sex

9 Ways to Flee From Lust

9 Ways to Flee From Lust

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]:

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Free Throws Should Be Easy. Why do Professionals Miss? I enjoyed this story from Wired: " On paper, the free throw could not be more straightforward. It's a direct, unguarded shot at a hoop 18 inches across, 10 feet off the ground, and 15 feet away."

2.       Have you Talked to Your Kids About Sex? Helpful encouragement: "The sex and gender conversations in your home don’t have to be big, awkward productions. They don’t have to be embarrassing. And they certainly don’t need to be all planned out. But they do need to happen. The sooner the better. And they need to continue, the more often the easier. They absolutely must be rooted in biblical truth about how God designed our bodies and gave us the gift of gender and sex."

3.        How Relationships Spark Spiritual Growth: This is a really helpful matrix that will help any leader consider how they can grow their group relationally. Dan Mancini says that this process will, "remove hurdles to your growth... And you’ll get down into the root of the junk you’re carrying around in your life, and it will reveal motivations, appetites, and beliefs that no one (including you) knew you were carrying around.

4.       3 Things to Do When Someone is Suffering: Chris Hulshof considers what we can learn from Job's friends: " What does it look like to show up when someone is suffering? It looks like joining them right where they are and getting dirty with them amidst their grief and sorrow."

5.       8 Questions You Must Ask as you Fight Pornography: Deepak Reju offers great counsel. Two of the eight questions are "what lies are you believing?" and "will you be radical or passive about cutting out your sin?"

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       How to Ruin Your Sex Life in 10 Easy Steps: Lisa Lakey with great advice: Here is just one of the ten: "Don't engage in conversation with your spouse:  It’s been a long day, and it takes too much energy to engage in lengthy discussion. Please, can we just relax and turn the TV on already? Better yet, escape into social media. Knowing what’s going on in everyone else’s lives helps distract you from your own."

2.      You Shall Know Them By Their Clothes: Andrew Wilson with an interesting insight into the story of Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, and David--clothes points to character and plot in the story: "When we first meet Goliath, he is covered from head to foot in scaly armor, which makes him look like a serpent or even a dragon. So when we find the snake-like accuser lying dead, his head crushed by the anointed king, we are not especially surprised. We first meet Samuel as “a boy wearing a linen ephod” (1 Sam. 2:18). Straightaway, we know he will function a bit like a priest."

3.      To Spank or Not to Spank: My friend Benjamin Vrbicek with a healthy and nuanced perspective on the topic: " Yet this post isn’t part of my crusade to get you to spank your children. I’ve never written about this before and don’t plan to do it again. I certainly don’t want to be another polemical voice in the already overly opinionated milieu of Christian child-rearing. Instead, I’d like to talk about how parents can spank their children rightly." All 13 of his nuggets are worth considering.

4.      Pleasures Never Lie: Jon Bloom explains why what we find pleasure in reveals so much about who we are, "Pleasure is our heart’s way of telling us where our treasure really lies (Matthew 6:21). When something evil gives us pleasure, we don’t have a pleasure problem; we have a treasure problem. The pleasure gauge is working as designed. What’s wrong is what our heart loves. And pleasure is blowing the whistle. We can lie with our lips about what we love. But pleasures never lie."

5.      Arctic Geese Jump off Cliff to Survive: This is brutal. Nature is brutal.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.      Sunday Regulars are Happier and Healthier: Kate Shellnut shares the findings of a recent Pew Research Center report, " Whatever the explanation may be, more than one-third describe themselves as very happy, compared with just a quarter of both inactive and unaffiliated Americans."

2.      Move Over Sex and Drugs, Ease is the New Vice: Jen Pollock Michel with a sharp insight, "The decline in sexual activity and cereal sales hardly seem correlated, but both seem to point to one of the most seductive promises of a technological age: that ours should be an unbothered life. As our lives (at least in the developed world) get easier, we are increasingly formed by the desire for ease."

3.      Why Are you Hiding? This is written specifically for pastors, but it applies to many of us. Chuck DeGroat asks us why we keep our real selves hidden and why that might be our destruction: "The 17th-century Presbyterian clergyman John Flavel wrote in Keeping the Heart, 'There are some men and women who have lived forty or fifty years in the world and have had scarcely one hour’s discourse with their hearts all the while.' I’ve found this to be true of many people in ministry... They’re lost pastors, lonely and busy and empty and radically disconnected from any kind of inner conversation with their hearts and with the God who is more near to them than their very breath."

