It is a sad characteristic of man’s fallen nature to be not only discontent with God’s gracious provisions, but to seek pleasure and fulfillment in excess or in what is unlawful for him. Eve followed the deception of the devil, and every generation since then is left restlessly seeking fulfillment. The devil’s lie did not satisfy Eve’s desires, and it will never satisfy ours either. Outside of contentment with God’s will, a heart will repeatedly set its sight on something else. Throughout our Bible, examples of real people are given to teach us lessons (1Cor 10:6). At the same time, the world has much to “offer” us. In our own experiences, we catch a glimpse of something, and deep within, we feel the response of our heart toward it before our arms even move. Lust and covetousness, like the others on this list of the Christian’s most unwanted, do not regard God’s will, law, schedule, or present grace. They call for immediate and abundant fulfillment from the object that is within their sights but not yet in hand. Tragically, these two companions do not limit their influence to unbelievers, but find opportunities to express themselves in the redeemed as well.
In Ephesians 2:3, Paul speaks of the past desires of the flesh and mind. Our Lord spoke of sins committed in the heart. Peter tells us in his second epistle that, “fleshly lusts war against the soul.” So, from an influenced mind, lust develops in our heart and wars against the soul. At our very core – in our mind, heart, and soul – a battle is fought on a daily basis. It is no wonder, then, that Christians struggle at times to avoid the trap of strong desire.
Lust and covetousness are closely related in our Bible. Both words are used in our English versions for various Hebrew and Greek terms relating to strong desire. The lust of the flesh is the inborn nature of man, which seeks to gratify itself. Paul tells us in Galatians 5:16 to “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Interestingly, in this chapter that deals with our liberty and freedom in Christ, Paul goes on to say in verse 24 that “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” When a man with this natural outlook sets his heart to attain something beyond God’s will for him, he is coveting or lusting after it. Many sins are committed through lust; however, the sin of coveting or lusting is simply the longing itself for an object, position, or experience.
In Numbers 11 the mixed multitude fell to lusting for meat and influenced the people to cry for it. They despised the manna and set their hearts on the desire for meat. Meat was not sinful, but their strong desire for it was, especially when God had already provided for them. We are told in Psalm 106 that the people “waited not for his counsel: but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.” All desires and affections are not lustful. We should have interests, focus, and goals especially with respect to eternal things. Colossians 3 tells us to seek (like something hidden) those things which are above. New life in Christ gives us new vision and desires for His things. The chapter establishes the goal to have a mind set on Christ, a heart focused on others, and a life influenced by the Word of God. This goal will develop the blessed results of enjoyment of the peace of God, grace, and the spirit of thanksgiving. These are true riches and delights.
We are impressed with the fact that a war against our soul can start by a single sight or sound. A desire need only be strong enough to turn an eye or cause a finger to click a mouse to change the course of a life. This is why we are told to make no provision for the flesh, to abstain from fleshly lusts, and to flee youthful lusts. Psalm 119:37 says, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.”
It is remarkable that what can be so attractive to us in a moment of temptation is really ugly and undesirable to the spiritually lucid mind. John tells us the lust of the flesh is of the world and not of the Father. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the words that accompany and describe lusts are: deceitful, foolish and hurtful, youthful, varied, worldly, fleshly, and ungodly. Every heart has the potential to respond to something found in this ungodly world, and is desperately wicked. If we were to think of the ugliness and the root of ungodliness that is found within us, we would repeat the desperate cry of the apostle of Romans 7:24, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Only our Lord Jesus Christ, with no sin of His own within, can deliver us.
The varied influences of the world neither would, nor ever could, find any reception in His holy heart. In Luke 16, the Pharisees are described as covetous, and the Greek behind this word means, “friend of silver.” Our Lord is the friend of sinners. And instead of pleasing Himself, Peter tells us that He “suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow His steps.” His were sinless steps. His were sacrificial steps. His were steps that pleased the heart of God to Whom He committed Himself.
We have a choice to make each moment: to follow our desires and please ourselves or to follow our Shepherd and please the Father. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1Tim 6:6).