The Lust of the Flesh

John writes that we should not love the world.  1 John 2:15-17 “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” The first characteristic of a love for the world is the lust of the flesh. Lust denotes a strong desire.  The lust of the flesh, therefore, is a strong desire for the fulfillment for fleshly pleasures. 

We have the example of the Israelites who had entered the wilderness where God had given them manna to eat. But that wasn’t enough for their desires.  Numbers 11:4-6 “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!‘” Some today have strong desires for certain foods.  They are not content with “simple” food but have strong desires for special dishes or they eat to excess; they don’t control their appetite for food. Strong desires in this area may be a manifestation of the lust of the flesh.

Similarly, some have strong desires for tobacco, alcohol or other drugs leading to addiction, disease, and intoxication.  People usually follow their desires in this area because of how these drugs make them feel.  Some also have strong desires for pleasure and excitement. They may have a strong desire to spend great amounts of time going to amusement parks, watching movies or television, playing computer games, watching or playing sports, gambling or similar entertainment. It may be thrill seeking – the desire to participate in activities that are somewhat dangerous and give an adrenalin rush.  Strong desires in these areas may be a manifestation of the lust of the flesh.

Lust of the flesh also includes sexual lust. Solomon warned about this in Proverbs 6:24-26 “To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattering tongue of a seductress. Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids. For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread; and an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.”  The apostle Paul gave this description in Romans 1:24-27 “Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” Pornography and modern entertainment encourage sexual lust.

I believe that there is a time and a place to properly fulfill many of our desires of the flesh.  For example, God gives us food to eat and water to drink to fulfill our need and desire to eat and drink.  God has designed marriage as the place to fulfill our sexual desires.  The problem comes when we desire things that are evil or our desires are to excess, or our desires are outside of God’s design.  Strong desire for things of the flesh are lust of the flesh.

Here are some admonitions given to us about the lust of the flesh. Romans 13:14 “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” 1 Peter 4:2-4 “That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles — when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.”  Ephesians 2:1-3 “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” Titus 2:11-12 “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”  I encourage you to deny yourself worldly lusts.

It is vital to walk in the Spirit and not according to the flesh.  Galatians 5:16-17 “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” Romans 8:5-8 “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” If you are in the flesh, you cannot please God. I encourage you to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh.

Though we once served our lusts and pleasures, now we need to crucify the flesh. Galatians 5:24 “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” 1 Peter 2:11 “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” I encourage you to abstain from fleshly lusts; the condition of your soul is at stake.

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