Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Breaking the cycle of moral failure is a process, not an event. The cure requires three things, something to believe, something to do, and something to share. Today, we focus on what each of us must do in order to be free.
Please stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, there are many broken people listening who need a word of hope. Is it really possible for them to break the cycle of moral failure? Well, you know, Dave, building on the image that you just gave us, namely broken people, one of the most basic truths is that they have to give Him all the pieces of their lives.
Doesn't mean that life is going to be easy, but it is going to be different. And you know, Running to Win exists to help people do just that, to run successfully all the way to the finish line, as we frequently say. We are here also to give people resources. If you've been blessed as a result of this ministry, as I have frequently pointed out, it is because other people have invested in this ministry.
Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts. Here's what you do for info. You go to rtwoffer.com.
Of course, when you're there, you click on the endurance partner button, or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. As you listen to this message, ask yourself this question, who else needs to hear what is being said? So what do I want you to believe?
I want you to believe that Jesus, the Son, is stronger than slavery. I want you to see yourself as a son and a daughter of the Almighty. I want you to know that you have a sense of dignity, that the thoughts that you have about yourself as being so unlovable are not God's thoughts about you. They are your thoughts, not his. He loves you.
He cares about you. And you're fully and completely redeemable in the most thorough way imaginable. The Son makes us free indeed. There's a second thing that I want you to do, and that is I want you to do something, to believe something, to do something. Now for this, I do ask you to turn to Matthew chapter 5. We're going to use a different passage, Matthew 5, where Jesus, in a familiar passage on the Sermon on the Mount, says these words in verse 27. By the way, it is so wonderful to hear you turning in your Bibles to the passages that we indicate. And I hope that you always bring your Bible to church. Matthew 5, 27, you have heard that it was said, do not commit adultery.
I say to you, whoever looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Jesus here is making a statement of universal indictment. And then notice, if your right eye causes you to sin, I like the translation that says stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.
It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Jesus is talking about the battle that we are going to have with lust. And the whole imagery here is, if your right eye, and he uses the eye because we as men particularly are easily stimulated by the eye in a way that perhaps women do not fully understand. And if your hand, which oftentimes is used in stimulation particularly in relationship to a woman, if your hand is causing you to fall into the pit, and the imagery there is a pit, you know, that has a, what shall we say, it is dug into the ground and then it is covered with light branches and leaves and the animal does not know that the pit is there, but he falls in. If it is your eye or your hand, Jesus said, cut out your eye and cut off your hand. You say, well, Pastor Luther isn't speaking literally, is he? No, he isn't, obviously, because it would be possible for you to cut out your right eye and still lust with your left, or to cut off your right hand and still be immoral. But what Jesus is saying in the strongest possible way is this, whatever you need to do to separate yourself from that which is falling into a pit, from that which causes you to fall into a pit, do it, even if it is drastic.
What about that? Well, first of all, amputation is painful, isn't it? Gouging out your eye. Of course it hurts with crude tools, no anesthetic.
I mean, it hurts. And some of you have to give up relationships that hurt. You have to give up friendships that are causing you to sin. You have to break relationships. Some of you have to flee from temptation. You have to run from other people. You have to change jobs. You say that's drastic.
Jesus says, do it. Some of you have to take your blockbuster card, and you have to take an ax and smash it into a thousand pieces. Some of you have to end your cable television subscription. There are Christians who have HBO or Showtime, some of these stations that show pornography, and what you need to do is to just do it. Some of you have to unplug your television set. There is a friend, and he knows that I use him as an illustration, so if he's here today, it's fine as long as I don't name him, who a year ago unplugged his television set. And he told us, not only is his mind a lot purer, but he said that when he was sick the other day, he was tempted to plug it in. He thought, you know, I've done so long without it and I've done so well.
Why should I begin that now? Jesus is saying, whatever you need to do, if it means getting rid of your computer, do it. Oh, I need email, you say.
Don't give me that. We lived for years and years and years and years and years without email. Some time ago I was on vacation and my secretary had to deal with 700 emails. Now emails were supposed to simplify our lives, I thought. Got all these friends, here's a good article, here's a joke, here's this, here's this.
We need email. Jesus is saying, whatever you need to do, even if it hurts. And then of course it is also thorough amputation, cutting out your eye, cutting off your hand. If a cancer patient, what would you think of a doctor who says, well, you know, we could have gotten it all, but we kept a little bit of cancer because, you know, the time might come when you might want a little bit of cancer. So we decided to manage it rather than get rid of it. See, that's our problem. We always leave a bridge to that sin. We confess it, but there's always that bridge there.
