Tag Archives: lust

Christians, has Jesus transformed your life? Here’s how you can tell.

29 Aug

Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash

A question for any of you who consider yourselves Christians, followers of Jesus: would you say that Jesus has transformed your life?

Yesterday we saw that Jesus transformed Peter’s life.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Peter has that memory in mind as he continues his teaching in 1 Peter 4:1-6.  In verse 3 he builds on what he has already said in verses 1-2.  To review, Peter has taught that through suffering you are learning to be done with sin.  He says that Christians can choose to no longer live for evil human desires, and thus live for God’s desires, for God’s will.

Now in verse 3, I hear Peter saying: “Frankly, don’t you think you have lived a really sinful life long enough?”  In other words he is saying to them, “You have spent enough time in the past following evil human desires.  Keep following Jesus.”

Peter wants them to take a step back and review their life.  Apparently some of them had really lived it up in the past.  What Peter describes here is some risky behavior.  There is no self-control in this.

The scholars tell us Peter is referring to “drinking parties involving unrestrained indulgence in alcoholic beverages and accompanying immoral behavior.” (Louw & Nida) This is out of control stuff where you are risking your health on a regular basis.  In 2018, it would like getting high on heroine, sleeping around with anyone, getting drunk on a regular basis, and then driving vehicles drunk.  It is very selfish, wasteful, and irresponsible.

Maybe you’ve experienced some of that lifestyle yourself.  Maybe you know people who have.  Maybe your sinful behavior was rebellion in other ways.  Maybe there is some rebellion still going on in your life?

In what area of your life are you lacking self-control?  Is it your mind, mouth, attitude, money, time spent on TV, social media, video games, food, and you know God would say, “Follow me”?

Peter is saying to these Christians and to us that it is time to be done with that old life.

And that is exactly what happened!  Look at verse 4.

Peter reviews their spiritual story.  There was a change.  The people who were formerly partying it up had made a change. They had started following Christ, and they are living the new way of his Kingdom, or at least they are trying to.  The way of Christ is a way of self-control.  Think fruit of the Spirit growing in you and flowing through you.  Love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control.  The new way is exact opposite of the way they used to be.  Where there was lust, there is now love.  Where there was anger and rage, there is now joy, peace, and gentleness, kindness.  Where there was rebellion and fighting, there is now patience and self-control.

Peter is talking to people who actually went through these changes.  So why would he need to warn them, if they had already made the change?

It could be that Peter knows how difficult persecution can be.  Especially when your friends are involved.  And that’s what we we’re going to talk about tomorrow.

The one crucial step that must come before doing God’s will

28 Aug

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

What is the will of God?

Yesterday we looked at the surprising weapon Christians are to arm themselves with: the attitude of Jesus, which was an attitude of following the will of God for his life no matter what.  As we continue studying 1 Peter 4:1-6, Peter goes on to say in verse 2 that we Christians will no longer live for evil human desires, but rather we live for the will of God.

What is the will of God?

Here is what the will of God is not: Peter is not talking about some special plan that God has for our future.

Very simply, living for God’s will is doing what God says.  Another great word for this is obedience.  We followers of Jesus are committed to obeying God, and Peter says that means that we no longer obey evil human desires.  What are evil human desires?

Another way to translate the words “evil human desires” is the word “lust.”  The scholars tell us that the word Peter used means “to strongly desire to have what belongs to someone else, and/or to engage in an activity which is morally wrong.” (Louw & Nida)

When you put verses 1 and 2 together, Peter is saying that through the suffering he mentioned in verse 1, disciples of Jesus are no longer living for selfish human desires, but we are to live for the will of God, which means we obey his desire for our lives.

This the key to living as followers of Jesus: we live to obey the will of God! To obey God’s desires.

To understand this further, Peter uses the word “Flesh” multiple times in these few verses.  In the NIV you see it as the word “body” and as “earthly life”.  What Peter is talking about is that there are so many desires that our flesh has.  But so far in verses 1-2 Peter has been saying that when we experience suffering in our flesh, it really puts things into perspective, and sinful desires pale in comparison.  Thus followers of Jesus make it our focus to live according to God’s will and desires for us.

Let’s talk more about living for God’s will.  It is such a foundational concept to Christianity.

But how to we follow God’s will?  It can feel a bit forced.  Peter is saying, “Do God’s will.” Or, “Just obey.” Is that all there is to it?  Just obey.  Can we just choose to obey?  Is it that easy?

