Keeping Your Word

Matthew 5:33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.” 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”; anything more than this comes from evil.

Today we will talk about keeping our word. How many of you are liars? Most of us would probably say we are not liars, that we do what we say and we tell the truth. So let me be the first to admit that I often struggle with keeping my word. Now, you may be troubled to hear that. But I’ll tell you, if you don’t know already, that I tend to say I will do more than I can possibly do. When someone asks me for help, I tend to say sure…I can do that. And along the way, I find out that I said I can do about three things on Saturday at 10:00! Well guess what? I can’t be at three places at the same time. This is me not keeping my word. Or I’ll tell Tammy I’ll do something around the house and sometimes I will forget I said it. This is me not being careful with my words, not taking my own commitments seriously enough. And you know there are those times when I just don’t want to do something I said I will do so I procrastinate, put it off until, well, it’s too late now!

I tell you all this not just to confess my sin to you but hopefully to jog your memory and help you see that perhaps there are some ways in which you too struggle with keeping your word, doing what you said you would do. By the way, I am working on these things and trying to be more diligent with the Lord’s help to be more careful with my words of commitment and with following through where I should.

But the truth is that all of us probably struggle in some way with keeping our word. Oh and yes, my big excuse is always I am too busy…well maybe I am but that does not mean I can be disobedient to the Lord guilt free. Do let’s be honest with ourselves as we open up God’s Word today and consider ways in which we can live our lives to the honor and glory of our Lord who has redeemed us for Himself and for our joy.

We have an interesting passage to look at in verses 33-37. Six times in Matthew chapter five Jesus says two phrases: The first is “You have heard that it was said” and the second phrase is “But I say to you.” Only two times Jesus quotes directly from the OT after the phrase, “You have heard that it was said.” In those cases Jesus emphasizes not just what the OT says but also what it really means, not just the letter of the Law that they understood but also the spirit of it.

The other four times we see these phrases Jesus does not quote directly from the OT but paraphrases from it, and it appears rabbinic paraphrases of OT passages and in one case for sure, verse 43 of chapter five we even see a clear distortion of the OT passages and its intent which indicate a rabbinic paraphrase. What we see is that at least in part, Jesus is countering current day teaching from the rabbis. He is directly confronting the religious order of the day giving truth up next to their error.

Like I said last week, Jesus did not come to uphold the current day culture even religious culture but to lay out truth for God’s glory. His entry and life in this world was radical and His teaching was as well. In John’s gospel Jesus is described as the Word.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus is the Word and He is communicating truth. So what does Jesus say?

Matthew 5:33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.”

Now this is interesting and again it appears to be a loose paraphrase from some OT passages but is most likely how the rabbis of the day taught the people regarding keeping one’s word.

The rabbis taught first: “You shall not swear falsely.” This phrase is a legal one. To swear falsely means literally “do not commit perjury,” or, “Do not lie under oath.” So this command while addressing telling the truth in a legal proceeding, it does not address or prohibit deception when one is not under oath in a legal setting. So the plain meaning of this phrase is…tell the truth while in court under oath…and that’s it. So it is not a sweeping broad statement requiring truth or keeping of one’s word, period.

Now the second phrase is, “but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.” This too is interesting because while it appears to be a broader command on keeping one’s word it too has a loophole. This clause used regularly by the rabbis seems to allow for dishonesty to others. The phrase “to the Lord” is key and emphatic in the Greek which suggests that one was to be honest in commitments made to God but not necessarily to others unless God had been invoked in the oath. So, for instance saying something like “I swear to God, I will do such and such,” this then became an oath to God and must be kept. But if God’s name was not invoked then it didn’t carry the same weight leaving a place for deception.

When fulfilling a promise to an individual became a divine obligation because God’s name was invoked then there is no place for deception or dishonesty, one must keep his word. But if God’s name were not invoked then, well, you can do whatever is convenient. Here though is what the OT said:

Zechariah 8:16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the Lord.

Malachi 3:5 Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.

But again, some first-century rabbis emphasized only the importance of speaking the truth to God and downplayed the importance of absolute honesty in all communications. They thought they had a special obligation to keep promises made to God specifically but could break promises made to others when it was convenient. That is the bottom line.

Now what does Jesus say about this? He begins by distinguishing Himself and His teaching from the current day rabbis with these words: “But I say to you.” “Do not take an oath at all.” What Jesus does here is He closes the loophole created by the rabbis in the Jewish system of oaths, and instead Jesus requires truthfulness, consistent truthfulness that does not require oaths at all. Here is the thing…Jesus’ followers are to be characterized by such integrity that an oath is not necessary to make their words credible and true.

Now on the surface we can all shake our heads in agreement and maybe even feel really good about ourselves, but I really want to challenge you as I have myself and ask…do you do all that you say you will do? At home? At work? With your kids? With your husband or wife or parents? At church? In ministry? to strangers? With a sales person? With a customer? to your creditors? Is your word credible all the time? When the words leave your mouth, do you take them seriously and fulfill what you say you will do?

