by Jack Huges, Calvary Bible Church, CA
I was reading Proverbs 30 this morning and came across vss. 15–16 which talk about things that are insatiable. I read, “The leech has two daughters, ‘Give,’ ‘Give.’ There are three things that will not be satisfied, four that will not say, ‘enough’: Sheol, and the barren womb, earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that never says, ‘enough.’” Well I would like to add another insatiable thing to that list, “Yeah, even five — the lust of the flesh which always wants more pleasure.” We have been studying common sins people struggle with and how to overcome them and for this Calvary Review I want you to consider the lust of the flesh.
What is “The Lust of the Flesh?”
Most of us are probably familiar with what Thomas Watson calls “the godless man’s trinity.” The godless man’s trinity is found in I Jn. 2:16 where the Apostle John writes, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” The first lust of the godless man’s trinity is the “lust of the flesh.” The word “lust” can be used to describe both good and evil desires. Usually it is used to describe evil desires, especially in the area of sexual fulfilment, that is how it is used in I Jn. 2:16.
The word “flesh” is sometimes used in the New Testament to describe our physical bodies or humanity in general. Other times the word “flesh” is used to describe sinful cravings we have to do those things that are contrary to God’s will. In I Jn. 2:16, the Apostle John uses flesh to describe evil cravings. John describes “lust” as coming from or belonging to “the flesh.” The reason for this is fairly simple. Lust is a desire to have something and the flesh is the physical part of us that is able to enjoy the pleasures which the flesh lusts after. You are able to receive pleasure through your physical senses. You can see, taste, touch, smell, and hear things that bring pleasure to your heart, mind and soul through your body. The body is the link or connection between the immortal spiritual part of you and the temporary physical part of you.
There are many things we can see, taste, touch, smell, and hear which are pleasurable and good, which give glory to God. Yet, the Bible tells us that eternal, spiritual things are more important than physical temporary things. Yet the world will constantly try to convince you that physical pleasure seeking is the ultimate and highest good. The world cries out, “Don’t think about God. Don’t think about judgment. Don’t think about what the Bible says. Don’t think about eternity. Think about the here and now, you and your desires, your pleasures, what you want to fulfill you now.” Understandably, this is what the Bible condemns as evil, as “the lust of the flesh.”
The World’s Slavery to the Lust of theFlesh
If you have never taken time to meditate on the “lust of the flesh” in relation to the world we live in, you need to do that. It will be a helpful and eye opening exercise. Maybe you could start with the newspaper. Ask yourself, “Why does the newspaper virtually ignore what is morally good, eternally significant, and glorifying to God? Why do newspapers focus on the sensational, the emotional, the gripping and exciting?” We just talked about it. Because the newspapers do not have a God glorifying eternal perspective. They have a worldly, sinful, flesh pleasing perspective.
Consider the ads in the newspaper. The companies that place those ads pay thousands and millions of dollars for advertising. Look at the ads and ask yourself, “Are these ads about God? Are these ads about God’s will? Are these ads about eternally significant things? Are these ads focused on the spiritual needs of men and women and how they can walk in holiness and give God glory? Are these ads promoting things that will comfort a person on his death bed?” What are the answers to these questions? No! The ads are focused on the godless man’s trinity.
And if you look at the various sections of the newspaper and the articles contained in them, notice what they talk about and why. Think about their motives. Are they really just “reporting the news in an unbiased, impartial way.” Are the newspapers “equal news opportunity printers?” Not on your life! They want to make money! They want to manipulate society. They want to manipulate you. They want power, control, and influence. They want the candidate that will allow them to do what they want to do. They want their readership up so they can get more money from the companies that place the ads in their papers. The newspapers of today are a far cry from Benjamin Franklin’s “Pour Richard’s Almanac” which had as its goal the promotion of integrity, honesty, and good will in society.
Try the TV. What do you see in virtually every TV program? Even the nature programs which marvel at God’s creation never mention God or creation. In fact they deny God all together and attribute creation to chance and time. The news on the TV is just like the news in the newspapers. The bulk of the regular TV shows focus on the sensational, the gripping, the bad, the sensual, science fiction, the pleasurable things this world can offer.
Can you think of a single prime time TV program that attempts to focus people on God, eternity, judgment, and what the Word of God says, means, and how to apply it? I am not trying to say that entertainment is evil in and of itself, but when we seek entertainment before God, it becomes an idol. When we enjoy entertainment that encourages us to enjoy things that are contrary to the will of God and which confuse right and wrong, good and evil, then this is not entertainment, this is satanic brain washing. This is an attempt to use entertainment as a means to deceive, delude, and eventually destroy people, which is the dead end where sin drops people off.
