Do you need to perform some radical surgery before something in your life causes you to sin? Do you need to take a scalpel to some habit or attitude? Do you need to set some boundaries to protect your marriage or someone else’s?
What does the Bible say about divorce? Is it ever allowable? Is it OK if you’re just not happy?
And what about loving your enemies? Jesus addressed all these very real issues in the “Sermon on the Mount” in today’s New Testament reading.
Have you wondered why God doesn’t seem to be blessing your plans? Has He, seemingly, withheld some promotion? Could it be that you failed to seek His wisdom beforehand and, merely, asked Him to bless what you wanted? Read more about this in “Hey, by the Way, Lord …” from our Old Testament reading.
Also, read about “The Lord Who Hears” and “The Fruit of Going Our Own Way.”
Genesis 11 & 12
Need some radical surgery?
Surgery & Boundaries
There is so much in this section of the Sermon on the Mount.
In Matthew 5.27-30, Jesus talks about plucking out eyes and cutting off hands, what we sometimes refer to as “radical surgery.” He wasn’t advocating self-mutilation. He was using exaggeration to make the point that we need to get rid of things that cause us to sin. We need to take a God-empowered scalpel on them.
For example, let’s say you work with someone to whom you feel attracted. Perhaps you start confiding in one another, going to lunch, etc. If either or both of you are married, it’s not appropriate! You need to cut it off, immediately!
We deceive ourselves into believing we’re not doing anything wrong and we can handle it, but it’s one of the snares of the devil. And if it has already gone too far, you need to find another job, get a transfer to another department, make yourself accountable, and, if you are married, confess it to your spouse (you may need to seek godly counsel about how to do this)! Radical, yes, but that’s exactly what Jesus was talking about here!
I’ve talked to many women and men caught up in sexual immorality. They often say the same thing, “I didn’t mean for this to happen!” But they failed to heed the warnings and do the necessary surgery.
If you’re married, discuss these issues; set boundaries for yourself; set boundaries as a couple. Don’t build friendships or go to lunch or spend time with anyone of the opposite sex. It’s that simple. And if you’re single, have the same respect for someone else’s marriage. Even if both of you are single, you need to set boundaries and flee from situations where you are tempted to sin.
In Matthew 5.31-32, Jesus addresses the limited reasons believers can divorce, in this case, for sexual immorality. Paul expands on the subject in 1 Corinthians 7.15 where he says that if an unbelieving spouse leaves or divorces a believer, the believing spouse is not under bondage in such cases. Those are the only two biblical grounds for divorce.
There is no such thing as irreconcilable differences for two genuine believers. If you’re struggling in your marriage or considering divorce, seek out a biblical counselor and go, even if you have to go alone. You can contact the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) to find someone close to you. God has a plan to use whatever has happened for your good and His glory (Rom. 8.28-29).
It does not mean that a wife (or husband) must simply endure abusive, sinful, or illegal treatment at the hands of her (or his) spouse. God has made provisions in His Word to protect us, but we often fail to take advantage of them (see Matthew 18.15-17; Romans 13.1-4). A biblical counselor can help you make a plan to protect yourself and use the resources God has provided.
God’s Word is sufficient for all the issues of life (2 Pet. 1.3-4). Biblical counselors also deal with issues like depression, fear and worry, anxiety disorders, addictions, sexual issues, emotional problems and the whole host of things we deal with in a fallen world. And in most cases, biblical counseling is free of charge (or with a small supplies fee). In El Paso, you can contact the Cielo Vista Counseling Center at 915-594-4651 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. In other areas contact ACBC directly.
Loving Our Enemies
In Matthew 5.43-45 Jesus said we are to love even our enemies. Biblical love isn’t primarily a feeling. Jesus is not commanding us to have loving feelings for our enemies but to do the things biblical love requires. A good place to start is with God’s concise definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13.4-8a.
A Note of Caution
Loving biblically doesn’t necessarily mean you should have an ongoing relationship with someone who has abused you (or allow your children to be endangered). Neither does it mean that you don’t take appropriate biblical or legal action. And it doesn’t always mean the removal of all consequences in someone’s life as we talked about yesterday in “Noah, Capital Punishment & Drunk Driving.” But it does mean that you should forgive, deal with any anger and bitterness, and pray for him or her.
