Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Lust, Temptation, and Sin

Often times, when men talk about lust, they put the onus on the word lust. I lusted yesterday. While this is true, I think the word has taken on a milder connotation than it should have in these scenarios—almost as if it is a respectable sin. Or, at least, it seems to have lost some of its teeth. The idea really should be I committed adultery yesterday. Ouch. That puts a tougher spin on it, doesn’t it?

Some times, when men are dealing with this sin, they try to draw a line between what constitutes lust and what does not. Making this distinction is important to determine whether sin is really happening or not. For instance, it is sometimes said in evangelical circles, "The first look is free, but if you look again, you have sinned." In other words, one might see an attractive woman and look away, because the first look is not sin, but if he looks again, then that is sin. This, of course, is a rather legalistic way of understanding the problem and can lead to long, lingering, first looks. Talking about lust in this way is really like walking up to a wolf and placing sheep’s clothing around its shoulders.

The important distinction needed is to cut past the soft-talk and deal directly with sin and temptation. The biblical reality is that temptation is going to happen. The issue is not that we look long or twice or at all, the issue is whether we sin. So, what constitutes sin? Does a long look constitute sin? Does a second look constitute sin? Both of these are the wrong question. What constitutes sin is the response in our heart. Do we want what we see? Sin is the wrong response to the temptation.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13). Temptation is going to happen. Beautiful women will walk in front of you. The question is not whether you look long or twice. The issue at hand is how you respond to the temptation. According to Paul, God himself will not let you be tempted more than you are able. That seems to imply that you don’t have to sin, not only in this situation, but in any temptation. You don’t have to respond to the temptation with sin. So, how should we respond? Look to Jesus.

Verse 14 begins with therefore. Since no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man, therefore, flee from idolatry. How to do you flee from idolatry? “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:14-16) We look to Christ. We partake in his blood and in his body. We look to him as the serpent being lifted up. He became a curse for us and was hung on a tree, so that we do not have to sin any more, so that we may find the way of escape from temptation and may be able to endure it.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation for all men who believe, both Jew and Greek. The gospel of Jesus, crucified and risen, is the power of God unto salvation, both in the eternal sense and from sin. What a glorious truth!

So, it is wise and helpful to make sure you don’t look long and don’t look twice. But, don’t think that these acts save you or keep you from sin, because even a nanosecond look is long enough to sin, for sin is a heart response to the temptation. Instead look to Christ and his gospel. Pray to Christ as your way out of temptation. How you respond to the temptation is a heart issue, not an issue merely of the eyes.

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