Many of the Jews thought as long as they weren’t in court or they didn’t invoke the name of God in their promise then keeping their word was optional; if something else comes up then no big deal. But Jesus says it is a big deal—it is a big deal that our word is our word and it should mean something, as believers.

And it gets even more interesting. Jesus goes on to help us by prohibiting oath formulas that the religious had come up with, really, deceptive formulas that had been developed by religious leaders that we said to give an impression of a binding oath when the person who gave it did not believe it to be binding. What was developed was ways to lie without guilt.

Do you remember as a kid how someone would say, “Do you promise?” And you or someone you know would put their hand behind their back and cross their fingers and say, “Yes, I promise!” And someone crossing one’s fingers meant that although they said I promise they didn’t really have to keep their promise. I don’t know where that came from, I should have looked it up, but I remember seeing that as a kid. That is sort of what the Jews would do. Let me show you this from Matthew 23:16-22.

Matthew 23:16 Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “if anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.” 17 You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? 18 And you say, “If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.” 19 You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.

What was happening is that all these formulas were created for swearing. Jesus rebukes the rabbis because they had developed a system of deceit really. They had come up with ways to evade obligations of honesty by carefully crafting these oaths. So they could fool people who didn’t understand what they were doing or saying.

So a rabbi says yes I will do this and I swear by the temple of God! And the person hearing that thinks, wow, that sounds serious, he is really serious about his promise to me. And believes the person will do what he says. Yet the rabbi is thinking, well I got away with that one, swearing by the temple means nothing.

Or for some they may know there is this complicated system of oaths and a hears a rabbi swear by the temple and they may think, well I’ve got to go look this up—this swearing by the temple, is that binding or not? So trying to figure it all out could be a chore! This was crazy, it was deceitful, it was condoning of lying, really. And this is why Jesus says in our passage today in verses 34-36:

Matthew 5:34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.

It is this system of deceitful oath making that Jesus is countering here. In the first century regular Jews were not allowed to invoke the name of God so substitutes were installed. According to the rabbis, none of the formulas that Jesus lists here were approved substitutes for God’s name. So each of these were considered non-binding oaths in Jewish law. So breaking oaths made with any of these words were not considered to be breaking one’s word.

So Jesus steps in and makes simple the complex. What does he say? Forget all this non-sense. Forget the complicated formulas. Forget the oaths all together. Listen to the simplicity of Jesus words:

Matthew 5:37 Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”; anything more than this comes from evil.

I like simple, this is simple. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Speak words with integrity, and keep your word. When you speak, speak the truth. There is no need for complicated formulas just be honest and be truthful always. Jesus says, anything else is from the evil one or, the ESV says, comes from evil. Anything beyond simple statements of truth are from the evil one who is Satan, who is the father of lies and who deals in half truths for his deceptive purposes.

Now does this mean it is absolutely wrong for any of us to take an oath under any circumstance. I don’t think so. It does not seem to me that Jesus is forbidding all oaths in any circumstance like in a court of law but is condemning these deceptive formulas of oaths.

One reason I can say this is because in Matthew 26:63-64 Jesus was placed under oath by the high priest and did not refuse to speak but spoke, forcefully spoke the truth. Jesus kept all of His and the Father’s commands perfectly and that would include what He is teaching us here regarding oaths. So in Matthew 26 he did not violate His own words. So taking an oath in a court of law falls outside the scope of the deceptive practices that He was countering in Matthew 5:31 and 32.

Now, I have gone through a lot of detail here about oaths, our word and truthfulness. But let me sum it all up for us, and really the best way to sum it up is to quote from Jesus…

Matthew 5:37 Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”…

Let your word be your word and mean it and do it. When we say were are going to do something, most likely there is another person who is depending on it. When we fail to do what we say we will do someone usually suffers in some way. How is that loving our neighbor? How is that putting others ahead of our own interests? How is that honoring to the Lord?

There are those times, I understand, when providentially we are hindered from doing what we say we will do. I may say I will meet you for lunch and on the way have a wreck and be in the hospital. That would be me being providentially hindered. This is the exception, really not the normal problem of us not following through with what we say we will do.

Perhaps we should always make provision for God’s providential work around us when we say we will do something. Like, I will meet you for lunch, Lord willing. That means I plan to meet you for lunch, unless God providentially hinders me from doing so. Or we can so “I plan to do such and such” meaning this is my plan, my intention, but God can step in and change it. Let’s not make God into our excuse for not keeping our word, only acknowledge that He can and has the power to do so. We are to be a people of our words.

One more thing before I close. Each of us will fail at this at some point. We will commit to something we won’t do. When this happens we must repent, confess and repent, ask forgiveness of those we have let down. But there is more. We must remember that God always keeps His word. Every word that we read in the Bible, every one is true, every promise will be kept, All that He has said He will do. He is the ultimate and the only forever and always Promise Keeper. Aren’t you glad for that. And even more when we fail in this, He forgives. He keeps us in the faith, He will keep us all the way to heaven and then forever more.

Matthew 5:33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.” 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply “Yes” or “No”; anything more than this comes from evil.

