Two weeks ago I engaged in a discussion regarding ten good reasons why one should abstain from premarital sex. I didn't, however, touch on the issue of lust.
As Christians we prescribe to a biblical understanding of the world (at least we should). The Bible endorses sex as something which is great and pleasurable, in the right circumstances. Unfortunately, we have a society which looks us directly in the eye and lies to us saying that sex is great in any situation. Therefore, it is justifiable to satisfy one's sexual curiosities, to participate in homosexuality or to cheat on a spouse or a partner.
I have been astonished by the number of supposedly rational people in the secular world who endorse, or at least, do not see any problem with having an affair. In this sense I mean participating in sex with someone other than one's actual partner (this includes any cheating whether by permission - i.e. hall pass, or behind said partner's back). It seems incredible to me that such actions can be construed to being positive rather than the vile acts of betrayal they actually are.
Jesus taught that merely by lusting one is committing adultery (Matt. 5:28). Such an interpretation of the Old Testament commandment is difficult to follow from the day puberty hits in, to the day hormones are no longer needed. This commandment not only prohibits cheating on a partner but also having sex with someone outside of marriage. Many people reject Christianity on this point alone. This commandment is seen to be too restrictive as it also takes into account what one thinks about.
Recently I have found it difficult to follow Jesus's charge in regards to sexual temptation. It is very easy to slip into a mindset that by the act of being engaged to someone means that we are in a committed relationship. This is certainly not helped by the mutual attraction that a couple generally has. It is important to remember here that being committed to another person does not reflect an actual marriage. Saying you love someone does not reflect wedding vows.
For young Christians it can be a draining thing to wait. Some may feel desperate as they feel they have no hope for finding someone who'd want to spend the rest of their lives with them. Others struggle to contain the feelings of mutual affection for another person. Both are on the verge of ignoring the warnings of Jesus.
Sexual appetite does not exist in isolation. In one is to act upon these urges there are consequences. One of the strongest consequences is an undermining guilt because of how you have blatantly placed your own selfish desires over the best interests of the person who participated in sex with you. As a Christian I know that if I were to have sex I am damaging my relationship with God. I also know that sex can very quickly become something which is addictive and can define even the most committed relationship if God is not the head of it.
Many people (Christians included) do not have the grounding to avoid being entrapped by the pulsing sexuality of society. Through life we face times of temptation, be it while we are single or when we dating/engaged, where we will struggle to say no to the voice in our head telling us that "everyone else is doing it". The fact is:
Everyone else is not doing it.
Even if they were, it doesn't make it right.
Such logic does not protect from the shame and guilt of a decision to participate in sexual activity.
Most young adults struggle with lust in one way or another. It may be in a sexual way, like mentioned above, or it may be in pornography. Regardless of whether you are fantasising over your fiancé, a friend or the woman in the video on the internet this is destructive behaviour. As Paul writes:
It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.
1 Thessalonians 4: 3 - 7
Joshua Harris has written a book called Sex Is Not The Problem (Lust Is). This is worth checking out for all of us who need to keep our eyes open to avoid Satan snares:
"As we continue to freely download shows before they hit our screens, TV networks, studios and ISPs ponder the implications.
Nick (not his real name) is a 25-year-old Melburnian who works in information technology. Though he watches very little free-to-air television and doesn't subscribe to pay TV, his repertoire of TV programs is thorough and up to date.
He gets all his TV shows free via the internet.
Monday is download day as most of his favourite shows - animations such as Family Guy, American Dad!, Bob's Burgers - premiere in the US the day before.
Nick is, of course, a pirate and knows it. His motivation isn't a grudge against the wealthy studios and corporations that own the film and TV business. He recognises, too, that he is jeopardising the livelihood of content creators.
He consumes TV this way because he doesn't like ads, doesn't want spoilers on websites or fellow fans to ruin his watching and finds one-stop shopping to be very convenient, akin to visiting the library to stock up on one's weekly reading roster.
A few months ago, he received his first ''takedown'' notice from his internet service provider. The letter stated that someone associated with his internet protocol address had downloaded copyright content through a peer-to-peer service.
Nick considered the letter to be a ''hassle'' rather than a threat, but after receiving a second letter he found an alternative way to access programs. This method, he says, cannot be detected.
