September 20, 2006


You shall not steal. Exodus 20.15

The eighth commandment seems pretty obvious doesn’t it? Maybe even simple. But I reminded our church this past March that, during the NCAA basketball tournament, employers in the United States estimated a 3.8 billion dollar profit loss due to employees who called in ‘sick’, failed to show up, or watched basketball while on the clock. Stealing is alive and well—and being accomplished in epic proportions by clean-cut Americans. No, no. Most of us wouldn’t make our way out of Home Depot with a stolen hammer. Nor would we swipe the doily from our neighbor’s end table. But stealing goes much, much deeper than simple, obvious theft. Think it out. Stealing includes…

-Laying down on the job and getting paid for it (see above).
-Walking out of work with permanently borrowed company supplies.
-Failing to be honest when we receive too much change (or too many hamburgers).
-Fixing our income tax, budget, or other reports.
-Not paying back our loans on time.
-Bargaining to not pay back our loans to the fullest amount.
-Accepting payment for services we did not perform completely, properly, or honestly.
-Burning bootleg copies of video, audio, and software.
-Refusing God His tithes and offerings (Malachi 3.9).
-Refusing God the glory due His name.
-Turning religious worship into a profiteering campaign (Matthew 21.13).
-Stealing someone’s chastity (Proverbs 23.26-28).
-Refusing justice to the poor and needy (Ezekiel 22.29).
-Copying others’ work without giving credit…particularly abominable among pastors! (Jeremiah 23.30).*
-Robbing others of their good name by slander.
-Leading others astray theologically (John 10.1-5).

So maybe you’re not a shop-lifter or a midnight raider of homes…but, if this is the standard, have you been a thief? I have. So what do we need to do?

Remember the story of the thief on the cross:

One of the criminals who were hanged with Him was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And indeed we are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23.39-43

If you are a thief, I hope this little article places you, for a brief moment, “under the same sentence of condemnation.” Then I hope it causes you to cry out with your thieving brother to the Savior who is willing and able to save thieves!

*In the spirit of the eighth commandment, note that I have been greatly helped above by Brian Edwards’ The Ten Commandments for Today and Alistair Begg’s Pathway to Freedom!

September 15, 2006

Cut it Out!

You shall not commit adultery. Exodus 20.14

I cannot even open my email anymore without being tempted to break the seventh commandment. Pop-up adds, dating services, and lewd spam messages launch a daily assault on those who would remain chaste. Couple that with racy television, magazine, and newspaper advertisements, and most of us live, it seems, with a live hand-grenade of lust in our hands—just waiting for us to lose our spiritual balance for even a moment, so that it might blow us to smithereens. The situation is even more tenuous when we remind ourselves of what Jesus said in Matthew 5.27-28: “You have head it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

That is serious business. So serious that Jesus would go on to say: “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you” (Matthew 5.29). Translation? Be ruthless with your eyes. Be violent with any and every tendency toward sexual lust. How do we do it? Here are some tips for fighting sexual sin—for gouging out your lustful eye:

1. Look to the cross and remember that, in Christ, you have the strength to fight
This is most important of all. If you fight in your own power, you will surely fail. But if your strength comes from Jesus, you cannot help but succeed. Listen to Paul on this matter: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8.1-4, emphasis mine). Jesus died, not only to purchase your pardon for sin, but to purchase for you the power to overcome it! In Christ you are free from slavery to sin. In Christ you have the strength to fight and win the battle for sexual purity! So enter into the battle, not with great resolves of will-power, but with trembling dependence on Jesus!

2. Make a covenant with your eyes.
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.” How does a man live above reproach like that? Job tells us one way in Job 31.1: “I have made a covenant with my eyes; How then could I gaze at a virgin?” Do your eyes gaze at things they ought not gaze at? Then you must make a covenant with them. You must resolve to prevent your eyes from seeing anything that would give rise to lust in your heart. And you must be ruthless about this—even if people call you a prude.

