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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 9 - Lust - Part 1

December 2, 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.
Perhaps we should begin with a disclaimer before this discussion.
The subject matter is mature.
We're going to consider 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, reaching children at a younger and younger age.
It's 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's more than a $13 billion industry in the US and over $97 billion worldwide.
It's estimated that 12% of all content on the internet is pornographic and that roughly
$3,000 are spent on porn every second.
A new porn movie is produced every 39 minutes.
So anyway you look at it, and I hope you don't, lust is a huge industry in the US and doesn't
show any signs of slowing.
Millions are addicted to it.
And this is a sin that loves darkness too.
With the rise of smartphones and 5G networks, porn is more convenient than ever.
Gone are the embarrassing days of having to go somewhere public like an X-rated theater.
You can take porn anywhere.
And people are so enslaved to it now that some are even watching it during the middle
of the day at work.
Porn is a huge issue that has impacted the lives of millions of people and continues
to impact people, especially as they stay in darkness about it.
So I'm very glad we're shedding light on lust.
Let's begin by reading the text.
And to remind us here the context is Jesus is telling us that our righteousness needs
to surpass that of the religious Pharisees.
We need to get to the heart of the law.
And here's part of how we do it.
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's better that you lose one of your members than your whole body be thrown into
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.
For it's better that you lose one of your members than your whole body going to hell.
First off, despite that introduction, this scripture is not just about pornography.
Jesus says that even if you look at anyone with lust in your heart, it's as bad as committing
Someone walks down the street and you desire them, it's as bad as adultery.
So I want to start with the perception that some have that, you know, maybe lust isn't
such a bad thing, right?
Look but don't touch.
I'm not doing any harm.
That's the big problem.
It's actually probably good that I'm giving into lust and masturbating in private because
it means I'm not acting on those thoughts in public and potentially hurting someone
or freaking them out or whatever.
But if we look at Jesus' words here, he doesn't think of lust the same way, does he?
He calls out looking at someone with lustful intent.
He calls out sinning with your eye and sinning with your hand and he says that leads to hell.
So first thing we are presented with is a huge dissonance between what the world is
telling us and what Jesus says.
The world tells us that there's so many more important things to worry about like war,
famine, poverty, homelessness, water scarcity, natural resources, and habitat depletion,
You name it.
It's not that these things aren't important too, but it's not what Jesus is saying when
he's talking about lust.
So are we making a mountain out of a molehill here or is Jesus right about how serious lust
If so, why do you think lust is so serious?
Yeah, thanks for that introduction, Matt.
This is a really...
It's an intense topic, but it's also a topic that we're very desensitized to in a lot of
ways because of how pervasive this is in our culture.
So I'm glad that we get some time today to think about this together and kind of draw
out what Jesus is talking about here.
When you're asking this question of, you know, is this really something that's serious?
You mentioned that perspective of, well, as long as I'm not doing any harm to someone,
I'd say that's a very common philosophy in our culture because we basically are...
We have this mentality, we can do whatever we want and you can't tell me what's right.
And so as long as my actions don't affect other people is the idea, then it's all fine.
It's all fine and good.
And what I find interesting is how when Jesus says that lust is like adultery, that he's
connecting our thought life with our actions.
And in Mark 7:20-23, Jesus is talking about what makes a person unclean
and he says what comes out of a person is what defiles them and says, for is from within
out of a person's heart that evil thoughts come.
So he says evil thoughts, but then a bunch of the things that come after that are like
things I'd consider more deeds.
It's a sexual immorality.
He says theft.
He says murder, adultery, etc.
So he says all those evils come from inside and defile a person.
But I think in a nutshell, lust is very serious, like Jesus is saying, because it's determining
what's going on in our thought life and our thought life is inseparable from our actions.
I really like that connection you made in Mark.
And there's another, you know, it's in the synoptics, so you see it a couple of times,
but you know, what goes into you, into your heart, because this is a heart issue.