According to the statistics on film and TV piracy, Nick is the rule rather than the exception. The Intellectual Property Awareness Foundation recently found that close to 70 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds ''regularly participate'' in film or TV piracy activities...."
Click here to read the full article on The Age's website.
"In an unprecedented move to show unity, love, respect and interfaith cooperation, the prophet Elijah has announced that he will be holding a major ecumenical service with the prophets of Baal this coming Sabbath. Calling the event “Faith Shared” the renowned prophet said this event was needed to ease religious tensions in the area. Elijah put it this way at a recent press conference:
“Faith shared seeks to counter the anti-Baalist bigotry and negative stereotypes that have erupted throughout the country in the past year and led to misconceptions, distrust and in some cases, violence. This countrywide, day-long event will engage faith leaders on the national and community levels in a conversation with their houses of worship, highlighting respect among people of different faiths. This event will help counter the common misperception abroad that most Israelites are hostile to Baalism. It will send a message that Israelites respect Baalism and Baalists, as they respect religious differences and freedom of religion in general.”
Elijah, who in the past has been criticised for his confrontational approach, and his intolerant stance regarding foreign religions, has clearly had a change of heart, and now admits that he had got it wrong. “I used to be very zealous for the glory and honour of Yahweh, and saw rival religions as an affront to him, and a hindrance to unique and pure worship in Israel.”
He continued, ‘But I have since realised that by being so closed-minded and intolerant, I was not really displaying the love and compassion of Yahweh. I was being far too narrow and exclusivist. I now see that there is wideness to God’s mercy, and I now believe that in the end, ‘Love Wins’.”
Elijah had formerly condemned such interfaith cooperation, labelling it as idolatrous and dangerous. He once believed that exclusive worship and allegiance to Yahweh was the only way for Israel to proceed, but he now admits that such an unloving stance may have alienated Baal-worshipers, and other pagans in the region.
“In my youthful zeal to defend the name, honour and reputation of Yahweh, I was unnecessarily alienating all these good people, who each in their own way are also good religious people. I now realise that such dogmatism and narrowness is not the way of Yahweh, and that he sees all idol-worshippers and pagan religions as just expressions of his wide, affirming love and acceptance.”
The cry of the hour, he said, was not more divisive religious bickering and fighting, but the need to all just get along and realise that we are all on the same path anyway, serving the same God. It is time to put an end to these useless divisions, and unite for the good of humanity.
“As Israelites and as people of faith, we must use our great traditions to come together for mutual enrichment and understanding,” said Elijah. “At its core, this project will bring together Jew, Baalist and heathen clergy to read from and hear from each other’s sacred texts. In doing so, they will serve as a model for respect and cooperation and create a concrete opportunity to build and strengthen working ties between and among faith communities moving forward.”
It is hoped that this interfaith meeting – the first of its kind – will lead to even more works of peace, harmony, and love. The Jerusalem event, which begins sharp at sunrise, will also provide tangible expression of good faith and cooperation. Elijah announced that a pig will be slaughtered and offered to the many gods in the region, followed by a great feast of roast pork.
He also hinted that in future services, the Torah might be publically burned to demonstrate how serious Israel has become in renouncing its intolerant past, and show that it means business by embracing the various religions in the surrounding area.
And as a final act of goodwill, Elijah said that only females would be allowed to officiate at this special service, and those in a loving and committed relationship with another female would be given special prominence in the sunrise to sunset service.
Elijah said a number of local Israelite groups had gladly come on board for this exciting initiative. These include members of the Emergent Synagogue Movement, the Progressive Israelite Alliance, the Uniting Synagogue of Israel, the Shiloh Sojourners fellowship, and the Social Justice Collective of Judah.
Correction to press release
I have to pause here and mention that the above press release is a little bit inaccurate. It is 98 per cent correct, but a few names have actually been changed. The real press release was put out May 17, 2011, and it featured this headline: “Pastors to host readings from the Qur’an at churches across the country to display respect and combat anti-Muslim bigotry.”
Aside from that, the two press releases are basically the same. A group of 50 churches in 26 US states has committed to participate in this event, and it is being taken quite seriously by many. Needless to say, I find this entire initiative absolutely incomprehensible from the standpoint of biblical Christianity.
