Adultery in our culture has become acceptable, even commonplace. The path to promiscuity is paved by a lot of prominent people. It is amazing what happens in this process.
How does adultery happen? It starts with a distraction, or a sense of entitlement. Maybe you have gone through a very exhausting time at work. Maybe you are in a financial pinch. Maybe you are having marriage trouble. Maybe sex has become monotonous. A distraction. A distraction could be on the other end of the spectrum. You could be feeling invincible. You could feel like you are on a roll. You could be feeling like nothing could touch you. A distraction. It always starts with a distraction and from there it usually segueways into an attraction.
An attraction occurs in a nanosecond. You notice someone, a member of the opposite sex, at the health club, around the neighborhood, at the office. You are attracted to them. It is not a sin to be attracted to a member of the opposite sex. Billy Graham said it best. “It is not the first look that gets you in trouble. It is the second and the third and the fourth that messes you up.” We all are going to be attracted by certain members of the opposite sex. And it should stop at attraction. It should end right there. But in many cases, it doesn’t.
James 1:14-16. “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust…” See that word enticed? It is a fishing term. It means to lure by bait. “…then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.” Do not be deceived. And this death is emotional death and relational death. It starts with a distraction, it moves to an attraction. And if an attraction is left unchecked, we move into infatuation.
That is where the problem really begins. That is where it festers. Not only are you attracted to the person, but also you begin to play mind games with yourself. You begin to intentionally spend more and more time with the person, a long, lingering business lunch, after hours work projects. You say things to yourself like, “I wonder what it would be like to touch that person. I wonder what it would be like to hold that person. I wonder what it would be like to make love to that person.” A woman might say, “He understands me. He knows how to talk to me. He supports me. He thinks I am the greatest thing on the planet.” A man might say, “She is so sexy. She is so sweet and kind. She knows what makes me tick.” And delusions of romantic dinners and sex-filled and sun-drenched vacations begin to dance in your head. You are infatuated with the person.
And then, one day, you do physically what you began to do mentally a long time ago. You commit adultery. You break the seventh commandment. And you trade in a brief moment of ecstasy for a lifetime of pain. At this point, people have some different reactions. Some I have talked to, some of the guilt-ridden parties, go on their knees before God and say, “I have sinned against You and my spouse and family. I am wrong. I want to do whatever it takes to make my marriage work.” And they come clean and go through Christian counseling. I have seen people who have violated the seventh commandment, who have come clean and confessed and really done some tough work. I have seen them emerge on the other side to have strong, Biblically functioning marriages. I have seen it.
Others who are guilt ridden don’t deal with it. Others begin to get involved in a deep and diabolical and destructive pattern. Jesus talked about Satan’s strategy in John 8:44 when He said, “There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language for he is a liar and the father of lies.” When you commit adultery, the first one on the scene is the father of lies, the evil one. He begins to whisper lies to you. He is the father of lies. He speaks lieneese, lie after lie after lie after lie. Listen to the popular lies that I have heard from people involved in affairs. Maybe they sound familiar.
The first one is the wedding lie. They confess, “I didn’t really mean the words I said before God and my friends. I didn’t really mean it.” Satan has the ability to lie to such a degree that he takes us back, way back before the wedding and somehow people rationalize. Well, I didn’t really love him. I didn’t really love her when I walked down the wedding runner. Amazing stuff. Diabolical stuff. Destructive stuff. Adultery is one of the most devastating sins and blows that can hit the family. And in almost every divorce case there is almost always a third party involved. Almost always. The wedding lie.
The feelings lie. I will never forget the conversation I had several years ago with a man who was bailing out on his wife and his family, a man who was involved with a third party. This man looked at me and said, “I understand what I am doing is wrong but I am miserable in my marriage. Now I am happy and God wants me to be happy. Surely God wants me to be happy.” No! God wants you to be obedient. He wants you to do the right thing. He doesn’t want you to crater on this covenant, on this commitment. If you do what is right and obey Him and hang in there, then your feelings will follow.” You see, it is easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action.
Another lie is a denial lie. People look at others and just lie. They live on the basis of denying. “Me, an affair? On no, I am not having sex with someone else. Not me. No way.”
