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Sermon on the Mount

“The Look”
Part 6 of 12 - Matthew 5:27-32
When Jill and I got married 26 years ago I said to her, “I’ll handle the honeymoon, you’ll love it.” I took my wife to
Wisconsin for our honeymoon, but she didn’t have the same response I did.

Turns out that Milwaukee in July, Spring Green and the House on the Rock, Chippewa Falls and the Lienenkugal’s
brewery tour and finishing off in the screened in porch down the beach from my whole family on vacation was not quite
what she was looking for. Hey, it must have been love or she would have ended it right there. We also did some fishing
on our honeymoon and Jill does love to fish especially throwing out big lures for bass.

A couple of weeks ago we were up in Lake Geneva and we drove out on the ice and there must have been 150 fishing huts.
There were even people fishing out of their car windows. I was struck by how dumb fish are. “Hey, fish, swallow this
while I’m sitting in my car doing this.” “Hey, fish, if you were ever to look at it closely, you’d see that mealy worm is
wrapped around a hook, duh.” But fish never notice. Fish have been falling for it for years. You’d think fish would
look around at all their fish friends who go for a lure and fly off into space and never return and learn something. But they
don’t.

It’s a little ironic don’t you think. What do we call a group of fish? We say they swim together in a school, but they
never learn. They spend their life in school but never learn. Aren’t you glad people are smarter? Isn’t that a good thing?

The Governor of New York, a brilliant guy, unlimited political potential who made his name partly
because he got tough on prostitution has to resign his position, loses his future; because it turns out he was a client
of the same groups that he’d been busting. His successor has to confess to the media within a day or two of taking
office that he and his wife have both been involved in affairs–as kind of preemptive protection.
A pastor who becomes quite famous preaching against sexual sin–in his secret life has multiple affairs.
A husband with a sexual addiction lives for years in secret guilt and feels like he can never be close to
God, never really be known by his wife.
A wife spends years in a loveless marriage in which she tells herself she’s just a victim until she gets
hooked up in an emotional attachment with another man, not her husband, which eventually blows up everything.
And on and on and on...

It turns out some people really have a problem. Aren’t you glad you and I don’t? Aren’t you glad we’re all strong,
healthy, sane, normal people? (Turn to your neighbor and say, “Aren’t you glad I’m healthy and sane.”

That chuckle or “yea sure” you just heard is what Jesus is getting at in His Sermon on the Mount. It is striking because
people think of this sermon as a real spiritual talk, blessed are the poor in spirit, blessed are the meek, you’re the salt of the
earth, you’re the light of the world.
But early on Jesus says, “let’s talk about sex.” The real question He’s getting at here is: who’s got problems when it
comes to sex? Jesus says,
You have heard that it was said, “you should not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a
woman in order to lust after her has already committed adultery in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28)
Stop here:
You have heard it said in the Ten Commandment, no adultery, which means quite literally if you’re married you may not
have sexual intimacy with somebody other than your spouse. Adultery means betrayal and deceit and unfaithfulness. It is
wrong and violates God’s will.

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However, Jesus recognizes that there are some people who think that because they have never committed the outward act of
adultery, that they’re all righteous and perfect on the sexuality front. They would get quite smug and quite superior, but
they were still broken, as we all are, and their brokenness was still affecting their sexuality as it always does and they still
needed God as all of us do.

Jesus wants to get at this, underneath the surface, so He illustrates this by talking about how even these folks who thought
they were all OK- were still capable of giving women what might be called “the look.”
Ever been in a restaurant and there’s a husband and a wife at a table and a waitress walks by? Maybe she’s
attractive or she’s dressed in a certain way and a husband starts staring at her. He can’t take his eyes off her.
They just follow her around.
Anybody here know what I’m talking about? Because we’ve never done this ourselves but we’ve see other people
do this kind of thing. The husband is not now thinking of this woman as a person, as somebody’s mom or
somebody’s sister or somebody’s daughter or a bearer of the image of God. She’s just body parts. He thinks
nobody notices. But of course somebody notices. His wife notices. She feels humiliated and devalued and
threatened. That’s “the look.”
A woman was telling me how her husband used to do this and sometimes she would catch him. Sometimes he would say
to her, “if you and I ever get divorced, she’s my type.” Now, you can imagine what that did to her heart. Eventually, she
found out that he had been having an affair with another woman for three years. She said it took her fifteen years to heal the
carnage left from that relationship.

Jesus says, “Some of you who think you’re all OK on the sexuality front, you’re still doing “the look.”
Now, a word about this: Jesus does not mean here that just looking at somebody and noticing that they are attractive is
wrong or sinful. The sense of attraction–the chemistry, sizzle, sexual desire that is hardwired into us by God–that is a
good thing.