God's View of Marriage

Matthew 5:31 It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Jesus continues in this sermon we are looking at to turn heads with His radical counter cultural statements regarding life. When Jesus comes on the scene into this fallen and sinful world, He turns people’s thinking upside down. He did not come to condone cultural behavior but to challenge it on many levels. This still happens today. When we come to Christ, we can expect to have our thinking challenged. All that we are used to may not be what God desires for us. So He tells us in His word how things should be and what to expect. We may think we have it all together and then all of the sudden truth, real truth, challenges us. We can be surprised by what we learn and how different it is than what we have always thought. You may know how it is. You are going through life seemingly doing ok, and all of the sudden you read something or hear something and realize that what you thought you were doing was ok when in reality you learn that you were doing it all wrong.

You know how it is…20 years ago the medical community said we should eat this way and now we learn the opposite is true, or at least true for now! Eat red meat we were told…don’t eat red meat. Use this kind of cooking oil, not that one; use this other one. Take supplements…don’t take supplements. What is a person to do! Unlike the medical field or any other science or idea that people have, Jesus’ ways don’t change but they may be different than what we always thought.

Well, Jesus is turning heads, He is explaining things in new ways, and what He is talking about is much more important than the foods we choose to eat. Jesus is giving us insight into what God values and what God expects of us. He is describing how we should live in a way that is pleasing to Him and to His Father.

Now why is He doing this? He does this so we are clear on where God stands concerning the issues of life. This, what we read in this Sermon on the Mount including the part of it that we will talk through today, is where God stands. He is describing holiness and a perfect standard, God’s revealed standards.

Now immediately, we have a problem. Somewhere in this Sermon on the Mount, whether it is anger, lust, divorce, loving our enemies, giving to the needy, or not worrying about life, somewhere we all find weaknesses and sinful tendencies in our lives. No one can honestly read through the sermon on the mount and think they have it all together. So our problem may not be with this part of the Sermon on the Mount but somewhere in the Sermon on the Mount. The problem is that we are not perfect, we are not perfectly holy, we have failed in many ways and we can see our failures in this Sermon on the Mount. So what then? What do we do when our sin is revealed to us? We turn to Christ.

All of this then, the holiness of God, points us to Christ. None of us have lived out the Sermon on the Mount without falling so the answer for us is Jesus Christ. He is our rescuer. He rescues us from our failures. He is the perfect One who lived out all the expectations of the Father perfectly. He alone is Holy and He alone is qualified to be our Savior.

Please don’t ignore this truth as we study these passages together. We need Jesus, not just a good Teacher or a good role model but we need Jesus to rescue us from our sins and to be, in a very real way, our Savior.

So when we grapple with and come to this conclusion that we need a Savior and Jesus is that Savior then we can take what Jesus says and we can say ok, I’m a sinner; I have sinned but there is a solution and the Solution is the person of Jesus. We can be honest about our sin, not minimize it, not convince ourselves that it’s not a big deal, not trying to convince others that we are anything other than a sinner. We can recognize our sin. Repent, yes, but also rejoice and find joy in knowing that Jesus is our loving solution.

When we get to this place then when we read about God’s view of divorce and say you have been divorced, then we don’t have to convince ourselves or others that maybe the passage doesn’t mean what it says. We don’t have to say well, God is neutral on divorce or He doesn’t really dislike divorce. No, we can say that our Holy God hates divorce, I’ve been divorced, I am a sinner. Repent and agree with God.

In other words, if we don’t see ourselves for who we are and Jesus for what He did then we may, as many people do, try to explain away much of the Bible as not meaning what it clearly means, as if to say well I know it says divorce is wrong but really it’s not that bad or really it means this other thing or whatever. No, we can take the Bible for what it says and believe it. And even when it hits closer to home with us on a sin issue, we can believe it and be thankful for Jesus who has taken our place, our punishment for such sin.

So as we talk about divorce today, don’t think I am condemning any of you or that there is no hope for you—I’m not and there is. I am not condemning you, that is not my place and there is hope for you—that is because of the work of Jesus. But let’s be honest about the passage! So with that…let’s dive in and see what God has for us.

Jesus said in verse 31:

Matthew 5:31 It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.”

When Jesus said, “It was said,” he is about to clarify for us some matter of truth. We know this because in verse 32 Jesus said, “But I say to you.” It was said…but I say. In other words, this is what you have thought to be true in total, but I’m going to elaborate, clarify and give you a new understanding or a fuller understanding on this topic, clear up misconceptions and even wrong teaching on this matter. And again we need to see this as a major shift in what they had thought to be true.

Since this passage is about marriage and divorce I want to first of all talk about God’s view of marriage, God’s intention for marriage. Here is God’s view of marriage from Matthew 19:3-9:

Matthew 19:3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” 4 He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’”

Let me pause here. When Jesus quotes here from Genesis 2 and says that the man shall hold fast to his wife, the hold fast there is a word that means to to “weld” together. Most of us are not welders but let me say this: A good weld should be stronger than the steel that it is holding together. So marriage between a man and a woman is to create a bond that cannot be broken. This was God’s intent when He created marriage.

