The Greatest Sermon in History Part 8
The Naked Truth about Lust
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
March 14, 2004

 

Main Passage: Matthew 5:27-30 (NLT)

 

Let’s take a trip together. Close your eyes, and picture yourself on vacation. Go to your favourite place in the world. It can be someplace you’ve been before or someplace you hope to go. Is everybody there?

Okay, how many of you are in the mountains (Mountain Goats)? In the woods (Grizzly Adams)? Anyone taking an Arctic Cruise (Popsicles)? How many of you are on the beach (Lobsters)? In the city (Urbanites – you need help)? Did I miss anyone?

Now, travel back to a Christmas morning when you were a child. Can you picture yourself opening your presents? Can you remember the anticipation? What did you have for Christmas dinner? Can you remember the aroma of the meal? Of the dessert?

The imagination is a wonderful thing, isn’t it? It lets you relive happy times. When you’re going through a rough time, it helps you see what things can be like again. It lets you dream about your goals and lets you be creative in achieving them.

Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. He dreamed about a society where segregation was no longer a reality.

John F. Kennedy had a dream. He dreamed about man setting foot on the moon and he inspired a nation with that dream almost a decade before it happened.

J. R. R. Tolkien had a dream. He dreamed of a land called Middle Earth filled with Hobbits and Elves and Dwarfs and Men and Wizards. We read about his dream in The Lord of the Rings.

I had a dream. I dreamed about a church called Sunrise long before I even met any of you. And here we are this morning.

The imagination can be a tremendous thing. But it can also be a terrible thing. If you haven’t already caught on to where I’m going with this, you lack imagination. The imagination can be a terrible thing because you can imagine yourself in God-dishonouring self-destructive scenarios. The imagination is a beautiful gift from God, but just like most gifts it can be abused and corrupted.

This morning, we’re going to talk about the dangers of using the imagination in lustful ways. Chris read a passage for us earlier from the Sermon on the Mount, the Greatest Sermon in History. And in that passage Jesus tells us that if we even look at a person lustfully, then we may as well have committed adultery. Because lust and adultery are one in the same. They both flow out of the same sinful desire in our heart.

I don’t think there’s anyone here who would argue that adultery is okay. For the most part, even our society agrees that adultery is wrong. Yet in the book The Day America Told the Truth, we are told that almost one-third of all married Americans have had or are now having an affair. Are Canadians really that much different than Americans? It’s interesting to me that we’ve even stopped calling it adultery. I mean, that’s such a nasty word. So we’ve come to call it an affair… a fling… an extramarital relationship.

[PowerPoint] Friends, this is a duck. I can call it a toaster, a banana or even a walrus… I imagine it even tastes like chicken, but it’s still a duck. And adultery is still adultery, regardless of what else we might call it. And it’s wrong. If you’re having sex with someone you’re not married to, STOP IT! It’s a serious abuse of the beautiful gift of sexuality. Whether you’re married or single, stop it.

Because adultery is wrong. We all know that. But Jesus even says that lust is wrong. So this morning we’re going to talk about what’s wrong with lust and how we can overcome it.

 

What’s Wrong with Lust?

 

What is wrong with lust? After all, it’s in the mind. It’s in the imagination. Nobody sees it, so what’s the problem?

Looks at a Person as Property

You need to understand, God intended us for fully-dimensional relationships. In a fully-dimensional relationship, you care about the person. You care about there likes and dislikes, their needs and desires, their goals and ambitions, their successes and failures, their gifts and abilities, their family relationships, their disappointments in life, what brings them joy… That’s a fully-dimensional relationship, but lust reduces all that to the physical.

Women have long complained about sexist comments and the sexual harassment brought about by lust. Nothing makes a person feel as cheap and used as being lusted after. It’s degrading. It’s reductionary.

When you lust after someone, you stop wondering what they’re like as a person and start wondering what they’d be like in bed. You reduce them to property… something to be used and discarded… something that has no meaning beyond the pleasure it can bring you.

 

Undermines the Law of Love

Just two weeks ago we talked about developing God-honouring relationships. We talked about how you and I need to take whatever sets are necessary to restore broken relationships all in the name of love. We even looked at a verse that told us that the proof that you and I are followers of Jesus is found in our love for each other.

John 13:35 (NLT)
"Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

We also saw Jesus say…

Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

Love God and love others. That’s the law of love that Jesus laid out for us. And lust undermines it. You see, lust is a counterfeit. The currency that we’re supposed to exchange is love, and that comes straight from God’s mint. After all, God is love (1 John 4:8). But Satan has put the counterfeit of lust into circulation which devalues love.

