We all know how word association works, right? I say something, and you say the first thing that comes to mind.
Adultery. What word comes to you? Sex? Divorce? Devastation? Sin? Some have told me, “It’s like a death.” During my 50 years of ministry as a pastor and evangelist, the word I heard repeated most was heartbreaking.
Few sins ignite the rush of emotion, anger, resentment and permanent hurt as does the betrayal of adultery. Throughout the Bible–from the Seventh Commandment to the final mention of sexual immorality and its spiritual counterpart in the Book of Revelation–adultery is the scarlet thread of human tragedy.
The prelude to adultery is the enticement and cultivation of physical desire: lust. Lust is desire out of control. Coveting encourages the mind and heart to desire what another person has. Adultery is a direct contradiction and violation of the lifelong marriage covenant. The Scripture forbids sexual intercourse outside marriage. Adultery is a sin of huge proportion. But Jesus taught a deeper law affecting the heart: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28, NKJV).
This fantasy of the mind is so pervasive in all forms of media that temptation is relentless. The imagination of intimacy, as well as the act itself, not only brings God’s displeasure, but devastating consequences. So serious is the sin of adultery that the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NIV).
The laws from Moses were specific. “If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die–the man that lay with the woman, and the woman; so you shall put away the evil from Israel” (Deuteronomy 22:22, NKJV). Later Jeremiah said that the worship of other gods is adultery and a horrible violation of God’s name (Jeremiah 23:13-14). For departing from God in spiritual apostasy, God calls His people “You adulterous wife!” (Ezekiel 16:32, NIV). To those who demanded more proof of Jesus than His words and miracles, He said, “You are a wicked and adulterous generation” (Cf. Matthew 16:4). The final and ultimate loss of fidelity to God is evidenced in the apostate church and the entire world being seduced by the “mother of harlots” (Revelation 17, NKJV).
Figuratively, the Hebrew word for adultery means “to apostasize or to abandon what you believe and revolt against your faith.” This is the inside motive of adultery, a conscientious but subtle form of resentment at not being free to do what the flesh craves. This was King David’s sin when he saw Bathsheba bathing. David liked what he saw and, over the objection of his servant, ordered her to be brought to him. He manipulated events and arranged the death of her husband.
Nathan the prophet confronted David by describing a rich man who, for his own personal pleasure, took a poor man’s only lamb. “You are the man,” Nathan said, warning that God would bring horrible consequences to his leadership and to his family (2 Samuel 12). Here is the heartbreak of adultery: David repented to the full extent, but what a price he paid! His family suffered rape, murder and betrayal. His kingdom was torn apart, and his rebellious son was killed violently.
Adultery damages nearly every relationship around it, including the extended family. Forgetting the goodness and mercy of God by giving in to immediate impulse and physical passion brings self-inflicted consequences to the body and soul: God removes His protective shield, and His blessing is forfeited.
How does adultery happen and how can we avoid it? Ask yourself the following questions to keep yourself accountable.
- Discretion: Am I allowing a relationship in my personal life to weaken or damage my marriage? James 4 warns us to keep our bodies in check. If you obey the First Commandment to love God, the Seventh Commandment will never be an issue. “This is the will of God–your sanctification; that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3, NKJV).
- Discipline: What am I reading, viewing and listening to? Sexual temptation is mind-centered, but it enters the mind through the senses. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1, NKJV). The media’s sexual bombardment is incessant, and failing to discipline yourself is failing to be a disciple.
- Devotion: Since we are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18, NKJV), are you stronger today as Christ’s follower than you were a year ago? Can others see any change? “… Old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV). Have they?
- Desire: What do you really want in life? Sexual temptation is when a person “… is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:14, NKJV). Jesus said, “He that keeps my commandments loves me” (Cf. John 14:21). What is keeping you from being fully committed to doing what pleases God?
- Diligence: Are you intentionally and consistently making every effort to study the Bible and to seek God’s perfect purposes in your life? Sin keeps you from the Bible, but the Bible will keep you from sin (Psalm 119: 9-11). What would be worth missing His ultimate blessing?