One of the greatest problems in the church today is the problem of lust. In this message we answer 3 questions: How Sweeping is Lust? How Serious is Lust? How Can We Slay Lust? This message was given to give believers weapons and tools to put lust to death in their lives.
Putting Lust To Death
In April, 2003, Aron Ralston went hiking deep into Rocky Mountains of Colorado. As he was climbing down a narrow canyon, an 800 pound boulder was dislodged and pinned his right forearm against the canyon wall. Aron had not told a soul where he was going that day. He was miles and miles away from anyone. And now, he was trapped. He stayed in that position for the next 5 days, getting almost no sleep. Soon, he ran out of food and water. At first, he resigned himself that he would die. There was no way out. However, finally, he realized the only way out was to cut his arm off. He had a dull pocket knife that he used to saw away his skin, arteries, bone and nerves, until he had cut all the way through. Then, believe it or not, he rapelled 60’ down the side of the mountain, and hiked out until some folks found him and had him taken by helicopter to the hospital. What an amazing story! Even more amazingly, Aron says that when he was finally able to cut his arm off, he felt elation that he was finally free. God has put a strong desire in each of us for self-preservation. We want to live. Well, God has put within the child of God another desire – the desire to be free from sin.
In Matthew 5:27-30 Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY´; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Jesus in this passage is teaching all of us how deadly serious lust is. Jesus says your eternal destiny hangs in the balance of whether you fight lust or settle down and live in it.
The Greek word for lust used here is “epithumeo.” It simply means a strong desire. Sometimes this desire is good and sometimes it is bad. It all depends on how this desire squares with God’s revealed will. We are told in 1 Timothy 3:1 that a potential Elder must lust (desire) for the work. In Luke 22:15 Jesus Himself said “I have earnestly lusted (desired) to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” So a strong desire is not, in and of itself, bad. But if we set our strong desires on things outside the will of God, they are evil, and become lusts.
We have said that unbelief is turning away from God to find satisfaction in something else. Pride is turning away from God to find satisfaction in self. Impatience is turning away from God to find satisfaction in my own uninterrupted plans. Laziness is turning away from God to find satisfaction in ease. Gluttony is turning away from God to find satisfaction in food. Lust is turning away from God to find satisfaction in sex.
What exactly is lust? Lust is our desire for something that we think is good which is outside of what God has revealed as good. It is to put our own will and pleasure above God. It starts with seeing someone that we perceive as beautiful or desirable. That, in and of itself, is not sin. But then lust moves forward to craving that person for ourselves. As we crave it, we imagine what it would be like to have and experience that person in a sexual way. And, if we could have it without being caught, we would take it. That is lust in its full bloom. It is extremely important to put lust to death in our lives, because if lust remains unchecked, it can break out in a host of various sins like viewing pornography, premarital sex, adultery, rape, incest, and homosexuality. So, if we are able to put this one sin to death, we are in effect, putting a multitude of potential sins to death. I don’t need to preach a sermon on “putting adultery to death” or “putting homosexuality to death”, because if we apply this message on putting lust to death, it will kill all other related sins in our life. When we kill lust, we are swinging the axe at the root of the tree. All other sexual sins are just branches on that tree.
Folks, we need to just admit right up front that this is not going to be easy. And it’s not going to be easy because we live in the most visual age the world has ever seen. We are bombarded with sexual images everywhere! Imagine living in the 1700’s or the 1800’s here in America. There were no sensual billboards. There was no provocative ads on TV, steamy scenes in movies, computer monitors and phones that can bring you any image you want in the secrecy of your home or smartphone. You can be innocently browsing the Net, researching something, and sensual ads will just pop up or appear next to the blog. It has never been easier in the history of the world to get sucked into porn and lust than today! We need the power of the Spirit today more than ever before! That’s why I believe that our technology is both a great blessing and a great curse at the same time. To be faithful to the Lord we are going to have to mortify lust dozens of times a day.
Now, please do not get the impression from this sermon that sex is somehow bad. No, sex is a beautiful gift from God, but a gift that must be enjoyed only within the parameters He has designed. If we indulge in it outside of those parameters, it is destructive and sinful.
This morning we are going to deal with three questions: How sweeping is lust? How serious is lust? And how can we slay lust?
