Robert Jeffress - Moving From Lust to Purity - Part 1
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The journey of life is filled with roadblocks and detours. And today we're going to address one of the most common obstacles among Christians and perhaps the most private one. Today, I'm gong to talk frankly, about overcoming the mountain of lust. If you're prepared to transform your thought life, then this message is for you. By following God's plan and depending on his power, you can experience a new beginning. My message is titled "Moving from Lust to Purity", as we continue our series Invincible on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
A number of years ago, there was a funny television commercial. You may remember in the background was the music "In the still of the night". And in this commercial, there was a beautiful young woman who was seated at the bar of a hotel. She was at the counter there in the hotel bar, and she was looking over some business papers, when she glances down the calendar and she sees this handsome man and they lock eyes. And the young man is sure that the woman is giving him the look. And so he gets up and he goes over to her and on his way out, he drops the key to his hotel room and she stays there for a few moments and she gets up and puts the leather jacket on, which is the basis of the commercial. And she looks down the other end of the bar, and she sees at the end of the counter, this balding middle-aged dumpy guy sitting there. She gets up and walks down and takes that hotel room key and drops it off to him. The next scene, those two men are in the elevator. The younger guy looks at the dumpy guy into his horror realizes he's holding the key to his hotel room.
Well, it was a funny commercial. But the truth is there's nothing funny about lust. As a pastor for more than 40 years, I've seen the destructive power of lust. I've seen how it destroys the lives of individuals, of families, of entire churches. The problem of insatiable sexual desire is hurting the witness of the church of Jesus Christ today. Just look in the news, a world famous apologist accused of the sexual abuse of women in a SPA. The leader of a great Christian school accused of sexual debauchery that can't even be described. A Christian leader recently who's known for espousing family values, guilty of child pornography. All ruining the witness of the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Today, we're going to talk about in our series, Invincible, the problem of lust. Remember in our series, we're talking about the 10 mountains, the obstacles that separate us from the blessed life that God wants us to experience. And today, we're in the last message in this series. And we're going to talk about the issue of lust. And I'm hesitant to talk about conquering lust, because the fact is we can't once and for all conquer the problem of lust, but lust can once and for all conquer us, if we're not careful. And so today we're going to talk about how to gain victory over lust, by moving from lust to purity.
Now we need to define terms, first of all. What do we mean when we talk about lust? This is going to surprise you. But in the Bible, the Greek word for lust is not necessarily evil, it's neutral. It all depends upon the context in which it's used. The Greek word is epithumia and it's translated lust. Sometimes it's used in a positive way in the Bible. In 1 Timothy 3:1 for example, it's used in relationship to the office of the pastor. Paul says, "It is a trustworthy statement, if anyone aspires to the office of overseer," pastor leader of the church, "It is a fine word he," and there's the word, epithumia, "Lust to do". It's a good thing to lust, to crave, to desire, to be a pastor.
Now, this way you may have seen in the news, a little dust up and over some controversy in one of our Southern Baptist Churches that last week chose to ordain three women to the pastoral ministry. And there's lots of outcry about it. Monday, I had a call from the New York times, "Pastor, what do you think about this church that has ordained three women to become pastors"? And I said, "It really doesn't matter what I think about it, what matters is what does the Bible say about it"? And the Bible says two very clear things about women in ministry. Number one, God does call women into ministry. He does it all the time. From the very beginning of the Christian movement, women were called to ministry. God chose women to deliver the first news of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
Remember what was happening on that Easter Sunday morning, that weekend? What were the apostles doing out preaching about Jesus? No, they were curled up in a fetal position, sucking their thumbs in the upper room. They were absolutely distraught over the crucifixion. It was the women who went to the tomb and when they saw that he was no longer there, they ran and told the apostles about it. And what did they do? They didn't believe the women. "That's just women talking, we can't believe them". But God entrusted that message to women. Lydia was a business woman in act 16 who founded the church at Philippi. Yes, it's okay for women to be involved in business. And she was a church leader as well throughout history you see that throughout the history of our church, you see women involved in ministry.
