The Things That Are Killing Us–Lust

Posted: September 20, 2010 in Uncategorized

Kurt Vonnegut was told by friends that writing an anti-war novel, such as Slaughterhouse-Five, was as useful as writing an anti-glacier book.  I often feel the same way when counseling people about lust. It seems to be the issue that so many Christians, especially Christian men, just can’t seem to deal with successfully.

Both secular culture and the church have unsuccessfully attempted to deal with lust.

Secular culture has tried to accept it as a given and what is the result? Broken relationships, ruined careers, dangerous obsessions and immense pressure to look a certain way.
The Church has tried to scare people out of lusting, which has resulted in a lot of guilt and/or resentment.
Dealing with lust can seem like “Groundhog Day”…no matter what you do, it is there.
It is a major objection to Christianity for if the Bible condemns something that cannot be helped then it is assumed that the faith is simply irrelevant.
So, here we are–an oversexed yet miserable nation that just can’t seem to “catch” whatever it is we are chasing.
What does Jesus have to say about it? Let’s look at Matthew 5:27-30.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 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. 30 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.
Well, I’ve yet to walk into a church filled with one-eyed, one-handed dudes, so, are we all just damned to hell?
One of the reasons we don’t deal well with lust is that we don’t view sex as it is. 
It is a mistake to view sex as just another problem or issue or desire.
Think about how many songs deal with lust compared to work or family or school or whatever?  I mean, you don’t hear Eminem and Rhianna singing about 401(k)’s!
Thus, it is clear that sex is NOT just another physical desire like the craving for food or rest.  It is much more powerful!
First of all, understand that the Bible does not define lust as just “sexual desire,” which is normal and good.
There are two equally inaccurate ways to look at sex: (1) it is natural to just want to do it with everyone and help yourself to as much as you can and (2) its dirty and just should be avoided as much as possible.
Tim Keller argues that it is vitally important to understand that Jesus defines lust, or sinful sexual desire, as that which is impersonal and excessive.
Jesus envisions a community that sees each individual as a whole person not just a body.  Lust is impersonal in that it views a person simply as a means to an end.
Thus, one of the answers to lust is to see people as the image and likeness of God rather than a “thing.” It is helpful to pray for the persons who cross your path that you find physically attractive. 
Lust is also excessive in that it turns sex into a false God.
Thus, lust is a god problem. 
We seek from sex something that we can only get from God—happiness, acceptance, worth, etc. 
To return to Tim Keller, once again, “Lust is a signpost pointing to God”, you follow a signpost, you don’t seek to live beneath it.
I think what Keller means is that lust leads us to want an experience where everything else melts away.  Think about what sex does…it flings from our mind all stress, worries, etc.  It is a taste of what will happen when Jesus returns and banishes sin from His creation forever but it is only a taste of the eternal, not the eternal in-and-of itself.
If you follow the signpost then to the degree that you are in right relationship with God then that is the degree to which you will be healed and may see things as they are.
In grace upon grace, if you are healed than sex becomes holistic and doesn’t depend on looks.  So, you aren’t terrified when you put on weight or become bitter when you get older.
This all may seem impractical but it is the only answer—to know the Gospel and to grow in holiness with the help of God’s Spirit.
Biblical counselor David Powlison writes, “Pop theologies baptize the longings of sinful hearts: health and wealth, significance and security, self-esteem, power to get what you want. But the Holy Spirit is in the business of changing what you want.”
Only the Spirit can help you see others as they are and seek from God that which only He can grant.

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