Robert Jeffress - Straight Talk About Your Sex Life
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. One of the leading causes for divorce is and always has been infidelity. It's nearly impossible to regain trust after a mate has carelessly thrown it away. So how can we avoid losing any more marriages to this tragic end? According to the Bible, it begins by preparing your mind. My message is titled "Straight Talk About Your Sex Life". On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
I'm not a gardener. But I understand that to be successful at gardening, you can't be friendly toward weeds. If you're going to be a successful gardener, instead, you have to declare war on weeds. And that's why the late Swedish diplomat, Dag Hammarskjold, wrote, "He who wants to keep his garden tidy, does not reserve a plot for weeds". Now Hammarskjold wasn't talking about gardening. He was talking about our moral life. He went on to write, "You cannot play with the animal in you without becoming holy animal. You cannot play with falsehood without forfeiting your right to truth. You cannot play with cruelty without losing your sensitivity of mind". And he could have added, you can't play with sexual immorality without losing your marriage.
That's the theme of the passage we're going to look at today. It's very easy to neglect weeds that grow up in our marriage, but no weed is more destructive than the weed of sexual immorality. Nothing robs us of what God plans for our marriage more than adultery, and that's why Jesus addresses the topic head on in the "Sermon on the mount". If you have your Bibles turn to Matthew, chapter five. The pharisees felt like just as long as they cut off or cut out certain behavior, they were okay. But Jesus said, no you've got to deal with the root, not just the fruit of sin. And that's why in Matthew 5:20 he said, "For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven". That doesn't mean you just don't go to heaven when you die. You don't experience the kingdom of heaven now.
The kingdom rule of Christ when you just deal with the external. And we saw last time how Jesus supplied that to our relationships. He said in verse 21, Jesus said, "You've heard that the ancients were told". He's talking about the Old Testament. "You shall not commit murder and whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court". In other words, the Old Testament standard for good relationships was this, don't kill another person. So long as you don't knock 'em off, you're okay. Jesus said, no, it goes further than that. You have to go to the root cause of murder. He said in verse 22, "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court". Jesus talks about how murder is the end result of things in the heart. Anger, devaluation, defaming of another human being.
Now, when we get to the subject of immorality, Jesus raises the bar again. And that's what we're going to look at today. First of all, notice how in verse 27 Jesus condemns adultery in the bed. He uses this the same formula he did when discussing murder. He said in verse 27, "Now you've heard it was said". You've read in the Old Testament, "You shall not commit adultery". Jesus was not disputing that. He was saying the ancients were right. You're not supposed to commit adultery. Adultery, technically, is a married person having sex with somebody who is not their mate. And there was a severe punishment for that in the Old Testament, but notice Jesus goes a step further. He condemns adultery in the head. That's where it all begins. Notice what he said here. He said, "I say to you," verse 28, "That everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart".
Now, before we look at what that means, not to lust after another person, let me clarify two things Jesus is not condemning. First of all, Jesus, by saying this, was not condemning sex within marriage. You can lust all you want to after another person, as long as that other person is your mate. It's fine, that's normal, that's God's plan. He was not condemning sex within marriage. You say, "Well, that's kind of a non-starter, isn't it? Who would think Jesus was condemning sex in, in marriage"? Did you know there are Christians today, just like there are then, who think sex is dirty, or there's something unholy about it? Paul addressed that topic in first Corinthians, chapter seven.
Some of these Corinthian Christians had come out of a very sexually immoral background, and now that they were converted to Christ, one person in the marriage thought, "Well, maybe we are just abstain from sex so that we can be more holy". And the other mate said, "I'm not interested in holy, I'm interested in being happy". And so they would have an argument over whether they were going to have sex or not. Paul hit that issue head on in first Corinthians 7, verse 3. He said, "The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband". That word, "Fulfill their duty," is a word that's used in the New Testament for paying taxes. I won't go there, but that's what it's talking about. There is an obligation that you have towards your mate, and your mate has toward you.
