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Climbing The Mountain

Matt Brownell, Tim Adams, and Van Owens

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Climbing the Mountain is a weekly podcast devoted to the Word of God and its application in the lives of believers today. Grounded in the Sermon of the Mount, we dive into connecting scriptures to explore themes and implications.

Episode 11 - Lust - Part 3

December 16, 2022

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We are considering Jesus’ teaching concerning Lust found in Matthew 5:27-30. Maybe just below greed and love of money, Lust is one of the top sins of our society. Temptations to lust are all around us. Pornography is becoming more and more mainstream and reaching children at a younger and younger age. It is already one of the biggest industries in the United States, larger than the combined revenues of the major TV networks, more than the revenues of the big three sports (MLB, NFL and NBA) combined. It is more than a $13 billion industry in the U.S. and over $97 billion worldwide. An estimated 12% of all content on the internet is pornographic. $3,000 are spent on porn every second. A new porn movie is produced every 39 minutes. Any way you look at it (and I hope you don’t) lust is a huge industry in the U.S. and doesn’t show any signs of slowing. Millions are addicted to it.

Hey, Brian here, editor and mixer of this podcast, and before we jump into this episode,
I wanted to give you a heads up that it's going to contain some mature subject matter
around the topic of lust and how Jesus taught about sexual integrity.
If this kind of discussion would not be beneficial or maybe not age appropriate to everyone you're
listening with, then you might want to skip this one.
Hey, I'm Matt Brownell, and I'm Van Owens, and I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes,
connections, and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the sermon on the mount and
discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today.
We are back, and we are talking about lust.
Jesus addresses this topic in Matthew 5, 27-30.
And boy, there is so much to talk about here.
I'm going to start off by just refreshing what we have talked about.
We talked about how pervasive this sin is.
It is everywhere in our society.
And we talked about how we're in a battle for our soul.
Jesus uses very dramatic language, but it's because it is so serious, and we don't see
that oftentimes we don't take this as seriously as we should, that this is something that
is against, warring against our soul and wants to drag us to hell.
And if we really saw this the way that Jesus does, the way that God does when he looks at
our heart, if we really saw what this does to us, we would take it so much more seriously.
We would do whatever it took.
We would even pluck out an eye or cut off a hand, again, not literally, but we would
do whatever we could so that our whole body isn't dragged to hell.
We talked about masturbation, and we talked about how there is an overarching theme to
these looking lustfully masturbating, that Jesus is kind of putting into a framework
of marriage and how there is sexual desire that is good that God designed, but that its
place should be in marriage.
And that's where we get to express that and have that act of love be meaningful, not something
that's selfish or something that really consumes us in a negative way.
So now we're coming to looking at lust again, and I want to read these verses and then start
with a question here.
So Matthew 5:27, 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 has already committed
adultery with her in his heart.
If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away.
For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown
into hell.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.
For it is better that you lose one of your members than your whole body go into hell.
So I think a good place to start here this time is maybe just asking the question, how
do you define lust?
I think that's a great question.
And I think obviously there is the dictionary definition.
And when I was preparing myself for this, I almost just went and put down a dictionary
definition for it.
But I think when I thought about it more deeply, when I meditated on what is lust really for
me, the first thing that came into my mind is that it is a kind of opposite of gratitude.
And what I mean is this, when you have gratitude, when you're grateful, then you are, it produces
a contentment.
It comes from an understanding that what I have in my life is so much more than what
I deserve.
That at least for my whole adult life, that has been when I look at it very rationally,
that's always been true.
I've always had so much more than I know I deserve.
And lust for me is not contentment.
Lust is grasping and clawing for something that I know I can't have, but feel like I
deserve or feel like I need.
And so when I'm thinking rationally about my sin and about my lust, and I have to admit
and be honest and humble about the fact that I do not think rightly about these things so
much more often than I feel like is appropriate for a man my age and a man my status in life,
I would think that I would have this much more under control than I do.
But when I am thinking rightly about it, I'm thinking I could be lustful or I could be
And so those two, those two things are kind of opposite for me.
Lust is a, and I'll say this again, because this is what I really feel for my own heart.
Lust is a grasping for what I don't have, and that could be sexual, that could be anything
really for me.
Grasping for something that I don't have that I feel like either I deserve or that I need.