The idea of going cold turkey is unthinkable, so we keep that in our minds and hearts and we keep the bridge. One of the Puritan writers says that when it comes to sin, we should do like Paul did when he shook the viper into the fire. And when we leave sin, it should not be with the intention of seeing it again.
It is thorough. It is worthwhile. Jesus said it's better. You say, well, I wouldn't want to have one eye and one hand only.
Yeah, I know none of us would. We wouldn't be able to fulfill all of our aspirations, but my goodness, if that's what's standing between me and heaven, my soul is so much more worth than my body. It is better for me to arrive in heaven with one eye than to be in hell with two eyes. It is better.
It is better. What is it that we lose when we submit, submit to these obsessions that control us? You know what we lose? We lose the blessing and the friendship of God, because God is always at arm's length.
He's always there in the distance. We may pray to him in desperation, but there's no fellowship. A few years ago, a pastor who was really addicted to pornography wrote an article that occurred in Leadership magazine.
They got more responses from that article Leadership did than any other article they had ever published up until that time. But he said the thing that finally motivated him to come clean and to change was this. It was the absence of the presence of God. He said the thing that hurt him the most was the words of Jesus, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. And when we're impure in heart, we can't really see God. We know that he's there, but we keep putting him off, and we keep saying, I'm going to deal with this later at another time.
Why? Because we don't want to just face the issue and say, you know, we've grieved God. And that's why we know that dealing with this is worthwhile. So I've given you something to believe that sonship is more powerful than slavery. I've given you something to do, namely to burn all the bridges that lead back to the same sin. Now let me give you something to share, because many of you are listening to this and you're saying, Pastor Luther, you're absolutely right.
And I am going to deal with this issue this afternoon. God and I are going to have this little talk, and nobody's going to know about it except God and I. Well, there are some things that it's okay just for you and God to know about. There's a lot in my life that is between me and God.
But I need to tell you this, that when it really comes to the issue of these obsessions, you cannot do it alone. It's equivalent to a finger that's bleeding, saying I'm bleeding and I'm going to heal, but I'm going to do it independently of the body. Just cut me off, put me in a fridge and God and I will get healed. No, the whole purpose of being linked to the body is for help.
Let me give you two reasons. First of all, the Bible says, confess your faults one to another that you may be healed. Normally we think of physical healing, but I believe in context. There's powerful reasons to believe that it's spiritual healing. This past summer I spent an hour with a man who was addicted to pornography and actually very immoral and then God changed him and now for the last 10, 15 years gives lectures in churches on how to overcome these addictions. You know, the name of his organization, which I forget, is something like this, how to have healthy relationships.
I thought, well that's strange for an organization that is helping people overcome these addictions, but he said no. He said what happens is you need a healthy relationship. Somebody needs to know your story and yet affirm you.
Somebody needs to be able to say, even though you've done that, you are a part of the human family and we're all struggling together and I affirm you as an individual who has worth and value and relationship and also it is necessary for accountability, accountability because you really can't do it alone. Let me tell you two separate stories, but because they are so parallel, I will tell them as one story. One was a man who struggled with visiting prostitutes and the other was a homosexual coming out of the lifestyle but falling again and again. Both of them independently, and these stories are totally independent, had friends who said, when you're tempted, call me any time of the day or night. So they would call any time of the day or night. So, you know, here's somebody who would be cruising along looking for a person with whom they could have this relationship and saying to himself, one man explained it this way, Lord, if I see a phone booth, I'll call my friend. Alright, so much to his displeasure, he saw a phone booth, but he called his friend.
His friend talked him out of what he was about to do and went over and blessed him and stayed up all night with him and ministered to him and this happened a few times. And in both of these instances, these men say this, that now that they look back over a period of time, they can hardly believe that they once did what they knew they once did because it's almost as if it's a different world. They've been changed at the level of the desire and that's why we need one another.
That's why accountability is so important. You say, well, is that all? Is that all?
Is there more to the story? The next message in this series is going to deal with the whole issue of the care of your soul and how the disciplines of the Christian life become a part of it. All of these messages, none of which can stand alone, but I have given you something to believe, something to do, and something you must share with a friend.
Somebody in this world needs to know who you are and affirm you and love you and hold you accountable. And what happens as a result? The temptations lose their power.
