God’s 7th commandment is “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14). In those five words He verified the marriage of a man and a woman is sacred. Alistair Begg wrote, “Marriage isn’t an accidental but a purposeful, essential element of creation. It’s a divine institution, providing the cornerstone of civil society. It is, if you like, quite simply, God’s idea.” God knew if He didn’t make cheating on one’s spouse an extremely serious offense the human race would be doomed. The Lord knew from experience if sex wasn’t strictly regulated folks were liable to do just about anything to satisfy their animalistic urges. So in the Garden of Eden God established marriage right off the bat as being the rock solid foundation of society. In marriage an individual man and an individual woman become one. There should be no confusion concerning gender specification in a marital union. When God established marriage there were only two people in existence, male Adam and female Eve. “…The LORD God made a woman from the part he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one will be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ That is why a man leaves his father and mother and unites with his wife, and they become a new family” (Genesis 2:22-24). If God had intended marriage to be any other arrangement of sexes then what’s stated earlier in His Bible makes no sense whatsoever. “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it!” (Genesis 1:27-28). Two bulls can’t make a calf.
The point is that the issue of what constitutes marriage had already been settled long before the Ten Commandments were brought down. God, via Moses, was now saying that either spouse having sex with anybody else was an intolerable sin. While some may consider this edict unreasonably restrictive, in reality it grants men and women the ability to be free from the worry of contracting a sexually-transmitted disease, of unwarranted divorce or the destructive influence of lustful preoccupations. In a sanctified, God-centered marriage a person can enjoy uncompromised safety and comfort. Solomon told his son: “Drink water from your own cistern and running water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed outside, your streams of water in the wide plazas? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in your young wife – a loving doe, a graceful deer; may her breasts satisfy you at all times, may you be captivated by her love always. But why should you be captivated, my son, by an adulteress, and embrace the bosom of a different woman?” (Proverbs 5:15-20). God’s more direct. In the final book of the Old Testament He issued a stern warning through His last prophet. “Be attentive, then, to your own spirit, for one should not be disloyal to the wife he took in his youth. …Pay attention to your conscience, and do not be unfaithful” (Malachi 2:15-16). Obviously God doesn’t consider ignoring one’s marriage vows a small matter. John Calvin wrote, “When we hear the word adultery it ought to be detestable to us, as if men deliberately wanted to despise God, and like raging beasts wanted to break the sacred bond He has established in marriage.”
You might be saying, “Okay. Fine. We hear you. Adultery is bad. Gotcha. But why label it an epidemic? Here’s why. Statistics indicate 30-60% of married folks will, at some time or another, cheat. And yes, that figure’s remained somewhat steady since the “sexual revolution” of the 60s. So if it ain’t on the rise why sound an alarm? Well, if we limit adultery to engaging in a live-and-in-person, physical act of sex with someone who isn’t one’s spouse nothing’s changed. But Jesus expanded the definition infinitesimally in His sermon on the mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Talk about a game-changer! Everybody in the crowd probably went slack-jawed upon hearing that. You see, in Leviticus 18 God laid out all the taboos concerning sex and most of the Jewish population was used to abiding by those rules. But here was the Messiah telling them that even mental fantasies qualified as adultery. The implications are incriminating on a massive scale. The old saying of “You can look but you better not touch” was rendered invalid. Jesus was now saying, “You can’t even look.” Now, while what our Savior preached 2,000 years ago was as applicable in that era as any other, I believe He was looking far down the line when accessing pornography would become easier than getting a glass of water from a faucet. Internet porn is a modern-day scourge that’s turned committing adultery into a daily sin against God for billions worldwide and it continues to spread unchecked.
