The Ten Commandments were written on stone tablets by the very finger of God. They were the general rules God gave the Israelites about how to be civilized as the newly formed community of God’s people. Today, they continue to instruct us on how to live godly lives as a community of faith, enjoying the blessings of God’s people. They also show us how we fall short and need God’s grace and forgiveness. Do you know the Ten Commandments? Can you fill in the blanks in the list below?
The Ten Commandments:
1. Do not _______ any God except the Lord.
2. Do not ____ _____ of any kind.
3. Do not ______ the ____ of the Lord.
4. Remember to _______ the _______ ___ and keep it holy.
5. Honor your ______ and ______.
6. Do not ______.
7. Do not commit ________.
8. Do not _____.
9. Do not _______ _______ against your neighbor.
10. Do not _____.
How did you do? Keep working on it until you have the Ten Commandments memorized.
Today we will look at the Seventh Commandment as found in Exodus 20:14
14 “You must not commit adultery.”
It was about nine o’clock at night. A man dashed into the doctor’s office full of anxiety. He explained to the doctor that he’d been a nervous wreck all day. The doctor, in his best professional manner, asked if anything had happened to upset him. "Well," the man answered, "there is this letter I received this morning." He showed the doctor a letter, which stated in part, "If you don’t stop running around with my wife, I’m going to blow your head off." The doctor answered, "Well, that’s a fairly simple matter. Why don’t you just stop running around with the man’s wife?” "But, Doctor, the fool forgot to sign his name!"[i]
Google defines adultery as voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse. Sex is a wonderful and powerful gift God gave His creation. For humanity, it is meant to be enjoyed between a husband and wife within the safe bonds of a committed marriage relationship. Sex within marriage is very good. Besides the practical purpose of creating children, sexual union can be a deeply pleasurable experience that cements the bonds of intimacy between a husband and a wife. In both the Old and New testaments, the Bible indicates sex is a way for two persons to become one.[ii]
Genesis 2:1 talks about the marriage union between a husband and wife. It says, “…a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” It is a beautiful mystery how God can take a man and a woman and knit them together as one. Often when I perform a wedding ceremony, couples will light a unity candle to symbolize this sacred union. The flames of two separate candles are used to light one single flame, symbolizing the uniting of two people into one. Once the flames of the two candles unite, they cannot be separated. The light of the candles is combined; the chemical reactions of the flame are comingled. It would be impossible to divide up the flames once united. Even if you parted the flames into two separate candles again, each separate flame would contain elements of the other flame. That is why divorce is so difficult and why Jesus cautioned against it. You can never truly separate fully from your spouse—parts of them will always be comingled with you. And sex is an important tool God gave a husband and wife to impart this beautiful and mysterious union.
But like a river that leaves its banks and brings a devastating flood, sex becomes highly destructive when it leaves the safe boundaries of marriage. When a spouse commits adultery, they unite themselves with another person besides their spouse. Now dangerously outside the will of God, they have polluted their body and their marriage. They have comingled with another outside of God’s plan. Even if one spouse does not know that the other has cheated, there are now destructive forces loose in the marriage that will cause all kinds of damage to the unity of husband and wife. Even in Old Testament times—when polygamous marriages with multiple wives and mistresses were common—it was the cause for great trouble and strife. Why? Because this is not God’s plan. You don’t believe me? Read in your Bible about some of those dysfunctional marriages. Read about Abraham’s screwed up marriage to Sara and his mistress Hagar. Read about Jacob and his two jealous wives Rachel and Leah. Read about the downfall of wisest king in all history—Solomon—who was brought down and strayed from God because of his many wives and concubines. Adultery will tear you apart, not to mention the destruction it will wreak on your spouse, your children, your family and friends, and even the person with whom you commit adultery.
