by Mike Ratliff
4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.
6 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!
8 “If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.
10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 18:4-10 (NKJV)
This fallen world is diametrically opposed to God and His ways in every part. Even those of us who have been delivered through the redemptive work of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life in Him can find ourselves at times with a temporal focus, which causes us to make compromises in our walks. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. 16 If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. 17 But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25 (NKJV)
Our Lord told us plainly in His Sermon on the Mount the source of the evil that plagues us. This evil resides in our own hearts.
27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. Matthew 5:27-30 (NKJV)
27 Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη· οὐ μοιχεύσεις. 28 ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι πᾶς ὁ βλέπων γυναῖκα πρὸς τὸ ἐπιθυμῆσαι αὐτὴν ἤδη ἐμοίχευσεν αὐτὴν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ αὐτοῦ. 29 εἰ δὲ ὁ ὀφθαλμός σου ὁ δεξιὸς σκανδαλίζει σε, ἔξελε αὐτὸν καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ· συμφέρει γάρ σοι ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν τῶν μελῶν σου καὶ μὴ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου βληθῇ εἰς γέενναν. 30 καὶ εἰ ἡ δεξιά σου χεὶρ σκανδαλίζει σε, ἔκκοψον αὐτὴν καὶ βάλε ἀπὸ σοῦ· συμφέρει γάρ σοι ἵνα ἀπόληται ἓν τῶν μελῶν σου καὶ μὴ ὅλον τὸ σῶμά σου εἰς γέενναν ἀπέλθῃ. Matthew 5:27-30 (NA28)
This metaphoric example is designed by our Lord to show us clearly the seriousness and foolishness of being at peace with the evil focus of our hearts. We often make the very rationalization in our hearts that our Lord gives us here in that we justify ourselves by saying that we have not really committed the sin of lust because we have not physically committed adultery or fornication. However, our Lord makes it clear here that if we covet another person lustfully then we have committed the sin of adultery. The word translated here as “to lust for” in the NKJV is ἐπιθυμῆσαι. This word simply describes our minds being directed after something or someone with a longing, a desire, et cetera. Our Lord tells us here that if we find ourselves longing after another person or thing then we have already committed adultery in our hearts.
This should cause us to examine our hearts deeply and honestly. What is our Lord teaching us here and how are we to apply it? We must take our thoughts captive my brethren. We must not allow the wickedness that still resides there to capture our focus away from our humble submission to our Lord to be squandered on the things of the flesh. This is the primary reason that those groups who call themselves Christians, but whose focus is entirely on the getting and possessing of the stuff of this world, prove that they are teaching what is unchristian. Also, when so-called Christian leaders counsel professing Christians that it is not sinful to ἐπιθυμῆσαι after another person or wealth or power or any other thing that is not of Christ as long as they do not actually follow through then they have not sinned are lying.
None of us are perfect, but that does not excuse us from what our Lord is teaching us here. Genuine Christians live lives in which they are being transformed by the power of God through the renewal of their minds (Romans 12:2) to be living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). This means that their focus is on eradicating all ἐπιθυμῆσαι of the flesh from their lives.
Over ten years ago when God separated my wife and I from our old church which was going purpose driven despite all our efforts to stop it I was in the midst of studying several books dealing with Church History. One of those that I have read several times was the biography of William Tyndale by David Daniell. As I read it along with the writings of John Bunyan and John Owen I realized that the battle we are in right now against those heretics and apostates who are watering down the Gospel are the foil that God has allowed to come to bear against the truth in our time just as the Roman Catholic Church was in the time of the Reformers. The more I have studied this, the more it became clear that the battle for the truth that the Gospel is what the Church must be about instead of religiosity, has always been the battle ground. Our Creeds and Confessions were written by men of God who stood firm against the foes of the truth who were attempting to change the definition of the Gospel or to put it on a shelf. A great many, including William Tyndale, paid the price for this with their lives.
What has this to do with adultery of the heart? Those very same people who are enemies of the Gospel are the same ones who are making excuses for people’s sin, attempting to appease those in their churches about the sins. We are told to lighten up, to not be so contentious, to be more like Jesus. However, those teaching and saying these things are not following the Jesus of the Bible, but one of their own making.
Soli Deo Gloria!