1. How Sweeping Is Lust?
How Extensive Is The Problem Of Lust? Lust is a huge problem in America today. Let me give you a few statistics. Porn brings in $15 billion in profits per year. That’s more than MLB, the NFL and the NBA combined! One out of every 8 web sites are pornographic. 70% of men 18-24 years old visit porn sites per month. 2.5 billion emails per day are pornographic. 25% of all searches on the Internet are porn related. The average age which a child first sees porn online is 11 years old. 20% of men admit to watching porn online at work.
And, it’s not just a problem in the world. It is a huge problem in the church! Upwards of 50% of Christian men admit to being addicted to pornography. Those statistics are staggering! If we are typical of Christian America, that means that many men in this room this morning regularly seek out pornography! And startlingly, the research discovered that the most popular day of the week for viewing porn is Sunday, after coming home from church!
We might think that lust is only a temptation for men, but that is not true. Not only are about half of Christian men regularly viewing porn, but one study affirmed that about 40% of Christian women are doing the same! The research shows that one third of all people who visit porn web sites are women. The problem is huge, not just among men, but also among women.
Not only that, but there is an epidemic of moral failure among Pastors and church leaders today. One survey revealed that 54% of pastors have sought out viewed pornography in the past year, and that 30% of all pastors have had an affair with a member of the congregation. Wow! Those statistics are shocking and scary! It’s evident that this is a huge problem, and we are going to have to engage in an all out attack on lust, if we are going to live righteously in our present age.
2. How Serious Is Lust?
Well, there are two ways we can answer that. We can look at the temporal consequences and the eternal consequences to giving ourselves to lust.
Lust brings devastation and wreckage to our lives. If we give ourselves to lust, it is only a matter of time until we are discovered. If we persist in indulging our lust, and commit sexual sin, we will bring shame to ourselves, our spouse, our family, and our church. It is likely that this will tear our family in two. We can bring disgrace to the name of Christ. We can lose all credibility with those we have tried to bring to Christ or to disciple. If we are in a position of Christian leadership, we can lose our ministry. We can get a sexually transmitted disease. Think about the danger you are facing, if you do not battle lust!
However, that is not the worst of it. Consider the gravity of the following passages:
1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” Do you understand that your fleshly lusts will destroy you if you let them? They will kill the soul. If you indulge in fleshly lusts, it is like there is a cancer growing inside your body. At first, you don’t even realize it. You look and act exactly the same as you did before you got cancer. But eventually, the cancer starts to weaken you, more and more until it kills you. My friends, lust is going to kill you unless you kill it. We need to stop toying with lust and fondling lust, and start killing it. This is really serious business!
Matthew 5:27-30, “You have heard that it was said, `YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY´; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”
What is Jesus teaching here? He’s saying if we don’t gouge out our right eye our whole body will be cast into Hell. If you and I don’t fight lust, we will go to hell! I am trying to be as clear and to the point as I possibly can. People who don’t fight lust end up in Hell.
Ephesians 5:3-6, “But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”
The apostle Paul is extremely clear in this passage. He speaks of “immorality.” The Greek word is “porneia.” It means “sexual immorality.” This word speaks of any kind of sexual practice that deviates from God’s revealed will. It would include fornication, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, rape, or prostitution. Paul says, “this you know with certainty, that no sexually impure person has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” And to be even more clear he goes on to say, “Let no one deceive you with empty words.” If anyone tells you that you can live in sexual immorality and still be saved in the end, they are deceiving you with empty words. Paul says we shouldn’t be deceived by them. In fact he goes on to say that it is because of sexual immorality that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience.
Therefore, I hope you can see why I make such a bold statement that if you do not fight lust you will go to hell. My friends, be sure of this – if you don’t battle lust, you will lose your soul for all eternity. That’s how serious this issue is. We must battle this sin with all our might!
