Dealing With Lust
Robert Wurtz II
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your lusts that war in your members?” You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts. (James 4:1-3)
It is hard to read the words of James chapter 4 without wondering how a person could know Christ and act in this way. Some have even suggested that James’ words belong to the interim period between the Gospels and the Book of Acts. It is just so contradictory to suggest that a true Christian could deal with what James is writing about. What can we make of these things?
It is helpful to remember that though a man or woman may be in Christ, they are still a man or a woman. It is our humanness and not to be confused with sinfulness. We are still programmed with the natural human desires that God deemed necessary for man to accomplish His purposes on the earth. For example, God gave Adam a command to be fruitful and multiply and a desire to accomplish the task. He gave Adam dominion over the earth and a desire to accomplish the task. Adam was created with a desire for knowledge and creativity. As descendants from Adam we all have a natural desire to eat, drink, sleep, etc. God gave Adam numerous natural desires and emotions – all of which He declared to be good. Adam had these good, natural desires, but He did not substitute any of them for His most important desire — a relationship with his Creator.
When Adam fell in the Garden, the relationship that he once had with God was cut off. From that point forward he and his children would be subject to Sin. If we fast-forward to the day of Pentecost we know that for those who are in Christ, Sin has been dealt with. Nevertheless, we still have the ancestral characteristics of the first Adam – prior to his fall. That is, all of those natural desires that God designed into man.
What is Temptation?
Temptation has been described as an appeal to the intellect to fulfill a good natural desire in a wrong way. This is true most of the time. We have good natural desires and needs, but the enemy comes along or the world comes along and solicits our participation in wrongly fulfilling those desires. For example, Our inward, human desire for marital relations and physical affection are natural, God-given, and good; however, they do not discriminate. This is why we can feel an attraction towards a person that does not belong to us. It is a natural desire, but that desire must be made subject to the parameters God has established. If we feed this natural desire it can become a lust that draws us away after the object the lust is fixed on. We have to consciously make sure that our human desires are properly guided. This is where God’s word comes in. We have God given desires and God given instructions on how those desires are to be fulfilled.
Sometimes Christians allow their natural desires to take control of them. In fact, they feed their natural desires until the become unnatural lusts. This type of lust is a power that will try to control us and even seem out-of-control. We have to be careful. Our natural desires, if fed into an unnatural lust, will begin to war inside of us against the desires of the Spirit. The war will begin within and will manifest ultimately in a host of other problems that are symptomatic of the lust problem. Keep in mind that covetousness is also a form of lust. James asked, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your lusts that war in your members?” You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have…” It is natural to desire the things God created in us; however, the only way they will stay in balance is if we maintain our walk with Christ. If He is our primary desire and He is where we find our fulfillment, all these other things will typically stay in balance. However, what happens when we seek fulfillment in natural desires? Can natural desires replace our need for a relationship with our Creator?
Burning… But for What?
Have you ever noticed how people that buy products are called consumers? Why? Because we live in an age where the consumer is the most important person in society. Without the consumer our economy grinds to a halt. So it is in the interest of this present evil world to create an environment of discontentment so that people will keep consuming products.
Our culture is a consumer based culture where products are used to bring happiness (fulfillment). This paradigm is at war with the kingdom of God where the Saints find their fulfillment in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, if a Saint is enticed to begin finding their fulfillment in the things of this world, the natural desire that they choose to find that fulfillment in will become an unnatural lust. Like a fire that is fed by kindling, so is the natural desire inflamed by feed it.
Pick Your Poison
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15–17 NKJV)
The Western World with its present popular culture is such a finely tuned machine that it makes 1 John 2:15-17 sound almost like a prophecy. Over 100 years ago Psychoanalysts and Public Relations experts began using focus groups to figure out how to break through peoples’ inhibitions. They figured out how to exploit the lust of the flesh (possessions), the lust of the eyes (pleasures), and the pride of life (power and popularity) until living for selfish ambition and pleasure came in vogue. In fact, it became man’s reason for being and reason for living. The consumerist machine pumps out propaganda and products at a dizzying pace — sapping up every sale it can get. the world says, “Covet, and get possessions; lust, and indulge in immoral acts; envy, and climb the ladder of popularity and power!”
All of these attitudes are blatantly anti-Christ. Nevertheless, when a Saint begins to wax cold in their relationship with God they are subject to falling into the trap that James speaks of. Lusts of all kinds will bring wars into our lives, into our homes, and into our churches. Perhaps you noticed that the more a person lusts for the things of this world the less they love God and others? Perhaps we should say it the other way. Regardless, we have to know that lusts of various kinds usually start out as the same God-given good thing it was intended to be; but when it is stoked and fed it begins to consume.
Dealing With Lust
When our love and desire shifts from God to the things of this present evil world — the battle is on. To seek fulfillment in possessions, pleasures, power and popularity is the epitome of a Satanic paradigm. And for all that they leave the person unfulfilled. Why? Because lust is something that can never be fulfilled. The more you feed it the more it wants. If we are in this pattern we must repent and turn from the ways and pleasures of the world and turn back to Christ. We must take the desire that we gave to other things and give them back to God. We have to see and understand what is happening to us. You are human and you live in a fallen world.