It's time to start on something that's probally a little to personal and open for most people but here it is. Time to deal with Lust. Our small group is starting a series on this and I know I struggle with this. Hopefully it will help to encourage someone else. It's a raw, honest, and truthful look at my personal struggles with lust and an attempt to work on it.
The book we are starting is calledNot Even A Hint. I'll simply be working my through the study guide and offering my thoughts and insights into the matter.
So with that disclaimer...Here we go.Not Even a Hint of sexual immorality. Not even a little tiny bit. Not the smallest little tiny though, or action, or feeling. None. That is Gods standard.
I have to admit that often times Not Even a Hint seems like a very unrealistic goal. It seems so far off. It seems so unattainable. It seems like a nice idea but seems like a battle I will always have to fight. If I had to rate my chance of realist it seemed on a scale of 1 to 10 I think it would hover somewhere around 3-4. It seems imposable.
I think of all the images Ive seen. I think of all the movies Ive watched. I think of all the messing around Ive done and being free from lust and not having to battle it anymore seems so far off. Sometimes I feel defeated before I even start.
Like most things, its not so much how realistic I think the goal of Not Even a Hint is. Its much more about how much I desire it. As I think about how much I desire to get rid of lust I tend to think in terms of my actions. Actions tend to show the amount of desire that you have for something. Its our desires that drive us to do things. We all do exactly what we desire. Using that as the judge of my desire I would have to say that I really dont desire to have lust out of my life.
How do I show my desire to get rid of lust? Its shown by reading books, listening to sermons, reading scripture, and seeking accountability. From that standpoint there is some desire.
But I still find myself asking do I really want lust gone. Do I really want it out of my life? Yes scripture tells me that its wrong. Yes scripture says that it does not please God. Yes I know its wrongI guess I questions how much I really believe that. There are others sins like drinking, or anger, or murder where I can see a very clear cut correlation between the action and the results. With lust and sexual sin that is not the case. Lust is a very private matter.
Im not trying to justify it. I know its wrong. Scripture says its wrong. Im just trying to deal honestly with how much I want lust out of my life.
Its at this point that I find Pipers work on the issues of sex very helpful. He points out that when Christ is at the center of our lives and when we know and understand him how we should, sexuality will fall into its proper place. I think that so often I spend far too much time thinking of sex, lust, and all the related matters. Sometimes it seems like I get so off track trying to fight lust that I forget to seek after Christ.
Perhaps part of why I struggle with having a strong desire to have lust out of my life is that I feel so defeated. I feel like I have fought the battle and lost. I feel like I am doomed to fail again. I feel that it will have to be the thing that I always struggle with.
Its a tough battle. But that is where faith comes from. It comes in trusting in Christ to do what is impossible. So in some ways I do want to be delivered from lust. But I know I cant do it. Only Christ can. He is truly my only hope in the matter.
Lust vs Sexuality
Here is a simple definition of lust. Lust is desiring sexually what God has forbidden. I think this is a helpful definition. This comes from one of the books I am currently reading called Not Even a Hint. Lust is a desire. Lust is a passion. It is desiring something sexual that God has told us we cannot have. Often times we will use lust in a non-sexual way. I know that I have often times lusted over cars, or new apple products, or other such things. In reality that is not lust. There is no sexual desire when I want those things.
I dont know if there is much I would change in the definition of lust. I think that defining it and viewing it as desiring what God has forbidden is a healthy way to define it.
This is however a difference between lust and sexuality. We see that distinction drawn out in scripture. Take a look at the following verses.
Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
Colossians 3:5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-4 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor
In each one of those verse we see that we are avoid and abstain for all forms of sexual immorality. We are to put those things to death. Those are things that are not even to be named among Christians. It has no part in our lives. Yet when we contrast those verse on lust with other verse that deal with sexuality we see some of the differences come out.
Genesis 2:25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed
Proverbs 5:18-19 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
1 Corinthians 7:2-5 2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
In those verses we see the goodness of sex. We see the goodness of God and the provision he offers for us. While lust is wrong and to be avoided, sexuality is a gift from God and is to be enjoyed. But like all gifts, if we are not allowed to have it just yetwe are desiring something before it is ours, we are lusting for it.
God is not simply calling us to avoid sex for the sake of being stoic prudes. He is not asking us to avoid lust simply for the sake of doing it. It fits inside his bigger plan. It is really a matter of trust and belief.
When I give into lust, I doubt God. I doubt his provision. I doubt him to provide for me. When I give into lust I am turning away from God. Yet when I resist lust I am trusting God. When I control myself and my thoughts I am showing by my actions that I believe God and I dont believe the lies of Satan and this world.
The underlying root of lust is that I want to be satisfied now. I fail to trust in Gods future grace to provide for me a deeper more satisfying fulfillment. Its hard for me to come up with an example from my life. It seems like I am always giving into lust. I think that God is calling me to sacrifice my will and my desires for him. He is calling me to put off lust and to put of sin in order to know and love him more.
Our Efforts vs. Gods Provision
So often I try and do things based on my will. I try and approach a problem with my strength and my effort. I have done this so many things. I try and approach problems and understand them. I address the issues and build a plan of attack. When I fail there is only myself to blame.
