Category Archives: Sin

WHY IS “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY” IN THE TEN COMMANDMENTS?

Before we can answer this question, we need to be clear on the definition of adultery. The dictionary defines “adultery” as “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.” The Bible would concur with this definition. In Leviticus 18:20, God told Moses, “Do not have sexual relations with your neighbor’s wife and defile yourself with her,” and in Deuteronomy 22:22, we find a similar definition: “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.” It is clear from these definitions that adultery refers to a consensual sexual union. What is not explicitly clear is whether or not both partners in this illicit sexual union are married. The biblical commands prohibit a man from taking another man’s wife, but do not indicate whether or not the man is also married. Be that as it may, it is safe to say that if a person who is married willingly seeks a sexual encounter with another person, whether or not that person is also married, both people are guilty of committing adultery.

God’s reasons for instituting His commandment against adultery are two-fold. First, God established the institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:24; reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 19:5 and parallel passages). God created marriage to be the building block of His creation and of society. Even after the fall (Genesis 3), marriage is still a sacred union and the foundation for society. In marriage, the full expression of the image of God is made manifest as the man and the woman complement and complete each other. The Bible also teaches us that marriage is the vehicle through which God designed the procreation of the human race and the preservation of godly offspring (Genesis 1:289:1Malachi 2:15). With such a premium placed on marriage, it’s no wonder God would seek to protect this union from defilement (Hebrews 13:4), and thus prohibit adultery, which is the violation of the sacred marriage union.

The second reason for the commandment is found in Leviticus 18:1-5. As God’s chosen people, the Israelites were to reflect God’s character in the Promised Land. God commanded His people to be holy for He is holy (Leviticus 11:44), and part of holy living is sexual purity. God did not want His people emulating the behavior of the Egyptians from whom He delivered them, nor did God want His people copying the behavior of the people into whose land He was bringing them. The implication was that adultery (and other sexual sins) was commonplace in the lands where the Israelites had been and were going to.

So now we know what adultery is and why God instituted this command. Finally, we need to learn what God meant by the command itself. As with all of the Ten Commandments, there are things we need to avoid doing (the negative part of the command) and things we need to be doing (the positive part of the command). The negative part of the command is self-explanatory: Do not commit adultery. However, there is more to this command than the simple avoidance of extramarital relationships. One can make the argument that wrapped up in this prohibition are all sorts of sexual sin (e.g., incest, fornication, homosexuality, etc.), and that argument can be made on the basis of chapters such as Leviticus 18. Also important is avoiding things that would lead or tempt one to consider adultery, such as the unnecessary withholding of conjugal rights (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, made further clarification of this command (Matthew 5:27-30) by including all kinds of lustful thoughts. Fantasizing about having sexual relations with someone is the same, in God’s eyes, as actually committing adultery. Therefore, we must avoid all things that would create within us lustful thoughts (e.g., suggestive songs, sensuous movies, pornography, etc.). We should also avoid immodest clothing or anything that might cause a brother or sister in the Lord to stumble in this area (1 Timothy 2:91 Peter 3:3).

The positive part of the command would entail doing the opposite of what the command prohibits: chastity in body, mind, words and action; keeping watch over what we take in with our eyes and the other senses; an attitude of temperance and self-control (i.e., moderation); being discerning over the company we keep; dressing modestly; and fulfilling our marriage vows in regards to sexual relations and cohabitation. Regarding sexual sin, the Apostle Paul said, “Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18). When it comes to sexual sin, the best course of action is to remove ourselves from temptation and avoid such situations altogether.

Adultery is the complete corruption of God’s good creation of marriage. Through the sin of adultery, Satan tempts us to seek sexual fulfillment in avenues other than the one God has ordained—within the bounds of monogamous, heterosexual marriage. Adultery rips at the fabric of society because it tears apart marriages and families which are the building blocks of society. God’s law in general, and the 7th commandment in particular, is held up as the standard for Christian behavior.

Prophet Nathan’s Sermon

CONTROLLING SINFUL IMPULSES IN YOUR LIFE:

Impulse control is never easy. All of us struggle with overcoming sinful impulses. James says, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (James 1:14). Part of the human condition is to feel impulses, and part of the Christian life is to control them.

Impulse control has been a struggle for us since the fall. Eve saw that the fruit was “desirable” (Genesis 3:6), and she chose to take it rather than control her impulse. Today, we still struggle. Often, impulses seem so strong as to overpower all scruples, commitments, and common sense. We feel that giving in is our only option. We have impulses to make frivolous purchases, to overeat, to have illicit sex, and to do many other things we know we shouldn’t.