Matthew 19:6 “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

Jesus was asked why Moses commanded one to give a certificate of divorce, and Jesus said it is because of their hardness of heart that Moses allowed divorce. Divorce was never commanded but was allowed.

Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 are based on Deuteronomy 24:1 but are not an exact quotation of it. In Deuteronomy 24:1–4 the main clause, or the main point, is in verse 4. As is often the case, we or they can take a verse and miss the main point causing great confusion. Let me read this passage, Deuteronomy 24:1-4, because we need to see what it says and why it was said.

Deuteronomy 24:1 When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.

The prohibition here is of the reunion of a divorced couple after the woman has remarried and her second marriage has ended (by divorce or the husband’s death). The original divorce, with its formal certificate (v. 1) is simply assumed (not commanded), but neither here nor elsewhere in the Old Testament is divorce explicitly approved. This passage was, however, universally accepted among Jesus’ contemporaries as permitting a husband to divorce his wife, and condoning it; Matt. 19:7 shows that not only the certificate (as here) but the divorce itself was regarded as “commanded” by Moses. This is a hardening the Mosaic acceptance of divorce as a fact (that divorce does happen) and turning it into a legal precept.

Now, the permissible grounds for divorce were debated in Jesus day. One school of thought was that divorce was restricted to “some indecency sexually” that could be authenticated, but the main school of thought was that divorce was acceptable for any reason that a husband would have—that the indecency mentioned in Deuteronomy 24:1 was simply anything the husband didn’t like in his wife. So any complaint became grounds for divorce; it was very one-sided, men could and would divorce for about any reason.

The result was then that a man could and often did marry and divorce many women and did so on not much more than a whim. And unfortunately, he thought that God and the Bible condoned his behavior.

So what Jesus is doing here is clarifying, narrowing the scope of divorce to only include sexual immorality. Jesus is elevating the importance of marriage and its sacredness. He is also, I would say, protecting women from frivolous divorce. Women, if their husbands divorced them, were mostly unable to take care of themselves in this first century society. So they were left helpless and these selfish men were to blame. So Jesus is laying out God’s true view, God’s true purpose regarding marriage and it’s priority. It is not something to be frivolous with.

What we call the exception clause for divorce is there, which is sexual immorality (generally thought to be adultery), but it is narrow in scope, protecting the innocent spouse. But even then, divorce is not commanded.

So to sum up, God’s intent is that marriage between a man and a woman be permanent, until death parts them. Why? Because marriage as God created it is a picture of a solemn and permanent relationship between Christ and His Bride the Church. As Christians, Jesus does not divorce us, though we sin against Him. This is the perfect marriage. This is a spiritual union that shows the character and commitment of the groom, Jesus Christ. Though we commit spiritual adultery (sin) against Him, He does not forsake us.

We read of this in Ephesians 5:

Ephesians 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

It’s a beautiful picture and one that we get to represent as Christian men and women in marriage. It is easy to see that if people are all around divorcing that the picture gets tainted and what marriage represents is lost. So what do we do? We uphold the picture. We show the world what marriage is to be a life-long commitment to another, a loving life-long commitment to each other.

I’m afraid that when most get married, even Christians, the reasons for marriage is much more about another person making us happy than it is of representing God to the world. And when marriage becomes making us happy and that alone, then divorce can come easy. Let’s work to uphold the picture of marriage, let’s do the hard work of loving in marriage the way our Lord loves us.

Some of you may say, well it’s too late for me, I’ve already divorced. I will say, it’s not too late for you. You can still represent God well. You can first repent before God if you have been divorced in an unbiblical way where there was not adultery. Confess sin as sin, repent before God and receive His forgiveness.

If you have remarried then live in your marriage with a commitment to please God and uphold the picture of Christ and the church. Be committed to your spouse, ask God to help you love your spouse for the glory and honor of God.

Matthew 5:31 It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Whose Child Are You?

Good morning! If you are visiting with us today, I want to welcome you once again to Grace Bible Fellowship Church. It‘s an honor to be worshiping with you today.

We are back in 1 John where John is going to highlight the distinguishing mark of a Christian and where he also contrasts the difference between those who follow after Satan and the true children of God. In 1 John 3:11-18, John says:

John 3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

As I was preparing for today’s sermon, I read some information regarding a book written by Francis Schaeffer, who was a noted apologist, evangelist, and author. He introduced a book in 1970 that was entitled, “The Mark of the Christian.” He makes the following statement:

“Through the centuries men have displayed many different symbols to show that they are Christians. They have worn marks on the lapels of their coats, hung chains about their necks, even had special haircuts.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with any of this, if one feels it is his calling. But there is a much better sign—a mark that has not been thought up just as a matter of expediency for use on some special occasion or in some specific era. It is a universal mark that is to last through all the ages of the church till Jesus comes back.

What is this mark? At the close of his ministry, Jesus looks forward to his death on the cross, the open tomb and the ascension. Knowing that he is about to leave, Jesus prepares his disciples for what is to come. It is here that he makes clear what will be the distinguishing mark of the Christian:

‘Little children, yet a little while I am with you. Ye shall seek me; and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now I say to you. A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another’ (John 13:33–35). This passage reveals the mark that Jesus gives to label a Christian, not just in one era or in one locality but at all times and all places until Jesus returns” (Schaeffer, 1970).

