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Lust to Intimacy

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 8/4/2019

Christians have so many areas of struggle—and not just one. That’s something I’ve loved about doing this series. We’ve been able to talk about pride, anger, deceit, envy, greed, and fear. Last week, Daniel spoke about gluttony. Next week we’ll talk about sloth—how it can be so tempting to just sort of resign ourselves to the status quo. But this morning we’re talking about the large pink elephant in the room! 

It’s not too great a stretch to say that for many Christians, LUST is their single greatest of struggle. You might recall James 3:2. The Bible says if someone is able to control their tongue, their able to keep their whole body in check. For many it isn’t their tongue, it’s lust. In survey after survey Christians say, “If only I could control my lust…”

Lust as Runaway Desires

There are many ways we can understand LUST. In the broadest sense, LUST relates to our “runaway desires.” In C.S. Lewis’ classic, “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” the White Witch asks Edmund what he would “best like to eat.” In Western Europe (at the time the book was written), there was only one true delight: Turkish Delight. Turkish Delight was a special candy, made from a confection of rose oil and sugar, that had to be imported from Turkey. Although the recipe looked simple on paper, the Europeans could never replicate its taste. It was like Dolly Madison trying to be Cinnabon. [Cinnabon is the reason I had to have Daniel preach on gluttony last week]

No delicacy was more expensive to buy and difficult to obtain than Turkish Delight. For Turkish Delight Edmund was perfectly willing to sell out his brother, two sisters, his wellbeing, his soul... and in the Lion, Witch, Wardobe, the Queen knew it!

While he was eating the Queen kept asking him questions. At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one’s mouth full, but soon he forgot about this, and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen should be so inquisitive. She got him to tell her that he had one brother and two sisters, and that one of his sisters had already been in Narnia and had met a Faun there, and that no one except himself and his brother and his sisters knew anything about Narnia. She seemed especially interested in the fact that there were four of them and kept on coming back to it. “You are sure there are just four of you?” she asked. ‘Two Sons of Adam and two Daughters of Eve, neither more nor less?” and Edmund, with his mouth full of Turkish Delight, kept on saying, “Yes, I told you that before,” and forgetting to call her “Your Majesty,” but she didn’t seem to mind now.

We’ve all had the experience of James 1:14-15, “each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” I could really cope out this morning as talk about LUST in this really generic sense, but I don’t think it would help many of us.

Lust as Sexual Preoccupation

In a narrower sense, LUST concerns our “sexual preoccupation.” Someone perfectly described our modern times. We’ve come to believe that the most important way to “be” and “relate” to others is sexually. In fact, it’s an obsession. Let’s take the issue of being. A lot of people imagine their happiness depends upon “being” sexually attractive, both now and forever. Magazine covers, romance novels, movies and television, the media and advertisers have exacerbated this obsession. Men and women alike want to be noticed, liked, loved, favored, clicked, pursued.

One aspect of sexual preoccupation is intentionally or unintentionally making yourself an object of other’s people desire. For some, being sexy has become their primary basis for your self-worth. Being sexy has become an integral part of their identity, their personal image, their lifestyle choices, their social status, their relationships. Some wouldn’t be caught dead wearing clothes, carrying a smartphone, driving a car, drinking a beverage, sporting some accessory, or associating with some lower status person, that didn’t somehow enhance your sexual image. So much anger, so much envy and rivalry, so much anxiety and depression, so much relational fallout, stems from this preoccupation with “being.” Psychologists have long observed that sex appeal is one of the primary ways women exhibit dominance over one another, and feel threated by one another.

Now obviously there are deeper, richer, more beautiful, more important ways of being. . . but LUST distorts all that. The other face of sexual preoccupation concerns “relating.” A lot of men imagine their happiness depends upon sexually relating to others. First of all, you can’t relate to everyone sexually. Second of all, even if you could, you shouldn’t. One person said, “This is perhaps one of the easiest myths to shatter if you just consider the sheer overwhelming amount of pain in our world. Sexual trafficking. Pornography. Sexual Addiction. Family breakdown--Divorce. Abortion. The trail of destruction is a mile wide…” One could also add the proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases, domestic violence, child abuse, suicide. Or how about this. Consider the pain being expressed, and the backlash that’s been growing, among so many people under the social media hashtag #MeToo.

There is a human toll when you try to exalt yourself into an object of lust; there is a human toll when you reduce others into a mere object of your desires. There are far more important ways to “be” and “relate” in our world than sexually.

Lust as Sexual Mysticism

An even deeper, darker aspect of LUST concerns “sexual mysticism.” Os Guinness describes our culture’s belief that through some sexual experience, we’ll have this kind of ultimate, mountaintop, revelatory experience… that sexually, we’ll experience the equivalent of Moses’ epiphany at Mt. Sinai or Jesus’ Transfiguration or Jesus Resurrection from the dead! Now more than ever, people are on a quest for a sexually transcendent experience to deliver their spiritually dead soul from eternal boredom.

The quest for something transcendent takes so many forms. I subscribe to the Apostle Paul’s philosophy, in Ephesians 5:12, that it’s shameful to mention what people do in secret. Yet in that same passage, Paul commands us to expose everything to the light. Men will throw away true intimacy, true love, true communication for what they hope will be a sexually transcendent experience. Women do the opposite. They’ll throw away sex, in the hope of experiencing deeper love and intimacy.

In the Bible there is this crazy story about two people named Hosea & Gomer. Hosea was a prophet of God, and Gomer was a prostitute. Gomer was like the woman at the well in John 4. She was like the woman caught in adultery in John 8. She’s like the adulteress described in Proverbs 5-6-7. Her lips dripped of honey, her speech smoother than oil, full of false assurances. She’s loud and wayward. Bitter, Bold, Brash. Each day, she lies in wait in the street, in the marketplace, on the corner… doused in perfume… hoping some pour soul will waltz by that she can seize, and kiss, and consume. She leaves no stone unturned in her ever-desperate quest for something transcendent!

God not only commands Hosea to marry Gomer and have children with her. We have every reason to believe that Hosea was probably the best thing that happened to Gomer. In Hosea 1, they get married, they exchange vows, they have children. But in Hosea 3, Gomer’s gone back to her old ways. Hosea must have been so frustrated… here he is pursuing his wife, but his wife is pursuing another. God tells Hosea, “Go again, and love this woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress.” Hosea has to go and pay fifteen shekels of silver for her. He renews his vow to her. He pleads with her, “You must dwell as mine for many days. You shall not play the whore, or belong to another man. . . I’m going to be faithful to you…”

Come to find out their whole marriage was a metaphor! Hosea was pursuing Gomer. Gomer was pursuing another. But God was pursuing his chosen but spiritually adulterous people Israel. And Hosea is such an incredible book, because there isn’t any price God wasn’t willing to take to woo back Israel from her spiritual adultery. Hosea paid 15 shekels of silver, but God was willing to pay the price of sparing not even his One/Only Son. At its core spiritual adultery, spiritual mysticism, spiritual idolatry, LUST… are all the same thing. Instead of turning to God for ultimate happiness/fulfillment (true intimacy/perfect love/living water), we keep chasing sexuality.

I love what Jesus tells the Woman at the Well in John 4:10. “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is talking to you… you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” When it comes to LUST, our problem isn’t that were thirsty and trying to drawl living water… it’s that we’re trying to drawl it out of the wrong well.

  • There’s no living water in that series of Romance novels.
  • There’s no living water to be found on the silver screen.
  • There’s no living water behind the late-night glow of your monitor. 
  • There’s no living water pushing boundaries with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • There’s no living water found outside your marriage.
  • There’s no living water across the room, across the street, down the street, across town, at that club, at that bar, at that coffee shop, in the next cubicle, on your social media feed, on Tinder.
  • Surf all you want, click all you want, flip all you want. . . until you learn to draw from the right well, you’re buckets will keep coming up empty.

I would even dare say, there is no living water found within marriage. In 1 Corinthians 7:5 Paul commands husbands and wives not to deprive each other sexually. But he simultaneously commands them to abstain on occasion, by mutual consent, that they might pray! Even in a healthy, godly marriage, a couple mustn’t hang everyone on sex, but learn to pursue God!

The Vicious Cycle of Pride and Shame

Perhaps the deepest/darkest aspect of LUST concerns “pride and shame.” When it comes to LUST there are two spiritually destructive attitudes. When I have pride, I feel superior. When I have shame, I feel inferior. When I was in grade school, the school playground had a teeter-totter. They’ve probably outlawed them. Once in a while, some kid would break their leg, but it was all part of the fun! But you know how it works. You go up, you go down, it all depends on who the other person is and what they’re doing. 

When it comes to LUST, there is a lot of teetering-tottering going on. There is a temptation for us to feel superior or inferior depending upon others. Men can feel profound shame when the topic of lust comes up—because many women don’t feel they struggle with lust whatsoever. For many reasons, women overwhelming assume lust is a “male issue.” When Jesus talks about lust in the Sermon on the Mount, he appears to direct his words exclusively to men. But whether someone is throwing intimacy away for sex, or throwing sex away for intimacy, doesn’t make them more/less innocent! It only means their ignorant of the deeper nature of lust.

One person can feel added shame based upon the public or private nature of their sin. Adultery is a very visible activity, it’s virtually impossible to conceal. But just became one person’s sin hasn’t bubbled to the surface doesn’t mean their better than the person’s whose been exposed.

In Matthew 5:27-28 Jesus drills down to the deepest, interior dynamics of lust. He says, “you have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It’s not just the outward behaviors, it’s the inward intentions of the hearts that God is concerned about!

In Matthew 5:29, Jesus addresses the eyes. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better for you to lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” In Matthew 6:23 Jesus warns “if your eyes are filled with darkness, your whole body will be full of darkness.” Pornography is a major source of shame for Christians. This decade has seen an alarming rise in the number of women viewing pornography. Some would say the statistical differences are negligible. Women who struggle with pornography often experience a double measure of shame… because not only is there the pornography itself, but there is this added false belief that women never struggle with lust… so if I am, I must be really, really messed up!