That's something that God sees.
And then it comes back out in all of these other things.
So you know, when we're lusting, we're playing with fire right there.
I think that I appreciate what you said as well, Tim, because when you think of, when
you think of lust, when you think of even some of these other sins that we've discussed,
that anger and the hatred, it's, it's virulent.
It's like a virus.
And you know, having come out of this time of COVID, the whole world was afraid of something
that we couldn't see.
And there was all kinds of controversy about wearing masks and not wearing masks and people
who wore masks or at war with people who refused to wear masks.
And all over something that with our naked eyes, we cannot see all over something that
for perhaps most of the history of the human race, we didn't even know was there.
But it's something that was the topic of every news conversation of every, and it was treated
very seriously.
This is something that could kill you and a lot of other people.
We understand that.
We understand the context of that.
We understand a virus.
And I think that Jesus' extreme words here, I think they're, I think they're
They capture that this is, this is, this is virulent.
This is something that's a virus that can get into your heart.
And I love the way that these passages that we're talking about go straight from the heart
to what the impact is, to what the action is, to what, to what the thing that actually
causes the damage that we can see.
And I believe that Jesus uses this kind of extreme language because he knows how we are.
He knows that we rationalize things away.
That it's very easy for us to take something that we know either innately in your heart
or that you've heard from what you've been taught or what you've observed is bad for
It's very easy for us to jump from, well, is it really that bad?
And once we get to, is it really that bad?
That's a short jump to, well, it's actually okay.
And it's a short jump from okay to this is actually pretty good.
And it's a short jump from pretty good to, oh, this is necessary.
And we can make those jumps very quickly in our minds.
You bring up the language that Jesus uses here.
And I want to spend a minute on that.
But as I was studying for this and for some of the podcasts we're going to be doing, I
came across something very interesting in how the religious people of that time viewed
adultery and viewed lust.
They very, very similarly to Jesus categorized it as something that was on par with adultery
because it was an internal thing.
But the only difference was that they didn't connect it with eternal consequences like
Jesus does here.
They had a law and what happens if you commit adultery and they deal with that and that
was very serious.
But when you're looking at someone lustfully, yeah, that's wrong.
That's immoral.
But what Jesus does here is connect it with hell, which is very serious.
I think we put a premium on taking Jesus at His word.
In this case, though, should we, I just want to ask, should we really take Him literally?
For instance, if we pluck out our left eye, don't we still have a right eye with which
to lust?
All it seems we've done is maim ourselves.
If we're not to take Him literally, what is the point He's making?
Well, I think that this is pretty clearly to me not a passage that you should take literally.
I think it's pretty clear that there are not many people who would take this passage seriously.
I don't see a lot of one-eyed, one-handed religious people.
Maybe some pirates.
Maybe some pirates.
Before we get lost in confusion, when you say this passage that we shouldn't be taking
literally, there's several different sections of this passage.
Are you guys only talking about the part about cutting your hand off or cutting your eye
And it's so why.
I think the crucial word there in this passage is the if.
That's a very big if.
And he says, if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away.
And I think that the fact of the matter is it's not your eye that causes you to sin.
It's not your hand that causes you to sin.
There's that famous passage in Romans chapter seven that when I read it in the new international
version, which is mostly the version that I read and study in, it gets very confusing.
So I read it in the new living translation, which helps me a little bit in Romans chapter
It says, I know that nothing good lives in me.
That is in my sinful nature.
I want to do what is right, but I can't.
I want to do what is good, but I don't.
I don't want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
But if I do what I don't want to do, I'm not really the one doing it.
It is sin living in me that does it.
I've discovered this principle of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably
do what is wrong.
I love God's law and with I love God's law with all of my heart, but there is another
power within me that is at war with my mind.
The power makes me a slave to sin that is still within me.
Oh, what a miserable person I am and who will free me from this life that is dominated by
sin and death.
