The Sermon on the Mount: Day 8

Adultery Begins in the Heart

by

Today's Text: Matthew 5:27-30, Exodus 20:14,17, Psalm 19:12-14, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 9:43-48

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:27-30, Exodus 20:14,17, Psalm 19:12-14, Jeremiah 17:9, Mark 9:43-48

I became a Pharisee the day I dropped my phone in the toilet.

I didn’t mean to, of course. Months prior, I’d signed my life away with paperwork acknowledging that water damage would not, under any circumstances, be covered by a protection plan. I happily checked the box, certain I would not, under any circumstances, be one of those people—the careless kind.

But I was. Suddenly, I wasn’t just dipping my toes in the idea of being that kind of person, I was nose-diving into full-fledged, card-carrying membership. To make matters worse, I kept it all a secret, appearing at the mobile phone help desk and looking like a victimized puppy. “What? Water? Never!” I gasped.

And then they brought out the lie detector. Well, it was technically a test for water damage, but in this case, it was a ruthless, truth-gauging machine and I was forced to plead guilty.

I didn’t ever think I’d be guilty of adultery, either. After all, I’m just a single twenty-something girl who blushed the whole way through this passage. I grew up in the church, envisioning this commandment from Jesus as the free space on my Salvation Bingo card.

But, like the Pharisees, I’m prone to forget that the thing God cares about most is our hearts. We don’t have to cheat on a romantic relationship to prove ourselves unfaithful to a faithful God. Sin is just another name for adultery of the heart, which means that most of the bad things we thought we’d never do, we’ve already done. We’re guilty. We’re those people.

Matthew Henry points out that this passage not only forbids the act of adultery, but also the appetite for it and approach to it. He says “convenient opportunity” is the only difference between thinking about eating the forbidden fruit and actually eating it.

So, what are we supposed to do? Do we hide away from the world? How do we just stop sinning?

The heart is more deceitful than anything else,
and incurable—who can understand it?
- Jeremiah 17:9

At first glance, the answer we find in God’s Word may seem pretty disturbing. Mark 9 instructs us to cut off our hands and feet and gouge out our eyes when we even begin to think about sin. While it’s gross and painful to think about, Jesus uses this illustration not to punish us, but to show us the depth of sin we’ve been rescued from. He wants us to see that the life He calls us to live is actually impossible to achieve solely by our flesh. His rescue is not a convenience; it is a necessity. Saving our souls should have lost us everything else, but instead, we gain Him.

With this as Jesus’ standard, we can look to His covenant bride, the Church, with awe and admiration, knowing it has never even crossed His mind to leave her—to leave us. He loves us. He truly loves us.

All of the good things we knew we could not do, He’s already done. Praise the Lord.

May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable to you,
Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.
- Psalm 19:14

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  • Blinn, I can completely relate to this. As a college student, this temptation and cultural norm of adultery is constantly surrounding me. I struggle with it daily, as well as the guilt of this sin that weighs heavy on my heart even though I know I have been forgiven and His grace covers me. I know that other christians have struggled with this as well, but as you said, satin fills my head with the idea that I am alone in this sin, and that God can never forgive me of this sin. Thank you for you words which remind me that I have been forgiven and Jesus still does love me despite my past impurities regarding this subject.

  • I agree with all these thoughts expressed in today’s write up. But I was really hoping for SRT to wade into the waters of truly addressing the issues of adultery and lust. I know that spiritual unfaithfulness, the redeeming work of Christ, the depravity of sin and the faithfulness of God are all important issues. But I’ve been reading SRT for years now and those are covered at length on a regular basis. I had hoped that since this passage was dealing directly with lust and adultery, that there might be some frank discussion about these topics that almost seem taboo among Christian women. The temptations are very real and we make ourselves even more vulnerable to falling if we fail to acknowledge our capacity to sin in these ways and fail to prepare ourselves to face these specific temptations. Truthfully, though I’m sure the author had the best intentions and I see the point of the analogy, using an analogy of cell phones, protection plans etc, seemed to somewhat trivialise a serious and for some, painful topic. I just wonder, is it that this community has never experienced the temptation of lust and adultery and have we never failed (or been victorious) in these struggles? Or is it we consider these matters too private to discuss? Do we fear judgment or feel pressured to keep up appearances? I’m all for discretion and privacy. But surely we could have a real discussion about real matters and still respect the boundaries? Just a few thoughts.