It seems that Samson had quite a bit of trouble with impulse control. He is the perfect illustration of the proverb, “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control” (Proverbs 25:28). Samson saw a Philistine woman he wanted to marry, and he married her, despite his parents’ objections (Judges 14:1-2); the marriage lasted a week. He found honey, and he ate it, even though, in the process, he had to break a vow and ceremonially defile himself (Judges 14:8-9). And, of course, he could never say “no” to Delilah (Judges 16). Ironically, Samson is best known for his great physical strength. It goes to prove that the flesh is no ally in the battle against the flesh. It is a spiritual battle that must be won spiritually.

Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” As believers, we are new. We are no longer bound to our sinful natures (Romans 6:17-18), but we are in the process of sanctification. The coming of the new usually takes time and discipline. Even mature believers struggle with impulse control (Romans 7:18-25), but the Bible provides ample hope that we can overcome.

Praise the Lord, the Spirit produces self-control in those yielded to Him (Galatians 5:23)! We have been given the spirit of self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). First Peter 1:13 and 15 exhort us to “prepare [our] minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. . . . But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” Our self-control is not simply an exercise of volition; we must rely on the grace of Jesus. Knowing that we have been called by God, we work to control our impulses from a foundation of love for God.

We also work from a foundation of truth. When we know the truth, we can more easily dismiss impulses that seek to lead us into falsehood (John 8:32). Because we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), when a sinful impulse comes into our minds, we can recognize that it is not of Him and summarily dismiss it. The impulse comes from the sin nature, to which we are no longer slaves (see Romans 6). We can act on 2 Corinthians 10:5 and take our thoughts captive. When we know the truth – that we have been declared holy (Romans 5:1-2), that we have the mind of Christ, and that we have the power of the Holy Spirit – we are better able to challenge our thoughts and choose our actions.

The Bible calls us “overcomers” by faith (1 John 5:4). We are not at the mercy of our impulses. We can control them through the power of God in us (Ephesians 3:20). As we learn to say “no” to our sinful impulses, we may experience pain and a sense of deprivation, yet we trust the promise of Hebrews 12:11 that we will eventually reap “a harvest of righteousness and peace.”

In the struggle to control impulses, many people derive benefit from accountability partners or counselors. Sometimes, impulse control is made more difficult due to underlying anxiety or some type of brain abnormality. Overcoming an impulse involves both knowing God’s truth and using the functional tools of behavior modification. Regardless of the exact methods we employ to control our impulses, we say with Paul, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Prophet Nathan’s Sermon

SIN IS A SLIPPERY SLOPE:

The idiom a slippery slope means that an action will quickly lead to a series of other actions that will lead to a downfall. The imagery is that of sliding down a steep bank and landing with a crash at the bottom. Someone may have begun a walk at the top of the embankment with no intention of sliding down the hill. But, once a foot ventures onto the slick side of the hill, the outcome is inevitable. The venture into sin can begin that way. The Bible warns us against playing with temptations because they are a slippery slope into sins we may never have planned to commit.

James 1:13–15 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” That is the Bible’s description of a slippery slope.

Marijuana has been called a “gateway drug” because recreational use of it can become a slippery slope into addiction to other drugs. Some people enjoy using certain topics of conversation as slippery slopes into controversy. They toss a hot-button topic at a group of people with passionate and opposing views and then watch the sparks fly. A pleasant conversation can slide quickly down the slippery slope into hurt feelings, rash words, and broken relationships.

By its nature, sin is never satisfied. It demands more and more. Often, sin first presents itself as a pleasant suggestion. It never reveals the slippery slope from temptation to disaster. Most temptation begins by highlighting a fleshly need or desire, as the serpent did with Eve (Genesis 3). It minimizes the possibility of that first action leading to another action and so descending a slippery slope. If we looked at the logical results of succumbing to the temptation, most of us would run the other way. This is why alcohol advertisements always feature the good time to be had with friends and demonstrate how fun it is to drink. Alcohol ads never show what happens when the parties are over, or few would buy the product. If tobacco companies practiced full disclosure, they would be honest about the slippery slope many tobacco users are on; instead, their advertising campaigns carefully avoid suggestions of addiction, lung cancer, and COPD. No matter how fun it is to dance along the top of the slippery slope, what happens at the bottom is never good.

Several Bible characters stepped onto sin’s slippery slope and reaped disaster. Samson, whose story is told in Judges 13—15, was chosen by God before birth to be a mighty judge over Israel. God blessed him with incredible strength that won the hearts of the nation. But Samson had a lust problem, and his compromise at various times became a slippery slope to tragedy. Because of his lust, he spent time with the wrong people, chasing the wrong women, and eventually lost both his eyes and his life. Samson began as a handsome young man interested in a girl, but the slippery slope of one compromise after another led him into grievous sin and the forfeiting of all God wanted to do through him.

