Forever . . . for Real?
Jeff Jones, Senior Pastor
April 30/May 2, 2010
“I’m married.” Love that line, and not a bad thing to remember. We are finishing out our marriage series today, and today I’m calling an audible. I had another message mostly prepared, and occasionally I’m able to say about a message, “This one’s good!” And that was one that felt that way. But I strongly believe God wanted me to ditch it in order to talk about what we are talking about today, because what we are talking about today is eating too many marriages alive, destroying too many lives—not just in our culture but in our church.
Today we are talking about affairs, adultery. Sound fun? Adultery is on the rise in our culture, even though this is one area where almost every American agrees with each other. 95% of Americans believe that adultery, having an affair with a married person, is wrong. That’s amazing! You can’t get that many people to agree on anything. You can’t get 95% of Americans to say diarrhea is bad! But you can get 95% of Americans to say adultery is bad.
Yet, even though just about everybody agrees it is wrong, it sure doesn’t seem to stop many from doing it. Getting adultery statistics is hard, because the nature of an affair is that you lie, that you keep it secret. But the consensus of experts…well, before I go on, let me talk about experts. A lot of people wonder where I get my statistics, who these so-called experts are. I’ll go ahead and reveal
my source. Whenever I need statistics, I call my friends in Alabama
Slide: ___________________________ ) (show pic )
These guys are good. They are experts in just about everything. And experts suggest that around 40% of women and 50 to 60% of men will commit adultery in the course of their marriage. And the younger you are right now generationally, the percentages go up from there.
We may know it is wrong and damaging, but it happens all the time. For some it happens because people are flippant about it. I’ve seen that in my own office, with people coming in for counseling. One guy for example was trying to justify staying married but continuing an affair, and his reason was, “Hey, I’m a guy!” Like that was the trump card, of course guys can’t stay faithful. I’m a guy. What a moron! I couldn’t believe it.
For others it happens because people are naïve. It’s so easy to have an affair now. Social media, like Facebook and MySpace, also makes the whole process that much easier. We’ve seen multiple affairs in our church start with what seemed innocent enough, social media connection to an old boyfriend or girlfriend, or to someone brand new, and an inappropriate emotional connection progresses to an all-out affair. Our culture makes affairs easy, especially for those who are flippant or naïve.
But many others, especially Christians in churches like Chase Oaks, are not flippant about it, or even naïve, but they still have affairs. Years ago, one of our most well-known pastors, who was on the stage virtually every week, had an affair with another person who was on the platform virtually every week. You would have never imagined it could happen, and they never would have imagined it would happen—but it did, and ended up destroying two families. If you knew these two people, you’d know that none of us are immune from doing the same thing. Actually, the people I’m most worried about today are not those who know that they are on shaky ground trying to stay faithful to their spouse. I’m most worried about those of you who are thinking, “Oh, this is relevant to me. I’d never cheat on my spouse.” You are the most susceptible.
We need God’s perspective on affairs, how they happen and how to avoid them. This is such a significant area of life that God devotes a good bit of biblical real estate to the topic, and today we are going to focus on one such place, the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is Solomon talking to his sons, a father passing on wisdom to his sons, and in the book, multiple times he warns them about affairs. He tells them to stay faithful to their wives, and not fall into the trap of adultery. These are powerfully written passages, and I wish I had time to read them all. But I do have time to read and explain and apply one such passage, and it is powerful—and we need to hear it. As you listen to Solomon warn about the seductress, think of the woman as adultery itself, not so much a man or a woman. He’s talking about how seductive an affair can be. Here it is, from Proverbs 7.
Slide: ___________________________ ) Proverbs 7:1
My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live.
Slide: ___________________________ ) Proverbs 7:5-10
They will keep you from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words. At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
Slide: ______________________ ) Proverbs 7:13-27
She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: "I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let's drink deep of love till morning; let's enjoy ourselves with love! My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon." With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.
Let’s talk first about
Slide: ___________________________ ) The Seduction of Affairs
Nobody gets married planning to have an affair. I’ve never done a wedding where the bride or groom is checking out other guys or girls at the wedding, trying to hook up with someone new. I’m sure that happens, but 99.99% of people getting married never intend to have an affair. Their eyes start out on their spouse. Yet, over half those people will end up having an affair, doing something they never thought they would do.
Solomon’s story is of a young guy who falls into the seduction of the adulterer, who rationalizes something he thought he’d never do, to his own peril, and that happens all the time. Over the years, I’ve talked to so many people who living in the shadow of a former affair, or who are in one as I meet with them, who have fallen for one rationalization or another. They’ve fallen for the lies of the seductress of adultery.
I don’t know if I’ve heard them all, but I’ve heard a lot. To expose the lies beforeheand might keep us from falling into the trap. One such lie is, “I know it is wrong, but I deserve this. I work so hard, and this is like a reward.” I hear that to justify pornography a lot, and affairs too.
Another one is old but still very much in play, you complete it for me, “I’ve found my ____ ______.” See, you’ve heard it. Christians have told me, “This new person is the one God had in mind for me all along. I made a mistake when I married x.” I’ve looked at them and said, “Are you kidding me? Are you saying God wants you to have an affair?” And, by the way, guess how many relationships that start as affairs actually do turn into a new marriage…even when the other person promises that they will leave their spouse for you? Guess the percentage? 3%. You’ve got a 3% chance of that relationship actually working out. Now, I know there is someone out there thinking, “Ooh, that means I’ve got a chance!” No! 3% odds are not good. You’ve got a 97% chance that the relationship will not progress. Don’t be stupid.
Maybe my favorite, that I’ve heard a good bit, is, “I know God wants me to be happy, and this person makes me happy.” I love that one. Whenever I hear that one, I’ll pass them a Bible and open and say, “Show me in the Bible where God says he wants you to be happy.” I’ve read it more than a few times, but I’ve never found that. I’d love to see it.” And it’s not there. God doesn’t want us to be happy. He wants us to be obedient, and of obedience flows real joy, often accompanied by suffering. God is never going to want you to do something sinful.
Still another is, “My husband or wife is just not meeting my needs. They never listen, don’t appreciate me, always criticize me.” And that is sad, but an affair is not the answer for that problem. Our job in marriage is to focus on meeting the needs of our spouse, and looking to God to meet our needs if our spouse is a little slow on the uptake. Our job is to communicate that, try to work through that, but getting my own needs met is never to be my preoccupation. Love focuses on the needs of the other person, not on my own.
I’ve already told you another one, the “Hey, I’m a guy! Come one, man!” line. Let me give you a hint on this one. This line doesn’t work on pastors. If you are in my office, make something else up, but not this one. You just look like a moron saying that in a pastor’s office. You might sound like a genius at the bar after a few too many, but not with a pastor.
Lots of people fall into the trap of adultery, and every one of them justifies it some way. But what Solomon is saying we better hear: Be careful! Because affairs are always a path of destruction, which brings me to the next section of this talk:
Slide: ___________________________ ) The Destruction of Affairs
What did Solomon say again? “
Slide: ___________________________ ) Proverbs 7:26-27
Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.” He says like an animal going into a trap, it doesn’t feel like a trap, until the arrow pierces your liver, and you realize how foolish you were.
Affairs are always devastating, and as a pastor I’ve seen the destruction of it up close far too many times. If you are in an affair, contemplating an affair, or might one day, just take some time to think about where it will end, the destruction you will cause. What will that affair cost you? Half your net worth for one thing! It will cost you your peace, your conscience before God. Your reputation. Your character, as you become a chronic liar. Your spouse, you will crush their heart. And how about your kids? Next time you think about an affair, picture yourself explaining it to your kids one day, why you are moving out. Few things are as damaging to a child, and you are going to willingly shatter their world? Picture yourself at your daughter’s wedding, dad, and maybe it is someone else who walks her down the aisle. Even if you are repentant, and your spouse is gracious enough to fight for the marriage, and God does redeem and rebuild, that is great—but the consequences will always be there.