Verse 4, "For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does". People stop there and say, "There it is, the Bible's misogynistic. It hates women, they're inferior". They stop too short, it's true, the wife doesn't have over authority over her body, the husband does, but the converse is true as well. "The husband does not have authority over his body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another". Stop robbing one another of what God has designed for you, "Except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, but then come back together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self control". If both of you agree to abstain from sex for a short period of time, that's okay, but it has to be short. Because if you abstain too long, you'll be tempted by Satan. Jesus was not condemning sex within marriage.
Secondly, Jesus wasn't condemning appreciation of God's creation. He wasn't saying it's a sin to admire somebody's beauty. That's permissible, that's natural. It's not that first look he's condemning. It's that second look. That gaze, that leads to a mental undressing of the other person and an imaginary sexual exploit with that person. That's what he means by, "Don't lust". The point of verse 28 is very simple. Whatever is immoral in the bed, is immoral in your head as well. It's not just not doing it overtly that Jesus is saying ought to be the standard. We should not think about it either. Well, that's why Jesus followed his teaching on sexual immorality with a radical call to marital fidelity. It's not just purity we seek in our moral life, but it's fidelity in our marriage.
Look at how he addresses this as you head on in verses 31 to 32. Again, using that same formula, "You've heard it said, whoever sends his wife away let him give her a certificate of divorce". We'll look at what that means in a moment, but that was the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 24. "But I say to you," here's the higher standard, "That everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of immorality, makes her commit adultery: and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery".
Now, to understand what Jesus is teaching, you have to understand the background of what was going on in Judaism at this time. In Judaism there was a controversy swirling about divorce and remarriage. And it was all centered around Deuteronomy 24. What is the right interpretation of that passage? In that passage, Moses wrote, "When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house and she goes and marries another man, and he too gives her a certificate of divorce for an indecency or he dies, then she is not to go back to her former husband for she has been defiled".
Now, what in the world does that mean? There were two different interpretations of that verse. One was led by a rabbi named Shammai. He was very conservative, and he believed that the Old Testament taught no divorce for any reason whatsoever. You've got people who believe that today. No divorce for any reason whatsoever. That was the teaching of Shammai.
There was another rabbi, a more progressive rabbi named Hillel. And Hillel said, you can divorce for any reason whatsoever. In fact those who were part of the school of Hillel came up with a list of reasons that divorce was permissible in. For example: if the wife spoiled her husband's dinner with too much salt. That's an indecency and you can get rid of her. If she appeared in public with her hair down or her head was uncovered, that's grounds for divorce. If she talked with a non-relative male in public, get rid of her. If she spoke disrespectfully to her husband's parents, that was guilty and was worthy of divorce. There was one rabbi who actually said that a husband could divorce his wife if he found a more attractive woman that he wanted to marry.
Now that seems unbelievable but that's what some of the pharisees believed. So here you've got the religious community divided right down to the middle on this. Divorce for no reason, or divorce for any reason. That explains why in verse three of Matthew 19, "The pharisees came to Jesus testing him, saying, is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all"? Jesus, you've got to make a decision. Do you follow Hillel or Shammai, who's right? Whichever answer he gave, he would would have 50% of the people against him. They were trying to trap him. Jesus was smart. He knew how to handle the question. And I want you to notice in his answer three contrasts between himself and the pharisees. First of all, the pharisees focused on divorce, but Jesus focused on marriage.
Look at verse four, "And he answered and said, have you not read," you're supposed to be the experts in the Old Testament law. Let's go back to the Old Testament and see what it really says. Let's go back to the beginning of God's plan for marriage. "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female". He was quoting from Genesis 1:27. He said, marriage begins with an understanding that God made people male and female. Obviously, he made people male and female. The point here is, both of those words are singular. It's not males and females. He created one man and one woman, Adam and Eve. There were no spares in the Garden of Eden.
If Adam couldn't work it out with Eve, he could spend the rest of his life with a hippopotamus, but that was the only choice that he had. They either got along or they had to live separately. God made them male and female. Then he goes on and says, "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh". That's a quotation of Genesis 2:24 and Jesus adds, "So when people are married and God joins them together, they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate". God is the one who joins people together in marriage.
