This was written by our friend Jason. He is also featured on this post, and this interview as well as having written the scripts for our objections series.
Can a Blind Man Lust?
Love comforteth like sunshine after rain,
But Lust’s effect is tempest after sun;
Love’s gentle spring doth always fresh remain,
Lust’s winter comes ere summer half be done;
Love surfeits not, Lust like a glutton dies;
Love is all truth, Lust full of forged lies.
Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare
So, can a blind man lust?
When we think of lust, we almost immediately think of the eyes. And that brings up beauty, sex, adultery and pornography.
Several years ago, a pastor would drive 90 miles to my house for prayer counseling because he was dealing with an addiction to pornography. He’d heard from friends of the successes we had witnessed through our Theophostic Prayer Ministry practice and desired to be healed from his addiction.
People use addictions to sex, alcohol, food, drugs, smoking, body-modification and even work–anything to numb the emotional pain in their souls. Addiction to pornography is a pain management problem that manifests as a fixation with false intimacy. It is the pain–and the source of that pain–that must be healed. Often times through traditional counseling, one addiction is removed only to be replaced by another one. This pattern repeats until the person has a socially-acceptable addiction like “hard worker” (read: workaholic).
This pastor, however, wanted to really be set free from his addiction and not simply transfer it to something else. So instead of focusing on the fruit of his pain-inducing beliefs (the pornography fixation), we looked beneath the surface to allow the true causes of his pain-medicating behavior to unfold. Like most folks, this was a methodology foreign, yet familiar to him.
We rarely think about this process of natural association, yet perform it constantly. Just as we never think about our internal organs until one of them “cries out,” we also do not think about the how or why we make the decisions that we do, or have the emotional responses we do to external stimuli.
Everything that ever happens in our lives is brought into our souls through our marvelous senses and processed and categorized. It is considered and compared to thousands of “files” from past memory pictures and emotional happenings and then it is acted upon. It happens so fast that it is nearly imperceptible — unless you take the time to ponder it.
Which brings me to our subject: lust.
Lust by itself is not, in fact, a bad word. It is a neutral word that is absolutely synonymous with the word “covet” and the word “desire.” The reason I want to slow down and define it is for us to realize the gravity with which we use words. Even in the English language, lust does not mean “see.” It does not mean recognize. It does not mean appreciate. It does not mean despise. It means hunger, crave, intend to possess.
Depending on the context, lust can mean earnestly desire or it can mean wrongfully desire.
And [Jesus] said to them, “I have earnestly lusted to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. (Luke 22:15 ESV)
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Jesus speaking in Matthew 5:28 ESV)
Yes, exactly the same word. Each context determines whether it is “good” lust or “bad” lust. When we are lazy with language, we end up degrading words and their meanings. Remember the Ten Commandments? The last one? You shall not Covet? It is just as accurate to read it You Shall Not Lust…after another man’s wife or possessions.
Is there such a thing as good lust? Perhaps for our ears, the word “desire” sounds more pleasant. Either way, they’re the same word in the original tongue. Scripture offers encouragement for positive desires and prohibitions for negatives ones. Each type is based on the context of the desire.
In summary, Paul writes in Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the lusts of the flesh.” In turn, what we will do is gratify the lusts of the spirit.
What about the blind man? If men are so damnably stimulated by sight, then by definition a blind person could never commit this sin. Yet, instead of facing the truth that wrongful lust is a matter of the heart, we have gone to the drastic measure of making rules and restrictions of the strictest sort, thinking perhaps that forced blindness is the answer.
The truth is that a blind man can lust and covet wrongfully any of the things or persons that a sighted man or woman can. It is not the physical attributes that endanger us. It is the evil intentions of our hearts. Wrongful lust requires intent to possess.
What Do a Pufferfish and a Bikini Have in Common?
Do you suffer from “felt board Christianity?” If so, it can seem like the Bible is a simplistic bunch of stories with generalized rules for life. “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” it has been called. Do you want to go deeper? At some point, I think we all do. We have to peel back the layers and dive in.
Everything Jesus is trying to teach us about the Christian life begins in the heart.
We defined what lust is and what lust is not, so now let’s talk about how the word has been redefined and dumbed down. Large swaths of Christianity presently equate the recognition of beauty in our gender differences as wrongful lust. And because of this lowering of the bar, new concepts have been added in to compensate for the change of definition.
Sight itself has become the bogeyman.
Everywhere we look (no pun intended), it seems there are things and people to see (and I guess that means danger!). When we pop our heads up, we hear this refrain of warning: Men are visually stimulated. Heads down, men. Look away!
