Monday, November 2, 2015

Walk of Repentance: Lust

I'm doing a series of Bible studies on specific sin or issues and focusing on turning away from those things as the Lord and the Scripture commands. These posts will mostly be short, simple, and full of Scripture. The idea is to meditate on the verses and apply them through turning from sin and turning to God.

I made a covenant with my eyes
    not to look with lust at a young woman.
Job 31:30

Job is often complex to interpret, but a few things are clear from this verse. In a pre-law covenant, Job considered it wrong to lust with his eyes. He made a covenant or commitment or vow not to look with lust. This was a part of his practical holiness.

9 “If my heart has been seduced by a woman,
    or if I have lusted for my neighbor’s wife,
10 then let my wife serve another man;
    let other men sleep with her.
11 For lust is a shameful sin,
    a crime that should be punished.
12 It is a fire that burns all the way to hell.
    It would wipe out everything I own.
Job 31:9-12

Job continues to describe the shame and destructive consequences of lust. He believes that it would indeed be just for him to lose everything if he committed lust in his heart.

24 “I will scatter you like chaff
    that is blown away by the desert winds.
25 This is your allotment,
    the portion I have assigned to you,”
    says the Lord,
“for you have forgotten me,
    putting your trust in false gods.
26 I myself will strip you
    and expose you to shame.
27 I have seen your adultery and lust,
    and your disgusting idol worship out in the fields and on the hills.
What sorrow awaits you, Jerusalem!
    How long before you are pure?”
Jeremiah 13:24-27

God addresses the adultery and lust within Jerusalem's society and promises that it will be exposed and bring shame upon them. God pairs these sexual sins with idol worship. He laments the sorrow that follows these sins and then laments how long He has patently waited for them to repent and live pure lives.

But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Matthew 5:28

Jesus strikes at the heart of the issue. No longer can sexual immorality be identified only by external behavior, but by the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. God cares about our inward desires. Our hearts are what God desires, not just our behavior.

So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out 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.
Matthew 5:29

This verse comes with a number of caveats and explanations from various teachers. We must recognize that it is true. It is truly better to lose a body part than to go to hell. Is Jesus commanding us to remove body parts? Do body parts cause us to lust? Jesus teaches us that lust comes from the heart not from our body parts. His teaching in this verse is that we are to do whatever it takes, no matter how drastic it seems, to live holy lives and to extinguish sin from our lives. This may mean throwing away a phone, a computer, or any other number of practical steps. But repenting of lust must be taken seriously. It is better to suffer great loss than to allow lust to lead us away from Christ.

21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”
Mark 7:21-23

Lust comes from within: from our hearts. Certain thoughts, temptations, sights, and sounds may come from the Tempter, but we are responsible for our willful mental fantasies and lusts. 

21 Yes, I am afraid that when I come again, God will humble me in your presence. And I will be grieved because many of you have not given up your old sins. You have not repented of your impurity, sexual immorality, and eagerness for lustful pleasure.
2 Corinthians 12:21

Paul writes to a church and he grieves because they have not repented. They continue in impurity (this could range from filthy talk and masturbation to pornography and deviant sexual behavior) sexual immorality and an eagerness for lustful pleasure. They were obsessed, entertained, and eager for sexual stimulation. Paul orders them to repent. They must give up their "old sins," the sins they have grown accustomed to over time.  

19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Galatians 5:19-22

Paul clarifies that lust, lustful behavior, and sexual immorality are the desires of the un-redeemed flesh. They are not characteristic of the redeemed. He also warns them, repeating himself, that if they continue they will not inherit the Kingdom of God. They will be found in darkness. They will be cast into the lake of fire with all of those who rebel against Christ as King. They must repent. Their hope is the power of the Holy Spirit who produces fruit in our lives that overcomes these lusts.

17 With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. 19 They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity.

20 But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. 21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Ephesians 4:17-24

Paul authoritatively commands the Ephesians to stop living like unbelievers. They do not know the truth and so they live as slaves to lust. If we live as slaves to lust, we are living like unbelievers. We are to throw off this behavior, but even more so this identity and this way of life. We are to allow the Holy Spirit to renew our minds and help us live out the new nature we have received in Christ.

5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. 6 Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. 7 You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. 8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.
Colossians 3:5-11

We receive the command to put to death, to kill, the earthly or fleshly desires that "lurk" or hide or live within. We are to combat and root out these desires with the truth, with the light of the Holy Spirit, with confession and repentance.

God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. Then each of you will control his own body and live in holiness and honor— 5 not in lustful passion like the pagans who do not know God and his ways. 6 Never harm or cheat a fellow believer in this matter by violating his wife, for the Lord avenges all such sins, as we have solemnly warned you before.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-6

God's will and desire and plan for us is holiness so we have to not only stop committing sexual sin, but keep our distance from it. We must learn and know how to control our bodies.

9 Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Those who continue in sexual immorality and refuse to be rescued from their sin, will die in it outside of the Kingdom of God. We have been rescued. We have been cleansed. We have been made holy. We have been made right by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. We are empowered and rescued and continue to be rescued by the Spirit of God.

Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.
1 Corinthians 6:18

We are not commanded to fight sexual sin, but to run from it, to flee from lust.

Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.
Ephesians 5:3

These sins are not to be winked at or "understood." We are not to empathize in a worldly way: "you lust, I lust, we all lust," but to not allow these sins to exist in our fellowship. We have to fight them in our own lives and in our communities.

Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.
Romans 6:19

We are either slaves to lust or slaves to righteousness. We died to these sins in Christ. We are raised in victory over them with Christ's resurrection. May our repentance not only be a turning from sin and a modification of our behavior or thought lives, but a transformation brought about by faith in the truth.

Father, all that I have written, I have written to my own heart. I confess that I have lusted more times than I can count. I have been involved in impurity more times than I can count, and I have been involved in sexual immorality. I've confessed these things again and again, and I thank You for Your cleansing. I thank You that Your mercies are new every morning. I turn from lust, Lord. I repent. I no longer want to give in to these thoughts and desires and temptations that come. I turn to You and to Your purity, which You have given me on the cross. I want to do whatever it takes to be free from any kind of lust or sexual immorality in my life. I want to receive and live out of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, to never give in to lust or fantasy again. I want to live a pure life. I want to be transformed. I want to be free. Like Job, I make a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust. I thank you for the victory you have given. Teach me how to control and possess this body you have given me in holiness and honor. Give me true repentance, Lord. I don't want this prayer to just be words. I don't want it to just last a few weeks or until the next temptation. I want this to be the end. I want this to be true repentance that lasts through eternity. I know this is Your will, and I know that I am Your child, accepted in Jesus. And so I know You will hear me and answer. You have forgiven me so much. You have loved me so much. Thank You. I love You. In Jesus name, Amen.

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