Sunday, February 11, 2018

Deliverance: Adultery, Divorce, and Deliverance

Our subject this morning has been the source of great contention in our world. Our passage has been used to “put people in their place.” It has been used as “a line in the sand”—delineating those who are in and those who are out. But, as we return once again to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I want us to find the good news of this message.

READ MATTHEW  5:27-32 (NIV)

O.K., enough said.  Let’s go home!

The fact is, we can’t go home yet; there are too many questions! You see, we traditionally have read this text in search of either judgment or absolution. Depending on which side of a messy family circumstance we may find ourselves. We either look for God to give us relief. Or, we hope God will set those other people in their place!

We’ve used enormous effort seeking to define the Greek terms used by Jesus – or least Matthew – in this text. What exactly does the word “lust” mean? What is this “exception” that seems to permit divorce in some cases? Why is this so-called “exception clause” found here in chapter 5. Again with slightly different wording in Matthew 19. But there is no such clause in Mark 10 or Luke 16?

Let’s get to the heart of the issue. Many of us go to this text asking these questions. When is divorce OK? When is divorce a sin?

Once we answer these pivotal questions, that just opens up Pandora’s box that holds thousands of other questions. “Okay, you make her commit adultery, or you commit adultery by marrying a divorced woman…now what?” Do we stone these adulterers? Do we kick them out of church? Do we install brain-wave detectors so that every lustful thought gets the same punishment? Sometimes I leave this text with more questions than I arrived with!

But guess what…we are not the first people to ask questions about texts like this one. You see, the Old Law had a problematic passage as well. In Deuteronomy 24, Moses mentions divorce without either condoning it or condemning it—He just assumes it:

If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her as well and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her out of his house, or if he dies, then the first husband who divorced her to begin with, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled.

Now, listen, you think we have a lot of questions about these few words of Jesus in Matthew. The Jewish people (especially the leaders) had a field day with this text! Do you understand what Moses said here? He doesn’t condemn divorce. He doesn’t even condemn marriage after divorce. He just assumes those things will happen!

But, it’s important to understand why Moses allowed divorce. Believe it or not, this allowance by Moses (and God) was a graceful act to women in the ancient world. I know some people say the God of the Old Testament was a God of wrath. Grace didn’t come until the New Age, right? Wrong! The graceful God of the 1st century also offered grace to ancient Israel!

In the ancient world, women had no rights. They were property, plain and simple. A man could do whatever he wanted to a woman. He could marry her and abandon her at will. He could have many women at once, it was his prerogative.

Now, what do you think would happen when a man decided he no longer wanted his wife? She would be all alone. No rights. No means to buy even food. Many were forced to turn to prostitution or starve.

In this setting, God allowed divorce. God allowed a divorced woman to marry again. Divorce granted her the freedom to find another means of support. Divorce during that time assumed the right to remarry. So, when Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife, he was also allowing this woman freedom; from prostitution, from starvation, even from death. Church, Deuteronomy 24 tells the story of a graceful God!

But when the ancient Jewish leaders went to this text, all they found were more questions. Specifically, the Jewish people divided into two camps over what the phrase “something indecent” meant. Moses permitted divorce if the man found “something indecent” in his wife. Well, what does that mean?

During the time of Jesus, this debate was still raging and there were two schools of thought. Some (more conservative Pharisees) thought “something indecent” meant adultery. Other (more liberal Pharisees) thought “something indecent” meant anything and everything. If your wife burns the toast, you can divorce her. The people wanted to know where Jesus stood. Do you see the problem here? These folks completely ignored God’s grace in Deuteronomy. They just wanted to win their debate. They brought their own agendas to the text and wanted God to sort it all out.

I’m so glad that we are beyond that church, aren’t you? I think we approach God’s Word with these same blinders sometimes. We have taken this text from the Sermon on the Mount that is full of the grace of Jesus. We have squeezed it so tightly that when we are finished all that is left is a hard, cold law!

I am preaching these two texts (27-30 & 31-32) together this morning, because I think the message is so similar. If we stop getting bogged down with our own questions about verses 31-32. Jesus’ message in both passages is the same: In order to preserve and protect your human relationships, work with all your might to remove the obstacles.

At the start of the 21st century, our world is full of perverse images related to human sexuality. Images on magazine covers and TV commercials. Not many decades ago, many of those images would have been considered pornography by the American public. But they’ve become common today. And what’s worse, we’ve grown to accept it.

I think this is one of those issues in the Sermon on the Mount that many of us are ready to just chock up to “high ideals.” Especially the men among us. “God just made us that way.” “I guess I’m just always going to struggle with this one.”

I think I shared with you one other time about an incredible experience I had a few years ago in Tulsa. But it is worth repeating, and you have been sleeping when I told you before! I was listening to the final keynote speaker of the Tulsa Workshop. He was talking about confession and repentance. He asked a woman to stand up who would be leading a class the following day with her husband. Amy was at one time in her life an exotic dancer. She spent years of her life dancing nude for money. At some point in her life, she found Jesus. She got out of the industry. She turned her life around. She met her husband and started a family. She was asked to come forward that day in Tulsa. As she stood there before roughly 10,000 Christians; Ministers, Elders, Fathers.

The speaker asked the audience to apologize to Amy for supporting the industry that nearly destroyed her life. He asked for anyone who had contributed in any way to that industry to stand up. People who looked at internet pornography. People who went to strip clubs. People who watched exotic movies. People who had purchased the Sport’s Illustrated Swim Suit Edition. Anyone who had in any way supported the industry that makes billions of dollars every year through their exploitation of men and women. Would you be standing? In that room of about 10,000 people, I would guess that around half of the people stood up. As a group, they asked for Amy’s forgiveness.

