- It’s Okay To Look…Isn’t It?
- Matthew 5:28
- Brian Brownlow March 17, 2019
This morning we are continuing a series titled, “The Sins That We Love.” That is a rather interesting title wouldn’t you say? As Christians, we are supposed to hate sin. It is our mortal enemy. The last thing we want to do is to love sin. But in the initial sermon two weeks ago, Lyndol said something that really struck me:
Sin is no doubt a controversial subject. Some people don’t believe there even is such a thing, while others understand it to be a legitimate problem. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t, but one thing is for certain, there is a lot of confusion in our world about sin.
Truth be told we are broken people who live in a broken world. Sin and brokenness are a real part of the human condition whether we like it or not. When people who are not whole try to make a life together, they sometimes fail. That’s the concept of sin.
But the great news is while we are in the sin business, God is in the far greater enterprise of forgiveness and grace.
Sin is the sort of word that we usually like to reserve for the misdeeds of others, rather than reflect upon what it means for us personally. Sin becomes what others do – murderers, thieves and the like.
It is easier if we can think of ourselves as being “slightly flawed.” We have a way of justifying ourselves with good intentions and thoughts of not being as bad as others happen to be.
It is my conviction that sin is such a significant matter that without the help of God we aren’t able to deal with it. We make it into a game of sorts. We try to make it either something we can deny or master – one or the other.
What we fail to realize is that sin is chronic. Sin influences much of what we refer to as the human condition. If sin is part of the human condition, then it is part of my condition. It means that such ugliness and evil resides in me as well. I can’t exempt myself.
When it comes to our inability to acknowledge our own condition it has been suggested that one of the reasons we have such difficulty is because the sins we commit are the sins we love.
Church, I have to admit that sin is my condition. One of the greatest battles of my life has been to keep the covenant with my eyes. Lust has been a sin that I loved. Now, I know many of you are thinking, “TMI – too much information!” That’s not something you want to hear from one of your pastors. That makes you feel uncomfortable. Well, if it helps, it makes me feel uncomfortable saying it. However, there is no way that I can preach this sermon with any degree of integrity unless I’m willing to confess that right up front. I’ve confessed that sin before God and before men. I’ve cried out to God for forgiveness, I have asked godly men who I trust to keep me accountable, and I’ve asked my wife to pray for me. I also have to give witness to the unbelievable grace that can only be experienced through the cross. There is nothing that cannot be redeemed and restored by what Christ did for you and for me on Calvary.
Today we are going to discuss the sin of lust. We are going to discuss it appropriately but also frankly, openly, and directly. We have an enemy who loves the darkness. He wants to keep our sins hidden and cover us with guilt and shame. He wants us to fear being exposed because he knows that confession and repentance are the only way to break the power of sin in our lives. The dungeon that Satan wants to keep us in is not made of stone or steel. It’s formed out of secrecy.
This morning we are going to pull that shroud back and rip it apart to shine the light of God’s truth into that dungeon. It’s the most powerful and freeing thing in the world. When Satan comes to me and starts accusing and threatening to expose my sins you know what I say to him? “Who are you going to tell?! God already knew it, but I’ve confessed it to Him anyway. My brothers and sisters in the church have heard it from my own mouth. The person I love more than anything on this earth – my wife – is waging war in prayer over this issue and I’m experiencing breakthrough and victory because of that. So now, tell me, who exactly are you going to tell?”
Church, we have to confess our personal and corporate sins. It is the only way we can gain victory. We have to look at ourselves and not point the finger at someone else. Today we’re going to deal with the sin of lust, and we are going to do so by shining the light of Jesus. John 1:4-5 says, “In Him (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” We are going to shine some light into that dungeon of darkness.
Okay, I want to share three assumptions that I’m working from. First of all, sin is real. Now I know many of you are thinking, “Well, DUH!! Of course sin is real.” Those of us in the church may take that for granted, but this assumption is by no means accepted in the world around us. Albert Forcier in a book titled A Natural Philosophy, said, “Sin (the idea that you can sin) is the single most destructive force implanted into the human psyche.” The idea in secular psychology is that sin is a made up concept of religion. Let me pause and say I am not attacking psychology. Psychology is very valuable, and I refer people to Christian psychologist all the time. Understanding how we process things emotionally and psychologically can be tremendously helpful to all of us. We’re not anti-science and certainly not anti-psychology. On the other hand, we have to acknowledge that the world around us does not recognize or accept the reality of sin. In many ways, secular psychology would tell us that anything is okay as long as it doesn’t harm someone else.