You are probably wondering, “Brian, are you saying I could lose my salvation?!” I made a decision to accept Christ many years ago. Are you saying that if I don’t fight lust, I could end up going to Hell? I thought we were justified by faith alone, apart from any works of the law? You told us that the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Are you teaching something different this morning? No, not at all. There are Biblical texts which say exactly that. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph.2:8-9). We are also told in Romans 8:30 that everyone who is justified will be glorified. In other words, if you have been justified you will be glorified. No one falls through the cracks. However, there are also other texts like the ones we have just read which state that if a person practices sin they will not inherit the kingdom of God. The reason that these texts don’t contradict each other is because the faith that justifies also sanctifies. The faith that delivers from Hell also delivers from lust. So do you want to know whether you have the kind of faith that justifies? Ask yourself if your faith is sanctifying you. Our faith will never produce perfection of life. But it will produce a persevering fight against sin all our days. Jesus never taught that lust would disappear in the Christian’s life. He taught that we had to gouge out right eyes and cut off right hands in our fight against sin. This is metaphorical language to describe an intense battle against sin. The gospel of grace produces victory over sin. Listen to Paul’s words in Romans 6:14, “for sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under Law but under grace.”
Now, for the remainder of our time, I want to try to give you some tools to overcome lust.
3. How Can We Slay Lust?
In our struggle against lust there are basically two areas: preventing ourselves from being exposed to lust, and overcoming lust when we are exposed to it. So, let’s look at those two categories.
A) Preventing Ourselves From Being Tempted To Lust. This is half the battle right here. If you can do things to prevent yourself from being exposed to the temptation to lust, you have gone a long ways toward living a righteous and holy live with a clear conscience. In 2 Timothy 2:22 Paul says, “flee from youthful lusts.” In 1 Corinthians 6:18 Paul says, “Flee immorality.” Run from lust. Run from immorality. Get away from it. Put as much distance between yourself and lust as you can.
There is no real need to watch TV at all. You can exist fine and be very happy without one. Many people opt out not to own a TV, and that makes a lot of sense, especially when you consider how much precious time is lost by watching it. But, if you do watch TV, then be very selective about what shows you are going to watch, and discipline yourself on how much you will watch. If you just go browsing around all the stations that you can get these days on cable, you will tempted to lust. Stick to just those stations and shows and their commercials that you know do not incite you to lust.
Movies. Here is another trap of Satan. If you are going to watch a movie, check the rating and reviews. Find out if there is nudity, or sexually suggestive material. If there is, don’t watch it. I would suggest that you avoid Rated R or PG-13 movies, and many PG movies as well. To be truthful, most movies, no matter what they are rated, will end up deadening your soul to the glories of Christ. If you are a frequent movie watcher, cut way back. Hollywood knows that sex sells. If you refuse to severely limit your exposure to popular movies, don’t be surprised if you never get victory over your lust.
Internet. This is probably the place where men give in to lust the most. It used to be that to view sexually explicit images, you would have to get in your car, drive down to a store, and buy porn. Now, you can have it piped into your home day and night through TV, movies, and the internet. In previous generations, if you wanted to view porn, you would have to risk someone seeing you buy it at a corner store. Now, no one sees, because you don’t even have to leave your house. It has become so easy to view porn, and that’s why so many men are enslaved to their lusts, including those that profess Christ. So, what can you do about browsing on the Internet? You can put a filter on the computer, and ask your spouse or a friend to put in their own password, so that you can’t go in later in a moment of weakness, and view something. You can identify places on the Web, where you know you will be tempted to lust, and make a conscious decision ahead of time that you will not visit those places. For example, if you are going to go to a News site, you can get in and get out without going to the entertainment section, where you know there will be beautiful women in risqué outfits. If you find that by going to a certain site, there will be ads and images on the sides that tempt to lust, decide ahead of time that you won’t go those sites.
Find An Accountability Partner. Most men don’t have anyone in their life that asks them the hard questions. Find a man who is having victory in the area of lust, and ask him to hold you accountable. Do you have anyone in your life who ever asks you questions like, “have you looked at any sexually explicit material in the last week?” or “how much time are you spending on TV, movies, and computer games?” or “how is your relationship with your spouse going?” or “how much time are you spending with your kids?” We need someone in our life like that. From time to time, Pastor Jerome and I ask each other questions like that, and it is good for us. If you don’t have anyone like that, decide this morning that you will find someone and ask them to hold you accountable.
Flee the Temptation: make decision ahead of time not to go to certain sites, that you know will tempt you. These sites may not contain nudity, but if they stimulate you to lust toward someone that is not your spouse, you must avoid them.
