Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Give up something bad for Lent #5

Give up something bad for Lent #5

March 17, 2013



We have spent 5 weeks talking about some bad habits that might keep us from being the people God wants us to be. 

·        We have talked about habits of attitude like apathy and procrastination

·        We have talked about habits of the mouth like lying and evil speaking

·        We talked about what I'll call habits of the mind pointed outward at other people- the ones that come from your gut like anger, bitterness, and wrath.

·        We talked about habits of the mind pointed inward at ourselves like, distorted thinking, discouragement, and self-pity.

·        We talked about habits of the desires like envy, jealousy and greed.

·        Next week we will talk about the habit of the ego- pride. 

I know we have not hit every bad habit.  That would take a lifetime, but I have tried to cover the big categories: attitudes, mouth, mind, desires, the ego.  There is one more that I think we have to cover … the bad habit of the heart.  I am talking about LUST. 

Lust is a deep desire for something that is not yours.  Although one can lust for knowledge, money, or anything else, lust is commonly considered a sexual sin.

We don't preach about lust very much.  Maybe that's because in our sexually liberated society it has become the norm.  Perhaps it is because it makes us uncomfortable.  The Bible does not avoid the subject though.  The Bible has several stories of lust and the consequences of being controlled by sexual urges.

·        The most famous might be David and Bathsheba.  We could also name

·        Sodom and Gomorrah,

·        Lot and his daughters who had sex with him,

·        Potiphar's wife and Joseph,

·        Samson and his weakness for the ladies,

·        Solomon and his many wives and there are more.


The Bible does not teach that sexuality is bad.  On the contrary it teaches that from the very beginning God created us sexual beings and blessed us in our sexuality saying "be fruitful and multiply.[1]" Sexuality is a very good gift from God.  Like many other gifts, however, we are prone to abuse it.  Look at it this way…

·        Just because God gave us teeth doesn't mean it is OK to be a glutton.

·        Just because God gave us a tongue doesn't mean it is OK to lie.

·        Just because God gave us the ability to invent weapons doesn't mean it is OK to kill.

·        Just because God gave us eyes, doesn't make envy acceptable.

·        Just because God gave us sex organs, doesn't mean it is OK to use them indiscriminately.

One of the reasons so many people struggle with lust is that we live in a hyper-sexualized culture.  And that confuses people.

The story goes that when a preacher was getting ready to preach on lust he received a message on his answering machine.  It said, "Pastor, my wife and I are sitting outside the Church trying to decide whether or not to come to Church on Sunday.  The sign says you are preaching on Lust.  Is that a virtue or a vice?"

If we were just talking about confusion, it would be a little funnier.  The truth is that lust and sexual immorality is scary, because people are being hurt, the institution of marriage is crumbling, and lives are being destroyed.  Why the confusion?  I'll tell you…

·        When sex is used to sell everything in the world,

·         When sex is used to motivate,

·         and entice

·        and profit;

·        when sex is glorified in one scene and

·        cheapened in another, when it is

·        plastered all over the internet,

·        when we teach our children how to have safe sex- which translated means casual sex without commitment or consequences,

·        When we live in an "everything goes" and "we must be tolerant of everything" culture… no one knows what to think.

Let me tell you what the Bible thinks.  The Bible teaches that sex is only appropriate in the context of a committed and loving relationship called marriage.  I know that is unpopular, but that is all the more reason for me to say it.  I'll say it again.  Sex is only appropriate in the context of a committed and loving relationship called marriage. 

Lust is by definition outside the bonds of marriage.  It is destructive to our hearts, our relationships, our families and our culture.  That is why Jesus comes down so hard on Lust.  

In fact it seems like he goes a little too far, doesn't it?  Jesus says that lusting is just as bad as committing adultery.  That's a little extreme isn't it?

Well, let's back up and understand what is happening in the larger picture.

How can a thought be as bad as acting on it?  Because the action is only the last step in the sin- it is the one we can see, but a lot has to happen first.