More Than Just Sex
Somehow, I think everyone knows we should not commit adultery. And yet surveys show that about 22% of married men and 14% of married women confidentially admit that they have strayed at least once in their marriage. But…
Adultery is more than just sex. Obviously, if you look at the statistics, you will notice men are more likely to cheat than women. This may be because studies show men, in general, find the appeal of a physical, sexual affair more appealing than women. On the other hand, women are generally more attracted by emotional stimuli. When a woman cheats, it tends to be more about an emotional bond with another person. Women tend to go for emotional affairs while men go more for a physical affair.
Whether you are a man or a woman, I must warn you that you can be involved in an emotional affair without ever having “sex.” An emotional affair is when you bond emotionally with another person other than your spouse—especially a person of the opposite sex—in a way that should be reserved only for your spouse. WebMD offers 7 signs you may have crossed the line into an emotional affair:[iii]
1. You spend a lot of emotional energy on the person. “You end up sharing stuff that you don’t even share with your [spouse]--hopes and dreams, things that would actually connect you to your partner.”
2. You dress up for that person.
3. You make a point to find ways to spend time together, and that time becomes very important to you.
4. You’d feel guilty if your [spouse] saw you together; you are doing things and saying things that you would never do or say in front of your spouse.
5. You share your feelings of marital dissatisfaction.
6. You’re keeping secret the amount of time you’re spending with the person (including emailing, calling, texting).
7. You start to feel dependent on the emotional high that comes with the relationship.
You see, you can “commit adultery” without ever having sex. Emotional adultery may be just dangerous as a sexual fling because it is driven by emotional bonds that are reserved only for one’s spouse. Whether you are involved in a sexual affair or an emotional affair, I urge you in the name of the Lord to stop now! Come talk with me about it so we can pray together and ask God to help you and begin the process of healing and accountability.
Jesus’ Teaching about the Seventh Commandment
But perhaps the most dangerous form of adultery today is adultery of the eyes. Sex appeal is a powerful force that can be wielded to manipulate. Our culture uses sex to sell everything from music to prescription drugs to hamburgers. It is impossible to live in America without being inundated with sexualized images.
In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus said, 27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
You cannot live in our country without seeing sexual images. But as I think I heard Sara Brooker say once, “You can stop a bird from landing on your head, but you don’t have to let it make a nest there.” We can’t help but see tempting sexual images, sexy women, or attractive men, but we don’t have to look twice or fantasize about them. And yet that’s what most of us do.
The porn industry in the United States generates $13 billion every year. Since the beginning of 2015, there have been over 1.3 billion internet searches for pornography. 64% of Christian Men and 15% of Christian women say they watch porn at least once per month. It is no wonder that our ideas about sexuality, marriage, and homosexuality are so off track in America today.) If you are looking at porn or lusting after women (or men), I urge you in the name of the Lord to stop now! Come talk with me about it so we can pray together to ask God to help you and begin the process of healing and accountability.
Clearly, we are an adulterous people according to Christ who said, “…anyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” So none of us can boast we are without sin. Nor should we lie to ourselves and others that we are not as bad as some. “For,” as James 2:10 says, “the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.” The Commandments and Jesus’ words prove that we are and adulterous people who desperately need God’s grace and forgiveness.
Sometimes in the church, we like to point the finger at others and say, “They are what’s wrong with the world.” It feels so much better to point the finger at someone else. Then we don’t have to look uncomfortably at our own failings. The Truth is, we are what’s wrong with the world. We are full of sin. We need God’s grace and forgiveness. We are in desperate need of God’s healing. And lest we ever forget it, the Lord and His Commandments remind us.
That is the Bad News. But the Good News is that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us. Jesus came to save us. For 1 John 1:9 says, "...if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness." Isn't it Good News to know Jesus will forgive us and wash us clean if we ask?
Won’t you come to the Lord today and ask His forgiveness. Won’t you beg Him to wash you clean. Won’t you let Him begin to heal your heart today. Won’t you turn away from your sin and turn to the one who can fulfill your every need and desire. Come to Jesus today. He is your only hope.