    • Blinn

      I am with you on this Kim. I know it is a big deal. It certainly should not be taken lightly. I just feel like that if what we believe about sin( that sin is sin and there is no level of what sin is worse then another sin) is true, then why are more people not opening up and sharing their testimony. I know I am not the only person who has struggled with this. I am divorced which makes me guilty of adultery on its own, but even before that I did not go into my marriage being completely pure. I did not wait until marriage to be sexually involved with a boy. I am guilty and deserve judgement. I sometimes beat myself up over it even to this day (many years later) and I am overwhelmed with feeling guilt. I know that Gods grace covers all my mistakes, but satin still wants to steal all the glory by making me feel completely alone among other christian believers, as if I am the only one who has failed. There should be glory given to God for healing and restoring, but it seems everyone is too afraid to share about these hard to talk about topics. I wish there were more people who were willing to share about the real issues of adultery and lust so that others, like myself would learn how they have overcome the guilt and how they have learned to be absolutely certain that Gods grace is enough, even for this.

    • Katie

      Agreeeeeee!!!!

  • “Sin is just another name for adultery of the heart”…. That hits me right between my halo and my eyes! How true this is. We can walk around as if we will never do this or that, but all framed as sin, I’ve already committed them.

  • Karen, God reminds me everyday of the things in my life that I need to change. I hope he never stops. I am aware that we will not reach perfection until we are home. At 68 years old you would think I would have it all together:-) not even close. I feel like we need to work on this everyday, I know myself I will slip back into the old habits if I don’t allow God to change me.

  • This passage hit me right in the gut this morning. How often do I wish that my boyfriend had other attributes? How often do I wish he was more outgoing, cleaner, more adventurous… It is in times of weakness that I think these thoughts, during times when we have disagreements. But is that not a form of adultery? Wishing that he was different… I may not be wishing I had another specific man, but by wishing for different qualities in the man I am dating, I am in a committing adultery by wishing for a DIFFERENT man. I must accept him for who he is, and love him through it, and not try to change him. Or decide that he is not who God called me to love, and leave him – although I do not think this is the case. I have continually prayed for guidance in this relationship; asking God to take this man away if he is not who God had planned. When I struggle with things like this it scares me. I want to love and accept him for who he is. Praying that God will soften and cleanse my heart this morning. That he would take away my desire to control and change.

    • She Reads Truth

      Hi Sarah, thanks so much for being willing to share some of your heart here. We will be praying for you and your relationship, and that God will be glorified in all things! Also, we would encourage you to reach out to a trusted spiritual leader or counselor in your local community. Having someone connected with your local church to process these things with can help so much! So glad to have you here. – Abby, The SRT Team

  • Karen From Virginia

    I need a Savior. Seeing my propensity to sin makes me aware of how much I need a Savior. I can think I’m kinda getting it together in some ways and then in God’s mercy He shows me how evil my heart is. How easily I am bent to jealousy, fear of man, selfishness and others. It’s serious. My only hope is Jesus. Only through Jesus is my boast and hope.
    I love reading of others comments as we see God’s holiness revealed and we desire more of the Lord. How this pleases our God.

  • Kimberlee

    I am not one to normally comment, but I had never looked at adultery in this way. I am very guilty of intentionally sinning. Maybe now that I see this in a different way, I will think more clearly before intentionally sinning.

  • These study questions in the book have been really good. After reading the devotion and comments, I added the following to my notes. The question says what is gained when we follow Jesus’ instruction [re: lust]?

    We gain freedom when we don’t participate. Lust is another form of idolatry and idolatry is a form of mental slavery. It’s like you’re shackled to an idea. Jesus tells us to choose freedom (Him). And to delete anything that makes you cave.