In that light, I think the way you define it, it reminds me of covetousness and greed
and how godliness with contentment is great gain.
That's very interesting.
Yeah, I think these are all qualities of the heart, right?
So I can see that connection.
What about you, Tim?
Yeah, I mean, just on that, I've always thought it was really convicting that in Colossians
when Paul gives a whole list of sins, and he kind of gives in a couple different chunks
of this, and there's one chunk, which is sexual morality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and
greed, which is idolatry.
So greed and lust are really closely linked in Paul's mind too, apparently.
And so I think that's not just like, Van, grasping at straws.
That's like really, really intricate.
Colossians 3, right?
Because another translation says covetousness, which is idolatry.
And it made me think about the first command in the Decalogue, which in the ten commandments,
which is no idols, right?
And then the last one is don't covet, which if you're reading that, covetousness is idolatry.
So he's kind of bookended the 10 commandments with something pretty serious.
Yeah, so I think Van's definition is really good, and it is broader than just sexual
lust, which is what we've been talking about for the past couple episodes, but it encompasses
sexual lust.
So I mean, for me, I had just like a really simple definition that was like, lust is desiring
to have someone sexually who's not my spouse, basically, or having a sexual fantasy of someone
who's not my spouse, you know, is putting it like super, super plainly.
But I think those those root issues of gratitude and about desiring something I don't have,
something I think I deserve or need those, those all kind of are a deeper level.
That simple definition.
It reminds me of Romans 1 as well, Van, how you connected it to gratitude.
And I think all of the then you get this this description of people as they've just they
said they've forgotten God and they're ungrateful.
And then they jump right into all these things, sexual immorality.
And so I do think that there there is a direct link with lust and our relationship with God
that is very important to acknowledge.
And I think so for me, it was if I'm defining lust, I think similarly, it is, you know,
a desire for someone who's not my wife, like thinking of something.
And it's in a way, it's sin against that person as well.
And it's sin against God, because I'm not grateful for him.
I'm not I'm not being holy as he wants me to be.
And I found a verse that is, I think wraps this up really well in 1 Thessalonians 4
Paul's writing to the church saying he wants to remind them of, and then he says in verse
three, for this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that
each one of you know how to control his own body and holiness and honor, not in the passion
of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God, that no one transgress and wrong his
brother in this matter, because the Lord is an Avenger and all these things, as we told
you beforehand, and solemnly warned you for God has not called us for impurity, but in
Therefore whoever disregards this disregards not man, but God who gives his Holy Spirit.
And in verse four, I think is really interesting to me where it says control your own body.
That's could be translated also how to take a wife in Greek, how to possess his own vessel.
Anyway, he translated though, I think we can draw from this verse a sense of how we could
define lust by looking at it, how it's contrasted right there.
He says we're called to control our body not in the passion of lust, but in holiness and
And I think those two qualities, I think speak to holiness toward God, that we're set apart
and this is something that God, and then honor, and I think that's when we are lusting after
someone, we're dishonoring them in a way that is really important to acknowledge.
And then last, because I think this was really cool, it reminded me of Matthew 7 and
how Jesus talks about, away from you, me, you lawbreakers, I never knew you.
There is this conception of knowing God being part of this equation as well.
When we're consumed by the passions of lust, we do not know God.
Yeah, and that does go back to one of the Beatitudes of like, blessed are the pure
in heart, for they will see God.
And when I think about that Beatitude, I try very intentionally not to only think about
it in terms of sexual purity, as purity is so much more.
But I know that when my heart or other hearts are consumed by lust, then I can't see God.
My heart doesn't have the capacity to see God in His fullness because I'm consumed with
something that's much lower.
I am so glad you drew that connection, because I think that is a great thing to acknowledge,
blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
That word for seeing God, 'optanomai' in Greek, it's not just like a casual observance, like,
oh, look at that thing over there.
It's this being enraptured by something like stunned.
It's the same word that's used on the Mount of Transfiguration.
And that's the kind of like really seeing God for His value.
Again, going back to Romans 1, what you were saying, Van, that's the kind of way that,
and they're so related, lusting and seeing God.
If you're impure, you're going to miss seeing God.
I, you know, the passage that you read that mentioned the word honor, I think that that
is something that it really sort of pricked me in the heart when I heard the word, because
I don't think about when I'm struggling, I don't think about my own personal honor or
the honor of the person that I am lusting after or the honor of my wife.
I even think about the passage that I referred to.