Lust has defeated me every time I try to battle it. I struggle with it and have a little success here and there but it always seems to come back. It always seems to rear its ugly head time and time again. So often I rate my salvation based on how I am doing in my fights against sin. When I am able to obey and keep Gods law I see myself as having faith in God and being saved. When I fail I see myself as not having faith in God and thus not being a Christian.
1 Timothy 1:15-16
The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Christ came to save sinners. We know this much is true. Christ is a savior. We receive mercy so that Christ might show his patience and be an example to us. I so often look at see that I have been given mercy in some degree. Im not dead, Im not a killer, Ive got a place to live and food to eat. All those things are mercy. Yet I wonder if I have been given mercy to be delivered from lust.
The simple is answer is yes. I have been given all things in Christ Jesus. So now we must ask, why do I still struggle with lust? If I have been delivered from it why is it still an issue? I find myself questioning if I am ever saved.
I want the mercy that this verse talks about. I want to be delivered from my sins. I want victory. Yet it seems so far off.
The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
This verse tells us that God does not deal with us according to our sins. We know that if we fear him His love towards us is great. I wonder about my fear. I look at my life and see all the doubt and worry in my life and start to question my faith. I wonder if I really do believe. I wonder about my faith. I look at my struggles and issues and dont see the victory. I wonder if my transgressions have really been removed or if I live in self-delusion.
1 Corinthians 10:13
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
So where is my escape? Am I not looking hard enough? What do I need to do? There have been times I have found the escape, there have been times where I fall. I know that there is escape. Gods word tells me there is an escape. I need to commit this verse to memory and always be looking.
1 John 1:6-9
If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Here we are. Here we come right back to the heart of the matter. Here we see that the problems we face go far beyond lust. The problems we face are far beyond things we do or dont do. If we say we have fellowship and walk in darkness we lie. I walk in darkness. My life seems surrounded by darkness. The deeper into my life I look, the more darkness I see. I try to walk in the light. I try and stay in the word and around other Christians. I try and stay focused on Christ and the things that are important.
Yet I see darkness. I see the failings that I have. I see my problems with lust. I see my failures. I confess my sins yet even in that confession I feel so condemned. I dont always feel the forgiveness that I should. I dont know if I am forgiven.
I want to be cleaned from all unrighteousness. I want healing. LordPlease. Bring change. Only you can change me. Only you can make me new.
As I get ready to go through this book with my small group I have several concerns. I have felt condemnation many times from others in the group. There is a condescending attitude that is very prevalent. There is a tendency to look on our actions and place judgments on them and offer quick fixes for problems. I know that there have been several times where I have been in the wrong for something and I have dreaded showing up. I have not felt the strongest bonds of love and acceptance from the group. I hope that we can all grow together and learn to trust each other.
Accountability is one of the most frightening things that you can seek after. Its a process that is dependant on other fallen human beings. Its a process where we open ourselves up in honesty and humility. I know that with some people I can share my failures and faults and they will encourage me and offer support. Others will see those failures as a sign of my commitment to Christ not being what it should be and they are quick to tell me that I need to get my act in order.
Because of that I would like accountability in this group to be focused on the things that I should be doing. I want to be held accountable to seeking Christ. I know that it might be shocking to most people but I have sin in my life. I have many faults. I find that the more I focus on those faults and trying to fix those faults the more discouraged I tend to become.
The best thing that can be done for me is making sure that I am spending time with Christ. It is by getting to know the savior better that my battles with sin are won. It is by coming to know the glories and supremacy of Christ that things like lust start to look less glorious. Please ask me how I have been seeking Christ. Please make sure that I am spending time studying Gods word and reading substantial theology.
The thing that I would ask this group to pray for is for grace. I need grace like I need oxygen. I need grace to survive. I need God to open my eyes to his glory. I need God to give my heart new desires. I need God to give me the strength to fight against my flesh. Pray that he changes me. Im done trying to change myself. I have tried to often and have been found wanting. I have tried far to often to battle sin with my little strategies.
Even in our memory verse we get a glimpse of what I am talking about.
Ephesians 5:3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
Notice we are told that sexual immorality is not to be named among us. We are told it is not proper. But this verse dose not addresses how to get to that place. This verse dose not addresses how to get rid of the sexual immorality in my life.
If I could do it by willpower alone I would get the glory. I would get the praise and honor for being moral. But my problems lie in my heart. I need God to change me. That is why I ask for the prayers be about change. That is why I ask for knowledge.
Or as Piper so helpfully puts it misuses of our sexuality distort the true knowledge of Christ. And, in the second place, all misuses of our sexuality derive from not having the true knowledge of Christ.
Or to put it one more way: 1) all sexual corruption serves to conceal the true knowledge of Christ, but 2) the true knowledge of Christ serves to prevent sexual corruption.
Peters second letter has one of the clearest passages in the Bible on the relationship between knowing God and being liberated from corruption.
In 2 Peter 1:3-4 he says,
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
The divine power that leads to godliness comes through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence. And we become partakers of his divine naturethat is, we share in his righteous characterthrough his precious and very great promises. In other words, knowing the glorious treasure that God promises to be for us frees us from the corruption of lust and shapes us after the image of God.
Or as Jesus said, most simply in John 8:31-32:
If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
So all that to sayKeep me accountable for knowing Christ.