The War Within: An Anatomy of Lust

The War Within: An Anatomy of Lust
Matthew 5-27-30

Let’s define this thing called “lust.”

Many portray lust like an animal instinct for sex, but that’s not quite accurate. Animals don’t really lust at all. They simply respond to instinct. Once or twice a year the female of any given species will emit the proper hormone. The male is attracted and mates then it’s all over. Neither the male or female are interested in one another. They plod through their business as usual without giving sex a second thought.

Humans are different. We, especially males, get fixated on the sexual experience. The English word, lust, comes from the Greek word epithumia. It is defined as a longing or a desire. A desire in and of itself is not wrong. Some desires are even good.

Lust is different. It’s a desire for something forbidden. Lust takes natural desire and pushes it to go after things that feed carnal feelings.

This idea was what Jesus pointed too when he taught about the pitfall of lust.

He says, in essence, “You have heard that it was said, ’Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28

Jesus equated lust with adultery. Adultery is any sex that occurs with another person who is not your spouse. He said it’s not enough to simply refrain from doing the act itself. If we desire sex with another, who is not our own in a committed marital relationship, we’ve lusted and thus violated the one of the Ten Commandments which prohibits adultery.

In a tempting world there are many things which are designed to excite desire: books, pictures, plays, even advertisements. The man whom Jesus here condemns is the man who deliberately uses his eyes to stimulate his desires; the man who finds a strange delight in things which waken the desire for the forbidden thing.

The man or woman who repeatedly uses pictures, videos or whatever obviously enjoys them. They derive a certain excitement from them. They’re juiced up on lust.

God’s attitude about lust. Jesus viewed it as the first step toward destruction and advised us to do everything in our power to eradicate lust from our lives.

What strong language Matthew 5:29-30 is, which states in plain language: If your right eye causes you to sin, 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 right 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 go into hell.

Does it sound as if Jesus takes lust lightly? Please understand that Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation here. If he was then every man in the world would have been blinded by now. Jesus is using a figure of speech called hyperbole. You exaggerate to make an undeniable point. His point here: Do whatever it takes to eradicate lust from you life.

But why? What’s the big deal about a little skin?

1. It contributes to the degradation of women.

Please note that Jesus didn’t address the issue of lust to women. Although I’m sure that some do, for the most part it is men who participate in this sin. Men are stimulated visually and more easily than women. That’s why the overwhelming majority of sexually explicit material is sold to men.

Men who lower the woman to an “object” of lust dehumanizes the woman. She is only a “thing” to lust!

2. It encourages teenage sexual activity.

Unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, abortions among teenagers have risen with teenage sexual activity. In the world teens are watching lust inducing programs largely because their parents enjoy it and allow it.

Observers have noted that certain kinds of ants have a passion for the sweet, glandular substance given off by the caterpillar of a large blue butterfly. They become so addicted to it that they even seek out the supplier and carry him home to their nest with delight. But they unwittingly bring home and enemy in disguise, for the caterpillar gorges himself exclusively on ant larva. Usually such a threat to the colony would be repelled with great vigor, but the adults enjoy the tasty secretions of the guest so much that they are oblivious of the fact that their young are being devoured in the process.

3. It leads to addictive behavior.

Skin has an addictive quality. The more you look at the more you want.

They call that the law of diminishing returns. What was exciting the first time is okay the second time, but boring the third time. There must be a new more explicit thrill. A little skin is addictive.

4. It can destroy your conscience.

The more sexually explicit stuff we ingest the more the voice of our conscience is choked out. Eventually they lose the ability to judge right from wrong.

One writer put it this way: “It starts by using the desires of our flesh to lure us into its clutches … Through the imagination it gains access to our souls where it affects our belief systems, seeks to bend our wills to evil and causes devastation in our emotions. Then it closes in for the kill in our spirits. It violates our consciences, quenches our ability to know right from wrong, and shuts down our ability to talk with God. Once the spirit is dead, there is no real life in the body. We may be going through the motions of living, but no one is really home inside.”

This is what is meant in Matthew 6:22-23, The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness?

5. It destroys your connection with God.

The Bible tells the story of King David, a good man who caved into his own lust and paid the price. He was wandering about on the roof of his palace early one evening enjoying the view when he spotted a woman bathing. Rather than turn away immediately, he lingered over the scene. He savored every curve of the woman’s body and wondered what it would be like to have her. He called his servants to see if he could make her his wife on the spot. Ahhh! She was married. Never mind that. David was King and ordered the woman to be brought into the palace. He seduced her and they slept together. She became pregnant and to prevent the wrath of a jealous husband, David had the woman’s husband killed. A little lust produced adultery and murder.

Aside from that it destroyed David’s connection to God. When he was confronted with his deeds David repented. He begged God’s forgiveness and got it. Psalm 51 describes the incident and reveals David’s fear at losing his relationship to God.

Read Psalm 51: 9-12

David was fearful not only that his sin displeased God, but also that the condition of his heart might actually drive the Spirit of God away. He knew that God is holy. He cannot tolerate sin in his presence. Lust of the eyes defiles the heart. It makes it unclean and disrupts our connection to God,

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” Matthew 5:8

If that’s true then the opposite must also be. The impure in heart cannot see God. We can’t see God or what he’s doing in our lives because we’re fixated on flesh. There’s no serving God. We serve our master, lust.

The Remedy to Lust

Jesus said to eradicate lust at all costs.

* Recognize and name the problem

Call it what it really is. Don’t say I’ve got a problem with temptation. Say, “I’ve got a problem with the sin of lust.” That’s where we must begin with ourselves and with God. Own up to and confess it.

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sinsand cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

* Stop feeding lust

Eliminating lustful thoughts is not easy, but it can be done. One of the ways to begin is to eliminate the sources of lust. If you know that certain magazines or books or music or internet sites entice you — cut them out of your life. Give them up. If you’re not willing to, then stop asking God to take away your lustful thoughts. You’ve got to do your part.

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. I Corinthians 6:18

* Confess the personal price

Loss of intimacy with spouse. Loss of your own self-respect: guilt; shame.

* Understand God’s perspective on sex

Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled,- for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Hebrews 13:4

* Trace the source of your desires

Lust arises from a legitimate set of desires. Trace your obsession to its source. What do you really need? I need true relationships. I need God. Those are real needs and five minutes alone with a dirty magazine will not satisfy them.

from The Luster of Lust

— jlg —

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