Love, yes love, has always been an essential characteristic and distinguishing mark of a true Christian. Just look at the rest of the New Testament where this truth is consistently reinforced over and over. Here are just a few verses:

Romans 5:5 Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.

1 Peter 1:22 Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart.

2 John 6 And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, that you should walk in it.

God not only commands us as His children to show love, He also enables us to obey that mandate by empowering us with the capacity to do what He requires. As we just read in Romans 5:5, “…the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” God has given all His children the ability and desire to love others.

There is nothing new or novel in this passage regarding John’s teaching that Christians are marked by love for one another. This point was highlighted back in 1 John 2:7-11, where John specifically emphasized the one who loves his brother is one who abides in Jesus Christ. Because God loves His children, we are to reflect that love in our relationships with others. Paul states in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” So John’s instruction here is not new but is “an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard.”

John’s readers knew that truth, because the apostolic preachers had faithfully delivered it to them. We also know the truth because we have the entire Canon of Scripture, including John’s letter, and many other books that provide direct commands that we are to love one another. Unfortunately, false teachers had also come in and taught their perverted gospel which apparently included teaching that brotherly love is not an essential mark of true salvation. To correct the thinking of believers and remind them of the truth, John directs his readers and us back to the message they had heard from the beginning; it is the gospel that you first heard. It is the truth about Jesus Christ; the gospel message, mankind’s sinful condition, and the need for righteous living, as well as the command to love one another. John is urging everyone who claims the name of Jesus Christ to remember what we were first taught and to not allow anyone to lead us astray with a perverted gospel created by man.

In one sense, the Lord’s command back in the Gospel of John 13:34–35 may seem very old but, in another sense, it is new. That’s because love had never before been manifested as it was by Christ, with a resounding crescendo in His sacrificial death for those He loved. Jesus declared later, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13). The Lord Jesus Christ is the perfect model of the love God has always commanded. Though we cannot love to the degree He loves, we can obey His command to love one another the way Christ loved, by the power of the Spirit, lovingly and selflessly sacrificing for others.

Having stressed the importance of love in 1 John 3:11, John now contrasts the children of God, who obey that command, with the children of the Satan, who do not. Instead of being characterized by love, Satan’s children are marked by murder, hatred, and indifference toward the children of God. So, the first point is found in verses 12 and 14:

1 John 3:12 …not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous.

1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.

When you think about what it required to end the life of another person when the motivation is based on a sinful desire, it must be the personification of evil. Murder is the ultimate act of hate and demonstrates a complete absence of love. To illustrate this point, John references the first murderer: Cain. Cain killed Abel with sinful motives and desires.

If you go all the way back to Genesis 4:2-8, we find that Cain seemingly worshiped God and offered Him a sacrifice. However, unlike his brother Abel, Cain did not bring an acceptable sacrifice to God. Abel brought an animal sacrifice, which was in obedience to God’s command. On the other hand Cain, in his self-proclaimed religion, ignored the divine requirement for an animal sacrifice and instead brought the fruit of the ground for his offering. It is there that Cain’s true faith is revealed. He was not a true worshipper of God. Both Cain’s disobedience and the fact that he slew his brother revealed that he was a child of Satan, a child of the evil one. Cain belonged to the kingdom of darkness, as did the unbelieving Jews who, like Cain, hated true righteousness and sought to kill Jesus. Jesus said to them in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him…”

I did some research on the word translated “evil one” (ponēros). It means determined, aggressive, and fervent evil that actively opposes what is good. But its meaning extends beyond basic evil or corruption to include a type of malignant sinfulness that pulls others down into ruin. In other words, Satan desires nothing more than to destroy your life and your testimony as a believer in Jesus Christ. Think for a moment about how devastated we are when someone, whom we have held in high esteem as a follower of Christ, sins against God and others. Satan tries to use that against all of us in order to bring us to ruin. Let me encourage you to love one another. Rebuke if necessary, but never forget we are in a battle against the “evil one.” We must love our brothers and sisters in Christ and help to restore and reconcile with them. Don’t let the “evil one” gain a foothold against the Children of God.

John goes on to ask a rhetorical question, “And for what reason did he slay him?” Why did Cain slay Abel? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. It is as simple as that. Cain was evil and hated righteousness so greatly that he even killed his own brother whose righteous deeds had rebuked him. Abel did not rebuke Cain, it was his righteous deeds that rebuked Cain. Just like Cain, the ungodly resent those who seek righteousness because through their righteous actions, the ungodly’s false beliefs and wicked practices are exposed.
We have another example of this evil that hates righteousness in Matthew 14:3-5. Herod had John the Baptist arrested and wanted to put him to death but he was more afraid of the crowd. So he did not kill John the Baptist. However, the daughter of Herodias ultimately had John beheaded. This ungodly woman despised the righteousness that John the Baptist displayed, so much so that she wanted it extinguished. She wanted it stomped out so none could see the light that exposed her sinful unrighteous belief and actions.

