Ours is a day where biblical sexuality is under assault. From attacks from homosexuality, pornography, transgenderism, and the list seems to go on and on, we have a big problem. While some of these problems are new, many of them are not. We can tend to think that the problems in our day are greater than in past times and that people haven’t wrestled with the problems in the present in the past. As Solomon reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 there is nothing new under the sun. C.S. Lewis once described this attitude as “chronological snobbery.”
Chronological snobbery is misinformed. People have thought deeply about lust, adultery, and a whole host of other issues. Our cultural blinders open us up to self-deception- the thinking that we are the only people to be dealing with an issue when in truth lust continues on unchecked because the heart of man is sinful.
Earlier Christians wisely included lust among the deadliest sins. For lust is the impregnated parent of all forms of sin. James explained that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14–15).
The Deadly Venom of Lust
From the first stolen bite of forbidden fruit to the avaricious gaze of mall-bound window shoppers, lust has coursed through the hearts of men like the most poisonous venom.
Lust involves any strong desire, craving, or want that opposes the holy will and command of God. Lust perverts, twists, and defiles all that is good and beautiful, and this is particularly true with sexual or carnal lust.
For example, many men and now women struggle with pornography. Pornography though feeds into the lie that worldly pleasure can bring satisfaction, when in truth only in the Lord can we have pleasure forevermore (Psalm 16:11). Worldly pleasure may seem satisfying at first and pleasant.
Pornography promises much but blinds it’s victims to the ugliness of condemnation and shame. Instead of living in the light and communing with Christ, pornography addicts experience a world of guilt and shame. Not only this but pornography warps our minds, perverts our view of humanity, and objectives the opposite sex.
Pornography assaults biblical manhood and womanhood by telling us we can be whoever we want, with whomever, whenever we want. It promises us we can have that flawless person on a screen whose been pampered and given an image that doesn’t portray who they are. Pornography begins with the promise of momentary pleasure and ends in condemnation and shame, and the deification of the opposite sex. Also, lust blinds men to the fact that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a holy God.
What is the antidote to this ensnaring, soul-destroying vice? It is the cultivation of chastity.
Cultivating chastity begins with the knowledge of God and His will. The Apostle Paul captures this relationship well. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thess. 4:3–5). Unbelieving Gentiles are given over to lust because they do not know God. But those who do know God and His will pursue moral and sexual purity. And how can it be otherwise since God is light and in Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5)?
Moreover, this knowledge of God produces weeping over vice. Consider the Bible’s description of Lot during the days of Sodom and Gomorrah: “That righteous man lived among them day after day…tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard” (2 Peter 2:8). Lust grieved Lot. Likewise, the psalmist wept over the broken law of God in his day (Ps. 119:136). And the true disciples of Christ are the blessed who mourn (Matt. 5:4). They are also the pure in heart who will see God (Matt. 5:8). The road to chastity begins with weeping, but it ends in the beatific vision of God Himself.
Christ Jesus gave Himself to purchase a lawless people (Titus 2:14), who are then made clean in conscience, heart, and soul through faith in Christ alone (Heb. 9:13–14; James 4:8). This is why Paul could borrow the image of chastity to describe Christ’s ongoing purification of the Bride (Eph. 5:27) as well as his own labors on behalf of the Corinthian church: “I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2). When we see Christ, we shall be like Him — pure (1 John 3:2–3).
Thus is the superiority of chastity over lust demonstrated. Lust works its way toward death. Chastity leads to the glories of heaven with Christ Jesus and the Father. Can there really be any doubt as to which path is best?