I have yet to meet with one person who was glad that they had an affair, even in the rare situations where they married the new person. Eventually, people wake up and see the destruction. They understand why Solomon would say that the road of an affair is the road to the grave, where so many good things in life die. Next time you find yourself justifying crossing some boundary with a person who is not your spouse, think about the destruction. Don’t just rush into the snare.
To help us avoid the trap, it is helpful to be aware of the
Slide: ___________________________ ) The Process of an Affair
which we’ll talk about next. Solomon lays out this whole process in his little story, because rarely does someone just jump right into bed with somebody else. It is a process of little step after little step, and then you look around and realize you are somewhere you never thought you’d be.
Before we lay out the process, let me lay out what makes people more susceptible to an affair. If one of these is true of you, then you are ripe for an affair. The first is playing loose with lust, what Jesus calls adultery of the heart. In
Slide: ___________________________ ) Matthew 5: 27-28
Jesus says, “You have heard it said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Wow! That ups the ante a lot. If you just look at another person and lust, you’ve committed adultery? Now, understand that Jesus is not saying that adultery of the heart, lust, is as bad as adultery of the body, which is far more devastating—but it still crosses a big line, and once we cross that line, we are far more likely to cross the other.
What is lust? Lust is not looking at someone and thinking they are pretty, or thinking they are handsome. That’s not lust. Lust goes beyond that. The way I heard one pastor say it is this: “Lust is playing out a movie in your mind where you play a starring role.” Lust goes into fantasy, where you play the starring role in that fantasy, of being with or getting with that person. So many don’t see it as a big deal, but Jesus is saying, “It’s a big deal!”
That’s what pornography is about. You are committing adultery of the heart. Porn is obviously about lust. But that is also what many Facebook interactions are. You start interacting with someone, and after a while the conversation shifts, becomes flirty, and you share more and more intimate things. One thing we see a lot of is Facebook affairs, emotional affairs where people have clearly crossed a line. That causes damage itself, but also makes us that much more susceptible to affairs. I’d say from my experience with people who’ve had affairs that porn and social media accessed on computers are the biggest precursors to affairs, because it changes the way you see the opposite sex. Porn sexualizes relationships and gives you these unrealistic expectations that your spouse can’t meet, and you start looking for it. Social media does the same thing on an emotional level. Neither porn nor social media relationships are realistic, and they make you dissatisfied with the real and more open to trying to realize it outside the marriage.
The other main susceptibility factor is just a neglected marriage. If you want to have an affair, or want your spouse to, just neglect your marriage. Don’t foster communication. Don’t do date nights. Don’t get away together. Don’t meet the needs of your spouse. Just be critical and cold. Those things don’t justify an affair, but they make someone much more open to the seduction of one. That’s what Solomon is going to tell his sons to do in order to protect themselves against adultery. He says in
Slide: ___________________________ ) Proverbs 5:15-21
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 grateful 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 adulterous, and embrace the bosom of a different woman? For the ways of a person are in front of the Lord’s eyes, and the Lord weighs all that person’s paths.
The most important person preventative of an affair is a healthy marriage. When the grass starts to look greener on the other side of the fence, water your own lawn. That’s a sign you need to build your own marriage, and keep it healthy and enjoyable. That’s a lot more work than a quick affair or a pornography escapade or a Facebook emotional affair, but it is far more rewarding and God-honoring and life-giving. If you are neglecting your marriage, beware! You are susceptible. Satan would love to destroy your life, your home, your kids, so be careful, because you could easily fall into his trap.