That is where James comes in.  He explains that there is a process.  "One is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death."  In other words every sinful action has its roots in a thought- since the thought leads to the sinful action, the thought is just as bad as the action. 

Do you notice that this is the same process what we have used to describe habits for several weeks?  Every habit is a process.  Trigger, behavior, reward.  .We can't attack just the behavior; we have to understand the trigger to which that bad habit is attached. 

James and Jesus are saying the same thing, we can't just attack sinful behavior.  We have to understand the triggers to which that behavior is attached.  We have to understand that sin does not start in our teeth, or our tongue, or our killing, or our private parts.  Sin starts in the mind with our thoughts and desires. 

That's what I have been teaching you about habits.[2]  

·        Whether you are trying to give up lust, which might be manifest in outright adultery, or in an obsession with a person with whom you are not married and certainly are not in love, or it might be an addiction to internet porn, or phone porn, or sexting.

·        Whether you are trying to give up lying,

·         or evil speaking,

·        or envy or

·        procrastination, or

·        anger, or

·        cussing or

·        smoking or

·        any other bad behavior… we have to

First, understand the trigger- what is happening just before we are tempted, or just before we backslide.

Second, we have to understand the reward.  What do you get out of that habit?  Do you remember that we spent two weeks trying to identify the triggers and rewards for the bad behaviors we want to give up?

Third, we talked about the golden rule of habit change: YOU CAN NEVER TRULY EXTINGUISH BAD HABITS.  RATHER, TO CHANGE A HABIT, YOU MUST KEEP THE OLD CUE, AND DELIVER THE OLD REWARD, BUT OVERLAY A NEW ROUTINE.[3]  Remember Tony Dungy? Find a new routine and practice it until it becomes a habit.

Today I want to add the 4th and final key to giving up something bad for Lent.  (in Charles Duhig's words,) "For a habit to stay changed, people must believe change is possible.[4]"

We can identify the trigger.  We may be able to identify the reward.  We can dream up new action to lay over the top of the old action.  We can practice it until that new behavior becomes automatic.

But if you don't believe that real change is possible.  You'll soon be right back where you started.

·        If you are locked in to your habit and you can't see the light of day, you can't see that you could ever get out, you won't. 

·        If you are so bound by your bad behavior that you can't even imagine making a small change in your life, you won't. 

·         If you are so blinded to the damage you are doing to yourself and others, that you don't see the need for change, you won't. 

So, you think God believes we can change.  Absolutely. 

·        Repent means to change.  God is all about repentance.

·        Redemption means to change.  God is all about redemption.

·        Sanctification is all about change from that which is fleshly to that which is holy.  God is Holy and is all about making us holy too.


You can change.  Believe it, envision it, go for it.

·        Do you believe that God changed Abraham from a wandering misfit to the father of a great nation?  God is a god of change.

·        Do you believe that God led the people out and changed them from slaves to his chosen people.

·        Do you believe that God took a puny shepherd boy and turned him into a great king? 

·        Do you believe that God took stinky fishermen and turned them into disciples?

·        In the cross, humanity said, nothing can change here.  Nothing can change… in the empty tomb, God said "Oh yes it can."  And he proved it once and for all.  

God believes that you can change… how about you? 

I am not saying it is easy…but with God's help, you can do it.

A man who struggled with the temptations of lust made a commitment to God and a new way of life.  He soon found out that it is not easy to abandon the lusts of the flesh.  Several months later he ran into his minister who asked him, "How's it been going?"

"It's been going awful," the new convert replied.  "It's like two teams of horses pulling away at my soul.  One team is pulling in one direction trying to get me to do what God wants and the other team is pulling in the opposite direction trying to get me to do the wrong things."

His pastor asked, "Which team wins?"

The other fellow replied, "The one I say giddy up to!"


        To what are you saying "Giddy up?"




[1] Genesis 1:28

[2] Duhigg, Charles (2012-02-28). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business . Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition. book.


[3] ibid

[4] ibid

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