Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. We're all susceptible to moral sin, and with the Internet we're more susceptible than ever. Our entire culture is sinking into a pit of moral decay.
The issue is serious and demands a radical solution. Today, words from Jesus himself on dealing with impurity. 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, is it too late even for a radical solution to moral decay, or do you see light at the end of a dark tunnel?
Well Dave, it depends on what you mean by the question. I find a lot of light when I look into the lives of Christians who are struggling with sin, but also winning over sin. But when I look at the wider culture, I'm rather pessimistic. You know, there came a time in Israel's history when God even said to Jeremiah, don't even pray for them anymore.
I'm not saying that we're there in America. I pray for this country. But at the same time, it's very difficult to turn around a culture that has eclipsed God. That being said, these messages are tremendously important for believers, for those who struggle with technology. For a gift of any amount, we're making this sermon series available. It's entitled Guard Your Heart. Now many of you have listened to some of the sermons. You've missed some of them. You know people who need to hear these sermons. If you want to listen to them again and again for a gift of any amount, here's what you do.
Go to RTWOfferer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. Ask for the sermon series, Guard Your Heart. It's time for us now to turn to the words of Jesus. Let's turn to the words of Jesus in Matthew chapter 5. Matthew chapter 5, where Jesus talks about radical answers to sin questions. Radical answers to sin questions. Matthew chapter 5 verse 27.
This is what he said. You have heard that it was said, you shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Yesterday as I was thinking about this, I thought this is a universal indictment of human nature. Is there any human being, any human being, that is not lusted? I don't know of any if afterwards, the meeting, you come and you say you never have.
I can't help you because there was a preacher who said that he can't help people who lie. So Jesus here is speaking here and having a very high standard. Now the thing that we must keep in mind is that this doesn't mean that lust is equal to adultery any more than hatred is equal to murder, as if all sin is the same. That's not true at all. Ontologically it's the same in the sense that they have to be forgiven and God hates all kinds of sin. But that is wrong for us to say one sin is equal to another.
Of course it isn't. The Bible even talks about a sin unto death and then it says and there is a sin that is not a sin unto death. So it's wrong for us to think that way. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount clarifies that.
He says if you say this to your brother, the penalty is this. But if you say this, it is hellfire. But what Jesus is saying to the self-righteous Pharisees is this. Just because you pride yourself in not committing adultery, that doesn't mean that you're dealing with the core sin question because God looks upon the heart. That's what Jesus is saying. So don't think of yourself as righteous. And what Jesus wanted the Pharisees of his day to realize as we need to realize is that what we really need is a redeemer.
We need somebody to stand in for us. We need Jesus to meet all of God's requirements on our behalf so that we can be justified and so that we can be declared righteous despite our struggles for sin. It is Jesus Christ's obedience that is received by the Father that you and I have the privilege of getting in on when we trust him as our Savior and we believe in him as our Lord.
It is then you see that we take care of it. And that's one of the things that Jesus wants to do in the Sermon on the Mount. He wants to so show us our sin that we cry up and say, I need a Savior. And certainly in this passage of scripture, we do just that.
Now we continue on. And Jesus said this, and he's still talking about the same subject. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better for you to lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Now, Jesus here is speaking surgically and very radically, isn't it? You know, the word there, the phrase causes you to sin. That phrase actually in Greek has the idea of you're entrapped. We could almost use the imagery of you want to catch an animal. And so you dig a hole and then you put some leaves and branches over it.
Because what you want that animal to do is to step on it and then be entrapped. Jesus is saying whatever it is that is causing you to become entrapped. For men, it is the eye, most assuredly, no matter how often we tell women that I'm not sure that they fully understand it. But Jesus said, talked about the right eye for women, it may be the gentle caresses of the hand. Jesus said, whatever you need to do. You say, well, he's not speaking literally, is he?
Of course not. Of course he's not speaking literally. I mean, you could have your right eye cut out and still lust with your left, for example. So Jesus is not speaking literally. But what he is saying is literally true. It is better to go to heaven with one eye than to be in hell with two.
