Lust

Whenever we think about lust, we immediately associate it with sexuality. However, we can lust after many other things like power, fame, and fortune. We will confine ourselves to sex for this study because it is a vast subject that demands undivided attention.

Before we talk about lust, we must talk a little about sex. Hugh Hefner didn't invent it. Neither did Hollywood. Nor the authors of the Kama Sutra. God created sex, and like everything he made, it was beautiful. 

He didn't waste any time getting to it either. Merely two chapters into the Bible, we find Adam and Eve walking around naked, feeling no shame, at total ease with their bodies and each other's. There was no reason for shame. They were the handiwork of God, created in his image and likeness. 

Then the devil got into the act and messed it all up. That's his special talent: messing things up. Our special talent is that we let him mess them up so easily. He got Eve to lust after the fruit without too much effort, and then he got the rest of us who followed to lust after everything—and everyone—else, again with hardly any effort. All we need to do is look at our lives and see how easily we open the door of our hearts to temptation, especially sexual temptation. 

And it is insatiable — dangerously so. It lures us in, gets us into a frenzy, and ultimately destroys us. I once read about how an Eskimo kills a wolf. The account is gruesome, but it offers an insight into lust's all-consuming, self-destructive nature. 

First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood, allowing it to freeze. Then he adds another layer of blood and another until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood. Next, the hunter plants his knife in the ground with the blade up. 

When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He begins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lapping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Feverishly now, harder and harder, the wolf licks the blade in the arctic night. 

So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his tongue, nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His carnivorous appetite just craves more—until the dawn finds him dead in the snow!

This is what happens to us when we give in to lust. During one of my travels,  I met a man who told me the story of his rapid progression into sexual depravity. "It began with stuff I read in books," he confessed. "The descriptions of sexual encounters would arouse me, and I would masturbate. Then I began spinning my own fantasies, each one wilder than the one before."

"Soon, this wasn't enough and I wanted the real thing. I got into one relationship, then another, and another. None meant anything beyond the sexual acts, which grew increasingly perverted and warped. I began despising myself and my partner and the sex began to reflect that, getting cruel and degrading. It makes me feel sick, but I can't stop. I feel like I am dying inside ...." 

He was dying, like the wolf, a victim of his lustful appetite. 

His story is common to many of us. As a person who has been in ministry for several years and is privy to many secrets, I have heard variations of this story hundreds of times, often from people who shepherd us. None of them wish to remain trapped in sexual bondage. Without exception, they all seek a way out of the trap — but they can't find any. 

I hope this brief study will offer some solutions to help those who find themselves trapped in sexual sin break free. I also hope it will help those still free to remain free by providing them with reasons for leading a chaste life and some practical advice on how they can do so.

I am aware that not many will listen because the devil (yes, he exists!) has convinced us that lust is as natural as eating, drinking, or sleeping. It isn't. Author and preacher Richard Exley wrote: "Lust is not the result of an overactive sex drive; it is not a biological phenomenon or the by-product of our glands. If it were, then it could be satisfied with a sexual experience, like a glass of water quenches thirst or a good meal satisfies the appetite. But the more we attempt to appease our lust, the more demanding it becomes. There is simply not enough erotica in the world to satisfy lust's insatiable appetite." 

Anyone who has ever given in to lust knows this truth, so how do we fix a universal problem? Let us first look at what Scripture says about lust. 

What Scripture says about lust

Scripture is very clear about what God thinks of sexual immorality and the consequences. 

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns them to flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits," he writes, "are outside his own body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple to the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God. You are not your own (1 Corinthians 6:18-19). 

The Corinthians, as a people, led rather debauched lives. They engaged in indiscriminate sexual relationships, crossing all boundaries of what we might describe as natural. The Galatians also had similar lifestyles, leading Paul to warn them of the consequences of immorality: Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21). Most of us pay little heed, accelerating on our path towards self-destruction. How do we stop? 

Lessons from King David

We can learn a few lessons from people in the Bible who gave in to their lust. One was King David. The second book of Samuel tells us the sordid story of how David gave in to his lust when he saw a beautiful woman named Bathsheba bathing. It was an act that eventually led to the murder of Bathsheba's husband and other even more horrific consequences, but what is educational are the circumstances that led to the act. 

The story begins in classic style: In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1). 

Leave aside the suggestion that there were apparently seasons when kings were supposed to wage war, the question that comes to mind here is: What was King David doing at home when his army was out fighting? In the old days, David would have led his men into battle, but the king had obviously become a little indolent, preferring to take strolls on the roof of his palace and spy on women bathing rather than dorn armor and do noble deeds that were really kingly. His had become an idle mind. 

The familiar saying that an idle mind is the devil's workshop is accurate, and whenever we are unoccupied, our minds become a veritable playground for the enemy. I don't need to validate this statement; I am sure we can all attest to this truth from personal experience. 

What's the solution? To keep ourselves busy. And if we can't, to fill our minds with good thoughts. "Whatever is true," Paul wrote to the Philippians: Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8). 

Sin always begins in the mind, and while we can't always control the initial wave of thoughts that sweep over it, we can control how we deal with them. When it comes to lust, we have to be ruthless in cutting off the thoughts the moment we recognize them as bad because, as we saw earlier, if we allow ourselves the slightest leeway, we're on a slippery slide straight into the arms of the devil. 

Most of us have trigger points, and we need to be aware of them. Jesus told us in no uncertain terms what needs to be done. "If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble," he said, "cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell" (Matthew 18:8-9).

Translated, this means: Do not watch/listen/read/browse anything on television/radio/books/magazines/internet that could nourish impure thoughts, feelings, or fantasies. Does the sight of the skimpily clad men and women in the T.V. series you are watching make you drool? Don't watch it. Does reading Cosmopolitan magazine fill you with ideas? Read another magazine. Do your chats on WhatsApp get sexual? Delete the app from your phone. It can be anything. I knew a man who used to get aroused reading comic books: Betty and Veronica used to turn him on! This was, of course, in gentler days. But we cannot indulge our desires without getting on a very slippery slope.

The First Time

We can learn another important lesson from Daniel (of the lion's den fame) so let's look at his story.

King Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled the New Babylonian empire, was the most powerful monarch of his dynasty. In 586 B.C., his army invaded Judah. They conquered the land, devastated Jerusalem, looted and burned the original temple that Solomon had built, and took several people into captivity. Among the prisoners was a young teenage boy whose name was Daniel.

Soon after Daniel arrived in Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar instructed his ministers to select handsome, healthy, and intelligent young men from among the captives and bring them to the palace to teach them Babylonian culture and traditions so that they could be of use in his service. Daniel was one of those who were chosen.

Right off, Daniel faced a problem. Nebuchadnezzar had dictated that the new trainees were to be served the same food and wine that was served on the royal table. While this would have flattered most young men, Daniel was aghast. He was a God-fearing man, and to eat this rich food, which was probably offered to idols, would have disobeyed God's laws. To drink wine was even less acceptable. Daniel resolved to consume neither and asked the chief steward, who had taken a liking to him if he could have simple vegetables and water instead.

The chief steward panicked, knowing that the King would have his head if the young man's health suffered. However, he let Daniel persuade him to do a trial run, and after ten days, he was relieved to see that Daniel looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men on the royal diet.

The moral of this little story isn't to turn vegetarian — though I wouldn't try to dissuade you if you were so inclined — but to remain faithful to God when faced with temptation, regardless of the consequences. This isn't easy, not just because the cost of obedience is sometimes high to pay — Daniel was prepared to lose his life — but because temptation is not often recognized as an invitation to sin. 

If there is one single time in our life when we are in the strongest position to say no to temptation, it is the very first time it comes our way. (Youth, take note.) Once the devil gets his foot through the door, it doesn't take much for him to get all the way in!

However, it is rarely apparent when the devil tries to get his foot in. He is — to give the devil his due — very cunning and will find ways to get past our defenses. As Peter advises: Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).

Most of us, however, have long since passed the stage where we had the choice to say no the first time. We have said yes so often that our sins have become habits that seem impossible to break. What do we do? Let us learn a lesson from a Samaritan woman.

Lessons from the woman at the well

One day Jesus was on his way to Galilee from Judea when he stopped by a well for a rest. While there, a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well, and after a brief exchange of words involving "living water," Jesus told her to call her husband and come back. The woman said she had no husband. Jesus said to her, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband" (John 4:18). 

The woman was suitably impressed—as, I am sure, are we—but the point is not Jesus's word of knowledge but the lust on display here. And the cause for it. The woman's heart was empty, and she was trying to fill the emptiness with men—six at the most recent count—and not quite succeeding. 

Most of us have empty hearts similar to this woman's, and we, too, try filling them with whatever we can. Sex seems the number one choice, and we can blame it on the world. Everything around us, from television and the internet to billboards and drugstore magazines, all blare one constant message: lust, not love, will fill your heart! 

However, it isn't just the world to blame. Our hearts need love, and sex seems to provide the illusion that we are loved, wanted, needed, and cared for. However, sex without "real" love leaves us emptier than ever. So does any other thing that comes from the world. Speaking for God, the prophet Jeremiah said: My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:13). Sex is one of the broken cisterns.

The only thing that can truly fill us is this "living water" that Jesus promises will become in us a spring of water welling up to eternal life (John 4:14). The living water is the Holy Spirit (see John 7:37-39) given willingly to anybody who asks (see Luke 11:.9-13). 

Since Jesus used water as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit and told us to drink him, perhaps we should! But there has to be context. We can imagine drinking water from a glass, but I can't see that doing anything. I found inspiration from a song by missionary R. Edward Miller in the early '70s titled: Cause me to Come to Thy River, O Lord. The lyrics are very simple and seemed ideal for the purpose, especially since the song asks Jesus to initiate everything. This is Scripturally accurate because everything happens only through him. 

Therefore, imagine Jesus standing by the side of a river from which streams of living water flow and sing to him.

Cause me to come to thy river, O Lord

Cause me to come to thy river, O Lord

Cause me to come to thy river, O Lord

Cause me to come

Cause me to drink

Cause me to live.

 

He will tell you to come, just as he told Peter when the apostle wanted to walk on water with Jesus. "Come," he said (Matthew 14:29).

Then we need to drink the water, but we don't want this to be impersonal. We want it intimate, and what is more intimate than Jesus scooping it up with a hand and bringing it to our parched, dry lips. Love is what we thirst for, and our hearts are empty because we lack it. We need to be loved by the greatest lover of all time: God. So we tell him to invite us to drink of this love.

Cause me to drink from thy river, O Lord

Cause me to drink from thy river, O Lord

Cause me to drink from thy river, O Lord

Cause me to come

Cause me to drink

Cause me to live.

 

Once we taste the living water, we want more and more of it. How about we live in the water? The song's original words express a desire to live "by" the river, but wouldn't it be better to live "in" the river, constantly enveloped by grace and love? So once again, we invite Jesus into the process. 

Cause me to live in thy river, O Lord

Cause me to live in thy river, O Lord

Cause me to live in thy river, O Lord

Cause me to come

Cause me to drink

Cause me to live.

He leads us into the river until we are submerged in it. The more practical among us will wonder how we will breathe, but this is different from the water we are accustomed to. This is water that is, in truth, the Holy Spirit, and we are submerged in him. So, we can breathe in the water, even talk in it. We could go right down to the bottom of the river if we wanted and sit down with Jesus and be in fellowship with him while fish swam all around us.

