In a recent blog I wrote about the big “so what” of lust—in the light of so many problems in the world, so many injustices, why the sexual mores of “old time religion”?
I was pleased, after writing this blog, to find a sermon by John Piper which mentioned this very issue. Here’s the transcript from his website, www.desiringgod.org:
“Why is this a big deal? Isn’t sexual sin, especially when it’s just a desire and not an act, sin with a little ‘s’? Shouldn’t we get on with the big issues like nuclear arms and social justice?
You’ve known people like that, I suppose. They say sexual attitudes and sexual behavior are a matter of relatively insignificant personal piety. What counts is whether you boycott companies in South Africa and oppose Star Wars defense systems. Sleeping around is simply no big deal if you are on the picket line at Honeywell; and flipping through Playboy is utterly insignificant if you are on your way to peace talks in Geneva.
“That is the way the religious human mind reasons when a supreme regard for God has been forsaken. But that is not what God has said. What is God’s estimate of how important your sexual life is? Is it a big deal?”
Piper quotes from 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (RSV) to answer this question:
“Finally, brethren, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like heathen who do not know God; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we solemnly forewarned you. For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”
Piper highlights verse 6 saying,
“This means that the consequences of lust are going to be worse than the consequences of nuclear war. All that nuclear war can do is kill the body. And Jesus said, ‘Do not fear those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear. Fear him who after he has killed has power to cast into hell’ (Luke 12:4–5). In other words God’s vengeance is much more fearful than earthly annihilation. And according to 1 Thessalonians 4:6 God’s vengeance is coming upon those who disregard the warning against lust.”
Why does lust matter? Because it matters to God.
I highly recommend Piper’s sermon for those who are interested in having more Biblical foundation in fighting lust.
Great article – I’ll have to read the full sermon soon. This begs the question, though – can’t you substitute any other addictive behavior for the word ‘lust,’ and have it apply? For instance, I have an issue with gluttony – food becomes my god, ahead of (or in place of) the spot that God should occupy. I struggle trying to explain this to other people who don’t struggle with food addiction – in God’s eyes, it’s still sin, because it takes the place of God in our worship. Since they don’t have an issue with it (just like folks who don’t have an issue with pornography or sexual addiction), they think it’s a ‘sin with a little ‘s”.
Thanks for sharing this information!
Thanks, Barry, for your reply. I agree that any sin is linked to idolatry in some way making it something offensive to God and a betrayal of what true worship is. The replacement of God with food is essentially “belly worship” (Philippians 3:19), the worship of the appetites. I often think about how easily and quickly I respond to the call of my physical appetites and how slowly I respond to the prompting of the Spirit to obey.
I remember the first time I studied Psalm 121. This is the 2nd psalm in a series called “the songs of ascents.” These were sung by faithful pilgrims as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship the Lord. As they traveled along they passed by many sites and sounds. They sang, “I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” (v.1). The hills and high places were popular spots for altars to foreign gods. On their pilgrimage they passed by many hills of idolatry but pressed on because they knew that “My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth” (v.2). I am more and more convinced that the greater vision we have of the true God as the Most High God, the Maker, the Sovereign Lord, the more the small, trinket gods of our culture will lose their appeal.
God bless, Barry!