The power of sexual lust
In this paper eroticism in all its illicit forms is compared to the splitting of the atom. For in sexual immorality a force is released in the human spirit that seeks to rule over a man the rest of his life. In that sense the battle to conquer sexual lust is compared to, or designated, “putting the genie back in the bottle.”
Rather than referring to God’s gift as “sex,” this author prefers to dignify the gift by intentionally removing it from the world’s vernacular. Biblical terminology for sexual relations between husband and wife are as follows: relations; know; marital duty; join; drink from your own well; lie with; etc.
The point being, the Scriptures prefer idiomatic expressions for marital sexual relations as opposed to technical language (our English term, “sex” is drawn from biology). In this paper God’s gift of marital sexual relations will be designated the act of marriage, sexual relations, or marital relations.
So powerful is God’s gift of marital relations that it is the very “glue” that binds two into one; man and woman become “one flesh” (1 Cor 6:15, 16).
The research done on human sexuality by Masters and Johnson took the act of marriage out of the divine context proscribed by God. The researchers placed sexual relations into the general category of human behavior (they treated is it as amoral; as if it were a behavior that could be grouped with eating or sleeping).
In seeking to demystify, or understand human sexuality, the researchers erased God’s definition of the act of marriage in the process. By treating God’s gift as merely a body function, the researchers made it ordinary, matter of fact – like any other felt need.
Some would argue that the research they did between 1957 and the 1990’s assisted the medical treatment of sexual dysfunction. But their research also had an effect upon morality; it added momentum to the sexual revolution that was already underway. After all, if science could study human sexual relations in a laboratory (between unmarried participants); outside the context of the marriage covenant; then why doesn’t the public have the “right” to engage in sexual activity outside of any covenant considerations?
It is this author’s contention that the act of marriage is filled with divine mystery and wisdom; it is too complex for us to say we have it all figured out.
To reduce it to an anatomical function alone is to degrade God’s gift. There are too many strands that make up the act of marriage to reduce it to a physical/emotional behavior.
There is the strand of the marriage covenant (the first God-given ordinance); there is the spiritual strand (it has the power to make two into one flesh); there is the strand of shared source (at creation the man was the source of the first woman’s body, ever since Eve, woman through conception is the source of man’s body); there is the strand of physiological differences as source of sexual desire and interest; there is the strand of the love commitment; there is the strand of knowing the other person at the depth of their soul; there is the strand of finding completeness in one’s marriage partner.
One of the great tragedies in our culture is that the act of marriage has been trivialized. The wonderful mysterious cord that God has woven has been unraveled. The covenant strands and spiritual strands that bind the cord together have been thrown away; while the erotic strand has been retained and worshipped.
In our culture, the act of marriage to a great degree has been severed from the higher, spiritual part of man’s being and reduced to an animal passion. As men we know all too well that we are naturally sight attracted. That which titillates the senses runs ahead, and outpaces the spiritual. Our lower nature is easilymagnetized by the erotic strand; its power to excite makes it appear that it can thrill; make a man feel alive; even vivify his masculine soul.
But Scripture tells us that when the erotic strand is unraveled from the covenant cord of God’s making it cannot stand alone – it instantly becomes pornea (Grk.-- sexual immorality). It damages the soul of man; it is death. “Flee” is the biblical mandate; don’t trust your passions; don’t let them set the standard for your behavior (1 Cor 6:18).
One of the mightiest of God’s gifts, the act of marriage, when removed from the marriage covenant is perverted into sexual immorality. This is a profound truth set forth in Scripture; that by perverting a virtue (or God-given gift) a world of lusts and soul-destroying idols are formed and unleashed in the process.
God’s precious gift of sexual relations, when ripped from its covenant context, becomes an idol capable of defacing the image of God. Man as the image of God was created to find his “integration” in God (byintegration is meant his life, unity, harmony, and completeness).
They worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, Amen (Rom 1:25). Francis Schaeffer defines an idol as a false integration point. When man takes his deepest needs to something in creation; it becomes an idol, or false integration point. The latent spiritual evil in a false integration point is beyond our comprehension.
Ephesians 4:22 describes sensual false integration points as “the lusts of deceit.” This is significant to our argument; namely that the illicit objects of sexual lust are filled with deception. What they promise – fulfillment and satisfaction – they cannot deliver.
The deception factor is bound up in the fact that they do impart momentary pleasure; even excitement. The temporal pleasure is the “hook.” But a lust of deceit can never be transmuted into true satisfaction. A lust will always remain “bogus bread” that cannot do anything to nourish the soul (Is 55:2).
As a result, the sexual idolater (laboring under the deception that satisfaction can be found in lust) pursues the object of his lust with greater vigor. The tragedy is that it trains the heart in greed (2 Pet 2:14).
The pursuit of sensual fulfillment “cuts a behavioral groove” so to speak; it can cause a person to practice every kind of impurity with greediness (Eph 4:19). (To use an old analogy; it’s like the shipwrecked man imbibing larger and larger amounts of sea water to slake his thirst. The sea is wet and cold – those first gulps appear to give a moment of relief; but no amount of saltwater can satisfy his thirst; it kills him instead.)
Man was made for God. The Lord alone can satisfy. When a man turns to a false integration point; it is like attempting to cram a 175 pound man into a one gallon garbage pail – he just won’t fit. It cannot accommodate him; it bends him, contaminates him, and crumples him up in the process. His Creator and Redeemer alone can integrate him; fulfill him; and satisfy him.
When lusts born of self-love are pursued; it makes us ignoble – that is it makes us base and dishonorable (think about the man made in God’s image trying to cram himself into the garbage pail – he throws away his dignity in so doing).
But when the believer is intoxicated with God; he is ennobled in the process (his dignity and calling are affirmed and uplifted). God alone can bring integration (wholeness, unity, and satisfaction) to the creature made in His image and likeness.
These truths are more important than ever because our culture has moved off of its Judeo-Christian base into the quicksand of neo-paganism. We can use cell phones to text message each other using satellite technology, but as a culture, we’ve slowly descended into the worst kind of naiveté. We are increasingly oblivious to the deleterious effects of sexual sin upon the soul and society.
Men for the life of them are unable to find a strong enough reason NOT to live as sensual opportunists. Like a beast of burden with a ring in the nose, they can be led about by their lusts. They resemble detritus floating in sea; they are carried in and out by the tide; they do not have their feet on the bottom.
Men walk about in sleep mode. When it comes to moral purity; they are merely treading water; they are not swimming upstream. They do not have enough steel in their spines to rescue their brethren who have polluted themselves (Jude 20-23).
All the cultural ethical barriers to sexual impurity are gone. All the conditions necessary for the worship of sex are in place. Like a huge wrecking ball, philosophic naturalism has systematically pounded away at theism until the floodgates of immorality cannot be held back any longer.
Recent statistics on internet porn use do not bode well for our nation’s future: The National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families polled the students of five Christian campuses. 48% of the males currently used pornography and 69% said that they had accessed a pornography site while on campus.
A 1996 Promise Keepers poll revealed that 50% of the men in attendance had viewed pornography within one week of the event.
Rick Warren’s website for pastors (www.pastor.com) uncovered the following statistic: 54% of evangelical pastors had viewed pornography within the year and 30 % within the last month.
Focus on the Family found that 46% of families said that pornography was a problem within the home (Focus Poll, October 1, 2003).
The site www.blazinggrace.org under “porn statistics” cites that cyberporn is a one billion dollar industry that is expected to swell to 5-7 billion in the next five years.
These stats are nothing short of terrifying. It means that the evil one is making incredible inroads in his strategy to undermine the moral fiber of spiritual leaders at home and church.
We’re living in a culture that has lost its ability to navigate ethically; Satan is capitalizing upon this moral vacuum with all his might. There is a kind of double speak that would scandalize our founding fathers; pornography is called free speech. Good is called evil and evil is called good (Is 5:20).
