The Great Adventure?
The 7 Deadly Sins
February 11, 2018
Have you ever asked the question . . . “What’s wrong with me?”
It’s a question we all ask ourselves from time to time. When we blow up at our kids or at our spouse, we wonder – – – what’s wrong with me? When we come home from the store with something else we don’t need and can’t afford – – – what’s wrong with me? When we wolf down that extra donut in the break room – – – when we fantasize about someone else, when we hear about someone’s good fortune and we become angry instead of happy for them, when we realize we’ve wasted another evening channel-surfing . . . whatever it is – – – we find ourselves asking “What’s wrong with me?!”
Something’s not right – – – somewhere deep inside our heart and spirit – – – we know, we’re not really happy, but it’s deeper than that. There’s no inner peace, there’s no joy. Sometimes, we’re not sure how we got there, but here we’re there. Physically, our vital signs are good, but something’s wrong inside. What’s wrong with us?
The unpopular answer is – – we’re sinful. It’s not a popular diagnosis, but it’s the truth. And no matter how much we protest, no matter how much better we may seem to be than other people, deep down we know something’s wrong — and it’s killing us. Ahh – don’t you love my uplifting messages?
Well, we’ve moved into the season of lent. Lent officially began on Valentine’s Day! What a day to start a season of preparation. Preparing to draw closer to the works of Jesus as He leads us to the cross. During the season of lent, the Christ follower is to pray, repent, maybe give up something or take up something . . . all with the purpose of becoming more like Jesus.
We ask the Lord to search our hearts and spirits to help us determine what’s wrong with us and how we can rid ourselves of our sinfulness. We’ve already started this process, and we’re going to continue through Easter to look at our sinfulness. But not just our sinfulness, but how we can overcome it. To do that, we’re going to use the seven deadly sins as our tool.
There is nothing in the Bible which explicitly states these are the 7 deadly sins. In short, the list of these sins began in the monastic movement around the 3rd century. Those who were in the monastic movement tried to remove themselves from the temptations and sinfulness of humanity. So, these monks and others would move to the desert and live in caves and huts, living like hermits.
But they realized no matter how much they distanced themselves from people, the sins they were running from, always seemed to show up and would destroy their communion with God and one another.
They discovered this sinfulness was in them. Wherever they went, that sin went with them. They could never outrun it.
It was Pope Gregory the Great in the 7th century who popularized the list, putting it in its current form and applying it to the daily lives of ordinary people. He actually wrote an eight-volume work on the sins! Wouldn’t that make for some nice bedtime reading?
So, that’s a little background to the 7 deadly sins. Now, my hope over the next weeks is that we would not dwell on how bad we are, we would not obsess on the sin, but we would focus on the cure. For every sin, there’s a corresponding virtue and in a sense a prescription to start to be healed.
Here’s a list of the 7 deadly sins ~
We’ve already talked about the sin of PRIDE. We spoke about that for 2 weeks. As a reminder, the antidote for pride is humility and humbleness. It’s when we seek to worship God and truly place God as Lord and Savior. We admit we are not God, never have been and never will be. God is God and we seek to worship Him by drawing closer to Him, loving Him and loving our neighbors as we consider them as more significant than ourselves.
Today, I want to look at the second item on that list. UGH! Nobody wants to deal with this one. Yet, in our world today . . . lust is front and center, even though we don’t want to talk about. I believe lust is one of the hidden demons in the #Metoo movement. I don’t say that to mock the movement. It takes courage to admit you’ve been abused because those who have been sexually abused are often made to feel guilty – – that they brought it on themselves. Those who have been abused should never be made to feel like the culprit.
I’m not here to talk about all that is going on out there with sexual assaults, I do believe it is an inordinate desire for power and control; which is backed by lust and evil which leads to these events which harm people in so many ways.
Someone took advantage of another person, and while we can say it’s all about sin, we can say one of the main underlying issues or sins is LUST! With that in mind, what is lust? How do we define it?
Lust can be defined as ~
1. uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite.