Maybe you have a personality where if God says it, then you are good to go with obeying it, period.  No questions.  You are okay with it.  And you genuinely seek to obey.

But there are others of you who have a different personality or approach.  You hear, “do God’s will,” and you know that it is a good thing, but you are wondering, why should we obey God?  Or is that all there is to it? Is there a reason for it? Can’t God tell us more about this?

I would suggest that there is more.  And that Peter knows there is more.  And that Jesus taught that there is more.  And this is what is more: obeying God’s will is intended to flow from a heart of love for God.

When we love someone, we are inclined to respect them, serve them, treat them well, help them.  God doesn’t want us to obey him begrudgingly because he is the supreme power of the universe, and we are his creatures.  As if God is some dictator.  Or a master with slaves.  God wants us to do his will out of love for him. He wants to be in a real loving relationship with us.

I wonder, do you love him?

Of course we would say “yes” to that.  But perhaps we say, “Yes, I love God” too quickly, without examining our hearts and minds.

I use some phone apps to guide me in reading scripture and praying.  One is from the Book of Common Prayer, and it has morning, evening and night prayer services that you can read through and pray.  It includes plenty of Scripture and the Lord’s Prayer, other written prayers, spaces for silence and your own prayer requests as well.  One of the written prayers that is in there every single day always gets me thinking:

“As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts on fire with love for you, now and forever, amen.”

And then yesterday, another app I use had this prayer,

“Dear Lord, instill in my heart the desire to know and love you more.”

In a week when I was thinking about a passage that emphasizes obeying God, these two prayers hit me hard.  Do I love God?  Of course, I love God.  But really, do I love God?

I thought of Peter, not long after Jesus was arrested and taken away.  That evening, Peter is following from a distance, watching, fear rising in his heart, as they put Jesus on trial.  Then Peter is spotted, and pointed out as one who had been with Jesus.  Peter allows fear to overtake him, and he denies knowing Jesus, once, twice, three times.  Vehemently Peter denies knowing Jesus.

Then the rooster crows, and Jesus looks out across the way, locking eyes with Peter.  Peter, who had only hours before made bold claims about dying for Jesus, now has denied him. He flees the scene, weeping bitter tears.  But a few days later, Jesus rises from the dead, and Peter is a changed man.

Jesus reinstates him, saying Peter, “Do you love me?”  Three times, one for each denial.  And each time Peter says “I love you.”

This is a different Peter now.  Having acted out of fear instead of love, Peter is now set on a trajectory of loving Jesus that will carry on for the rest of his life.

Jesus transformed his life. Jesus wants to do the same in your life.  He wants to restore a loving relationship between you and him.  He is not a taskmaster forcing you to do his will.  Instead, he wants you to know, out of mutual love for one another, that loving him leads to obeying him which is the best possible way to live.

Why we’re installing modesty scanners in our church lobby

1 Mar

 

whatismodesty

What is modesty???  Who gets to make the call?  What centrally recognized authority do women have so that all can go to that authority to answer the question “Is this outfit modest?”

There isn’t one!  There is no centrally recognized Christian modesty panel that we can refer to.  Men, we really have little idea how tough it is for women.  One author, Rachel Held Evans, describes the struggle this way:

“What I’ve only just begun to realize is that these two extremes represent different sides of the same coin. While popular culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to get men to look at them, the modesty culture tends to disempower women by telling them they must dress to keep men from looking at them. In both cases, the impetus is placed on the woman to accommodate her clothing or her body to the (varied and culturally relative) expectations of men. In both cases, it becomes the woman’s job to manage the sexual desires of men, and thus it is seen as her fault if a man ignores her on the one hand or objectifies her on the other. Often, these two cultures combine to send out a pulse of confusing messages: “Look cute … but not too cute! Be modest … but not frumpy! Make yourself attractive … but not too attractive!” Women are left feeling ashamed of their bodies as they try desperately to contort around a bunch of vague, ever-changing ideals. It’s exhausting, really, dressing for other people.”

That’s the culture we live in.  Other people live in other cultures which approach modesty quite differently.  Tribal women dress  in ways that our culture would find quite immodest.  So let’s start off investigating modesty by trying to become culturally aware.