From the beginning God announced His plan to make man in His image. With this proclamation comes man’s entire identity and purpose (as the image of God, man is made to know, love, and serve God – to be as much like God as a creature can be). Lucifer’s plot was to oppose God’s plan; the devil sought to do this by corrupting the image of God through lies and idolatry. Satan’s lie is not merely calculated error – it is a murderous weapon used to damn the soul (Jn 8:44).
Consider some of the elements of his lie: master-less freedom is attainable; one may break away from, and transcend creaturehood by seeking divinity; personal autonomy is realized by trusting one’s own reason above divine revelation; rebelling against God creates a new order and a new reality; one may choose right and wrong for oneself without divine consequences; the soul is self-determined and unconquerable.
Satan has passed on his own self-deception to the human race. He offered his own wicked epistemology to our first parents. Darkness flooded the soul as a result. Pseudo-freedom wed itself to all of the lusts of the world. Man, by his apostasy from God, set in motion moral and spiritual disorder. Forces of decay, corruption, and bondage took hold of the universe.
We must always remember the temporary nature of Satan’s kingdom. It is an immense kingdom; but it is built upon the foul stinking sands of human and angelic crime against heaven. When God finally deals decisively with the crime; every vestige of the kingdom will be gone.
For the present we are locked in combat. We still have a hell to avoid and a heaven to gain. It’s time we stop telling ourselves that porn is simply a secret forbidden, dirty little pleasure. Let’s call it what it really is – a cruise missile in Satan’s arsenal. It can enslave and degrade – it can make a man feel like a walking septic tank.
Porn is a powerful weapon aimed at the soul. 1 Peter 2:11 tells us that fleshly lusts wage war against the soul. It has the destructive power to hollow out a man and make him a shell of what he was. The very faculties of soul needed for love, empathy, tenderness, and responsiveness to God are enlisted for craving and greed instead.
It can fragment the soul and deface the image of God and make a man into a moral coward. It can neutralize a man spiritually – it so defiles the conscience that a man loses his ability to be fierce for the truth. It sheathes his sword and fills him with a sense of hypocrisy; it makes him ambivalent about ministry.
Like radioactive fallout; it keeps dispensing disgust and self-hate; the man who uses it feels more like a drooling beast than the crown of God’s creation. As such it continues to kick out shame as a man’s appetites settle onto base things.
Christian men must tell themselves the truth about pornography; it is a satanic weapon that wages war against the soul. Porn is not merely about forbidden objects of desire – it is a worldview about the body; about sexual relations; about supposed rights; about the enthronement of lust. It is nothing short of war against God.
The work which needs to be done in order to be an overcomer must be done at a very deep level. A man will have to do more than simply say to himself, “I must make it a point not to look at porn anymore.”
Once the genie is out of the bottle – the memory of illicit pleasure is imprinted on the psyche. A man will need concrete arguments to do the labor necessary to carve new mental grooves of purity and self control.
A strategy for overcoming sexual lust
The lusts that have held us are animated by lies. Scripture refers to these lie-driven lusts as the lusts of deceit(Eph 4:22). The secret to overcoming the controlling power of lust is in deconstructing the lies that drive sensual lust. But this is precisely where we are lazy thinkers.
We hesitate to actually exert the mental energy necessary to out-truth the lies behind the lusts – but we must do this in order to succeed.
The world has always offered itself as genuine source. I think of my experience with an advertising firm. Ad writing was about finding and uncovering felt needs – and then matching the product to those desires with the promise of satisfaction.
God tells us that if one is a friend of the world; he is an enemy of God (James 4:4). To be a friend of the world is to believe the lie that the world is one’s true source. So antithetical are God and the world in terms ofsource; that to regard the world as source is to be an avowed enemy of God.
The lie that sensuality can be source is the first lie we will have to deconstruct. When we are exercising faith in God we are relying upon Him as source. God and the world maintain an inverse proportion as to trusted source – to the degree that God is our source; the world will not be our source (and visa versa).