So it's literally true. Jesus is saying in the strongest possible language, whatever it is that is causing you to stumble, take care of it. One day I was in my study meditating on this passage and I asked myself the question, what would it actually be like to have your eye cut out or your hand cut off? Now, in a day when there was no anesthetic, could you imagine somebody coming with a knife and just taking your eye like this and cutting it out and your eye falls onto your lap? I would say that that would probably hurt. Or have your hand cut off? Number one, it is painful. Here are the implications.
Number one, it is painful. But sometimes we have to make painful decisions for Jesus. I've counseled men who are in love with a woman who is not their wife. They say, you know, I've met my soul mate. I mean, we really connect. It is a beautiful relationship, they tell me.
And I don't argue with that. It may be a beautiful relationship. Eve in the Garden of Eden, when she looked at the fruit, she said, you know, it's a very beautiful, beautiful fruit on that tree.
And it was beautiful. But God condemned it and God said no. And no matter how much it hurts, no matter how deep the investment in sin, Jesus is saying, even if it is painful, stop it and do whatever you have to do to keep from falling into the same pit, Jesus is saying.
So the first thing is, it's painful. Met a man who said, I'm falling in love with a woman at work who is not my wife. I said, change jobs. Well, I can't. I've got a wife and kids to look after. Think about that one.
So what you're going to do is hook up with this lady and maybe in the end not worry so much about your wife and kids. Jesus said, whatever you need to do. Secondly, it is thorough. It's thorough.
After you've had it done and, you know, your eye and your hand has been in a plastic bag for a week awaiting some analysis by an expert, it's a little late to say, I don't know whether or not I should have done this. It's thorough. You know, it was Tozer, one of the great preachers, who said that it is the part that we rescue from the cross, the part that we rescue from the cross that is really the seat of our troubles, Tozer said.
And it's really true, isn't it? You've heard me say before that if you're going to jump across a chasm, it is much better to do it in one long jump than in two short ones. And when you deal with sin, you really have to deal with it thoroughly. As a matter of fact, when it comes to cancer, for example, if they're dealing with it surgically, you don't want to just have the cancer cut out. I think that you'd probably say to the doctor, cut a little bit beyond it because I want to make sure that you've got it all.
Jesus said, whatever it is that is causing you to stumble, to go into sin, he's saying do whatever you need to do. It is thorough. Third, it is worthwhile. It's worthwhile. Jesus said it's worthwhile because if it were so, it would be better indeed to arrive in heaven with one eye than to be in hell with two.
It is worthwhile. The pain, the pain of breaking off relationships, the pain of dealing with issues deeply that keep causing us to sin, that pain is actually worth it in the end, absolutely. Imagine being whole. Imagine being free from your addiction so that you can interrelate with people.
Imagine receiving, as it were, a new marriage because the issue that exists between the two of you has been taken care of. Just imagine that, Jesus is saying, and it is worth it. Some of you singles who want to justify immorality because you're single, Jesus would say, as you make a strong stand for purity and you choose the life of celibacy, it is tough, it's hard. But Jesus would say, you know what, it's worth it because I'm there with you and it is better to go through your pain and your loneliness in fellowship with me than it is for you to live in sin and in the process hurt me, grieve me because of your sin. So Jesus is saying, do whatever you need to do.
If you've been in this series of messages, you know that each time I've given an assignment, every message had an assignment and this time your assignment is called unplug, unplug. You know, if it's TV that causes you to sin, unplug it for a week, for a month, unplug it, maybe unplug it permanently. I know at least of two men who have told me that they wouldn't have TV in their home because it just caused them to sin. You know, John Piper, a well-known pastor there in Minneapolis, he does not have a television set in his home and I've heard other pastors speak and say, well, you know, that's a little bit extreme.
