Ten Commandments, Lesson 8: You Shall Not Commit Adultery

Introduction
 
As the commandments we have looked at before, there is much more to this commandment than meets the eye. You can see why the Pharisees had an inflated view of their standing before God. They believed they were fulfilling the commandments because they had not killed anyone, robbed a bank, or run off with a neighbor’s wife.
 
Missing from their understanding were the issues of the heart that God cares much about. In fact, in 1 Samuel, God revealed that humans look at the outside things that characterize a person, while God cares more about the heart. It’s not just the Pharisees who were guilty of this. Christians too, to use Jesus’ satiric imagery, strain out gnats and swallow camels. Christians may think that because they have outwardly behaved themselves by not having sexual intercourse with another person, yet the epidemic of Christians (men especially) who watch pornography is shameful and astounding. If this isn’t a lustful desire of the heart, it’s hard to imagine what is.

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Advent 2022: Day 14

Luke 22:31-38

31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
33 But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.”
34 Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.”
35 Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
36 He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. 37 It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
38 The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.


Advent Prayer

O God, who didst prepare of old the minds and hearts of men for the coming of thy Son, and whose Spirit ever worketh to illumine our darkened lives with the light of the Gospel: Prepare now our minds and hearts, we beseech thee, that Christ may dwell in us, and ever reign in our thoughts and affections as the King of love, and the very Prince of Peace. Grant this, we pray thee, for his sake. Amen.

 from The Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home, 1965

Advent 2022: Day 13

Psalm 31

Isaiah 31

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
for you are my refuge.
Into your hands I commit my spirit;
deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
as for me, I trust in the Lord.
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction, 
and my bones grow weak.
11 Because of all my enemies,
I am the utter contempt of my neighbors
and an object of dread to my closest friends—
those who see me on the street flee from me.
12 I am forgotten as though I were dead;
I have become like broken pottery.
13 For I hear many whispering,
“Terror on every side!”
They conspire against me
and plot to take my life.

14 But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
15 My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
16 Let your face shine on your servant;
save me in your unfailing love.
17 Let me not be put to shame, Lord,
for I have cried out to you;
but let the wicked be put to shame
and be silent in the realm of the dead.
18 Let their lying lips be silenced,
for with pride and contempt
they speak arrogantly against the righteous.

19 How abundant are the good things
that you have stored up for those who fear you,
that you bestow in the sight of all,
on those who take refuge in you.
20 In the shelter of your presence you hide them
from all human intrigues;
you keep them safe in your dwelling
from accusing tongues.

21 Praise be to the Lord,
for he showed me the wonders of his love
when I was in a city under siege.
22 In my alarm I said,
“I am cut off from your sight!”
Yet you heard my cry for mercy
when I called to you for help.

23 Love the Lord, all his faithful people!
The Lord preserves those who are true to him,
but the proud he pays back in full.
24 Be strong and take heart,
all you who hope in the Lord.


Advent Prayer

Most merciful God, who so loved the world as to give thine only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life: Grant unto us, we humbly pray thee, the precious gift of faith, that we may know that the Son of God is come, and may have power to overcome the world and gain a blessed immortality; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

from The Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home, 1965

Praying for Forgiveness

The Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 51

Question 126: What does the fifth request mean?

 Answer: Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors means, Because of Christ’s blood, do not hold against us, poor sinners that we are, any of the sins we do or the evil that constantly clings to us. [1]

 Forgive us just as we are fully determined, as evidence of your grace in us, to forgive our neighbors. [2]

[1] Ps. 51:1-7; 143:2; Rom. 8:1; 1 John 2:1-2; [2] Matt. 6:14-15; 18:21-35

Prayer Journal: Week 51

He who labors as he prays, lifts his heart to God with his hands. (Bernard of Clairvaux)

This Week’s Scripture

·         Exodus 3:1-15
·         Psalm 105
·         Romans 12:9-21
·         Matthew 16:21-28

Adoration

Psalm 105:1
Oh give thanks to the LORD;
call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!

O Happy Day, That Fixed My Choice (verse 1)
O happy day, that fixed my choice on thee, my Savior and my God!
Well may this glowing heart rejoice, and tell its raptures all abroad.
Happy day, happy day, when Jesus washed my sins away!
He taught me how to watch and pray, and live rejoicing every day.

(Philip Doddridge)

Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.