B) Overcoming Lust When We Are Exposed To It. Even when we do all in our power to avoid temptation, we will still be exposed to the temptation to lust. It might be presented to us in a billboard, a commercial, a scene in a movie, a pop up ad on the computer, or in seeing someone at work, or at the gymn, or at a restaurant. When we see someone that we perceive as beautiful and sensual, what should we do, so that it does not move into the arena of lust?
Consider Other Women As Sisters. 1 Timothy 5:1-2, “Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity.” Here Paul gives Timothy sound counsel on how to relate to various people in the church. He says, when you minister to the younger women, appeal to them as you would a sister, in all purity. That phrase “in all purity” tells us a lot. It tells us that there is the potential for a man to relate to a younger woman in the church in an impure way. If he thinks of her as a sister, he will keep himself pure. So, if there is someone in your life that is attractive to you, train yourself to think of that person as your sister. You would never lust after your own sister, right? Well, if you think of other women as a sister, it will protect you from lustful thoughts.
Faith In The Promises Of God. Feed your appetite for God. When you are filled with the Spirit, and walking in close fellowship with God, lust is small and God is big. But, when you are not walking in close fellowship with God, lust is big, and God is small. The Scottish minister, Thomas Chalmers, discovered this principle and preached a sermon called, “The Expulsive Power Of A New Affection.” You and I will never overcome lust in our own power. In addition to all of the counsel I have already given you on avoiding temptation, we need something more powerful than our own willpower, if we are going to kill lust. We need a superior affection.
You see, the way that lust gains its power over us, is by persuading me that I will be happier if I follow it. The power of temptation is that it promises me that I will be happier and more satisfied if I follow it. So, in the moment when I am tempted to follow my lusts, because I think I will be happier if I do, what do I need? I need the Holy Spirit, especially His sword, to cut through all the fog of Satan’s lies, and show me where true and lasting happiness is really to be found. In Ephesians 4:22, Paul refers to “the lusts of deceit.” Lust is deceptive! It does not tell you the truth. It tells you only what Satan wants you to hear. The sword of the Spirit, the word of God, helps me to stop trusting in the promises of lust to make me happy, and instead directs me to the promises of God for my happiness. You see, if I really believe that I can find more happiness in God than in sin, the power of sin is broken in my life. I won’t yield to the offer of leftovers, if I can have fresh baked lasagna. It all comes down to faith in the promises of God.
Lust tries to trick me into thinking that I am going to miss out on some great satisfaction if I follow the path of purity in my life. But then I pick up the sword of the Spirit and I begin to fight with it. Let me give you some examples from the Word that can help you defeat lust.
Romans 8:6, “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” The promise of setting my mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
Luke 8:14, “The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” If I pursue the pleasures of this life, I will choke out the life of the Spirit.
Psalm 84:11, “No good thing does He withhold from those that walk uprightly.” I don’t need to worry about missing out on some great satisfying thing by walking in purity, because if that thing was good for me, my heavenly Father would not withhold it from me. He withholds it because it is not good for me.
Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Do I want life and peace, the fruitful life of the Spirit, every good thing, and seeing God? Then I must turn from lust, because I will never find it there. As I pray for my faith to be satisfied with God’s promises, the Spirit removes the candy coating from the poison of lust, and I see it for what it is. If I will believe the promises of God are greater than the promises of lust, the power of lust is broken in my life. The battle is fought by faith. Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:12, “Fight the good fight of faith.” Brothers and sisters, I exhort you to fight the good fight of faith! Believe that what God has for you is far better than what lust holds out for you. Just considering the threats of eternal judgment for lust will never be enough to overcome lust in your life. You need something more powerful. We need to fight lust with a massive promise of superior happiness in God.
2 Peter 1:3-4, “seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” Now, let’s analyze this passage. At the end Peter tells us that the corruption in the world comes by lust. Well, how do we escape that corruption that comes by lust? Verse 3 says that when God calls us, He gives us a revelation of His own glory and excellence. And God communicates His glory and excellence to us in precious and magnificent promises. When we believe that God’s promises are precious and magnificent, we see that our lusts are not precious or magnificent. Satan may promise us precious pleasures and magnificent experiences, but the Word helps us to see that those are lies. Lust does not lead to fulfillment and satisfaction. Rather it leads to bondage and deception.
Brothers and sisters, this is a battle to the death. If you don’t kill your lusts, they will kill you, now and eternally. Fight! Fight the good fight of faith for God’s glory and your good! Amen.
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