In Matthew 5:30 Jesus addresses the hand. “If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” Your heart, eyes, and hand all conspire together. The hand clicks the mouse, flips the page, touches, engages, stimulates. . . I don’t need to connect the dots and draw the associations in this sermon. What a person does with their heart, eyes, hands evokes tremendous, debilitating shame.

Later in Matthew 18:8 Jesus adds, “If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.” Isn’t it true, that if a given sin or temptations isn’t accessible, our feet will join the conspiracy of heart, eye and hand? So many people put themselves in situations secretly hoping there will be a “happy accident.” People put themselves in places to increase the probability that a sinful scenario will present itself.

Do you see how Jesus leaves absolutely no cover for lust to thrive? He exposes the outward, the inward, the heart intention, the eyes, the hands, the feet. But I also want to point out that Jesus doesn’t only address lust. Like we’ve done in this series, Jesus addresses a broad swath of issues. If you’re struggling with sexual sin, God cares deeply about that, but it’s not the only single thing defining your relationship with God. But here is my point. There is absolutely no basis for us to have pride toward one another or toward God because Jesus says, “Be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.” By the measure of God’s own perfection, not a single one of us is “okay” enough. But that leads us to the best part…

The Power of GRACE 

The best alternative to pride isn’t shame… the best alternative to shame isn’t pride… the best alternative to both is GRACE!

Grace moves us from fear to faith. We don’t overcome lust by flipping price tags. You know when you go to the store, and you see something you like, but then you turn the price tag over, and the price scares the hell out of you? Some people think that’s what Jesus is doing in Matthew 5:27-30. Here is adultery… the price is hell… now be good. But the truth is that perfect love drives out fear. God doesn’t want us to wallow in shame/fear. If we could understand the height, depth, breadth of God’s love we’d confidently be drawn to him, even when we win, knowing that God “delights” in forgiving our sin.

Grace moves us from rules to relationship. There is a place for spiritual disciplines. I’d say if you don’t take measures to guard your heart, your eyes, your hands, your feet… you will most certainly sink deeper into sin. But freedom from lust doesn’t come from more/better rules. The law, the most harsh and brutal disciplines you’d dare subject your body to isn’t what will set you free. It’s the Spirit of grace. It’s the fact that God is stubbornly faithful to keep taking you back so long as you’re willing to humble yourself. I’d say over time, it’s impossible that a person who keeps genuinely repenting and returning to God won’t also be transformed. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Keep coming back!

Grace moves us from isolation to intimacy. When Adam sinned, he hid in the garden, alone. What God invites us to do when we sin is rend our heart. He invites us to close our eyes, open our hands to heaven, bow down on our knees. He invites us to surround ourselves with others, as Jesus did, to pray along with us in our hour of need. Instead of facing LIST alone, in isolation… God invites us to face it in true communion with Father, Son and Holy Spirit… and to face it in true communion with his body the Church.

The grace God offers is best embodies in the cross. The cross is about one thing only… Christ offers to take our sin, shame, guilt and nails it to the cross. Christ takes his own blood and sheds it on our behalf. God takes his own flesh and tears it. He takes his own hands and lets them be nailed wide open so we can never say of God his arms aren't open to embrace us. God takes his own feet, and lets them be nailed down, so were can never say God runs from sinners like you and me. At foot of cross the ground is level, there is no basis for shame and pride, only mercy. We all come the same, but praise God we don't leave the same… his blood cleans us, his spirit sanctifies our hearts and minds, His word guides us, his church comes alongside us not in pride, or comparison or self-righteousness but in humility.

Scripture Verses

Proverbs 10:9, Psalm 51, James 1:14-15

Worship Playlist

  • Your Love Awakens Me
  • Give Us Clean Hands
  • Before the Throne of God Above
  • Overcome

Study Questions

Psalm:

"1Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love.Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.2 Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.

7Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me— now let me rejoice.9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me."- Ps. 51:1-2; 7-10

Proverb:

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."- Pr. 4:23


Apply It!

Prayer:

"Jesus, I need Your involvement in every detail of my life. I’m lonely without you, adrift on a sea of wrong choices, going nowhere. I choose today to come near to you, to share my heart, my desires, my remorse, and my pain. To hear you say, “You are forgiven, my child.” I hereby promise to seek you with everything that I am. I turn my eyes from the things that I believe will fill me up and I trust in you alone. I receive the promise of your Word that you will not remain a mystery to me, but that I will find what my heart has been searching for all along: My God who adores me, my Savior who suffered for me, and my Spirit who will never forsake me. Amen."

"O God, create in me a clean heart- your love is unfailing."

Practice:

Lust is a longing desire; an eagerness to possess or enjoy. Intimacy is a nearness or companionship. When do you find lust becoming the enemy of intimacy in your life? Who have you hurt with your lusts? Pray for the Holy Spirit’s power to reject lust. Identify some daily acts you can practice to encourage intimacy (companionship)? 

Resources

  • Book: Addicted to Lust, by Samuel L. Perry
Downloads & Resources