Just as Elijah and others were quite happy to use satire and irony to rail against the false religions and idolaters of the day, there may be a need to do so again today. I am utterly staggered that these so-called Christian pastors have even countenanced such foolishness.
Indeed, what will they do next month? Read atheist works from the pulpits? Invite Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris in to give the sermons? I can just see the headline for this: “Pastors to host readings from Dawkins and Harris at churches across the country to display respect and combat anti-atheist bigotry.”
And then the following month they can bring in drug dealers, pimps, abortionists, and paedophiles. After all, Christians have given these folks a bad name over the years as well. In condemning their activities and lifestyles we have obviously failed to show Christian love and compassion to them, so we need to repent, and show our solidarity with all these guys.
Better yet, if we really want to demonstrate how serious we are about all this, why don’t we just allow our churches to be turned into mosques, or witch covens, or shooting galleries, or brothels, or New Age havens, or gay discos, or crack houses? Why all these half-hearted measures in interfaith dialogue? Let’s just go the whole hog and get it over with.
Indeed, since some folks are clearly intent on putting up the white flag of surrender, why don’t we just renounce our allegiance to Jesus Christ altogether, and tell the whole world that all religious systems are equally true and equally pleasing to God – whoever or whatever we consider him/her/it to be.
Hey what’s the diff if we proclaim Jesus is Lord, or Muhammad is Lord, or Dawkins is Lord, or Lady Gaga is Lord, or Bart Simpson is Lord? The main thing is that we all just get along, isn’t it? One big happy family – that’s what we want. No more evangelism. No more proselytising. No more divisive theology. Let’s just build one big modern ecumenical Tower of Babel. Surely that is something God is in full favour of.
Boy our Australian dollar has been doing well recently, hasn't it? It's even beating the greenback, which makes me feel a little proud inside to be one up on America in the way we value everything. Because that's what money is, the most implemented value system in the world. Scientists may apply their technical values but they receive their funding from grants. It's what keeps Universities, businesses and a huge amount of the western world going. In fact, the way we realise others are in trouble is because they don't have any money.
Twenty-eight years ago Roger Waters ironically sang about everyday opinions concerning money. Watch the clip here:
This idea that money is an integral part of life has worked its way into the Church. There are now churches which regularly preach a belief called the prosperity doctrine. That is, formulated justification that God provides His faithful servants with material blessings, usually in the form of money. To see examples of this type of preaching watch:
It is not unexpected that prosperity theology was established in America. What is staggering is the amount of churches this has infiltrated. It is, after all, both biblically indefensible and counter-intuitive to God's covenant to His people. It also fails at a more practical level. For instance, how does one determine if they are prospering? Is it by comparison to others or is it my reaching a self-realised amount of money? By comparison I am both rich and poor, although, if we were to line all the humans on earth in order of their wealth, myself, you reading and any proponent of the prosperity gospel would fall at the top spectrum of the line.
Jesus spoke out many times against hoarding wealth. His advice to the rich young ruler is "sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." (Luke 18:22). With this one commandment Jesus undermined the young man's faith and exposed his real love.
In the early Church everything was seen as combined wealth. Property and possessions were regularly sold and given away to help those in need within the Church (Acts 2:44-45). Paul praises the Macedonian churches for their "rich generosity" despite their extreme poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-2). There are further overwhelming depictions and proverbs of wealth leading to idolatry and sin, but for the time being, you get the picture.
We claim to know all the dangers that wealth presents yet we don't always live this way. For most of us money is a priority and how we act, what we see and how we dress are all determined by our money status. We are driven to working long hours for money and, more recently, we have developed a tendency for hoarding after the effects of the global financial crisis. Our planning, in particular, is heavily influenced by money. We look ahead and estimate when we can buy a house, upgrade our car, afford a child.
Sometimes we forget what Jesus us warned us that "if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." We are told in Ephesians and 1 Timothy that our suffering is for our glory.
The idea of suffering is unfathomable to the prosperity doctrine. Suffering would require that the person is out-of-step with God's plans for them. This may well be the opposite of the truth. The members of U2 may be some of the wealthiest in the world but even Bono realises the dangers of chasing a money-shaped hole:
Albert Mohler has written an endearing article replying to Jay Bakker's new book Fall to Grace. He addresses the short-comings of avoiding scriptures that may "clobber" people and concentrating only on forgiving people.