Well, maybe, but you know, it would be better for him not to have a TV if indeed, and I'm not saying this would be true of him because I admire him greatly, but it would be better for him not to have that then if the TV were to lead him into sin. Jesus is saying, get radical, unplug. Now, you know, if you need your internet because it's part of your work, fine, but join covenant eyes where a friend of yours can track all of your sites that you visit on the web.
And when you decide to unplug, tell somebody that you're unplugging for a week or whatever it is that you decide to do or permanently, and so that they can check up on you and they can see whether or not you follow through. We are so weak. We need one another and we need accountability. So you ask God, what do you want me to unplug? What is it that causes me to continue to fall into sin?
Now, what I'd like to do is to give you three bottom lines as we wrap up this whole series, and each of them is very, very important. Number one, remember that God loves you just as much when you fail as he does when you succeed. God loves you. You know, we've been talking about addicts, but the fact is that most of them, because of their shame and their guilt, they have no sense of being loved.
In fact, that's their great fear is to be exposed because if they were exposed, nobody would love them, they think. Well, I hope that's not true, but God loves. Now, if you want an illustration of this, think of those of us who have children. When our children misbehaved, we didn't say, well, now I love you less.
At least I hope that you didn't say that. In fact, sometimes when they misbehaved, it really brought out the emotion of love in us as parents even more because we saw that the misbehavior was leading them in dangerous paths, and that's the way God is too. He is a father.
The Bible speaks about God as a father, even in the Old Testament in Psalm 103, where it says so clearly that the Lord is our Father, and he is gracious and merciful. And like a father treats his children, so the Lord treats those who love him. So don't ever be discouraged and say that my situation is helpless.
Absolutely not because if you know Christ as Savior, you are the object of God's love, but he's waiting for you to say, you know, it's really time that I ended this game and became honest because truth sets us free and lies never really set us free. They only increase the slavery. So number one, be encouraged. God is there. Secondly, one appetite must replace another. This is absolutely critical. One appetite must increase another. You say, well, earlier in the message, you referred to the man who wept, but he didn't deal with his appetite. How do you deal with the appetite? Well, the answer is you can't deal with it in a vacuum. You can't deal with an appetite simply because you've even done the assignments that we've handed out as this series has progressed.
You cannot do that. That doesn't go to the level of appetite. You say, well, then what were the assignments all about? The assignments, unplugging the assignments of three consecutive days without television every week, which I've basically done now for about five weeks. That all helps those who desire to really walk with God in purity, but they find themselves falling back from time to time. So the assignments help that. But it doesn't help the person who doesn't want to be fixed or the person whose need is really deeper or the person who has a wrong appetite. Now, the problem here is this. If you think only in terms of the negative, you're never really going to change. Because as I mentioned, the negative doesn't change us fundamentally.
It sets up circumstances so that we can. Well, you say, well, what do we do? A number of years ago, Rebecca and I had lunch with a rather famous couple. I won't mention their name, even though the story of the wife has been written up in a book, but I won't mention who.
But just know that they're rather famous. And this is her story. She was a street girl in Los Angeles. I think if I remember correctly, and I'm not exaggerating, she had four or five abortions before the age of 20 full of drugs and the whole ugly lifestyle. She wanders into a mission in Los Angeles and is gloriously converted because Jesus saves sinners.
Aren't you glad that Jesus saves sinners? But she knew that she had to think differently. So what she did is she joined a Bible study. She became discipled. And then she told us, through this period of time, in a matter of weeks, I memorized over 450 verses of Scripture.
She says, I was immersed in the Word. Why? Because the Bible says, in the book of Romans, that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that we might prove the good and acceptable will of God, and that as a result of that, her whole mind had to be reprogrammed. And the Word of God does that, and it does the transformation so that it actually even takes care of the appetite.
Why? Because you see your appetite for God now is being developed, and therefore the other appetites which drag us down are losing their power. Jesus talked about a demon that left a person, and then the person was totally empty, and then seven more demons came in that were worse than the other. And it's the principle of replacement. You know those families that I told you about that unplugged the television set for a full month? They organized things for their children to do so that something took its place.