It’s the subject of radio programs and talk shows: Men are visually stimulated. Volumes have been written around the postulate that men are visually stimulated. I wonder how many millions and millions of dollars are changing hands based on this mantra that men are visually stimulated?
Perhaps we should follow the money. Pornographers and anti-pornographers all benefit financially by continuing to chant this mantra, but never utter this secret truth: women are visually stimulated, too. Simple biology tells us that human beings have senses. One of those is sight. Placing visual stimulation in our targets as the problem only creates a missed opportunity for success and creates a vicious, vicious cycle of shame. Relationships suffer and real problems go unsolved.
The combination of the visual stimulation mantra and the watered down definition of lust have been well crafted into a deadly recipe. The visual stimulation lie wrongly makes women responsible for the conduct of male human beings and takes volitional control completely out of the picture. Men have a responsibility to control their thoughts and their actions. Our self-control problems are not the responsibility of the the fairer sex.
This idea that men are mere predatory animals bound to their wild inhibitions and bursting at the seams with wrongful desire is childish and foolish. And I propose that pointing to visual stimulation is the wrong place to conclude a discussion about lust. Stimulation is a bogeyman because stimuli will always exist. We have applied the wrong labels to the way our bodies react. Stimulation is not sin.
The real test of a man (or a woman) is how she learns to respond to that stimulus.
People have tried for ages to remove sin by removing the potential for temptation. In this case, the common strategy is to consider that if men are visually stimulated, the stimuli must be removed. Except, stimulus is not the cause of wrongful lust, is it? Stimulation is only a sensation, placed by God in our very real, very flesh-and-blood bodies. This strategy will fail.
We’re alive. We feel. We see. We smell and taste. We sense. We respond because we’re alive.
Let’s make this real.
Close your eyes and step outside into the breeze. [It’s ok, you can come right back.] Feel that tickle as the air move across the delicate hairs on your skin? It’s stimulating. Walk into the kitchen when someone you love is baking bread. Take in a deep whiff. Smell that? It’s stimulating. Feel the seat beneath you. Press your foot into the floor. Your sense of touch is being stimulated.
Oh, look, a person! Any person. Maybe it’s a woman. Maybe it’s a man. What are they wearing? What color are their eyes? Are they tall, short, brown, pale, thin, sturdy? Observe their facial expression and posture.
This is the Imago Dei. The Image of God. It really doesn’t matter what they look like, what they wear or what they’re doing–your vision is being stimulated by the greatest of God’s Creation: a human being.
Don’t turn away. God wants us to see–and be seen–by each other.
This is why Jesus, rather than condemning our bodies, constantly brings us back to the heart.* But that is not all He did. He gave us the KEY to overcome wrongful lusting and coveting!
The pastor I spoke of was healed by this key: He learned to see the truth. Jesus renewed his mind–changed the way he thinks–in regard to the goodness of the body and set him free from the lies that had led him to seek out false intimacy as pain management. He is still free of pornography today, and that addiction did not shift to something else.
As we continue, here are some points to ponder:
- God made our bodies, both male and female. They are good. Gen 2:25
- Modesty is an attitude, not a dress code.
- Lust comes forth from the heart and is the responsibility of the luster.
- To the pure, all things are pure. Titus 1:15
- A weaker brother does not have strong opinions; that’s how we know he’s weak.
- We are to grow the weak to maturity, not leave them to stagnation.
- Uncomfortable truth may not feel good at first, but eventually we feel its freedom.
- Truth does not equal American Culture or even Christian traditions.
- Cultures change, yet Truth remains. And it sets us free.
As I have learned to come to my senses on what lust actually means–that it is a heart-directed, neutral term–it has freed my mind to focus on people as whole individuals, rather than divide them, body and soul.
Freedom to walk in the spirit enables us to follow Christ wherever He leads.
Have you embraced this truth? Do you see people as whole, or does that idea cause fear? If so, what stops you from really seeing others, body and soul?*Yes, I realize Jesus once said tear out your eye and cut off your hand. That was metaphor, friends. metaphor. Remember, we’re going beyond the felt board.
10 thoughts on “Coming to our Senses”
I really appreciate the clear logic in this article! It takes a topic that has been made unnecessary confusing and brings great clarity. Thanks Phil and Jason!
P.S. I also love the photo “The Sky is on Fire.”
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I like this thought. It is what is behind our eyes that is causing the problem. Fix that and we have freedom.
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It’s like as if Jesus knew something, right?