"Is the Church guilty of beating people with the Bible? As strange as that argument might sound, it is actually a powerful weapon in the hands of those who are determined to normalize homosexuality and same-sex marriage within the Church. Those pushing for the acceptance of homosexuality now argue that Christians opposed to that agenda are “clobbering” sinners with the biblical text.
There seems to be no authoritative original source for this very powerful rhetorical innovation, but it has become increasingly popular in recent years, and it is deployed as a way of subverting the Bible’s condemnation of same-gender sexuality.
In his new book, Fall to Grace, Jay Bakker presents a classic form of this argument. Bakker, the son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, is now co-pastor of Revolution Church in New York City — a congregation described by New York magazine as “a church that is still figuring out its message.” Well, it may be trying to figure out its message on some issues, but on homosexuality its position is very clear....
Nevertheless, the most important aspect of Bakker’s argument is his way of dismissing the texts as “clobber Scriptures” — suggesting that the Church is misusing them by telling homosexuals that same-sex behaviors are sinful....
The Bible’s condemnation of same-sex behaviors is comprehensive and clear. It is interwoven with the Bible’s message concerning God’s plan for humanity, marriage, and society — and the Gospel. Human flourishing is found only by living in obedience to God’s revealed plan. Our rebellion against the Creator is never so insidious as when we declare that our own plan is superior to his.
When the Bible, in part or in whole, is dismissed as “clobber Scriptures,” it is not only the Bible that is subverted, but also the Gospel. The Church must recognize that fact clearly — and fast."
Click here to go to Albert Mohler's website and his full article.
Last night I cut myself with a new and very sharp knife. It may have been that I mistook my middle finger for a piece of chicken or merely that I was not paying attention to what I was doing. Needless to say when I had realised what I had done the pain hadn't hit me yet. I stared blankly at the gaping wound in my finger, and it was a reasonable size, before clutching it away as the blood began to pour down my hand.
Thankfully my fiancé was there and she was able to gauze and bandage up the self-inflicted gash. Four hours later she reapplied fresh bandaids to the cut. Needless to say, it must have been fairly serious as it was still openly bleeding.
It's funny how humans react to pain and injuries. Usually we have a period of time where we just stare blankly at the wound, not realising what has happened and so the pain hasn't hit us yet. This is analogous to sin. We see the hurt we have inflicted, upon ourselves and others, but we are able to blank out the consequences and the pain of our actions, at least for a time.
For many in our society, it has become a daily routine to ignore gashes which mar our spiritual bodies. Of course, we can't help but feel the thudding of our bleeding heart, so we try to save ourselves from our fate. This leads to a second dilemma; we have no way of rescuing ourselves. I had no idea whether I should have gone to the hospital last night. I estimate that I chopped about a third of the way through my finger. Since my wound has been bandaged I have no way of knowing whether the cut is still bleeding. And frankly, I am a little bit afraid to know.
When it comes to spiritual wounds (i.e. sin) we can be quite sure that ours are still bleeding if Jesus hasn't intervened. These lesions are toxic and poison everything from the inside out. And there is only one way to stem the flowing: see the "sin doctor".
Yet Jesus has a very unconventional way of mending us. He takes our hurt, our pain, our gaping wounds and He absolves us by taking it and making it His hurt, His pain, His gaping wounds. Through this incredible act of sacrifice we are no longer under the power of the knife but are strengthened by regularly meeting up with our doctor who wants to know all about us.
You see God knows best when it comes to our health because He created us. It is by His actions we are here and by His actions we have the ability to be saved. This salvation from our sin is given as a free gift to us, even though it cost Christ His life. An interest-free and, indeed, payment-free loan.
Unfortunately, some people love self-inflicted pain. It gives them a rush and makes them feel like they are in control. What they don't realise is that they are dying an agonizing death. They may stare blankly at their wounds but they are too proud, too satisfied and too empowered to want to change anything. The amazing news is that revival is always possible. Jesus has the power to save anyone, no matter how much sin is in their lives. After all, He can raise the dead.