Posts Tagged ‘Lust’

Thoughts Matter

 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:28

For most of us, our parents taught us right from wrong by rewarding the good things we said and did and punishing the not so good. Society does the same by creating laws governing our actions and punishing those who break the law. The focus is on our actions and, occasionally, on the things we say because our words and actions have a direct impact on those around us. Jesus, however, reminds us that thoughts matter, too.

In his 1902 book As A Man Thinketh1, James Allen writes, “A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts.” Thought (sometimes, very little thought) precedes our words and actions. In fact, our thoughts shape our words and actions. Every act of creation – paintings, songs, poems and other literary works, structures, relationships – begins in thought. Poorly thought out projects inevitably have poor results. In our criminal justice system, a premeditated murder – one consciously planned before the act – is treated more seriously than the accidental killing of another or a murder committed in the heat of the moment.

Jesus’ example of a man lusting after a woman in his heart is an amazingly insightful reference and the main point, in my opinion, goes well beyond lustful thoughts. When a man looks upon a woman with lust, when he not only notices the woman as an attractive being, but also allows his thoughts to explore how he might derive pleasure from that physical body, he has effectively denigrated the woman into an object. There is no recognition of or appreciation for the unique expression of God that occupies that body, for the life she lives or for the ways she impacts others by being who God created her to be. In Jesus’ words, he “has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Focusing for too long and hard on the objectification of another can result in creating ways for one’s thoughts to manifest physically, often with unfortunate and lasting results.

Controlling our thoughts is hard. Our minds were created to wander from thought to thought and, without being consciously aware of it, we can entertain some pretty nasty imagery in our heads about a variety of things we would be appalled to see actually happen. The society around us may not be able to detect our thoughts in the same way it assesses our words and actions, but our inner musings are known to us and to God. Psalm 139:1,2b says, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me…You discern my thoughts from far away.” While I believe God understands our all-too-human tendency to allow our thoughts to run where they will, and to dwell where they perhaps should not, I also believe it is an expected discipline for us to gain a measure of control over our thoughts, every bit as much as we do our words and actions. Our thoughts should be our tools, not our master. We cannot stop unhealthy thoughts from popping into our heads, but we can certainly find ways to diminish our dwelling on them. Contemplative types of prayer can help.

Because our thoughts are such powerful creative forces, we should always be conscious of them. For example, when we are overly critical of our own shortcomings, we almost certainly increase our likelihood to underachieve in many areas. If we berate ourselves for not being good at one thing, we may extrapolate that we are not good at anything. Positive thinking may have its limits, but negative thinking is almost boundless in its destructive power. While we need to guard against unhealthy self-talk, we also need to guard against negative thoughts about others. If another person does something that annoys us, it is easy to write off the entire person as annoying. When that happens, our own thoughts may blind us to what should bless us in others.

Our thinking mind is a gift that allows us to co-create with God in awesome and infinite ways. From the way we treat others to the ways we decorate our homes to the legacy we leave for our children, our thoughts birth what manifests in our lives – both beautiful and less than beautiful. In all things, our thoughts matter.

This is the 20th in a series of Life Notes entitled “What Did Jesus Say?”

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1          James Allen, As A Man Thinketh. Sourced from www.gutenberg.org/files/4507/4507-h/4507-h.htm on May 14, 2018.

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Note to parents: This Life Note contains a frank discussion of sexual topics that may not be appropriate for young children. Please review first, and then use your discretion.

Sex, Lust, and Adultery

“You shall not commit adultery.” Exodus 20:14

The seventh of the Ten Commandments is short and to the point: You shall not commit adultery. A dictionary definition of adultery is “voluntary sexual relations between a married person and somebody other than his or her spouse.” There are several key elements to adultery. First, it is voluntary—adulterers make a choice. Second, it involves sexual relations. Finally, adultery involves at least one married person and someone other than his or her spouse. Jesus, however, expands the definition of adultery. In Matthew 5:28 he says, “…everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Presumably, the same applies for women. Jesus raises the behavioral standard much, much higher. Adultery is no longer just a physical act, but also a mental one. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus provides additional and difficult commentary on adultery. In Matthew 19:9 Jesus says, “…whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.” Between the dictionary and Jesus, adultery can include a broad host of common maladies like gawking, premarital sex, extramarital sex, pornography, masturbation, and divorce, to name a few.