With the susceptibility factors in mind, then let’s uncover the process of an affair, so we can spot it before it actually develops. You may be in this process right now and not even know it. All the books on affairs and how they happen lay out a fairly similar process that most people go through, and I’ll lay out those steps. If you want to have an affair, you may want to take notes. If you don’t want to have an affair, you really need to take notes…because this is how they happen. As I go through these steps, I’ll throw in occasional quotes, and these are real quotes from real people who’ve had affairs. They are Christians who have found forgiveness in Christ, and in some cases their marriages have been saved and in other cases not—but these are all from Christ-followers who fell into an affair, who wish they would have stopped mid-process, but didn’t. Here’s the process:
Slide: ___________________________ ) Common Interests
Most affairs start pretty innocently. You find someone that you have something in common with, and you get closer and closer. Maybe you work together. Maybe you both have a passion for a similar hobby, or topic of learning. You both pour yourself into work for example. God might even be something you have in common. In the case of the pastor on our staff years ago who had an affair, they were both very involved in our worship ministry. They had in common a desire to worship God, and that common desire drew them closer and closer together.
Slide: ___________________________ ) Comparisons with your Spouse
As you interact with this person you have so much in common with, you realize how little you and your spouse have in common. You also start noticing things about this other person, that makes them so different, so much better, than your spouse. He actually listens to you, cares about your opinions. She is positive and fun, not critical and cold. He is so much more energetic and passionate, a real leader. He is so together, so on top of things. You start wishing you’d married someone more like that.
Slide: ___________________________ ) Emotional Bonding
As you get closer, the conversations become deeper, and you find yourself talking about things that are much more personal, and the person actually listens and can relate. It feels so good to connect this way with somebody. The other person starts meeting some of your emotional needs, such as affection, empathy, affirmation. You feel like this person really gets you, and you get them. Some quotes: "She was there when I needed her."
"My ego was so starved for affirmation that I would have taken it from anyone -- I guess that's what started the whole thing.""No one had ever really believed in me until he came along. He encouraged me, inspired me, and believed so deeply in what I could become."
Slide: ___________________________ ) Crossed Boundaries
You’ve actually already crossed some, but now you find yourself crossing some boundaries you realize are boundaries, but you justify them as no big deal. You find yourself coming up with excuses to see the other person more. When you do, you look forward to it, and you try to look your best. Guys may start going to the gym again, watching what they eat, putting on cologne. Girls think about what they will wear.
You may begin to flirt and tease the other person, on the edge of what is really appropriate, but it is just all in fun you think to yourself. From there, come some small touches, innocent enough at first—a brush of a hand, sitting closer than typical, a little shoulder rub after a tense business deal. Maybe little notes and gifts start to be exchanged.
A few quotes: "Then we started teasing each other, often with double-meaning kind of things. Sometimes we'd tease each other even when we were together as two couples. It seemed innocent enough at first, but more and more we knew it really did mean something to us." "We would laugh and talk about how it seemed like we were "made for each other" so much. Then we'd tease each other about what kind of husband or wife the other one would have been if we'd married each other."
"The first time she touched me was when we were doing registration together. We were sitting beside each other. I'd say something cute or funny and she would giggle, then under the table she'd squeeze the top of my leg with her hand. That was really exciting to me." "Every time she shook hands with me at the door she seemed to linger, sort of holding my hand more than shaking it. No one else would notice, but I knew there was more to her touch than appeared to the eyes. She knew too."
Slide: ___________________________ ) Secret Meetings and Cover-Ups
Now you find yourself arranging to be with each other more and more, enough that you begin to cover them up, keep them secret. You certainly don’t want your spouse to know who you are with. So you start telling little lies so they won’t suspect anything. The web of deception starts.
Slide: ___________________________ ) Physical Connection
After a while, the little more innocent touches become less and less innocent. A brush of a hand becomes more than a brush, a hug becomes more of a lingering hug, and things progress. You are not having sex yet, but hugs become kisses, and kisses become more kissy kisses, and it is electrifying. Quotes: "The whole thing seemed so exciting by now. I was such a fool. We were meeting secretly and both of us were fearful of being caught. But that only seemed to increase our common ground. When we'd meet, we would embrace as if we'd not been together for years -- like in the movies when someone comes home from the war." "Once we started meeting secretly the end came fast. We kissed and hugged like two teenagers going parking for their first time." "It just felt so good to be hugged and loved by somebody who really cared about me."