Josh Harris, in his book Not even a Hint, suggests several areas where we are commonly tempted: late nights with members of the opposite sex; particular locations where our eyes see what they should not see; television programs and commercials; magazine and internet ads; movie rental stores; romance novels; sensual music; and racy mail-order catalogs. All of these are areas where temptation can flow through our eyes and into our hearts. And we, like Job, must be ruthless with your eyes…preventing them from seeing anything that might give rise to adultery of the heart.

3. Make a covenant with a brother or sister in Christ.
In other words, find someone of the same gender who will intentionally ask you the hard questions. Someone who will say, ‘Kurt, what websites have you been visiting lately? Kurt, how often have your eyes wandered in the last week? Kurt, what are you doing to fight against that?’ James 5.16 says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you may be healed.” Do you want to be healed of your sexual lust? Then you had better find a brother or sister to confess to and pray with!

4. Do not commit pornography.
Now that is an odd statement. We normally think of looking at pornography, not committing it. So what does it mean to commit pornography? Let Al Mohler, President of Southern Seminary help us: “Men are tempted to give themselves to pornography—women are tempted to commit pornography” (Not Even a Hint, 87). In other words, women—the way you clothe and carry your body can contribute to the spiritual ruin of men and boys all around you…just like internet pornography! And ladies, take it from a man who has sexual desires like every other man in this room: Tight sweaters, low-cut blouses, hip-hugging jeans, halter-tops, bikinis, and spandex work-out clothes are a thousand times more difficult for me to close out of my mind than internet pornography ever will be! So, as a man and as a pastor, I plead with you not to commit pornography!

5. Kiss dating goodbye.
I borrowed this title from another Josh Harris book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. I don’t have time to say all that could be said in this area, so I urge you to get the book. But let me say this: Nowhere…absolutely nowhere…does the Bible recommend this heart-wrenching, sexually tempting, thoroughly American practice called dating. Now, that in itself does not condemn dating. But listen to Paul’s instructions to young Timothy: Treat “the younger woman as sisters” (1 Timothy 5.2). And it would be very hard to heed that counsel in a dating relationship. What brother takes his sister out to a romantic dinner and whispers sweet nothings in her ears? What brother kisses his sister on the lips, or runs his fingers through his sister’s hair, or sits alone with his sister watching late-night movies?

Do you get the point? Dating is one giant opportunity for lust to flow through our eyes, hands, and emotions straight into the heart. Better, I think, is the practice of courtship, where ‘dates’ take place in a group setting, and where physical touch and romantic language are limited to what would, without embarrassment, take place in public. I wish I had done things this way. So much needless heart-ache and sin could have been avoided.

6. Cultivate a healthy marriage.
Now, read the next little set of verses in Matthew 5 with me: “It was said, WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” There is more here than I have time to cover. For our immediate purposes, this statement will suffice: A healthy, happy, committed marriage is one of God’s greatest weapons against sexual sin! That is one reason why divorce is so heart-breaking—it fosters future acts of adultery!

So, here is my counsel to married people: Work hard at promoting a healthy, happy marriage. Couples who are happy in the marriages, and in their married sex-lives, are much less likely to seek satisfaction elsewhere. And if you are single, let me paraphrase Paul: ‘If you do not have self-control, get married! It is better to get married than to burn with sexual lust' (See 1 Coritnhians 7.8-9).

7. Pick up the sword of the Spirit and fight.
John Piper wisely points out that the Bible—the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6.17)—is the only offensive weapon we have in the fight against sin. It is the instrument we must use to gouge out our eyes and cut off our hands! You and I have to read, and study, and memorize Scripture so that, when that racy add pops up on the television screen our minds say to us: “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things he will be…useful to his Master…Therefore, flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, love and peace” (2 Timothy 2.21-22)! It is passages like that which will liberate you and strengthen you to change the channel! But without Bible study and memorization, you have no sword in your hands with which to gouge out the eyes of lust!

8. In all these things, cry out to God for help.
When Jesus taught us to pray, He said that one of the main requests we should make of God is this: “Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6.13)! Do you wake up and pray that way? Do you say: ‘Lord, help me not to look at that billboard on my way to work today! Lord, help me not to open up my wife’s lingerie catalog today’? If not, then you are not serious enough about fighting for sexual purity; and the words of James condemn you the way they do me: “You do not have [sexual purity] because you do not ask [for sexual purity]” (James 4.2).

