Lessons from the Ledge
September 17-18, 2005
The new stats are just in: 80% of all marriages will deal with an affair.
The Bible says in 2 Samuel Chapter 11, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful…”
These two words in the Hebrew, “very beautiful,” come from two words you might have heard before—Carmen Electra.
“…and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, ‘Isn’t this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?’”
David, a man after God’s own heart; David, a man who was on a roll; David, a man who had won every battle; a man who had established Jerusalem as the capital city; a man who had just written the Psalms; a man who was the toast of the town; a man whose face was plastered on every magazine cover in the Middle East—found himself one afternoon on his roof top.
He should have been fighting. He should have been on the battlefield, but he wasn’t. Who knows? Maybe David was feeling prideful. The Bible says pride comes before a fall. Maybe he said, “You know, there’s no way I could sin. There’s no way I could jump off the ledge and the edge of compromise into the abyss of promiscuity. Not me.”
David had it going on. He was at the top of his game. He was at the top of his game militarily, politically, and financially. Maybe he was a little prideful.
And then, maybe just maybe, pride segued into boredom, the monotony of life. He was just dieseling through every single day leading this nation. Sometimes when we’re prideful and little bored, we can be emotionally low. We’re in a rut and we want a quick fix. And when we’re vulnerable; when we’re walking on the edge and the ledge of compromise, we’re more susceptible to over-spending, over-eating and over-sexing.
Scripture records that David saw a woman. She was very beautiful. Then David had someone to find out about her. David was prideful. Yes, he was probably bored.
And then notice too, he was filled with lust. He moved from the middle of the roof to the edge and the ledge of lust. If you know about ancient architecture, you know that David’s palace was in the middle of Jerusalem. Picture in your mind’s eye about two or three square miles of homes around the palace. If you’ve traveled to the Middle East you know that homes have roof tops that are flat. So David could not see anything immoral or anything that would cause him to stumble or to fall from the middle of his roof. But he was led to the ledge. He was pushed to the ledge. There was a force, a lust in his life.
And what is lust? Lust is a God-given desire that’s gone haywire. I did a popular series on lust several years ago. People were hanging from the rafters here at Fellowship Church.
Have you ever seen one of those bug zappers before? Have you seen one of those contraptions with the giant blue light? You turn one on and zillions of bugs will just fly right into the blue light. They have those bug eyes and they just fly to their death. It seems like more of the intelligent bugs would take a step back and say, “Hey, man, when my friends fly toward the blue light they don’t come back! Look at all the dead bug carcasses beneath the blue light. I’m not going there!”
David had bug eyes for that biblical babe, Bathsheba. He was on the ledge of lust. The first look was not what got him into trouble. We’re going to be attracted to the opposite sex. It was the second look, the third look. Then, “Hey, go check her out for me. Find out who she is.”
David knew who she was. Come on! Her husband, Uriah the Hittite, was one of David’s top 30 soldiers; a part of his royal guard. He’d seen Bathsheba around at parties and get togethers. He knew. What was David doing? What was this guy doing? A man after God’s own heart. What was he doing walking on the edge and the ledge of lust?
Women would bathe on the roof tops during the afternoon. Water was caught in cisterns and the water would be warmed by the afternoon sun. And they would take hot baths there. David was watching and he knew where Bathsheba lived. He saw her, he lusted after her, and now the plot clots because he was contemplating this whole situation.
Now look at 2 Samuel 11:4, “Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her.”
David slept in the wrong bed. David broke his covenant before God. David leaped off the ledge and the edge of morality.
It’s difficult to walk on the ledge and the edge, because one missed step in my size 11 Kenneth Cole boots; one change in the direction of the wind; maybe one time you’re distracted and you look the wrong way, you can fall. And I can fall, too.
David and Bathsheba had sex together. Several days later Bathsheba goes to Kroger, buys a pregnancy test, and she text messages David these words, “David, I’m pregnant. -Bathsheba”
Can you imagine David’s reaction and response? What did David do? You’d think, since he was a man after God’s own heart, he would confess and come clean. But David starts this intricate cover up. He says to himself, “You know what? I’ll just call for Uriah and act like I need to talk to him in my palace. And then surely Uriah will go and make love to his wife.”
So that’s what he did. Read 2 Samuel Chapter 11:8, “Then David said to Uriah…”--now Uriah had not seen his wife for weeks and weeks and weeks—“‘Go down to your house and wash your feet.’” That means, “Have a good time with your spouse.” “So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him.”
Maybe it was a gift card from Victoria Secret, I don’t know. But Uriah did not go and have sexual relations with Bathsheba. He was so loyal that he slept that night on David’s door step. The next morning David was on his second cup of espresso, he looks out and there’s Uriah asleep.
So the next day he gets Uriah drunk. “Uriah, go home and see your wife.” Uriah slept again at David’s door step.
Finally, David does something that we all do. And it is very, very tempting. Once we sin and once we try to cover it up as opposed to coming clean, what do we do? We try to cover it up more. And we end up covering it up and sinning more and more and our sin becomes deeper and darker; and we do this free fall into the abyss of immorality.
That’s what David did. He decides to have Uriah killed. Are you ready for that? Killed! So he gives Uriah this note and Uriah takes the note to General Joab and the note says, “Hey, General Joab, tell Uriah to go to the front lines. And then you back the troops off and he’ll be killed.”
And sure enough, Joab figured everything out and the troops backed off and Uriah was killed. Uriah is history now. David thinks, “Okay, man, I’ve gotten away with it.”
But he knew down deep he knew in his heart of hearts that Joab knew. But Joab was his General. Surely he wouldn’t confront David. And David knew that God knew, but he didn’t do anything about it. He just kept that guilt and that pain and that remorse. He was imprisoned by it for about year.
And maybe some of you right now can identify with that. Maybe some of you right now are carrying around guilt, pain, and remorse because you have taken the leap off the ledge of moral compromise, and you’re sleeping in the wrong bed. You’re hooked up with someone who is not your spouse.
Or maybe, just maybe, you’re on the ledge but you’ve not taken the dive off. But you’re cultivating that relationship. You’re comparing this person to your spouse. And the next step is to do physically what you’ve already done emotionally and mentally.
David, a man after God’s own heart, was imprisoned by guilt and pain and remorse. He was carrying it around. Then he brings Bathsheba in to be his wife and a year melts off the clock.
David’s spiritual advisor, Nathan, is talking to him one day. David’s background was a shepherd and he loved sheep and all this. And Nathan said, “David, did you hear the story about the sheep? And David said “No.” Nathan said, “Well, there was this really wealthy guy who had herds and herds of sheep. And one of his big time clients had just flown in on a private jet and, David, this guy wanted to feed him lamb. But instead of using one of his sheep, he stole the lone sheep that a family had reared from a baby sheep. And he killed that sheep and fed it to this wealthy guy. He took the only family pet from these poor people. Can you believe it, David?”
Well, David goes on tilt. He says, “That rich guy needs to repay that poor guy four times over.” David said, “In fact, that rich guy needs to be killed!”
And then Nathan locked eyes with his king and said, “David, you are that man. You are that man.” And David was hit with that Mack truck of guilt and remorse and pain. He faced the consequences of his sexual sin.
Listen to what God said to him in 2 Samuel Chapter 12. God had talked about everything he’d done in David’s life how he had blessed him militarily, politically, and financially. David was probably a multi-billionaire. Here’s what God said in 2 Samuel 12:8, “And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.” I would have given you even more.
David thought he was signing up for what? Pleasure. What did he get? Pain. He thought he was signing up for real freedom. What did he get? Incarceration. He thought what he was doing was private. He thought, “No one will ever know.” But it went public.
I had a close friend of mine tell me several days ago about his father who committed adultery on his mom. He said, “Ed, the strange thing about my father’s sin has been the fact that he ended up marrying this third party. And he said, “The three things that led him away from my mom, the three things that attracted him to this third party are the three things he hates about her today.”
So we think we’re getting one thing when we commit adultery, when we get involved in sexual sin. Ultimately, though, we get the opposite of what we think we’re getting. That’s what so sinister about it.
A while back Lisa and I went to the movies. And as we were watching these previews, we were saying, “Man, we’ve got to see that movie. Those previews are incredible!” There were just four quick scenes and it was all action and romance. “Whoa! We have got to see that!”
Well the movie came out, we saw it, and it was horrible! The previews were awesome, but the movie was painful to watch.
That’s what Satan does with adultery. That’s what he does with pre-marital sex. He shows us just a few previews and we think, “Oh, it’s incredible! Clandestine meetings; out of town business trips where you meet with the person and no one knows about it; hotel rooms; ecstasy and all that. But that’s just a little bit, because the movie, friends, is painful. And some of you know exactly what I’m talking about. You know the pain; you know the agony of it.
David faced the consequences of adultery. Here’s what he says before God in Psalm 51:3-4, “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me….” Isn’t that true about sexual sin? Sexual sin is always before us because sexual sin is unique. It’s multi-faceted and multi-dimensional. It’s not just a physical thing. It’s a spiritual thing, an emotional thing, and a psychology thing. [The verses continue] “…my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.”
Here’s something interesting about David. Study it. He prayed about everything in his life except his love life. And what messed him up? You guessed it. His love life.
Second Samuel 11:27 says, “…the thing David had done displeased the Lord.”
In Second Samuel 12:10 God says to David, “Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.”
The consequences of adultery. It always hurts innocent by-standers. Don’t’ say, “Well, it will not affect my kids. It will not affect my family. It will not affect my job.”
Just read about the life of David. The sword never left his house. Why? Because he took a dive off of the ledge and the edge of faithfulness and he jumped into unfaithfulness. He slept in the wrong bed.
What happened to him? Amnon, one of David’s sons, raped his own half-sister, Tamar. Another of David’s son, Absolom, killed Amnon. Then Absolom tried to usurp his father from the throne and was killed in the process. David and Bathsheba’s first child died. And ultimately, David’s kingdom was split.
David and Bathsheba had another child named Solomon, who ended up being the wealthiest man who has ever walked on planet earth. Solomon had one problem. What was his problem? Women, immorality. Where did he learn that? Do you see the generational sin? Do you see the generational tendency there? It’s amazing. David was facing the consequences of sin.
Last time I gave you this scenario: What if I jumped in my truck and robbed a bank? The cops would get me and throw me in prison. [Ed sings] “Bad boys, bad boys! Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?” I’d be locked up in Huntsville. What if I hit my knees and said, “Lord, forgive me. Lord, forgive me, have mercy on me. I’m so sorry. I was out of mind when I robbed the bank!” Would God forgive me? No doubt. Just like that [Ed snaps]. But he’s not going to break me out of prison. We face the consequences of sin. Some of the time? No! All of the time. David faced it.
Those of us here who are believers love the verses that are so popular:
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son…”
1 John 4:16, “God is love.”
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
We love verses like those. We have tee shirts with them plastered on them. We’ve got bracelets and plaques and crosses. And it’s all so comforting and nice. And that’s great.
But we don’t really like verses, or we don’t really promote verses like Hebrews 10:31, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Or Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Or Matthew 8:12, “But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
You know, about this time of year those lists are printed: What’s hot and what’s not. As we look into 2006, we hear about what’s in, what’s out. Well, over the last decade or so in Christianity, especially in Christian teaching, the wrath of God, the discipline of God, the holiness of God has gone out of style.
“Let’s just talk about one side of God—the candy man God—because we live in candy land. And God wants to just give me more and more candy. And if I have enough faith, I’m going to live this blessed life. It doesn’t matter if I’m involved in sin. I’ve got to look inside myself and think about how God will forgive me and God just wants me to be happy.”
“Well, Ed, my God…”
Your God? Man, that’s whack! That’s not the God of the Bible. God is not an angry God, but he is a God who will get angry.
“Well, man,” you might be saying, “I know a guy or girl and they jump from bed to bed and they’ve not missed a pay check. They break the sin of adultery in a spectacular way, man! And they’re living here and driving this and she has this kind of jewelry. Man, what’s the deal?”
God does not settle all accounts in 90 days or four or five months or even four or five years. But he will settle those accounts. We will face the consequences of it. So we need to understand several things.
IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD
First of all, when it comes to the ledge and the edge, we need to understand faithfulness, being faithful and committed to our spouse, is all about God.
Lisa and I have been married for almost 24 years now and we’ve been faithful to one another for 24 years. And if you ask me why, I could give you a lot of reasons, and I’ll talk about those in a little while. But the main reason is this: It’s all about God.
God loves me and loves Lisa so much, he is so faithful to us, and he has such a purpose and a plan for our lives that we honor him in that way because of God. We’re under the authority of God. And when I step out from underneath God’s authority, what happens? I get hammered by hell (h-e-l-l), pelted by problems, and drenched in dysfunction. So, if you want to roll the dice and sleep in the wrong bed; if you want to leap off of the ledge; if you want to get out from underneath the authority and the protection and the purpose and the plan of God, go for it. But I’ve got to tell you, biblically speaking, you will face consequences. You will experience the collateral damage that it causes. It’s all about God.
BORROW FROM THE FUTURE
There’s something else you need to think about. Not only is it all about God, but I need to borrow some stuff from the future. When I’m on the ledge and the edge, when I’m looking and I’m considering jumping in the wrong bed and I’m just walking on this ledge and trying to balance myself, I need to think about something. I need to think about the future. I need to borrow some pain from the future. Ask yourself, “If I do that with that person, what am I signing up for?”
And that’s one of the amazing things about the Bible. We can look in the Bible and borrow pain and pleasure from the past to help us make decisions in the present that will give us a great trajectory in the future. But borrow some pain from the future.
Also borrow some pleasure from the future. “Well, Ed, what are you talking about?” I’m talking about this.
If I live a life of faithfulness; if I back off ledge and the edge of compromise and live in the middle of the roof so to speak, what’s going to happen? I’m going to have a purpose and a power. I’m going to leave a legacy for my kids of faithfulness. My marriage will represent Christ’s relationship in love that he has for the local church. I will have influence and leadership in this family unit. That’s the kind of pleasure that I’m signing up for, if I do it God’s way.
So, we look at the Bible and it gives us the opportunity to go back in the past and borrow pain and pleasure. Also, in my own life and your own life, we can look at the future and borrow pain and pleasure. So borrow stuff. It’s okay.
LEAVE THE LEDGE
Here’s something else I want you to do. Again, I know we’ve got some people on the ledge right now. You’re thinking about your co-worker. You’ve done everything except sleep with her or him. You’re thinking about that person around the neighborhood. You’re thinking about that person in the health club. You’re thinking about the person you’ve known for a long, long time, and you’ve cultivated the relationship. You’ve compared your spouse and now you’re thinking about connecting sexually. You’re on the ledge and the edge.
Maybe you’re channel surfing and you’re watching “hell’s box office” or “skin-a-max” and it’s painting pictures of lust and immorality in your life. It’s time to leave the ledge.
“Well, Ed, how do I leave the edge, man? How do I leave the ledge?”
I’m going to challenge you to write the Ten Commandments. Just take out a piece of paper and a pen this afternoon and write, I should say re-write, the Ten Commandments. Re-write them.
You’re saying, “Ed, are you telling me to tweak Scripture?”
No! Write your ten commandments with your spouse. If you are a single adult, write Ten Commandments down. Write the ten commandments of faithfulness. [Ed holds up a piece of paper that has his and Lisa’s ten commandments of marriage.] And these are the Ten Commandments I wrote years ago with Lisa that I have lived by simply by God’s grace and mercy and power. I live by them because I don’t want to walk on the ledge and the edge of compromise. I don’t walk on the ledge and the edge of sexual sin, because one missed step, one change in the direction of the wind and I’m into the abyss of promiscuity. The pathway of promiscuity is always, always, always predictable. Always.
Here are the Ten Commandments. I share them with you:
[Ed is standing at the edge of the stage. As he reads each commandment, he takes a step back toward the middle of the stage.]
- “I shall have no other human relationships before Lisa, including the kids.” Spouses stay, kids leave. Build your home around your marriage. Don’t become a Kid CEO household.
- “Remember your date night and keep it holy.” Faithfully, Lisa and I protect, guard and schedule our date night. And it’s more difficult today than it was ten years ago. I wish I could tell you that it’s just easy. But scheduling and rearranging stuff, and picking up kids and all that…it’s tough. But it is worth it. It pays monstrous dividends. So, let’s water our own grass as opposed to looking and longing for other stuff. Because no matter how difficult it is to make your marriage work, the price tag is always greater when you end up in the wrong bed and try to do it. Again, your kingdom will get split one day and these lawyers will have to come in to pick up the pieces. You see, lawyers don’t understand the deal. Marriage is not a contract. I love lawyers, but, I’m sorry; it’s not a contract. Lawyers look at it from a humanistic perspective. Marriage is a covenant before God. That’s a whole other message I’ll talk about next time.
- “Honor Lisa on anniversaries and special days so that you may live long in the land the Lord has given you.” I made the mistake one time of buying Lisa a bathrobe for her birthday. That was not a good idea. Don’t do that, guys.
- “I shall not take the covenant of marriage in vain by apathy.” I’ve got to work. Do you realize when someone commits adultery they’re taking God’s name in vain? You’ve made a covenant before God. “Well, man, I didn’t mean it.” You said it.
- “I shall not ride in a car or eat in a restaurant alone with a member of the opposite sex.”
- “I shall not travel alone.” That’s recommended by our board of directors here at Fellowship Church. I don’t travel alone when I speak around the country. I always go with someone.
- “I shall not counsel a woman with the doors closed.” Now, this list was written a long time ago, because I don’t even do any counseling now. Zero. You don’t want to come to me for counseling. I am a horrible counselor. I’d be like, “Man, you are stupid. Build a bridge and get over it!” I’m not good! And also, if I visit you in the hospital, you know you are about to die. You don’t want to see me coming if you’re in the hospital. I do go to the hospital some, but it’s not one of my favorite things. You know I’m just playing with you.
- “I shall not share the details of our marriage with others.”
- “I shall not watch, read, or expose myself to sexual explicit shows, books, DVDs, etc.”
- “I shall remember the implications of breaking this covenant and commandment before God.”
Look where I am. Look how far away I am from the ledge. I can’t even tell if Carmen Electra is on the front row. What if, in a couple of minutes, I invited a woman to drive with me in my truck alone to my house? Have I sinned? Yes or no? Some are going, “Gee, I don’t know.” No! I haven’t sinned. That’s stupid, but that’s not a sin.
Well, let’s say I did that. Now I take one step toward the ledge, but look how far the ledge is still. I’m not near the edge and the ledge. That’s why we have to make decisions way back here in the middle, not here on the ledge.
The implications of breaking this covenant, of sleeping in the wrong bed, quite frankly, scare me. I cannot even entertain the thought of having to sit down with Lisa and tell her, “Honey, I’ve committed adultery. I’ve broken the covenant.” I can’t imagine the carnage, the pain, and the hurt that would cause her.
Number two, I cannot image sitting down with my 19 year old daughter, my 13 year old son, and our twin daughters who are 11 and saying, “Hey, I know I’ve preached about this for 15 years, but you know, I decided to say, ‘Forget God. I’m going to do what I want to do. I’m going to take this God given desire and use it in a God forbidden way.’ And I’ve committed adultery on your mom.”
Also, it scares me to have to tell you, Fellowship Church, that I’ve done that. And not only you, but also 800-1,000 churches that are connected with us worldwide.
But the biggest issue is about God. I make no excuses, no bones about it—I fear the judgment and the wrath of God. I don’t know what God would do to me, and I’m always skeptical about people who say they know how God will or will not act. I don’t know because God has gotten out of every box I’ve tried to put him in. Will he take me out? Would I have some kind of disease or sickness? I don’t know. But I’m not going to roll those dice. I don’t fear God in a weird way. I fear him in a holy and love-driven way. So, have a love affair. Have a passionate love affair with the God of the universe. He desires that for you. And may that love affair segue into your marriage. Let it segue into your faithfulness as we serve him and as we become history makers and covenant keepers.