If you are reading this post you have likely tasted something of the stranglehold of lust. Maybe at times the temptation has felt beyond you and you are bordering on despair. You wonder, “Will I ever be free of this sin?” Maybe you have experienced the devastation that sexual sin can bring. There is the personal side of it: grief, guilt, shame, depression, self-hatred. There is the relational side of it: a strained marriage, a relationship exploited, a job lost, a ministry devastated. There is the spiritual side of it: prayer now seems pointless, God seems distant, the Bible feels irrelevant.
If this describes you then you are not alone. Almost everyone you see in church on Sunday has experienced something of what you have experienced. We look nice in our Sunday best, but in our hearts we are all the same.
Know that you are not alone, but also know that there is grace even for you. There are no individual Christians outside of promises like, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9), and, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Over the next three days we’ll look at the sin of lust and look at God’s grace for the struggle. Your lust is scandalous, but there is grace that is more scandalous still. May God use these brief words to give you strength to run to him amid our culture of raunch.
I Have a Problem
Our first step in addressing this issue is to unmask the sin of lust. Much of the power of lust rests in the fact that we treat it as if it is something that it is not. We do this in several ways.
- First, lust is disastrous, but we treat it as if it is harmless. Lust can turn a peaceful home into a nightmare, a fruitful and growing ministry into a shadow of itself, and a person’s joy and confidence into shame, guilt, anger, despair, and depression. It will kill a father’s ability to lead his family, wreck his marriage, and compromise his discipleship of his children. His heart will overflow with guilt, shame, fear, anxiety, and conviction. His prayers will be flat, his worship will be a lie, and his spiritual leadership will be a joke. If he does not repent he will eventually be exposed as a fraud and removed from any role of significant influence. He will start out thinking it is chocolate cake and end with a mouth full of maggots and road-kill. Lust is precisely as Solomon described: it is putting “fire next to his chest” (Proverbs 6:27) and “walking on hot coals” (6:28). It consumes and destroys. Far from being harmless, it comes only to “kill and steal and destroy” (John 10:10).
- Second, temptation is everywhere, but we live as if it is rare. Our culture is not our friend in battling this sin. Carolyn McCulley has described ours as a “raunch culture” and she demonstrates this by pointing to the “influence of the ‘riot grrrl’ bands, the buff and barely dressed video vixens, and the raunch culture evidenced in tweeners wearing Playboy Bunny shirts and sub-urban gyms offering pole-dancing aerobics” (Carolyn McCulley, Radical Womanhood, 26). Ours is a day when a man cannot really even watch the Olympics—Summer or Winter—without being tempted. If we are not vigilant we will fall.
- Third, lust is a lie, but we treat it as if it is the genuine article. When God had made everything within the physical universe he declared definitively that “it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). This was an objective and true statement. We can extend this statement even to the creation of man and woman in the Garden of Eden when they were to be “one flesh” and they were “naked and unashamed” (Genesis 2:24-25).
The devil, however, is the preeminent of all salesmen. A sales pitch is meant to do one thing: make us discontent with what we have. The devil came with a promise that we could get all the pleasure of the fruit (“good for food…delight to the eyes…desired to make one wise,” Genesis 3:6) and receive none of the consequences (“You will not surely die,” Genesis 3:4). It is the same sales pitch that lust promises. Lust promises pleasure without obedience, intimacy without commitment, love without cost, oneness without holiness, sin without consequence. Lust is truly a fantasy.
Solomon’s words on this are as fresh today as they were 3,000 years ago when he penned them:
The woman Folly is loud;
she is seductive and knows nothing.
She sits at the door of her house;
she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
calling to those who pass by,
who are going straight on their way,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
And to him who lacks sense she says,
“Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
But he does not know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. (Proverbs 9:13-18)
Lust offers only a moment of pleasure, but we live as if it will bring lasting happiness. If I were to give you a cupcake that had a razor blade inside, you would get a moment of pleasure. Maybe you would get a bite or two that seemed to satisfy. At some point, however, you would hit the razor blade and any amount of pleasure would be forgotten as you doubled over in agony. “But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol” (Proverbs 9:18).
I hope you can see behind the mask of lust. It is one of the critical convictions we need to recognize and confront as we battle this sin.