Was it in this talk or the last one when I was talking about Amnon and Tamar?
And when he was about to force himself on her, she said, what about me?
How will I get rid of my disgrace if you do this to me?
And then she interestingly said, what about you?
You would become like one of the wicked fools of Israel.
And so this is a prince and a princess of Israel.
And she's saying, what about our honor?
What will become of us if this happens?
And that's a, that's a concept that nearly brings tears to my eyes because it's something
that that is very real to me a lot of the time, but not when I'm blinded, like you were
saying Tim, not when I'm, when I'm full of lust and I'm blind, I cannot honor doesn't
I can't see it.
I can't feel it.
I can't experience it and I can't uphold it.
This is a really, it's such an important thing to just stay on for a minute here.
You know, the aspect of honoring and thinking of God and seeing God.
And I think we've, we've spent some time now in this subject talking about the warnings
that Jesus gives.
And I think that that's an important thing for us to acknowledge.
But the other side of it is, is what we miss out on, right?
And that's the seeing God.
And because, because I think the other thing I was thinking about in that knowing God and
you know, having that relationship with him, it's not just a head knowledge kind of thing.
It's the type of knowledge of God that is intimate, that really is reveling in his glory.
And it, it's only knowledge born by faith.
I think that's the thing that connects us.
And it reminds me of another scripture in, in 2 Corinthians 4, it says in verse 6, let
for God who said, let light shine out of darkness has shown in our hearts to give the light
of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
So we have this awesome chance to see God and it's promised to us in the Beatitudes
that, you know, if we're a pure in heart, we will get to see God.
So that's also, that's something we all want.
We want to see the Creator.
We want to be in that place where every tear will be wiped and they'll, we can forget about
sin and trouble and pain and, and it'll be so amazing because God will light it all with
his presence.
It'll be incredible and there'll be no impure thing there whatsoever.
How do we get there?
We need to fight again, returning to this battle concept.
We need to fight against lust.
How do we do it?
What's worked for you?
What's the big picture?
What do you think?
Yeah, I can, I can go first.
And I, when I think about this, probably like the big picture, there's a, there's a lot
of big pictures that we've talked about.
I think the concept of honor and honoring every person is really big.
Um, but when I think about like my thought life, one of the things that's really helpful
for me to recognize is that I'm not alone in my thoughts.
You know, Hebrews 412 that talks about everything's going to be laid bare, um, before the eyes
of him who will give an account.
And so it's easy to think I'm alone and, but I'm not actually alone.
And so, uh, whether it's as simple as sometimes I visualize Jesus next to me, um, more often
I'm just, it's about acknowledging that God is present in, in the room, in my heart, uh,
through the spirit.
Um, that helps a lot when I become aware of that and I fight to remain aware of that because
if God's in the room, my, it's much easier to fight against, against lust against those
So that's like a really big thing, uh, for, for me.
And that, so I guess if we're thinking about the battle analogy, that's kind of like my
strategy, right, is, is being aware of God's presence and being aware of, of, of his image
on that is in each other person.
So that's why I need to give them honor.
That's a great point to make.
And I think similar to you, Tim, I think that it is, it is the envisioning of, of God's
And for me, that happens mostly through reading the scripture.
You know, the reason that I read that talk so much about Amnon and Tamar is that that
passage is ingrained in my psyche.
And when I'm really having a hard time, if I'll only go and just look at that passage,
it can, it can set my mind straight.
Um, it can, and then the, the, the thing that I do further is I think about the, because
for me lost is directed towards, towards women.
And I think about, you know, my, not just my wife, but my mother, my sister, my daughter,
my very dear friends who are women.
And I remember as a, as a young Christian when feeling released from sexual tension in relationships
with women and developing just some of the best friendships of my life with women that
have been so instructive and so, uh, full of blessing for me.
And I believe for them as well, and to just imagine, to sit for a moment and imagine,
um, what I could have, how I could have that with more people.
If I can just keep this under control, if I can just fight this, if I can just fight
this this one time, let's fight, let's fight.
I'm not thinking of the whole war.
I'm thinking of, you know, the, the enemy soldier who's charging at me now with his
I can either open up my arms and let him do what he will, or I can fight.
So let me fight this one, but I need, I need visuals.
I need to think of, uh, women that I love and respect and deeply cherish.
And I need to think about, for me, you talked about envisioning, um, um, Jesus right beside
I sort of just envision, I try to envision myself just sort of to face down at the foot
of the cross and, and seeing the suffering that was going on there and wondering how,
how can I respond to this suffering in this moment while lusting after somebody who's
over there?
Well, that's really great.
I, I can relate to both of what you were saying with things that I, strategies I've
