Use of pornography and other sexual sins are rampant in our culture and in the church. Many have concluded that such behavior or at least the lust that drives them is fundamentally an unsolvable problem, a sin that will not be defeated in the lives of God’s children. But this response is unacceptable in the face of the severe and incalculable damage that lust inflicts upon lives, families, and fellowships.
God made us with desire – desire for intimate relationship with Him and for meaningful service in His world. The Fall perverted those desires. The quest for intimacy was replaced by a desire for its quickest counterfeit: illicit sexual pleasure. Our God-given desire for meaningful service and intimacy in relationship was twisted to a lust for power over others and sexual gratification. The longing for impact and intimacy became a lust for control and bodily gratification.These counterfeits appeal to us because they seek to replace God and His high standards with something that is familiar and undemanding.
If we want to overcome lust, we need to recognize what we are dealing with. A good place to start is to understand the “sexual buzz”—the electric feeling of pleasure that makes sex so enjoyable. The psychobiologic sexual buzz involves our emotions, our bodies, and our cognitive functions. God designed these feelings for good. The sexual buzz occupies an essential role as an early phase of intimacy within the sexual union of marriage. Without it, we would not become aroused and sex probably would not happen enough to keep reproduction going or marital ties binding. The sexual buzz is only appropriate inside the marriage relationship.
When we misuse this capacity—allowing ourselves an illicit sexual buzz—it is sinful lust. Consider the following definition as a way to understand this:
Sexual lust—the illicit sexual buzz—is willfully allowing pleasurable gratification of wrongfully directed sexual desire that takes place deep inside.
Let’s break that down:
1. Willfully allowed—It is something we choose to do. It is not forced upon us. Giving in to it may be driven by habit and undertaken without deliberation, but it is still a choice on our part.
2. Pleasurable—We enjoy it. The illicit sexual buzz is intensely enjoyable in a way we cannot fully understand. God designed us so that even when we are merely looking to enjoy legitimate sexual pleasure, looking to lust, or contemplating sexual activity, we are able to realize a pleasurable sexual buzz.
3. Gratification—We recognize when it happens because something clicks into place. We may claim that we are “doing nothing” and may be able to fool others, but we
should not try to fool ourselves. God is not fooled.
4. Wrongfully directed sexual desire—We are focusing our attention in a way that is not right. The sexual buzz is only proper when it is grounded within a marriage relationship. This is hard to accept when we are in bondage to lust. We look for a way to justify our waywardly pointed gratification of sexual desires—to convince ourselves that it is okay to let them roam.
5. Taking place deep inside—We cannot fully understand how the sexual buzz takes place. Our psychobiologic response is deep-seated and intensely personal. It occurs quickly and unmistakably, long before (and oftentimes without any) externally visible evidence.
This is, admittedly, a rather complicated definition. Jesus distilled all these elements into a phrase that instantly rings true. He termed what takes place when we sin this way “adultery in the heart” (Matthew 5:28). In doing so, he included all of the above elements with an elegant, penetrating simplicity that a Christian cannot dismiss from his conscience.