Now you may say that this takes a lot of imagination. Sure it does, but we don't hesitate to use imagination for sexual fantasies, leading us to paths we don't want to travel to. So why not use our imagination to think about things that will bring us closer to God and fill us with everything we need? We don't have to get into a river if we don't want to; we can go wherever we want as long as you spend time with him and receive the infilling we desperately need. 

Another, very important way of being immersed in the living water is by being immersed in the word of God. Reading, studying, meditating, and memorising Scripture, especially the gospels, will help us to remain in grace, like remaining in the river. (Please refer to my talk on Understanding Scripture for more insight into this.) Let us keep in mind, however, that knowing about Christ is not the same thing as knowing him. 

The Virtue: Chastity

As we saw in the first installment in this series (see: Pride), there is a corresponding virtue for every corresponding sin. The virtue we need here is chastity.

We live in a culture where virtues are universally resented, and chastity is perhaps the one resented the most. It is not seen as something good, noble, or life-giving, but is portrayed, rather, as something harmful! The reasoning is that since sexual desire is natural, it is bad to restrict it in any way. Another argument is that chastity is the enemy of love. If two people love each other, they should be able to express that love. It all sounds reasonable enough on the surface until we examine what love itself is and how it relates to sexual desire. 

Karol Wojtyla, in his classic book Love and Responsibility, says that one of the main reasons we view chastity with such suspicion is because we associate love primarily with the emotions or the sexual pleasure that we receive from a member of the opposite sex. "Such emotions," he writes, "give love a 'relish', but do not always contain its objective essence, which is inseparable from reciprocal affirmation of the value of the person. It is impossible to judge the value of a relationship between persons merely from the intensity of their emotions. The very exuberance of the emotions born of sensuality may conceal and absence of true love, or indeed outright egoism. Love is one thing, and erotic sensations are another."

Let me simplify this for you. Let us imagine that you meet somebody and are attracted to them. You go out on a date, which develops into something physical rapidly (or slowly) escalating from holding hands to sexual intimacy. There is an intense pleasure to be obtained from such intimacy, especially when the chemistry between two people is good, but the problem is that we can confuse this for love. 

Unfortunately, nobody can maintain such high levels of excitement, and when it starts to ebb, we believe the love has faded and move on to the next relationship where we get this high. And the next. This is one reason we have turned into a sexually promiscuous society. 

This is not the only problem that results from promiscuity. When we get into a sexual relationship, two people become one. Scripture says, "the two will become one flesh" (Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:8), implying a permanent union. 

This is a union reserved for marriage. Consider what happens when it isn't. We get into a relationship with a person and are physically intimate with them. We might be in it for the long haul, but relationships often break. When this occurs, we lose a part of ourselves. In these days of sexual permissiveness, it is not unknown to have half a dozen partners before we get married. By that time, there is so little of us left.

On the other hand, if we follow the "old-fashioned" practice of waiting until we are married to have sex, we have a chance of growing in "real" love, where we seek to do what is best for the other person and help the other person pursue what is best for them. If our partners are filled with the Holy Spirit and, consequently, with love, this becomes almost a natural course of action. We will look at our partner as something more than an object for our self-gratification, be it of heart or body. We can see them in their full value. This leads to a marriage that will last forever, unlike many marriages today that end in a few months, if not a few weeks! 

So, one can see the wisdom of chastity, which will also deepen our relationship with God as it makes our hearts pure. And, as Jesus says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). 

The Gift: Piety

Just as a virtue corresponds to a particular vice, there is also a gift of the Holy Spirit. In this instance, it is the gift of piety. 

Simply put, the gift of piety is being the people God created us to be: pure, holy, and perfect. God tells us to do this, so don't say we can't do it. Jesus lived such a life of piety. How was he able to do this? Scripture tells us that we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). 

So, how did Jesus resist temptation and live a sinless life? Because he was motivated. What was his motivation? His love for his Father. When you love someone, not only do you not want to hurt them, but you also want to please them. So the love translates into obedience, and for Jesus, it was obedience unto death. 

Consequently, if we want to be like Jesus, we need to love God. This is very easy if we understand how much he loves us. And how can we not? He sent his only Son to die for us! And the Son actually did because he loved us too! How many people do you know who would do that? And in the process, he ensured us a ticket into heaven. 

Now, isn't love the natural response to love? So, what is the response to great love? Great love too! We often discount God's words to love him with "all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" (Luke 10:27) as not possible, but is it really impossible? 

Herein lies the solution to all our problems, not just sexual ones. If we love God with everything we have, we will do all we can to please him, including obey his every wish. "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15; emphasis added). Just as Jesus did. 

Love makes all things easy, and God will make the impossible possible, even loving each other as he has loved us. And then the whole world will know that we are his disciples — by our love (see John 13:34-35). 

We need to pray for these gifts of the Holy Spirit. I have a video on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that I suggest you watch for a better understanding of these gifts. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/103PuC_VFCk.

More in this category: « Pride Gluttony »
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The 7 Deadly Sins: Pride
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The 7 Deadly Sins: Pride
At the start of this new series on The 7 Deadly Sins, we look at the father of all sins: Pride.
To register for the live sessions on Zoom, WhatsApp "Join" to +91 9082101605.
Pride: https://youtu.be/0APe0WZmhrg
Lust: https://youtu.be/QwwYqVFd7iM
Anger: https://youtu.be/FAN2zvdgwzw
Envy/Jealousy: https://youtu.be/CtP27EZmcFE
Greed: https://youtu.be/5m917I_isDc
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The 7 Deadly Sins: Lust
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The 7 Deadly Sins: Lust
This is Part 2 of The Seven Deadly Sins on An Hour with Aneel Aranha. To register for future sessions, please WhatsApp +91 90821 01605.
Pride: https://youtu.be/0APe0WZmhrg
Lust: https://youtu.be/QwwYqVFd7iM
Anger: https://youtu.be/FAN2zvdgwzw
Envy/Jealousy: https://youtu.be/CtP27EZmcFE
Greed: https://youtu.be/5m917I_isDc
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The Seven Deadly Sins: Anger
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The Seven Deadly Sins: Anger
Anger is one of the deadly sins that leads to other sins including murder. How do we resist it? To register for future sessions, please WhatsApp +91 90821 01605.
Pride: https://youtu.be/0APe0WZmhrg
Lust: https://youtu.be/QwwYqVFd7iM
Anger: https://youtu.be/FAN2zvdgwzw
Envy/Jealousy: https://youtu.be/CtP27EZmcFE
Greed: https://youtu.be/5m917I_isDc
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The 7 Deadly Sins: Greed
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The 7 Deadly Sins: Greed
This is Part 5 of The Seven Deadly Sins on An Hour with Aneel Aranha. To register for future sessions, please WhatsApp +91 90821 01605.
Pride: https://youtu.be/0APe0WZmhrg
Lust: https://youtu.be/QwwYqVFd7iM
Anger: https://youtu.be/FAN2zvdgwzw
Envy/Jealousy: https://youtu.be/CtP27EZmcFE
Greed: https://youtu.be/5m917I_isDc
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The 7 Deadly Sins: Envy/Jealousy
An Hour with Aneel Aranha - The 7 Deadly Sins: Envy/Jealousy
This is Part 4 of The Seven Deadly Sins on An Hour with Aneel Aranha. To register for future sessions, please WhatsApp +91 90821 01605.
Pride: https://youtu.be/0APe0WZmhrg
Lust: https://youtu.be/QwwYqVFd7iM
Anger: https://youtu.be/FAN2zvdgwzw
Envy/Jealousy: https://youtu.be/CtP27EZmcFE
Greed: https://youtu.be/5m917I_isDc

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