Devotional Ruminations: Matthew 5:27-30

Mount of BeatitudesI am currently reading in the gospel of Matthew for my devotions. I have really been challenged to walk with Jesus and sit at His feet and reacquaint myself with what it means to be His follower. Matthew 5-7 comprise what we commonly know as the Sermon on the Mount. Contemporary Christians must hear the Master’s words and then receive them with all of their moral weight. Matthew 5:27-30 deals with the subject of lust. This sin of lust makes promise after promise to satisfy only to bring moral and marital ruin. Here are four observations on lust from the words of Jesus.

1. Lust is not confined to action, rather it is committed at the level of intent. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ [action] [28] But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart [intent]” (vv. 27-28). “You can look but not touch” badly misses the mark of Jesus’ teaching.

2. Lust is a sin that promises gratification but actually leads to destruction (physical, relational, and spiritual) (cf. Proverbs 5:1-6). “For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (v. 29, 30). Jesus says this twice. It should really capture our attention.

3. Lust must be fought militantly. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away” (v. 29)…”And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (v. 30). Hyperbole? Yes, I think so. But to simply place these statements under that literary rubric and then diminish the weight of these statements is the height of folly. If we do not resist lust (and any other sin) “to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:4), we are placing our souls and bodies in eternal danger.

4. Lust does not characterize a follower of Christ. The very inclusion of this topic is an imperative for being set apart (i.e. holy) as followers of Christ. Yes, sex is a natural, God-given human drive (and it should be celebrated and enjoyed according to God’s pattern; cf. Proverbs 5:15-19; Song of Solomon). Yes, we live in a hyper-sexualized culture. Yes, we are surrounded by and immersed in sexually-charged content. But none of these realities excuse us from not battling the sin of lust. Moreover, the follower of Christ can overcome this sin (Romans 6:6-7).

We must see lust as our Lord described it. Battling and overcoming lust is what Jesus said His disciples must do, thereby distinguishing themselves as salt and light in a morally decaying and dark culture by the grace of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit. So battle lust my brothers and sisters knowing that the battle is hard but the victory is yours.

(Image of Mt. Eremos from bibleplaces.com, Mount of Beatitudes)

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Otsego Festival Question Series: How Do You Know God Is Real?

In January of 2005, Bobby Henderson, an Oregon State physics graduate, sent an open letter to the Kansas School Board. This was when the school board was debating over whether or not intelligent design should be taught in science classes. He wrote:

We have evidence that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe. None of us, of course, were around to see it, but we have written accounts of it. We have several lengthy volumes explaining all details of His power. Also, you may be surprised to hear that there are over 10 million of us, and growing. We tend to be very secretive, as many people claim our beliefs are not substantiated by observable evidence.

The school board did not respond to the letter, but when he posted it on the internet, it became an instant hit with some 350 million hits since it was posted. It was intended to be a spoof; a tongue-in-cheek response to claim that Intelligent Design (ID) is not science. Whether one can lay claim that ID is science, I am not qualified to say but I have a sneaking suspicion that there is a problem with the claim that the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the creator of all things. Henderson’s point is that if it lacks evidence, it cannot be taught as science and should be disallowed. What this means is that if God lacks evidence, creationism should also be discredited and not taught.

The line of reasoning for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism seems to be:
1. There is no evidence for the existence of God.
2. There is no evidence for the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
3. Therefore, belief in the Judeo-Christian God and belief in the Flying Spaghetti Monster are on equal epistemic grounds. (This means the evidence through which we verify their existence is equal).

The problem is that the first premise, there is no evidence for the existence of God, is an a priori rejection of any evidence, were it given. I contend that God is real and there is evidence for the existence of God. If we could find forensic evidence that would support the existence of God, the fingerprints of God, as it were, in the world, we can list at least three: God’s creation, God’s word, and God’s Son

The Bible assumes the existence of God. What this means is that the Bible is not an apologetic for the existence of God, rather it reveals who God is and how He works in the world. It is like a person’s biography. The biographer does not take the first chapter to provide proofs of the individual’s existence. The biographer clearly assumes the existence of the person about whom he is writing.