David is another man in Scripture who experienced sin’s slippery slope. He was the greatest king in Israel’s history because of God’s blessing upon him. Yet he stepped onto a slippery slope that would lead to adultery, murder, and heartache. Second Samuel 11:2 says, “One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful.” At that point, David had an important choice to make. Would he continue looking at the beautiful woman bathing? Or would he avert his eyes from that scene and go back inside? David chose to gratify the lust of the flesh, and that put him on a slippery slope into a terrible scandal that ended with the death of Bathsheba’s husband, the death of her child, David’s agonized struggle with guilt (Psalm 32:3–4), and continued trouble in David’s family.

Sin advertises that it can meet our needs better than anything else. It insists that it is our friend, destined to make us happy. Satan will whisper anything into our listening hearts that will get us to put one foot on his slippery slope. Gambling addictions begin with that first coin plunked in a slot machine. Alcoholism begins with that first drink. Deception begins with that first white lie. When we’re caught in the slide down the slippery slope, our tempter is nowhere to be found. He will never throw us a rope. He promised freedom but brought chains instead.

The best way to avoid the results of a slippery slope is to never step on it to begin with. “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14, ESV). Once you’re on the slope, it’s very hard to get back to the top. Wise people know their areas of weakness and avoid the potential for them to be exploited. Recovering alcoholics stay far away from bars and parties where alcohol is offered. Overspenders cut up their credit cards and make themselves financially accountable to someone else. Teenagers who desire to remain sexually pure don’t spend long hours alone with their dates. We make provision for the flesh when we place ourselves in situations that tempt us and then expect ourselves to be strong enough to resist the temptations that inevitably come. It’s foolish to rely on our weak flesh to deliver us, and it’s often the first step on the slippery slide to failure. Wisdom warns us about those slippery slopes, if we will attune our hearts to listen (1 Thessalonians 5:22Psalm 119:101).

Prophet Nathan’s Sermon

RESCUING PEOPLE FROM THE CONSEQUENCES OF THEIR SINS:

Rescuing, also called enabling, happens when a person feels the responsibility to minimize the consequences of someone else’s bad choices. Rescuers have a psychological need to feel needed and tend to attract people who need rescuing. While it is right and good to rescue people who are in dangerous situations and cannot save themselves (Proverbs 24:11), the emotional need to rescue everyone is not healthy.

Rescuing people has the effect of emboldening them in their sin, empowering their ability to sin, or making it easier for them to sin. When we remove or lessen the natural consequences of bad behavior, we encourage and facilitate repeated offenses. Rescuing is often mistakenly called mercy, but how merciful is it, really, to continually bail someone out of jail (for example) and never allow him to learn from his mistakes?

Rescuers often grew up in homes where they gained acceptance and identity by being the family “fixer.” Even as children, some people had to take on responsibility to cover for their parents’ poor choices. Rescuers were often the eldest or most responsible child and learned early that it was their job to keep everybody happy. They gained a sense of belonging and value by rescuing family members, and so they continue doing so as adults. Problems arise when they enter into dysfunctional relationships with irresponsible people who like having someone else bear the brunt of their consequences.

We see examples of rescuing everywhere. Rescuing parents bail their defiant teen out of jail, hoping that at last the delinquent will appreciate them. A rescuing woman marries an irresponsible man who can’t keep a job, hoping that his need for her help will somehow turn into real love. Rescuing friends lend money they don’t have to deadbeats, hoping that it will buy friendship. These are tragic situations, and the misery they engender is prolonged by the rescuers. They may tell themselves that they are being selfless and generous, but, in fact, they may be rescuing in order to gain love and loyalty.

Rescuing others is a way some people try to buy love, but it rarely does so. When we rescue people from just consequences, we remove from them God’s teaching tool. God uses consequences to teach us life lessons (Jeremiah 35:12–15). When a rescuer minimizes those consequences, he or she negates a valuable lesson that the irresponsible person needs to learn. The rescuer becomes frustrated after many rescues because the intended beneficiary has not yet learned anything. The frustration is ironic because one reason the person won’t learn is that the bad choice didn’t cost him anything. There’s always someone there to bail him out. He’s living a consequence-free life.

We can overcome our need to rescue by first recognizing the motive behind it. Rescuing is not truly in the best interests of the other person. Rescuing doesn’t usually happen for the benefit of others but to make the rescuer feel better. “I can’t stand to think of them living in a house without heat,” one rescuer says. “I know they gambled away their paychecks, but it’s cold outside. I paid their electric bill last month, so I guess I can do it again, even though my debts are piling up.” Those sentiments sound noble, but such reasoning is, in fact, enabling the gamblers to continue their sin unchecked. A few nights in the cold may be what they need to learn the importance of responsible spending.