Okay, for those of you who don’t get the economic metaphor, let me just say that people confuse lust for love, and it tears apart the kind of love relationships we were meant to enjoy.

 

Seduces You Toward Stronger Stimuli

Now that’s a sentence. What does it mean? It means you can get bored with lust and crave something stronger. Small doses lead to larger doses to get the same “buzz”. One of the problems with drug use is that you develop an immunity. You may start with a minor league drug, but pretty soon you’re not getting the same results anymore and you need to turn to something stronger. And when lust stops giving you the “fix” you’re looking for, you’ll turn to something stronger, too.

What can lust lead to?

PARTICIPATION
(Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition, Victoria Secrets, soft porn, hard porn, R-rated movies (sex scenes), X-rated movies (NC-17), adultery, child porn…)

And what are the end results?

PARTICIPATION
(broken relationships, sexual addictions, criminal action…)

We’ve said it before…

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

I think the greatest strength of lust, as with any sin, is its ability to bring pleasure. There’s no denying that there’s a level of satisfaction from sin. There’s a level of satisfaction that you can have from allowing your imagination to explore all kinds of lustful possibilities. There’s a level of satisfaction to giving in to your lustful impulses. And it’s that pleasure that seduces. But it’s temporary.

1 John 2:15-17 (NLT)
Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our possessions. These are not from the Father. They are from this evil world. And this world is fading away, along with everything it craves. But if you do the will of God, you will live forever.

Lust seduces. Laurie Hall is an author who described how lust seduces…

“It starts by using the desires of our flesh to lure us into its clutches... Through the imagination it gains access to our souls where it affects our belief systems, seeks to bend our wills to evil and causes devastation in our emotions. Then it closes in for the kill in our spirits. It violates our consciences, quenches our ability to know right from wrong, and shuts down our ability to talk with God. Once the spirit is dead, there is no real life in the body. We may be going through the motions of living, but no one is really home inside.”
~ Laurie Hall, An Affair of the Mind

 

Traps You in a Destructive Cycle

It’s addictive, and like any addiction it’s hard to quit. Even when you know how wrong it is and how destructive it can be to your relationships, to your perceptions of other people, and to your own self-image… and even when you know how disgusting it is to a Holy God… it can be hard to quit. You’re trapped. And it may even seem impossible to escape.

Paul wrote…

Romans 6:12 (NLT)
Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires.

Lust can control you. It can rule you. As fun and as playful as it can seem, it can destroy you.

 

So what hope is there? When your imagination is destroyed by lust, and when you’ve allowed yourself to get addicted to all kinds of sexually inappropriate stimuli, what can you do? Can a healthy, sexually pure imagination ever be revived? The answer is, “yes”.

Let me give you CPR for reviving a healthy, sexually pure imagination.

 

Overcoming Lust
(Reviving a sexually pure imagination)

 

Cut off the sources

Jesus said…

Matthew 5:29a, 30 (NLT)
So if your eye—even if it is your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away… And if your hand—even if it is your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Does Jesus mean for this to be taken literally? Is He advocating self-mutilation? No. He has already told us in the Sermon on the Mount that He’s into heart purity. He’s interested in what’s on the inside. Cutting off your hand doesn’t change the sinful desires in your heart. Gouging out your eye doesn’t eliminate the lustful images you can conjure up in your imagination. So what is Jesus saying? He’s saying, “Cut off the sources that tempt you to sin.”

I love barbecuing. I’ll shovel a path to our barbecue so I can use it year round. I’ll turn on the propane and light the fire and throw a nice, juicy steak on. And when it’s all done, I’ll put the fire out. Know how? I shut off the propane. I stop feeding the fire. I cut off the source.

What are the sources that feed our lust?

PARTICIPATION
(magazines, TV, movies, beach, ads…)

I should point out that different people are tempted by different things. One person may be able to go to the beach and have no trouble at all while another person may not be able to handle the lustful desires that attack him or her there. Maybe if you took that same person who has no problem at the beach and put them in a darkened movie theatre, there’d be a problem there. Different things tempt different people. That’s why Jesus didn’t go into a big long list of dos and don’ts, because what’s all right for one isn’t for another. You know what tempts you, so cut off the sources.

I have a bit of a theory. I think men by nature struggle with lust more than women. Now, I have done no research and I have no statistics to back this up, but I think women are struggling with lust more and more because of how society is programming them. That’s just a theory… thus saith Greg. I feel that what used to be primarily (not exclusively, but primarily) a male problem has become a major problem for women as well.