While the Bible assumes the existence of God, there are some places where evidences of God’s existence are found. It may be that these proofs are incorporated throughout the Bible because God Himself is invisible (Exodus 33:20; 1 Timothy 1:17; Hebrews 11:27).

1. God’s creation
The first fingerprint of God in the world is creation. Personally, I find this to be a compelling argument for the existence of God. To observe (what we can observe) about creation points us to the intricate, artistic mind of a Creator. This is, in fact, intentional according to Psalm 19:1.

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

It is the height of folly to credit evolutionary chance with the order of the natural world and its beauty.

The microscope and the telescope have given us entry into whole new worlds and universes. Yet before we had these, all we had to do was look up with what we can see with the naked eye. So the Apostle Paul says to the men of Athens

Yet God is actually not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27).

How could Paul say this?  Because of creation!  According to Romans 1:20, no one can plead ignorance concerning the existence of God when they have the gigantic canvas of creation to behold.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Michael Newdow, known for suing to have the words “under God” removed from the pledge of allegiance, argued that if he could not see, hear, touch, or smell God he does not exist (Hal Seed, The God Questions, 23).  While creation is not God, it lets us know that a Creator exists.

2. God’s word
The second fingerprint of God in the world is the Bible. Hebrews 1:1 make the clear statement: “God spoke!”

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke . . .

God’s word provides us what we know about God. The Bible is the collection of what God has revealed that He wants us to know,

All Scripture is breathed out by God . . . (2 Timothy 3:16)

When you consider the time span as well as the number and diversity of authors of the Bible, the internal consistency is flawless and difficult to explain other than attributing it to its Divine Author.

To be sure, its accuracy does not prove the Bible to be divine—human beings are also sometimes quite accurate—but it is what we should expect if the Bible is the result of God’s effort (James Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, 59).

3. God’s Son
The third fingerprint of God in the world in Jesus Christ. There are very few who would deny that Jesus of Nazareth existed. In fact, even the most liberal of scholars seek to disprove His claims more than His existence because His life is so well documented. But throughout history people have longed to know what God is like.  In fact, if one could not see God one wanted to make a representation of Him, which God forbids in the second commandment in Exodus 20:4.  Remember Philip’s question to Jesus in John 14:8,

Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’

There is a desire for something greater in every person (incidentally, we call this “the image of God”).  Also consider Colossians 2:9.

For in [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.

This means that Jesus was fully God and as such He can truly manifest God to us.

No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18).

And

He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15).

Not only has God spoken as I mentioned above, but He has spoken to us through His Son according to Hebrews 1:1-2,

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, [2] but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

In conclusion, there are at least three fingerprints of God in the world: God’s creation, God’s word, and God’s son. To reject the existence of God has several severe consequences:

  • To reject God’s existence and authority over us is the height of folly.

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’ (Psalm 14:1).

We could add “for me” at the end of the fool’s statement, “There is no God” to express the idea of the statement.

  • To reject God’s existence is to reject for that which we were made, we exists for Him (1 Corinthians 8:6).

yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist.

  • To reject God’s existence is to reject the creative power of salvation and spiritual renewal He provides in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17-18)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. [18 ] All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;

I’ll conlcude my answer to this question with an anecdote.

In The Dust of Death Os Guinness makes this point [that the key to knowledge of God eludes us if God does not exist or if the failure to know God is God’s fault] by describing a comedy skit performed by the German comedian Karl Vallentin. In this routine the comic comes onto a stage illuminated only by one small circle of light. He paces around and around this circle with a worried face. He is searching for something. After a while a policeman joins him and asks what h has lost. “I’ve lost the key to my house to my house,” Vallentin answers. The policeman joins the hunt, but the search eventually appears useless.
“Are you sure you lost it here?” asks the policeman.
“Oh no!” says Vallentin, pointing to a dark corner. “It was over there.”
“Then why are you looking here?”
“There’s no light over there,” answers the comic.
(Os Guinness, The Dust of Death (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1973), 148 in Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, 28-9).

God does exist and He has revealed Himself so that we can know Him. But we must look where He can be found. Those places are creation, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. Each of these cast a brilliant light on the existence of God.