Lust, Flesh, Eyes and Pride

Have you ever felt overly drawn to the things of this world? Do you ever get drained by an attraction to undertakings that are at best fleeting pleasures but at worst leeching parasites on your soul? I know I get drained, and fairly often. Is enough ever enough?

Some of the worst times in my life have come when I’ve let myself be driven by having wrong desires for things that are not eternal, i.e. things that don’t really matter. This is not a confessional—although I have certainly echoed the sentiments of the apostle Paul several times in my life as being “the chief of all sinners”. No, this article is more a self-reflective piece and for those who jibe with what I’m talking about.

The apostle Paul—besides claiming to be the chief of sinners—talked about his struggle with doing the things he didn’t desire to do, as well as not doing the things he did desire to do. I know exactly what he was talking about! The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Why can’t I just be content with what I have?

A desire for all that this world has to offer leaves me unsatisfied. Enough is never enough. But what specifically do I desire? It would be easy to say I want more money and more material possessions that more money can buy, but what about the desire for immaterial things like admiration, relevance, fame, power and glory? And is there anything wrong with desiring things like money and power in the first place?

Not all desires are wrong desires

No, these things are not bad in and of themselves, but to desire them as an end goal is treading on dangerous ground. Anything that we desire more than God becomes an idol for us, and God does not like his people to have idols—to put it mildly. Things that have been idols in my life include playing video games, following sports teams, watching television—in addition to sports—and having the need to be “right” all the time.

Please don’t misunderstand me on this. I’m not condemning video games or watching sports or other activities people enjoy. For most people, these activities don’t become idols. There seems to be something specific to my personality that pushes me to take things too far—turning them into addictions and eventually idols that take God’s place.

I have felt God at work in my life the last 10 years or so, knocking down idols I’d set up in my life which started out as perfectly normal activities. Recently, I have struggled to make time for writing—something I’ve wanted to develop for many years. Indeed, up until about a month ago, I’d rather have been playing “XCOM 2” than writing.

Specifically, I want to write about God and look for creative ways to share the gospel with others and do my part to fulfill the Great Commission. I’m constantly checking my motivation to make sure I’m writing to give God the glory. Yes, I also hope to be recognized as a good writer someday, but not at the expense of creating another idol.

I can feel my desires shifting from the temporal to the eternal, but it is a real struggle. My natural bent is still toward the world I’m living in than the one that is to come. During my prayer time, I’m starting to ask God to decrease any wrong desires in me and to increase any desires that are meaningful in the light of eternity.

Does anyone else know what I’m saying?

One of my favorite bands is The 77’s They have a song that always comes to my mind when I struggle with worldly desires. Make sure you listen to the song as you read the lyrics below for the complete experience.

Well, I feel
Like I have to feel
Something good all of the time
With most of life I cannot deal
But a good feeling I can feel
Even though it may not be real
And if a person, place or thing can deliver
I will quiver with delight
But will it last me for all my life
Or just one more lonely night

The lust, the flesh
The eyes
And the pride of life
Drain the life
Right out of me

Well, I see something and I want it
Bam! Right now!
No questions asked
Don’t worry how much it costs me now or later
I want it and I want it fast
I’ll go to any length
Sacrifice all that I already have
And all that I might get
Just to get
Something more that I don’t need
And Lord, please don’t ask me what for

The lust, the flesh
The eyes
And the pride of life
Drain the life
Right out of me

And I love when folks
Look right at me
And what I’m doing
Or have done
And lay it on about
How groovy I am
And that I’m looking grand
And every single word
Makes me think I’ll live forever
Never knowing that they probably
Won’t remember what they said tomorrow
Tomorrow I could be dead

The lust, the flesh
The eyes
And the pride of life
Drain the life
Right out of me¹

In addition to the chorus, the part of this song that really sticks out to me is:

I’ll go to any length—sacrifice all that I already have and all that I might get—just to get something more that I don’t need, and Lord, please don’t ask me what for.

King Solomon—the wisest person who ever lived—said that there is nothing new under the sun. And he would know. He had the entire world at his disposal. He lived out every desire, pursued every pleasure, and in the end, it was all meaningless to him. He probably had the wrong desires. And I think I do, too, all too often.

Desiring God

You know what I’m talking about. It isn’t wrong to have desires, but we need to desire the right things. C.S. Lewis talked about desires. He said that if we find in us a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, it means we are meant for another world—that the unsatisfied desire from this world can only be fulfilled when we meet God in the next.

Could it be that we have an innate desire to be with God? Can that desire be ultimately satisfied in Heaven by putting our trust in Jesus Christ here and now while we still have the opportunity to do so in this world? It’s certainly worth investigating, especially for those who haven’t yet heard of Jesus. That’s where sharing the gospel comes in.

Of course, for most non-Christians, the only thing they know is the world. That’s why it’s our job as Christians to pass on the hope within us—Christ in us, the hope of glory. We need to do our best to portray Jesus as he is—more desirable than anything the world has to offer.

How then should we live?

Again, I’m not saying it’s wrong to want stuff. But when our want for stuff outweighs our want for God—well that’s where the trouble starts to brew. We are to be in the world, but not of it. How is that possible? Well, we live in the world for starters. But that doesn’t mean we need to love what is in the world more than we love the one who created it.

I know—all of this is easy for me to say, right? I live in America and I lack nothing. I have more than I could have ever imagined having. For a person in my situation, there is absolutely no excuse for not sharing the gospel with my neighbor—yet that has been my track record. It’s very true that to whom much has been given, much is expected.

What then should I do? For starters, I need to act like a follower of Jesus. He came to this world not to be served, but to be a servant of others. If I ever figure out how to do that, I’ll let you know. Up until now, I’ve served myself very well. I’d like that to change. I also need to deny myself the pleasures of this life, at least in the extreme. I still want to write.

Fix your eyes on Jesus

Life is full of pleasures, but Jesus didn’t come to seek pleasure. He came to seek and save the lost. Isn’t it great we have a savior that not only saves us from our sins but also from losing ourselves in worldly pleasures? Some of you have probably been expecting this passage of scripture, and I won’t leave you hanging:

“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 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. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”—1 John 2:15-17 (NIV)

But I end with another song snippet that I think does a great job capturing the idea that we need only shift our desires in the right direction:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.²


References:

¹ The 77s. The Lust, The Flesh, The Eyes & The Pride of Life. On Seventy Sevens. Island Records 1987. CD. Side 2. Track 1.

² Lemmel, Helen Howarth. Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus. On a pamphlet in England. 1918. Included in 1922 collection called Glad Songs.

 

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