Allow God to speak to your heart about these issues. Ask Him to help you forgive, seek reconciliation where needed, and love biblically.
Today’s Other Readings:
Genesis 11 & 12:
“Hey, by the Way, Lord …”
In chapter 11 we have the story of the Tower of Babel. Verses 3-4:
Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”
God had told them to scatter and repopulate the earth; instead they decided to build a city and a tower to make a name for themselves. The issue was their pride and rebellion against God’s command.
This was the origin of Babylon, a city synonymous with pagan idolatry and an enemy of God’s people. It would come to symbolize the world’s systems of finance, politics, and religion.
So the Lord confused their languages and forced them to scatter. He knew what they were doing would not bring them closer to Him as they claimed, but would lead them into idolatry. So He frustrated their building project.
It makes you wonder how often we set out on some venture without seeking God. We may pray, but almost as an afterthought, asking God to get on board with our plans. Then we can’t understand why He isn’t blessing our work.
Life Spans Shortened
Notice also in chapter 11 that lifespans have been shortened. Some believe the water that rained down during the flood came from a canopy of water that surrounded the earth, protecting it from the sun’s harmful rays. Once it was gone, aging took place much more rapidly. (Makes you want to get out that sunscreen!)
In chapter 12 we are introduced to Abram and Sarai, later called Abraham and Sarah. God called them to leave their homeland and to trust Him to lead and care for them.
While Abram took a big step of faith and obeyed God by leaving his homeland, he would soon choose to take everyday matters into his own hands and resort to deception instead of relying on God (Gen. 12.10-20). It wouldn’t be the only time, but we’ll talk more about that in a later chapter.
The Lord Who Hears
Verse 3 says, “… The Lord will hear when I call to Him.”
That simple statement expressed the psalmist’s confidence in the faithfulness of God!
What about you? Do you pray like you believe He hears? And then trust Him with His answer, whether “yes,” “no,” “not now,” or “I have a better idea”?
The Fruit of Going Our Own Way
Sometimes when we refuse God’s wisdom, we discover too late that we don’t like the consequences of our choices. God is always faithful to forgive us if we humbly come to Him and ask, but He doesn’t always remove the consequences of our choices,
“Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies” (v. 31).
How much better it is to choose God’s way from the start.
“But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil” (v. 33).
This is a great truth for young people who grow up in the church. Often, they know the truth, but decide they’re going to try what the world has to offer. Too late they learn that what looks enticing from the outside is not what it appears to be.
Pre-marital sex, for instance, may lure them with its offer of love and excitement, only to reward them with disease, disappointment, and disaster that can follow them into their future marriages.
We can’t control every choice our children make, but we can faithfully teach them these truths from an early age, not just in our own words, but from God’s Word, for it is His Word that is “the power of God to salvation” (Rom. 1.16).
Do you need to do some radical surgery? Is there some area where you have failed to ask for God’s wisdom or where you have been ignoring His warnings?
Could your marriage be better protected by a discussion about boundaries and a commitment to follow through?
Do you need to seek out good biblical counseling in some area of your life?
What has God shown you through today’s readings? Take a minute and share your thoughts.
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This Month’s Featured Resources:
Praying the Bible by Donald Whitney
“This little book is explosive and powerful.”
R. Albert Mohler, Jr.
When you pray, does it ever feel like you’re just saying the same old things about the same old things?
Offering us the encouragement and the practical advice we’re all looking for, Donald S. Whitney, best-selling author of Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, outlines an easy-to-grasp method that has the power to transform our prayer life: praying the words of Scripture. Simple, yet profound, Praying the Bible will prove invaluable as you seek to commune with your heavenly Father in prayer each and every day.
The MacArthur Daily Bible takes a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs for each day of the year, with daily comments that guide and inform you as you read through the Bible in a year. John MacArthur’s insight maximizes the benefit of each day’s reading. If a commitment to daily Bible reading never worked for you before, this is the answer. With John at your side, there’ll be no such thing as a tough portion of Scripture.