Unlike other sins, lust commits severe violence against one’s self, others, and God. Lust is a distortion of a good desire.
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The grocery store checkout may be one of the most spiritually dangerous places on earth. A wall of magazines adorned with images surround you.
In addition, sexually explicit and suggestive movies, media, social media, advertisements, books, magazines, school ‘sexual health’ curriculum, strip clubs, drag queen shows for children, cultivate and feed lust.
The cover of Cosmopolitan magazine coveys a powerful message about identity and conjures up illicit thoughts. Like mainlining heroin, the image of a scantily-dressed woman rides base emotions, bypasses natural defenses of reason, logic, and moral sensibilities directly into the imagination. Once there, the image of the Cosmo woman takes on a life of its own – playing with powerful desires within us.
In the mind of a teenage boy, an image can conjure up sexual appetites that God made for good purposes. But lust takes hold, distorting and degrading the woman’s image. A boy learns to objectify a lovely creature made in God’s image. Mind you, no one has to teach a boy how to lust or objectify others. It comes ‘naturally’ to him.
Illicit thoughts pulse through the mind. A narrative is created in the imagination and eventually gets expressed through behavior. Behavior reinforces the narrative and a destructive cycle ensues. The sinful narrative can shape a person’s life… Yes, it’s all in the imagination. But, it does not stay there. At some point it will be externalized.
Lust is a blatantly obvious universal sin – if people are honest with themselves. Unlike other sins, lust commits severe violence against one’s self, others, and God.
As an aside. In the mind of a teenage girl, the Cosmo woman’s image conveys messages as well. The first, is the girl will never be ‘good enough’ to be like the woman on the magazine. Second, the girl begins to feel like she must become like the woman on the magazine. Finally, the girl may decide that the woman on the magazine is what boys want – so she decides to pursue becoming like the image.
The truth of “I’m created in the image of God – fearfully and wonderfully made” is replaced with a false identity – a lie takes hold of a young girl’s imagination and heart. It reshapes her life if left unaddressed. She lusts after the image for different reasons… She wants to ‘become like’ the airbrushed Cosmo woman. Again, the imagination builds a narrative and often destructive behavior follows.
But, let me re-focus on boys and men since I am a man and I’ve been a boy, I know this domain best.
In objectifying girls, the boy’s lust transforms the girl from an image-bearer into a thing to be obsessed over, possessed, and used for his pleasure… then, to be disposed of.
Ask any man what he had for lunch last Wednesday. He will have to think about it for a moment… He probably won’t remember.
Ask any man about the first time he viewed pornography… He can tell you IMMEDIATELY. He can describe the place, time, and setting.
Ask any man about the woman he first viewed through pornography. He knows nothing about her other than how her image made him feel and how he responded. 40 or 50 years later, her image haunts him.
The average age that a boy is exposed to pornographic material is 8 years old.
At 88 years old, he will still remember the first time he was exposed to it.
Lust is powerful.
Lust is prideful.
Lust is hateful.
Lust is deadly.
Lust is a distortion of a good desire.
God gave men and women desires for one another that are good. However, due to the Fall, sin caused those desires to become disordered and destructive. This is why Lust is one of the ‘Seven Deadly Sins.’
Epithymia – (Greek) Desire, longing, coveting, craving, lusting…
Notice the negative connotation – a notion of craving for something that does not belong to you (coveting). (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)
Within the richness of the Greek language, Lust carries powerful characteristics of desire and longing for a specific object. The word, ‘concupiscence‘ is used – denoting a passion of lust, evil desire, an indwelling sin. It emerges from the ‘inside’ when an image or event is experienced from the outside. In other words, when boys are exposed to an image of the naked body of a women, it gives rise to an internal desire (response). When virtues are not fully developed, there is no guardian at the gates of the imagination to protect against lust invading the mind and heart.
Epithymia is connected to another Greek word, orexis. The idea here is “reaching or grasping toward the object of desire to attain fulfillment” which one wants to possess. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)
Three things come to mind when connecting epithymia and orexis.
The First comes in Genesis 3 when Eve is tempted by the serpent in the garden to eat of the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The temptation and lie is that she will become “like God.” But wait, she was already like God – made in His Image, sharing in the fullness of communion with God and Adam. Was the first sin the first bite of the fruit? I think not. It was their “grasping at” the gift God had already given… Adam and Eve already had everything they could ever need from God. They were in perfect fellowship and peace. Man fell because he attempted to grasp and possess the gift of God. We do this today.
The Second comes from Genesis 15 where God promises Abram (Abraham) a son. Instead of waiting for God to deliver on His promised gift of an heir, Abraham and his wife, Sarai (Sarah) grasp for the gift to possess it for themselves.
The Third image comes to mind from Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings“. The pursuit of the Ring in order to possess its power brings out the worst in every character – even the benevolent and valiant have imagined attaining the ring. Possession often brings about destruction of the possessor and the world around him. There is a deep hatred of the ring and anyone who may possess it – unless you are the one possessing it – but then you hate it too.
Lust militates against authentic love.
While love recognizes others as image-bearers, lust turns a person to be loved and respected into an object to be used and rejected. When this occurs, we begin to hate the object – who a person God created in his image. Eventually, lust will destroy its host with self-hatred and shame that began with curiosity, self-love, and self-pleasure. All that is left is an empty shell of a human – a prisoner of his own desires – a slave who is left groping in the darkness for the illusive object of his desire.
The words of Gollum (Lord of the Rings) echo;
“We wants it (the Ring), we needs it. Must have the precious.”
“Precious, precious, precious!” Gollum cried. “My Precious! O my Precious!” And with that, even as his eyes were lifted up to gloat on his prize, he stepped too far, toppled, wavered for a moment on the brink, and then with a shriek he fell. Out of the depths came his last wail “precious”, and he was gone.”
– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King (Lord of the Rings)
How can we have victory over lust?
First, we must ‘turn on the light switch.’ Like other sins, lust is isolating. It happens in the darkness. When we ‘turn on the light‘, we are doing two things. 1) We acknowledge the sin. 2) We realize we’re not alone. The dark room is filled with others. All it takes is one person to flip the switch and many others are able to see as well. Furthermore, when someone is freed from a habitual sin, he or she is able to help others get free as well. God uses people. Free people free people.
“We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” – Romans 15:1-2
Below is a link to a post on Repentance (the only starting place).
Second, as those who have asked for forgiveness and have been redeemed by the blood of Christ are robed in Christ’s righteousness before the Father (called ‘imputed righteousness‘). In other words, through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and faith in Him, we are declared ‘not guilty’. We are saved from the penalty of our sin, we are being saved from the power of sin, and eventually we will be saved from the presence of sin. That includes lust. By the virtue of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we have power over sin (albeit imperfect during our life in this fallen world).
“For 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. Through 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 on account of lust (epithymia).” – 2 Peter 1:3-4
Finally, (Christian) we must realize that when we do sin (and we will sin), we will experience the grace gift of conviction that brings that sin into the light – where it can be acknowledged and forgiven (forever).
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” – Romans 8:1
Reflect on this passage and pray it becomes a growing reality in your daily life:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
Please share your insights by commenting below this post.
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