We can also stop our habit of rescuing by setting healthy boundaries for ourselves. As long as we believe it is our job to rescue everyone who comes to us, we will be at the mercy of fools. We should make every decision based on two criteria: obedience to the Lord and the long-term best interests of others. Short-term interests do not always lead to the lifestyle changes people need. For example, Shari’s grades are dropping, and her mother takes her cell phone as a consequence. But Grandma feels sorry for Shari and buys her another phone. Instead of allowing Shari to learn from her consequences, Grandma made herself feel better. By rescuing Shari from her short-term consequences, Grandma minimized Shari’s long-term benefit.

The Bible is a book of boundaries and consequences. From the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1—3) to Revelation, we see many situations of God saying, “Thou shalt not.” But He did not put a fence around the forbidden fruit in the Garden, and He allowed Adam and Eve to make the choices they wished to make; however, there are consequences that came with those choices. All through the Old Testament, we find examples of God clearly instructing His people Israel to walk in His commands. Through His prophets, He warned them what would happen if they disobeyed (Zechariah 1:6; Joshua 23). They disobeyed anyway, so God brought consequences: they wandered in the wilderness for forty years (Numbers 14:28–35), and they spent seventy years of captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 25:3–11). Although it displeased Him to have to punish His people, the Lord did not rescue them from their justly earned consequences.

We should be eager to rescue widows and orphans who are in distress (James 1:27). We should do our best to rescue unborn children from abortion and innocent people from human trafficking. Helping is always appropriate, but a helper is one who gives a temporary lift so that someone else can make it on their own. Rescuing allows others to manipulate us while they remain on the same foolish course. They do not learn anything and are no better for it. Many times, rescuers find themselves targets of a host of manipulators because they are seen as an easy mark. When we allow others to violate our boundaries and take from us what we cannot afford to give, we have switched from righteous rescuing to unrighteous enabling. Leaping in the way of someone else’s well-earned consequences is not helping; it is participating in their demise.

Prophet Nathan Emol

ISN’T IT UNLOVING TO TELL SOMEONE THEY ARE SINNING?

Talk of sin is commonly frowned upon today. Even many pastors avoid making statements that could be seen as remotely condemning or reproachful. The conventional wisdom is that it is unkind or unloving—and therefore ungodly—to take a stand against certain activities. However, what is socially acceptable is not always biblically acceptable, and the issue of loving someone doesn’t really have anything to do with whether or not that person’s behavior is acceptable to God.

Yes, God loves everyone, and, since everyone is a sinner, God loves sinners. God loves the whole world (John 3:16), but it doesn’t follow that He approves of sin. A good parent loves his children, but that doesn’t mean he lets them do everything they want. When a son lies to his mother, she can still love him; but she doesn’t have to approve of lying, and she can, in love, correct him.

It is entirely possible to love someone and, at the same time, point out his or her error. In fact, love sometimes requires us to point out an error. If a relative is dabbling in illicit drugs, isn’t the most loving thing to confront the drug use and offer to help? If a married friend is flirting with someone not his spouse, what’s more loving—turning a blind eye and hoping for the best, or warning the friend of imminent consequences? Sin destroys (James 1:15), and love attempts to prevent destruction. “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).

It is important to define love correctly. If by “love” one means “applaud a sinful lifestyle,” “ignore sin,” or “profess that actions don’t matter,” then that’s a faulty view of love. Biblically, love is doing what is best for someone, regardless of the cost. Love is therefore truthful. Deception cannot bring about the “best” for anyone.

Jesus exhibited the perfect balance between truth and grace (John 1:14). He embodied both. Jesus always spoke what was precisely and unequivocally true, and He countered those who opposed the truth with harsh reproofs (see Matthew 23:33). But Jesus had nothing but words of comfort and grace for those who came to Him in repentance, no matter what their sin (see Luke 7:48). We can’t ignore the truth and call it “grace” any more than we can ignore grace and call it “truth.” The truth is, God will judge sin; the grace is, God saves us from sin.

We can and should love unrepentant sinners and those who refuse to acknowledge their sin. We should want what is best for them, and we should do good to them. And we should tell them the truth about their sin, along with the message of God’s grace in Christ—sin can be forgiven, and hearts can be renewed.

In all of this, it is important to allow the Bible (and the Bible alone) to define sin and righteousness. If the Bible says something is sin, then no amount of societal pressure, worldly wisdom, or personal experience should make us say anything different. Truth is truth, no matter what anyone says or how anyone feels.

It is just as important to communicate the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and to strive for a Christlike balance of truth and grace. Also, it’s important to approach every situation with a spirit of humility and forgiveness. “Love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). We don’t need to point out every sin or pick apart every deed.

Paul, who frequently found himself in social and religious maelstroms, said it well: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24–25). As we instruct others of the truth, let us do so gently and with kindness to everyone.

Prophet Nathan Emol