Take a look at these photos.  What assumption do you make about a person who dresses like this?amish

 

That they are Amish, right?  When you first saw this picture, did the thought jump into your mind that these ladies might be headed to a Halloween costume party?

Or did you immediately think, “Amish”? Did you assume something about these ladies because of their dress?”

What about this guy?cowboy

 

What kind of music does this guy probably like?  Country!  But how do you know he doesn’t like opera or gansta rap?  Are you assuming something about this person because of his outer appearance?

Let’s do a couple more:

goths

 

What style are these people dressed like?  Goth.  What are some general tendencies of someone who dresses like this?  They like heavy metal music with rebellious themes.  But how do you know they aren’t having a Bible study?interview

One more.  Which clothing style is more likely to get this guy hired at a job interview?

 

The suit, right?  Why?  We believe that when a person puts on a suit, it says something about them. But what if the interview is for a tattoo parlor?

So what do all these questions and pictures help us learn?

It is a societal norm to make assumptions about people based on their appearance.  We know that God does not look at the outward appearance.  He looks at the heart.  And we also should strive to look at people God’s way.

But we should be extremely conscious of the fact that many people do not look at things the way God does.  Instead many people in our society judge you based on how you look, and even more, they treat you differently based on how you look.

Perhaps you rightly feel a sense of injustice about that.  People shouldn’t treat you differently based on how you look!  God’s way of looking at the heart is the right way.  But it would be extremely short-sighted for any of us to fail to take into account how some people still look at and judge others based on outward appearance.

I am not excusing bad behavior.  Not in the least.  If a person lusts against another, that is wrong in Jesus’ teaching.  If they rape another, or if they do anything in between, they should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Sin is sin.

Hear me on this: I am not saying that sin is OK, or that it is OK to view people differently based on their appearance.  I am saying we live in a world where people commit sin against other people based on their outward appearance!  Therefore, when you live in a world where people do not have self-control, you should prepare for it.  You would be wise, very wise, not to invite sin in your life.  There is a great wisdom, therefore, to modesty.

So once again I ask, What is modesty?  As the pictures above remind us, our view of what is modest, decent and proper is socially conditioned.  You might not like the way someone dresses.  But that doesn’t mean that your opinion is the only valid one.  We simply must have humility about that.

And that brings me to passages like 1 Cor 8-10 or Romans 14-15 where Paul talks about what to do when Christians disagree with one another.   We are not going to come up with a universally agreed upon Christian standard of modest dress.  Even if we took a vote and agreed on a Christian dress code, we might have a majority opinion, but there would still be many who disagree with it.  So what do we do when we disagree?  First and foremost, we love one another.  We can and must exist together, especially in a local congregational setting, where there are differences of opinion about modesty.  We must fight the urge to judge one another.  Here what Paul says:

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

So with that spirit of love and unity in mind, I refer to my mini-sermons that I mentioned last week. I believe they speak valid points from both gender!  Let’s start with what some women have said:

Dear brothers in Christ, we women are ogled at in our hypersexualized culture.  It is hard. We get weary.  The last thing we want is to have you checking us out.  So help a girl out. Please look up.

Men, you are responsible for your own thoughts and actions.  It is not the women’s fault if you cannot control yourself.  It is your fault.  You need to take ownership of your own lust.  You should not be objectifying women, checking them out, etc.  Do not blame the women for lust.  So do the hard work of opening yourself up to an honest appraisal of yourself.  Men, none of us wants to admit that we have a problem with lust, or a porn addiction, or a self-control issue.  But if we do, we need to know it and admit it, because it is only from the place of honest confession that we can begin to see transformation.  I encourage you to have an accountability partner or group.  Men, you should almost certainly have content filtering and accountability software on your devices.

A few years ago one of my sons, who was in elementary school at the time, heard from other students on the bus about a website they were encouraging him to check out.  We didn’t have filtering software on our home computer, and he snuck on to the site.  Once we found out through the sibling grapevine, I was heartbroken.  In the safety of our home, my son had been exposed to extremely perverse images. Researches and scientists have done excellent and sobering work on the affects of porn on the brain. It create a powerful addiction, with ruinous consequences.  Men, we need to take action to guard our homes, our sons, our minds.  I had failed.  We now have filtering software on our home computer and devices.