Question: When do you stop noticing if somebody else is really attractive? When do you stop doing that? When
you die OK?

Jesus is talking about looking for the purpose of lusting. This is an important distinction, because sometimes it gets
translated,
Any man who looks lustfully at a woman,
And people think,
Oh, man. That means I’m supposed to not have any sense of attraction or sexual desire. I could never do that. I
wouldn’t even want to do that.

Jesus is not talking about looking with desire attached. He is talking about looking for the purpose of lusting. In
other words, an element of will has come into the look, and I’m allowing, now, my mind to wallow in it. And it may have
become so habitual that I’m hardly even aware that I’m doing it. And of course, it can be done by women as well as by
men.

Jesus concern here is not just adultery. It is not even just adultery and the look. His concern is all the ways where God’s
will is not being done on Earth as it is in Heaven when it comes to sexuality, because our hearts are broken by sin. And
Jesus’ point is that there is sexual brokenness and, therefore, sexual problems in everybody, and we all need God’s help,
without exception. See if you can identify with any one of these kinds of sexual brokenness:
* There’s the problem of “the look” which again can become so habitual that you aren’t even aware of it.
* There is the problem of sexual harassment, crude language, or gestures, or the misuse of humor.
*There is the problem of the treatment of people who do not attract the look–people who get overlooked, or undervalued.
*There is the problem of judgmentalism, because, “I regard myself as superior.”
*There is the problem of defining my identity on my ability to attract the look; that becomes who I am. And of course, it
gets expensive to be able to do that. And the older you get the more expensive it get. You noticed that?
*There’s the problem of getting jealous of the attractive people.
*There’s the problem of million of hours and billions of dollars devoted to adult websites, movies and magazines.
*There is the problem of sexual conflict between spouses.

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*There’s the problem of parents who do not talk openly about sexuality with their children.
*There’s the problem of people who appear in control on the surface, but have deep regrets, hurts and histories that they
carry with them.
Who’s got a problem? Well, Jesus knows, everybody’s got a problem. Turn to your neighbor and say, “you’ve got a
problem.”

Thankfully Jesus does not leave us there. He gives us some advice. And I would not bring this up, except these are
Jesus’ words, and they are in the Sermon on the Mount that we are learning about together. Jesus goes on to say,
If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and through it away. It is better for you to lose one part of
your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off
and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
(Matt. 5:29-30)

Now, that seems a little extreme, doesn’t it? I mean, one minute, He’s talking about lust–OK, granted, that’s a
problem–and then He goes on talking about being thrown into hell. What’s He saying? Well, He knows what He’s
talking about. But we have to begin by trying to understand: what is He talking about when He talks about Heaven and
hell?

Remember, the Kingdom of Heaven in the Jewish mind, as Jesus teaches about it, is an absolute reality. It is absolutely
real. But it is not as people sometimes think in our day, in cartoonish ways, kind of a pleasure factory way out there in the
galaxy somewhere. It is spiritual reality. The kingdom of Heaven is any place where God reigns. It is the sphere in
which all is as God intends it to be - we defined it in the first week of this series as the - “range of God’s effective will.”

It can invade earth. And it did, in Jesus. In His body, the Kingdom of God was actually coming down to Earth. And He
said we are to pray for this:
God, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10)
If there is a sphere where all is as God intends, there is also a sphere where all is not as God intends, where all is opposed to
God. And the Bible’s word for that is “hell.” For Jesus hell is a literal reality. But the idea of hell is not that it’s like this
cartoon torture chamber, as many people think about it, some place deep in the earth. Hell is the sphere where Gods’ will
is rejected and God’s presence is unwanted. And just as the Kingdom of Heaven can invade this Earth, so can the
darkness of hell.
There is a term that is used to describe horrendous situations of destruction, pain and suffering. “Hell on earth.”

Jesus point here, and this is critical is not that you ought to mutilate yourself if you find yourself lusting after somebody.
His goal is the transformation of the heart. Jesus’ point is that something serious, sometimes something hellish, happens
when you start treating another person as an object, as a bunch of body parts. God’s goal embodied in Jesus is a new
humanity, where women and men, with transformed hearts would live together in a new community, in Christ, where they
honored the image of God and one another like brothers and sisters. That’s the goal that we fall so far short of.

I want to close with just a few very practical observations. Real-life stuff about how do we seek to actually do and be what
Jesus taught us to do and be.

The first step is: I need to make a serious commitment to honor God’s standards in the area of sexuality. I need to
make a serious commitment. Which in the words of Job means make a covenant with my eyes.
Any of you ever notice how sometimes they use sex in advertising? Like to sell stuff? Kind of a goofy idea,
don’t you think” It is what makes this covenant with eyes so difficult. Because our whole culture is running
counter to this command of Jesus. It just breeds lust and desire.
But here’s the thing: lust promises freedom. You can be free to gratify your appetites as much as you want to. See it.
Want it. Get it. That’s us. Lust promises freedom but it makes us as slave. There is always a hook and you know how
painful that hook is. Because real freedom is not the external freedom to gratify every appetite, it is the internal freedom
not to be enslaved by my appetites–to have a place to stand so that I am not mastered by them. I am something more than
a stomach, a mouth and a pair of eyes. And that freedom is good; it is really good. But it starts with a commitment and a
covenant with my eyes.

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Another step towards growth - and this might surprise you - is to live a life of deep gratitude - to live a deeply
satisfying life.
I think we become vulnerable to lust when we are dissatisfied with our lives. The deeper our dissatisfaction, the deeper
our vulnerability, because you were made for soul satisfaction. You cannot live without it. Neither can I. If we do not
find soul satisfaction in God, we will look for it somewhere else. And that becomes an idol. In our day, what used to be
talked about as idolatry in Biblical times, we often talk about today as addictions. Our lives get all wrapped up around
them.

But it is soul dissatisfaction that makes us vulnerable. Theologian Dallas Willard writes and I think these are brilliant
words, “Failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good.” Let me say
that again. “Failure to attain a deeply satisfying life always has the effect of making sinful actions seem good.”

Here lies the strength of temptation. If I do not find a deeply satisfying life in God then the teachings around sexuality,
that it is to be understood in the context of a covenantal faithfulness and promise keeping, won’t make any sense at all.
Because there is a hunger inside you and me that is deeper even than the hunger of a body for another body. And it is the
hunger of the heart to be loved. That is why sexuality and hunger go down deeper than just our adult cognitive rational
powers.

The tenderest need of the human heart, no matter how big, tough, smart a person is, is the need for love that no human
body, no human person, no mere nerve endings can provide. That is why it is so important we put Jesus’ teachings about
sexuality in the context of the Sermon on the Mount, which begins with good news.

Remember, Blessed, Blessed, Blessed. Blessed now are not just the winners that society says are blessed. Blessed now
are not just the super models–now that’s our society. Blessed are the super models. Blessed are the rich and powerful
that can attract trophy partners. Jesus says, “no.” Blessed are the wrinkled. Blessed are the misshapen. Blessed are
those who never got asked to the prom, never got asked to dance. Blessed are the single, blessed are the married. Blessed
are the prostitutes. Now listen. Blessed are you who are addicted. Blessed are you who are regretful. Blessed are you
who have been shamed.

Blessed, blessed, blessed. Not because you can have every desire fulfilled. Blessed are you because you are not your
desires. Blessed are you because you are more than a stomach, and a mouth and a pair of eyes. Blessed are you because
what you really ache for is to be loved by and connected to God and now Jesus says that love, that life, that connection is
yours if you want it through Me. Blessed, blessed, blessed, because now “up there is coming down here’ for you if you
want, though Me. And then you have a place to stand.

Then words like “chastity,” and “sexual faithfulness,” and “sexual intimacy,” begin to make sense, because they are a part
of a much bigger and more glorious life. And I wish I had tender enough words to say this. Remember there is no hurt
God cannot heal and no sin God cannot forgive. You may have suffered horrible betrayal or abuse or pain. There is a
God who specializes in wiping away every tear. There is a safe loving God and healing is what He does. And I hope you
run to Him today.

You may have made horrible choices. You may have violated your promises, betrayed your deepest values, you may have
enormous shame and guilt and regret. Listen. Listen. Blessed are you. Blessed are you. Because there is no sin God
cannot forgive for the daughter or son who sincerely repents, and comes home. Blessed, blessed, blessed. God wants to
heal and forgive you right now.

Let’s pray. With every head bowed and eye closed..


Heavenly Father You know the truth about every heart, every life, every body, every story in this holy place. You
know people for whom this subject is so anxiety-producing, because when they were young somebody who should

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have cared and honored them violated them. You know how it is for people who right now are living with a
pattern, or a habit or addiction that is so strong they feel defeated by it.

You know how it is for people that have made decision in the past or are facing temptations right now today, that
are so enticing. You know how it is for people who feel like losers. You know how it is for people who wrestle
with judgmentalism or gossip. Only You God can heal and forgive. Would You do that for all of us in these
moments as we talk with You? We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen and Amen.