Three Taverns Church

P-O-R-N

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I’ve heard many pastors give messages they weren’t qualified to give:

  • One guy gave a sermon on biblical marriage, one month after his own wedding date
  • Another young guy gave a sermon about having faith in the midst of adversity. His life’s greatest adversity, which he used as an illustration? An awkward bathroom incident
  • A third pastor who had a public image of sexual purity, giving a message about sexual sin

I’m preparing for my sermon tomorrow. The subject: Pornography. As a recovering pornography addict I am uniquely qualified to preach on this subject. There are a lot of things I don’t like about myself. This is the worst item on that list. And I can’t do anything about it. I saw my first Playboy magazine when I was 5. I was addicted by 13. In psychological terms, this means I’m screwed. If an addiction takes hold before a person turns 13, that addiction will be with them for the rest of their lives.

My current struggles with pornography aren’t any easier than they used to be. I’ve planted a church. I know it’s not right. I know about the abuse many of the “stars” suffered as kids. I know about their drug use during filming. Despite this knowledge, there always comes a moment when looking at pornography seems like a really good idea…

…And not too long after that, the regret hits and I feel like God could never love or use a person as dirty and shameful as me. I know every man has been there. Most of us have been there in the last thirty days. It’s a statistical fact. Many women have been there too, in chat rooms and online dating sites.

And if there’s one Bible passage that makes us feel more hopeless and ashamed than any other when it comes to pornography, it’s probably Matthew 5:27-28:

“You have heard that it was said,   ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

My initial reaction to this passage: Oh, crap! Matthew 5:27-28 means exactly what it says, and that makes me feel hopeless.

BUT…

The context of this verse points to the likelihood that Jesus wasn’t talking to common men and women; He was talking to the religiously self-righteous. Don’t believe me? Start reading at Matthew 5:17 and go through the end of the chapter. I believe Jesus was breaking through the denial of people who thought they were sinless. Honestly, if Jesus gave this sermon today I think He’d be addressing a room full of pastors and born-again Christians.

If you’re not in denial about your own sexual sin, I have good news: Matthew 5:27-28 isn’t for you. Or I should say, Jesus isn’t addressing you here. Because the verse itself is true: Lusting in your heart is tantamount to sleeping with another man’s wife. But you and I already know that. It’s why we feel like garbage so often. In fact, it’s the knowledge that we’re adulterous garbage which drives us around and around the addiction cycle.

Here’s the thing: That’s not how Jesus sees us. Because again, He’s not talking to us in Matthew 5:27-28. No, Jesus is talking to us in John 8:10-11:

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

This, of course, is the conclusion of the story about the woman caught in adultery. So why is Jesus so kind to her when we’re still wincing from Matthew 5:28? On one hand, Jesus rips us a new one for lusting after women. On the other hand, here’s Jesus offering grace and mercy to a woman caught in the act! How do we reconcile these two verses? The context, of course! The adulteress was not ‘religiously righteous’; she had no denial about who she was or what she’d done. Jesus, the only person with the authority to condemn her, refused to do it. And of course she went and sinned again. Jesus knew this and refused to condemn her anyway.

I was struggling to prepare my sermon, wrestling with these two seemingly opposite passages, when the contextual pieces fell into place. It’s really quite simple once you see it. Think with me: In Matthew 5, Jesus  targets the religiously righteous. In John 8, this same group challenges Jesus on the same subject. So how do we bring the two passages together? Three words: Cut-and-paste. I’ll end this post with a merged version of Matthew 5:27-28 and John 8:3-11. It’s so seamless and powerful you’d never guess the words weren’t all from the same chapter and book.

Stop living in denial. Stop living in shame.

The religious scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red-handed in the act of adultery. Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “You know the commandment pretty well: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.

So, the sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.

Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”

“No one, Master.”

“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

2 thoughts on “P-O-R-N

  1. Wow. Wow. WOW!!!! Man, I’ll be praying for you tonight and tomorrow. I hope God uses you to hit this one out of the park. It’s something that affects so many people, and our own self-loathing and hopelessness is a tool that Satan uses time and again to lead us away from God! Praying that God prepares the way for tomorrow morning!

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