In a recent lecture Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias related that earlier in 2016 he’d taken part in a large conference. The majority of the 40,000 attendees were young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 or so. The organizers had them write down on notecards the two questions they most wanted to have answered. Surprisingly #1 wasn’t “Will I make enough money?” or “Will I fall in love with and marry the right person?” or even “What is the meaning of life?” Nope, the #1 question they posed was, in essence, “How do I avoid becoming enslaved to pornography?” If that doesn’t shock you then perhaps you’ve let yourself become desensitized to what’s happening right under your nose. Or maybe you know you’ve gotten entangled in the web of porn yourself. Hey, I know what that’s like. I got locked in that filthy prison before and it almost cost me my marriage. I rationalized that, because I wasn’t having literal sexual relations with a woman other than my wife, I wasn’t hurting anyone. That as long as I kept my nasty viewing habits to myself it was my business and no one else’s, right? Wrong. When my wife discovered my secret obsession her trust in me was kaput. How could she be sure I wasn’t hiding or lying about even worse discretions? For months our marriage dangled by a thread precariously over a dark abyss. The blessing is that her disgust made me finally turn everything over to God. Fact was I’d been a pseudo-Christian all my life. A hypocrite. A phony. God used my wife’s profound hurt and disappointment to get my attention. I’m ashamed to admit that’s what it took but I’m also thankful my Heavenly Father was there when I had no one else. He didn’t turn me away. He took me in like I’d never left His house. My marriage survived my adultery because of His grace, mercy, healing and forgiveness.
The stats are staggering. In 2001the porn industry’s annual revenue was $56 billion worldwide. In 2015 it was over $97 billion. The money being spent on porn is estimated at $3,000 per second. There are 4.2 million porn websites. 42.7% of internet users peruse porn on a regular basis. The average child’s initial exposure to hardcore pornography occurs at age 11. It’s clear that, especially in the U.S., the word “obscene” is a passé term. One poll found 57% of Americans agree with the statement: “I think pornography falls under free speech rights.” A whopping 97% say what consenting adults opt to do in private is nobody’s business and only 7% think some particularly vulgar sex acts should be deemed unlawful. There was a time when those opinions would’ve outraged the average Joe or Jane but the “sex-is-fun” mindset that’s infected Hollywood has succeeded in warping the country’s morals to such a degree that nobody gives porn much thought. It’s now a punchline. Steve Gallagher wrote, “It’s within this immoral climate Christian men are expected to live godly lives. Not only must they deal with an environment of pervasive sensuality, they also must contend with a fallen nature that’s powerfully drawn to it. Everywhere a man turns he’s confronted with sexual imagery and temptation.” I’m sure porn is Satan’s favorite tool for getting a person to commit adultery because he doesn’t have to do anything to make it work. It’s on the job 24/7 365 days a year, destroying minds and relationships non-stop. The evil genie has been released from the bottle and there’s no putting the malicious imp back. The devil just sat back and laughed while our collective lust created an out-of-control monster that’s greedily eating up souls right and left.
To the person who thinks “dirty pictures” don’t really hurt anyone let me explain what happens to a sex addict over time. Their confidence and self-esteem slowly but steadily diminish. Simultaneously the empty chasm inside them (the God-shaped hole they’re trying to fill up) gets bigger and bigger so they spend more and more hours and resources chasing their elusive desires either online or on the street. Now, if they were hooked on heroin or Jack Daniels eventually their addiction would interfere with their livelihood but not so with porn. It’s a compulsion easy to conceal. All they have to do is shrink their world smaller and smaller so there’s less possibility of someone finding out who they really are and where their treasure lies. They become selfish, paranoid and overly-protective of their “right to privacy.” Walls build up around their heart and they isolate themselves in a cell of their own shame and guilt. In my case I became bitter and jealous of my wife’s family members because they were hogging the love and attention I felt I was entitled to get from her on demand. Instead of interacting with them I’d retreat to my “comfort zone” where they weren’t allowed to intrude. Yet at the same time I’d wonder why nobody liked me. I was a mess. The writer of Hebrews understood this phenomenon when he wrote about “…the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). The old adage may be worn out from overuse but it’s still true: “Sin will take you further than you ever wanted to go, keep you longer than you ever wanted to stay and cost you more than you ever wanted to pay.” Take it from one who knows.
