Defeating Our Human Nature (Part 5. Lasciviousness - Runaway Lust)
Although this article is part of a series, it is a complete study on its own. (5 of 18 in series)
* all [bracketed] words in Scripture quotes are mine *
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God?" (Micah 6:8)
"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh...
...For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be of led the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another." (Galatians 5:16-26)
Welcome Back To Our Series On Defeating Our Human Nature...
I guess I have to start off this article by saying that I love life. I love all that the good Lord has given me. I experience life as does everyone, with their senses. If I prick or cut my finger, I react with the appropriate action that confirms I am alive. A rose's scent, a summer breeze, a cool drink on a hot day is all perceived in the senses as pleasurable and incalculable in value. I sense and feel and appreciate beauty. All of this I have in common with all people that are alive and allow their senses to communicate the beauty of life to them. Yet the flesh wants more, my flesh wants more. While my head is saying what I know God in His Bible has said, my flesh is standing firm in the decision to get more at any cost, to the detriment of my body, my mind, my overall happiness, my goals.
In part one, we started this series on exposing and defeating the flesh and the way works of the flesh manifest themselves in our lives. In part two. we spoke of the devastating effects of adultery on couples, on individuals, and on the spiritual significance of marriage. In part three, we touched on the fleshly work of fornication and warned of the insidiousness of its allure. In part four, we covered uncleanness and how easy it is to immerse ourselves in overloading our senses, defiling ourselves, a statement of defiance to God.
In this installment of our series, we will speak of the work of the flesh called lasciviousness...
The flesh, our bodies that contain our sinful nature passed down through the generations, is a force that is unstoppable. We can hinder it, we can momentarily slow it, we can redirect it for an instant, but in the end, it will win- unless we have help to defeat its destructive force in our lives. Lasciviousness is woven into the fabric of every society in every corner of the world. Even in places where one may think people have more control of their inner selves, it is ever present.
We chuckle at the guy with the off-color jokes. We laugh at sound bytes of Glen Quagmire on Family Guy. Why? because we all identify with him. We all have one of those guys (or girls) within us. You know the kind of folks I'm talking about don't you? The guy who tries to make people blush, to break people out of their shell, to loosen people up so they can have fun. He seems so innocent, so harmless. People want to be like him and aspire to have that same affect on people. He is the "Quagmire" of the party... "All-Right!"
The fun is there because we all are sinners. We love the guy because we see ourselves in him. A part of us wishes we didn't have the inhibitions that keep us back so that we could indulge that part of us that he represents. So some of us drink, some of us loosen up with easy drugs, "just to take the edge off." What really is happening is that the square corners of restraint are rounded. There are rules that need to be broken to have fun and now I can ignore the hindrances that would be there if totally sober.
Ah now, there we go... Now let's hunt down the best looking girl in the room and let our stare linger a second of two longer than it should. Then we can go over to the other loosened-up buddies in the room and be a tad louder and a little more riotous so everyone knows we are having fun, meaning that the whole room will soon start groovin'. Now comes the off-color jokes, the racy stories, the atmosphere of the forbidden. We are getting some give-and-take in the flirting. Then comes the pairing off of couples some of which will slip out quietly and will not be seen again. This is part of the "night life" the "party atmosphere" and this is how people have fun, isn't it?
What about the person that has no desire for the night life? Where is their "inner Quagmire?" It's there. It just is content to remain mostly in their minds. As the girl pretty (or not so pretty) walks by this is the guy or girl that smiles and says "hello" all "innocent-like." But the eyes betray him. He follows the form of the person as it walks away and dwells on the physicality of the movement. He does not stop the improper thoughts until that mental image is where he needs it to be in his mind to satisfy his lust. This lascivious person (which person we all have within us) is secretive and many would simply die of embarrassment should that secret be made public, but God sees everything.
As we have covered in other of this series, the mind is the birthplace of sin. As the flesh witnesses the thing that it perceives and treat as temptation and longs for it, the mind reaches out and grabs it. After all, one may think, who sees what a person thinks in his mind? Even the most repressed or squeaky clean individual uses their mind to twist innocent things into evil contorted forms of blasphemy.
Lasciviousness is essentially lewdness, anything that works against chasteness, and purity. The apostle Paul referred to this as a work of the flesh. It is not only something that the flesh desires but is somewhere the flesh wishes to remain. It, as well as all of the works of the flesh, can become a lifestyle. The word Paul used in the Galatians text is aselgeia (as-elg'-i-a) and means, "licentiousness, filthiness, wantonness, lacking moral restraint, having no regard for safeguards, incontinent." Jesus used this word in Mark 7, where He said that it is what comes out of the heart (the sinful seat of motivation in the mind) that defiles a man. The word is also used by Paul again in Ephesians where he states that this fleshly tendency becomes a place where the mind stays and that the person "gives themselves over to it" so that it becomes a stronghold and a trap for that person.
