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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 10 - Lust - Part 2

December 9, 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.
Well, welcome back to our series on lust.
Right now we had a great discussion last time introducing Matthew 5:27-30.
And I'll read that here to set the context again.
Jesus says, 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 that your whole body go into
So when we were talking about this before, we had a couple of key observations that we
walked away with.
One is that Jesus is being really intense here about condemning what we're doing with
our thoughts, not just our actions.
And he's making the claim that our thoughts and what's happening in our thought life is
just as important as the actions that we are doing on a day-to-day basis.
And we talked about why is that and basically that our thoughts are the place where our
actions come out of.
And if I have my thoughts in a mindset of desiring someone or lusting after someone,
I can't think about the good that I am called to do.
So we talked about that and we talked about how we don't think that Jesus is being literal
when he talks about cutting off our hand or gouging out our eye, but he's getting at
the seriousness of this issue because it's going to impact our eternal destiny.
So we should be treating it like that.
And then finally, Matt read 1 Peter 2 about how we are in a war against the passions of
our flesh, which are waging war against our soul.
And so the battlefield of lust is one that we are totally surrounded by in our culture
right now and is something that we have to treat that way.
And Van, you had a great illustration of that, of going into that selective service and thinking
about, oh, I might go into war in the future.
I'm going to be surrounded by all this incredible evil.
And if I'm in that setting, the only thing I can do is to either give up or stand and
We're trying to fight.
And I think just to kick us off there, I wanted to draw on that point that you were making,
Van, that this is just all around us.
And I think it's really interesting because our culture does condone lust generally, but
it kind of has a complicated relationship with it at the same time.
I was actually just listening to a song I think is becoming really popular on TikTok
that someone close to me shared.
And it's called Victoria's Secret.
And the whole point of the song is that this Victoria's Secret is that Victoria was made
up by a dude.
That there's all of this propaganda that is being thrown at, in this case, women about
how they should look and what is valuable about them that is driven by lust.
And it's in, I think, overwhelmingly the majority of cases, they're driven by the lust of men.
And obviously there's a complex interplay between the sexes.
And this is not just a single gender thing, but I thought that was just a really pithy
statement from the song of, wow, people might say lust is okay.
But then they experience the effects of it and it's not so okay.
And so you were talking, Matt, about how we can really be an incredible light here.
And so I was just thinking about, wow, what would it look like if we took Jesus really
seriously here and really cut out all the lust in our hearts, in our, like if the church
was completely free from this sin.
What a shining light it could be.
And how would that even manifest itself in our relationships, our society, etc.?
I wish that we lived in that kind of, I'll say, utopia where this was not so pervasive.
I remember when I was, I still remember the first time I saw a Dirty Magazine, it was
in third grade.
And it was underneath a, it was at our school and it was underneath some stairs.
Someone had like, here, this is a good place to hide it.
And then the kids would like, hey, come take a look at this.
And also in third grade was the first time I saw my first Dirty Movie.
I went to a friend's house, you know, my parents vetted a lot of the people I hung out with.
Well, they didn't vet the friends of friends because my friend then took me to another
friend's house and their parents were away and they had a Dirty Movie playing.
And I still remember both of those experiences.
They're emblazoned on my mind.
I wish I've prayed for them to like go and, you know, if I'm not thinking about it, great.
It's good.
But it's sad that that kind of stuff can get into our, you know, into us, you know, into
our, it goes straight to our hearts.
And then it does begin this war.
And when you're little, you, unless people are talking to you about this, I encourage
anyone who's a parent, have talks with your kids about this kind of stuff.
The world is moves a lot faster than it did when I was a kid.
And there are so many more avenues for your kids to be exposed to this junk, have talks
with them.
But it is a battle.
And if you're not talking about it, that's also where darkness can keep, you know, and
it grows and grows and grows until it will try to totally have you.
And yeah, I think that, you know, we, we, we say over and over again how the world really
condones lust, but even in popular culture, it's a complicated relationship, you know,
how far is too far?
And you know, you can, you can watch, you know, pornography is pretty much accepted
unless it's child pornography.
Then you can go to jail for that.
But what, where is, where is the line?
And where do you draw the line?
And there's all this, there's controversy about what's art and what's pornography and
about freedom of speech, conflating it with freedom of speech and conflating it with all
these other things.
It's an uncomfortable relationship.
And you know, even in the, in the politics of office places, you know, it's the place
where I worked, it is very strict.
If I have an objectionable picture in my office that somebody walks by and perceives as objectionable
and they say to me, that picture offends me and I have to come to your office for meetings,
please take it down and I don't take it down.
I could lose my job over that.
And it could be whatever they think is objectionable.
It's their standard, not mine.
And so yet the, the, the relationship is very complicated and the lines are very fuzzy until
you come to Jesus who says, no, it's not fuzzy.
It's not fuzzy.
If you, if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, then you've committed adultery.
If you, if you objectify somebody like that, then you've crossed the line.
Then you're losing the battle.
Then the enemy that is everywhere around you has begun to take you.
So you have to, you have to fight.
Can I bring up another thing that I think is in this passage where, which is also another
one of those, you know, really, I don't know, is this such a big deal?
You know, we've talked a lot about looking at someone lustfully, but it seems like Jesus
is also taking aim at masturbation here.
He says, if your right hand causes you to sin.
So first of all, is that, do you think what is he's getting at?
And then why, why do you think masturbation is wrong and is it always wrong?
Is there ever a time that maybe it's okay?
I think that this is, this is not a question that I've thought about super deeply.
And so I just want to like acknowledge that as, you know, I saw it, this was coming up
in this conversation and particularly with that, if your right hand causes you to sin,
I think that's probably a pretty good guess at what Jesus is talking about there.
I haven't thought about that.
With the issue of masturbation, it's always been pretty simple on my mind because there,
for the vast majority of cases that I know about masturbation is just intricately linked
with lust.
There's, there's, there's a fantasizing that's happening or it's being accompanied by pornography.
And so those things are almost always connected.
If there's a case where masturbation is not connected to lust, I think where I'm at right
now is I don't know.
I really haven't experienced like, I've never heard about that in, in my life because that
just doesn't, so I don't know, I don't know if it exists.
But if it does, I feel like that's something I have to think more deeply about.
But my guess is that's kind of a fringe.
It might be, it might be a really real issue for someone who's listening right now.
My guess is that for the majority of people, that's not the root thing.
That's really the issue at hand.
So I'm curious what you guys have to say.
Yeah, I, I, I saw this question too and I thought, when Matt asked that question, there's
going to be a pause.
And whichever one of us is courageous enough and is going to answer it first and it's probably
going to be Tim because I don't, I don't know the answer to it, but I think that, and
this sort of gets at something that I know we're going to talk about maybe eventually
in this episode is the relationship between why, why adultery, the talk of lust comes
so hard on the heels of talk about adultery, that those, those two concepts get conflated.
And I think that when you think of sex and sexuality, the way that it is prescribed
in the Bible, it is perhaps, I don't think even perhaps, it is the most intimate type
of relationship between two individuals.
And that masturbation is the ultimate perversion of that because you're taking something that
is meant for what I will call righteous intimacy and hoarding it and keeping it to yourself.
Masturbation is an act that is probably the, the pinnacle of selfishness.
And so my, my gut tells me, no, it can't ever be right.
But if, if it is, I don't know if it is something that's a part of an intimate relationship
between a man and a husband, a woman and a man in matrimony and marriage, I suppose in
that case, maybe it could be.
I like the, the way you're thinking about this because I, I was, I had a similar thought
that there is a, there's a link here.
And before I get to that, I do think, I think it, I think I read it as masturbation because
he's talking about something that's, you know, inside your heart and he's talking, it would,
if you were your right hand causes you to sin by, because you did something with it that
interacted with someone else, then everyone would know, but this is more what's on happening
on inside.
So if your eyes cause me, if your hand, so it makes me think it is referring to masturbation
because it's keeping, keeping on that, that, that line of thought.
But I like that you made this connection with adultery because I think that's, that's something
that's in there, you know, that this, that there is, there's nothing, it's like sexual
desire itself, that's good.
God created it, but then he kind of, not kind of, he made it in a way that it would be governed
by something called marriage where there is a commitment and there's, you know, and so
within that, yeah, I guess, you know, if you were masturbating in a marriage, maybe that's
I think, I don't think it's okay outside of marriage, but even in marriage, I think this
is where it gets, you have to again, look at the heart because even in marriage, I think
there's an opportunity for, because I think you, Tim said something about how every time
you've heard of it in the context, it's always something where you're thinking and you're
associating, you're having fantasies.
So even if in marriage, you're masturbating and your thoughts are not pure, well, that's
sin too, right?
Because you should not be bringing anything into the marriage bed that would make it,
that would defile it, would make it impure.
And so I would say if you're someone who, and again, this is sort of like, there's no
list of like, this is like, this is when he can, it's okay.
And this is when it's not okay in the Bible.
It's a, I think it's more of a, you kind of have to sit with this for a while.
And it's like my gut says, and because I think that this is where the spirit is leading me,
you know, based on these other verses, I could infer, and that's where I'm coming up with
this, that yeah, maybe it's okay in marriage if you're not having impure thoughts.