And then he says, thank God, the answer is Jesus Christ, our Lord.
So you see how it is in my mind.
I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature, I am a slave to sin that
it's not as simple as my right eye causing me to sin.
It's not like it's not like my right eye.
There's something wrong, inherently wrong with my right eye that if I get rid of that,
I'll stop sinning in some ways.
Though it's a radical concept that would almost be easier that if it was, if it were, if it
were a problem with my eyes, then I could just get something done to my eyes, but it's
not a problem with my eyes, it's deeper than that and it's more intricate than that and
it's more involved in that and it requires not just my being aware of it, but it requires
me involving Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit to even identify it sometimes, but
certainly to deal with it.
Yeah, that is what you just said reminded me of blessed or the poor in spirit, because
there are a lot of people that are poor that are not poor in spirit, that are still consumed
with I want more and it's the same kind of thing.
It's a hard issue like what you were saying, Tim, right?
And I think the words that, yeah, I don't think Jesus wants us to literally chop our
hands off or gouge our eyes out, but I think he's saying such extreme language because
the point he's making is this will lead you to hell.
And so it's almost like if you imagine like an animal that's trapped, you know, like it
got caught in a trap, it will do whatever it needs to do to get itself out.
It'll even gnaw its own leg off to get out of there because otherwise it'll die.
And that's the visual I have when I read this, I think, oh my gosh, I have to take this so
seriously, I have to make every effort because otherwise this will send me to hell.
Yeah, and I think we have to kind of circle back there and maybe make it more explicit
of why is our thought life so important?
You know, our thought life and our actions, I like made the claim that they're connected,
but like, in what ways are they? Because if that's not a really strong connection, then
I would say Jesus is being too harsh.
But if that connection is really intricate and we can see that clearly in a bunch of
different cases, then what Jesus is saying makes tons of sense because, you know, you're
going to want to start the transformation of a person, you want to complete the transformation
of a person at the root of the thing instead of in the symptoms that you're seeing on the
That's a great point too.
You want to get to, you want to, instead of hacking at branches, you want to get to the
That's right.
What are your thoughts on that?
So I was, there's kind of two different things that I think about.
And one is something that you know, Matt, you and I are actually talking about a little
bit ago off, off whatever we're doing right now.
So yeah, anyways, we were, we were talking about this idea that my heart is revealed
when I go through this thought exercise of what would I do if I had no consequences?
And if I had the ability to act on all of my desires without anything bad actually happening
to me, what would I, what would I carry out?
And the reason why that feels relevant to this is that I think we can all wrestle with
sinful thoughts, whether that's lust or it's greed or it's whatever, but often we don't
have the capability or the power to actually act on those things in our lives.
And those that do often do that and they act out on it and we can condemn those people.
Oh, I can't believe that you did that.
But when we examine ourselves, it's the reason isn't that I don't want to.
It's because I don't have access or the ability.
Like, like in greed, I know we're going to talk about greed much later, but you know,
greed is an obvious example where people are like, oh, I can't believe that someone spent
X number of dollars on X thing.
And it's like, well, if you had that as much money as that person, maybe you don't spend
on the exact same thing, but maybe it's something, you know, just as unnecessary.
Why is there so much debt?
You know, people, yeah, you're right.
It's a great example.
So that's one, that's like one thought exercise I do.
And that to me validates very clearly.
Oh, my thought life is super, super important.
But the other thing that I think is really important is I only have a certain amount
of space in my head for anything.
And so if I, if my thoughts are consumed with possessing something that's not mine, with
lusting after someone, I can't direct those thoughts towards the good things that Christ
wants me to be considering.
So I think we can, we can talk more about that.
But those are some of the, the arguments that I have to remind myself of and talk myself
into when I get into that line.
Oh, like my thoughts really aren't that important.
I'm not really hurting anyone.
And this is a, this is actually a battle.