9. When you fall into temptation, confess your sins and repent.
Here is a word of hope to all who struggle with lust: Sexual immorality is not the unforgiveable sin. Any lustful person…any adulterer…anyone struggling with masturbation…and fornicator or homosexual is free to come to God seeking forgiveness and healing! The promise of the Scripture is: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1.9). God wants to set people free from their slavery to sexual lust—so much so that He sent His only Son to earth to rescue them. John goes on to say: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation (the wrath absorbing sacrifice) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2.1-2).

You do not have to be chained up by lust anymore. You do not have to go with two eyes and two hands into an eternal death. If you will confess your sins and flee to Christ for cleansing, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death!”

September 8, 2006

I Would Never do That! (Really?)

You shall not commit murder. Exodus 20.13

The sixth commandment may almost seem irrelevant to us. After all, most of us have never killed anyone. And most of us (though not all) have never been up close and personal with someone who has. Furthermore, we might think, ‘Everyone knows it is wrong to kill. So how can you fill up a whole page about the sixth commandment?’

Well, if you ever thought that “You shall not commit murder” was obvious; if you ever were tempted to believe that the sixth commandment didn’t need to be proclaimed from the rooftops, just think about Marcus Feisel. A three-year-old, mentally handicapped child tied up in a closet and left to die by his foster parents while they went off to a family reunion?

And while the city is in a rage over what happened to young Marcus, very few stop to think that hundreds of unborn Marcuses are being sucked out of their mother’s wombs every year in Cincinnati. Hundreds of elderly people are being dumped off by their families to die in dirty, understaffed, inhumane nursing homes. So perhaps the value of human life is not as obvious to the culture at large as we might have thought. Perhaps Exodus 20.13 really does need to be shouted from the rooftops, or displayed prominently on billboards as it is on Montgomery Avenue in Norwood. If there were ever a culture that needed to fall under the conviction of the sixth commandment, it is this one!

Well, perhaps you are thinking like I am prone to think. Perhaps you are beginning to congratulate yourself. You’ve never done such terrible things. You’ve never had an abortion. You wouldn’t abandon your parents in their dying years. You would have treated Marcus better. Congratulations! Pick up a gold star at the door on the way out this morning!

But did you ever stop to consider what Jesus says in Matthew 5.21-22?
“You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit murder’…But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into fiery hell.”

Now we’re cutting a little closer to the bone. Have you been angry with a co-worker lately? Maybe yelled at your kids, or given your spouse the silent treatment? You’re guilty. Have you (mentally or verbally) called anyone a ‘good-for-nothing’ of a ‘fool’—a lame-brain, an idiot, a lazy bum, a jerk—lately? You’re guilty. Guilty enough to go to hell, says Jesus.

Recently, as I shared the gospel with a young man, I paraphrased Matthew 5.21. ‘If you even so much as call someone a jerk, that is punishable by eternal hell.’ The guy literally grabbed his head—as though his brain were about to explode—let out a groan, and exclaimed: ‘How in the world is anyone supposed to live up to that standard?’

Exactly the response I was going for! That’s just it. The Ten Commandments do not exist as a checklist whereby we can earn our way to heaven. They exist to expose the filthiness of our sinful hearts. They exist to remind us that nice, middle-class sinners are no better off than the inmate on death row. We all alike deserve capital punishment from God. And we all alike need the Savior—the only One, in the young man’s words, who has lived ‘up to the standard’; and who has died in the place of hateful, selfish murderers like you and me. Have you met the Savior? Or are you still on death row?

September 4, 2006

Prayer Requests

The blog will be going dark for the next several days as I attend to some family and ministerial responsibilities. Please pray for:

1. I preach at our local Baptist associational meeting Tuesday the 5th.
2. My she has a knee replacement Wednesday the 6th.
3. Tobey, Julia, and Andrew...traveling back from Louisiana on the 6th.
4. Me...traveling to Nashville for the surgery on Wednesday AM early, then back to Cincinnati for evening worship.

A busy couple of days. See you late this week or early next.