We must preach the truth to ourselves with enough conviction to drown out and expose the lie. The Christian man must be on the offensive in this matter. He has no choice. For you were formerly darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret (Eph 5:12).
Here is the truth; sensuality serves no constructive purpose outside of the context created by God. The act of marriage is the very “epoxy,” or soul glue that is graciously given by God to bind the soul of a man and woman together.
A man must be able to tell himself that illicit eroticism can do nothing for him. There is no food or drink there – it is empty. All it can do is stir up animal passions that will make him slither and crawl instead of soar the heights with his God. If a man stoops to sip from the eroticism cistern; he will lose sight of his lofty and privileged calling as the image and glory of God.
We grieve to see photos of Brazilian orphans sniffing glue in the alleys of Rio de Janeiro (we are saddened because their effort to escape emotional pain brings upon them greater suffering). God grieves when He sees us sniffing the glue of erotic pleasure outside the covenant of marriage.
When a man’s faculties of soul are given over to sensuality; there is an accompanying deadness that sets in. The very aspects of the soul that are needed for empathy, compassion, sacrificial love, and tenderness toward God are shut down by sensual abandon. Scripture describes this effect upon the soul as callousness. In the same verse it goes on to say that the man sold out to sensuality practices impurity with greediness (Eph 4:19).
The lie and the fleeting pleasure work together. A moment of pleasure is followed by enduring shame. The sensual man seeks to string together his sensual experiences in order to sustain the pleasure – the attempt is manifested by a heart increasingly trained in greed (2 Pet 2:14).
This pattern is only broken when work is done in the recesses of the soul. The lie must be excavated, exposed, and refuted (say in your prayer to God, “Lord, I abominate that lie!”).
As a defender of the institution of marriage, the Christian man will have to preach to himself the boundaries God has erected to safeguard the sanctity of the act of marriage. We must make sure that what God has safeguarded (sacredness of marital relations by the high walls of marital fidelity) we guard as well in our thoughts and desires. We are to reason our way through these issues with solid biblical thinking.
Happy is the man who knows the ways of the Lord; and wise is the man who knows the modus operandi of sin. Iniquity has a kind of life of its own – it brooks no competitors; accepts no truce.
The cuckoo lays its eggs in other birds’ nests. The cuckoo chick upon hatching pushes all the eggs of the natural mother out of the nest so that all the parents’ food and energies go completely into raising the alien parasite chick.
Sin behaves in a similar manner. It seeks to eliminate any competition for its host’s time, talent, and affection. Wise is the man who knows that sin never abides in a static position; it is either being conquered; or is conquering. We either overcome it or are overcome by it.
Sin can’t wait to initiate a coup; a hostile takeover. It will slander God in order to sustain its existence. It will publish the most horrific lies about God in order to seduce one sinner by its promised charms.
Sin gets its foothold by our doubting God. This is why it is so important to watch over one’s heart with all diligence. Our spiritual loyalty or treason begins with our thought life. It’s hard to surpass this bit of prose for illustrating the importance of thoughts: Sow a thought; reap an action; sow an action; reap a habit; sow a habit; reap a character; sow a character; reap a destiny.
R. C. Sproul reminds us, right now counts forever. Or as one pastor quipped, today you are becoming what you will be five years from now.
We must always make sure there is nothing between us and heaven. Don’t keep your disenchantments to yourself. Pray your complaints to God as David did. When we stew on a complaint; we set ourselves up for murmuring and an evil heart of unbelief (Heb 3:12).
Share your thought life with the Father – make your thoughts an occasion for fellowship with the Father.Walk in the presence of God as Abraham did (Gen 17:1). Cultivate integrity knowing that your life is lived in the presence of God.
Keep holding fast to Christ; He is your entire eligibility for God’s endless favor. Find your joy in Christ – He is your qualification for sonship and blessing. Reckon your sonship – that God holds you in His heart as a son. Draw strength from the fact that God is for your manhood -- He is for your godly masculinity more than you can possibly know.
