are massive decisions that involve many people and they implicate the rest of our entire life.
Some of you say, “Well, I just want to get it over with.” The truth is that when two become one and then they become two again, you’re going to have suffering and scars in your soul for the rest of your days on the earth. You never fully recover and heal from that.
In addition, my encouragement is particularly concerned about children. If you have children, sometimes the hurt, wounded parent thinks, “We’ll get a divorce and move on.” True or false, for those of you who are divorced with children that if you have children, it’s never over? Because you still got the holidays. You still got the birthdays. You still got the school performances. You still got the soccer games. You’ve still got life together. And so the myth in our culture is get divorced and move on, but you’ll carry the scars with you and if you have children, to some degree, you never just move on.
SICK OF TAKING STD TESTS
In my pastoral ministry of seventeen-plus years, there have only been a few occasions where I’ve looked someone in the eye and said, “I believe it is time to get the divorce.” You legalistic, religious people, you’re going to judge me on that. Oftentimes you do that because you’re adulterers and you want to be in control, and you need to relinquish control. One was a woman early on. Her husband committed repeat adultery on her, repeated, dozens of women, prostitutes. The guy was out of control, refused to stop traveling, refused to stop adulterating.
I met with her. I met with him. I invested in them. I begged him. He would not change. He was not grieved. He was not trying. She got sick of taking STD tests, as a faithful wife. He then even stopped hiding it from the children, and certain women would show up at the house looking for him. She said, “What do I do?” What can you do? What can you do? It takes two people to reconcile, and he is making no effort toward repentance. There’s nothing you can do.
Very rarely have I told someone that I believe that we’re at that point. But there are occasions where it gets to that point. Let me say that you don’t make that decision yourself; you make it with wise counsel. You get someone who is a godly pastor, biblical counselor to look at all the variables and to hear the other side because, let’s be honest, sometimes someone tells the story in such a way that it benefits them. You’re not in a place to be the judge of when this time has come in your own life.
DON’T BE DECEIVED
Whatever you do, don’t go to the Bible looking for a way to get what you want, OK? Go to the Bible looking for what God wants. In the Old Covenant, the penalty was death. In the New Covenant, the penalty was divorce. In the eternal kingdom, the penalty is damnation. You can go to hell for this.
I was tempted, just because I know I’m going to get in trouble with this sermon anyway, to put “dot, dot, dot” in a few points on this list. Read fast and move on, hoping you didn’t look it up. Let’s assume that this is true, and then just look at the world in which we live. 1 Corinthians 6:9–10, “Do you not know that the unrighteousness will not inherit the kingdom of God?” Jesus says every good tree bears good fruit. You’re not saved by your works, but you’re saved to do your works. How you live your life doesn’t make you a Christian, but it demonstrates whether or not you are a Christian.
“Do not be deceived”—wow, there’s a big idea. Apparently in our world, there’s deception. I don’t know if you’re aware of this. I don’t know if you’re aware of the fact that there’s deception in our world. “Neither the sexually immoral”—this can include all kinds of sexual sin, fornicators, pornography, porn heads—all of it. All right, the word there is _porneia_—it’s where we get our word pornographic. “Nor idolaters”—other religions—“nor”—what? “Adulterers. Nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit”—what? “The kingdom of God.”
See, the things that we have parades for, God sends people to hell for. Hence that word “deceived” that I made mention of just a moment ago. How many of you right now, just in your soul, you’re like, “That is concerning”? Good, you’re paying attention. God is holy. His holiness is mentioned more than any other attribute in the Bible. God is a God of wrath. God’s wrath is spoken of some six hundred times. Do not be deceived. Not everyone is saved. Not everyone knows Jesus. Not everyone is forgiven. Not everyone is going to heaven. And the big idea here is not, have you sinned, but are you changing?
In the next verse, he says, “As some of you were.” See the people in the Corinthian church, like the people in our church—guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty. And he says, but once you meet Jesus, the answer is changing, changing, changing, changing, changing. Christians aren’t perfect, but they’re different than they were, and they’re in the process of becoming less like who they were and more like who Jesus is.