It's been my experience, I think that most of us overestimate our ability to handle temptation. We think we can take it on. No, we can't.
We're not. Do you remember the story of Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses? Ulysses was on his way home to be reunited with his wife. While Ulysses was gone fighting in the Trojan War, he had a relationship with a goddess who warned him that on the way home there was an enchanted island that had sirens. Beautiful women whose siren songs were so alluring that it was known that sailors often sailed to their death. Captains of ships going one direction overheard the siren song and were so seduced that they changed the course of their ships, not knowing that there were jagged rocks under the sparkling waters. And the men were so overcome by lust that they would hop into the water even before the ship broke to pieces, and they were devoured by these sirens with their ravenous appetites. Ulysses, bless him, knew how weak he was. So as they were sailing in the direction of the island, knowing that they had to go at least some yards, some miles past it, he asked all of the sailors to put wax in their ears.
But he knew that that was not enough for him, with or without wax. So he asked the sailors to tie him to the mast of the ship, to tie him down. And then he says, no matter how much I beg and plead and cajole or manipulate or threaten, do not untie me until we are well past the island and we cannot hear the song of the sirens anymore.
My dear friend, I want you to know that there are many enchanted islands en route to the holy city. And we look about and we see many people at various levels of pain and shame and devastation brought about by the sirens that come to us from the world, from the temptations that allure us. And there are times when we must tie one another to the mast of the ship and simply say, in order for me to sail past these temptations, which I cannot handle, I need the body of Christ.
I need to experience, first of all, that sonship is more powerful than slavery. He breaks the power of canceled sin. Sin has to be canceled, but its power needs to be broken too.
He breaks the power of canceled sin. And secondly, there's something I have to do. I have to get rid of the thing that is constantly causing me to fail, no matter how drastic the action is.
And number three, I have to connect with the body. I have to be a part of a healing community because I need help. If the sun shall make you free, you'll experience freedom plus. Join me as we pray. Father, we come to you today as those who stand in need of your matchless grace. And we ask today, Father, that you might grant us the ability to just do what the Holy Spirit has told us to do. Whatever there is in our lives that needs to be broken, come, Father.
Oh, Father, we're so bound by our own selves, our own images. We ask today, Father, Holy Spirit that has been poured out to the Church, come to us. How many of you say today, Pastor Lutzer, God has spoken to me, and I intend to follow through with what you've said. Would you raise your hands, please, throughout the auditorium? God bless you.
God bless you up in the balcony. I see those hands. Several of you. Others of you here on the floor. I see those hands.
Too many really to count. Father, we ask in Jesus' name, in Jesus' name, would you cause those who have heard this message today to follow through, those who were too ashamed to raise their hands, those who knew they should, but Lord, the power is so great. We resist Satan, we resist sin, and we stand in the liberty with which Jesus has purchased us. We ask in His name. Amen. Amen. But my friend, the battle can be very intense, can't it? Very interestingly, in my devotional time this morning, I read a verse from 2 Timothy, where Paul says that he trusts God to keep him from every evil deed and bring him safely into the heavenly kingdom.
That's what we're trusting God for. I have in my hands a letter from someone who says, after a bad childhood, I was on my own. I was a rebel without a cause from the age of 15. But God revealed himself to me. I was given a Bible. And then he said I started to listen to MCM.
Now, what would that stand for? That's an app, Moody Church Media app. I'm learning to be a better husband after 18 years and grandfather because of Pastor Lutzer's teaching. And he goes on to thank us for our ministry. You, my friend, have a part in testimonies just like this, and we receive them because of the investment that many people have made in the ministry of Running to Win.
And by the way, speaking of that app, it certainly is available, Moody Church Media app. But would you consider helping us? Would you consider becoming an endurance partner? That's someone who stands with us regularly with their prayers and their gifts.
Of course, the amount that you give is entirely your decision. Here's what you can do. Go to RTWOffer.com.
RTWOffer.com. And when you're there, click on the endurance partner button. Or if you prefer, you can call us at 1-888-218-9337. Let me give you that contact info again. And thanks in advance for helping us. Thank you for your investment of your prayers and your gifts. Go to RTWOffer.com. When you're there, click on the endurance partner button or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. King David's lust burned for Bathsheba, another man's wife. A baby was conceived and a king ended up sanctioning murder to cover up a scandal. But David admitted his sin, sought forgiveness, and found restoration with God. Next time, the final message in this series as we examine a man who was down but not out. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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