You shall not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:14

Of all the lies proclaimed in the world around us, one of the most widely believed is that any limits imposed on personal freedom amount to oppression. This is perhaps most clear in the realm of sexual morality, where the only thing off limits seems to be the setting of limits itself. The tragic irony is that this so-called freedom is in truth bondage to sinful desires, and it results not in wholeness but in broken bodies and broken hearts.

What God’s word tells us when it comes to sexual morality is straightforward: we are to practice chastity outside marriage and fidelity within it. This is the path not to oppression but to true liberty and blessing (James 1:25). That is why the seventh commandment is what it is: “You shall not commit adultery.” In marriage, two people enter into a covenant, becoming one. And this comprehensive union, in which husband and wife become interwoven emotionally, physically, spiritually, and in every other dimension, serves as a parable of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). The sacred union is not, then, to be intruded upon or broken (Matthew 19:6).

When a husband or wife commits adultery, it sets off a chain reaction of tragedies: there is sin against God, against the body, against the spouse, against the partner in adultery, and against the partner’s spouse. In other words, disaster ensues. Sex is intended for the marriage bond alone, so when you remove it from that context, it becomes monstrous, consuming, and devastating.

Yet we ought not to think that adultery is limited to just the physical act. We learn from the Lord Jesus that adultery starts internally: “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). We know, of course, that the consequences of physical adultery far outpace those of lust, but the deserved judgment and our guilt before God are equal no matter the sin.

What can Christian men and women do to guard themselves and one another against adulterous acts and thoughts? For starters, we can practice the presence of God, communing with Him and remembering that we have no secrets before Him. We can memorize the word of God, filling our hearts with it that we might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). And we can stick with the people of God, pursuing fellowship in worship and accountability, all to the end of being stirred up to love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Nevertheless, we all stand guilty before the seventh commandment. We are in no position to look down on others or see ourselves as spotless. Our lives, our hands, and our thoughts do not pass the test of purity. And yet you are never out of the reach of God’s grace in Christ, no matter how much baggage you carry. If you truly and earnestly repent of your sins, if you truly and earnestly cast yourself upon God’s mercy and grace, you will be forgiven, pardoned, cleansed, and set free—free for the Spirit of God to work in your life, enabling you to think and live in a way that pleases Him.

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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.