  • This reminded me of the video ‘Falling Plates’ and the imagery of us being unfaithful to the Lord while he has only ever been devoted to us, his bride – throwing that wedding ring aside and choosing something else we think will satisfy us more than Him. And also the story of Hosea, who patiently and persitently loved Gomar despite her continued unfaithfulness. What a great God we have, who loved and chose us when we were only capable of loving ourselves, and is persistently in pursuit of us through Christ!

    Lord, I’m sorry that I’m unfaithful to you over and over again, but I thank you that when you took me as your bride, you promised to be faithful to me for all eternity. Please keep my heart from straying, and show me that you are the only thing that can truly satisfy my deepest desires.

  • Diane Huntsman

    Radically removing that which lures us in to sin.. my phone is probably like the eye that needs to be gouged out.. I need to get rid of it as I spend so much time wasting precious hours scrolling feeds.. it’s causing me to be a poor stewed of my time and if I can’t control my usage of it, it’s sin, and it may be time for a flip phone once again!! I love the Word of God and it’s straight forwardness.. whatever is stumbling me I need to radically remove.. because that sin is costly.. challenged today!!

  • Regarding the passage in Matthew, I had a completely different response to it the first time I read through this passage…way back at the beginning, when we read through the whole Sermon on the Mount. Next to Mt. 5: 28, “But I tell you, everyone looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” I wrote in the margin: ‘I feel like I do this, but with coveting – wanting what I don’t have.’ And, when it comes down to it, that’s really what’s at the heart of adultery – wanting what doesn’t belong to you. And I feel like this is something I do all the time, whether I’m conscious of it or not. I guess this is God making me aware of my unintentional sin – which I need. I have such a propensity towards dissatisfaction, towards wanting a better life, towards wanting a life that’s less constrained by my financial situation…towards wanting a life where I can start to have children and stop having to wait because of money. I feel like this is a desire that I’m continually giving up to God. Wait, I hear. I don’t want to wait. Yet, Wait, I hear. I pray that I can listen, be patient, and be thankful for this season in my life, even though it’s a LOT longer than I might have wished.

    • Jenn

      Amen sister. Thank you for sharing. I understand where you are coming from completely from a financial standpoint. I see what is going out and what is coming in and it doesn’t add up. Having faith always that the Lord will provide and the Lord has a plan is not always easy. Prayers for you and your situation.

    • Lana

      Wanting what does not belong to you. That is SO true. Tony Robbins has a great quote. He says change expectation to appreciation. I wrote that on a chalkboard that is hanging next to my computer. It’s a life changing quote and seeing it so often has really helped me take it to heart.

    • Sarah

      Thank you for sharing. I struggle with dissatisfaction continually. I’m constantly finding things to complain about. I know the best way to counter this is to give thanks, albeit something I have not learned to do regularly yet. I read Anne Voscamps book, One Thousand Gifts recently. I pray that God would teach me to be thankful, that I would take time out of my day to give him thanks and that it would eventually come naturally.

  • “Convenient opportunity” is the only difference between thinking about eating the forbidden fruit and actually eating it . . . which makes me an adulterer. That hits home. Seeking and loving praise and attention, casual flirting, . . Guilty. When I am so quick to point a finger at those who have committed the physical act of adultery saying “I’d never do that” . . but I already have. Thank you Jesus for your forgiveness and grace. <3

  • I’ve been reading The Cost of Discipleship while doing this study (I must recommend the pairing!) What I’m struck by in both the text and Bonhoeffer’s commentary is how direct and straightforward it is. Jesus wasn’t vague in his instructions to us. Jesus clearly commands that we guard our hearts against lust, that we refuse to judge others, that we put Him first. If you are tempted then remove the temptation from your eyesight! I think I’ve been prone to look at the words of Jesus as vague or symbolic, specifically the sermon on the mount. But I’m starting to realize that Jesus meant what he said. We are covered by his grace but if we use his grace as an excuse to be disobedient then we only deceive ourselves. Really appreciating this study!

  • Sabrina Klomp

    I loved this devotional today! Haha the “salvation bingo card” was such a great way to put it! Thank you for clarifying the passage of dismembering yourself because of sin, I never quite understood what Christ’s intent was in speaking this way. So thankful for a fully clean slate in Jesus!

