Day 65: Our True Enemy


DESIRE

Are our desires bad or good? In other words, are our desires a product of our original creation, or are they from the fallen nature? I would say that desires are not bad on their own. Adam and Eve were created to be like God. As Christians, we are meant to become more like Christ. However, Adam and Eve were tempted to eat the fruit and they would become like God. They were tempted with the very desire that God instilled in them, just in a context that was outside of his parameters. Desire gone mad, aka lust, can drive us to act impulsively in ways that are outside of God's intent.

I desire a wife, but I do not manipulate a woman to become so. I want pleasure and intimacy, but I do not force someone to give me those things. Lust - the refusal to control desire - is the opposite of 1 Corinthians 13 love. It is not kind, it is not patient. It subjugates others by force, demanding that our desire be met when and how we want it to be. We confuse our desire with need, and rather than patiently trusting God with them, we act in accordance with what we think is best.

We don't have a desire problem, we have a lust problem. This goes far beyond sexuality. Lust is a demand that we not desire - it is a refusal to feel the ache of unmet wishes. It is a refusal to feel, to wait, and to trust.

Imagine this scenario: You are a father of a son, and the two of you absolutely love watching baseball together. You'll watch games together, give each other high-fives, laugh together, and cry together. When you can't watch a game, you and your son play imaginary World Series in your living room. But your family doesn't actually own any baseball gear. With Christmas approaching, your son asks you for his very own baseball bat. You, having delighted in the time you spend with your son and wanting to bless him, go all out! You buy him a wooden and metal bat, two gloves, a dozen brand new baseballs, a baseball cap, a batting helmet, and a new jersey. You have all these gifts waiting in store to give him. However, two weeks before Christmas, you find out that your son stole your wallet, went to the sporting goods store, and bought for himself a cheap baseball bat and then lied to you about it. It doesn't end there, either. He no longer wants to watch baseball with you. He tells you that he'd much rather go and play in the lot with his friends, and, by the way, you're not invited to play. Ask yourself, how likely are you to give him the plethora of gifts you were planning to? There's no chance. The goodness you enjoyed together has been tarnished.

Lust tells us that the desires we feel are overwhelming - that we cannot possibly feel them and live. With our focus so fixated on the object of our desire, everything else fades into the background, and we make the agreement that we cannot find life anywhere else. People will call this "entitlement" - and it is a pervasive lifestyle in the 21st century. We have to have the new iPhone, the fastest computer, or the bigger TV. Lust refuses to be satisfied with what it has, constantly looking to the next thing to be the thing. Desire is meant to make us ache, but lust makes us burn and do anything it takes to quench the fire - even if it means stealing and lying.

Lust also convinces us that we cannot trust others to come through for us. Our desire becomes a murderous coveting, and we make the agreement that we must have whatever "it" is. The problem is, we have lost the point, and gone behind our Father who desires to give us good gifts. The point of baseball in the story I mentioned earlier wasn't to be a great baseball player, but the relationship of a father and son. Baseball was a fertile ground where that relationship could grow, but lust turned it into an idol where the son demanded that it give him life apart from his father. Something has happened in our hearts that has turned us away from the goodness of our Father. We have learned along the way that we cannot trust anyone else, and that it is up to us to make life work.

In order to heal, we must first give ourselves permission to feel. In my struggle with sexual sin, I can remember sitting in my apartment wracked with sexual tension but refusing to give in to pornography. It felt like my body was on fire, and my thoughts told me that it was going to kill me. I had to learn to sit with my desire without allowing it to master me. I urged myself to move past the temptation and get to what it is I really wanted. Once I got to that point, I was able to ask God and then wait on Him to move. But He had a greater gift for me: When I would ask him, he would invite me to prepare to receive his gifts. As I realized that I wanted romance with my wife, he would invite me to clean the house, cook dinner, and set the table. And He did give it - I just had to seek him first.

THE DARKNESS WITHIN

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Sometimes our greatest enemy is ourselves. Our own desires ultimately caused the first sin. Sure, Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil, but they still made the choice to sin. Nobody else made it for them. You may be curious about the title of today's lesson. Perhaps you were thinking that this was going to be a lesson about the devil and his wicked schemes. We could talk about that, as he is responsible for much of the destruction we see in our world. However, we are still ultimately held accountable for our own actions before God.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. -2 Corinthians 5:10

OUR LAWYER IN HEAVEN

This verse is encouraging to us, as we have a representative in heaven. Jesus intercedes on our behalf when we choose to follow him (See Hebrews 7:26-28 and Hebrews 8:1-2). Nonetheless we are still responsible our choices, our thoughts and our actions.