I wish we could bring Amy here. She has started a program for women recovering from this lifestyle. She tells the real story of what sexual sin is capable of. The movies and media glorify it. She talked about the realities. The broken people she saw. The searching people she saw. The darkness she saw. You know what? Many people in this world feel trapped. Many people like Amy feel trapped inside this industry. Many people outside the industry are trapped by the sexual addictions this industry promotes. This industry is destroying marriages. This industry is destroying lives. Let’s be honest, this industry is destroying marriages in this room. This industry is destroying lives in this room.

If statistics hold true, about 100 people in this room are either presently or will be at some time addicted to sexual sin. If statistics hold true, 20-40 people in this room will have an extra-marital affair during their lifetime. You might say, “Those numbers are indicative of our society, not Christians.” Sadly enough, the statistics are roughly the same. Maybe you are looking for a way out of this vicious cycle.

Well, in this Sermon, Jesus had some ideas for you. If you struggle with sexual sin, get rid of those influences! Listen, do you struggle with movies that portray women in a certain way or men in a certain way? Don’t watch them! No one is forcing you to watch. Do you find yourself tempted by watching television? Don’t watch those shows. You say, “Every show is a struggle for me.” I’ll tell you what Jeff Walling once said, “The weather channel is 100% safe!”

If you have problems when you see a certain person who is not your spouse. Then don’t see that person. If that means ending a friendship, so be it! If that means quitting your job, then do it. Your marriage is more important than any friendship or job. Let me try to be even more plain. If anything is jeopardizing your marriage or relationship with God:

  • A person
  • A computer
  • A television
  • A magazine
  • Anything!

Get rid of it! It is not worth sacrificing your marriage, your self-esteem, or your relationship with God!

What are you struggling with? I don’t mean to belittle the difficulty here. If you find yourself dedicated to conforming your life to Kingdom life, but just can’t seem to win, find help. Get in an accountability group. Get in a prayer group. Get on your knees with your brothers or your sisters.
Because Jesus’ message in this Sermon is: There is a way out of this cycle.

If God can:

  • Part the Red Sea
  • Turn water to wine
  • Raise His own Son from the dead

This same God can work wonders in our lives!

Make it your mission this morning to let God transform your life. To help you find deliverance from this vicious cycle. Into the peace found only in the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Deliverance: War & Revenge

Imagine a fierce protest taking place in Washington D.C. You have seen this scene many times before. Two sets of protestors: those “for” and those “against.” They are separated by two sets of barricades. There are armed officers standing between them, keeping the peace. They are lobbing insults back and forth across the chasm that separates them from each other. Each side is waving its signs. Each side is passionate about its position. On one side of the barricade the signs read:
  • “Make Love Not War”
  • “Give Peace a Chance”
  • “Drop Beats Not Bombs”
On the other side the signs read:
  • “Pacifists are Freedom’s Parasites”
  • “Give War a Chance”
  • “These Colors Don’t Run”
This protest, as you can see, centers on the issue of war. Here is the million-dollar question this morning: In this scene, where should the follower of Jesus stand?

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Deliverance: connected3D

READ MATTHEW 10:1–4.

What is the secret to living a long life? I asked that question one time to Sassy Marriot! Sassy was 100 years old when I asked her that question. She was a member of the first church at which I preached in Stamford, Texas. She was 100. She lived alone! She was at church every Sunday! Her answer: “A Dr. Pepper everyday!” Sassy was the first woman in the state of Texas to receive a master’s degree in education, but she was not a medical doctor!

What do you think? What factor is the most important factor in living a long life? Susan Pinker, a Developmental Psychologist spoke recently about that exact question.

Listen to what she said (click here).

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Deliverance: Transforming Initiatives

A little over 2,000 years ago, Jesus of Nazareth ascended a small hill in Galilee. Crowds flocked. People were amazed at the power of his words. And now you and I join those crowds once again. This morning we again gather to overhear Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. My prayer is that God will allow us to hear that message for what it really is: good news!

Read Matthew 5:21–26 (CEB).

We are entering a pivotal section of Jesus’ sermon. After Jesus told the people, He came to fulfill the law, He then gave them a series of interesting statements. We know much of this section by heart.

“You have heard it said long ago …”
“But now, I say to you …”

It is kind of ironic. Just after Jesus said He did not come to abolish the law, He challenges these fundamental principles of the Jewish faith.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Deliverance: From Where Does Authority Come?

When you face an important moral choice in your life, where do you turn for guidance?


Your teenage daughter comes to you one afternoon with fear and trembling. She is only seventeen years old—not quite an adult—making decisions about her future, including college. All of that comes to a screeching halt when she tells you she is pregnant. You have a choice to make: how will you respond? You do not want to condone the activity that led her to this place. Yet, you do not want to say or do anything that will make matters worse. How will you respond? Or, better yet, when you face this decision, where do you turn for guidance?

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Deliverance: Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

I’d like to ask you to close your eyes this morning and picture the person who has shaped your faith more than any other person.

When I close my eyes, the first face I see is Freddie Moll. I never called him Freddie; I called him Poppy. He was my grandfather—my mother’s father. He was the most gentle, humble, godly man I’ve ever met. I never observed him say one unkind thing to anyone or about anyone. Instead, every time you left his presence you felt better about yourself. That was his spiritual gift.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Deliverance: Blessed Are the Persecuted

After Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” He said this:
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:10-12 NRSV)
Let me ask you a strange question: What did Jesus do for a living?