In contrast, those who have passed out of spiritual death into everlasting life are assured of this reality because of their love for the brethren (1 John 4:7). The new birth, receiving Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior, grants life to the spiritually dead because we have “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in the righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24). Salvation through Jesus turns hateful and even murderous attitudes into loving ones. John therefore reminds his readers and us that anyone who does not love has not received spiritual life but instead abides in spiritual death. John continues to highlight differences between Satan’s Children and God’s Children in verses 13 and 15:

1 John 3:13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you.

1 John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

God says, hatred is the moral equivalent of murder; thus “everyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” Although it is true that a very small percentage of people physically murder someone, there have been many who have been angry enough to have done so if the circumstances had been slightly different and the consequences of their actions less severe. (Matthew 26:52; Romans 13:4). Technically, the only outward difference between murder and hate, is the deed itself—the attitudes are the same. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made this abundantly clear when he said, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…” (Matthew 5:21–22). The ungodly, those who have rejected Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, will be eternally condemned to Hell for their habitual attitudes of hate, even if their attitudes never translate into physical actions.

John warns us that even though we were transformed to love both believers and unbelievers, we should “not be surprised … if the world hates” us. Rather than being surprised by the world’s opposition, we should expect it because the world has nothing in common with the kingdom of God, and the lives of the righteous act as a rebuke to those of the unrighteous. If you recall, Jesus promised the apostles when he met with them in the upper room, that the world would hate them: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.… He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause’” (John 15:18–19, 23–25).

Satan’s children have always revealed their true character by their hatred. All of history contains many instances of the world persecuting God’s people. People of His own town hated Jesus and attempted to kill Him after hearing just one message from Him. Luke 4:28-29 says, “And all the people in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things; and they got up and drove Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff.” However, that wasn’t the end; the nation’s leaders plotted to kill Him some time later. The world also hated the apostles and martyred all of them but the apostle John, who was exiled to the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9). Enemies of the gospel have always persecuted those who love the truth. Even today, believers around the world die under the hateful, murderous hands of the children of Satan.

John, with his black-and-white, no-gray style, absolute standard, reminds us that people filled with such hatred are murderers and as such, have no eternal life abiding in them. Certainly, that doesn’t mean that a believer could never commit an act of murder, or that someone who has committed murder can never be saved. But, it does mean that those who are “characterized” by hateful attitudes and who regularly harbor murderous thoughts, evidence an unregenerate heart and will perish eternally unless they repent of their sin and acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

The last major point that John makes in this passage is that Satan’s children are indifferent toward God’s children. Look at verses 16-18 where John says:

1 John 3:16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

The phrase “we know love by this” once again affirms genuine love as the outstanding mark of the Christian just as we discussed earlier in verse 11. A Christian’s loving desire and willingness to give up everything to help others should permeate our character and our attitudes in our everyday lives. The New Testament contains several notable examples of such sacrificial love. One such example was Epaphroditus, whom the apostle Paul commended to the Philippians in the book of Philippians 2:25-30. Epaphroditus was eager to go to minister and almost died for the work of Christ. He was willing to risk his life to complete the work of God while he was serving others.

Certainly Paul is another incredible example of loving others. He was willing to surrender his life for the cause of Christ: He said “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Of course, the Lord Jesus was Paul’s role model, because at the cross He laid down His life for all who believe. My question to all of us is, “How willing are we to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ?” Does our willingness result in action?

The expression “laid down His life for us” is unique to the apostle John. In addition to “life” itself, it refers to separating ourselves from anything that would distract us from loving others. Obviously, Christ’s atoning death is the supreme example of selfless love. So John is exhorting all of us as followers of Christ that we “ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” Following Christ’s example, we should be willing to give up our lives as necessary. Although there are parts of the world that this ultimate sacrifice may be necessary, that is seldom the case in our culture today. However, this will likely change in the not so distant future. John is referring to something broader. Giving our life—that is an ultimate example of love, but he is also talking about the need to help others in the day to day activities of life with the material goods that God has provided to each of us.

There is no doubt that the unbeliever’s selfish indifference is a sharp contrast to the generous, compassionate love that believers should exhibit. John illustrates the difference in attitude in a very practical comment and question: “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Obviously, Satan’s children have some of “the world’s goods” at their disposal and in many cases significant goods and finances. However, when they give to charities to help others, they are motivated by some form of selfishness; maybe it’s to pacify their consciences or satisfy their emotions, all of which bring honor to themselves rather than glory to God. As an example, remember the parable of the Widow’s Mite? Mark 12:44 says, “for they all put in out of their surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.” The widow was giving out of a heart of true love. How are we doing?

As God’s children, we are to give and be prepared to give sacrificially. As John finalizes his thoughts here, he says:

1 John 3:18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

It is not enough for any of us to merely profess love for others, it requires a genuine love that can be seen in our deeds. Are we loving others by giving of our time, talents, and yes, finances to help the brethren who are in need?

