As we begin our last piece of our series, let’s recall our series verse from Genesis 4.6–7, as God said to Cain, “‘Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.’”
Last week, we talked about the vices of avarice and gluttony, looking at how extreme greed and over-indulgence were devastating to the soul. We learned that we overcome them with generosity and self-control.
Today, we look at LUST and how a dis-ordered pursuit is obsessive, slowing our spiritual growth. Lust’s opposite is ordered-love.
WORSHIP GUIDE QUESTIONS & COMMENTARY
WHAT IS LUST, REALLY?
LUST can be understood in two ways: 1) excessive sexual desires or cravings, and 2) an obsessive desire for something that keeps one from growth. In both instances, what we are referring to this morning is a disordered love for someone or something. A disordered love is the pursuit of something in an unhealthy way, where we turn something from a subject to serve into an object to acquire. Therefore, the pursuit of something we love becomes an unhealthy desire to have or own. Lust is love-gone-wrong.
Lust is about use and gratification. Lustful behavior craves to be fed and engaged. Lust is more about the moment and less about commitment. It acts on its own behalf and for its own good. Lust is not a two-way street nor does it have any regard for the thing it pursues. It may be the epitome of selfishness among the other vices.
A common thread throughout the list of vices is that they are in fact different forms of selfishness. And then we see that through the corresponding virtues, we are able to put the good of the other ahead of our desires and behave as Christ did—selflessly.
Jesus warns of the dangers of lust in the sermon on the mount, when He says in Matthew 5.27, “27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus reminds His listeners that actions are based on ideas that are born deep within. Our outward activities take shape from the thoughts that spring up from within our hearts.
When we over-emphasize anything on the spectrum, be it food or love, we make it more about what we want and less about what we need. Lust will try and transform a want into a need, therefore we must be sure to keep our spiritual appetites in check so that they do not become obsessions.
Breaking the bonds of lust and obsession is extremely difficult because of the pain involved in separating from the craving and the pursuit. Lust will lead us to believing that we have to have something or we can’t survive, a common bond lust shares with gluttony and avarice.
And so, because we are lead to believe we must have, we completely give ourselves to the thought, the feeling, the chase, and this is where obsession rears its ugly head. Obsession is idolatry because we have placed a disordered love and importance on the object we desire.
The innermost problem with lust is that it halts spiritual growth. When our thoughts, our energies, our resources are spent on this object, we find ourselves trapped and entranced. We have little–to–no gas left in the tank to pursue other things — some of which are basic and others which are important.
If we have learned anything from our entire series, its that disordered feelings and actions toward anything will lead to wrongful use of those things. An unhealthy approach is damaging to the soul. What we are looking for is virtuous and healthy ways of connecting to God, others, and the world, that will lift us up and make us more healthy and complete people. It is in Jesus Christ that these virtues are found and are lived out for our benefit.
HOW WE FIGHT LUST
We fight LUST with ORDERED-LOVE. Ordered-love is the proper, balanced, and healthy relationship that we establish with God, others, and the things of this world. When we love with an ordered-love, we bless others and receive blessing in return because we have so ordered our connection to God and others as to result in mutual benefit. Rather than the selfish and consuming pursuit that comes from lust, ordered-love gives of itself; it lacks chaos, frustration, and disappointment.
A proper, well-ordered connection is the result of a proper fit. Think of it like this: if you want to fix a leaky pipe, its important that you have a good fit so that you have the right flow of water and no leaks. If we put on the wrong fitting, then we have the wrong flow and a wet floor.
A good fit for the spiritual life is ordered-love, so that we have a proper connection with God and others. An imbalance causes either obsession or indifference, and as we’ve learned these are are common ways of missing out on a healthy relationship with God. Through lust, avarice, and gluttony we over-emphasize and over-indulge. Through sloth, we grow weary and indifferent. But through virtues like ordered-love, generosity, self-control, and zeal we balance things out through a healthy commitment to God. Like the pipe metaphor above, we find the proper fitting and create a healthy connection through Christ-like virtue.
WHAT DO I DO WITH ALL THESE NEW VIRTUES?
The seven virtues we’ve examined to fight off vice are Humility, Admiration, Forgiveness, Zeal, Generosity, Self-Control, and Ordered-Love. Each of these virtues are the opposites to the vices we’ve studied and each virtue has the potential to lead us closer to Christ because they are examples of Christ’s life. But for these virtues to be beneficial, we must cooperate with Jesus in living them out. Jesus provides freedom from the vices but it is through taking up that freedom by grace through faith that we will live them out successfully.
In other words, pray for these virtues. Pray that the Holy Spirit will protect you, lead and guide you into these ways of living. Depend upon the strength of God—and NOT your own strength—in order to live this way. The return that we receive from living virtuously, living Christ-like, is eternal. We store up treasures in Heaven because we are living heavenly here and now. The virtues are ways in which we practice eternity.
… remember, to flee from a life of selfish consumption and embrace a life of selfless giving. When we give of these heavenly virtues, we are giving others Christ, and so, go and offer Christ to the world. Amen.