Summary: A continuation of a series on unfortunate behaviors dealing with the issue of sensual lust. The sermon is rated PG.
In one movie some shipwrecked men are left drifting aimlessly on the ocean in a lifeboat. As the days pass under the scorching sun, their rations of food and fresh water give out. The men grow deliriously thirsty. One night while the others are asleep, one man ignores all the previous warnings and gulps down some salt water. He quickly dies. Ocean water contains seven times more salt than the human body can safely ingest. Drinking it, a person dehydrates because the kidneys demand extra water to flush out the overload of salt. The more salt water someone drinks, the thirstier he gets. He actually dies of thirst.
When we lust, we become like this man. We thirst desperately for something that looks like what we want. We don’t realize, however, that it’s precisely the opposite of what we really need. In fact, it can kill us!
As red-blooded, healthy Americans, we have that same savage struggle with lust. Non-Christians and Christians alike wrestle with it and its persistence in our lives. Some think that getting married will cause temptation to flee. It doesn’t. Others have tried isolating themselves, but sensual temptation goes with them, fighting and clawing for attention and gratification. Not even being called into the ministry to do the Lord’s work helps! Temptation is there, relentlessly pleading for satisfaction.
So how do we cope with moral temptation? How do we say no when lust screams yes?
Well, the Bible doesn’t dodge tough issues. It offers us plain and achievable counsel that works! It promises hope, power, and assurance for those who are tired of losing the battle and living with guilt. Lust is never very far away. And just when you least expect it, there it is again!
Temptations come packaged in various shapes, sizes, and colors, but most of them fall into one of three categories: 1. Material Temptation - this is the lust for things – things that may be as large as a house or as small as a ring; as snazzy as a new car or as dull and dusty as a 200 year old dresser. 2. Personal Temptation - this is lust for status – special recognition. The status of fame, fortune, power, or authority. Having a title that makes heads turn, like "top executive" or "president" or "executive director" or even "doctor." 3. Sensual Temptation – this is lust for another person – the desire to have and enjoy the body of another, even though we know such pleasure is illegal and immoral. Today we’re going to limit our focus on lust on this third category. And even though we’ll do that, don’t think for a minute that this one area is all there is to temptation to lust. Sensuality is a large part of the battle, but it is by no means the whole story of the conflict within.
Let’s plunge into the life of someone who faced it head-on. His name is Joseph. His story’s told in Genesis chapters 37 through 50. Turn with me to Genesis 39 beginning with verse 1, when lust paid the man an unexpected and unforgettable visit. Joseph became a trusted slave of a high-ranking Egyptian official named Potiphar. Joseph, a handsome young Hebrew, earlier was sold off into slavery by his brothers who hated and rejected him. Although Joseph was a man of high principles and true godliness, he was nothing more than just a common slave. Follow along as I read: "Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. The LORD was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the LORD blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the LORD was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So he left in Joseph’s care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate. Now Joseph was well-built and handsome."
Potiphar had a very responsible position. As "captain of the bodyguard," he was in charge of an elite group of men who surrounded Pharoah and other officials with protection. You could say he was like the director of the FBI and Secret Service combined. He was a respected, busy, well-paid officer. With a discerning eye, he bought Joseph off the slave market and saw in this young man the marks of maturity and responsibility. As time passed, Joseph was promoted to the very important position of "overseer" – in other words, put in charge of all that Potiphar owned.