Sexual attraction, by design, is a powerful force. Like other powerful forces, sex enhances our lives dramatically when enjoyed appropriately. Electricity, heat, and physical strength are also powerful forces that enhance our lives when used appropriately. However, electricity electrocutes, heat burns, and physical strength bruises when used inappropriately. Sex becomes an incubator for sin when used carelessly, sometimes resulting in physical, psychological, or emotional damage. Sin is that which separates us from others and from God. Because sin is harmful to others and ourselves, we strive to eliminate or minimize its presence in our lives.

Sexual freedom allows us to enjoy the amazing gift of sex in all its fullness. All freedoms are subject to abuse, however, and sexual freedom is especially ripe for abuse, as in the case of adultery. Adultery is an act of conscious betrayal—to one’s spouse, to family and friends, to one’s self, and to God. As Christians, we must respond very carefully in the face of adultery. Our responsibility as a faith community is not to cast judgment, but to surround struggling people with love and respect. Unfortunately, some use passages like the ones from Matthew as a hammer to pound guilt into an already troubled soul. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. To judge others by unyielding standards is, at the very least, a violation of Jesus’ command for us to love one another. Consider Jesus’ reaction to the woman at the well in John 4:1-42; or the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8:1-11. Jesus met sinners where they were and helped them to a better place. We are to do the same. When faced with the pain of another, our response should offer the type of mercy offered us in response to our own sin. No sin is unforgivable, and no broken life is beyond repair. Jesus came to meet us in our sin and carry us through it, not to shun us because of it. Adultery may separate us from God, but God is always ready to welcome us back.

Come home to church this Sunday.

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Life Notes—June 20, 2013 

“His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature.”  2 Peter 1:3-4

When I was a child there was always some toy I simply had to have.  As I entered adolescence my desires became more relational in nature.  I began noticing the various degrees and types of beauty in members of the opposite sex and I desired to have a girlfriend.  It could have been body shape or hair or smile or a mannerism that caught my eye.  And I would believe she was all I needed for contentment.  But as with all types of surface beauty there is always someone or something more beautiful and intriguing.  But my wants found their most lasting manifestation in a desire for musical instruments. I have many interesting and beautiful instruments, most of which collect dust and take up space.  I may become obsessed with a new guitar because of its wood or tone or the way it feels in my hands and I’ll think, “Wow, this is the last guitar I’ll ever need—it’s perfect!”  But of course, it is never perfect forever.  Useful? Yes.  Beautiful? Yes.  Provide lasting contentment? No.  Contentment is not found in the ‘stuff’ of the earth.

Desire and passion are natural and healthy and necessary parts of our lives.  They color and animate everything we do.  But lust takes a natural appreciation for beauty or utility and perverts it into an unhealthy obsession.  Lust is a corrupting influence that knocks our lives out of balance.  It sets us outside the realm of the normal and isolates us from those around us.  It drives us to work too many hours, to betray vital relationships, to hoard things well beyond usefulness.  Lust can lead us to social isolation and even to jail; if not to an actual correctional facility, then to an imprisonment of the mind.

Lust is desire on steroids—intense, relentless and all-consuming. Lust often manifests itself in sexual desires, but it is hardly limited to sex.  Lust also manifests in desires for power or money or fame.  It is a sin of degree, as a desire for enough of life’s blessings is natural and healthy.  It becomes a sin when our lust negatively impacts our relationships and infects important parts of our lives. Lust deceives us into believing a new relationship or job or guitar is what is missing in our life.  And when it causes us to give up on or risk something of true value already present in our life it becomes sinful—a deadly sin because lust leads us into a cycle of insatiable desire for that which is temporal and unhealthy.  Such a cycle can be difficult to break or control, often requiring professional assistance and a great deal of prayer.  As in the scripture above, we are called as “participants of the divine nature.”  We separate ourselves farther from that divine nature when our desires escalate to lustful obsessions.  Next week I will explore the next of the seven deadly sins, gluttony.

Life worship is at 10:00 in Brady Hall and traditional worship is at 8:30 and 11:00 in the sanctuary.  Our west campus has two worship services at 9:00 and 11:00.

Come home to church this Sunday.  If we must lust for something, lust for the Lord.

Greg Hildenbrand, Life Music Coordinator

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