(The problem of lust, part 2)
There’s a theme park that has an iconic building with a small hole in the exterior wall. Above the hole are the words with an arrow pointing to it saying, “Don’t look here!” Of course, that’s exactly what everyone does. You look in the hole and there is some creepy picture or something. I don’t even remember what’s in there, but it’s funny anyway!
It’s true of human nature that when you make a rule you get almost nothing but infractions! Take this sign as another prime example. This poor “No target shooting” sign has been nothing but a target for shooting! And this bird pictured atop a “no birds” sign is not unlike the behavior of its human counterparts.
Let’s keep thinking along these lines for closer examination. The prohibition era made liquor illegal, but did nothing to curb the drinking problem. It gave rise to the black market and launched many homemade moonshine operations.
Andrew Farley has a book called “The Naked Gospel” (not a naturism book) that points out the futility of the law to save one’s soul. Yes, we say only Jesus saves, but then we try to go back to a pseudo law-based form of Christianity. It’s not working very well! I heard Farley use this illustration in a message the other day: the law is like a mirror. It points out problem areas like a mirror would show we need to care for our teeth. The mirror will not fix anything, it will only show where our needs are. You don’t chip off a piece of the mirror and use it on your teeth. That’s not why it’s made!
I saw this quote the other day by David A. Holland in “Praying Grace” that was quite insightful: “Adam and Eve’s labor to create fig leaf garments to cover their shame represents mankind’s very first religious work. Cain’s rejected offering was the second (and that rejection led to the first murderous rage.) From the Tower of Babel, to the meticulous rules and regulations of the Pharisees, to all of the world religions, right up to our modern day– fallen man’s impulse has been to work or earn our way back into the Garden of Eden.”
I used to suffer from a problem with porn. Of course that was because I had a problem with lust. This developed in part because of youth groups and other Christian guys telling me that we all had this problem and needed to work hard to fight against it. The very prohibitions and warnings made me curious and wanting to see for myself how bad porn really was. I realize I can’t blame anyone else for my own behavior. James 1:14 (KJV) says, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.” This is true, however, the “laws” against such actions, were a factor for creating the very problem with lust which they intended to prevent. We are already programmed in our culture to respond sexually to the sight of bare skin. The church in its teaching (though well meaning) reinforces these ideas and makes it seem as that’s the only “natural” way for men to respond.
So that’s how I responded. I did not like porn, but I couldn’t ever quite shed it from my life. I knew it wasn’t good for me or my relationship with my wife. But even that knowledge and the “rules” did nothing to stay my desire. It was like Romans 7:7-8 (KJV) “I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence.” And a few verses later, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15 NIV) I was indeed asking the final question in this passage, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” (Romans 7:24 NIV) I felt like a dog returning to its vomit. I felt so much guilt and shame. I felt like I was a disappointment to God. As a result, I hated the body God gave me because of my actions toward it and the impure thoughts in my head. I wondered why most of the Christian men I know also expressed this lifelong struggle?
The solution seemed to be more will power and more rules to safeguard against the power of lust working against us. Like the Pharisees, we’ve added more regulations to God’s ideals and created man-made traditions and “solutions” that have solved nothing. Also, like with the Pharisees, the law becomes a breeding ground for hypocrisy. “These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:23 ESV)
Indeed it’s as futile as wiping away a spider web. It won’t solve your problem if the spider is still alive. They will surely reappear. Man-made attempts at defeating porn may wipe away the webs, but the spider of lust is at the ready to come right back unless you kill it.
Then something surprising and unexpected occurred. I saw that naturists had an aversion to porn. They were adamant that nudity does not equal porn. It seemed they had a greater respect for the body then everyone else. They were also less judgmental towards others than most Christians, who should excel in these virtues. Even Christians were naturists and held the body and everyBODY in a sort of holy esteem that is more biblical than our present day dualistic views, where we see the world through spirit=good and body=bad lenses.
Could it be that some people don’t fall into lust at the sight of nudity? Or are their hearts hardened? No, from what I’ve observed firsthand, these people are more passionate about the Lord than the average church goer. This baffled me, but I was so drawn by it. What’s the worst that could happen? I gave this lifestyle a try, and found those claims to be true. There’s an innocent beauty in these people. They are not perverted. The way I used to be was perverted (at least on the inside). Now that way of thinking has completely vanished as my mind has been renewed.
Is my conscience seared? Am I desensitized? No, the body is simply demystified for me. It’s lost its allure. I no longer fixate on body parts that our culture has deemed purely sexual. Do we not all have the same parts? Is the body only for sex? Isn’t there more to a person than their body?
Jesus said in Matthew 5:28, “If your eye causes you to sin gouge it out.” What if it doesn’t? I reject the notion that my eye will cause me to sin. This seems unbelievable to those in the church because they teach it’s an automatic reaction, so we need to avoid any sight of anything that could be tempting. They haven’t worked through their own views of the body, not realizing that they are projecting their own impure thoughts onto everyone else. They would rather have a set of rules and follow them as best as they can. They would rather cover up the women with phony and arbitrary modesty standards that do nothing to curb men’s lustful thoughts. It only serves to excuse their behavior and place blame on the clothing choices of others instead of taking responsibility for their own thought life.
Lust is not a sight problem, it is a heart problem. As Jesus himself declares in Mark 7:21 (NIV), “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come.”
I’m done with all that! I’d rather focus on relationship with the Lord instead of rule keeping. I’d rather please him out of my own desire, not as an obligation. It’s better to let Christ rule, instead of being bound by rules. There is a big difference there! He’s taken away the guilt and shame that used to hover over me unrelenting. He’s made me free because I have believed the truth (John 8:32), and that freedom is a gift that I do not take for granted. As Galatians 5:1 (NIV), “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
The compulsion I could never seem to control is gone for good, and so is the bondage that came with it.
Porn is the last thing I want to see now. My mind has been renewed and transformed (Romans 12:1-2). I don’t objectify others. Instead, I see everyone as a beautiful creation of God, worthy of respect as a fellow image bearer. I would never be in the healthy place I find myself through a system of rules. It’s a rejection of culture, tradition, an embracing of God’s truth, and a desire to live righteously out of gratitude that has made all the difference. The Lord is gracious to me, and I’m happy to honor him and others around me. I no longer serve the Lord with a double mind out of guilt and shame. Now I serve him out of a heart of joy. Relationship will always yield much better results than rules ever could obtain for us.
Ending this addiction was so easy, I could hardly believe it. That’s because God did the work, and I stopped trying. Indeed I was surprised into freedom!