The second truth is equally clear, women are not to serve as the senior pastor of a church. God has reserved the role of pastor for men. It's not because they're better than women. That's just God's plan because how do I know that? Because in verse two, in 1 Timothy 3, he says, "In the qualifications for a pastor and overseer among other things, he has to be the husband of one wife". He's to be male. When you put this with 1 Timothy 2, 1 Corinthians 11, the senior pastor role is reserved for men. By the way, there are a lot of qualifications for pastor other than just being a man, he has to control his temper. A man who can't control his temper is just as prohibited from being a pastor as a woman is. There all kind of limitations there. But the role of pastor is for the man.
Now, why am I talking about this in reference to lust? Here's the point. The point is craving something, wanting something is not wrong, unless it's outside God's prescribed boundaries. And that's what you see with this word lust intrigue. Yes, wanting to be in ministry. That's a good thing, but there are some limitations there. There are some boundaries. The same thing is true when it comes to sex. Mostly in the Bible, the word epithumia, lust is used in relationship to sex. And let me give you this definition of lust. It's an insatiable desire for any sexual activity that is outside the will of God. Lust is an insatiable desire for any sexual activity outside the will of God. What is sexual activity outside the will of God? Jesus answered that in Matthew 19:4-6.
Now teenagers listen to this very carefully because you're going to have this thrown at you in college or wherever life might lead you. Jesus said to the pharisees, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning, made them male and female". Might poured out the obvious here. Your gender is not a matter of choice, it's a matter of chromosomes. It's a matter of science. It is a matter of the Creator. God is the one who decides our gender. He's the one who makes us male and female. And he's the one who said, "For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife and the two shall become one flesh". God's the one who designed marriage. It is between a man and a woman, a male and female, husband and wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate".
Look, God thought up the idea of sex to becoming one flesh. But he said, "I design sex for a male and a female and the security of the marriage relationship". That's what sex is reserved for. And any deviation from that is wrong. I've heard people, I used to debate people on tv all the time about this. Well, they would say, "Reverend Jesus never talked about homosexuality. He never mentioned homosexuality". True, he never used the word. He never spoke out against bestiality either. But does that mean he was for it? He never talked about pedophilia, but you think he was for that? I mean, Jesus could have spent all afternoon listing every sexual perversion demand if he wanted to. That's not how he handled it. He said, "Here is God's plan, one man with one woman in a lifetime relationship called marriage".
And any sex outside of that misses the mark. It falls short of what I've planned for your good, not evil, but for good. And that's why Jesus doesn't mention every perversion that you could think of. We see that by the way, Matthew 5:28. Jesus said, "Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart". Sex is not wrong. The desire for it is not wrong unless it's directed toward the wrong person. It was Christian philosopher, who said, "Lust isn't sexual desire per se, but disorderly sexual desire. The problem isn't the desire, it's the disorder". Is there any better illustration of sexual disorder than pornography? People who have studied pornography say that it is an addictive behavior. One writer says, "A scientific consensus is emerging that today's porn is truly a public health menace".
What makes pornography so dangerous is that it tangles up our brains wiring leading to addiction that is just as powerful as that for coCaine, alcohol or nicotine. But like all addictions, pornography has diminishing returns. It's not just that you need continually more exposure to it to get the same hit of dopamine, that pleasure hormone. It's not that you need more of it, you need more variety in it. You crave more and more perverse things to give you the same buzz that originally the first exposure to it did. Somebody wrote like water following downhill, we are drawn to porn that is increasingly taboo, specifically more violent and degrading. That is where pornography leads.
And by the way, I've heard throughout the years, people come say to me, "Well, pastor, and there's no harm in looking. In looking, there's no sin in that. I'm just going to keep that to myself. It's just my little pleasure what I do that doesn't mean I'm going to act out on what I see". No, only an idiot would say something like that. When somebody says what you see, doesn't affect how you act. I said, "If that's true, why do you think advertisers spend billions and billions of dollars on advertisements, on television and on the internet"? Why do they do that? Just to throw away their money? No, they know what you see. What you put into your mind is eventually going to be something you act out on as well. And that is the destructive power of pornography.