4.      They Really Did Come From Nothing: Lucia Tai, the daughter of immigrants reports on her journey back to her parents' birth home in Vietnam and how that reshaped her perception of them and undermined her ingratitude. She says, " I’ve come to see that my parents have spent the majority of their lives trying to assimilate into a new culture and to fit a mould that they were not born into...The experience also helped me to further reject internalised racism and to appreciate my heritage more. After experiencing my family’s truth, all the values that had been drilled into me from young started to make sense: the undying work ethic, the need to save every penny, the call to be grateful and to make sacrifices for the family."

5.      4 Traits of a Good Small Group Question: Lynn Pryor with great advice for leading any discussion group. Her four traits of a good question are:"1. They don’t call for a single right answer; 2. They don’t have an obvious answer; 3. They don’t call for a short answer; 4. They call for a personal response or answer."

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.     How Our Culture Justifies its Sexual Freedom: Michael Kruger engages the compelling argument progressives make to push sexual freedom further and further down the line. Ironically, that argument often goes something like this, "'We should care more about love and less about sex.' Of all the postmodern cliches that abound, this one may be the most common.  And it’s quite effective, rhetorically speaking. After all, it tells people what they already want to hear.  They want to hear that they have all the sexual freedom they desire and, at the same time, that they are good people who are just about “love.” It allows a person to keep their questionable behavior and congratulate themselves on their own moral superiority–at the same time."

2.     Pharisees, Tax Collectors, and the Politics of Self-Righteousness: Duke Kwon says that while many have considered the issue of anger in the public square, there is a problem upstream to anger: "It’s what ties political rage to what’s right and “just plain wrong.” It’s what establishes the perceived “worthiness” of one’s indignation, transforming anger into a political virtue. I’m referring to self-righteousness. Allow me to wonder aloud: Have American Christians succumbed to a politics of self-righteousness?"

3.     You Become What You Trust: Insightful post on the impact of idolatry from Brianna Lambert. She warns us, " The idols we create are blind, deaf, and mute, and if we continue serving them, we’ll eventually become the same. If left undisturbed and ignored, we may begin to lose our own sight, become deaf to others, and render our speech useless to the surrounding world."

4.     National History Museum Photographer of the Year: What's particularly fun about this contest are the different age categories. It's fun to see the great photos young photographers are capturing.

5.     When you Crave Chic-Fil-A on Sunday: Ha! Enjoy!

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       Let's Ban Porn: Ross Douthat with a bold proposal, "[W]e are supposed to be in the midst of a great sexual reassessment, a clearing-out of assumptions that that impose misogyny and impose bad sex on semi-willing women. And such a reassessment will be incomplete if if it never reconsiders our surrender to the idea that many teenagers, mostly young men especially, will get their sex education from online smut."

2.       Ten Lessons on Parenting Big(ger) Kids: Great advice from Tim Challies. All ten are good, but I particularly like his final piece of advice, " Focus more on sharing experiences than exchanging stuff. The things you and your children remember and celebrate as the years go by are far more likely to be experiences you shared together than gifts you exchanged."

3.       Wishing He Were Your Husband: Sabrina Beasley McDonald on the dangers of emotional infidelity and what to do when that wishing begins: " If you're thinking of a man right now and you're wondering if you're in danger of an emotional affair with him, then you probably are."

4.       Vocation in Retirement: Gene Veith, one of the best authors on vocation, considers what vocation means in his retirement: " Retirement underscores two important facets of the doctrine of vocation: the purpose of every vocation is loving and serving our neighbors. And the way we make our living is only one of our vocations and not even the most important one."

5.       Does the Bible Endorse Slavery? This charge is often made against the Bible by atheists and agnostistics that the Bible supports slavery? Is that true? Dr. Matthew Hall responds.

6.       Can a Christian Be Demon Possessed? Dr. Stephen Wellum says no in this helpful video.

The Lure of Sensuality

The Lure of Sensuality

Perhaps the most uncomfortable thing about Christianity is not that God exists, and not that God sent his Son to the earth. It’s not the miracles: did God really make the universe out of nothing? Did Jesus really rise from the dead? It’s not even that its ethical stance on sexuality feels behind the times.

The most uncomfortable thing about Christianity is unequivocally our call to not just believe in, but to grant God authority in our lives and live faithfully and righteously.

In 2 Peter 2, Peter admonishes the church to beware of those who are false teachers and prophets. He says, “And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed.” It’s interesting that he uses the word sensuality here. He doesn’t say, “And many will follow their false beliefs,” he says, “And many will follow their sensuality.”[i]

The result, not the cause, of our sensual desires is believing in false teaching.