My question to you is, has there been any change in your life? If there’s change after meeting Jesus, you should have a degree of confidence that you’ve, in fact, met Jesus. If you’ve met Jesus and there’s not been any change in your life, I would submit to you that you likely have not met Jesus, because you can’t meet Jesus and not change. All sin is equal.
Immediately when I say adultery or other sins, some will say, “Oh, but the Bible says that all sin is equal.” All sin is equally damning, but all sin is not equally devastating. Adultery has a different consequence than jaywalking. Do you understand that? The terrorism has a different consequence than stealing a library book. All sin is equally damning, but not all sin is equally devastating.
In light of that, I want to share just a little bit of statistics so that you’re aware of the epidemic that we are dealing with. When it comes to infidelity and adultery statistics, it’s hard to get accurate statistics.
Number one, people tend not to tell the truth.
Number two, they tend to have different definitions of what the terms mean. As criminals do, they argue over semantics. However, the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy reported that in 41 percent of marriages, one or both spouses admit to either physical or emotional infidelity. Admit to it. Seventeen percent of men and women admit to infidelity with a brother or sister-in-law. The average length of an adulterous affair is two years. How does this affect the children?
Here’s a stupid lie: it’s two consenting adults and doesn’t affect anyone else. How many of you would say that about the decisions your father made? See, we’ve got a whole generation that says, “Well, what two consenting adults does doesn’t affect anyone else.” “Tell me about your dad.” “My dad made these decisions and they ruined my life.” OK, well, is it true that we’re each an island, or is it true that what we do affects others?
How does it affect the children? Children of divorced parents are at least 50 percent more likely to get a divorce than those from unbroken homes. When both the husband and the wife come from divorced families, the odds of divorce are 200 percent higher. Adultery affects the marriage. Adultery and divorce affect the children. A whole generation of psychological experimentation on marriages and families has proven to be folly.
YOU GO TO HELL FOR THIS
It’s come to the point now, we have things like Ashleymadison.com, which is actually a dating site for married people who want to commit adultery without getting caught, and has 20 million users. The number-one day for signing up for a new account—well, the days are New Year’s Day, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Sometimes what mom wants for Mother’s Day is a boyfriend, and what dad wants for Father’s Day is a girlfriend. Their slogan is a dating website for—so their official slogan is, “Life is short, have an affair.”
Now, I mean, how many of you have actually seen that they also do television advertising and try to get time around the Super Bowl? This is not off in the margins. There are now parrot websites that profess to be for Christians so there is one—Christian swingers. Christian swingers. I mean, just “deceived” is a good word, right? By the way, I’m not telling you about this one so you can punch it into your phone right now. It’s a dating site. Here’s their slogan: “A dating site for faithful couples.” It says, “For Christian swingers, things are not easy. Often other religious people judge you.” (I would be one of them.) “Out of ignorance or envy, telling you that your lifestyle and love practices are wrong, but the Bible teaches us, judge not lest you be judged.” “Do not be deceived, neither the sexually immoral or the adulterers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
It doesn’t matter what you and your spouse want to do. It matters what God wants you to do. The highest authority is not you or your spouse or both of you in a unanimous vote. The highest authority is God. The vote that matters is what God has to say. Do not be deceived. In the Old Covenant, it was death. In the New Covenant, it is divorce. In the eternal kingdom, it is damnation. You go to hell for this.
HEART ADULTERY PRECEDES HAND ADULTERY
How many of you right now—don’t raise your hand—are feeling relieved that you’ve not committed adultery? You have. Here’s what Jesus has to say. What I find curious about Jesus is, people who don’t know the Bible think they know Jesus. They will say, “Well, the God of the Old Testament is really angry and harsh, but Jesus is really nice.” What Jesus does in Matthew 5 is take the laws of the Old Testament and makes them more difficult. He doesn’t lessen the requirements of the law; he increases them. All right, if you read the Bible honestly, you’d say, “The God of the Old Testament is really tough, but he’s nothing like that Jesus. That Jesus takes things to a whole ’nother level.”
Here’s one occasion when Jesus does that. Matthew 5:27–28, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’” Where do you hear that? Exodus 20:14. Jesus is a Bible teacher, and he’s commenting here on the Ten Commandments, and he’s commenting specifically on the seventh commandment. “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with”—what? “Lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
See, when they heard the seventh commandment, people thought adultery is what you do with your hands. Jesus says that before it involves your hands, it starts in your heart. Hand adultery and heart adultery both count. And heart idolatry and adultery precedes hand idolatry and adultery.
Friends, this is just the violation of the first two commandments. The first commandment is there’s one God—you worship him alone. If you start worshiping sex, and all of a sudden, sex becomes god to you, it’s violating the first two commandments, which leads to violating the seventh commandment. And so Jesus deals with the heart issue behind it all.
Now consider this: the culture in which we live—back to that word “deceived”—true or false, celebrates lust and adultery? A study was done. It said of all the sexual acts that are on television, ten to one are out of the context of marriage, ten to one. A TV producer was asked why and basically said, “Because they’re more interesting and exciting.”
Sin always is. Think of the popular movies in our day. Think of the popular books in our day. Think of the trashy romance novels. Grace and I were watching a new show the other night, Hostage. We kind of like dramas. The plot line is an adulterous husband. It’s everywhere, so much so that we don’t even recognize it because we think it is normative, because it is so prevalent in all of the cultural forms of entertainment.
Every form of the cultural—wWhen’s the last time you heard a great song about a faithfully married couple, who grew old together and loved one another and didn’t cheat on one another? When is the last time you heard a song about fornicating and adulterating? It starts in the heart.
This would include the use of technology for cybersex, for sexting, for flirting. You know what most divorce attorneys will tell you? When their client walks in, the first thing they do is go to the spouse’s Facebook page, LinkedIn page, Twitter page, look for YouTube videos. Much of present divorce cases are nothing more than presenting the facts from social media because that’s where people go for heart adultery.
True or false, this includes pornography? True or false, this includes pornography? Does pornography qualify as heart idolatry, heart adultery? It does. All right, if looking at someone with lustful intent means anything, it certainly includes pornography. Thirty percent of all Internet data is pornographic. That’s more traffic to porn sites than Netflix, Twitter and Amazon combined. It contributes to sexual addiction, sexual slavery, and sexual assault. One in four women are sexually assaulted, one in six men. That’s just reported. We’re in a culture that’s absolutely untethered, out of control, celebrating things that we should be mourning.
This also includes heart idolatry emotional affairs. An emotional affair is where you have adultery of the heart that has not yet moved to the hands, but it may only be a matter of time. If you have a friendship with someone of the opposite sex, particularly if there’s any aspect of it that is private, personal, it’s a sin. It’s not a sin for two couples to be friends and enjoy one another, but when one husband goes out to coffee with another wife or vice versa, that’s heart idolatry, that’s heart adultery.
When there’s a close friendship—I know of a case some years ago where a husband would do most of the grocery shopping for his family and a wife would do grocery shopping for her family, so they would schedule to do their grocery shopping at the same time so they can visit and catch up and push their carts around the store, and then sit down and have a cup of coffee. Is that right or wrong? It’s very wrong.
See, marriage is, in large part, about friendship. Grace is my nearest and dearest friend. This is what the woman says in Song of Songs 5:16, “He is my lover; he is my friend.” Part of the covenant is friendship. Heart idolatry and heart adultery is inclusive of having a deep emotional relationship and a friendship with someone who’s not your spouse, but is of the opposite sex.
Some women will tell you that for them, this is as devastating as a physical relationship. “You what? “You shared that with her?” “You talked with her?” “You invited her in?” “You made those memories with her?” Right, ladies? We’ve actually created a category for it—it’s called “work spouse.” A woman gets dressed up, goes to work, looks her very best, performs her very best, and so does her husband. They’re gone, 8, 10, 12 hours a day, sometimes even traveling with business partners. All of a sudden, while they’re at work, a man and a woman start to have what looks like a marriage, emotionally supporting, nourishing, helping, encouraging one another. So it’s almost like they’ve almost got a spouse at work and a spouse at home. When they come home, they shift into their second spouse. They call it work spouse.
