In Colossians 3: 5 to 8 it says, Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
In I John 2: 15,16, it says, "Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world; the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world."
From these verses we can see that the cravings of sinful man includes many things including being proud of what we have, anger, rage, malice, slander, as well as the more well known sins such as sexual immorality and lust.
From Colossians 3:8 we see that our flesh is also capable of the sins of anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language from our lips.
In this article I would like to focus on what it means to love the world. I would like to show that while we all have legitimate physical and emotional needs, that when we focus on fulfilling them instead of using our life and body as tools to serve God, that we are loving the world because we are focused on fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. At the same time we will see that other sins such as, anger, rage, malice, slander, etc are symptoms that show we are loving the world.
So what are the lusts of the flesh? From the verses above, one meaning is when we love something so much, that it takes the place of loving God.
This excessive desire can be for anything from an obsession with sex, to making money, to watching sports, to playing sports, to an excessive desire to learn, to watching TV shows or movies, to an excessive desire to pursue the American dream, to an excessive desire to succeed, and the list can go on and on.
We can see that certain kinds of lust are difficult to measure. For example when is playing sports, too much?
We can find the answer in 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says, So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Everything we do should be to further God's Kingdom. If our motivation for playing sports is to spend time with our friends and minister to them and tell them about Christ, and maybe even reach an influential position so that they will be more likely to respect our God, then that's great!
However, if our motivation for playing sports is to win so we can be rich and have an extravagant lifestyle, then we are wrong.
A good indication of when our desires are wrong is when they take all our spare time up and the activity does not do anything for God, or if the activity hurts someone we love or should care about.
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Another way we know our desires are wrong, is when they cause us to wish we could do something, or cause us to actually do something, that God says is wrong.
The lusts of the flesh are usually related to a legitimate need that we have.
For example, as humans we have certain needs. Meeting these needs in a God approved way is not considered sinful lust.
For example, we are physical beings, and so we need to eat regularly. No one condemns us for eating. However God says that gluttony or overeating is wrong. As an example, in Proverbs, 23: 1,2 it says, When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. Notice that sitting down to eat with the ruler was not a sin. And eating was not a sin. It is the overeating or gluttony that the verse warns against.
We are also sexual beings and so we have sexual needs too. I remember Harold Sala saying during his Guidelines For Living radio broadcast, Christians need to admit that we are sexual beings.
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There are some Christians who have made a list of carnal sins and they make sure they don't do any of the things on the list. This makes them feel like they are Holy. However they still display symptoms that they are living to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. The symptoms they have are anger, rage, malice, jealousy, anxiety, judgmental of others, worry and other personality traits that are not qualities that God wants Christians to have.
The qualities God wants Christians to have include longsuffering, kindness, not envious, not boastful, not puffed up, not rude, not provoked to anger, not happy when others fall into sin, able to bear all things, able to believe all things, has lots of hope, endures all things, forgiving, caring, loving and more.
The ingredient these Christians are missing is that they don't have the right perspective on life. They live under their own law instead of under grace because they are not truly living for God, but rather trying to be good Christians.
The part of Christianity they are lacking is the works part. Faith without works is nothing. They go to church and read their Bible and pray but they never serve God in a meaningful way.
Without serving God, they don't experience the joy that God gives. And since they don't feel the joy of the Lord, then they search for happiness in other areas just like the world. But when they search for ways to be happy, their options are much more limited than someone who is not a Christian. This is because they have made a long list for themselves of dos and don'ts. After checking the list, there isn't much left that they can do to feed their flesh to make themselves happy.
So they resort to condemning others and being unhappy, or doing things in secret, or getting involved in things that seem ok to do like watching TV, taking up sports, sewing, cooking, gardening, focusing on their home and yard, etc. But these things don't bring the joy of the Lord and so they still are not happy people.
True Christian happiness comes when you are actively living for God. When your purpose for living is to glorify God and so you look at everything you have as a tool to be used for God. When you have control of your life and lead a disciplined life of getting the proper sleep, nutrition and exercise, you devote a reasonable amount of time to your family, you do your job at work as unto the Lord, and you serve God with a reasonable amount of your time left over.
You recognize that in this life, you are on a Mission From God and that God is counting on you to do something for Him. You may carry tracts with you and give them to people you encounter during the day. You don't let your mind be filled with trash from TV or movies and instead you spend your spare time thinking of ways to minister for the Lord and encourage those you know. And you take action and do the things. You may fail and you will encounter people who hurt you, but since you are doing it for God you experience the joy of the Lord. You never give up living for God and you recognize that you are God's messenger to those around you and so you work on developing a loving, humble, gracious disposition.
In summary, anything we do to make ourselves feel good is sinful unless it directly or indirectly brings glory to God.
For example, if we eat so we can serve God, then it brings glory to God. If when we enjoy the taste of the food we are thankful to God, this brings glory to God.
If we try to maintain a healthy sex life so we can serve God better, this brings glory to God. If when we enjoy sex, we are thankful to God, this brings glory to God.
Being thankful to God in all things is a key to our Christian walk. Deciding to not live for our self, but rather live to do something for God is another key. Developing a relationship with God by studying the Bible and praying often is also important.
Finding ways to show God's love and tell others about God is the part of the Christian walk that most Christians never do. Since faith without works is dead, Christians who do not practice good works miss out on the joy of the Lord and they fall back into living in the flesh and finding ways to be happy that are not on their list of bad sins.
The proof that they are not truly experiencing God's joy is that they experience many of the sins such as worry, anger, jealousy etc. If they were truly living for God, they would instead see life through God's eyes and they would see those they deal with as needy souls that they can minister to.
Seeing those around them through God's eyes and recognizing that God is counting on them to be his minister, they would not set high expectations for those they love, and so they would not get let down and get upset easily. Instead they would know that God will change them, and until then, they will continue to love and minister and respect those they love and live with.