LaMoine Tatum, FBC Intern of Youth Spiritual Formation
This is the second in a seven-part Lenten sermon series, Seven Unholy Habits, on the topic of lust.
We are starting a new sermon series this month called Seven Unholy Habits. I’m going to be addressing the subject of lust. We tend to have a very narrow reference for lust because normally it is only addressed in the context of relationships and mainly sexual sin. Although the aspect is true and important, it is not the only side that lust has.
The word lust in and of itself is not inherently a bad term, though it has negative connotations. Lust means to desire or long passionately for something. That is why I love the cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants. This is because SpongeBob is overly passionate about everything, whether he’s excited or sad or angry or any other emotional component that he expresses.
Theologians and scholars go back and forth between pride and lust, trying to determine which one is the foundational component for the Seven Unholy Habits, but I’d argue to say that they actually go hand-in-hand. Where pride is, you can find lust—the desire for something—and where you find lust, pride can be found as well. Lust is an issue that sits in the seat of the heart.
If you are familiar with the cartoon SpongeBob Squarepants, there is a conspiracy theory that states that the main characters of the show represent the seven deadly sins. Since we are dealing with lust, I wanted to show a clip from the episode called “All That Glitters,” because I think it helps demonstrate what lust looks like with the use of humor. As you continue to watch the episode, it turns out that the spatula he bought turned against him. The spatula developed human characteristics, and even punched him in the face and grew legs to run away from the restaurant. The temptation of the thing that he wanted the most, the thing that he sacrificed the most for, turned on him.
Temptation is the necessary testing that we must endure because it is the Holy Spirit who is the master teacher. If that is the case, it is unfair for the teacher to test you on information that you have not been exposed to. Therefore, temptation is testing by way of applying the information that you already have. Authority belongs to those who can pass the test.
At the end of the third chapter, we see a prophetic demonstration or an ordination when Jesus comes to get baptized. After he was baptized, a voice came out of heaven and made a specific declaration to Jesus. God said “this is my son in whom I am well pleased.” This statement spoke directly to the identity of Jesus. Jesus had not done anything spectacular, he hadn’t performed any miracles, but God had to address his identity because it was going to be necessary while on his journey to purpose and it was necessary for the process that he was about to walk into.
Temptation One (The Lust of the Flesh):
Now here is where the master teacher, Holy Spirit, came in and led Jesus into the wilderness. The wilderness means the place of abandonment. This is important because in order for you to be able to lead, you must first know how to be led. And for every year that the Israelites spent in the desert, Jesus spent one day.
After his fast, the text says he was hungry. Then, the tempter came to him because any time you make a decision to follow God, the devil is going to come with all kinds of distractions; his most frequent distraction that he uses is the power of lust.
But before that, Satan calls into question the identity of Jesus. God just got done saying to Jesus, “This is my son in whom I am well pleased,” and the devil brings the statement into question. He said, “If you be the Son of God….” This is because it has been Satan’s strategy since Genesis with Adam and Eve. Satan tries to question the authority of God’s word and also the authenticity of his character.
How does this help you? When it comes to process you need to look back at what God has spoken over you.
So Satan looks Jesus right in the face and says, “If you be the Son of God, command these stones to become bread.” The first temptation that Jesus encounters is the lust of the flesh. We as humans have diverse kinds of cravings and appetites. When you are hungry, you begin to lose some aspect of your sobriety. That is why it is said not to go to the store when you are hungry, because in addition to what you originally came in for, your mind is no longer leading you, but your stomach is. Those desires start to kick in and you’ll start to wander at random, searching for something to satisfy your hunger.
Christianity is not a one-time decision that you make at the altar, but it is a daily decision. And if this be a daily journey, then you must address your hunger.
The lust of the flesh deals with anything that satisfies any of our physical needs. In the temptation of your hunger, you will be tempted by what you consume. For everything that takes place in the natural, there is a spiritual connection. You cannot allow yourself access to anything and everything, because not only do you have access to it, but it also has access to you.