Thirty-six percent of people have admitted to having an emotional or sexually adulterous relationship with a coworker—thirty-six percent admit to it—And thirty-five percent of business travelers admit to committing adultery on the road, let alone pornography.
WHAT’S YOUR MINDSET?
Romans 8:6–8—I’ll just read it to you—“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law.” That’s some of you. You will not submit to God’s law. The answer for you is no—“I have exceptions. My life is difficult. My marriage is hard. I’m under great stress. I think I married the wrong person.”
It will not submit to God’s laws. “Indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” What he’s talking about is two minds, the mind set on the Spirit that submits to the book that the Holy Spirit wrote, the Bible, that submits to God’s laws, that wants to obey God’s commands, and the mind that is hostile, the mind that is not just passively indifferent but is actively defiant.
My question to you is, what’s your mindset? If even through this sermon you’re trying to find exceptions, you’re exercising a hostile mind. You can go to hell for that. Some of you say, “Are you trying to scare me?” Absolutely. It’s a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. When people encounter God and all of his holiness in the Scriptures, they are terrified.
11 WAYS TO ATTACK ADULTERY
Let me give you some practical pastoral advice. This is for those of you who either have not committed adultery or you have committed adultery, but have worked it through and want to make sure that you never do that again. This is where it’s going to get really pastoral. I’ll share some practical things with you.
- DON’T PRACTICE CHEATING
Singles, how many of you are single? OK? Men are waiting till almost thirty. Women are waiting until their late twenties. They spend their young adult years dating, relating and fornicating, not worshiping and waiting. Singles, fornicating is an internship for adultery.
Some of you say, “I’m just having a little fun till I get married.” No, you’re practicing to cheat, because if you’re sleeping with multiple people, that does not prepare you to be faithful to one person. This is why the pattern of the Bible is chastity before marriage and fidelity in marriage. They go together. Sleeping around does not result in never sleeping around. Whatever degree you got, are you smart enough to see that? Are you smart enough to see that?
- MARRIED COUPLES, FIGHT FOR FIDELITY WITH FREEDOM AND FREQUENCY
Number two, married couples fight for fidelity with freedom and frequency. There is never an excuse for adultery. Jesus lived, died, rose a virgin, OK? You don’t have to have sex. See, in the early church, it was virtuous to be chaste and unmarried. In our day, we make comedies about forty-year-old virgins, because that’s a joke that nobody even could conceive of.
Part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Once you get married, however, a good defense is frequency and freedom. I know there’s children in the room. I’m not going to get into great detail, but you married couples, do you get my point here? If you’re together a lot and it’s not always the same, yay.
- DON’T FIRST CHEAT ON GOD
OK, point number three. OK, this one’s important: before you cheat on your spouse, you have to cheat on God first. The first commandment, one God. Second commandment, you worship that God alone. Adultery doesn’t come until the seventh commandment, and you won’t even get to the seventh commandment if you don’t violate the first two commandments. Sex is god, and I worship by having sexual sin.
That’s why in Romans 12, he says to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto God because this is your spiritual act of worship. Worship is what you do with your body. You can’t say, “Man, I was walking with Jesus. Next thing I know, I committed adultery.” No, you weren’t. Jesus didn’t lead you into adultery.
- DON’T LET YOUR EYES RECRUIT YOUR HANDS
Number four, sexual sin starts with your eyes which then recruit your hands. In Job 31:1 he says, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look upon a woman lustfully.” Adultery doesn’t start here, it starts here—who you look at, what you look at, what you click through, what you’re enticed by. Your eyes, your eyes, are the beginning of your adultery, and then they recruit your hands. So guard your eyes. Guard what you see.
- SEE PEOPLE AS FAMILY
Number five, to conquer your biology, stop seeing people sexually and start seeing them as family. In our day, we have really a perverted notion where it’s like strangers and potential sexual objects. The Bible has a third category where we treat people like family. It says this in 1 Timothy 5:1–2, to treat women like sisters and men like brothers. Jesus did this. Mary and Martha were two women in the Bible who were kind of almost like sisters to Jesus, and he really loved them, and they were friends, and there was nothing sexual or inappropriate of any sort or kind.
