Paul says we Christians are running a race. Here's what I'm looking at on my run toward Christ.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Lust

This is the final post in a series on the 7 Deadly Sins.  PrideEnvyAngerSlothGreed, and Gluttony have been exposed and now let's tear apart Lust because these sins are not only Deadly Sins, but they are root sins that grow a garden of weedy, ugliness in our lives.

We can Lust for a myriad of things but this post will focus on sexual Lust and will simply say Lust and mean sexual Lust throughout.  Pastor John Piper in the book Killjoys: the Seven Deadly Sins gives Lust this definition, "Lust is a sexual desire that dishonors its object and disregards God."  I find that to be an excellent definition because it gets to the core of why Lust is such a deadly sin.

First, Lust dishonors its object.  Lust sees a body and wants it solely for its own pleasure.  Now, Lust can act out its evil from the seemingly mundane inner fantasy to the unquestionable evil of rape or human trafficking, but Lust is Lust all the same.  As John Piper points out, Lust basically says to the other person, "I want to use your body for my pleasure, but I do not want you as a whole person."  God designed all sexual activity to take place in the covenant of marriage and in marriage you take all of your partner not just their body, Lust acted out in self-pleasuring or in a one-night-stand takes only the physical and even that only when Lust itself can be served.  Sex without commitment dishonors the other person because you're basically saying, "You're not worth it to me."

Second, Lust disregard God Himself.  See, God created sex and in the beginning was quite proud of His creation.  Sex was in the Garden of Eden and was deemed by God Himself to be good and when God says good He means good in comparison to Himself and that is pretty amazing.  But Lust has decided to disregard the designer of sex and all sexuality.  Lust looks at God's design and thinks it can do better.  Lust is a slap in the face of God and direct disobedience to Him; how do you think that will work out for you?

Thirdly, Lust hurts ourselves.  Lust is an empty sexuality at best and at worst a source of physical, spiritual and emotional death.  Lust is an empty sexuality because the best sex is intimate with and focused on the other person.  Husbands and wives living in a good marriage can even fall prey to this.  When we try to serve only ourselves in sex when can miss out on some of the best that sex and sexuality has to offer.  Lust is the source of death for many reasons.  I have talked to many people and read many stories of people that have had their spiritual and emotional selves ravaged by Lust.  Whether victims of rape or addicts of porn these men and women will testify that Lust can ruin you and keep you from real, deep relationships.  Also, to pull a story out of the headlines, Lust can literally kill you.  Charlie Sheen was America's favorite prostitute hiring, porn-star dating, uber-sexual movie star.  We glorified his lifestyle and even lived vicariously through him and now we're seeing a dark side to that life.  Charlie is H.I.V. positive.  Now, he may live a long life with the disease because he has access to great medical care, but what about the ripple of sexual partners that may also have this scary disease but don't have access to his medical resources?  People may physically die from this one man's Lust and he's just one example of Lust's deadliness.

Lust is one of the 7 Deadly Sins for a reason.  It dishonors its object, disregards God and hurts you.  So, how do we kill Lust?  For that I'm going to borrow again from Pastor John Piper in the aforementioned book.  He says to fight Lust with the acronym ANTHEM.

A- Avoid.
Paul said to Timothy, "Flee the evil desires of youth..." 2 Timothy 2:22.  Strong men and women know when to run.  Men, don't go to that website in the first place that shows airbrushed versions of women.  Women, don't read that novel that makes you fantasize about an unrealistic man.

N- No.
As Nancy Reagan suggested, "Just Say No!"  Remember the power that we have over sin in the Gospel.  James 4:7 says, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."  Say "No" with the authority of Christ and His victory won on Calvary.

T- Turn
Don't just remove Lust; replace Lust with a better thought.  As the old hymns suggests, "Turn your eyes upon Jesus."  Your mind and eyes will be occupied by something, so turn your eyes from the empty suggestions of Lust and onto the superior pleasures God offers.  In some cases, for my married friends, that superior pleasure is looking at your own spouse and even having sex with him/her.

H- Hold
Piper says to hold on to the promises of Christ.  Lust often offers us a quick fix that God does not offer, but we hold on to the promises that the pleasures of this world can't be compared to the pleasures of the next.  And I'd submit that most, if not all, of the pleasures God offers here and now surpass what Lust can offer.  Hold on to that truth.

E- Enjoy
John Piper also says, "One reason Lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal."  To defeat any sin, including Lust, we must be taken far more with the pleasures God offers.  As mentioned above, the thrills offered by God are beyond any other.

M- Move
As we saw when we looked at Sloth, laziness is dangerous.  Satan does some of his best work in our boredom.  Are you having a lustful thought?  Move.  Do something productive, run, play basketball, chase a squirrel... it doesn't matter what you do so much as that you do something.  If you and your girlfriend are so worked up that you fear you might slip up, then take a walk, play tennis, do something other than entertain the invitation to sin.

Lust is a tough sin.  I deal with it, not as much as I did when I was single, but I still deal with it and I'm sure I'll deal with it until death.  Lust is a tough sin, but a beatable sin nonetheless.  We may lose battles with this sin, but it's a war we must wage and win.

Fight Lust and all the 7 Deadly Sins today.

Monday, November 16, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Gluttony

Only two sins remain in this exploration of the 7 Deadly Sins.  So far we've explored: PrideEnvyAngerSloth, and Greed.  This time around let's look at Gluttony.

The dictionary defines Gluttony as "habitual greed or excess in eating."  It is a limitless appetite for food or drink or in a more metaphorical sense any pleasure.  Think about all we are gluttonous for: we binge eat, binge drink, we even binge watch shows.  Gluttony is a sin that take a good God designed thing, our appetite, and runs away with it until it kills us.