And at some point, I think we have to trust God, like and trust Jesus here that he's warning
us about something that we, maybe we don't understand or I don't see what the big problem
is, but he's God in the flesh and he's telling us this is a problem.
And so we need to listen to him, I think, because, you know, warnings like this are
a mercy, right?
If you don't know that you're headed on a road that's under construction about to, you
are about to go off the road, you don't have any signs saying stay off the road, stop.
And you just go, you're going to die.
So these are, are pretty important markers.
And I thought of a few others that I want to share here and one, maybe just one, but
in 1 Peter 2, there's a, there's a very, we probably all know a lot of our hearers
have probably listened to this or read this part about where Peter references Exodus 19
and God's vision for us to be a royal priesthood, a holy nation so that we might proclaim his
excellencies, you know, who called each of us out of darkness, how we're now a people
and how we've received mercy.
Just after that, Peter warns us, lust wages war on our soul and that it's a life and
death battle.
As beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh,
which wage war against your soul.
Yeah, that, that is not a connection that I've, I've drawn.
I think as I just separate passions, I put that word in a different category, but I appreciate
you drawing that out because yeah, what is, what are the passions of flesh?
Like there's basically food, sex and material things.
So yeah, that's extremely convicting because that's the vision of who we want to be, right?
We want to be that holy priesthood.
And we will, I mean, we'll ruin our, our witness to other people if we're, if we are full of
I think that's something that distinguishes us to be holy.
And I, man, there is so much more to tease out on this.
Van, do you, do you have some thoughts here?
Well, I think I appreciate that scripture that you just read, Matt, because when you
think of, when you think of war, so when I was, when I was a younger man, we still had
the, the selective service that you had to register for the draft.
When I did that, I believed they were still drafting people sometimes.
There was still a very real thought in my mind that if we had a war, I would have to
go to it.
I would have to, I would have to fight.
And I was thoroughly terrified by the notion of going to war.
War was the worst imaginable thing to me.
Being in a place where death was everywhere apparent, where you saw it and experienced
it all the time and that yours was imminent at any moment.
And I think when you, when you use a word like war, war coming up on you, there's only
two choices.
You surrender and put yourself at the mercy of your enemy or you fight.
And when you say fight, fighting is a, fighting is a vicious, it's a, it's a survival thing.
And that, that Peter would equate lust as something that goes to war against your soul.
It just, it strikes a chord in me.
It's like, okay, so what am I going to do if this is at war with my soul?
How am I going to treat it?
Am I going to put myself at its mercy?
And I know that it has no mercy.
Everything that Jesus tells me, everything that the Bible tells me says this will destroy
you and condemn you eternally.
So do I give in to that?
Am I overwhelmed by the fact that this is going to be a really hard fight and I might
not be able to win?
Yes, but I fight because I have, but I have no choice if I'm thinking about it in the
right way.
But if I'm thinking about it in the way that gets advertised, if I'm thinking about it
in the way that comes at me from every imaginable source of media that I have in every moment
of every day almost, then it's that serious.
It does feel like war.
As soon as you're aware of it and as soon as you let yourself think about it, this is
the thing that came to me while I was studying for this talk is that as soon as I let myself
think about it, it's like the veil is drawn away from my eyes and I can see that it's
I can see that it's everywhere and I can see that I have to fight for my own survival so
that I can fight for the survival of the people who are around me.
So I can fight for the survival of everyone because if we don't, then we're done.
We're done for and it just feels like all the statistics that you read in your introduction,
they're just mind boggling.
They are.
I can remember a time and I'm older, but I'm not that old.
I can remember a time when you could watch TV shows about married couples and they were
in separate beds all the time and always fully clothed when nobody lives like that.
And yet now you can see things on network television that wouldn't have been in the
worst R-rated movies at the time when I was a young man.
So it is a war.
And that's probably where we're going to have to pause on this discussion and pick it up
again next time.
This has been great.
Thanks, guys.
Thanks, guys.
Thank you.

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