What role does lust, this craving for sex outside God's boundaries, how does it lead to sin? I want you to notice what James says about that. Turn over to James 1:13-16. James wrote in verse 13, "Let no one say when he is tempted, I am being tempted by God for God cannot be tempted by evil and he doesn't tempt anyone". Actually some in the early church in Jerusalem on the verge of succumbing to sin were saying, "Well, I guess God planned that he's sovereign. I believe in the sovereignty of God, maybe God is allowing me to fall into this sin". James says, "Stop it, God has no role in your temptation whatsoever". And then in verse 14, he tells us how temptation occurs. He said, "But each one of us is tempted when we are carried away and enticed by his own lust. And then when lust has conceived," notice the sexual imagery there. "When lust is conceived, it gives birth to not life, but to sin. And when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death".
Just as a sperm and an egg come together to produce life. There are two ingredients that come together to produce sin, and sin, always results in death, not just physical death, but the death of everything important to us, relationships, dreams for the future. And then he adds, "Do not be deceived my beloved brethren". Now let's go back to verse 14 for a moment. And let me give you this formula for sin in practical terms that James is talking about. What he's saying is corrupt desires plus the right bait plus the wrong choice, equals sin. He says in verse 14, each one is tempted when he is carried away. He's talking about our corrupt desires. Our lust, that word translated, carried away is the Greek word helkuo. It's the same word used in John 12:32 in which Jesus said, "If I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself". That's a drawing that's positive, but helkuo it refers to, to be drawn by an inward power. In this case, it's by a wrong inward power.
You see to use computer terminology, each one of us has an internal operating system, just like a computer does. We have an internal operating system that controls everything we do, but we've been infected with a virus in our internal operating system, it's called sin. The sin virus has messed up our natural impulses so that now whenever God says yes to something, our first impulse is to say no. And when God says, no to something, our first impulse is to say yes. And so we've got these inward lust, these cravings for things that are outside the will of God. So temptation begins with these corrupt desires, but that's not all. Each person is tempted when he is carried away and enticed. That's what bait refers to.
In fact, the Greek word entice is a fisherman's term. It means to hook, it refers to the hooking of a fish. You know how that works? How you dangle the right bait in front of a fish in order to get it to bite. I'll have to confess to you. I absolutely hate fishing. I remember when I went to my first or my second church in Wichita Falls, there was an old deacon there who wanted to build a relationship with me and he later became a great friend, but he thought the way to do it was through fishing. So he invited me to come out with him fishing one Saturday morning at some ungodly hour, wanted me to get up and get in this boat with him. Can you just imagine me out there in a boat with this guy and we were fishing?
And so I had my line in the water and it stayed there, stayed there, not a nibble, not anything. While on the other end of the boat, my deacon friend was just pulling out fish one after another. And I said, "Bob, what's the secret? Why are you so successful? I'm such a failure at this". He said, "Preacher, two things. First of all, if you're going to catch a fish, you've got to smell like a fish. Now you got up this morning. I can tell you showered, you shaved, you put on that cologne, no fish is going to get an a mile of you". But he said this morning, "I didn't take a shower". He really didn't need to tell me that, I'd already figured that one out earlier. I didn't put on any cologne thing. You've got to smell like a fish.
The second thing is you've got to use the right bait. See not all fish are attracted by the same bait. You've got to know what bait to use for what fish. And when you drop that right bait down into the water, that fish who is overwhelmed by his hunger, he's blinded by his hunger, he sees that piece of attractive bait and he bites at it. Not reeling there is a hook in the middle of it that will destroy its life.
Now folks, Satan is the master fishermen. Can he read your mind? He doesn't have to. He's been watching you for a long time. He knows what appeals to you. He knows what times that you're particularly vulnerable and he knows what baked or drop in front of you at just the right time. For some people, the bait is sex. For other people the bait is money. For other people it's recognition, but he knows when you're weak, when you've been disappointed, when you've been hurt and it just the right time, he's dropped that pieces of bait in front of you. Corrupt desires plus the right bait plus the wrong choice equals sin. And sin when it fully is accomplished, brings forth death. We see a great illustration of the power of lust to destroy a person's life in the story of Samson. You remember his story in judges 13 through 16? Samson was literally as well as spiritually blinded by his own lust. Judges 13, Israel was going through a difficult time. It was the time of the judges. It was a time they were being attacked by the ungodly pagan Philistines.