Consider the shopping malls of the world. Next time you go to a shopping mall look around you. Look at the people. Look at the shops and the displays. What do you see? Do you see a God oriented focus? A focus on integrity, character, right and wrong, living your life today in light of eternity? No, what you see are people running around, buying things that make them look and feel good in this life. Things that are temporary. Things that are at best amoral and at worst immoral.
There are food courts to feed your flesh and pleasure your appetite. There are perfume shops and perfume displays at the entrance of every major department store providing you with a wide variety of aromas to pleasure your sense of smell. There is music in the background to please your sense of hearing. There are bright colorful displays, pictures of beautiful women and handsome men who have as the goal of their life to obsess on their bodies so people will look at them. These, often narcissistic individuals, are paid huge sums of money to stand before cameras and advertise merchandise so that you will lust after them and the merchandise they display. These exceptional men and women are displayed before you in pictures, often scantily dressed to please your sense of sight, to arouse your passions, and lead you to throw down your charge card in hopes that you too could be like them! Everywhere, there are things to touch, things to feel, leather, silk, and cashmere. Things to pleasure your sense of touch, your tactile appetites.
This is the world you live in. And the question you need to ask yourself before God is this, “Am I living in the world or is the world living in me?” As someone once said, there is a huge difference between having a boat in the Pacific Ocean and having the Pacific Ocean in your boat. Bottom line, Satan is an expert anthropologist. He has studied mankind since creation. He knows that people are easily led astray from God, from eternity, from what is spiritual by the lust of the flesh. He knows that many people are willing to give up eternal happiness in the future for temporary pleasure today. He uses our fleshly desires against us, to destroy us and steal glory from God.
What Do the Scriptures Say about the Lust of the Flesh?
Well we have already seen in I Jn. 2:17 that the lust of the flesh is part of the world that is “passing away”, but let’s see what else the Scriptures tell us about the lust of the flesh. Paul in Rom. 8:5-8 tells us that those who set their minds on fulfilling the lust of the flesh, who have as their priority self gratification are 1) not Christians, 2) focused on that which leads to death, 3) are hostile to God, 4) do not submit to the law of God, 5) are unable to submit to the law of God, and 6) cannot please God. In Rom. 13:14 Paul says Christians are, “to make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts.” Paul in I Cor. 10:6,11 tells us that the stories in the Old Testament where people sinned and were judged by God are examples for us so that we “would not crave evil things.”Gal. 5:16-25 addresses the need for Christians to walk according to the Spirit not the flesh. The reasons Paul gives are, 1) living a fleshly life is contrary to the will of the Holy Spirit, 2) living a fleshly life places you under the law of God, and 3) if we practice the deeds of the flesh it reveals we are not Christians but headed for hell.
The solution Paul says is to 1) walk by the Holy Spirit and 2) to be led by the Holy Spirit. What that means is we must live our lives according to the Word of God as believers in Jesus Christ. Once we repent of our sins and place our faith in Jesus Christ we receive the Holy Spirit who energizes us and helps us obey God. This is what it means to walk in the Spirit or be led by the Spirit. Eph. 2:3 tells us that those who indulge in the flesh are “children of wrath.”Tit. 2:13 tells us to “deny worldly desires.” Peter, in I Pet. 1:14-15 sums it up well, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.”
What Must You Do?
Much could be said but here is your plan of action: 1) Examine your life and make sure you know you are a Christian (II Cor. 13:5). If you are not sure, meet with a mature believer and have them take you through the Scriptures which explain how to be saved. 2) If you are convinced you know the Lord, examine your life and if you realize you are indulging in the lust of the flesh, repent, turn from your sins and pursue holiness which is to obey God’s Word (I Jn. 1:9). 3) Memorize a few Scriptures in your areas of weaknesses (Psa. 119:11). 4) Pray regularly for God to help you love Him and obey Him. Ask Him for strength to help you escape temptation (Lk. 22:40-46; Phil. 4:6-7). 5) Beware, be on guard, examine and meditate on the world around you and consider how God wants you to live your life and do it (Josh. 1:8). 6) Be continually thankful that God gives all believers everything they need for life and godliness through the grace that is in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10; II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:3). Finally, be encouraged even though you fail and fall into sin. Prov. 24:16 says, “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.”Psa. 37:23-24 says, “The steps of a man are established by the Lord, And He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, Because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” These verses teach that even righteous men fall. Men like Abraham, King David, and the Apostle Peter. The Apostle Paul was so frustrated in his fight against the lust of the flesh he said this in Rom. 7:24-25, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” Then Paul answers his own question, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” By the time Paul gets to Rom. 8:1 he says, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” We are saved to walk in holiness but even when we sin, the blood of Christ cleanses us and we can stand before God clothed with his perfect righteousness. May we take to heart the words of the Apostle Paul to the Galatians in Gal. 5:24, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”