But I would say if you're someone who has masturbated before you got married, the likelihood
of you relapsing when you're, is probably pretty high.
And so that's not something you should probably even do, you know, because you don't want
to enter, you don't want to invite sin into your heart.
There, there's a book I read called False Intimacy, and I forget the name of the author,
which is not pretty normal.
But it was an incredible book, and it talks about sexual addiction.
And it gets at some of this.
When we're talking about the context of marriage, you said like sexual desire is good.
God created that, and that's good.
When it's within that proper context.
And the premise of the book, False Intimacy, is that when we, whether it's lust or it's
other forms of sexual addiction, there, when we engage in these actions, we short circuit
what God desires out of the sexual relationship, which is deep intimacy with someone else.
And these other, these other things that we can do, whether that be masturbation in
many, many contexts, or whether that's lust or whether it's other forms of sexual activity,
they can maybe give us a taste of intimacy with someone else, or even just in our minds
for a moment, because there's a very, it can be very pleasurable, but we're not doing the
hard work of being in, in relationship with, with one another, with a spouse that requires
vulnerability, that requires love and self-sacrifice.
And that to me is a very helpful framework when I'm thinking about all of this in general.
It's like, lust is really serious because it is a form of desire of, I want this thing,
and it's about, it's about me.
It's not about humility.
It's not about loving someone else as myself.
And so when I think, when I think about masturbation, if masturbation is being done in a way outside
of the marriage covenant where it's just, it's just about me, it's just about me getting
what I want, then, and it involves these fantasies and involves this desire that is, you know,
I'm just, I'm just trying to get my pleasurable release.
I think that's where it's extremely problematic and falls into this category.
There is a possibility, and maybe we just table this for now, but there is a possibility
where if you're in a relationship with someone and you're having sex, this is, you know,
that, that, that where that you might actually be able to do masturbation, like where you're
actually arousing yourself, and that could be actually bringing greater intimacy between
the two of you.
Maybe, right?
So I think that's, that's where it's like, is this bringing me closer to my spouse or
is it not?
That's a conversation that happens between those two people.
And yeah, if it's, if it's not, then definitely isn't good.
And, but it's something we need to wrestle with.
Maybe, maybe it is something that Jesus is saying, absolutely not.
This is not an option.
So, well, and I think that there, there's two things that I think about there because
you bring up some really good points, Tim, is that sex is something that I'll say Americans
because I only know Americans.
And if this is true across the board with humanity, but it's just something that's really
difficult to talk about and really difficult to have a constructive conversation about.
It's something that either, oh no, that's vulgar.
Don't talk about that.
Or, oh, that's too private.
Don't talk about that.
Sort of two ends of the spectrum.
And yet both conclusions are, don't talk about it.
And I think that because we don't talk about it, it's just something that sort of hangs
out there and the language that we use that surrounds it is just, it's just all confused
and muddied up.
I wish that I could read this passage, but there's a passage in the book of second Samuel
in chapter 13 that talks about the children of David, Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom and the
utter wreck that lust caused among them.
And there's confusion in the language.
It says at one point, Amnon, David's son fell in love with Tamar, his half-sister.
It uses that terminology.
He fell in love with her.
But yet, almost in the same sentence, it says he is obsessed with her.
And that he made himself, it actually says he made himself ill because of her.
That to me does not sound like in love.
In love, obsessed, made himself ill.
It also says it seemed impossible for him to do, I remember this quotation because this
is one of the things that I say to myself when I'm trying to fight lust in my own life.
It seemed impossible for him to do anything to her because she was the daughter of the
king and because she was a virgin.
So all in the same paragraph, he's in love.
He's obsessed.
He's made himself ill.
He can't do anything to her.
That doesn't sound like love.
And then when his friend asked him, what's wrong with you?
He doesn't say I'm messed up with lust over my sister.
He says, I'm in love with my sister.
And so that language is all messed up in there.
And I think that it's a perfect mirror of our society that we can't talk about it.
And it's part of our church culture that we need to be open about these kinds of things.
We need to talk about it because unless you talk about it, you can't deal with it.
If it's, I heard a quote from Mr. Rogers once that said, if it's human, then it's mentionable.
And if it's mentionable, then it's manageable.
But we have this problem.
We have this problem with several things in among quote unquote Americans.
We can't talk about sex.
We can't talk about racism.
We can't talk about politics.
There are these things we can't talk about.
And because we don't talk about it, it's just bones of contention all the time.
Well, I like that we certainly have been talking about some pretty uncomfortable and awkward
and things you don't normally talk about, lust, masturbation.
I'm glad that we are shedding some light on this because you're right.
It is something that we do need to talk more about.
And I think we're going to have to do that in another episode.
Thank you.
As always, thank you to listening as well.

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