We need to talk about sexual addiction and lust in our churches, in our small groups, and take serious action.  When Jesus brought up the topic of lust in Matthew 5, notice his approach:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Who does Jesus say should carry the burden for lust?  Not the recipient of the lust, but the purveyor. Men, when we lust, Jesus says our response should be to take drastic action.  He was speaking in hyperbole in those verses, of course.  I also believe Dallas Willard’s approach to these verses is very instructive.  It could be that when people in the crowd heard Jesus teaching this drastic action about lust, they would have been laughing.  Not at, but with him.  How could this be funny?

Consider, men, how you lust.  If you gouge out your eyes, would that remove the capability for lust? Absolutely not.  We well know that lust is a matter of the heart and of the mind.  So perhaps the drastic action that we need to take is what Willard would call the renovation of our hearts.  That might involve some serious rehabilitation, therapy.  But if work on our inner life is what we need, then let us do that work.

Does this mean that women should be free to wear whatever they want?  Not in the least.  Without question, especially in a church family, women should be free from objectification, though not necessarily free to wear whatever they want. Paul was writing to women in 1st Timothy 2:9-15.  So the second mini-sermon has some important points as well.  Here it is:

Dear sisters in Christ, we men battle lust in our hypersexualized culture.  It is hard.  We get weary. The last thing we want is to see some of you dressed immodestly.  So help a guy out. Please cover up.

Just as the men are responsible for how they think, women, you are also responsible for how you dress.  Paul said clearly that the principle you should follow is to be known for your good deeds.  Be aware of how warped our society can be, of what reputation you desire to carry and of what your message your dress sends to those who might not have self-control.  Be known for your character.  May your outerwear be an expression of your inner character.

So, Faith Church, we are installing new modesty detection scanners this week. All women must walk through the scanners before they enter the sanctuary. Men are exempt because Paul didn’t address them. The scanner will sound a buzzer if the woman is not dressed modestly, and our modesty security team will escort her to our new clothing ministry which will outfit her with proper attire. She may then enter the sanctuary.  Image result for refrigerator boxes

We will also be email you all catalogs which will enable you to order our new church uniforms.  That way no will have to face the shame of the scanners.   Except guests.  And they will get up to code quickly, we’re sure.  Here is a picture of the sample uniform.  We will provide kits for cutting out eye-holes.

Just kidding!  No church should endeavor to create a dress code.  Or install scanners.  And neither will we.  But we do ask all women to consider what Paul says in this passage.  What does it mean to dress with modesty, propriety and decency?  Please seek a faithful answer to that question before the Lord. I would recommend that women discuss this together.  Our culture has plenty of clothing styles that are considered trendy, fashionable, and attractive.  But our culture’s perspective should not be seen as the last word on the matter.  The runways in Paris, London and NYC might not be the best place to learn how to answer the question of what is modest.  Then again, they might!  They might have good options. But they also have a reputation of subtly promoting the objectification of women, based on the styles they design.

In conclusion, I return to what Paul said above in Romans.  Let us love one another.  Our love for another should be such a priority that we are willing to practice massive amounts of self-control for one another.

PS – I mentioned a bonus 4th sermon in my post last week.  I did briefly preach that on Sunday.  It was about the role of women in ministry.  My perspective was identical to what I said here.  I continue to believe that in a near-egalitarian culture, such as the USA, Paul would have preached something very different than what he said in 1st Timothy 2:9-15 about women and their role in ministry.  Look no further than how differently he taught in Romans 16, where he mentions Junias, a female apostle.  That said, and because their is a robust, faithful hermeneutic around the equality of men and women in the church, I cannot fathom why other approaches continue to exist that do not allow for total equality of men and women in the church.

 

 

Why I’m preaching 3 different sermons about modesty…at the same time…kinda…

25 Feb

Image result for sermon on modesty

Tomorrow I’m preaching 3 different sermons on modesty…at the same time.  Kinda.  Obviously, I can’t speak three sermon simultaneously, unless I recorded them separately and played them all at the same time.  Or maybe I could record two, playing them at the same time as I preach the third.  Imagine the cacophony.

Instead, I’m planning on speaking three sermons on modesty within the same timeframe of 30-35 minutes.  Don’t worry, Faith Church, tomorrow is a coffee break Sunday, so that means coffee and snacks come before the sermon!  You might want to bring extra with you back to your seats.