The maturing Christian has learned to be a physician to his own soul. He knows the particular kind of distemper that he is prone to fall into. He knows how to preach to his own heart. He sees temptation at a distance; he is aware of his vulnerability. He knows the appropriate biblical remedies for each disorder; whether laxity, guilt, presumption, self-righteousness, or discouragement.
Most of all he has learned to feed his soul on the precious things of God. He is in touch with his deepest longings; He attaches them to God. He goes to God each day for delight. He feeds on grace so that he will never lack courage to run to God for new installments of love, acceptance, mercy, and grace (Heb 4:16).
He nourishes his soul on the excellence of heavenly things; the things above (Col 3:1-2). He knows that to behold God’s glory by faith puts resolve in the will; it enables a man to trample upon all that the world offers. Therefore he is intentional; he keeps going to Scripture to meditate upon God’s glory.
He is cross-centered. This drives his thinking process. God gave Christ so that we would die to our own carnal cause and be resurrected to a new cause. You have been regenerated so that God’s cause will become your cause (2 Cor 5:14, 15). And what is God’s cause? He created the universe for His glory – and now in human history He is calling out and preparing a people to live with Him forever (Titus 2:14).
If God’s cause is your cause; then you are using the best of your time talent and affection to prepare people to live with God forever. This is ultimate reality. To the degree God’s cause is your cause; you are in touch with reality. For at the very moment Christ appears it will be game over. All other value systems other than kingdom values will be blown away as chaff and burned; they will disappear into oblivion.
The more clearly we perceive our spiritual calling as men, the more we will rouse ourselves to answer the call. The Christian man is under covenant obligation to provide spiritual leadership in his home and church.
The believing man is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts(Rom 13:14). Christ is your entire sphere -- He is your identity; your purpose; your life; your source; your hope; your joy; your access to God; your righteousness. When you put on the Lord Jesus Christ you are reckoning Him as your entire sphere of being (this is a huge line of defense against the sensual and against making provision for lust).
Christ has called you to incredible liberty. You cannot fathom the amount of freedom you have in Christ. It is a freedom so lofty that it is dangerous if not immediately plowed into service.
Galatians 5:13 says, for you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. We are not to practice our faith in a private andquietistic fashion. We must be intentional and proactive in our service to the Body of Christ. Your freedom can be dangerous if not channeled into love and service.
When first born again we discovered a new found hunger for the milk of the Word. We had a bottle in one hand and, instead of a rattle, a sword in the other. That is our calling. We are issued a sword. We learn to wield it on ourselves so that we can wield it on others. It is a sword that heals when it cuts. When it cuts it brings repentance.
When Jesus called the disciples to follow Him; they left their nets. He told them that they would be fishing for men from then on. Isn’t that interesting; in the Gospel age the dominion mandate (make the earth fruitful) has been superseded by a higher mandate – fish for men; make disciples.
If you are a disciple of Christ; you are to use the sword He has issued to you to bring spiritual order to the sphere in which you operate. You are to use your sword to promote and advance the Kingdom of God. You are to radically identify with your Lord; you are to take your marching orders from Him. You are to be controlled by a transcendent cause that is not understood by common men. You are to be a commando for Christ and no longer a common man.
You must be bold for righteousness sake. So evident must your loyalty be to Christ that your brothers seek out your company in order to gain courage for the fight. Know your place on the battlefield. In the time of Moses when the children of Israel were in the wilderness; each dedicated believer did his part in wilderness survival.
You are crossing the wilderness of this world. How will you assist your brothers in navigating through this wasteland of salt called the world? Will your life and words give them heart so that they are motivated to suffer for the sake of righteousness and eschew compromise? Admonish your brothers – Christ is your King.
You are to present the members of your body to Him each day. Your lifestyle is public knowledge in heaven – it is front page news. When you present the members of your body to Christ and righteousness; those around you will be able to see clearly who your real Master is.
