Introduction: Have you heard it said, “I don’t want to be a Christian
because it is all a bunch of ‘don’t do this and don’t do that?'”
People who say this kind of thing know almost nothing about God’s
desires for our life. Christianity, as we will learn this week, is
mostly a battle for the heart and not the hands. Let’s dive into our

  1. Jesus Raising the Stakes

    1. Read Matthew 5:21-22. Where is it said “Don’t murder?” (It
      is one of the Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:13.)

      1. When you think of things that a Christian should not
        do, how high on the list of “do nots” is murder?

      2. Jesus equates being angry with murder. Is that fair?

        1. Is Jesus just adding to our list of “do nots” in
          a way that is going overboard?

      3. Jesus goes further than just being angry. Notice
        Matthew 5:22 where He says if we call someone a fool
        we are in danger of the fire of hell. The Ten
        Commandments forbid murder, Jesus now elevates anger
        and even calling someone a fool to the same level.
        Does that seem appropriate to you?

        1. Two weeks ago, I was visiting another church and
          the Sabbath School class was studying this part
          of the Beatitudes. I had my Palm Pilot with me
          to use as my Bible. It has the New Living
          Translation on it. To my great annoyance, the
          NLT translated “fool” as “idiot.” I rarely call
          anyone a “fool,” but I often positively identify
          other drivers as idiots. Bird watchers identify
          birds. What is wrong with identifying drivers?

    2. Read Matthew 5:27-28. Where is it said “Don’t commit
      adultery?” (Again, this is part of the Ten Commandments:
      Exodus 20:14.)

      1. Is Jesus equating looking lustfully with committing

        1. Or, is committing adultery in your heart
          something that is not as serious a sin as
          committing adultery?

        2. Again, Jesus is raising our thoughts to the
          level of very serious sins. Is this fair?

  2. Mind Crimes

    1. Read Mark 7:20-23. What does Jesus mean when He says “from
      within” comes all of this sin? (He is speaking of the mind
      – what Jesus calls the “heart.”)

    2. Read James 1:13-15. What is James talking about when he
      writes when “desire has conceived?” (He is speaking of the
      mind, our thoughts.)

      1. If you asked James whether he believed that our
        thoughts are the key to life or death, what would he
        say? (James points to the natural progression from
        our evil desires to death.)

    3. What do these two texts (Mark and James)teach us about the
      origin of sin in our life? (All sin begins with the

      1. What is the logical conclusion then about how to deal
        with our thoughts? Is it okay to think about
        something if we just don’t do it? (No. Jesus’
        instruction to us is that the true source of murder
        and adultery is our mind. If we want to avoid
        adultery we need to avoid thinking about it.)

    4. With this background, why is calling someone an “idiot”
      ( Matthew 5:22) a problem? (I think Jesus is telling us
      that moving to the act of murder is a process. Calling
      someone a name like this decreases your respect for that
      person. It is the first step on the path towards murder.
      Being angry with a person is the next step. Most people do
      not complete this path, but Jesus tells us to avoid
      getting on the path at all.)

    5. When I was a young man, I knew of a minister who left his
      wife and children and ran off with another woman. The
      speculation was that something just snapped in the mind of
      a good man and he changed. Do you think this is true? (No.
      I would be willing to bet that he played this through in
      his mind hundreds of times before he actually did it.
      Sinful actions are the result of a mental process. These
      things do not happen overnight.)

    6. Read Exodus 20:17. What does it mean to “covet your
      neighbor’s wife?” (Here, right at the end of the most
      famous “do not” list, is proof that these sins begin in
      the mind. If you do not want to commit adultery, don’t
      covet the spouse of someone else.)

  1. Cut It Off and Pluck It Out

    1. Let’s go back to Jesus and the Beatitudes. Read Matthew
      5:28-30. Does Jesus’ statement make any logical sense
      after what He said about the mind and what we have

      1. If you gouged out your right eye because you had a
        habit of looking lustfully at women, would it address
        the root of the problem?

      2. If you cut off your right hand, because you had a
        habit of stealing, would it address the root problem?
        (The answer to both of these questions is “No.” When
        Jesus taught us not too look lustfully, not to call
        names and not to be angry, He taught us that the
        source of sin is in the mind. It is not your hand or
        your eye that causes you to sin. It is your brain.
        You would need to pluck out your brain for this to

        1. Why, then, is Jesus giving us instructions that
          He knows will not work – instructions which are
          contrary to what He just taught? (We obviously
          cannot gouge out our brain – and still live for
          Christ. At the same time, no want wants to lose
          an eye or a hand. Jesus is simply telling us to
          consider the seriousness of this problem. If you
          could give up an eye or a hand and be sure of
          heaven, you would do it, right? Thus, Jesus is
          saying that if we would be willing to lose an
          eye or a hand for heaven, how about losing the
          sin? Why not take the sin problem in your life
          very seriously?)

  2. Mind Relief

    1. Read Colossians 3:1-2. We are told to set our minds on
      “things above.” How, as a practical matter, would you go
      about doing that?

    2. Read Colossians 3:5-8. How many of the items on these two
      lists are issues of the mind? (Quite a few.)

      1. When Colossians 3:7 tells us that we used to “walk in
        these ways,” what does that mean?

      2. How can we avoid “walking” in these mental sins?
        (“Walking” would refer to our usual practices. It
        would refer to the direction of our life. God tells
        us that we need to make a mental decision to avoid
        these things that cause our minds to be involved in
        impurity, lust, evil desires and greed.)

      3. These days private viewing of pornography on the
        Internet is a very big business. What if you are
        looking at a picture of a woman (man) who you do not
        know, will never have the possibility of touching
        (much less anything else), and you have disciplined
        your mind not to think about having sex with the
        person in the picture. Is that okay or is that sin?
        (If you say this is okay, you are missing the point
        of the lesson. Sin begins with a walk on the wrong
        side. When Colossians tells us to “put to death”
        “impurity, lust, evil desires” and not “walk in these
        ways” it is teaching us that we need to completely
        avoid those things which promote evil desires.)

    3. Read Colossians 3:12-14. When the Bible tells us to
      “clothe” ourselves with these mental attitudes, is this
      the practical answer to how we set our minds (Colossians
      3:1) on “things above?”

      1. How would you go about “clothing” yourself with the
        right mental attitude?

    4. Since we have been looking at the practical side of making
      God the Lord of our thoughts, can we change our thoughts?
      Can we switch our mental “clothing?”

      1. What is our most critical step for changing our
        thoughts? (Read Philippians 4:8. What we put into our
        mind has a terrific influence on the nature of our
        thoughts. If you are spending more time reading
        Stephen King than reading the Bible, there is no
        doubt you have on the wrong mental clothing – period.
        This is not rocket science.)

      2. What is the ultimate source for making God the Lord
        of our thoughts? (Read Titus 3:5. We are responsible
        for the decision that we want to set our thoughts on
        things above and walk in God’s ways. We make the
        decision on what we put in our mind. But, the change
        in our mind is a matter for the power of the Holy

    1. Friend, your Christian walk begins with your thoughts.
      Will you determine to make God the Lord of your

  1. Next week: Lord of Our Desires.