I should have emphasized that more throughout the whole thing. It comes down to the transformation of the human mind. You know there is a story about a man who took a bottle and just jammed wires into it. So the wires were jammed into this bottle, and then he took a hammer and he hit the bottle, and the bottle broke and shattered, but all the wires retained their same position.
That's the way it is. Jesus comes along and says, I set you free. But it doesn't mean immediately that all the wires, so to speak, are put back in a proper relationship. That is the process that the Holy Spirit does when we fill our minds with God's word and we become God-pursuers with our whole heart.
Then God says, I'm going to step in and I'm going to help you. It isn't just the negative. It'll never do it.
It'll never do it at the level of desire. Finally, always keep in mind that the centerpiece of everything here at the Moody Church and the Bible has to do with Jesus Christ. Because here's the thing, we are all condemned to sinners. As I mentioned, all of us have broken God's laws. We are all on a various continuum of struggle with sin. If we put the addicts way over here, many are on a lower rung perhaps or on a different trajectory. But we're all struggling with sin.
So why should we live and shame people and try to cajole them and so forth? And we're fellow travelers here at the Moody Church and we want you to come along for the journey. But it has to happen with your involvement in our ministries, in the lives of this church, and the opportunities that are there for healthy relationships and help. And remember this, the good news of the gospel is that Jesus Christ died for sinners and took our place and bore our sin and that when we receive him as Savior, we receive his righteousness and he stands in for us and meets God's requirements on our behalf. You say, well, if that's true, why all this emphasis on us dealing with these individual sins and addictions? Because even sins for which we will not be condemned still destroy us.
And that's why. You know, you look at the ministry of Jesus, think of how open he was to sinners. You know, people who didn't want to eat with the publicans and the sinners and the prostitutes and Jesus is hobnobbing with them.
Why? Imagine a woman that says, a woman of the street, she was a sinner. And all the self-righteous Pharisees, oh, if he were a prophet, he'd know what kind of a woman she is and he wouldn't allow her to touch him. In the presence of all of these self-righteous people, Jesus looks and says, you have been forgiven much, you love much, you have been forgiven, go and sin no more.
And he said it right there in the presence of all these self-righteous people and oh, how they hated that. He's accepting prostitutes and forgiving them. Now listen, you've heard me say it before, we have a great Savior for great sinners, alright?
And in Jesus, we find rest. Praise God, let's pray. Now as we end this time, do you need to pray to God by the way?
We've had six weeks of messages on this. Why don't you just talk to God for a moment? What is God saying to you?
What issues do you need to deal with? Oh Father, we're all broken, we're all in need, we all stand condemned, but we also in Jesus stand received and loved. And so Father, we thank you and we ask that your Holy Spirit would do a mighty work in all who have come. Help them not to forget this message. Pray Father that in the night that they might awaken and remember it, that during the day when they go home, they'll remember it and they'll respond to whatever you ask them.
In Jesus' name, amen. Alright my friend, heart to heart, from my heart to yours, I'm sure that you know many people who need these messages. Perhaps you yourself have needed them and you may have missed some of them or you wish that you could replay them. For a gift of any amount, we are making them available to you in permanent form. You can listen to them again and again. You can share them with your friends. You can give them to your children.
For a gift of any amount, here's what you do. Go to RTWOffer.com. That's RTWOffer.com. Ask for the sermon series, Guard Your Heart. Or you can pick up the phone right now and call 1-888-218-9337. I can't think of a series of messages more critical in a day of technology when the temptations are everywhere for us to guard our hearts.
Here's what you can do. Go to RTWOffer.com or call us at 1-888-218-9337. We are making this series available to anyone for a gift of any amount. Thanks in advance for helping us as we get the gospel of Jesus Christ to millions. The sermon series is entitled, Guard Your Heart.
You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 704. The cross of Christ is the central event in all of history. We will never plumb the depths of God's love as shown on that fateful day. But we must all come to grips with what happened on that cross. Next time, let's begin by experiencing the seven cries Jesus uttered before giving up His spirit. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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