Have you ever thought about how lust for food is similar to lust for sex? Both food and sex are amazing gifts created by God and hijacked by sin. To truly enjoy both food and sex, we must keep up a vigiliant awareness of cheap, harmful imitations and a constant re-focusing on God’s wonderful plan.
Reading this morning in Joshua Harris’ Not Even A Hint (Now re-published as Sex Isn’t The Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust Saturated World), I was struck by the similiarity of not only gluttony and sexual lust, but really all sins. Any sin I can think of could be described as perversion of one of God’s good gifts. Many sins can grip our minds and hearts in much the same way, and salvation from any sin’s chains tastes equally as sweet.
Here is as lengthy excerpt from Chapter One of Not Even a Hint, under the heading “The Promise of Pleasure,” that spoke to my heart this morning about the very basics of sin, pleasure, and our need for God:
In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis tells an allegorical story about a ghost of a man afflicted by lust. Lust is incarnated in the form of a red lizard that sits on his shoulder and whispers seductively in his ear. When the man desparirs about the lizard, an angel offers to kill it for him. But the fellow is torn between loving his lust and wanting it to die. He fears that the death of the lust will kill him. He makes excuse after excuse to the angel, trying to keep the lizard he says he doesn’t want. (Are you starting to see yourself?)
Finally, the man agrees to let the angel seize and kill the lizard. The angel grasps the reptile, breaks its neck, and throws it to the ground. Once the spell of lust is broken, the ghostly man is gloriously remade into a real and solid being. And the lizard, rather than dying, is transformed into a breathtaking stallion. Weeping tears of joy and gratitude, the man mounts the horse and they soar into the heavens.
In this story, C.S. Lewis shows the connection between killing our lust and finding life. It feels as though destroying our lust will destroy us. But it doesn’t. And when we destroy our lustful desire, we come not to the end of desire, but to the beginning of pure desire — God-centered desire, which was created to carry us into the everlasting morning of God’s purposes.
God never calls us to sacrifice as an end in itself, but only through sacrifice on the way to great joy. On the other side of the seeming loss and denial is always reward and pleasure so deep and intense that it’s almost impossible to call what you gave up a sacrifice at all. And that ’s true even if the suffering and self-denial God calls us through lasts a lifetime.
If you ever expect to find victory over lust, you must believe with your whole heart that God is against your lust not because he opposed to pleasure, but because He is so committed to it.
In his book Future Grace, John Piper writes, “We must fight fire with fire. The fire of lust’s pleasures must be fought with the fire of God’s pleasures. If we try to fight the fire of lust with prohibitions and threats alone — even the terrible warnings of Jesus — we will fail. We must fight it with the massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction.”
Do you want to be free from the oppression of lustful desires and actions? Do you want to get off the treadmill of guilt and shame?
God offers you and me hope in a surprising way. He doesn’t tell us to lower our standards to a place where we think we can do it in our own strength. He calls us to embrace the standard of His Word — not even a hint of sexual immorality or impurity. God wants us to despair in our own strength so that we have no other option but to throw ourselves on His grace.
That’s the mystery of His plan. You will find His strength in your weakness. As you despair in yourself, you will find hope in Him. And as you turn your back on lust, you will discover that true pleasure is only something God can give.
Man! God is good! He wants us to die to ourselves –not so that we are pathetic little martyrs, writhing in our own self-righteous self denial, but so that we taken from death to REAL life. And God’s standards are so high that we have no choice but to realize they are impossible for us to reach — with any virtue or vice, really. Think of sins of the heart like selfish ambition, greed, gossip, envy, deceit — sure we can look on the outside like we don’t struggle with these sins, or we can lower the standard enough so that we can (sort of) attain them on our own strength, but only God can remove these sins from our insides and replace them with Himself.
And only when He does this, will we feel truly fulfilled and satisfied.
From sermon at the church we visited last week, to the Joshua Harris book, to my The Lord’s Table Bible Study, I seem to be hearing the same message: I am a “dead man walking,” but through the power of Christ I can taste REAL life.
God, will you help me figure this out? Will you direct me on how to turn my back on sin and find ultimate satisfaction in You? I am tired of trying to do it on my own. Even with “lowered standards,” I can’t do it! I need You to rescue me, to lead me, to give me abundant life! I yearn for true freedom from all sin. I yearn to walk with you and to truly REST in You. Thank you for loving me, and making me miserable when I try to “be good” on my own accord. Help me to throw myself into Your Grace.