Now, there are some narrow exceptions, and that leads to a second contrast. The pharisees saw a command, but Jesus saw a concession. Look at verse 7. They were ready for Jesus' answer. They said to him, "Okay, if that's true, Jesus, if God wants people to stay married, why then, did Moses command to give her a certificate of divorce and send her away"?
What about Deuteronomy 24, the indigency? Why did God, or Moses, command husbands to divorce their wives? God never commanded it. Moses never commanded it. Read Deuteronomy 24, he didn't say, "You must divorce your wife". "You must give her a certificate of divorce". No, verse 8 says, "He said to them, it was because of your hardness of heart that Moses permitted you to divorce your wives: but from the beginning it has not been that way". Hardness of heart caused Moses to regulate this certificate of divorce. He didn't invent it, and it was certainly never God's will. God's will is for two people to remained marriage. But, there are some concessions, and Jesus admitted there's some concessions today as well for the one man with one woman for a lifetime rule.
And that leads to a third contrast. The pharisees were flippant about marriage, but Jesus was serious. The pharisees, "Can we divorce for any reason at all"? Jesus said, "No". But Jesus did give one exception, he says in verse 9, "I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for the case of immorality," adultery, "And marries another commits adultery". He's talking about the case of one partner in the marriage being guilty of adultery. Now, there's no command to divorce your mate if they're guilty of adultery, but there is an allowance for it. I feel a responsibility to say this anytime we talk about this subject. If you are right now in a physically abusive marriage. If you are being hurt. If your children are being threatened, you need to get out of that house as quickly as you can. God does not call you to live in that kind of abusive relationship.
So, the issue of divorce, the issue of remarriage is something that the Bible doesn't address in that situation, you have to ask the Lord for guidance in his wisdom in that. But the two stated reasons in the scripture for divorce and remarriage are adultery and desertion. And that leads to a question. Then how can we prevent adultery in the head that leads to adultery in the bed, and the destruction of our marriage? Go back to verses 29 to 30, where Jesus gives us a radical remedy for infidelity that destroys marriages. Look at verse 29, "If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you: for it's better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell". "If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you: for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell".
What Jesus is talking about is dealing radically with sin in your life. Even to the point of it being painful. Dealing not just with the manifestation of evil, but reaching down and pulling out sin by the root. And some of that, sometimes that can be inconvenient. Sometimes it can be downright painful. How do we do that? How do we flee sexual immorality? Let me give you two remedies for sexual purity. Number one, control your looking, write it down. Control your looking. Job 31, verse 1 says, "I have made a covenant with my eyes: how then could I gaze at a virgin"?
Job said I made a contract with my eyes, not to look, but not to look a second time, a third time, a fourth time. You've got to have that kind of agreement with your eyes. That if you see somebody attractive, you may not be able to prevent looking that first time, but you don't have to look back again, and you certainly don't have to gaze. Martin Luther said one time, "We can't prevent the birds from flying over our heads, but we can keep them from building the nest in our hair". That's what Job is talking about here.
Secondly, transform your thinking. Transform your thinking. Paul said in Romans 12 verse 2, "Don't be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect". Let me give you a few verses to memorize right now. Psalm 119, verse 11. The Psalmist said, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to thy word". "Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against God". Or here's one I read often, Proverbs 6:32. "The one who commits adultery is lacking in sense: he who would destroy his life, does it". Or another good one, Galatians 6 verse 7, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked: whatever a person sows, this he shall also reap".
If I were going to summarize these two ideas for sexual purity, I would summarize it this way. Number one, don't linger in your looking. Number two, don't conform, but transform your thinking. We've all had thoughts we shouldn't have. That's just part of being a fallen human being. The good news is this, no matter how often or how far we have fallen, Christ offers forgiveness to those who ask. First John 1:9 says, "If we will confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness". Not just the little sins, but the big humongous blunders in our life, God's grace is sufficient to cover. Christ offers forgiveness to everyone who asks. But, he adds a command, just as he gave a woman caught in adultery, to go and sin no more.