The Corrupted & Distorted Good: The Deadly Sin of Lust

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 have already committed adultery with her in his heart. - Matthew 5:27-28
Photo by  Jason Pier in DC

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been discussing the 7 deadly sins. Until now, many of the sins we’ve discussed like gluttony or sloth are sins that we often overlook in our life as less serious. While that is a dangerous mindset for us to have regarding sin, most of us certainly do not think that way about lust. If you’ve been a part of the church for any length of time, you’ve heard about the sin of lust. In fact, even if you haven’t been in the church, you’ve probably heard about the sin of lust. Personally, I’ve never met a man who doesn’t struggle with lust and I would be naive to believe that women also do not struggle with lust. If most humans struggle with lust, then it is probably a good idea for us to discuss this deadly sin.

Why Lust Is So Destructive

For those outside of the church (and probably within the church), many ask why lust is such a bad thing. Why would Jesus himself compare lust to adultery? That seems a bit much for even Jesus’s day. The problem with lust is that it is a distortion and corruption of God’s good creation. When God created everything, including the first humans Adam and Eve, he declared all of creation to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31). For some of us, we would be surprised to realize that this also includes sex. After God created Adam and Eve, he charged them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). There’s only one way to do that: Have sex! So, sex was a part of God’s creation and it was seen as very good. Sex was never meant to be a dirty or shameful act. It was supposed to be a loving and enjoyable God-given act.

Sadly, once sin entered the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, sex became distorted. Enter lust. Like many things in life, sex became something we worship rather than something we use according to the way God intended. So, when we think of lust, we should define it as “a disordered and idolatrous desire that is both enslaving and destructive.”1 Because of sin, sex has morphed from being something good within marriage to the ultimate thing in life. God, however, created sex to be “a subordinate good, intended for our good and God’s glory.”2 When you and I commit lust, we distort God’s good creation and choose to worship the created rather than the Creator.

Help! I’m Enslaved!

For most of us the problem is not understanding lust; it’s getting freed from lust. While lust has always been a problem for humans, and specifically Christians, today’s culture has enhanced lust. We live in a world where we can hide our lust. In days prior to the Internet, if we wanted to embrace lust at its fullest, we would have to potentially endure shame by going somewhere to purchase pornography. No so today. Today, we can hide our lust. We can secretly and regularly indulge our lust through Internet pornography. No doubt, it is an epidemic in the church today. 

The question for most of us is this: What are we going to do to live victoriously over the deadly sin of lust?

Accept God’s Grace for Your Past

There is nothing you have done that God will not and cannot forgive. The Bible declares that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). In the midst of our sin, Christ died for us. Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we can experience forgiveness of sin. Through faith and repentance, we can be forgiven of our sin. Do not live with the shame, guilt, and fear of your sexual sin. Turn to God and allow him to cleanse you of your sin.

Live by God’s Spirit for Your Present

While God can and will forgive us, we are still sinners, struggling with lust. At the same time, the Holy Spirit dwells within us, causing us to look more and more like Jesus. While sanctification is definitely a work of God, it requires our participation as well. Fight sin! Pursue godliness! I would encourage you to do this in two basic ways. Spend time with God and spend time with other Christians. In order to fight sin, we need to be reading and meditating on Scripture and spending time in prayer. At the same time, God has given us Christian community for accountability and support. Share your struggles with others and allow them to regularly ask hard questions about your thought life and sexuality.

Look to God’s Glory for Your Future

If you are reading this, you are in one of two situations. You are either single or married. If you are single, you might be asking God for a spouse and struggling with lust and remaining sexually pure. If you are married, your sex life with your spouse is either great or struggling. Regardless of your struggles, remember this: “The body is not mean for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13-14). “There is glory for the future. We will be raised and glorified, transformed by the sight of Christ in all of his kingly glory.”3 If you are single and God has not called you to singleness, pursue a spouse who you can have satisfying sex with. If you are married, fight to have a healthy sex life. But remember this: Sex is not ultimate! God is ultimate. Sex and lust will never fully satisfy. Regardless of where you are, look to God alone as your ultimate fulfillment.

Check out the rest of our 7 Deadly Sins Series:

1Brian G. Hedges, Hit List: Taking Aim at the Seven Deadly Sins (Minneapolis: Cruciform, 2014), 106.

2Ibid., 105.

3Ibid., 114-15.