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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Are sexual desire and sinful lust the same?Anguish

Summary of Part 1

In Part 1 I described my experience (and that of many men) of being conflicted between the acceptability of sexual desire for my wife, but unacceptability to have sexual feelings or fantasies at any other time. Such conflict led me to frustration. After fighting it so long I’d give in to pornographic lustful thinking. Previously I said that this frustration was eliminated when I finally realized that sinful lust and sexual desire are not necessarily the same. Let me explain!

Yes, Desire Can Be Sinful

Clearly Matthew 5:28 teaches us that to lust after a woman is equivalent to adultery.

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heartMatthew 5:28 (ESV)

But what does it mean to “lust after a woman” (or any other person, regardless of gender)?

Not All Desire Is Sinful

Let’s look at what the bible says about “desire.”

In the scriptures the Greek word translated in Matthew 5 as “lust” is used in both positive and negative ways. The word is epithumeo  in its verb form and epithumia in its noun form. By itself, the word is neutral… and may be right or wrong. The word is also translated “desire,” “earnestly desire,” “long for,” “crave,” and “covet.” Any strong desire is an epithumia.  What makes it good or bad is whether or not the thing desired  may be righteously obtained, then it is not sin. Sinful Lust then is the desire for something which may not be righteously obtained.

Consider a positive usage of the word: Jesus “earnestly desired” (epithumeo) to eat the Passover with his disciples in Luke 22:15. This was a righteous desire that Jesus pursued and fulfilled. In 1Timothy 3:1 when Paul says that a person who aspires to be an elder “desires” (epithumeo) a noble task, he is using the same Greek word to speak of a righteous desire.

By contrast, in Matthew 5:28 when Jesus talks about looking at a woman “to lust after her” (KJV) epithumeo is used for an unrighteous desire, condemned as equal to adultery. This same Greek word is used to translate the unrighteous desire called “coveting” in the Ten Commandments when quoted by Paul in the New Testament (Romans 7:7). The essence of sinful lust is coveting—a desire to possess something which is not ours.

“Covet” equals “Lust” – Including the Intent to Possess

While we’re talking about lust and coveting, it’s worth noting that from a biblical standpoint, they should be considered synonymous. We may correctly think of “covet” as the word used in the Old Testament and “lust” as the word used in the New Testament. In both Testaments, the original language words are used to describe both righteous and unrighteous desires.

It is also evident in the scriptures that these words indicate not just the desire, but also the intent to possess.

I suspect that most people already think of the word “covet” as implying the intent to possess, but here’s where we make a mistake in our understanding of lust… “lust” is typically assumed to mean any evidence of a desire at all!

Or more simply:

  • Covet = Desire AND a Plan
  • Lust = Desire alone.

That notion is biblically false! The correct understanding is this:

  • Covet = Desire AND a Plan
  • Lust = Desire AND a Plan

Faulty Interpretation Leads to False Guilt!

This should help us see why it is important to understand “covet” and “lust” as the same biblical concept. If we misunderstand the word “lust” in the New Testament, we may conclude that the Bible teaches something it doesn’t really teach. And this could result in false guilt, for it would be founded on a false definition of “lust”!

So, both “covet” and “lust” imply an intent to possess the object desired. But here again, it is not the intent to possess which makes a desire right or wrong, but whether or not the object may be righteously obtained.

In summary, it is biblically accurate to draw a distinction between desires that are righteous and those which are unrighteous.

Now we are ready to talk about the difference between normal desires (not sinful) and sinful lust. I’ll cover that in Part 3.

— Pastor Bill

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Other posts in this series:

Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 1
Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 3

Feel free to Leave a Comment on this post.

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For years I felt constantly defeated by lust.Anguish

Lust and Desire Conflicted

I knew the desire for sex with my wife was OK, but I believed that any sexual feelings beyond that context was sinful lust.

I would awaken in the morning with an erection and strong sexual desire. I felt guilty so I’d confess it to God. I would see an attractive woman which would heighten my sexual awareness. I believed that it was sinful lust in my heart.

One minute, I’d have strong sexual feelings that I believed were lustful. So I would try to suppress them. At another time, I would be with my wife where I am permitted to feel strong sexual feelings. One moment, those sexual feelings and desires were wrong (lust) but in the next moment they were good (spousal love). I was conflicted.

To be honest I was frustrated and weary of trying to not lust… yet I experienced sexual feelings and desires frequently almost every day. I could not eliminate it from my life. Eventually, I would quit the battle and just give in to the outward expression of those sexual desires… and indulge in pornographic lust.

Most Men are Frustrated

I know I wasn’t alone. As a preacher, I could easily make men aware of their “sinfulness.” All I had to do was quote Matthew 5:28, “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Every man I knew felt that his heart was lustful if he merely looked and acknowledged the attractiveness of any women other than his own wife.

My Journey to Victory

I have since realized that I was confused between sinful lust and natural sexual desire. My journey to victory began with understanding the lies that I had learned and believed about the human body. The truth taught at My Chains Are Gone replaced the lies and my battle with pornography ended. I soon realized I had also believed a lie about what constituted sinful lust… a lie that had contributed to my bondage.

Could you be caught in this same trap, believing that any sexual desire, dreams, thoughts, or fantasies other than for your wife are sinful lust? I am convinced that many men are unnecessarily defeated because of this confusion. Stay tuned for part 2 where we will look at two different ways the Bible uses the words for lust. Not all lusts are equal.

— Pastor Bill

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Previous Posts in this series:

Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 2
Sexual Desire and Lust – Are They the Same? Part 3

For more on this topic:

The Lies That We Have Believed – Lie #3

Feel free to Leave a Comment on this post.

Please share this blog with others…