Instead of feeding our lusts, we need to cut off the sources. Joseph in Genesis 39 understood this. When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him, I believe he was genuinely tempted. So what did he do? He literally ran from the room. He cut off the source. You and I need to do the same. It may even be necessary to ask a friend to hold you accountable. Confide in someone and ask them to check with you periodically to ask what you’re feeding your imagination. Have you really cut off the sources?

Jesus told us to cut off the hand and gouge out the eye that tempts us. In much of the Islamic world this is actually a form of punishment. If you’re caught stealing, you could literally lose your hand. But Jesus wasn’t prescribing this as punishment… He was prescribing it as prevention. He’s saying cut off the sources of temptation before you even give in to them. Don’t flirt with the temptation and don’t play games with it. Cut it off.

 

Pray for Forgiveness and Deliverance

I know the times I struggle with temptation the most is when I’ve neglected to pray. The apostle Paul wrote a letter to the newly forming church in Rome, and in that letter he described his own rather personal struggle with sin and temptation.

Romans 7:18-25 (NLT)
I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right. I want to, but I can't. When I want to do good, I don't. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway. But if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it.
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God's law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Paul understood that he had no power in and of himself to overcome sin. Neither do you or me. But he also understood that ultimately the power to overcome sin is only found in God.

Romans 6:14 (NLT)
Sin is no longer your master, for you are no longer subject to the law, which enslaves you to sin. Instead, you are free by God's grace.

Galatians 5:24 (NLT)
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.

Hebrews 9:26 (NLT)
He came once for all time, at the end of the age, to remove the power of sin forever by his sacrificial death for us.

Jesus Himself instructed us to pray to God for deliverance when He taught His disciples what we’ve come to call the Lord’s Prayer.

Matthew 6:13 (NLT)
And don't let us yield to temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.

The power to overcome sin and to resist temptation comes only from God. So don’t be arrogant and don’t be stubborn. Ask for His help! And He will give it.

Now, it may take a while. You may still struggle with your temptation and with your lust for quite some time. But be persistent and keep praying. And God will take you through a process of renewal and transformation.

I found an article online from the Christian TV show, 100 Huntley Street. In this article, it said…

“Basic human nature is not automatically destroyed as a result of salvation. Rather, your human nature is atoned for and pardoned. This means you still need to exercise control over lust and pride, which can be accomplished by renewing your mind through daily reading God's Word and communicating with Him in prayer. Self-control and obedience to God will help you gain control over lust, rather than allowing lust to control you (Galatians 5:22, 23; 1 Corinthians 9:25,27).”
~ from www.crossroads.ca/response/lust.htm

So pray for forgiveness and for God to deliver you from bondage to the sin of lust. And be willing to allow Him to take you through a process of purification.

 

Replace the Negative with Positive

2 Timothy 2:22 (NLT)
Run from anything that stimulates youthful lust. Follow anything that makes you want to do right.

Don’t just run from something bad, run toward something good.

My car is 20 years old, and it’s starting to look like it. There’s some rust that beginning to eat away at “my baby”. Let me ask you something… If I scrape off a spot of rust and sand it right down to the metal and then leave it, what will happen?

PARTICIPATION

The rust will come back. Because it’s not enough for me to just get rid of the rust, I need to replace the rust with primer and paint and rust protection.

It’s not enough to eliminate lust from your life… you need to replace it with something else. Instead of feeding your mind with all kinds of impure images and thoughts, feed your mind with what is pure.

Here are two of my favourite verses from the Bible as they relate to Christian living:

Philippians 4:8 (NLT)
Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Psalm 119:11 (NLT)
I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Back to that article from 100 Huntley Street:

A person's spirit is fed by what is allowed to enter. In other words, the Bible says that what you sow is what you will reap. So, rather than sow seeds of lustful thoughts and desires, choose to meditate on things that are pleasing to the Lord. He has promised to reward those who diligently seek Him and His ways.
~ from www.crossroads.ca/response/lust.htm

 

Would you close your eyes for a minute? As we wrap up here this morning, here’s what I want to do. I want to give you a few moments of silence to reflect on the condition of your heart. What are you taking in? What are you feeding your imagination? How are you doing in this whole area of lust? Have you submitted to the Lordship of God in your life, or are you vainly trying to make it on your own? Take few moments for silent prayer and then I’ll close.

 

 

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