Confession

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9-10)

Righteous Father, I have acted as if I hated thee, although thou art love itself; have contrived to tempt thee to the uttermost, to wear out thy patience; have lived evilly in word and action. Had I been a prince I would have long ago crushed such a rebel; Had I been a father I would long since have rejected my child. O, thou Father of my spirit, thou King of my life, cast me not into destruction, drive me not from thy presence, but wound my heart that it may be healed; break it that thine own hand may make it whole. In Christ I pray. Amen. (The Valley of Vision)

As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Thanksgiving

All-wise Lord of heaven and earth, I am grateful for the direction you give me for my life. I am humbled and thankful that you have not left me to grope in darkness to search in vain for the right path, but your Spirit has provided a light for me so I may follow the same road as my Savior. I pray Father, in your power, give me strength to follow your will for my life. Enable me to let my love be genuine and to abhor what is evil. Help me love others with a brotherly affection and continually and consistently show them honor. May I never be slothful in my zeal, but fervent in spirit, always serving you. Let me faithfully rejoice in hope, show patience in tribulation, and be constant in prayer. And may I think of others before myself by contributing to their needs and showing hospitality to them. Then, gracious God, when people see my life, let it point to you so that you, and you alone, receive all the praise and glory. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen. (based on Romans 12:9-13)

Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.

Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)

·         Help me to grow in wisdom and become who you created and redeemed me to be.
·         Renew my mind and enable me to cultivate a godly perspective and attitude regarding the various spheres and circumstances of my life.
·         Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
·         Other needs

Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

·         My family, immediate and extended
·         Those struggling with sin, illness, or difficulties in their workplace
·         Other needs


God wants to get us out of the love of virtue and in love with the God of virtue – stripped of all possessions but our knowledge of him. (Oswald Chambers)

Advent 2022: Day 11

Isaiah 6:1-11

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
He said, “Go and tell this people:
“ ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding;
be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’
10 Make the heart of this people calloused;
make their ears dull
and close their eyes. 
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts,
and turn and be healed.”

11 Then I said, “For how long, Lord?”
And he answered:

“Until the cities lie ruined
and without inhabitant,
until the houses are left deserted
and the fields ruined and ravaged,
12 until the Lord has sent everyone far away
and the land is utterly forsaken.
13 And though a tenth remains in the land,
it will again be laid waste.
But as the terebinth and oak
leave stumps when they are cut down,
so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”


Eusebius of Caesarea The prophetic word gives the reason for the desolation by showing the cause of their fall, making the understanding of it clear. When they heard our Savior teaching among them but would not listen with the ear of the mind and did not understand who he was, seeing him with their eyes and not with the eyes of their spirit, “they hardened their heart, closed the eyes of their mind, and made their ears heavy.” As the prophecy says, their cities would become desolate such that no one would live in them because of this. In addition, their land would become desolate, and only a few would remain, being kept like fruitful seed who would proceed to all people and multiply on the earth.


Devotional Reflections based on today’s readings

God used the first seven verses of today’s Scripture to revolutionize my faith almost thirty years ago. I was teaching a study by R.C. Sproul called, The Holiness of God. It was a needed balance to my view of God which, in the tradition of many “mainliners” of my generation, understood God exclusively in terms of his attribute of love. When I say, “his attribute of love,” what I really mean is what we usually think God’s love ought to be like, in our humble opinions. For many of us who grew up in church, the unconditional love of God is almost synonymous with the unconditional niceness of God.

God used Sproul’s book and study on the holiness of God to awaken me. I discovered God is much larger than I imagined. Sure, I had read A.W. Tozer’s, Knowledge of the Holy, but goodness, I was still in my 20s and barely understood most of what I read there. Sproul’s book put the cookie jar on the bottom shelf so I could get to it. To think of God as “holy, holy, holy” was something I didn’t comprehend. If asked, I may have used the word “holy” to describe God, but I would have been guessing at words out of my ignorance.

I came to understand that God’s holiness, like all of God’s attributes, is essential to who God is, and not some second tier, take it or leave it, attribute. His holiness signifies both his otherness and his moral purity. To stand before such a holy God, one can’t help but react the way Isaiah did. Who could look upon our holy God and not cry out that they are ruined, undone, disintegrated? Every sinful thought, word, deed, and desire that our lives have been built upon would overwhelm our hearts and minds, were we to stand before such a God. The guilt would be more than we could possibly endure. Isaiah’s cry was recognition of his guilt and his repentance of it. Thus, in our Scripture, the angels took the searing tongs and applied them to the lips of Isaiah to symbolize his purification and atonement. His guilt was taken away and he was forgiven. Is there better news than that?

