The Bible deals with eternity and the Bible also deals with our current reality. God has provided an instruction manual for life; giving us His way of doing things. Jesus spoke over and over again of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God did not have a specific set of borders or a geographical location but that it resides within those who believe (Luke 17:21).
When we come to Jesus our lives radically change. We serve a new King. We live in a new kingdom that has different rules and laws. We operate under a new authority. We have a new home. Everything that was old passes away and all things for us have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). We are born again, destined to spend eternity with God in heaven. Life has changed but we still live here on the earth.
We are in the world, but not of the world (John 17:15). We live in the same world that we did prior to coming to Jesus. Many of us have the same job, the same friends, the same address, etc. that we did prior to coming to Jesus. Our circumstances many times have remained the same, but we have changed. Our hearts have changed. Our destination has changed. Our allegiance has changed. Our nature has changed. Our activities have changed. Our worldview has changed. The key, core elements of our lives change, but the circumstances of our lives in many cases remain the same.
The world is removed from our heart and replaced with the Word and Spirit of God but the world around us continues as it has all of our lives. As Christians we are called to live like Jesus and no longer like those who do not know Him.
I want to look at 3 verses from the Sermon on the Mount for this message:
“You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. And if your hand—even 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.” (Matthew 5:27-30)
There are several key subjects that Jesus speaks concerning in these three verses:
These are three of the most personal subjects that anyone could ever speak to you about and Jesus hits them very strongly and very clearly. He proclaims how Christian or Kingdom life should be lived in relation to these subjects.
There is a lot of dancing around these issues through the church today. Many Christians and even many pastors prefer not to answer questions on these verses. Jesus is just a little too clear for comfort for most of us. He doesn’t leave a lot of room for us to spiritualize or explain these verses away.
The Sermon on the Mount provides God’s righteous way of living for all. Jesus raises the standard of righteousness for us in these verses; calling believers to a life of inward righteousness in conjunction with a life of outward sanctification. Jesus is not only interested with what others can see and hear us do, but with who we are on the inside.
Many Christians go about avoiding temptation, lust and adultery by dealing with the external parts of their lives. Entire denominations and movements within the church have come into existence in an effort to make men and women holy. They have emphasized what we wear, where we go, whom we go with and even what we purchase; placing controls on the external in an effort to control the internal. Unfortunately much of this type of practice has lead to the propagation of dogma that has lead to legalism and turned the grace of God into the Old Testament law.
The bible has much to say about sin and how to avoid it. New Testament Christianity begins with the internal and works its way to the external. Does that mean we should only focus on the internal and ignore the external? No. If you still have the desire to do something that you know the Bible says that you should not you shouldn’t do it. Our main concern in these situations is to avoid the sin and then focus on renewing our minds with the word of God so that we no longer desire to commit the sin. This normally takes a very long time and involves a lot of bible study, prayer, praise and fasting. It involves making godly decisions and resisting temptation in Jesus name.
Self-denial is removing ourselves from the throne of our lives (the place we gave Jesus at salvation) and allowing God’s will to overrule our will. Through the process of sanctification and maturity in the faith we reach points where God’s will and our will agrees. As a Christian when our desires and God’s desires are in disagreement we must choose to submit to God’s will or choose to sin. It is at these times in our lives that the Word of God and the Holy Spirit must be our strong tower. His grace is sufficient for us.
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. Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 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.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3:5-15)
Paul told the Colossian believers to put to death the sinful, earthy things lurking within you. Jesus told us to “cut it off” or “pluck it out” if it causes us to sin. These are strong words that need to be given our full attention.
Let’s talk about lust.
1. intense sexual desire or appetite.
2. uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite; lecherousness.
3. a passionate or overmastering desire or craving (usually fol. by for ): a lust for power.
4. ardent enthusiasm; zest; relish: an enviable lust for life.
–verb (used without object)
5. to have intense sexual desire.
6. to have a yearning or desire; have a strong or excessive craving (often fol. by for or after ).
The word translated Lust in Matthew 5:28 is the Greek word ἐπιθυμέω (epithymeō)and is defined as:
1. to turn upon a thing
2. to have a desire for, long for, to desire
3. to lust after, covet
a. of those who seek things forbidden
What Jesus speaks of in these three verses we are discussing is the 10th commandment:
“You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:17)
Desire, Lust & Greed
The imagination of humanity is one of our most powerful abilities. We are able to dream and conceive things that do not exist today. We can envision circumstances and life that are very different from the present. It is our imagination that leads to hope which when based on God’s Word leads to faith. It is also our imagination that can lead us to sin.
It can be as simple as want something or wanting to do something that you know is wrong. You can use as many clichés as you can think of, but we tend to reject that which is in our lives for that which we know does not belong to us. It is our “grass is always greener on the other side” mentality.
The message of Jesus is that it is not good enough just to remain faithful on the outside where everyone can see. It is not good enough never to be caught up in a sex scandal. It is not good enough never to have “surprise” children with people you are not married to. It is not good enough to refrain from extra-marital affairs. It is not good enough to abstain from sex prior to marriage. It is not good enough to just look the part; Jesus wants us to have a pure heart. To put it bluntly – we can’t behave like Puritans on the outside and think like porn stars in our brains. That is not Christianity – that is religion. Jesus wants to change the way we think.
The Bible Solution
If there are things in your life that feed your imagination, desire, lust and greed for things that the Bible says are sin they need to be “plucked out” and “cut-off” from your life. It will not be fun. You won’t want to stand up and testify about it next Sunday night at church. There are hard choices to be made in a Christian’s life – living for the moment versus preparing for eternity are many times mutually exclusive. In our permissive culture and society when we choose the path of holiness in many times seems out of place, odd or even backwards to those around us. It is these choices that surrender more of our hearts to Jesus.
1. Stop watching, reading, listening to, frequenting media, events & entertainment that fuels your desires to have or do what the Bible says is sin.
2. Start replacing the time you spent on fueling these desires with time spent fueling the desire of God in your life.
3. Pluck it out, cut it off and then replace it with desires that come from heaven.
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)
Temptation when habitually kept at a distance ceases to exist. If you have problems looking at the opposite or even the same sex without having carnal, lustful or sexual thoughts you need to get God’s view. You need to confess your sin to the One who is faithful and just to forgive us of all sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
There is a fine line between the look that notices beauty and the stare that begins shooting a mental movie. Visual stimulation is only the initial reaction to your surroundings. Lust is not a by-product of what your eyes see it is a mental production of your imagination based upon what you have seen or would like to see more of. Lust begins with an evil desire that existed prior to visual stimulation. Visual stimulation can be likened to a casting call for your sinful desires. Your eyes are searching for an object to project your lust upon.
Lust does not begin when you see an attractive man or woman. Lust begins in our hearts when we have a desire to do something sexual with someone other than who we are in a marriage covenant with. Notice I did not say a committed relationship with. The covenant of marriage is the Biblical standard for godly sexual relationships. People may argue away or explain away this truth with relativistic modern culture or any other excuse that permits then to do what they want without having to obey God but the Bible remains the same.
Ancient Rome was a far for permissive culture sexually than that which exists in America or even most of modern Europe and this is to whom Jesus and apostles spoke the verses we have read in this message.
Books and sermons have been written and preached on this subject for two thousand years but I believe we can deal with the problem of lust with three passages of scripture:
1. Eliminate the fuel to your current fire:
Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:17)
2. Renew your mind
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
3. Feed your spirit
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8)
What if I feel condemned?
If you are struggling with lust God already knows all about it. Be honest with God – confess your sins to Him; tell Him what desires you are struggling with. The blood of Jesus cleanses all sin; your sin and my sin. Jesus did not come to condemn you – He came to set you free.
Resist the devil. Bind him in Jesus’ name. Read and speak scripture over your life. Fast and pray concerning this; place your desires on the altar and make God deal with them. Repentance is a changing of direction and a changing of our minds.
If you are really struggling with lust you may need to find a believer who knows what deliverance is all about. Jesus Christ can set you free from anything you are willing to be free of. Find a person or church where the Holy Spirit is free to move and have them agree with you in prayer. The authority of Jesus’ name can break every stronghold in your life.
Holiness is not a suggestion from a preacher or denomination. Holiness is a commandment from God. Holiness is the separation and consecration of our lives, spirit, soul and body to the word and will of God. He is taking us from glory to glory. He is finishing the work that He began in us. He is making us more like Jesus.
If we want to become more like Jesus it many times involves becoming less like us and the world around us. It involves plucking some things out of our lives and cutting other things off from our lives only to replace them with new things that come from God.
Sin will never be acceptable to God, even though it is fashionable in much of our culture. Sinful lusts will never be acceptable to God. Holiness is possible because of God’s grace. God’s grace empowers us to fulfill the words of Jesus.
Don’t ignore your lust issues – take them to Jesus
Don’t justify your lust issues – take them to Jesus
Don’t sustain an atmosphere conducive to fueling your lust issues – cut it off and pluck it out
His grace is sufficient for you and He can handle whatever you bring Him.