There are women in this church who feel like a sister to me. There are men in this church that feel like a brother to my wife. That’s a great category. You can love your sibling, you can talk to them, but you’re not going to be sexually interested in them. This is where, in the church, we have a category that the culture doesn’t have that allows healthy, loving, appropriate male/female relationships. Do you get that?
- HAVE A PASSIONATE WANT-TO AND A PLAN FOR HOW-TO
Number six, sexual purity requires both a passionate want-to and a plan for how-to. The want to precedes the how to. If you don’t want to be sexually pure, no plan is going to work. If you want to be sexually pure, that’s a good start, but then you need a plan for how to maintain sexually purity. And I would submit to you that in the world in which we live, you need a plan. You need a plan, and you need to know your own strengths and weaknesses.
Hear me in this: there’s a difference between legalism and personal legalism. Legalism is where I take my conscience and my rules that are outside of the Bible and I impose them on everyone. We don’t want to do that. Personal legalism is where, in addition to the teachings of the Scripture, I know where I’m weak and vulnerable so I put some safeguards in my life for myself that I wouldn’t impose on everyone but I’d be happy to share because if they could benefit from them, then I’m glad to share how I do things. Make sense?
- MEN, CONQUER LUST, NOT LADIES
Number seven, men—any men? Men? Your manhood is not best expressed by conquering ladies, but rather, conquering lust. An animal will conquer others. A Spirit-filled man conquers himself—self-discipline, self-control. You’re a worshiper; you’re not an animal.
Ladies, any ladies? Men are indeed a problem, but you know they’re only half the problem. Right, ladies? Every time I hammer on the men, people cheer. Soon as I say something about the ladies, then the media gets a little frustrated, OK? You women are sinful; you women have your own ways of doing things.
- LADIES, KNOW THEY ARE ONLY HALF THE PROBLEM
Some you women are flirtatious. Some of you women say, “Well, I never committed adultery.” How about an emotional affair? “Well, what’s an emotional affair?” OK, now we know. All right, as soon as you start arguing about the definition, we know where your heart is, all right? And some of you say, “Well, you know, he initiated.” Well, OK, but you’re not a passive woman; you’re a godly woman. We can’t just blame this all on the men. Men bear large responsibility, but they don’t bear entire responsibility.
- DEFINE YOUR LIFE FORWARD, THEN LIVE IT BACKWARD
Number nine, define your life forward then live it backward. Here’s the big idea: look down the road, what do you want for your future? Here’s what I want: I want to grow old with Grace. I want to be friends with her. I want to hold her hand when we’re old and wrinkled, and I want to hear our grandkids running around our house. When Christmas comes, I want her to sit on the couch next to me, and I want to see that look in her eye and that smile on her face as we see our kids and our grandkids enjoying the grace of God together in our home. That’s what I want.
So all the decisions I make along the way need to be decisions that help lead to that end. When you get shortsighted, you ultimately damage your future.
Recently, one of my sons—a couple of the kids who are from supposedly Christian families, the dads ran off with other women or the woman—the wife ran off with other men, and the family’s falling apart and these are his friends’ families. So I was sitting down with my son recently with—we were just having lunch and visiting. And I said, “Is there anything I can do for you, anything I can pray for you, any questions I can answer for you?” And I’m thinking maybe he’s got stuff in his life. He looks at me and says, “Have you ever committed adultery on Mom?” OK, that’s my son, we’re just going to do this. OK, all right. I said, “Buddy, I’ve been faithful to your mom. I love her with all my heart.” I said, “You know, Daddy got saved before he met Mom. If I wouldn’t have got saved before I met mom, I don’t know who I would have been or what I would have done. But I got saved before I married Mom. And since I got saved before I married Mom, Jesus has kept me 100 percent faithful to your mom.” He said, “I just needed to know if you guys are going to get divorced and if I’m going to end up in the same spot.” “Buddy, you can check that off your list. Nothing to worry about. Daddy loves Jesus. Daddy loves Mom. Mom and Dad love each other. “We’ve been faithful to one another. You worry about your homework, not our marriage, OK? We got this.”