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. -Romans 14:12

Our desires can enslave us, cause us to do irrational things over and over again. This is why Christ said we must be born again. The sinful nature in us must be crucified so that we are no longer bound by our flesh, but alive again in Christ.

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Just as we experience physical death to be reborn in our new bodies, we must experience a spiritual death to be reborn here on earth. One day we will receive perfected bodies and no longer be driven by sinful flesh but by the Spirit of God.

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. -2 Corinthians 5:1-3

FULFILLED

You see here, our bodies are constantly working against us. We wage war against ourselves, carefully doing battle with that old man, the enemy inside of us. In this battlefield many of us find continual defeat, but those clinging to Christ will find salvation and see the desires of our heart fulfilled.

"Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this..." Psalm 37:4-5

Psalm 37:4 presents us with the correct orientation to handle our desires, but we need to carefully consider what it says. As you read this verse, ask yourself: Do you know how to delight in the Lord? What comes to mind for me are things like worshiping Him, reading scripture, and praying, but am I truly finding myself delighting in God? At best, I find myself momentarily engaging in something that feels like rejoicing, but it doesn't seem to rise to the level of delight. Following to the second half of the verse under the same logic, we find that if we do not know how to delight in God, we also do not know the desires of our heart. Thinking back to the example of the father and son playing baseball, the son falsely attributed his joy to baseball instead of his relationship with his father.

Here's the deal, the baseball story is the story of Adam and Eve - it is our story. Just like the son, Adam and Eve turned to things instead of turning to their Father in an attempt to fulfill their desire and quiet their fears. And, just like the father, God has good gifts in store for us as long as we continue to enjoy relationship with him. So, how can we delight in God and have the desires of our hearts be met?

Lust gets the order of Psalm 37:4 backwards. It seeks to get its needs met, and if it does, it then turns to God with "thankfulness." Going back to our baseball narrative, this would be like the son refusing to spend time with his father unless the father gave him baseball cards first. It is an unkind manipulation of God and others, one that again seeks what it wants first, and the giver second.

So far in this course, we have discussed how we are to be grieved over our wrongdoing and sin. As we move forward in freedom, now having the identity as sons and daughters of God, we need to seek God first, trusting that he will supply everything we truly need. We delight in God when we perceive where the good things in our life originate from.

So far in this course, we have discussed how we are to be grieved over our wrongdoing and sin. As we move forward in freedom, now having the identity as sons and daughters of God, we need to seek God first, trusting that he will supply everything we truly need. We delight in God when we perceive where the good things in our life originate from.

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We can delight in God when we identify that it is He who gives all the good things we enjoy in this life. While God is a generous giver, it is imperative we recognize where we turn to with the gratitude we experience. Do we turn to women, luck, evolution, or yourself? Who do you thank? The goodness in our lives is solely due to God, and when we realize that, our hearts fill with delight.

What happens next is fascinating. When we turn to him with delight, recognizing that he blesses us beyond measure, he begins to reshape our understanding of our desire. We do not know what we really need, but God holds our heart's treasure in his hands. As we delight in Him, he is pleased to give us the thing we really wanted in the first place - more of Himself. To do this we must be willing to contend with our fear that once we turn to God with expectancy, we lose control of our ability to please ourselves. We are at God's mercy as we wait for Him, and we are left to decide whether to have faith or to have lust.

In review, lust is a perversion of how we handle goodness - we seek after things instead of the giver. When we do this we find that the things we covet are unable to satisfy us, driving us to seek more and more of it. Lust refuses to say that God is good until it gets what it wants on lust's terms. Lust sabotages our desires because it excludes God and seeks to find goodness on its own. What it doesn't realize is that it was the intimacy of God that made the experience good to begin with. To get back to living joyfully, we must repent of our wrongdoing and begin to seek to experience intimacy with God. As we do this, He in turn takes charge of our longings, giving us the desires of our heart as we brim with gratitude not in the thing itself - but in the Father's delight in us.

Day 65 Application

Who is responsible for your sin?

How can you reorient your life so that fulfillment isn't based on meeting your desires, but on desiring God (who will ultimately give us the things we were created to long for)?

If someone you know were to be struggling with lust, what might you ask in regards to their relationship with God? What would be important for them to consider?

How does our conceptualization of our sexual purity influence our perception to be a light unto others? With that being understood, what do you need to remember in regards to sexual purity?