Lust is the Problem

I don’t know how many times I’ve read Matthew 5:27-30 and I’ve always seen it as a simple condemnation of sexual lust. I wonder if there isn’t something more here as well.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

No doubt, there is a condemnation of lust in this passage. If we lust after someone sexually, we may think we can say, “Oh, but at least I didn’t actually commit sexual immorality with them,” but we have already taken that action in our hearts. We have already violated God’s will.

However, I think there might be something more here. Not just a simple condemnation. Is it possible there is a warning in this passage as well? 

I can’t help but remember the time my wife and I decided we were going to go look at some new cars with the commitment that we weren’t going to buy anything. We headed out at 5 pm. By 9 pm we were pulling up to a friend’s house to show them our new car. What happened? The fact is, we had already bought a new car in our hearts. All that was left was to go through the motions to do it in reality. 

Many Christians know they should steer clear of pornography, adultery, homosexuality, or other kinds of sexual immorality. However, they think they can control and enjoy their lust. They think they can fill their hearts with all kinds of sexual thoughts and never actually act out on it. Some are even Christians who have physically committed those other sins and are trying to stop, but they think they can continue to stare at their eye-candy and allow mental fantasies to take place. They keep wondering why they can’t stop their sinful behaviors.

Perhaps Jesus’ point is more than just a condemnation. It is a warning. Lust is the problem. If you’ve already committed adultery with someone in your heart over and over again, guess what is likely to happen when the opportunity arises. You’ll likely commit adultery with them in your bed. 

I learned a long time ago that I can’t say, “I’m just going to go look at new cars, I won’t buy one.” Perhaps we all need to learn the same thing about immorality. “I’m just going to look at and think about that person sexually, I’m not going to do anything with them,” probably won’t work either.

Lust is the problem. Start working there.

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Drawing Our Line in the Sand

As young boys, often when there was a heated disagreement, we would draw a line in the sand or dirt and challenge one another to “step across that line,” thus signaling the beginning of a fight.

Through the centuries this challenge has taken on a more complex meaning in disagreements with peoples and nations.

The Mason-Dixon Line is usually thought of as the dividing line between the North and the South in our country and symbolizes a great conflict that tore our nation apart.

The Maginot Line was a fortification built on the eastern border of France for protection from invading armies. During World War II the German army passed to the north of the line and attacked the French from the rear capturing the line.

During the Korean Conflict (War) the United Nations Security Council established the 38th Parallel as the line which North Korea was to retreat to and not enter South Korea beyond that line. North Korea ignored the resolution and invaded the South.

Spiritually speaking, we are called upon to draw lines every day.

Where do we draw the line when it comes to sin? For example, where do we draw the line when we are faced with decisions about drinking alcohol, taking habit forming drugs, or having sexual relations outside of marriage? Do we see just how close we can get to the line and then convince ourselves we will not cross over the line? Do we run with a crowd that is always pushing the line and testing us to see just how far we will go?

As Christians, we often sing the song “Have You Counted The Cost.” The first verse begins, “There is a line that is drawn by rejecting our Lord.” If we reject the Lord, we can live anyway we please and have little conflict. If we cross over the line and accept Christ, we are signaling the beginning of a battle. We will battle Satan everyday as he tries to devour us (I Peter 5:8), but our reward will be eternal victory in Jesus (I John 5:4).

Where have you drawn the line?

–by David Coleman

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Nathan and David: Confronting a Friend

Before getting to today’s post, I want to thank Terry Francis for willingly providing today’s guest article. He is doing a fantastic job in our gospel meeting this week. He has been talking to us about Connecting and Conquering, that is, about the importance of congregational unity in order to fight the battles against the real enemy. As of the posting of this article, he has two lessons to go. Tuesday, October 13, at 7 pm, his lesson is entitled, “Danger Ahead!” and discusses what churches need to do when fellowship breaks down. The first three lessons all focused on how to be united in the face of the battle, this one takes a look at what to do when the fellowship starts to break down. Then on Wednesday, October 14, at 7 pm, his lesson is entitled “Love Will Keep Us Together.” We’ll look at how we can love each other as Jesus loved us so we can fight the enemy and not each other. Hope you can make it.

And now for the post:

Nathan and David: Confronting a Friend

It must have been frightening. The historical account doesn’t detail how Nathan was directed—it simply says, “Then the Lord sent Nathan to David…” (2 Sam. 12:1). Nathan wasn’t to confront just any man about his sins—he was sent to confront the king of Israel. Who would dare rebuke a king? But how could Nathan dare say “No” to God? Nathan’s acceptance of God’s command resulted in one of the most familiar confrontations ever recorded in scripture.

The scriptures suggest that Nathan was more than just a prophet of God. Nathan was informed of David’s desire to build God a temple (2 Sam. 7). David’s second son was possibly named after the prophet Nathan (2 Sam. 5:14). Nathan named David’s second son by Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:25). Nathan remained loyal to David during the rebellion of Adonijah and anointed Solomon as king (1 Kings 1). The Lord didn’t just send a prophet to confront David, He sent a friend.

It was Nathan’s relationship with David that formed his approach. David had gone to great lengths to cover up his iniquity. Meanwhile, God had been preparing David’s heart for the confrontation ahead. David wrote, “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:3–4). God’s heavy hand no doubt softened the calloused heart of the king, but it was the well-crafted approach of a friend that pricked his heart. Notice the wisdom of Nathan’s approach:

Nathan used David’s experience as a shepherd (2 Sam. 12:3–4).