used in the past and continue to use.
And I think, uh, one of the threads that, uh, I think is very powerful is, is, you know,
it's, it's like, if you don't want to think of, uh, don't think of pink elephants, don't
think of it.
Well, what are you thinking about?
It's much better to have a burning desire that you desire more than the sinful desire
and to replace that sinful desire with something that's beautiful, like Jesus's sacrifice
and how much God loves me.
And, uh, to remember those things.
And, and like you were saying, Tim, he promised to be with us always to the very end of the
He is right here right now.
And the other thing you said, uh, Van about scriptures, I remember, gosh, I remember when
I first, um, was baptized and, and, and thinking about, man, I really need to take this seriously.
Uh, there's, um, in Proverbs, Proverbs 5 is all about, um, the adulterous woman stay
Uh, but in chapter four, right before, you know, the lead into that, it talks about how
you have to guard your heart.
It's the wellspring of life.
And that's a lot of what we've been talking about tonight is our heart.
And there's a verse that I memorized, uh, let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your
gaze directly before you.
And I can't tell you how many hundreds and hundreds of times I've said that to myself
over the years.
And especially right when I first got out of the water, I was saying that all the time.
And I was sad after a few weeks of doing that because I realized how often I had lustful
thoughts or how often I, it wasn't even lust.
Sometimes it was judging people by how, by their appearance instead of, and I kept to
ask God, I wish I could see into someone into their, who they are instead of judging them.
Um, because all of it dishonored God.
And, and I think that the, the other thing is that, you know, in Ephesians six, where
it talks about the armor of God, the thing that we have that is an offensive, it's actually
the sort of spirit, right?
So the spirit wields the word of God to do battle against.
This is the, this is the, the main weapon that we have.
God has given it.
I know a lot of people who want to just have this experience, like, you know, God just
changed me and, you know, let me feel better.
And that's not the normative way that God works.
It's, it's actually taking the word of God and wielding it, letting the Holy Spirit wield
it in your life.
And that's how we escape lust and participate in the divine.
That's where that power comes out.
It reminds me of another verse I want to read in 2 Peter 1:3.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness through
the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence by which he has granted
to us his precious and very great promises so that through them you may become partakers
of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because
of sinful desire, which is also translated lust.
Yeah, when we talk about these practicals of engaging with scripture, of considering
that God is right here with us, that I, the image of God is implanted on others or thinking
about people that we love and realizing how this sin hurts us.
I think one of the things I'm, I'm realizing is there's so much, there's so many practicals
here like this, like it's, I talked about mine specifically as strategies because I
think a strategy is like overarching, but then there's tons of tactics that happen
on the battlefield.
And I don't think we have the time to dig into all those tactics right now, but I do
think this is a, I guess two plugs.
One is just, Jesus says we, if we, our deeds are good, we come into the light because we
can show what is, what we're doing is being done by God.
And just in general, we confess our sins and bring it into light, he's going to forgive
That's in John 3 and 1 John 1.
So just bring this into light with other people is so profoundly helpful.
And I do want to throw in a plug for, I know that our region in Boston church of Christ,
but many other places also have a sexual addiction groups and those can be a very powerful resource
for those who are feeling like this is totally taken over my life.
Or I just don't let, you know, I'm in a certain place and maybe I'm not in the place where
someone else would say it's taken over my life, but I feel like I need to really overcome
this and I need other people's help.
And so if you're, if you're looking to get involved with a group like that, I would
just say reach out to your minister and they can definitely help you get connected.
I'm so glad you made that plug because that is so true.
You know, it's great.
It's fantastic to have a group of people that you can talk to about this and get in the
light about and then get prayers for.
So yeah, I think, I don't know about you guys, but I feel like this has been a, it's been
really helpful for me to meditate on this and to actually think what is Jesus saying
here when he's talking about this, this topic that's like so, so important, but I can just
be so desensitized to because our culture is desensitized to it.
So I've really appreciated meditating on the scriptures, thinking about and with fresh
eyes of like what, what can it look like?
Why should I overcome lust fight to overcome it?
And what can it look like to actually do that?
It's a conversation that for me filled me with more than a little bit of dread thinking,
how am I going to be able to talk about this?
This is going to be so hard.
This is something that's very difficult for me to even acknowledge is a part of my own
sinful nature, but I feel so refreshed having done it.
Me too.
Thanks guys.
Thank you.

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