John has made a very clear distinction between Satan’s children and God’s children. Those who murder, habitually hate, or are chronically self-centered and indifferent to the needs of others, do not have eternal life with the Father. But those who not only claim to be God’s children, having repented of their sin and trusted in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, have also renounced murderous, hateful attitudes and all cold, selfish indifference to the needs of others—these have both professed and demonstrated they are a Child of God. As Believers, we are to manifest genuine love to others and especially fellow believers, because the love of God resides in our hearts.

Today, I have only a few questions that each of us needs to answer: Whose Child am I? Do I really love others? Is my love for others manifested through my deeds or are they just words that I say? Am I willing to sacrificially give with a loving heart to help my brothers and sisters in Christ? Am I willing to sacrificially love others in a way that represents Jesus Christ well?

I know these are all simple questions. Yet the answers are profound for they truly identify who we are! Why? Because your answers will absolutely give clarity to whether you are a child of the one true King or a child of Satan. John says:

John 3:11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

References:

Schaeffer, F. A. (1970). The Mark of the Christian. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

Dealing with Sin and Temptation

Matthew 5:27 You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

As Jesus continues to preach in what we now refer to as the Sermon on the Mount, His first public message, he moves in verse 27 of chapter 5 to the seventh commandment which we can read in Exodus chapter 20. Remember Jesus has said that He did not come to do away with or destroy the Law but to fulfill it. In this sermon he does with the seventh commandment what He did with the sixth. He takes the Old Law and He shows us not just its basic meaning but shows us its intent or the heart of the Law.

And we have to know that when He does this, He is not simply saying here is a new standard for you but is saying here is the standard that I will keep perfectly for you. He is saying here is what I will do for you, this is the extent to which I will keep these commands so that you can be saved through me, through my life.

Now this does not negate our responsibility to live in accordance with God’s commands but it does show us that our trying to live in accordance with God’s commands will not save us because we will fall short. But Jesus never, not once, fell short…not outwardly and not inwardly.

Our purpose for keeping the commands is not to save us, that is Jesus’ job. Our purpose is to express our love to Him. So if we are serious about showing our love, our gratitude to Him and our desire to honor Him then this is how we are now to live.

Jesus said:

Matthew 5:27 You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.”

“Adultery” usually referred to sexual relations by a married person with a partner other than his or her spouse, but v. 28 makes it clear that Jesus is not limiting his commandments to married people but speaking of sexual sin in general. The grammar of v. 28a leads to two possible translations. Jesus could be speaking of one who “looks at a woman with the intention of committing adultery” or to one who “looks at a woman for the purpose of getting her to lust after him.” Either way, the present tense participle blepōn refers to one who continues to look rather than just casting a passing glance, and in either case the mere viewing or mental imagining of a naked body is not under consideration. Instead Jesus is condemning lustful thoughts and actions—those involving an actual desire (the most literal translation of the verb epithymeō) to have sexual relations with someone other than one’s spouse. Yet despite the danger of over applying this verse, an even greater danger is that of under applying it. Adultery among Christians today is a scandal, yet it almost never occurs without precipitation. Christians must recognize those thoughts and actions which, long before any overt sexual sin, make the possibility of giving in to temptation more likely, and they must take dramatic action to avoid them (Blomberg, 1992, pp. 108-109).

It is in verse 28 where we begin to see the extent of the command of God. It is talking about intent and the heart. Sin begins before an outward action. You can analyze this in many ways but I think we would all agree that something moves us to sin. Something moves us to action whether sinful action or holy action. Something internal moves us, motivates us; and these are desires and desires are a part of our inner being. When I say inner being I mean they are hidden from others. It is possible for me to have a desire that no one on this earth would ever know about, no one but me. And unless I tell you what it is or unless it is revealed through some action of mine, you will never know it is there. This is where we must be careful. It is the cultivating of sinful desire that leads us to sinful behavior.

Jesus is saying that lust, an internal desire for sin, is sin. If it just stays right there, inside of me or you it is still sin. Adultery can be committed in the heart and this adultery is sin. And if it is not dealt with it may very well likely manifest itself beyond the heart to full blown outward behavior of sin. How serious is this? Very. And to show its seriousness Jesus gives two metaphorical illustrations.

The first illustration has to do with the eyes and the second with the hands. The tearing out of one’s eye and the cutting off of one’s hand. Now I realize this sounds gruesome and it is if we take it literally. But this is best understood as being figurative hyperbole, not literal. No where in the Bible does Jesus promote self-mutilation and this should not be taken that way either. Instead Jesus is using this to illustrate for us the seriousness of sin and how radical our actions should be to avoid it.

Think about this: How might your life be different if you took sin as seriously as Jesus does. What if we hated sin, all sin, as much as God does? How would we change where we go, what we do, what we put before our eyes and what we listen to? How we spend our spare time, what we daydream about and who we hang out with? How would we deal with known vulnerabilities in our lives? I think this is what Jesus is getting at here. He is saying, listen…there are times when drastic measures should be taken to keep oneself from further sin. And this is how He illustrates such drastic measures:

Matthew 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.

Pretty radical. In fact, in much of Biblical counseling material this is used and described as “radical amputation.” “Radical amputation” is a term to describe making radical life changes as a first step toward lasting change. It can also be seen as potentially, at least first steps, moving toward true repentance.