I fell into the porn trap mainly because I didn’t have Christ in my life. I was lost. But what of the decent, church-going Christian who gets dragged into the porn swamp? Keep in mind one doesn’t have to be married to commit adultery. Jesus didn’t make that a stipulation when He said, “…whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” There’s no loophole to hide in. Lusting for anyone other than your spouse (even if you don’t have one yet) is a sin. Plus, a person doesn’t even have to ogle porn images or be promiscuous to defy God’s law. All one needs is an unrestrained imagination. The Bible has a lot to say about how a believer can get trapped in the clutches of sexual sin. “For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts, and their senseless hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21). If we’re not vigilant, pride will slide over and grab the wheel. “Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings…” (Romans 1:22-23). Lust makes for a sorry moral compass. “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie…” (Romans 1:25). They convince themselves “virtual adultery” can’t possibly qualify as authentic adultery. Once a person “tunes out” the voice of the Holy Spirit they go spiritually deaf. From then on they gravitate into the unlit cave of iniquity. Jesus said, “…people loved the darkness rather than the light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). God won’t interfere with their free-will decisions, either. “Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves” (Romans 1:24). Eventually they brand their sex addiction “no big deal.” “Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). No slope is more slippery.
Being a leader in the Celebrate Recovery ministry I’ve witnessed hundreds of men crawl into a meeting looking for help in overcoming their lack of sexual integrity. Some come back the next week. Some don’t. Some stick with and work the program long enough to experience Christ’s healing. Some get discouraged and quit before the miracle happens. It comes down to whether or not the person’s willing to rely on Jesus for the power to battle their sinful nature. Gallagher wrote, “Lust will not just disappear. The man who is serious about walking in purity must take some drastic measures.” What it takes is daily Bible reading, sharing struggles and victories in a small group setting so others can pray for them (James 5:16 – “So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” ) and exercising self-discipline by aggressively resisting temptation. It’s hard. You betcha. But nothing of lasting spiritual worth comes any other way. What CR provides is a safe place where folks dealing with any hurt, hang-up or habit can come, be transparent about their sin and know that even their darkening the doorway is kept confidential.
Christians can best battle temptation to break God’s 7th commandment by doing three important things. First, we must constantly be aware that, while we can keep secrets from each other, there’s no such thing as keeping secrets from the Lord. In everything we must ask ourselves if we’re engaging in something we’d do if Jesus was looking over our shoulder. Secondly, we must become so familiar with the Scriptures they’re an integral part of our thinking process. “How can a young person maintain a pure life? By guarding it according to your instructions! With all my heart I seek you. Do not allow me to stray from your commands! In my heart I store up your words, so I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-11). And thirdly, spend as much of your free time as you can in the body of Christ. Begg wrote, “There’s safety in numbers. When we isolate ourselves from the company of God’s people, we’re increasingly vulnerable.” Believers need to hold each other accountable and offer positive reinforcement. “And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).
But couldn’t adultery have been avoided altogether if God hadn’t made it so darn pleasurable? J. I. Packer wrote, “What then is the place and purpose of sex? God intends, as the story of Eve’s creation from Adam shows, that the ‘one flesh’ experience should be an expression and a heightening of the partners’ sense that, being given to each other, they now belong together, each needing the other for completion and wholeness (see Genesis 2:18-24). This is the ‘love’ that committed couples are to ‘make’ when they mate. Children are born from their relationship, but this is secondary; what is basic is the enriching of their relationship itself through the repeated ‘knowing’ of each other as persons who belong to each other exclusively and without reserve. So the place for sex is the place for lifelong mutual fidelity, i.e. marriage, where sexual experience grows richer as the couple experiences more and more of each other’s loving faithfulness in the total relationship.”
Here’s the bottom line: If a person’s having flesh-on-flesh sex with someone who’s not their spouse they know intrinsically in their heart they’re committing a major sin against God. They must repent immediately. If a person’s rationalized that merely looking at porn for self-gratification purposes they’re not technically sinning they’re fooling themselves. They have no way of knowing (and obviously don’t care) if the human being they’re lusting after is married or not. They must repent immediately. Adultery is sin no matter the spin.