2. a passionate or overmastering desire or craving.
3. to have a yearning or desire; have a strong or excessive craving.
Those are 3 ways lust is defined. Generally we think about lust as it comes to our relationships. Lust is the cornerstone of adultery. Generally, we’re ok with the 8th commandment, do not commit adultery. I’ve never had a couple talk to me in premarital counseling about wanting to share one another.
Unless we’ve been wounded due to adultery, we don’t give it much thought. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus said ~
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
At this point, most people aren’t squirming in their seats. They’re all OK with what Jesus is saying. It’s the next lines that knock us over. Jesus continued saying ~
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.
Woe!! Is Jesus really saying what it sounds like? Does He really mean a little look but no touching isn’t okay? I mean, we live in a visual oriented world! If we do we’re committing adultery? What red blooded man doesn’t look, or what red blooded woman hasn’t oogled at Robert Redford, Matt Damon, Rock Hudson and Brad Pitt and whomever.
Now, I’m not going to just dwell on the lust that comes in our physical relationships. When we place others ahead of our spouses, when we have an inordinate craving and not just a craving but uncontrolled or illicit sexual desires for someone else, that’s sin. Jesus took us a step further, by saying, you can’t even look and fantasize. That’s pretty radical. But, Jesus was a radical.
What Jesus said next, was even more radical. Think about what He’s saying ~
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. – Matthew 5:27-30
Who really wants to hear that? On those grounds alone, you can see why people would want to crucify Him. He’s taking away my fun, my fantasy life. He’s telling me I’ve always got to be good. And what fun is that!!
Yet, Jesus’ point is that our connection with God should be our most important movement in life. Nothing should get in the way. And when it does, we’re in trouble. Because our priorities aren’t in the right place.
When we look at lusting after others. The root is self-pleasure. It’s making sure that we are the center of the universe. That we need to be in control and we are our own god. It’s a thirst to make sure we are satisfied – – in whatever way that means. For some it is sexual. And this leads to porn addictions and to control in relationships and to a poor sense of what makes a man or a woman.
But notice lust is not just confined to sex. Remember, lust is defined as ~
a passionate or overmastering desire or craving; a lust for power.
to have a strong or excessive craving.
When you have a powerful, passionate, excessive craving for something – that ultimately becomes our controlling feature. Have you ever wanted something so bad that you made sure you got it? Even if it cost more money, hurt yourself, or your family . . . but you didn’t let anything get in your way from getting what you were lusting after.
Carry the idea out further, because it isn’t just sexual connections after which we lust, is it? Is there really a problem with a little lusting after the things we see in catalogues and shopping malls, so long as we don’t actually pull out the credit card?
Suppose we honestly want to take better care of our bodies so that they’ll be healthy temples. Is there really any problem if we just browse the candy aisle? What could be wrong with this?
What about craving to be the boss. Who doesn’t want to be in charge, to tell people what to do, how high to jump, to make more money. And we justify that craving for power, by saying, “well, I can give more money to God and His kingdom if I make more money!” And when the money comes in, we don’t give more money, we crave new things to put in our homes.
You see, lust is all about our heart. Actually all 7 deadly sins are about our heart. It’s really a battle . . . and the problem is – and this may be the most important point we really don’t believe we are in a battle. We think it’s all good because we can justify our actions.
I have said this many times – – we are in a spiritual war. We are fighting for our hearts, souls, minds and bodies.
Think about the verse I’ve used so many times – – from John 10:10 ~
10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy . . . – John 10:10
Or from Revelation 12:17 ~ 17 Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring,
on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. – Revelation 12:17
Do you understand what satan is out to do? He’s out to destroy us. He’s making war with us, and we think we’re in some silly game!
Dallas Willard points out that, so far as the Bible describes it, the human “heart” is the executive center of our lives. The writer of Proverbs commands us ~
23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. – Proverbs 4:23
A spiritually healthy heart pumps out choices that influences for the better all of our relationships and activities. When my heart is healthy, I’m a better husband, father, pastor, friend, coach. Whatever it is I am doing, I’m better . . . because my focus is on bringing glory to God as my top priority.