John MacArthur says of this passage, "Jesus’ point is that we should be willing to give up whatever is necessary, even the most cherished things we possess, if doing that will help protect us from evil. Nothing is so valuable as to be worth preserving at the expense of righteousness.”

Now let’s talk about this for a moment. I want to describe radical amputation and then I want to talk about its limitations. Sin and temptation often lurk in unknown places. They can sneak up on us. However, much of sin and temptation is predictable. Most of us know particular sin and particular temptation that we are most subject to. For some it may be gluttony, for others lust or some struggle intensely with drunkenness. Maybe for you it is anger or worry or fear. Think about where you struggle most.

As you analyze this, then think about where are you most tempted, I mean a physical location. Is it at home, is it at some other particular place, restaurants, driving, at they gym? Identify where you may be most tempted. Next you can think about with whom are you most tempted or with what group of people are you most tempted. Think about under what circumstances you may be most tempted. When you are tired, when you are overwhelmed, when you are hurting, when you are happy? Maybe a time of day comes to mind, after work, in the morning, at night?

Do you see where we are going with this? Now you have identified many factors regarding the sin and temptation you may deal with — locations, people, circumstances, times of day and you can go on. Now, if you are serious about dealing with sin, particularly habitual sin then you can re-arrange your life in a way to avoid many of these factors, this is amputating these things that you have identified as contributors to your sin and temptation.

And since Jesus is talking about the heart, not just outward behavior, then we must as well. Where are our temptations even if no one else knows about them? Are we able to make these hard choices, disrupt our lives even, for the sake of righteous living, for the sake of honoring our Lord? What do you need to pluck out of your life? What do you need to cut off, remove from your life? And are you wiling to do that?

Now, a word of caution. We live in a world of sin with temptation all around. We cannot avoid, all sin and temptation always. On a deserted Island we would be tempted to sin. So the full solution is not to build walls around our lives and desires and just keep all temptation away. That is not the full solution and that is not the point here. The point is that we must be willing to take steps, significant steps, in the way of righteousness and be serious about battling temptation in our lives. Are we serious about sin? That is the point, that is the thing we must ponder in our lives.

Jesus said, in this life we will have troubles. Temptation, ugliness of sin, our sinful desires—all of this is trouble and, frankly, overwhelming and impossible to deal with on our own. But we are not on our own. We have Jesus who has been trough temptation, we have Jesus who has promised to be with us, we have Jesus who is interceding for us with the Father. Do you know what that means? It means He is for us. He is for us. Jesus said, “In this life you will have troubles.” In the ESV tribulation, here is what Jesus said in John 16:33:

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

So we see what this means. Jesus really has overcome the word. He entered into it, He lived among people, He dealt with many of the things we are faced with and He handled it all perfectly and sinlessly. Now He is the One who leads us through this world, with us and for us! And we can make choices that seem hard to avoid falling prey to sin through temptation. He helps is with that, He helps navigate us through that.

And then we have this blinding reality:

Matthew 5:30b For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

This like a wake up call, a clear statement that hopefully helps us to see what is real and important. It is like Jesus is saying, is your sin worth so much to you that you are willing to go to hell for it? Is whatever pleasure you may be deriving from your sin so great that up against eternity in hell it will be worth it?

This is not about losing ones salvation it is about never fully trusting in Christ. He is describing a person who deeply loves his or her sin, it is all to him or her. It is their life to the point that they will not let it go even when faced with the reality of its end for them. Jesus just has to be plain with them and with us here. What is your sin worth to you? This passage forces us to or should force us to deal honestly with ourselves.

I want to encourage each of us to work at identifying sin, even habitual sin in our lives. And then take the next step to plan how you will perform radical amputation in your life to guard against the sin. And then follow your plan. And at the same time humbly cry out to the Lord for His help, for His power and for real change in your life. Take a step, yes, but cry out to Him along the way. Yes,“Do whatever it takes to correct your heart attitude,” but don’t think you can do this apart from the strength of Christ!

Do you remember the scene in the Garden just prior to Jesus’ arrest? Do you remember His struggle? He was praying and asking the Father to remove the cup of the crucifixion if it be possible yet He yielded to the Father’s will. In this interaction with the Father, we read that Jesus being in agony prayed more earnestly; and His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

This was Jesus, we see Him in this intense struggle and what did He do in this struggle? He cried out to the Father for help, He prayed and He relied on the Father through the struggle. The Father sustained Him and He continued in righteousness and carried out the plan of redemption.

Amazing! If Christ so needed the strength of the Lord God how much more do we need the Strength of Christ? If the Father can carry the Son through, how much more can Christ carry us through? And all the while Jesus understands, as He was tempted as we are.

Rely on Christ and fight sin with all your might. Believe that Christ his near while performing radical amputation, making needed changes in your life to resist sin. I believe that is the message, the message that each of us needs to hear!

Matthew 5:27 You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

References:

Blomberg, C. L. (1992). The New American Commentary - Matthew (Vol. 22, pp. 108-109). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman.