Summary: The fifth sermon of a seven part series, ‘Stepping Stones and Stumbling Blocks to Faith.’

John Rowan Claypool once shared the following story in his sermon entitled “The Future and Forgetting:’ “Two Buddhist monks were walking in a drenching thunderstorm. They came to a stream, and it was swollen out of its banks.

A beautiful young Japanese woman in a kimono stood there wanting to get to the other side but was afraid of the currents. In characteristic Buddhist compassion, one of the monks said, ‘Can I help you?’ “The woman said, ‘I need to cross this stream.’” The monk picked her up, put her on his shoulder, carried her through the water, and put her down on the other side.

He and his companion went on to the monastery. That night his companion said to him, ‘I have a bone to pick with you. As Buddhist monks, we have taken vows not to look on a woman, much less touch her body. Back there by the river you did both.’

“The first monk said, ‘My brother, I put that woman down on the other side of the river. You’re still carrying her in your mind.’”

Michael Thomas shares that in his book “The Great Divorce,” C.S. Lewis gives an allegorical story about a ghost of a man consumed by lust. And in this story lust is depicted as a red lizard that sits on his shoulder and whispers seductively in his ear.

When the man is bothered by this lizard on his shoulder, an angel volunteers to destroy it for him. But the man is conflicted because he wants to hold on to his lust but also wants the lizard gone. What he is afraid of is that the death of his lust will be the death of him. He offers all these excuses to the angel because he wants to keep the lizard (even though he doesn’t want it).

After much discussion the man finally lets the angel kill the lizard. The angel grabs the lizard, breaks its neck and hurls it to the ground. Now that the spell of lust is broken the man who was once ghostly is wonderfully remade into a real and solid person. And what’s so cool is that instead of dying, the lizard is changed into a spectacular stallion. With great tears of joy and appreciation the man gets on the horse and rides off into the heavens.

(Slide 1) Lust. What comes to mind when you hear the word lust?

Most often we think of the sexual aspects of the word and this aspect is a very important one to consider and the Bible speaks to it throughout the Old and New Testaments. Jesus’ words that are located in Matthew 5:27-30, however, are probably the most pointed words about lust in all of scripture:

“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart. So if your eye—even if it is your good eye causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your hand—even if it is your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.’

Over 25 years ago, Leadership Journal, a publication for pastors, took the bold step of publishing a story of a pastor who did battle with lust and how he began to take the long journey back to purity and really sanity. I subscribed to the publication back then and I remember the firestorm of controversy that it generated as many felt that it was not right for such a thing to be published and that such a person should not even be in ministry. Five years later, the journal asked the man to update his story of freedom and deliverance, which he graciously did. And we all know that nothing generates negative and skeptical press faster than when a prominent minister is discovered to have committed sexual sin.

It is easy to focus exclusively on the sexual aspect of lust, and it is probably the most prominent type of lust. But, there is more to lust than just the sexual issue. In 1 John 2:15-17 we read, ‘Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. (Slide 2) For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.’

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