"And He [Jesus] said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness [lasciviousness in KJV], an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man." (Mark 7:20-23)
"This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God [their spirit is not connected to God but separated, essentially dead], because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, having given themselves over to lewdness [lasciviousness], to work uncleanness with greediness." (Ephesians 4:17-19)
Because the apostles and Christianity's origin is with the Jews, it has always been my custom to try to find the Hebrew counterpart for the Greek words to give depth as to the origin of a concept or word I am defining. But in this case, I could not find a corresponding Hebrew equivalent to lasciviousness. I did find one which encompasses the meaning very well and I include that word here. This word is used in Exodus 32 to describe the Israelites as they rebelled against God while Moses was on the mount receiving the Law written by the finger of God. The word is tsachaq (tsaw-khak') and is translated into the English word "play." It was said that while Moses delayed in coming down, the children of Israel "rose up to play." It means "to laugh outright in merriment or scorn, to mock with strong overtones of improper sexuality, to play sexual (games) for fun." The word was used again in Deuteronomy 22 to describe the actions of one caught in adultery when they "play the harlot."
"Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, 'Come, make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' And Aaron said to them, 'Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.' So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. And then they said, 'This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt.!' So when Aaron saw it, he built an alter before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, 'Tomorrow is a feast to the LORD.' Then they rose up early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play." (Exodus 32:1-6)
"Then they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father's house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done a disgraceful thing in Israel, to play [tsachaq] the harlot in her father's house. So you shall put away evil from among you." (Deuteronomy 22:21)
Paul also connected this term "play" and its evil lusts to the idea that this type of lascivious lewdness is a form of idolatry. For one's own thoughts and fleshly desires are given more credence than is the will of God, which says to run from all sorts of lustful uncleanness.
"Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord with a pure heart." (2 Timothy 2:22)
"But with most of them ] God was not well pleased, for their bodies are scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples [we Christians are to look at Israel as our own history from which to learn], to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, 'The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.'" (1 Corinthians 10:5-7)
Essentially, lasciviousness begins when the mind drifts into the world of the make-believe. In this land, a person can seemingly do anything he wishes, to whomever he wishes, without restraint or consequence. The mental images chain one to another and go as far as the imagination of the individual can go. Also, there are such things as demons and Satanic influence, which can influence this fertile ground of the sinner's mind to grow all kinds of perverse things. Who can it hurt? After all, it is all in the mind, right? Have you ever allowed your mind to drift and the thoughts went to things so shocking that you were afraid of your own thoughts? No, you say? Liar, I say! I have, and everyone has if they tell the truth. This evil is evidence of both our own sin nature and of spirit influences that can (and will) give us input should we provide enough "mind rope" to hang ourselves. Yet psychologists today advocate a strong sexual fantasy life (lasciviousness), a dangerous bit of advice to give to people who are in their care for some kind of mental problem to start with and with their help may just be able to fine-tune their "fantasies" into some stronghold that may take them to their own demise.
LASCIVIOUSNESS WOULD CHANGE THIS...
The world stands in sin and one of the best ways to see the differences between a godly heart and one that beats without God's indwelling presence, is in the thoughts that are allowed, and that linger, and that are acted upon in the mind.
"For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. 'Eat and drink!' he says to you, but his heart is not with you." (Proverbs 23:7)
The world takes no thought of God. To the world, God is more of an overshadowing concept than a reality. To think on Him too long may change behavior enough to make one seem like a prude and no fun to be around. God is seen as a "cosmic kill-joy," so that to obey God means they will not have any fun or happiness in their lives. But God says for us to always keep our minds set on Him and the words He says.
"For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)
The world sees no problem with each person having a dark side, a place in their minds where they can go to play that is private and contains anything that individual wishes it to contain. The words, "naughty," "rebel," even "dangerous" cause many to have an adrenaline rush because of fleshly images that come to mind. They condemn anyone that would tell them that it is dangerous to think on these things, or wrong, based on God's word. They call those who would dare to condemn sins of the mind (or body, for that matter) bigots or judgmental. Yet, God says for us to keep our minds upon things that originate from God and to flee from thoughts and actions that feed the flesh.
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Lasciviousness is wrong... and it is a sin that each of us will indulge in if we are not careful. It happens in an instant. One innocent moment of drifting thought and a man's mental eyes are following a pair bouncing breasts into sin. One dream-filled moment and a broad-chested young pool boy can sweep a woman off her feet. It only takes a second. Images come at us all the time through the eye-gate of information. It can be someone on television that is only is an image fed into the mind via the airwaves, or it can be the next door neighbor, or anyone, or anything. The mind cares not for propriety, or rules. It will dream up perverseness in an instant of time.