Gluttony in the United States is quite literally killing people.  High blood pressure, coronary heart disease, strokes, some cancers, the diabetes epidemic and more are caused in part by our gluttonous lifestyle.  We've heard of people that are told to make dietary changes for medical reasons but won't because of their love of food or drink.  So many of us are eating ourselves to death and we wonder why Gluttony is on a list of the 7 Deadly Sins.

Gluttony can take away our energy and joy.  There are so many people that live a life of trouble due to the sin of Gluttony.  Now, before you complain and say I'm over simplifying the case, I know there are other reasons for the diseases mentioned but Gluttony is a factor is so many cases.

Often Gluttony indulges itself and ignores those who are suffering.  Jesus tells a story about this in Luke 16 when he tells the story about the rich man and the beggar.  You remember poor man Lazarus?  Many a monarchy or ruling class has been done in by Gluttony.  History is wrought with stories of those in power throwing lavish feasts while the rest of society starved; that is until the rest of society overthrew the partying class.  This is even parodied in The Hunger Games books and movies which seem to be a futuristic telling of late Roman history.

Gluttony is also a danger to our spiritual lives.  Adam and Eve were taken down by a fruit.  And look at what Paul tells the church at Philippi.

"... many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven."  Philippians 3:18b-20a

Gluttony says that our stomach is our god.  Gluttony sets our mind on earthy pleasures and misses the better, purer heavenly pleasures.  As Jonathan Bowers says, "gluttony is food worship".

So, what do we do about Gluttony?

First, we must know that there is a time for everything including feasting.  Soon when you sit down for Thanksgiving dinner don't beat yourself up for feasting.  Gluttony isn't about occasional feasts, God Himself commanded a number of feasts for the nation of Israel. No, gluttony not about feasting it is about who/what our God is.

Secondly, enjoy food.  Those who binge do not really enjoy food or drink.  They fill their stomachs but miss the goodness.  They get full, but nothing more; they get drunk, but nothing more; they put it in the body to have it leave the body later and miss much of the blessing of good food.  Slow down when you eat or drink; don't look like a starved dog at the table, instead sit down and enjoy the food and company.

Thirdly, be active.  Those who are bitten by the sin of Sloth are often taken by Gluttony, too.  The lazy man sits on the couch and mindlessly eats chips because he simply has nothing better to do.  The active person takes in the calories from food and puts them to good use whereas the lazy man hoards the energy from food and benefits no one.

Fourthly, fast.  There's no better way to prove to yourself that food doesn't rule your life than by fasting.  Can God be your focus when fasting and when feasting?  We can't truly know until we try a fast from food.  When the competing god of the stomach is knocked out of the picture you'll be surprised at how loud and clear the voice of the true God is.

Finally, feast on the Word of God.  Jesus said in Matthew 4:4 "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."  Psalm 34:8 says, "Taste and see that the LORD is good..."  When we feast on the Word of God, when we taste and see and experience His goodness we will not have our stomach as our god.

Bottom line: Gluttony is a sin with many physical, social and spiritual consequences.  Don't be ruled by Gluttony today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

7 Deadly Sins: Greed

The fifth of the 7 Deadly Sins I want to zero in on in this series is Greed.  So far PrideEnvyAnger, and Sloth have been in the crosshairs and now it's time to blow Greed away.

Greed is a sin that all of us deal with.  Whether we have little and desire more or have much and are just plain cheapskates, greed is an issue.  Greed is an excessive desire for wealth and/or possessions.  Who amongst us has not felt this excessive desire?  Who hasn't coveted someone else's house or car or bankroll?  Who hasn't kept the coins in their pocket rather than drop them in the bucket even though the money could be more than spared?  Yes, Greed is a sin that we all deal with.

So, what makes greed so deadly?

Well, it is the root of all kinds of other evils.  From theft to murder to stomach ulcers greed has caused ill on the earth and in our homes.

"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.  Some people, eager for money, have wondered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs."  1 Timothy 6:10

Greed is idolatry.  Our American money says "In God We Trust" but our hearts and actions often say "In Cash We Trust".  Money is to many a functional savior.  On Sunday we sing "Trust and Obey" and Monday through Saturday we trust in our money and possessions.  Things like savings accounts and insurance policies are not bad in and of themselves but is that where your trust is?  Is your identity in your socio-economic status or in your belonging to the family of God?  Remember, those whose God is God get heaven, and those who put faith in other gods do not.  This is indeed a deadly sin.

So, how do we fight Greed?  I thought of three ways.

1) Find Contentment in Christ.
Paul gives this advice in Philippians 4:11-13 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10.  The heart of one defeating Greed can honestly cry Christ is Enough.  As C. S. Lewis said, "He who has everything and God has no more than he who has God only."  Money and possessions will not and cannot give you the joy you're searching for, only Christ can.

2) Trust God
Jesus gives this exact advice in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:19-24.  If Greed trusts in money then trusting in God is an antidote. This way to defeated Greed is easy to say and hard to do, but don't let its difficulty keep you from pursuing trust in God.

3) Give
Our money draws a line to our heart.  Give me your expenditures for the year and I can tell you what you love.  Now, God doesn't need your cash but giving helps us defeat Greed.  So, do you tithe?  Do you ever give to a cause?  Have you ever had to sacrifice to give?  Scrooges don't give, but Christians should be very generous.  Which are you?

"Do not store up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Matthew 6:19-21

Where is your treasure?  Is Greed keeping you from the greatest wealth of all?  If so, fight Greed today.