Summary: When sexual desire is twisted into lustfulness

Deadly Sins and Transforming Virtues Series - 2


I had some fun with people this week. When asked what I was studying for today’s message, my answer was ‘I am spending time with lust.’ Inevitably the surprised look gave way to a laugh that was an implied question asking what I meant! Probably some of you are wondering, “What can he say for 20 minutes about lust?”

We all know what it is, sort of. If we are alive, we have longings, desires.

So, are all those feelings just lust? Are they wrong?

Is the guilt and/or shame that finds us from time to time a good thing or a bad thing?

Let’s talk about it. Lust - here we come!

There are a couple of different words used in the original text of the Bible, Koine Greek, that are translated ‘lust.’

· One is “pathos,” a word for desires, not just sexual, but those of the body - for food, for comfort, for ease - to name a few.

· Another is “epithumia” a word for desires that are stronger, cravings of our various appetites.

Several texts will help us to set a context this morning:

· "It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;" (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, NIV)

· "These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error." (2 Peter 2:17-18, NIV)

· "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived." (Colossians 3:5-7, NIV)

Though LUST is not exclusively about the sexual part of our humanity, I’m going to focus on that.

Other messages in this series will deal with gluttony, anger, and sloth - which are other expressions of ‘desires that are disordered’ which is another way to define ‘lust.’

Human sexuality has stirred plenty of opinions among Christians through the centuries. Some appear to declare all feelings and expressions of sex as wrong; the ultimate expression of holiness somehow attached to a celibate life. Others take the extreme opposite view lauding our sexuality as the highest expression of love and insisting that where there is love there is no sin!

We start our discussion about lust with some basic understanding about ourselves.

First, we need to remember that we are created BODY and SPIRIT (some say, BODY, SOUL, and SPIRIT)

and that both are valuable to God who made us!

An ancient heresy spread like a plague among Christians that told them that since the BODY was part of this temporal world, destined to die and decay, how a person ate, what was done sexually - was unimportant in spirituality. Specifically, these teachers insisted there was no sin in feeding the appetites! It is something of an over-simplification, but basically the teaching said that IF you knew the right things, IF you grasped the mysteries of faith - you were right with God because the so-called the ‘sins’ of the body died with it.

The heresy may be dead, but there are echoes of it leftover in Christianity today. Far too many of those who sit in churches take comfort from the fact that they are baptized, that they can say the creed, that they receive Communion, ... while living mostly as they please. The act of faith is not always followed by the choice for discipleship!

Jesus is quite clear that the choices we make in our daily lives are closely connected with our relationship with Him. “If you love Me,” He said, “you will obey what I command.” Part of His command was that we subjugate the appetites of the body to the rule of the spirit.

Our body and spirit are connected inseparably in our Christian faith.

Jesus’ resurrection was not just His spirit, He was raised bodily. This body will die and decay, but the NT is clear that it will also be raised to life. And, there will be an accounting given to Christ Jesus as to how we lived.

"So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." (2 Corinthians 5:9-10, NIV)

So, while lust may seem just a thing of the flesh, of the body, is an issue that affects our spiritual health and our vital relationship with God.

Second, we follow up that understanding with a clear declaration that our sexuality is a gift of God!

Rebecca DeYoung writes that ‘we cannot define lust as damaging or disordered pleasure-seeking unless there is a well-ordered, delightful form’ of sexuality by which to measure it.

Please listen carefully at this point.

I believe the Scripture is clear that sexual expressions prior to marriage is sinful (defined as being outside of the plans and purpose of God, not as ‘evil.’) Following on that, there is too often this implied conclusion- that after marriage persons enjoy a sexual free for all! What a silly, and ultimately broken, view of how God has made us. While the Scripture is clear that sexual intimacy belongs to marriage, it is quite possible to be just as lustful after marriage as before. Lust is about making sex simply for our pleasure and being willing to use another human being as an object of our selfish satisfaction. That is sin- regardless of marital status.

Frederick Buechner (pronounced BEEK-ner), a pastor and well-known author, wisely says this.

“Contrary to Mrs. Grundy, sex is not a sin. Contrary to Hugh Hefner, sex is not salvation either. Like nitroglycerin, it can be used to blow things up or heal a heart.”

Sexual desires are a normal, beautiful, and powerful part of who we are. Lust develops from curiosity and many are quickly swept away, into actions that hurt - themselves and others - often leaving life-long scars. I suppose this is why Christians start so often at the ‘thou shalt not’ part instead of beginning the conversation with the acknowledgment of the beauty and pleasure of our sexuality. I have attended far too many Christian youth services where the purity pledges and rings made sex seem like some awful thing that would engulf any teenager foolish enough to allow himself to feel any stirring of desire.

What a confused mess we make of sex in our culture, too. On one hand it is everywhere - used to sell and manipulate. Every movie about human relationships resolves itself with the lead characters ripping off each others clothes and falling into bed. The message? “Sex is normal, it’s desirable, and as long as everybody is consenting, what’s the problem?” For starters, that slogan ignores much about our humanity.

Good sex has implications far beyond pleasure for the body. It has personal emotion connections. It forms us socially, shaping how we relate to others. And it is connected with knowing God, being whole and healthy in our spirit. IF we deform our sexuality around lust, we will find ourselves challenged in every part of our being. Lust expressed and given freedom to flourish will always degrade the human being, with the curious unintended result an every greater longing for intimacy which is further and further out of reach.

I cannot rest simply by defining the problem with lust and the sin in it. Truthfully, if we’re honest, none of us feels very good about those moments when we lose ourselves in craving or desires that lose touch with real love and do not reflect the image of God in us!

So, what do we do about it?

We MUST NOT take the route of our contemporary society that mostly tries to equate ‘normal’ with good.

Responding to the unhealthy and incomplete message that denies the gift of sexuality and the reality of our human desires, we tend to shrug and wink saying, “Hey, everybody does it.” It is as if LUST in all but the most extreme cases is a harmless thing, a naughty little diversion.

A generation ago America went through the sexual revolution. With the invention of the birth control pill, which separated sex and reproduction, sex was redefined around pleasure. “If it feels good, do it,” we were told. The old morality was trashed. Now at least a century later, the results of the revolution are in - and what we find is not good.

Pornography that used to be hidden away is one of the biggest businesses on the Internet. Astonishing numbers of men and women consume $billions of it annually. Some thought that making explicit content available to the masses would be a kind of pressure valve for sexual desire, helping to reduce the craving of LUST. Exactly the opposite has been observed. Porn is addictive and progressive. Feeling the same kind of high requires more and more perversion. The industry of porn is a terrible one, using and discarding the young after scarring them for life!

The sexual revolution’s encouragement of Lust as a harmless diversion of our human nature has taken a terrible toll on marriage, too. Rates of infidelity and divorce have risen to unprecedented rates, along with the awful costs to social stability and the well-being of children.

Returning to the Bible’s witness, we could rightly say that David’s lust for Bathsheba was ‘normal.’ The king saw a young women unclothed to bath from his rooftop and his body responded normally. But, his subsequent choice to invite her to dinner, to seduce her, and to sleep with her - while ‘normal’ were sinful and had terrible costs. He was estranged from God by his unrelenting guilt. The son conceived died because of God’s judgment. He betrayed his friend and general who was Bathsheba’s husband, consigned to death by proxy. His reputation was irreversibly damaged when people found out his sin. His own family was fractured for the rest of his life.

Yes, his initial desire may have been ‘normal’ but his lust was sinful and destructive.

Yes, we must begin at the place of which I spoke last week, a willingness to speak to our choices with Truth, and in our confession of sin, come to the Cross of Christ, where we kneel to find forgiveness and strength. There is freedom found in the salvation of Jesus Christ.

But, that is not a magical cure for our sinful nature. Ask anyone who’s been a Christian for more than 5 minutes! The flesh clamors for satisfaction.

That is why we need the Church! The normal Christian life is not best lived in isolation. We need each other and God’s design for our connection is the Church.

William Willimon says that we cannot find our freedom by insisting on our individual freedom and attempting self-correction. “In a group that confirms our struggles to be Christ’s disciples, we can be so much more than we could be if left alone. The ultimate remedy for sin is not our tight-fisted moral determination to be better, nor is it found in a cold shower to cool our passion, but rather it is by baptism by which we are placed in a family that enables us, even us, to be holy people.” Sinning Like a Christian

Rebecca DeYoung builds on that thought. She writes “Lust thrives in privacy and isolation and lustful people often feel shame which motivates them to keep their struggles hidden... but, when we hide our sin and deny it, we cannot confess it or deal with it.” Glittering Vices

If we want to defeat LUST we must be willing to tell ourselves the truth and as a church we must be prepared to love one another even we are bent and broken by sin. The second of our core values here at FDC is ACCEPTANCE, meaning that we love YOU even if we must challenge your choices. We do not throw you out until you meet God’s expectation. We come alongside and offer support, encouragement, correction, and accountability.

That truthfulness will lead us to create the proper kind of guidelines and even walls for ourselves. The small, practical things we can do may seem simplistic but they are worthy of considering.

We choose our entertainment - movies and music - in keeping with our high calling as children of God.

A few weeks ago, listening to Cat Country radio, the lyrics of Sam Hunt’s hit song made their way into

my mind.

Body like a back road, drivin' with my eyes closed

I know every curve like the back of my hand

Doin' 15 in a 30, I ain't in no hurry

I'mma take it slow just as fast as I can.

As I realized what I was listening to, my next thought was -

So, if the Lord Jesus were riding along with me today, might I think it was time to change the station?

Silly? No, I don’t think so, if we are serious about developing a pure heart and mind.

Paul counsels us to "Flee from sexual immorality." (1 Corinthians 6:18, NIV)

DeYoung says that ‘we tend to walk as close to the edge of the cliff as we can hoping not to lose our balance.’ Wouldn’t be wiser stepping back from the edge?

Lastly, we need to define and discover the new love that is found in Christ Jesus.

God has designed us for love! (That is not the same as sex) To the extent that we form good, strong, enduring relationships with others we will gain the clarity of mind and heart to see through the emptiness of lust. As we truly love others we will come to despise, as our God does, what lust does to them.

So, this Lenten season,

we begin with a call to replace the shallow expression of lust with the deep and abiding love.

The war is not won with a single battle.

But we begin at the Cross of Christ.

We continue with His people in the church offering their community.

We go on to accept personal responsibility, appropriately making practical choices that recognize

the ongoing struggle with our humanity.

And, we love, like Jesus - "My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you." (John 15:12, NIV)