So, how do we guard ourselves from lasciviousness? The first thing I would say is to believe the opposite of what is popularly taught and thought of as "healthy" and "acceptable" and you will be starting on the right track!
First, know that your mind is not just a bunch of electric impulses produced by the large organ in your head. The mind is not a place where you have complete control and freedom. Your mind is a tool that can be used by God for good purposes or used of Satan to hurt you and others. It is not easily controlled, but it is easily influenced. The fact is, a healthy mind is still sick because of sin. Sin enables the best of God's children to think the most twisted things, do the most heinous acts if they allow the wrong influences for long enough. It all begins in the mind. Remember Jesus said that "out of the heart," the seat of motivation in the mind, come all the things "that defile a man." (Mark. 7:20)
Secondly, it does matter what goes through your mind and what you think. Thoughts are not just bits of energy that we aim out into the cosmos and don't count for anything once they are gone. Thoughts never go away. We will be accountable for every thought we think, where our minds have gone, and what sins we committed there, even on a mental level. There is no such thing as a fantasy life where you can think of anything you please.
"For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasures of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak they will give account of it in the day of judgment." (Matthew 12:34b-36)
"So then each of us shall give an account of himself to God." (Romans 14:12)
Thirdly, it does not work to "try not to think" of something sinful. The only way not to sin with one's mind is to fill it with good things on which to think. Too many times people that try to be good, end up banging their heads on the wall because they can't stop thinking about something the flesh desires, that they know is evil. So the only way to stop this runaway mental train is to make the train "jump the track." Instead of trying to stop it (which is impossible), change its course, think about God, fill your head with His words and with thoughts directed at Him in constant prayer. Do not give your mind a chance speed away from you, (or to even to float downstream for that matter), for there are rapids and a waterfall ahead. I would say that in my personal life, drifting thought is the most dangerous thing I face. If I do not fill my mind, at all times, with things worthy of thought, my flesh will give me things to think. It will create a sinful world in which my thoughts will play, in but a moment's time. The single greatest thing you can do to guard against sin is to guard your thoughts by keeping them busy with Jesus always on your mind.
"Pray without ceasing." (1 Thesolonians 5:17)
"But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night." (Psalm 1:2)
"You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
I don't know about you, but it bothers me to know that God hears every idle thought, every lascivious moment. I know that as a redeemed man, my sins are forgiven, past present and future, but it still makes my face red knowing the thoughts that flit in and out of my mind as I try to keep my mind constantly on Christ. I do my best but I am a sinner and I have to confess and readjust my thoughts on a regular basis to keep my fellowship sweet with God. I don't want to be ashamed because I am in the midst of something lascivious when Jesus comes in the clouds to receive me into glory. I know how far the Lord has brought me. My family and closest friends know. Yet in a moment's time my mind would return to the filth from which God pulled me. I must be ever mindful of the potential of sin and keep my mind on things above. I urge all my readers to do the same. May God bless your efforts to keep you safe from sin.
"Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." (1 Corinthians 10:12)
"And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." (1 John 2:28)
I wonder about the people that feel that they are in chains of bondage to their own minds right now. They know they think evil, lascivious thoughts. Many people are doing what I described earlier and banging their heads against a wall because their minds will not stop thinking bad things that make them ashamed or even scared. If you are one of those people, Jesus wants to help you. He wants to break the chains of shame off of you so you can have freedom from sin that robs you of joy and leaves a big hole in your soul. But Jesus will not simply take over your mind. He created you but you are not like a clay pot where the potter can simply poke a hole in it or cut out an undesirable piece. Instead, God treats His creation with dignity and requires a request from you before He will come in to change you from the inside. He will never simply control your mind but will reason with you to help you to see truth. He'll only come in as you allow Him in. It's not hard to ask Him into your life but you cannot ask Him and expect to keep your life exactly as it is. You must cry out to Him with a heart broken over the sin that you see in it. You must be willing to turn from your sin and follow Christ. If this is you, I'll tell you of the belief required to ask God in.
"Now after John [John the baptizer] was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel." (Mark 1:15)
"And he brought them out and said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' So they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.'" (Acts 16:30-31)
First of all, you must believe God is or you can't ask Him to change your heart. You must believe that Jesus is God in human flesh who came to die for your sin and that he spent three days in the tomb and then rose from the dead. This is the Gospel. Do you believe this? Good.
"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 6:23)
"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures." (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
If you believe and want to ask Jesus into your heart simply pray this:
Dear Lord Jesus, I cry out to You because I feel in bondage to the sin within me. I know if I died in my sins now, I will go to hell. Please forgive me of my sin and save me. I believe that You died for me and was buried for me and rose from the dead for me. I repent, I turn from my way of life and I promise to follow You, Jesus, for the rest of my life. You are the only way of salvation. I thank You for this wonderful gift of life. I pray this in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, the LORD. Amen.
Others in this series of independent articles: