Since there’s been an added interest in the topic of sex and carnal desires, I figured it was high time to write another blog post about that which people can relate to and that which some cannot seem to get enough. Here is the first of the three descriptions of the “things of this world.”
LUST OF THE FLESH
It is important that each and everyone of us takes a look at our own personal daily lives and determine what takes precedence in our lives. What do we keep in front of our eyes? What do we focus our minds on? What are our hearts filled with? Is it with the things of God or the things of this world?
Once we determine what takes priority in our lives we must make a decision. Do we stay the course or do we change direction? If we’ve remained obedient to the things of God then we are on the right track. But if we’ve come to the revelation that our lives are filled more with the things of this world, what must we do then? It is then that we must turn away from the things that are destructive and turn back to God. The question we then ask ourselves is, “what are we turning away from?”
I. The Lust of the Flesh
1 John 2:16- “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.”
I was once enlightened to an important and critical fact. We in this world must learn to transform our love for sin into our love for God. We must learn to love sin less and love God more. We must exchange our love for sin for the love of God. This is of course very difficult for many of us. We find gratification with sin. We find fulfillment. We feel as if we are whole by committing the sins that we commit. When we try and exchange our sin for God, that fulfillment may not be as tangible. We try to stay satisfied with God, but it’s difficult because God isn’t as visible or tangible as the sin we’ve been holding to.
Then eventually we feel empty. We need to be filled. God is absent. We don’t feel him. But we sure do know the feeling we get when we commit a sin. We remember how good it felt. We remember how it satisfied our longings. We could not wait for God to fill the void in our hearts. It’s much more easily satisfied by sin.
But we remember what Christ told the Samaritan woman at the well. He who drinks of the water of this well will thirst again but he who drinks of the water that I give him will never thirst. We may satisfy our cravings temporarily by committing the sins that we know make us feel good, but it is a short term gratification. We must turn away from these things and turn to God.
We are fortunate enough that the apostle John introduced us to the things that we should be wary of. In the introduction, we asked ourselves, what are the things that we are supposed to turn from? Sin, sure. But more specifically John gives us three weapons the enemy uses that we must look out for.
The first is the lust of the flesh. The Greek word for “lust” is epithumia. It speaks of “a desire, a craving, a longing, a desire for what is forbidden.” This desire is for the flesh. The Greek word for “”flesh” is sarx. It “denotes mere human nature, the earthly nature of man apart from divine influence and therefore prone to sin and opposed to God.” In simpler terms, when talking of the lust of the flesh, it talks of the humanly desires. “The lust of the flesh is, subjectively, the humour and appetite of indulging fleshly pleasures; and objectively, all those things that excite and inflame the pleasures of the flesh.”
This is the nature of man. Fleshly, carnal obsession and desires constitute the makeup of mankind. As sin permeates throughout our entire being, we are characterized by the desire to fulfill the desires of our flesh. It is our wanting, our longing, to indulge in pleasures of the earthly kind. Do we not find ourselves desiring to indulge in the appetites of that which ultimately corrupts our character, our integrity, our morality and thwarts any progress of our relationship with God?
Sensual and impure desires overtake that which we know is correct and moral. This world allows these desires to be accessible, attainable, and acceptable. They are lusts that are freely given. They are desires sought after by the majority of this world that if one desires not to pursue, they are of the minority, are looked down upon, spat upon, and called intolerant.
And yet, they are still desires that we justify. We crave it. We desire it. We need it. I’m suffering and it brings me temporary gratification. The flesh is good at the moment my lust is being satisfied. I only consider what is immediately in front of me. And what is in front of me is lust. Lust for violence, for gore, for sex, for men, for women, for alcohol, for drugs, for hate, for wrath, for envy, for jealousy, and uncleanness. For everything discussed in Galatians 5:19. There are nearly twice as many works of the flesh than there are works of the Spirit. We must be wary of what takes precedence in our lives.
We discussed earlier that we must decide to not fill our hearts with the things of this world, but rather to turn away from those things and fill our hearts with the things of God. This is necessary because we remind ourselves that to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually mind is life and peace.
We must consider our own lives and decide if the lust of the flesh supersedes our love for God. Are we overridden with sensual impure thoughts? Worse yet, are we overridden with sensual impure actions? Do we seek immediate gratification even at the expense of our soul?
With each temptation we succumb to we make a bold statement that we would rather live for the lust of our flesh than for the glory of God. We’ve heard so many times to repent and to turn away but never the specific answer of what to turn away from. With conviction we know that which we must steer clear of. The lust of the flesh keeps us far away from God.