- NURTURE YOUR DEEPEST DESIRES
Number ten, nurture your deepest desires. He says in Galatians that the Spirit and the flesh war against one another and that the flesh keeps you from doing—here’s the big word—what you want to do. If you’re a Christian, you may have temptations, but your deepest desires are for purity. You want to be faithful to your spouse. You want to grow old together. You want to take care of one another. You don’t want to drop a nuclear bomb in your family legacy.
Nurture your deepest desires. I want to be faithful to Grace. I want to be faithful, moreover, to Jesus. All right, my covenant with him is the most important covenant of all and my covenant with her is the second most important covenant of all.
Nurture your deepest desires, and you’ll stay out of trouble. The problem is not that some of you have too passionate desires but that your desires are too weak, that you’ll settle for pornography and adultery when you can have a covenant with Jesus and your spouse. You need to be more passionate and nourish the deepest desires.
- COME CLEAN BEFORE YOU GET CAUGHT
Number eleven, you should come clean before you get caught. Some of you are already living under the anxiety of, “I’m guilty; I hope I don’t get caught.” And some of you are living under this myth: “If I tell my spouse, then that will hurt our marriage.” The truth is, it’s already damaged, and the other person doesn’t know why.
The intimacy is severed because what sin does is sin separates. It never reconciles. Sin distances. It never unifies. Seventy-four percent of men have said that they would commit adultery if they could be guaranteed they never get caught. Sixty-eight percent of women have said that they would commit adultery if they were assured they would never be caught.
Let’s just be honest and say that God has already caught you. He knows. And so what I’m going to ask you to do is have the talks, because many of you don’t want to have the talks, but because I love you and I’m your pastor, I need you to have the talks. The first talk is with Jesus. And if there is adultery or adultery of the heart, you need to have the talk with Jesus. You need to confess your sin to him. You need to get some hours away in a quiet, private place. You need to get a journal and a pen. You need to write down all of your sexual sin. Write it all down. It’s going to take some hours to remember things.
Ask the Holy Spirit to convict you of sin so that you could see, apart from the grace of God, who you are and what you do. This will destroy you, and it’s exactly what you need. You need to see yourself as God sees you so that you’ll know you need God to help you and to save you from yourself. And you need to pray, you need to cry, you need to call out to Jesus, you need to ask for forgiveness. You need to work on that first covenant. That’s the first talk.
YOU NEED TO TALK WITH YOUR SPOUSE
The second talk is then the talk with your spouse. So I’m going to ask the two of you to pray before you meet. You don’t do this in a way that is hasty. I want you to schedule a time to have this talk. And say, “You know what? “Pastor Mark said we need to have the talk. “We’re going to carve out time to do that. “It’s going to be private. “It’s not going to be when the kids are running around the living room when we’re trying to have this talk. It may mean that we even have to go away for an overnight somewhere so we have uninterrupted time.”
I want you to be praying about that second talk. Once you get things cleared up with Jesus, then he’ll help you know what to do in the second talk with your spouse. I want you to write down all the things that you need to share with your spouse, everything that the Holy Spirit convicts and compels you to share—all the truth. Walk in the light as he is in the light and we have fellowship with one another. Get it all out there. Get it all out there. Write it all down so that when you meet, you make sure that you’ve got this prepared so that as the conversation becomes very emotional, you are able to have a decent conversation.
Going into this, if you need wise counsel, seek wise counsel. Be very careful who you invite in. Do not invite in, at this stage, your family. Don’t talk to close relatives. Don’t just talk to friends who take your side. All right, all right? If you’re an adulterer, don’t find your adulterer friend and have them enable you. Get some wise counsel. “OK, “here’s what I’m dealing with. Pastor Mark said we need to have the talks. I need a little counsel, a little wisdom here on what I need to do.” This could be a very godly friend, but not a friend who takes your side—a friend who takes God’s side. And then when you sit down and share, don’t have any expectations on their reaction.