Actually, the first two sermons on modesty will be rather short.  In fact, I can summarize each of them in one paragraph for you.  Before I do that, though, you might be wondering why I am preaching on modesty at all.  Simply, it is what comes next.  I have been preaching through the biblical book of 1st Timothy, which is actually a letter that the Apostle Paul wrote, around 60AD, to his young associate named Timothy, who was pastor of the church Paul started in the Roman city of Ephesus.  Paul wanted the church to thrive, and he wanted Timothy to thrive as its pastor.  He writes Timothy, then, giving him advice and instruction about numerous matters in the church.

Last week we started chapter 2 in the letter, and we found that chapter 2 includes instructions about worship.  First up was prayer, and Paul talked with the men about raising hands in prayer.  You can read about that here and here.  This week he speaks to the women, instructing them how to dress modestly. That’s why we’re talking about it.  You can see what Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:9-15.

I’ve been thinking about this sermon quite a lot this week, and I’ve decided it is going to require three sermons in one.

The first sermon on modesty is the one that some men have asked me to preach to the ladies.  Here’s a summary:

Dear sisters in Christ, we battle lust in our hypersexualized culture.  It is hard.  We get weary. The last thing we want is to see some of you dressed immodestly.  So help a guy out. Please cover up.

And now for my second sermon on modesty.  This is the one that some ladies have asked me to preach to the men.

Dear brothers in Christ, we are ogled at in our hypersexualized culture.  It is hard.  We get weary.  The last thing we want is to have you checking us out.  So help a girl out. Please look up.

But you know what?  I really don’t want to preach either of those sermons.  There is certainly truth in both of them.  And that’s why I’m still going to preach them.  But I have a third sermon on modesty as well.  It is the one I really want to preach  That one you’ll have to come to Faith Church tomorrow February 26, 2017, if you would like to hear it.  I hope you can join us!  Then stay for sermon discussion group, where we can talk further.

PS – There might even be a bonus 4th sermon. 

How to defeat temptation and discontentment – Luke 4:1-14

28 Jan

temptationIs there a certain area of your life where you regularly feel discontent?

Consider doing what Jesus did. Create a game plan to attack the temptation of discontent when it arises:

  • Step 1 – Choose a small portion that addresses the temptation.
  • Step 2 – Memorize it.
  • Step 3 – Review it over and over. Have it at the ready.
  • Step 4 – When you feel tempted or discontent, recite the verse.

This is exactly what Jesus did when he was tempted!

Let me give you a couple examples about how this might work in life:

Have a struggle with speaking out of attacking anger? Hurt others with your words? What are some scripture verses you could memorize that specifically address anger? When you are feeling that desire, that temptation within you to be angry, you can go back to that Scripture, quote it, and fight temptation! How about 1 Peter 3:8?: “Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.”

Maybe your struggle is lust? Pornography? You could memorize Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Do you gossip? Slander? Talking about other people makes us feel better about ourselves…temporarily maybe, but it is so damaging to relationships. Proverbs has a bunch of verses that might strengthen you. Take a look at Proverbs 11:13: “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.”

How about jealousy? Or discontentment that manifests itself with overspending? Hebrews 13:5 is a great one: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’.”

But know this, quoting Scripture like Jesus did is not a Harry Potter magic spell that wipes out the temptation and makes life easy.

It can take practice. You might fail. The temptation could feel strong. The temptation might be within you, (as John reminds us: the flesh, pride of life, lust of eyes). You may be fighting yourself. It could be a tough battle that may go on and on multiple times over multiple days, months and years.

But keep fighting.

At the end of How Much Land Does a Man Need, Pahom, like I said, has made it back to his start post by sundown. But he had gone so far out, though, that after a long day of walking many miles, he needed to run the last few miles to make it back in time. He had to overexert himself.

As he made it back to the starting stake, with the sun going down, he reached his hand out, touched the stake, and fell on ground. Not just from exhaustion. He fell on the ground not in joy, not in relief, not in excitement. He fell dead of a heart attack.

In the end the only land he received was that space needed to bury him.

But Pahom’s fate does not have to be our fate.  Jesus shows us his way.  We can fight temptation with the Word of God, and we can fight it by depending on the Spirit to fill that emptiness. Unlike Pahom, we can learn to be content in the Spirit.

Though he is the son of God, Jesus is content to depend on the Spirit. Jesus is knowing and employing the Word of God. He could have used his own power, but instead he is an example for us. If we defeat temptation, it will not be on our own power. Depend on Spirit, employ the Bible.