A young lady wrote me this letter a couple of days ago. “Dear Ed. Our marriage was not perfect but it was ours. It was all we knew. He was my best friend and I trusted him totally. There were signs. I didn’t ignore them but I became suspicious and very observant. I finally got up the nerve to ask him, face to face, “Are you and your co-worker having an affair?” And my husband and best friend of many years looked me right in the eyes and lied. There were times when I knew he was talking with her on the phone. My thoughts and actions spun out of control. I became obsessed with his lies, details of the affair and the events that led to it. I kept trying to put all the puzzle pieces together. I was taken over by obsession, images of my husband and his lover would flash through my mind day and night. I constantly awoke to dreams of him and her in bed together. It would play over and over and over. I stopped feeling positive about myself and about life. It was all negative. Jealous. Enraged. Diminished. Frightened. Lonely. Mistrustful. Exposed. His deception blinded me from how I saw myself. I started doubting and questioning everything about myself. It must be me. I must have caused this to happen. I must change myself. I felt the fate of our marriage was in my hands.”
The support lie. When someone has broken the seventh commandment and when a guilt-ridden party does not come clean, when they don’t confess their sins to God and to their spouse and work through the pain and alienation and the problems that an affair incurs, some of them use the support lie. Strategic, sinful, sympathizers in people’s lives surround the person who is committing sin and they identify with the person, pat the person on the back and say, “Hey, it’s OK. Hey, you deserve it. Hey, she looks pretty good. Hey, he is great. Hey, keep on doing it. Don’t feel guilty. Everything’s OK.” And these people walk around and say, “My new friends support me. My new friends give me counsel. My new friends say that I am doing the right thing, busting up a marriage and ruining my children’s lives and getting involved with a third party. My new friends say that.”
If you are involved in adultery right now, ask yourself this question. Who is counseling you? Because the evil one will have your life so packed with these sinful sympathizers that it is tough to look above the fray and see people who will speak the truth in love. Talk to someone who has a commitment to God and to marriage and to others. Let them speak truth to your life. Don’t listen to the sinful sympathizers given to you by Satan himself. They do it to ease their guilt, to remove their responsibility. It always makes us feel better when we can look around and say that a lot of people are disobeying the seventh. It must be cool, hip and OK. Lies. Just plain old lies.
When you feel the attraction moving into infatuation, the first thing I challenge you to do is push the clock forward. Push the clock forward. If you trade a brief moment of ecstasy in for a lifetime of pain, think about the lifetime of pain. Think about the damage. Think about what it will do to your spouse, your children if you have any and to God.
Recognize your various times of vulnerability. Maybe you are exhausted. Or maybe you are going through some marital problems. Jesus, after His baptism, after a spiritual high, was driven out into the wilderness. After He went without food for 40 days and 40 nights, then the evil one emerged on the scene to tempt Him. He knows when you are most vulnerable. He knows when you are the most susceptible. He is waiting, waiting to float that bait by. He is saying, “No one will ever know. Try it. Just taste the bait. It will be OK. Everybody is doing it.” And you mix this with a steady diet of romance novels, trashy magazines, videos and gentlemen’s clubs and you have got someone who is right there, taking the bait.
Extinguish the flames of unfaithfulness. Extinguish the flames of unfaithfulness in your life. Certain flames might be surrounding you and you must extinguish the flames. Think about your friends. Read the studies. Many affairs occur when one couple is really connected with another couple. Your best friends, husband and wife, should have the same commitment to fidelity, to God and to the marriage as you do. If they don’t, you are messing around with some fire. And if that is not true for you, back off your friendship, back off your relationship and ask God to bring the right Christian friends into your lives.
Think about what comes before your eyes. Think about the things that you watch on your computer screen, the things you read, the things in your video library. If they fan the flames of unfaithfulness, get rid of them. Pornography is big business, over eight billion dollars a year. Trash it. Get rid of it. It is not worth it. You don’t want to sign up for boatloads of pain and anguish that will slowly and strategically cause you. Because Satan will use it to lie to you. Well, if that person can do that…
Embark on a lifelong journey to enrich your marriage. Won’t you do that today? Just make a commitment before God. “God, I want to embark on a lifelong journey to enrich my marriage.” It takes work to have a great marriage. You never arrive, you never say that you have figured it all out. It takes one little act after another little act, then all those acts begin to build a great marriage.
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