Here is the second installment of my Mountains of Matthew series.
This one focuses on Jesus’ sermon on the mount. However, due to the extensive length of this passage, I am not going to include it all. Feel free to read it all on your own.
Jesus’ sermon begins in Matthew 5 and goes all the way through chapter 8.
The main theme of this mountain is: we must go to the mountain to be taught.
In this sermon on the mount, Jesus teaches about and touches on a variety of subjects. Coming off the mountain of temptation with the Devil and from an intense forty day fast just a few chapters prior, He is full and ready to pour out His wisdom. He gives the famous Sermon on the Mount, declaring the blessings that are to follow the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek, those who seek righteousness and are persecuted.
From that He moves into topical teaching, leaving almost no topics left unspoken on: Salt and light, fulfillment of the law, anger, lust, oaths, retaliation, loving our enemies, being generous, how to pray, fasting, making eternal investments, anxiety, judging others, how to treat others, spiritual fruitfulness and building a proper foundation of faith. He basically gave us a road map on how to live. Some of the language may seem strange at times but we have to keep in mind the culture and audience Jesus was speaking to.
Out of all those things, one stuck out to me in a way that it never has. I read over the whole portion of scripture in which Jesus was teaching on this mountain and what He decided to teach me about came from His lesson on lust.
So, that’s what I am going to unpack for you today.
“27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 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. 30 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 hell.“
Now, now. Don’t freak out and go clicking off this page. I know that is a passage of scripture surrounded with contention and some taboos. It is a bit daunting and to our modern-day culture, its language comes across as extreme. Myself even, up until now, have found it as a passage I knew about but avoided using because of its language. But, God is always good, always wise and always revealing new things to hearts open to understand. So, as He prompted me to stop on this part for the first time I did.
Being a theology major now, my view on the Bible is changing. A simple thing I’ve learned is about Biblical repetition. Numbers have significance in the Bible as well as repetition, any time you see either of these things, pay attention and look for correlations of wording and or repetition of the numbers. In short, repetition = emphasis.
We see a repetition of basically the same sentence twice in this passage. I bolded them for you to see. It was that repetition that grabbed my attention.
“For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body to be thrown into hell.”
“For it is better that you lose one of your members than your whole body go into hell.”
The only difference to be found is in the two phrases in italics. I looked up the original meanings of each phrase using Blue Letter Bible (wonderful website for helping with more textual studies of the Bible) and this is what I found.
thrown into = Greek: ballo = to be thrown or let go of a thing without caring where it falls.
go into = Greek: aprechomai = to go away, to depart.
Now, after all of that, this is what started to be revealed to me.
Lust comes in many forms.
It isn’t just a term reserved for sexual desires, it is applicable to so many things in our life.
We can lust after relationships (both romantic and platonic), we can lust after jobs, materialistic things, physical appearances, money, status, and yes the lust that this passage mentions.
Lust, in summary is desiring in an unhealthy way. To clarify, there is nothing wrong with having a desire for something/someone. Desire, if used in a healthy way, can be the fire that drives us to succeed in our goals. Desire, if used in a lustful way, can be the fire that drives us to obsession. This is the line that boarders in lust and obsession, healthy desire and unhealthy desire.
Let’s talk about the unhealthy side, the one we all, myself included, struggle with in some respect.
When we lust after things, we are really overlooking our voids and God’s power to fill them for what we have convinced ourselves will fill them. We look past God and into our inner, fallen and selfish selves. We try to fill our voids with money, fun, things and people when in reality, those things may work for a moment, but there is still a hole in our hearts. Lust is the result of the bleeding in our hearts that we haven’t allowed God to heal. Girls seek to fill daddy issues with relationships that lead nowhere, searching for affirmation from a boy who will never fix them. Or for men its searching to be as masculine as possible to overcompensate for the lack of manly guidance as a boy trying to grow into a man. There is a void. We have discontentment in our heats from not feeling significant so we search for significance with materialistic items or through friendships that add absolutely no value to us. There is a void. Our attempt at filling this void shows that we are devoid of handing over a certain area of our lives to God. Lust, at its core, is really just a root of pride and hurt. Pride + hurt = a dangerous combination.
When we seek what we want over what God has planned for us, we encounter a two-step phenomenon. This is why I broke down the different phrases back in the passage. When we first start walking in lust, we’re throwing away what is right for what seems satisfying. As Christians we are ballo, having our trust in God thrown away, without the care of where it falls. This can be momentary or the first step in a long trip down the path of lust. If this ballo continues to happen, if our lust is not stopped, healed or evaluated, we walk into aprechomai,a departing from our trust in God entirely. Unfortunately, a lot of people live their lives in this place. Their wounds have been deep, their past has been painful, their hearts have been bleeding for so long that their lust driven actions have simply become their reality. That hole, that void cannot be filled by the things of earth. I don’t belive that everyone who reads this post has been being eaten alive by lust, but that doesn’t mean that someone reading this post hasn’t or is starting to discover that their heart is being pulled on by lust.
Thankfully, the lust in our hearts is not stronger than the Healer of our hearts.
I love this quote by St.Augustine, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.”
The first step to overcoming lust in our lives is finding healing in God. Remember how we talked out how lust is a result from a lack of healing? How is it rooted in our fear of handing over that certain area in our lives to the Lord? When we allow God to touch the hurts in our life, they no longer have any more power than what we choose to give them. Healing starts the process of filling the void. However this time, since we are filling it with God and not the things that we’ve lusted after, the hole will actually stay full.
The second step to overcoming lust in our life is finding contentment in God.
After our wounds have been healed, we can start removing the lustful things because we now have something better to replace them with. Loneliness is replaced with love. Discontentment is filled with deliverance. Hurt finally receives healing. We find contentment in the Lord when we turn over our hurts to His hands, resting in the knowledge that He has the power to turn them into distant memories. When we are living lust driven lives, we push God to the side. Healed lives bring God back in. Start reengaging with God. Read His word, find the verses that go with the things you have struggled with and declare it over your life. Pray it out, it can be easy to trick yourself into believing you’re alone when you stop talking to the person who never leaves you.
On another note, do what you can in the physical to help aid the contentment process in the spiritual. What do I mean by this? Unfollow that person. Block that website. Block the other websites too. Fast social media. Get a financial accountability partner. Set a spending limit. Say goodbye to that group of people who influence you in the worst way. Go to the gym and work out that anger. Clear out your secret stash, no if ands or buts about keeping anything. Get a mentor who you will allow to speak into your life no matter what. I don’t know what you struggle with, I don’t know what your stumbling block is but here’s the thing, its always going to be a stumbling block until you move it out of your path. Seeking contentment in the spiritual is wonderful, highly encouraged and something that cannot be omitted from the contentment process, but know that there are things in the physical realm you must do to get full healing.
To close this post, know that the Lord was speaking to my own heart while writing this. I have areas of my life that have some prideful hurt within them that I need healing in. If you found yourself recognizing lust in your life over this post, you’re not alone. This week, every morning, I am going to start my day with this prayer and I welcome you to join me:
Lord, I thank you for this day and all the blessings within it.
Today, help me walk in contentment.
When the hurts in my heart try to lead me from your satisfying love, remind me of who You are, what You do and what You can do if I let you.
Heal my heart and remove anything within it that stems from lust.
I am healed, I am content and joyful in the name of Jesus.
Until next time, keep climbing the mountain.