Slide: ___________________________ ) Sex
You end up where you never thought you’d end up, as these people share: "At about this time I began fooling myself into thinking I was heroic for not going "all the way." That's what I wanted to do. But by doing "everything but" I fooled myself into thinking I was successfully resisting temptation. What I didn't realize was that, not only was what I was doing wrong, but that eventually I would take the next step. It's just not possible to freeze a relationship -- you have to go ahead with it, or break it off totally. Soon I quit resisting and was swept into outright adultery." "One thing led to another and finally we ended up in bed with each other." "Though we never intended it to go that far, we eventually went all the way and had sex."
None of these people thought they’d end up having sex with someone other than their spouse. But bit by bit, compromise after compromise, they ended up where they never thought they would be. That’s why the Bible is very practical about this and other forms of sexual temptation. The Bible never tells us to fight sexual temptation, but to do what? Flee it! Run away.
Slide: ___________________________ ) 1 Corinthians 6:18
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Don’t try to stay in a situation and fight it, because you will lose. You run away.
Some years ago I was talking about this, and the next week a lady came up to me after that week’s service, and said, “Last week, what you shared saved my life.” I then asked her how, and she explained. She was on a business trip to New York with her boss, who is a very nice-looking, together, accomplished man. He also happened to be a married man. They had traveled a lot together, and their conversations had become more and more personal. Over dinner at a fancy restaurant, he leaned over and grabbed her hand. It felt good. He started telling her how unique she is, and how he has always longed to know someone like her. She knew where this was going, and was going with it, and then thought about the message, to run. Run away. So, she did. She literally got up from the table, and ran out of the restaurant. She said, “Jeff, I would have gone with it, but I ran. And I am so glad I ran. Thank you for that message.”
If you are in this process with someone, run! Don’t stay in the process and think you are going to beat it. You aren’t. Bring it out in the open with a trusted friend or counselor. At some point you probably need to talk to your spouse about it, especially if it is has progressed. You need to be open, because if you keep it secret and stay in the process, you will lose. Just like the Mavericks, no matter how talented you are, you will lose.
What about those of you who have had an affair? You need to bring it out in the open and work through it. Having an affair is not the end of the world, God will forgive. He won’t take away all the consequences, but he will remove the guilt and shame. He is a redeemer and rebuilder, and if your spouse is open, he can rebuild a marriage, and like the old six million dollar man, he can rebuild it stronger and better than before. It is painful work, but God can empower it if you are open. As one wonderful example of that, let’s watch one such story here at Chase Oaks of the pain and redemption of an affair.
God is a redeemer. There is nothing you have done that is beyond his forgiveness. Satan wants you to be bound by shame and guilt the rest of your life, but not God. God wants to forgive and rebuild. And if your spouse is open, then he can rebuild a marriage. Kris and Courtney Tyler (Janette is double checking with Steve) are now leaders in Sacred Marriage. Before the affair, their marriage wasn’t strong enough to be in that role. By God’s amazing grace, it is now…stronger than before.
Do the hard work of building a solid marriage, and don’t torpedo it. Today we are talking about affairs, because they are happening all over the place, not just in culture but in our church. That’s why I canned a good message to talk about it. Though God can redeem, no one would choose the destruction that they cause. If you are in process, run away. If you are flippant, I hope today changes your mind and soul. And if you think you are immune, you are the most likely to fall.
At the end of this marriage series, if you are married, I’m going to ask you to renew your vows—this time just you and God. Revisit your vows that you made to your spouse before God. Do you remember standing there in your tux or your dress? Do you remember saying those words? Ask him to help you to stay faithful to that, to empower you to do your part of the hard work of building a solid marriage.