Matthew 5:28 - Being Good by Not Being Bad?

Matt. 5:28: Being Good by Not Being Bad?

Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed
adultery with her already in his heart.

Mat 5:28 (KJV)

If it is true that the thoughts and intents of the heart are as
much brought into account as the actions, and that when we have
inwardly consented to a sin, we have already sinned, whether we ever go
ahead and commit the action or not, then why not go ahead with the
action? If we have sinned already, and lost the battle, why not follow
through with impure actions?

Well, first of all, there may be some good moral reasons why not
to follow through with the sinful action that have nothing to do
with God or victory or spiritual life. If we have enough willpower to
keep from killing someone we are angry with, we will be able to stay
out of jail, and that's a plus. And there would be some real
benefits for the person we are angry with, too! There are all kinds of
moral benefits to be reaped from positive behavior. But it's still not
victory in God's sight. And there is another reason, besides the moral
benefits, that make it a good idea not to follow every inward sin with an
outward manifestation of it. There is power available to turn back to
Jesus and His power before the inner failure is worked out.

When we understand that we have already sinned when we have
given inward consent to wrong, and if we no longer call that victory,
then we have the choice of turning to God for repentance before we
follow through on the action. We can realize that our eyes have somehow
been attracted away from Christ, and will not even attempt to fight
the enemy in our own strength, but admit our helplessness and turn
to Him.

For the growing Christian, there may be many times when we will
find ourselves depending upon our own strength, and giving in
inwardly to temptation. Because of the moral benefits to be reaped, we
may be forced to grit our teeth and use our own backbone to keep
from following internal defeat with external sinning. But we should
not call this victory! If we are unwilling to admit that we are
walking apart from Christ, it will be much longer before we are willing
to turn and come again under His power. But when we admit that we
have sinned already, and turn to Him again for repentance, He is able
to give it to us.

This devotional is also available at

This devotional is also available as part of a yearly devotional
book, Faith that Works, by Moris Venden, published by Review and
Herald Publishing Association (www.rhpa.org).