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05.01.11 The Deadly Sin of Lust, 1 Corinthians 6:9-20, Sermon Summary

by on May 2, 2011

Summary Points

  • Lust in America and in the Church
  • The two human consequences of Lust
  • Five strategies for dealing with Lust

Guys, if you read this sermon summary, you will be surrounded by beautiful women all week. How do I know? Because temptation increases when we become aware of sin and resolve to resist temptation. The Abbot Evagrius, originator of the Eight Deadly Thoughts that became the Eight Deadly Sins, observed that attacks by Lust intensified for those monks under his care who practiced self-control.

Thus, what we need, more than strength of will and righteous resolutions, is a substitute for Lust, and what God gives us is the example of Love found in Christ.

Lust is alive and well in America. We are obsessed with sex. I challenge you to go 5 minutes without being subjected to a sex-driven advertisement. And our church is obsessed with sex also. How else do you explain the inordinate time and resources we spend debating homosexuality—addressed by a mere 7 passages in the Bible (three of which are parallel passages)—and remain virtually silent on materialism, poverty, war, or any of the other Deadly Thoughts?

In a 2009 study of confessions heard by priests, Lust ranked first among men. I’ve often wondered if men and women experience temptation differently, and what impact that might have on our reading of the Bible (written almost exclusively by men) and theology (same, until recently). I know Lust tops my list, and there isn’t any indication it will end soon: Hef married a 29 year old, men my age are having affairs, and thanks now to Viagra, I can anticipate Lust accompanying me my whole life long.

As an official Deadly Sin, Lust refers to sexual lust, though inordinate or disordered desire for anything would qualify as a temptation from true faithfulness. As a matter of sexuality, Lust is sin for two primary reasons. First, it dehumanizes others. When we lust, we reduce a human being to an object. And the reason we desire them is very conditional: hair color, body shape, intelligence—whatever it is that turns you on. And our interest in this objectified person is temporary. Once satisfied, Lust no longer has interest. Shakespeare’s Sonnet 129 describes Lust as “a bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe; before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.”

Second, Lust dehumanizes us. It reduces us to animals driven by instinct, rather than humans in pursuit of a higher calling. Dr. Laura used to tell her love-struck but abused female callers to stop dating “males” and start dating “men.” A male is an animalistic, instinct-driven brute; a man is someone who has subordinated these innate attitudes to a higher one, namely, self-sacrificial love. Shakespeare again: “the expense of spirit in a waste of shame is lust in action.” And until that action is complete, the man is “perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame, savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust.”

Just think about the consequences of Lust in action: adultery often leading to divorce, the loss of one’s reputation and legacy. Darker still, molestations, human trafficking, violence, and murder. David is, of course, the poster boy of these consequences. And even worse, his Lust-child suffered death. But children whose parents are no longer human because of Lust suffer death every day.

How shall the church respond? The Presbyterian Church’s Confession of 1967 states, “Anarchy in sexual relationships is a symptom of our alienation from God, from our neighbor, and from ourselves. . . the church, as the household of God, is called to lead the world out of this alienation into the responsible freedom of the new life in Christ.” Following are some strategies to help us model the kind of relationships that can liberate us from Lust and “lead the world” out of its obsession with sex.

First, recognize that if you experience Lust, it’s your problem. You can’t blame the woman who dresses provocatively in your office. The reasons the lustful are “full of blame” is because they are unwilling to face the Lust in their lives and instead project that dissatisfaction onto someone else. She’s not responsible. You are; you are response-able.

Second, David, as we observed last week, succumbed to Lust because it followed on the heels of Sloth. So if you want to deal with your lust, you might need to begin with your sloth.

And 1 Corinthians 6 offers us three perspectives unique to the Christian that I believe can help us deal with our lust. First, God is above it. This is steps 1-3 of Alcoholics Anonymous: we are powerless, there is a greater power, we submit to that greater power. For Christians, that greater power is revealed in Christ. It is the God who “washed, sanctified, and justified” us in Christ (verse 11). Because God is above our lust, there is always hope, a perpetual second chance, what the Bible calls “grace.” When Paul says God will destroy both the stomach and food (verse 13) he puts in perspective that God’s will and power are above lawfulness, opportunity, justifiable action, compatibility, and logic. All these might commend lustful action to us, but our God is above these. Seeking God’s help (again . . .) will help us deal with our lust.

Second, we must remember the purpose of our bodies. This purpose was revealed in Christ’s resurrection (verse 14), which vindicated his tortured body. Our bodies are good, originally, from creation. And they are redeemed as such in resurrection. But his resurrection also vindicated his lifestyle. Jesus’ body was the vehicle for his mission, his purpose, his life, including his teaching, relationships, service to others, and his death. When God resurrected Christ, he declared Jesus’ body and lifestyle good and right; he revealed the purpose of our bodies, too, namely as the vehicle of God’s mission in the world through us. This is why we are called the “Body of Christ” in the Bible (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-17).

Through the Spirit (verse 17), and by means of the sacraments, we are made one with Christ, members of his body, and extensions of his mission (see Romans 6:13). And even though we still have the opportunity to unite our bodies with prostitutes in lust (verse 15), Paul urges us to remain faithful to our higher calling and manifest our union with Christ through our bodies. Our bodies are the “Temple” (verse 19), the residence of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God in the world, and the distribution center of God’s mission. Getting about doing the mission will help us deal with our lust.

Third, we belong to God. Even though we can unite our bodies with prostitutes, our first and fundamental identity is in union with Christ (verse 17, see also Romans 6:1-12). We belong to him. We are to honor God with our bodies (verse 20). This was a constant theme for Paul. See Romans 14:7-9, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Galatians 2:19-20. Meditating on these truths and verses will help us deal with our lust.

And deal with our lust we must, and to do so we have to replace it with love. But we also have to be patient with ourselves, others, and God, because as the Confession of 1967 continues, “The church comes under the judgment of God and invites rejection by others when it fails to lead men and women into the full meaning of life together, or withholds the compassion of Christ from those caught in the moral confusion of our time.” Be loving, and by doing so, overcome Lust.

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