Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You are not to have sex with anyone else’s spouse.’ But I am telling you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already had sex with her in his heart.”
— Matthew 5:27-28 (USC)
So hard is it to obey this teaching of Jesus’ we may quickly shy away from the truth of it and scurry into another part of the Bible more palatable for our thoughts.
But it was never a Jesus’ intention to make us scamper from what is our reality without coming face-to-face with the challenge presented. What are we to do with our lustful thoughts? And it isn’t just sexual lust we must watch for; any lust of the eye is a temptation too far from the will of God.
Two things may be in view here.
Firstly, Jesus wants us to face our sin so that we may properly repent of it.
Secondly, Jesus wants us to understand, afresh, the power in God’s grace that forgives the sinner in us. To quite a certain extent Jesus knows some temptations will remain, and the challenge presented is to be truthful with God in every situation. If we are tempted, and we buckle in the temptation, the Lord wants us to be honest. Having confessed our sin, we have a new appreciation of the grace that forgives something we could hardly forgive in ourselves.
So, on the one hand, Jesus’ expectation must be that we grow through the temptation, first by confession, and second by the action of repentance (which is to turn back to God), but on the other hand, Jesus reminds us that his grace is sufficient for us (refer to 2 Corinthians 12:8-10). We are empowered in our weakness, if, in our weakness, we will derive the strength to succumb to God and not the temptation.
Sexual temptations may be a stretch too far in realising them for most of us, but Jesus says, “That’s not the point.” He highlights the problem occurs in the sinner’s mind, of which we are all afflicted.
May we humbly journey with God, surrendering our sexuality to him so he can purify us day by day.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. Being very forthright and honest, confess those sins of your sexuality that cause you most inner angst – give them to God. What is it now that you experience? What does God’s grace look and feel like having partaken in repentance? What does it feel like to be forgiven? Use your own words and journal about it.
2. How do you think God wants you to grow regarding matters of perennial temptation – those ‘thorns in our side’ as the apostle Paul puts it in 2 Corinthians 12?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.