The second assumption is, sin separates us from God. Scripture teaches us that we are created in the image of God and thus we are good. But when we sin, we drive ourselves away from the perfect and holy God. There is sin, and it is not good because it separates us from God.
The third assumption is, lust is sin. Jesus addresses it in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard it said, you shall not commit adultery. I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus raises the bar when it comes to lust. Jesus pretty much throws out the idea that it’s okay to look as long as you don’t touch.
Lust is a particular type of sin. It’s a sexual sin. In I Corinthians 6, Paul tells us that all other sins we commit are outside of our body, but sexual sin is committed against our own body. I want to suggest to you this morning that sexual sin is one of the most destructive things we will encounter. This is not about big sins vs. little sins. That’s not the point. What is important to recognize is that sexual sin is one of Satan’s favorites because it has so much collateral damage. Think about it for a moment. If he can introduce sexual sin into a marriage he not only damages the person who committed the sin but their spouse and their children. The enemy loves nothing better than to get church leaders, especially pastors, to fall into sexual sin. If he can get a leader in the church to sin – especially sexually – the shockwaves travel throughout the congregation. Sexual sin causes damage far beyond the person who engages in it.
I talked earlier about shining the light into the darkness. This morning I will spend most of our time talking about God’s good gift of sexuality. Satan wants us to focus on the sin. God wants us to focus on the cross. The reason is simple; Satan knows that you can’t beat sin. You – and I – are going to lose the battle against sin every single time. Has anybody been there? Yeah, me too. We focus on sin and try so hard to stop and yet it seems like we keep doing the very thing we don’t want to do. We try method after method, and we make resolution after resolution. We grit our teeth and say, “I’m not going to do this anymore.” Next thing we know, we have fallen into it again. By ourselves, we will always fail.
The good news is, the cross never fails. That’s why God doesn’t want us to focus on the sin but rather on the cross. I spent a lot of time earlier talking about confession. When we confess that we can’t beat sin -but believe in faith that what Jesus did on the cross can – we take the first step towards victory.
1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Instead of focusing on the sin of lust, let’s talk about what God says about sexuality.
First of all, God created it. Genesis 1:27 – 28 says, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'”
One of the very first things God says to His human creation is to be fruitful and increase in number. We know what that means. God created us male and female, but he didn’t continue to just gather dust and breathe life into us. He chose a particular mechanism whereby two people would join together emotionally, spiritually, and yes, physically in a beautiful union to accomplish his purposes. We were made for relationship; first and foremost with God and secondly with each other. A very unique and special relationship between a man and a woman was created in order to be a foundational part of how God would advance His kingdom on earth.
Secondly, it is good. Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning – the sixth day.” When God looked back on everything that He had made, including His human creation and the plan for them to be in relationship together emotionally, spiritually, and physically, He said it was very good.
Any discussion of sexuality must start with a theology of creation. The Biblical witness points us to two foundational principles: God created sex, and everything He created was very good. Remember we talked about how Satan prefers to keep things in the dark? He really likes to keep discussions about sex in the dark. In many ways, the church has helped his cause tremendously by us operating with a “Culture of Shame” when it comes to sexuality.
Most of the time we would say we believe these two foundational principles: God created sex, and everything He created is good. But, we act like it’s the most taboo topic ever. I know I’m painting with broad strokes here and I’m making some generalizations. I know this isn’t always true, but I do think by and large we communicate – in Christian homes – to children in ways that give horribly mixed messages. We treat sex like “The Big Secret,” avoiding it unless we absolutely have to answer a question. When kids do ask a question, our answer often goes something like this, “Oh, that’s something we don’t talk about out loud. One of these days you will get married, and that’s how you’ll have kids. And…uh…between now and then…uh…just try not to think about it.”
Ultimately, that type of approach, while perhaps slightly exaggerated, still leaves kids to get their information from their peers and the culture around them. That, church, is the absolute worst place our kids can receive information about sex. Parents, I want to encourage you to have open and honest conversations with your kids as soon as you think they are ready. I’m going to add that they are probably ready a whole lot earlier than you are. We placed some disclaimers in the newsletter and in the bulletins the last two weeks to let parents of young children know that we were going to be discussing this topic. A sermon on Sunday morning is not the first place young kids need to hear about this. They need to hear about it from you at home. Before I move on, I’m going to give a word of caution, if you think your kids aren’t hearing about sex or even seeing sexually explicit material you’re probably fooling yourself. With electronic devices that all have access to the Internet, there is a myriad of ways that those things can make their way into your kid’s lives.
Lest we think this is just something young people deal with, I doubt that I’m alone among men – and women – who have struggled with lust. I’ve shared before that when I was in late elementary there was a boy two or three years older than me who lived across the street. In a shed behind his house he had two things: cigarettes and Playboy magazines. I hated the cigarettes and loved the Playboys. At a time when there was no Internet those things were still present. I shake my head when I hear people talk about how things are “nowadays.” Adam and Eve had barely gotten the furniture arranged in the Garden of Eden before sin entered the picture. Their oldest son murdered his younger brother without ever seeing violence on TV or holding a gun. We have an enemy who is attacking who we are as God’s creation. It’s been going on since the beginning of time, and we are fools if we think that it is just a function of the times that we are living in.
If sex is part of God’s creation and everything that God created is good, how are we to engage in that part of his good creation? In Genesis 2:24–25 we read this, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. Adam and his wife were both naked and they felt no shame.”
Sex is a beautiful and honorable gift to be enjoyed. God gave it to us and said be fruitful and multiply. Clearly, it is the very mechanism by which procreation will happen. It’s the way babies are made. As such, it has a very practical purpose in God’s creation.
It’s also much more than that. It is one of the most pleasurable things that you’ll ever encounter. If you thought there was TMI – too much information – earlier, I’m sure you’re really feeling that way right about now. It may be TMI, but it’s also the truth. We need to deal in the truth in all aspects of our lives including sexuality. God created it and it is very good.
1 Corinthians 7:5-6 encourages husbands and wives, “Not [to] deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time so that you may devote yourselves to prayer then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this is a concession, not as a command.” I read verse six intentionally because it leads into the rest of the passage that speaks to those who are unmarried. Paul honors those, like himself, who are able to withstand temptation and remain unmarried. In many ways, not being married allows a person to focus their entire energies on serving the kingdom of God. The Bible seems pretty clear in stating that those persons have chosen the better part. I don’t think the church honors that as much as it should and I want to make sure to emphasize that this morning. For those of us who, in many ways are weaker, the Bible encourages us to marry and to do so without guilt. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”
Sex is like a raging fire on a cold winter night. When built and maintained in the fireplace it warms the whole house, providing warmth, comfort, and pleasure. In its place, fire is a wonderful thing. But what happens if you pull that fire out into the middle of the room? The hot burning smoke begins to choke the people inside, and ultimately the fire – unchecked and uncontained – will burn that home to the ground.
The bottom line is this, sex was created by God; thus, it is very good. It is intended to be expressed and enjoyed as often as possible in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman. It is adultery to express it in any way outside of these boundaries. Including lusting with our eyes.
The answer to the sin of lust – and any other sexual sin – is to quit focusing on the sin and start focusing on the cross, the power of God. Look at His beautiful and wonderful creation.
I want to leave you with a very practical strategy when you’re faced with lust. Lust makes an object out of the person. It denies God’s intent in creation that says all persons are created in His image, so begin to pray for the person. If they’re married pray that their marriage will be blessed in that they and their spouse will grow more and more deeply in love with each other. Pray that they will always be faithful to each other. If the person is unmarried pray for their future spouse that there is someone waiting who is holding on to the precious gift of sexuality just to share with that person and that they will have a wonderful life together. Someone shared that with me years ago and I have found that it is impossible to lust after someone when you genuinely start praying for them. A person can’t be an object when they’re a person. When you pray God’s blessing over them and speak His protection and love over who they are the lust disappears in the power of prayer. Try it – I think you’ll find it works every time.