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I’m about half-way through Slaying Dragons by Daniel Kolenda, which is, so far, one of the best books I’ve read on spiritual warfare, and I’ve read many. He has one chapter on “The Zeitgeist,” a German term meaning “the spirit of the times,” which keeps changing as time passes. But the changes are always opposed to God’s truth. Your article made me think of that fact.
While our senses are God’s good gifts, they can be deceptively manipulated by Satan to divert our attention from God’s will. When under the control of a mind and will surrendered to God, our senses equip us, as God’s embodied image-bearers and representatives, to engage in the co-creative work of cultivating, guarding, categorizing, taming and managing this planet. Satan, the god of this age, tempts us to trade our servant-leadership role for a self-indulgent, self-gratifying, self-serving lifestyle of seeking out and satisfying evil “lusts” (desires). Our proper “lust” (desire) should be to use all that we are and have, including our senses, to serve God and His Kingdom’s purposes.
Satan’s current “zeitgeist” has saturated these times with an extreme self-focus, and the sexually objectifying lust behind porn and all sex addictions is only one manifestation of the present trend in worldly thinking through which Satan is controlling human minds. While I’m confident that anyone can still be set free to serve by embracing—through Christ’s Cross and Resurrection—a death of self-will and a life of self-surrender, the radical godlessness of this present “zeitgeist” keeps the Bible’s last prayer often on my lips: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
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Great comment and book recommendation!
The lust addiction, like sexual lust addiction, such as porn, is not always a dealing with pain response. In my own case there was no pain to deal with. I had a wonderful childhood experience, flawlessly and intentionally planned by my mother to get me and my sister and brother raised to be pure minded and devoted to serving the Lord. Get us out on the land, homeschool us, etc. But in spite of her best efforts I fell into a lust addiction, it was a porn addiction even though I failed to realize that for quite some time. Because it was not external porn in pictures. (that was not avalible to me anyway) It can seem weird but my own body became my porn and my lusts ran out of control over myself. It would have very easily slipped over into open gay lifestyle if God’s word had not been well impregnated in my mind as the rule of life. But I managed to keep it secret and involve no other person. But I tried for 30 years to control my raging lust with self discipline and nothing would work. Finally throwing it all in God’s lap in imagination I said to Him “You clean up my mind, I can’t do it” And He started leading me to discover what had happened that got it started and how to reverse it.
It was simply my mothers attitude toward the body of; “It’s dirty, it’s lewd, it’s lust generating, cover it up to prevent the lust” (as if God created live porn when He made us) She thought that was the righteous way to look at it. So I never had opportunity as a child to see these bodies of ours and normalize them in common life, and when maturity started to happen my carnal nature latched onto them as lust feedstock material. And I do recall when that happened at around 13 years old. When I started looking at myself with lust. I now know that if I’d have been runnin naked a lot as a child my body would have been such a common sight to myself, so that exposure to the open air and sight would have been nothing to me. So my lusts would never have been able to do that. So I learned that lusts and addiction to bad lust is not something we can just choose to stop thinking about and leave behind, but our mind gets conditioned into it by something, and as such it can be conditioned back out by reversing or redirecting the conditions that conditioned it in. In my case all I needed to do to reverse condition my mind out of the lust addiction was to choose to go naked in as much of daily life as possible and ignore myself until I almost forget I’m not wearin anything. As the conscious mind is trained to see and ignore, the subconscious lust generating part of the brain is compelled to also see and ignore on the lust level, and that lust addiction fades away. It’s a simple concept, and fact of the psychology of lust operation in the mind. Just something that’s been missed by most.
So it follows that the way God set things up in Eden is the way to raise children to be free of the carnal lusts. Families living in natural settings, naked together and unashamed. Plus the diet would be the best too. Pursuing both I enjoy being a naturist timber cutter and farmer, Love to tend the garden and orchard as God designed. Like joining Adam in Eden.
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Thanks for your story and testimony!
The depth of the comments reveals how close to the heart this hits. Several parts of it spoke to me and others have commented on them. I’d like to highlight this paragraph:
“Lust by itself is not, in fact, a bad word. It is a neutral word that is absolutely synonymous with the word “covet” and the word “desire.” The reason I want to slow down and define it is for us to realize the gravity with which we use words. Even in the English language, lust does not mean “see.” It does not mean recognize. It does not mean appreciate. It does not mean despise. It means hunger, crave, intend to possess.”
The late Dr. Walter Martin often said that debates are won or lost at the beginning, not the end, by nailing down the definition of words that are easily misunderstood or deliberately manipulated.
Thank you, Jason. Thank you Phil.
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This so needed to be written. So needs to be read. So needs to be understood. So needs to be internalized! Thank you Jason. I’d like to know more about Theophostic ministry.