  • Kristen

    This is so helpful and needed to take me from the mindset of “I could never” to “I already have”. John 1 says if we think we have no sin, we’re deceived. Only through acknowledging and confessing can we receive forgiveness and his beautiful (needed!) gift of salvation.

  • Jeannie

    Yes no one is immune to sin even if it is something you ever thought you’d go through!! Jeanniehubanks.wordpress.com

  • The good news is that Jesus gives us a NEW heart! The natural condition of our heart is deceitful, but we have been crucified with Him and no loner live, but He lives in us. He changes our heart. I’m not sure this was addressed in the devotional, but it is critical as believers to know this truth, and it is a beautiful, life-changing truth. https://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-the-heart.html

    • Kris

      Yassssss!!! Every time I see this quote, Jeremiah 17:9, I immediately remember Ezekiel chapter 36 and Jeremiah 24:7!
      And I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

      I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

      I heard John Eldredge speak about this years ago. So many people quote 17:9 and stop there! You have to read the whole book, beloved ones!

  • The reading from Psalms is one of my favorite Scriptural reminders … it is such a succinct plea. Keep me from the big and small mistakes, Lord ! Help me to be pure and true to you to my very core.

  • Guilty! I am guilty too. I am unable to do anything good without Him working it in me. Psalms 19:14 is a verse that is burned into my memory. I pray it almost daily because I know that unless He causes me to think on Him my mind will be filled with lustful and adulterous, as in sinful, thoughts. Thank you Lord for for saving me from my sins! Create in me a clean heart oh Lord and restore a steadfast Spirit within me. Psalms 51:10.

  • PursuedByHim

    ” He wants us to see that the life He calls us to live is actually impossible to achieve solely by our flesh. His rescue is not a convenience; it is a necessity. Saving our souls should have lost us everything else, but instead, we gain Him.”

    Yes! “We gain Him.” Sin is sin whether we think it is a little sin or a big one. But Jesus took the punishment for all our sins…big and little, so we can start over every moment with a clean slate.

    Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to take the punishment for my sins, so that I can have yet another clean slate.

  • churchmouse

    Adultery is idolatry. And Kaitlin, I’m guilty. Not of adultery, but certainly of idolatry. Let me explain. My husband had found the perfect parking place right in front of the restaurant. It was raining. I jumped out of the car quickly, wanting to dash in to the restaurant to avoid getting too wet. I forgot my cell phone was on my lap. And I didn’t know there was a sewer grate right beneath the car door. As I stepped out, down went my phone. And there it lay – in the sewer, in the rain, with its blingy case calling to me for rescue. But I can’t lift a sewer grate. We went in to the restaurant and proceeded to try to figure out what city department could not only help but was also available on the weekend. Long story short, 45 minutes later, with the help of a good Samaritan with a tow truck, my phone (gross but working) was in my hand. But in just those 45 minutes I knew I was guilty of idolatry. Without my phone, I could feel my heart rate rise, palms get sweaty and my thoughts start racing. My life is in that phone! All my contacts. My appointment calendar. I do SRT from my phone. What ever would I do?! All this to say… I’m guilty of adultery /idolatry with my cell phone. It’s embarrassing to admit that. I lust after a mobile device. Pathetic. God convicted me and now the challenge is to put the phone in its place. It is a thing not a person. Put. it. down. Prioritize the relationship in front of my face instead of the one in my hand. It was time to stop letting my cell phone rule over me. It may sound silly but it was a light bulb moment for me. Yep, guilty, Kaitlin. But I’m on my way to recovery. (and I replaced the phone – the screen was cracked – and the blingy case. A plain case makes it less an object of status. It’s. a. phone. But I had let it become so much more. Hi. My name is Churchmouse and I’m a recovering idolater.)

    • Laura

      Wow. That hits close to home. Thank you for sharing. I’ve elevated this device I’m typing on right now to a place it should never be. I let it control my day. Thanks for shining light on this so clearly.

    • Other Karen

      Yup, me too. EVERYTHING is on my phone. Just thinking about losing it makes me shudder! It is a hard struggle to break from this idolatry when I depend on it for so much! You are definitely not alone!

    • Robin W.

      Ha! Delightful explanation, and some deep truth, too. Thanks for sharing. ❤️

    • Ashley Motes

      I believe that is something that most deal with on a daily basis, myself included. It’s fascinating to see how the world evolves through technology and advancements but it makes me wonder sometimes, is it really necessary. I love what it can do and the positive outcomes it can create for furthering the reach of Jesus but I believe that it can be quite overwhelming or stifling. For example, it’s so easy to read my devotional and pop over to social media for a moment which breaks any type of spiritual connection in that moment. I feel that moderation is key and to remember what you said, it is just a phone.

    • Rebecca

      Aren’t we all, whether it is a phone, or a job, or our health, or even our children…whatever we make more important than God is our idol.

    • Tricia C

      I am so guilty of this. Thank you Kaitlin and Churchmouse for reminding me that I too need to put.thecellphone.down.

    • Veronica

      You may think it sounds pathetic, but I think your story hits home with more people then you might realize. I took a week off from posting on my favorite app because I realized I was addicted to Instagram- addicted! It is definitely embarrassing to write out, and easy to think we are the only ones who struggle with creating healthy boundaries for our phones and real life. But we aren’t! It’s both a blessing and a curse for modern relationships.

    • Rachel

      Yep. This hits close to home for me too. I’m right there with you! It’s something I’ve been long aware of, unfortunately. This summer, I was away for a week at a place that had no cell phone reception, and I (amazingly) chose not to connect my phone to the (very limited) wifi that we had access to. And let me tell you, it was the most liberating thing in the world. There are times when I just wish I could get rid of my phone. Anyway, thank you (again) for the reminder that it is just.a.phone. I need this regularly.

    • Cecilia

      You’re the best! We are right there with you.

    • Ariel

      Ugh, DAILY! This is very much a struggle for me. And to make it worse, I do much of my work via social media and I can’t even wrap my head around how to implement better boundaries. I look at my kids and wonder, how much more time would I have with you if I just didn’t have my cell phone? Where is the middle ground? Thank you for confirming what the Lord was already speaking to me.

  • When I was growing up, I would read these verses and become seriously uncomfortable, thinking “Does God really want us to cut off a limb if we sin?” It was shocking and terrible to ponder. Over time, I realized two things. First, sin is shocking and horrible to God. Second, even if I or whomever cut off limbs and gouged out eyes, we would still covet, we would still sin, because sin begins in the heart…what we need is a new heart! Jesus uncovers that using his shocking metaphor. And even if we don’t literally cut off limbs, sometimes God calls us to give up something, or he allows it to be removed from our lives . It’s not necessarily a sinful thing, and what he calls me to give up is different than you, but he calls us that we might depend on him and not this other thing.

    • Other Karen

      Yes! ❤️ And yet it is still so hard sometimes to let go of that something!

    • Elisabeth7291

      Yes, Abby! Thank you for this. I’m currently in a season where God has asked me to give something up. I don’t know why & I don’t know for how long. Maybe because it had become too important to me. Thank you for connecting the dots!

    • Veronica

      Beautifully said.

    • Kendra

      Love your thoughts, Abby!

  • I’ve been reading this plan using The Message and a portion of the passage from Psalms reads “Keep me from stupid sins, from I can take over your work”. I feel like it should be my new memory verse – talk about getting to the point and being right on target!

    • Emily

      sorry, that should say “Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work”.

      • Pam

        Love it….keep me from stupid sins! And the not so stupid ones. I’m just recovering from a season of beating myself up over some of my sins….many would fall in the category of stupid. A few, however, were very subtle….as if the enemy had just changed a very small thought pattern in my brain and suddenly I was derailed from a course that God would be pleased with. It wasn’t anything big it obvious…and so small that it had probably been going on for years before the Holy Spirit convicted me. Once convicted, I felt a weight of guilt because I’ve been a Christian many many years and felt like I should have known better…should have had better ability to discern such a ploy by the enemy but the truth is, the enemy is sneaky and any of us can be vulnerable. The good news is, we serve a loving God who understands and forgives us. I’m so thankful the scales were finally removed from my eyes. Praying that The Holy Spirit will continue to convict me and God will continue to forgive me for all of my sins, both the stupid and the not so stupid.

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