So, we’re moving to the antidote? What is the prescription to help us move from lust? In some ways, the 7 deadly sins overlap one another.
Many of them can be answered with the same prescription and I think you will hear some of the same over the next several weeks. I believe there are a few things we can do to help us refrain from lust and to say NO when we are tempted.
We can learn from what Paul tells us in the book of Philippians. He wrote ~
12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect,
but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.
13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.
But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3
I want you to notice what Paul said . . . and it’s true for us as well. Firstly, Paul admits, and he’s done it in Romans, too, he admits he’s NOT perfect. He admits he doesn’t have life mastered. He makes mistakes, he messes up and he’s a sinner.
We must be able to admit we are sinners – in order to accept the power of God at any given moment. If we don’t admit our need for God, then we will have no spiritual power to combat whatever it is that’s attacking us. So, firstly admit you’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, just ask me, I’ll tell you! And you can tell me back!
But note what Paul is now going to do. He’s not going to give up! Instead, he plans to keep pushing forward. He does not accept defeat. He understands that Jesus has made Paul His own. Paul is now one of God’s kids. He has been adopted into the family of God and has been saved by the grace of God. So, Paul can say, I have not made it on my own. I made it only because of the power and grace of Jesus Christ, through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
So, with all of that in mind, Paul is pressing on. He is letting go of all of his past mistakes, sins, lusts, desires for power and control and add whatever else you want. He’s letting go of it because he believes without a shadow of a doubt that God has saved and redeemed him.
Instead of looking back, Paul is looking forward. He is pressing on, he’s straining forward. The image in Greek is of a hunter who is aggressively chase and pursuing his catch. That’s how hard Paul is moving forward. He’s aggressively pursuing the goal. The goal is victory in Jesus. Because he knows the call of Christ in his life is bigger and better than anything he can seek after on his own.
So, as we battle lust, the goal is to proclaim we are sinners in need of God’s redeeming grace. That we can’t heal ourselves. We can’t do it on our own, because we need God to overcome our sinfulness and shortcomings. Once we admit we’re in need of God’s grace, we can begin to seek Him, to draw closer to God’s presence and rely on His power, rather than a desire for our power.
But there are those times when we’ve had a bad day, and lust is calling out to us. Whether it’s physical, or lusting after power, or money or someone else’s possessions. It’s calling. It knows our weakness and we want to give in. It’s been a terrible, no good, horrible day. And we want to feel better, so we’re going to get better doing what we want. We’re going to indulge.
But, Paul comes back at us in the next chapter in Philippians telling us ~
8 Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,
if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8
Now, and this is NOT so easy folks, I want you to stop and consider what Paul’s saying. When you’re back is against the wall, and it will be. We all have those seasons in our lives where we feel like we’ve had it . . . and we want to give in.
Paul reminds us THINK ABOUT WHATEVER IS . . .
TRUE HONORABLE JUST
PURE LOVELY COMMENDABLE
He adds, if there is ANYTHING worthy of praise . . . then you need to think about these things.
Think about all of the good, consider the goodness of God, consider your spouses loveliness, consider all of the good God brings to you, consider all of your blessings, then say NO to whatever that temptation is. Knowing God is blessing you!
Finally, a couple of verses later, Paul tells us ~
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.– Philippians 4
Most of us are not content. We feel we’re missing something. We want something more, but we don’t know how to get it, so we get stuck chasing our tail and chasing something or someone we shouldn’t be. Paul reminds us, he’s learned the secret of being content.
Contentment does not come easily to most people. We have to learn it. We have to take time to develop a relationship with God, where we trust God for all that we receive. Yes, we have to get up and work and do all that we need to in order to care for our families. Yet, in the end, we must trust God. We must rest in the comfort which only God can bring. We have the great hope of abundant living in this world. But that starts only because we trust God. If we don’t then we will try to manufacture our provisions and those provisions will always pale in comparison