The choice of a lamb was purposeful. Who could deny that? Nathan appealed to the heart of the shepherd boy turned king. If anyone understood the love for a special lamb, it would be the former shepherd.

Nathan appealed to David’s wisdom and judgment (2 Sam. 12:1–6).

As king, David had judged numerous times for the people. He served as the equivalent of today’s Supreme Court hearing and judging the most difficult cases. While David’s personal life was plagued by guilt and misery resulting from sin, the king was still capable of executing righteous judgment. Nathan understood this and appealed to David’s judgment.

Nathan appealed to David’s knowledge of the Law.

The subject of Nathan’s story violated a number of Mosaic Laws. He violated the tenth commandment, which forbids one from coveting anything belonging to his neighbor (Ex. 20:17). David’s pronounced judgment of restoring the lamb fourfold was a direct application of Exodus 22:1, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” As David’s friend, Nathan understood the king’s knowledge of the Law.

It was Nathan’s knowledge of his friend that equipped him to confront David with great wisdom. David’s anger was quickly aroused as he pronounced his righteous judgment. He failed to see that he had sought to remove the speck from another’s eye while a beam extended from his own (Matt. 7:1–5). Nathan responded to David, “You are the man!” (2 Sam. 12:7). David had pronounced judgment on himself. His God-softened heart had finally been defeated by the loving rebuke of his friend. He responded with a penitent heart (2 Sam. 12:13). 

Nathan was the best friend David ever had. Nathan could have defended his friend. He could have attempted to justify the sins of David. But rather than cower before the king, Nathan rose to the challenge and helped turn his friend back to God. James wrote, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19–20). Nathan saved David’s soul from death. That’s friendship! The wise man said, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). The darkest hours of life reveal the greatest friendships.

We need to learn from David. Rather than respond with bitterness towards Nathan, David saw the love of a friend. He responded with godly sorrow that produced repentance. He understood what courage it must have taken for his friend to confront him.  We should seek to imitate David’s response to a rebuke.

We also need to learn from Nathan. True friendship is manifested in the willingness to save a friend’s soul despite the risks. Nathan knew his rebuke of the king could have cost him a friendship and possibly his life. He was willing to risk it all to save the king—to save his friend.

 -by Terry Francis

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A Wellness Model of Spirituality

On Wednesday, as I lay on a massage table during a chiropractor visit, I watched a video presentation about physical health. Against the background of happy pictures, the video described the difference between the sickness model of health and the wellness model.

The sickness model doesn’t worry about health until the person is sick. Then, once the person is sick, he goes to a doctor to be fixed. Hmmm, sounds familiar to me. The wellness model, on the other hand, focuses on health from the beginning. Instead of waiting to get sick, those following the wellness model pursue what makes for good health through diet, exercise, activity, maintenance, relaxation, etc.

I couldn’t help but make a parallel to my spiritual life. Sadly, with physical health, I tend to follow a sickness model (I type as I finish up donuts and coffee). I need to work on that. However, even more sadly, I often pursue the same model spiritually.

It is so easy when things seem to be going smooth to let spirituality slip by the wayside. It is easy to postpone prayer, to set aside study, to be too busy for brethren. I’m not having any problems today so that stuff doesn’t seem as important. However, if a spiritual crisis hits, I quickly turn to spiritual things so God will fix me.

As I Timothy 4:8 says, while I may need to profit a little from the wellness model with my physical health, I need the profit in all things that godliness provides. Imagine how many spiritual crises I might avoid if I start pursuing that wellness model.

In a physical-wellness model, I know I need to eat right, stay active, exercise, have maintenance visits with wellness professionals. What do I need to do to follow a wellness model in my spiritual life?

I need to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). Prayer is the final part of God’s armor (Ephesians 6:18). Prayer is the fundamental tool that reminds me God’s presence. It is the fundamental activity that connects me to Him as I walk through the day.

I need to spend time in the word of God’s grace, which is able to build me up and give the inheritance along with all the saints (Acts 20:32). As we’ve said over and again, God’s word is part of every aspect of His armor (Ephesians 6:14-17). I can’t possibly face Satan’s fiery darts without being in the Word constantly and consistently.

I need to meditate on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, …any excellence… anything worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8). If my mind and heart are focused on the things of Jesus, then my body will follow with the actions of Jesus.

I need to spend time with others who are trying to pursue wellness. Instead of forsaking the church’s assemblies, I need to be with my brethren so I can encourage and be encouraged (Hebrews 10:25). I need to be with others who are pursuing wellness outside these assemblies like those early Christians who gathered in one another’s homes in order to praise God and spend time together (Acts 2:47).  Spending time with others holds me accountable and encourages me to continue my connection to God. It also provides the safety net to fall into when I do slip.

I need to serve others as Jesus came to serve (Matthew 20:28). I need to perform actions of service to stop the self-poisoning of isolation and resentment. When I’m stuck on myself, looking to be served, I’m destined to fall. However, when I look outside myself and move to serve others, my mindset is changed, my actions are godly, my heart is cleansed.

No doubt there are other activities I need to add to my wellness repertoire, but the main point is I need to quit waiting until I’m spiritually sick to turn to God to fix me. I need to connect to God constantly through His good actions so I might maintain wellness spiritually.

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