July 25: Deny Yourself

Read Matthew 5:27-30

Discussing sexual immorality certainly makes folks uncomfortable. Simply saying the word “sex” makes many awkwardly squirm in their seats. However, it’s an issue Jesus was not willing to mince words about. The subject might make us feel uneasy, and in many cases it should…because sex matters.

In a culture that is becoming increasingly sexual, you would think that sex doesn’t really matter anymore. After all, someone can arrange a sexual encounter as easily as clicking on an app on his or her cellphone nowadays. But in todays reading, Jesus provides overwhelming clarity that our sexuality is an important part of our life, and of our walk with Him. In fact, He even takes it one step further saying it isn’t just sexually immoral actions that are wrong in the eyes of God, but your thoughts as well.

When I read this passage, I couldn’t help but think that these words are harsh. Gouge out your eyes? Cut off your arm? Really?

After a moment I realized that these words are supposed to be harsh. Some will teach on this text and say Jesus didn’t literally mean to harm your body, what he really meant was to take away things that tempt you. While I certainly agree with that idea in principle, I also think that approach loses the impact Jesus is trying to have here.

What Jesus is suggesting you do is painful. It hurts. It’s irrational. It simply doesn’t make sense. But that’s the point! Denying yourself isn’t easy. In these few verses in Matthew 5 Jesus calls us to completely deny ourselves of anything that causes us to be tempted. Cutting off your arms and gouging out your eye is a metaphor for a call to undergo the painstaking process of sacrifice. This could mean sacrificing things, places, or even relationships that are causing you to live a sexually immoral lifestyle, and therefore are taking away from your walk with God.

Is this an area of life you struggle with? Where do you need to sacrifice? Maybe it is installing a filter on your electronic devices to prevent you from seeing certain websites. Or it could be admitting your sexual sin to a trusted friend or pastor and finding an accountability partner. Yet, it might be even a step further in ending a relationship you have with somebody, because you know they tempt you to cross sexual boundaries. None of these options are easy, but it is all part of our relentless pursuit to look more like Jesus daily.


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