Our culture toys with lust.[i] We know the power of lust so well that we use it to sell hamburgers and cars and beer. I mean, seriously. Step back and consider how crazy that is. We take things that are already attractive and then add sex to them to sell them better! Burgers, sports cars, and beer! We crave these things on their own! And yet advertisers are still compelled to add an ingredient in to make them even more desirous: sex. On the flip side, you never see sex requiring anything else to sell it. Your local strip club isn’t trying to lure people in with their mouthwatering hamburgers.
Last week we considered Jesus’ difficult words about lust. Jesus takes the Old Testament standard of sexual purity of not committing adultery to a radical place: the heart. Jesus says that we are called by God to not even entertain lustful desires in our heart.
Jesus takes lust seriously. He takes lust seriously because when we lust we reveal that our heart is aimed at gratifying ourselves, not honoring God.
We tend to fear the wrong things when it comes to lust. We fear what a life of unfulfilled desires might look like. We fear the relational consequences of getting caught looking at pornography. We fear having our reputation marred.
But there are things we should really fear: the state of our soul, for starters. And of course, we should fear our Maker, God himself.
Jesus follows up his call not to lust with radical measures to avoid lust and grave reminders of the consequences of not fleeing lust. He says:
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:29-30)
Do you catch what has just happened twice? Jesus has told the hearer that to not flee lust is to run headlong into hell.
In Romans 1, Paul warns us what happens when we cultivate our desires: “therefore God gave them up to the lusts of their hearts to impurity…” Do you tremble at the thought of God giving you over to your desires? We should.
We tell ourselves: if only God would let me fulfill my desires, if only he wouldn’t put these boundaries on me, then I would be okay! But do you understand that if your conscience stops bothering you, you are in the most dangerous place possible? God is giving you up to your desires. And you will get the just desserts of those desires.
Here’s the reality: if our lives are marked by living out the fleshly lusts of our hearts, then our hearts are not submissive to Christ. We are not trusting him as our king. In Ephesians, Paul gives us this grave warning, “For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5). Paul issues the same warning again to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 6;9-10). And John issues the same warning in Revelation (Revelation 22:14-15).
When we let our sexual desires run our hearts un-confronted, we declare that we are the kings of our lives. We desires control us and sit on our throne.
Do not be deceived. Those invested in sexual immorality will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Sexual sin is a mark of enslavement to the world. And, even more dangerously, because sexual sin sears our conscience, the shackles of our enslavement will become more and more invisible to us as the months and years go by.
Flee the outcome of walking out your desires. And flee toward Christ.
This is part 2 of a 3 part series on lust.
For part 1 see: Does Jesus Tell Us We “Can’t Get No Satisfaction”?
For part 3 see: 9 Ways to Flee From Lust
Photo: Unsplash, James Lee
[i] This could be said about most cultures.
[ii] Benjamin Vrbicek, Fighting Against Porn, 27.
[iii] In the words of Brunner: “Better to go limping into heaven than leaping into hell.” Quoted in Leon Morris, The Pillar Commentary: Matthew, 119.