For some people, they are shell shocked. They are stunned. They are without emotion in that moment because it’s a moment frozen in time for them. Other people get very angry. Other people become very destroyed and distraught and devastated. Don’t look at somebody and say, “I can’t believe you responded like that.” You have no right to put any expectation on their reaction. They get to feel what they feel.
In addition, no partial confessions. Sometimes what we do is to assuage our guilt and conscience is, we’ll share just enough that we feel better and they feel trusting and then we hide the rest. If you’re going to deal with it, deal with it all. Don’t put them through the pain of dealing with a little bit now and someday we’ll deal with a little bit more. That’s like a surgeon going in for a cancer and saying, “We’ll get a little bit now. We’ll get a little bit later. And in a few years, we’ll go in and get some more. You know, no need to be hasty and get it all at once.” No, let’s get it all at once.
But when you share, share the basic data, not the bare details. Sometimes people want to, “Well, did this and this?” And they get very specific. Say, “You know what? I love you. To give you all the details would be devastating. In the future, you’re welcome to ask specific questions, and I’ll try and be honest. But right now, I don’t want to make this more devastating and difficult than it is. I’ll share the basic details and not the bare details.”
When you schedule this time and you sit down with your spouse, the first question is, “Is there anything I need to know?” If the answer is yes, then you have the talk. If the answer is no, “I haven’t committed adultery. I’m not a porn head. I don’t have a lot of secret sin to tell ya,” then the next question is, “How do we safeguard our marriage going forward? What things can we do to have a better, more loving, close, intimate relationship?”
Let me tell you this: the talk is not the end; it’s the beginning. Don’t think, “Boy, I’m glad we had the talk and now we can move on.” No, this is like cancer surgery. You go in, you cut it out but then the body’s got to heal, and then you need physical therapy, and then you need to regain health. This is going to be a journey together, nurturing that plant, watering it, paying attention to it, so that there can be life in your home. I need you to do this. I need you to do this.
Some of you are resistant because you’ll say, “This is going to be very dark.” It already is very dark and you’re just inviting your spouse into reality. And as you walk through the darkness, there’s the possibility of light on the other side by the grace of God.
THE WOMAN CAUGHT IN ADULTERY
I’m going to let you sit in that for a moment. We’re going to collect our tithes and offerings. In a moment we’re going to partake of Communion where we remember Jesus’ broken body and shed blood. Let me say this though, hear me on this, can I read you a story of hope, as we collect our offering? Can I read you a story of hope as we prepare for Communion?
John 8, “Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and sat down and he taught them. And the scribes and the Pharisees, the religious folks, brought a woman who had been caught in”—You know the story, “Adultery.” Guilty or innocent, this woman of adultery? Guilty. Caught. “‘Now in the Law of Moses we are commanded to stone such a women,’ they said. So what do you say?”
How many of you today are in the position of this woman? Caught by God in the act of adultery right now you’re before Jesus, guilty? “‘So what do you say?’ they asked. “This is what they said to test him, “that they might have some charges to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.” We know not what. “And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’ And he bent down once more and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they all went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.”
True or false, Jesus was the only one who had a right to pick up a rock and to kill this woman. True or false? True. He’s the only one who didn’t have hand adultery or heart adultery. He’s the only one who’s sinless and with clean hands. Jesus stood up—can you imagine this moment?
How many of you right now, you feel like Jesus is standing over you? “I’m a guilty adulterer, Jesus is standing over me. He has every right to kill me.” “And he said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? No has one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said”—hear this, adulterer—“‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and sin no more.’”
Then Jesus went to the cross, and he died for this woman’s adultery. And Jesus went to the cross and he died for your hand adultery and your heart adultery, and he paid the penalty of death so that we could receive life, and he commands us to go and sin no more.
God rightly compares marriage to a vine. You’ve got to invest a lot, and you’ve got to wait a long time. You’re going to need to be patient and tending to it if you want it to grow and be fruitful. Adultery is like a Weed eater that carelessly severs the vine’s base, killing it in an instant.
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