For example, I can come in those front doors, but I can also leave through those doors. What you put in is what you’re going to pour out. Another example: If all I eat is junk food and unhealthy things, eventually my body is going to react on the outside because of what I’ve taken in on the inside.
The same applies to spiritual principles. If I don’t cultivate my relationship with God, his word, and his people, I can’t be surprised when my personal growth becomes difficult to live in. Jesus gives the permits on how to deal with this kind of lust—he says, “You cannot live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.” It matters to you and to God what you’re consuming as it pertains to the natural desires that we have, but it also matters what we feed our spiritual beings. Jesus understood that you cannot fight a spiritual war in the flesh, but it is the purposes and the counsel of God that always prevails.
Temptation Two (Pride of Life):
The devil came to Jesus again, took him up to the highest point of the temple, told him to throw himself down, and began to quote the scripture to support his personal agenda. This type of lust is called the pride of life. This kind of lustful lifestyle deals with desiring or loving anything of this world that leads to arrogance and pride of self—where we become our own source of maintaining life, putting ourselves above God. Again Satan uses the scripture for his own agenda, saying, “Throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.'” And Jesus responded, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.”
Tempting Jesus to throw himself down was to get him to prove that he was indeed the Messiah and that God had to save him, though that was not part of the will of God for Jesus. It has been debated that this temptation motivates the other two types of lust, because it involves putting self before others in an unhealthy manner. He basically tries to entice Jesus to do what he wanted to do because surely God would come to the rescue.
Temptation Three (Lust of the Eyes):
Here is the heart of this message: The third temptation is the lust of the eyes. The devil came to him again, and took him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Satan says to him, “All these things I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said, “Away with you, Satan. For it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and him only, you shall serve.”
Notice that at no point in this text does Jesus argue with Satan about whether or not Satan had the authority to actually give those things. This is why it is important to seek the will of God for you, because the first trap of this discussion is that Satan wanted to remove Jesus from his process and enter what was promised prematurely. Eventually, all power was going to be Jesus’s, but not before he was ready. He had to endure the process so that he would be able to maintain what God was going to give him later on, and eventually the authority he would give to us.
Lust is a matter of the heart. I can tell who or what you worship based upon your deepest desires. Jesus wouldn’t bow to Satan because his heart desired to please God. We must make a daily decision to choose God over our own desires, over our own opinions, and even over our own political leanings.
Today, you may feel like you are in the wilderness, the place of abandonment, but this is actually the place of redemption and transformation. You might be in a season where it feels like you are surrounded by darkness because our fleshly desires can become so overwhelming, but I want to encourage you, because we have hope. If there are ungodly desires then there are Godly desires that we can pursue. The Psalmist wrote, “Create in me a clean heart and renew a right Spirit within me.”
God is not just looking for us to be good people, but he is looking for us to be a transformed people, a changed people. Every single day, as we meet our own lusts face to face, we have to make the decision in our minds that we are going to choose God. Good, bad, ugly, and everything in between, my desire is to please God. The songwriter said, “One thing have I desired of the Lord and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his Temple.” Joshua would have said, “As for me and my house and everything that is attached to me, we will serve the Lord.” Your heart has to have a response—when lust and temptations arise, you must have an “It is written, come up out of your spirit.”
You are not alone in this battle against lust. This is why the church in your community is necessary for your journey. At some point, you have to be honest and say, “Help me! Oh, I think I have a heart problem.” Because what you are going through, chances are that there is someone else that is going through a similar issue.
Even in the times where you feel at your lowest, you just have to close your eyes, breathe, and say out loud, “I believe God.” It doesn’t have to feel like it’s true, but that doesn’t make it any less true. It’s the truth whether I feel it or not. God does not change his mind about us even when we change our minds about ourselves.
After all these temptations, the devil left, but then angels came to minister to him. In this season, as we are confronted with our own lustful desires, we will have help to help us through as we begin to replace these Unholy Habits with a passionate longing for the things of God. We only rely on God to help us through this process of transformation.