The past two weeks we’ve looked at Jesus’ difficult words about lust in the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s be honest: the standard Jesus calls us to can feel profoundly unfair. It is God, after all, who created us as physical beings. It is God who created us as sexual beings. It is God who gave us desires. God gave us libido. And God gave us imaginations.
And in this, God has created us in his image! God is the being with the most powerful desires in the universe! What kind of image bearers would we be if we did not also have desires?
And so, in recognizing the reality that God created us as desiring beings, we recognize that God has called us to direct those desires at himself and his righteousness.
Is it possible to never lust? No. Not in this life.
But it is possible to fight against anger and lust? Yes.
Tolerating sin is not okay. We must fight with everything we’ve got, small and large.
Knowing what is at stake, Jesus calls us to take radical measures to flee from 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)
Let’s be clear what Jesus is and isn’t saying here. Jesus isn’t calling for self-mutilation. But Jesus is telling us to treat our twisted desires with the utmost seriousness. In fact that little phrase “causes you to” that Jesus applies to our right eye and our right hand is the same word for a trap in Greek. Jesus tells us to treat temptation to lust like a spring-loaded trap. Stay away!
The first two weeks we’ve addressed two large camps of how to do battle: 1) fight for the greatest pleasure of all (God himself); 2) consider the stakes of giving into our lust.
Today, let’s conclude by considering nine practical ways to battle lust in our lives[i]: