Lust (Gr. epithumia) is defined in the Bible as “desire,” “craving,” or “longing” (Mark 4:19). The reason behind all temptation is a person’s own “craving” for that which is wrong. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).
There are natural and legitimate desires that God placed in humans at creation, such as the desire for food, for comfort, for parenthood, and for social relationships. However, when a person tries to satisfy these basic needs in ways that conflict with God’s will, he plays with sin and permits himself to be lured into wickedness. The Lord says, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16 also Matthew 5:28).
Each human has his own specific lusts, which come from his own personality and life experiences. However, the fact that there is this wicked lust within does not ignore the existence and work of a tempter who tries to take advantage of our weak longings (John 14:30; Matthew 4:1–3). The devil and his demons are the real tools of temptation (Ephesians 6:12; 1 Thessalonian 3:5). “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world” (1 John 2:16).
The Role of Free Will
While Satan and his demons may seduce people to sin, their temptations would have no power were there not in people a wish to respond to the temptation. No human can be forced to sin. His own consent must be first obtained; a man must purpose the sinful act, before passion can overcome his conscience.
Thus, man falls into temptation because of a desire to satisfy a particular lust that is contrary to the will of God. This fact is evident as one reviews the sad history of sinning men and women, beginning with Eve and Adam and extending to our own time (Genesis 3:1–6). “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).
How to Overcome the Lusts of the Flesh?
We have a role to play in resisting temptation. The Lord says, “Submit yourself to God, resist the Devil, and he will flee from you!” (James 4:7). Therefore, we need to run away from sin and even the appearance of sin (2 Timothy 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 5:22). This will eventually allow us to die to sin (Romans 8:13, Galatians 5:24).
Joseph ran from Potiphar’s wife when she tempted him (Genesis 39:11–12). When temptation comes, we need to remember that we are not helpless. Martin Luther once said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.” We can choose to give in or to resist and not make provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14). By the grace of God, we need to remove ourselves from the association with sin. The Psalmist wrote, “I will not look with approval on anything that is vile. I hate what faithless people do; I will have no part in it” (Psalm 101: 3).
The Lord in the tenth commandment forbade coveting or lusting for things that don’t belong to us (Deuteronomy 5:21; Romans 13:9). When we disregard this commandment and cherish wrong desires in our minds, it leads to sinful acts. Jesus taught that sin starts in the mind (Matthew 5:27–28). Therefore, we need to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) for we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19) and His temple must be pure (1 Corinthians 6:13; 2 Timothy 2:22; Proverbs 6:25).
In His service,
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