The hook of false beliefs is rarely the beliefs themselves. Atheism, frankly, isn’t a very attractive belief system on its own merits. By its very definition, life contains no meaning: the brutal and blind hand of the natural world is all that is. It raises more questions than it solve: from the question of creation to the problem of evil to ethics. The hook of atheism is sensuality. If there is no God, there is no one you have to cede authority of your life to.

It’s why agnosticism is much more popular than atheism[ii] You get the same freedom and don’t have to swallow nearly as bitter a pill.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.       What the Bible Teaches About Sexuality: David Powlison on the threefold vision of sexuality in the Bible, " The Bible discusses many forms of sexual immorality and sexual victimization. A vision for fidelity does not drive honesty about infidelity and betrayal underground. Prudish? Not Scripture. Squeamish about the sordid details of human life? The biblical authors frequently (though not always) eschew photographic description and details when they speak of sex. They often model a certain delicacy of generic description."

2.       Making Space for your Neighbor: Dexter Culbreath encourages us to reach out to those God has placed near us, " Let’s be real. We are the ones holding ourselves back. We are not fans of failure, nor do we want to subject ourselves to the messiness of investing into the lives of others. So, what do we do? We wait to see how it goes with others before we stick our necks out there. As with many things, fear drives our hesitancy."

3.       Your Smartphone is Making You Stupid, Antisocial, and Unhealthy. So Why Can't You Put it Down? Ouch, this is a painful read by Eric Andrew-Gee. He reports that the evidence is "in a growing body of research by psychiatrists, neuroscientists, marketers and public health experts. What these people say – and what their research shows – is that smartphones are causing real damage to our minds and relationships, measurable in seconds shaved off the average attention span, reduced brain power, declines in work-life balance and hours less of family time. They have impaired our ability to remember. They make it more difficult to daydream and think creatively. They make us more vulnerable to anxiety. They make parents ignore their children. And they are addictive, if not in the contested clinical sense then for all intents and purposes."

4.       6 Ways to Discourage Your Pastor: Paul Levy with a pointed, but accurate list. His fourth reason is, "Speak to others in the congregation, but not the leadership. This way word gets back to leadership through others, 'Some people are saying...'"

5.       Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man: How do we navigate these incredibly difficult discussions around law enforcement and African American men? The More Perfect podcast takes us back to the beginning of what would become an important precedent in courts' interpretation around how to rule on these cases.

This Week's Recommendations

This Week's Recommendations

1.   The Attack of Social Media on Your Free Will: James Williams, the winner of Google's highest honor on why the impact of social media is particularly insidious, " I don’t think personal responsibility is unimportant. I think it’s untenable as a solution to this problem. Even people who write about these issues day to day, even me—and I worked at Google for 10 years—need to remember the sheer volume and scale of resources that are going into getting us to look at one thing over another, click on one thing over another. This industry employs some of the smartest people, thousands of Ph.D. designers, statisticians, engineers. They go to work every day to get us to do this one thing, to undermine our willpower. It’s not realistic to say you need to have more willpower. That’s the very thing being undermined!"

2.    What if We Took Our Commitment to the Church Seriously: Brett McCracken with a strong, but needed rebuke: "three-in-ten say the main reason they aren’t married is that they 'have not found someone who has what they are looking for in a spouse.' This desire for perfect compatibility is a problem. And that makes sense for a generation that’s grown up in a consumerist society where there are limitless options of brands and apps and genres and communities that can be tailored and curated in a perfect-for-me sort of way. We approach the church with the same mentality."

3.    A Father's Farewell Letter: Raymond Ortlund Jr. shares his father's beautiful farewell letter that he penned to his family before he died, "I urge you to remain true to your Savior. I have no doubt that you will. Love each other deeply in your marriages. Keep your family ties strong. Lay up treasure in heaven, because the stuff of earth is empty. Bank accounts, houses and furniture mean nothing to me now. Actually they never did. Beware of sin, and confess it as soon as you discover it in your life. And let the Spirit’s gift of joy color all your life. As you mature, remain a happy person in Christ. Get even sweeter as you get older. Sour old people are a pain."

4.       7 Things for Husbands and 7 Things for Wives to Remember About Sex: A snippet of Bob Lepine's wisdom for husbands: " Your wife needs a safe and secure relationship. In order for her to engage in sex with heart and mind and body, she needs to know that you will be there for her, that you are committed to her, and that she is your one and only." And for wives: " Sex is God’s idea. He created it and gave it as a good gift to husbands and wives in marriage. It is a key part of His plan for how we become one in marriage."

5.    Why Kellen Erskine is Disappointed with High School Mascots: I love Erskine’s dry humor, “The Syrup Makers? Of course, I love the syrup from Georgia.”