Reason your way through these things – we are under the lordship of Christ; sin is insubordination. Let our minds turn to this the next time we are tempted to be slack in resisting sensual sin; “How can I counsel my brothers to strive after integrity if I permit sensual compromise in my own life?”
We must cultivate a clear conscience. This was Paul’s conviction – he proclaimed before Felix that he practiced this spiritual discipline of maintaining a clear conscience (Acts 24:15, 16).
Out of reverence for the Lord Paul kept short accounts with God. Paul feared God; he preached to himself the ineffable principle of moral cause and effect. Paul was a careful with his conscience as the best accountant is with his books.
So closely and intimately do the Spirit of God and the conscience of the believer work together that the Puritans used to counsel, be kind to the Spirit. In other words; it is the Spirit who educates and sensitizes the conscience. When you heed Him; you are also heeding your conscience.
The conscience can make us bold or cowardly depending upon our diligence or lack thereof to keep it clear. Even one sin banging around and rolling around in the conscience (like a golf ball in an empty railroad car) can kill our confidence to go to God for love, favor, and acceptance.
When we seek to keep our conscience clear we are literally maintaining our relationship with the Lord. (We know that He chose us and called us; but He commands us to abide in His love – Jn 15:9.)
Maturing Christians meditate upon Scripture – this involves building a case for obedience and building a case against disobedience. Here is the great difference between merely reading Scripture and actually meditating upon God’s Word. When the believer meditates on the Word; he literally preaches to himself the will of God; the wonders of God; the ways of God; and the works of God.
Meditation on the Word equips us to obey God’s commands. Scripture constantly joins divine commands to the benefits of obedience (How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked – Psalm 1:1). And Scripture spells out the consequences of disobedience (He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm – Proverbs 13:20).
To meditate upon Scripture is to familiarize oneself with the benefits of obedience and the consequences of disobedience. The growing believer learns to mentally wrestle and argue through the imperatives of Scripture. The divine “logic” for obedience must become the believer’s logic.
We must learn to love the truth in order to be conformed to it. The Christian worldview is incredibly demanding. We must know the reasons for self denial; for daily taking up our cross.
Hebrews 6:11, 12 tells us that we must show the same diligence as the saints who have gone before us – so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. We can only run the race set before us with stamina if we fix our eyes on Jesus and lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us (Heb 12:2).
It is the remnant, the minority, the few that shall be saved in the end. Jesus said many are called but few are chosen (Mt 22:14). Narrow is the way that leads to life and few are those who find it (Mt 7:14). “Few, few, few,” let this sink into our heads. It is but a small number that find eternal life.
The majority are on the broad road that leads to destruction. The majority have never sold all in order to gain Christ, the Pearl of great price (Mt 13:45, 46). The multitudes sleep the sleep of spiritual complacency.
Compared to the sleeping majority, those on the narrow way appear to be eccentric, fanatical, overboard. But, the little remnant, by God’s grace, has seen the infinite value of gaining eternal heaven with Immanuel. Therefore they are violent; they seize the kingdom of God by force and won’t let go. They do violence to their own sins. They do violence to their reputation in the world – caring not for the praise of men.
They daily preach to themselves the infinite value and privilege of knowing Christ. Every morning they calculate and weigh up the whole of temporal life and count it all as loss compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus (Phil 3:8).
This is not an abstract truth that evades our understanding. As men we are called to sell all; to count all as loss in comparison to knowing Christ savingly, eternally. It is easy to see how this applies to our combat against the lust of the flesh.
We fight sin by means of a higher affection. We defeat sin by loving a superlative object of affection and desire. We say no to sin by displaying the supremacy of Christ to our affections.
Christ as our highest love has a power over our souls to expel inferior objects of affection. This is why it is so important to preach the Gospel to ourselves each day. For the Gospel sets forth the believing sinner’s right to Christ. It tells us of God’s plan that He is glorified and we are saved when we keep taking Christ for all the reasons God gave Him.