Lust and Holiness, Part 1

1 Peter 1:13-16

This week I addressed the issue of lust in my series of sermons, “Breaking the Chains of the Seven Deadly Sins.” If you want to get the full context of my comments, I encourage you to connect with our webpage, harvestefc.com, and click on “Sermons”. James makes it clear that lust is the energy behind temptation to sin when he says,

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (Jam 1:14 ESV)

Lust is a desire to progress beyond God’s boundaries in areas of morality. It is the misuse of what would otherwise be good and appropriate. For example, lust turns the desire to satisfy our hunger into gluttony. Lust turns the desire to have clothes into a greedy accumulation of designer fashions. Lust turns the desire for sexual fulfillment in the one man/one woman marriage relationship into sensuality, immorality and adultery. Lust lures and entices us to progress beyond God’s boundaries. But notice that this verse reminds us that lust is our responsibility. The sinful desires called lust come from within ourselves and we have to come to terms with this truth and take responsibility for our own behavior. But taking responsibility is actually the first step in breaking the chains of lust, because if something is our responsibility, we have the opportunity to govern it. If it is not our responsibility, it is out of our control. But if it is our responsibility, there is hope that we can control it. The first principle that helps us control our lust is understanding the path of lust. James tells us that there are five steps down that path.

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (Jam 1:14-15 ESV)

I will describe these steps in the form of questions.

Are you being drawn into sin by

The lure of sin – something is saying, “You need this.”

The enticement to sin – “Come on, you know you want to.”

Has sin been conceived in your heart? Here is the formulation of a plan.

Have you acted out? James calls this the birth of sin.

Is sin becoming your habit? James says this is sin that is fully grown.

Has there been some sort of destruction in your life because of sin?

These steps are found in every journey to sinfulness, whether it is the sin of greed, or anger, or sexual sin.

The second principle that helps us control our lust is understanding the exit from the path of lust. It is described by Paul in 1 Tim 2:22

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2Ti 2:22 ESV)

First – Run from the sin. I think Joseph in Genesis 39 is a great example. When Potiphar’s wife had him in her grip, he literally ran out of the house. For us, running might be putting an internet filter on your computer, or blocking certain cable stations. For me, I have practiced the discipline, for the past 15 years, of not turning on the TV if I am alone in a hotel room.

Second – Run to the LORD. Paul says run to righteousness, faith, love and peace, all fruits of the Holy Spirit. He reminds us in Galatians 5:16 that if we “… walk by the Spirit, and [we] will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Gal 5:16 ESV)

Finally – Run with our fellow believers, those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. I don’t know of a clearer passage of Scripture that encourages biblical community in the pursuit of holiness.

The good news is that no matter where you are on the path of lust, if and when we run, God will meet us there with his forgiveness and restoration.

But this all seems so logical and straightforward. If it were just this easy. Well, while it is by no means easy, there is hope that we can progress in our Christian discipleship to the degree the path of lust is the exception and not the rule.

I’ll begin that discussion next time.

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