God used this scene from redemptive history to do several things in my life. First, he taught me about his holiness. For when a person comes to understand the true holiness of God’s nature, it shouldn’t be a big jump to understand how unholy we fallen and sinful sons of Adam and daughters of Eve really are. Yet, Peter reminds us of God’s command from the Old Covenant to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Holiness is not optional. In fact, the Book of Hebrews reminds us that without this holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

The second, and even more unexpected surprise of being introduced to God’s holiness in this very startling way, was how God used it to show me what his love for me truly looks like. I believe I was at a place in my life where I really believed God’s love was my due. It was God’s job to love me. It was entitlement thinking on my part, to be sure. But as God’s providence would have it, at the same time I was teaching a class on his holiness, I was also teaching a class on Paul’s Letter to the Romans. And there I started digging into what grace really means. I began to understand what every confirmand we celebrated just a few weeks ago was taught… that God’s grace is the unearned, unmerited, undeserved favor, blessing, and power of God. God first loved me because it is God’s character to love, but not because God is required to love me. God’s holiness, from which his justice flows, calls for my sin to be punished.

My sin… our sin… is antithetical to the holiness of God and, as those created in his image, is displeasing to him. To put it bluntly, our sin tells lies about who God really is. Everything an image bearer does reflects on its Creator. It says something about the one who created it. When we sin, we’re saying something untrue about the One who made us. This is the human condition. This is why Isaiah cried out,

“Woe to me!”… “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

It was not only that Isaiah was a fallen, sinful man, but so were his fellow Israelites. So are we all. That is part of the reason we cannot look upon the unveiled presence of God and live. He is too pure and holy. But Isaiah’s vision of the King was just that, a vision. And because Isaiah was a humble man, he therefore recognized this qualitative disparity. And so, he cried out. I too cried out when I recognized how good and gracious God’s love to me really was. How God had loved me my whole life. I couldn’t help but think of how undeserving I was. This was not a “worm theology” where I saw myself as worthless. But this was similar to Isaiah’s revelation in which he understood himself to be unworthy to stand before the King. That is how I felt. Yet, that is exactly what made God’s love for me all the sweeter. That is what made it precious to me. That is what humbled me and melted my pride in a way that remains a vivid memory in my heart and mind to this day.

After his holy experience of God, Isaiah couldn’t help but answer God’s call to serve him. That should be what each of us does in response to God’s holy love. When we have truly understood God’s holy love for each of us, we should tremble, rejoice, fall before him, and give our lives to him. That appears to be what Isaiah did. God asked for a servant to bring a hard word to Israel, and Isaiah stepped up. He answered the call. His calling would be to deliver a message of judgment.

There is no generation in which judgment is a welcomed guest. There is a reason we have the saying, “don’t shoot the messenger.” Isaiah wasn’t called to bring Israel his own assessment of how things were going and what was going to happen to them. Instead, he was bringing them God’s divine evaluation. And it wasn’t good. There would be judgment for Israel. This would not be a time of “superficial deliverance.” This would be what we sometimes refer to as “tough love.” All would be laid waste. Yet, “destruction is never God’s last word.” Hope would remain. A holy seed, a faithful remnant of God’s people would remain, from which the Messiah, and ultimately, deliverance and redemption, would come.

I think I often forget there was a time when God’s people awaited the first Advent of the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God. His coming was prophesied as early as Genesis and would be the hope of God’s people in every generation after. God would continue to provide foreshadowing and prophecies of the coming Messiah throughout the Old Covenant. We would learn where and when he would be born, to whom, the royal line he would belong to, and why he was coming. Recently, a religious leader in our denomination said, “It is not important that we agree on who Christ is. …God became flesh, but not particular flesh. There’s no particularity around that. God became incarnate in a culture, but not one culture.”

But Israel’s Messiah, was just that… the Messiah of Israel. This anointed One, this Messiah, was the seed of Eve, the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of the line of King David, and remained the hope of Israel, a hope that existed only because God preserved a faithful remnant who did not bow to false gods and live in rebellion to him. This Messiah’s Old Covenant lineage is highlighted in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. And during this time of year especially, we learn that this Messiah would be born to a Jewish mother. The father who raised him and gave him his name was Jewish. And he would be named Jesus, because, the angel told his parents, he would save his people from their sin. The scandal of particularity matters… it matters a lot.