 Matthew Henry’s Commentary
One of the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with is comparing myself to others who have walked the same road that I have. There are many people whom I admire and respect, those who have accomplished so many things, accomplishments that I hope to achieve some day, achievements that I can’t seem to wait to lay a hold of.
Then there are individuals who are walking the same path that I am currently. It’s a hard-fought battle for me, not to see them as competition or adversaries, but rather teammates and comrades. It’s a feeling of one-upmanship, being pushed to be greater, to do better, to do more than the next person. In a capitalistic American society, this is the right mind-set, but in the area of ministry, one can be considered delusional.
It was the apostle John that stated “He must increase but I must decrease.” How absolutely necessary when speaking about our Savior and apropo when talking about our peers.
In my mind, I use Proverbs 27:17 as a quasi-justification for my emotions: “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” My friends, my peers, those I look up to, are used to sharpen my countenance, therefore I must do the same. I must be an iron to them to help sharpen their countenance.
But this in turn transforms into a challenge, a competition, a desire to “beat” and “win.” It no longer becomes a humble ministry, but rather a prideful contest.
I can do more. I can influence more people. I can be more popular. I can win. I will win.
What sad state of affairs when this mentality has infiltrated my character. I loathe myself because of it. And it is not something that I can simply set aside. I’ve been working so hard at it. Everytime I see someone I love accomplish something great for the Lord, I hate that my first gut reaction is to ask myself “How can I top that? How can I do better than him?”
This is all for the Lord. And one of my greatest weaknesses is to assume otherwise due to the pride of life that has permeated throughout my thinking and my heart’s direction. It is James that reminds me not to boast in my tomorrow, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’ (James 4:15)
Unfortunately, I have “boast[ed] in [my] arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4:16) My pride is but one of the thorns of my flesh. It is this relocation to the Philippines that I hope my pride will be set aside in place of humility. “For God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (Prov. 3:34)
To my friends who walk this journey with me, in sincerity, humility, and love, your progress and achievements inspire me to do more but to be LESS. Though I may not have voiced it to you, I ask that you forgive me for challenging you, and placing myself in a position to try and supercede you in my superficial, fictional contest of ministry. Please pray for and teach me how to be more humble, to approach ministry and friendship the way you have with me; with genuineness and a fervor to simply serve the Lord out of obedience, not acclaim, prestige or rewards.
My delusional idea of a competitive ministry has brought me to the edge of my cliff. It’ll be my pride, or lack thereof, that decides whether or not I take another step.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded! – James 4:8
Forgiveness. How important yet so difficult at the same time. In a world that will allow others to maintain resentment and anger, forgiveness isn’t necessarily required. It makes it much easier for us as men and women to go about harboring ill will toward another individual because society indicates that it’s acceptable to do so.
But as Christians, we’re required to forgive. How hypocritical would it be for someone who has been forgiven of all of his sin and turn around and lack forgiveness for someone who has erred? His sin against us is far less than the sin that we commit before God. Why then can’t we forgive?
“Bless the Lord oh my soul, and forget not His benefits, who forgives all your iniquities…” (Psalm 103:2-3a)
By not forgiving others, do we inadvertently forget God’s benefits to us that come in the form of His forgiveness for our sins? If we were to constantly remind ourselves of what God has done, of all His blessings, of every single ounce of His goodness bestowed upon an undeserving soul, we can then “do the things that are pleasing to Him” (1 John 3:22), not out of obligation or requirement, but rather out of satisfaction.
We’ll do it because we want to, out of love for Him who first loved us. We want to serve Him, because He served us by dying on the cross.
We know love because He first loved us.
Do we forgive because it’s beneficial to us as human beings or that to the offender, it’s rewarding or deserving? Neither. We forgive as a testament to our belief in Jesus Christ who exemplified God’s forgiveness by dying on the cross for our sins. We forgive to provide evidence that Christ is our Lord and Savior. We forgive in order to show that we can and will, love. That even when the world will justify our anger and resentment toward another person, we will choose to love them because this is what followers of Christ do.
“By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.” (1 John 3:16)
I come from a family that has been on the receiving end of many blows, but it’d be wrong to say that we didn’t dish some out at the same time. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone I’ve offended still harbors hatred for me. Recently I sent out an email to a friend asking why he hasn’t replied to any of my calls, texts, or emails. I asked him if I had done anything to offend him, and if so, please tell me so that I can right what I’ve wrong.
Unfortunately, he hasn’t responded. Even though others may not forgive, I won’t hold it against them. I won’t use it as an excuse not to forgive.
I may not be perfect. But that didn’t stop Christ from dying for me. I may be a sinner. But through Christ, that didn’t stop God from forgiving me.
Picture taken from http://www.dailywordofgodgroup.com/images/unforgiving-servant.jpg