Yet, by God’s grace, the deliverance, redemption, and reconciliation he brought with his coming did not remain for Israel alone but became a sacrificial and loving offering for the whole world. That’s why we can sing… “Joy to the World.” Thanks be to God. God’s love is holy… and his holiness is loving. They are inseparable; they are intricately connected because they are who God is, along with all his other attributes. They aren’t merely what God does, but who God is. And we are created in his image. We too are called to be holy as God is holy. We are commanded to love God and neighbor because God first loved us. Our lives of holy love should reflect God’s character and goodness in our lives. It’s my prayer for our church family that during this season of Advent, God’s light would shine through us so brightly, that when others see it, they can’t help but give our Father in heaven all the praise and glory. Amen.

Advent 2022: Day 10

Luke 21:29-38

29 He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

32 “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

34 “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come on all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.”

37 Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening he went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, 38 and all the people came early in the morning to hear him at the temple.


Anonymous: “Watch” over your life. Do not let “your lamps” go out, and do not keep “your loins ungirded,” but “be ready,” for “you do not know the hour when our Lord is coming.” Meet together frequently in your search for what is good for your souls, since “a lifetime of faith will be of no advantage”2 to you unless you prove perfect at the very end. In the final days, multitudes of false prophets and seducers will appear. Sheep will turn into wolves, and love into hatred. With the increase of iniquity, people will hate, persecute and betray each other. Then the world deceiver will appear in the disguise of God’s Son. He will work “signs and wonders,” and the earth will fall into his hands. He will commit outrages such as have never occurred before. Then humankind will come to the fiery trial, “and many will fall away” and perish. “Those who persevere in their faith will be saved”5 by the Curse himself. Then “there will appear the signs”7 of the Truth: first the sign of stretched-out hands in heaven, then the sign of “a trumpet’s blast,” and third, the resurrection of the dead, but not all the dead. As it has been said, “The Lord will come and all his saints with him. Then the world will see the Lord coming on the clouds of the sky.” Didache 16.1–7.


Devotional Reflections based on today’s readings

In many ways this is Part 2 of yesterday’s Scripture and devotional thought. Many texts through the Advent season encourage us… urge us… to be prepared. We hear those parabolic warnings throughout the Gospels of thieves coming in the night, virgins being unprepared with their oil when the bridegroom returns, and more.

Jesus assures in our Scripture today that though the whole universe will pass away, his words will never do so. It has been said that the only things that will last eternally are people and the word of God. So, we have confidence that what Jesus shares with us in these hard words are not only true, but lasting. Furthermore, they are shaped in the form of promises, so they will come to pass as surely as the sun will rise and set each day.

In verse 34, Jesus says, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” Have you found yourself so caught up in the troubles and worries of each day that you forget to keep your eyes on Jesus? Or, perhaps, during the tough times of life, or even those periods in which life seems a little more mundane than usual, we turn to distractions… distractions that will numb us to life’s cold realities. Of course, the answer to our problems is Jesus, which sounds like a proper Sunday School answer, but it’s still a true answer. Jesus warns us against being “weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life.” It might accurately be said that Satan and company know us better than we know ourselves. That demonic company knows our weaknesses and the best ways to tempt us. Jesus tells us to beware such things, for they are traps being set for the unprepared and unsuspecting.

That’s why so much time is spent in Scripture, and throughout the Advent season, to urge us to be ready for when the Day of the Lord will arrive. We won’t get an email or text at the beginning of the year to let us know. And, as I pointed out yesterday, whether we return to him before his second Advent, we will still stand before him to give an account. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather my Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ, to stand in my place and plead my case by declaring the precious truth that he took upon himself my sin and brokenness, rather than me sharing my personal spiritual resume with God Almighty. Nothing good can come from that.

Thus, Jesus says in verse 36, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” Always! Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, month by month, and so on. We must always be on watch, for the devil is like a lion waiting to pounce upon us in those unguarded moments. Let us also remember we cannot do what is being asked of us, at least not in our own strength. We need the Spirit of the Living God coursing through our hearts, minds, and souls. We need to pray without ceasing and constantly be people of the Word of God. We need the fellowship of the saints to rally around us with love, care, and encouragement, just as we offer the same to them.

When Jesus returns it will not be in secret. The whole world will know. And that will not be day to “get right with the Lord.” That will be the day when you discover whose side you have been on all along. To repeat myself yet again, today is the day of salvation. Turn to Christ today and live.

Thanks be to God. Amen.