Vehicles of Lust



Scripture:

Eph. 5:3   But fornication and impurity of any kind, or greed, must not even be mentioned among you, as is proper among saints. 4 Entirely out of place is obscene, silly, and vulgar talk; but instead, let there be thanksgiving. 5 Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure person, or one who is greedy (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Observation:

We continue to hear Paul’s heart of compassion for the life of the church. Those who are “the saints,” or who are God’s holy people are to consistently find ways to reflect Christ’s holiness. Paul begins to list behaviors that may become vehicles of lust, which are not consistent with life in the church. 

Fornication was generally used to refer to sexual activity with a prostitute, and this was to be avoided at all costs. Any kind of sexual impurity was seen as a distraction from the life of a believer. Interestingly, greed is right up there with these great concerns. The root of greed is covetousness, and it becomes a vehicle of lust. Greed means that we look for ways in which to feed our appetite, no matter where that may lead. We tend to focus on the sexual sins and forget these which come from the motivations found in our heart. The desire for money, success, and the approval of others ranks right up there with the sexual sins.  Paul’s warning is because these behaviors belong to old humanity and now, because of Christ, we can live in the new creation. 

Not only is Paul rather specific here about these sins, but even draws attention to the fact that we are not to make light of these matters. Silly talk can get us into trouble because it also becomes a vehicle of lust. We cover up what we are doing by simply joking about it, but this can lead us to a very dangerous place; the loss of our inheritance in the kingdom of God. 

Application

Recently I was at an event where they sang a song which was new to me. “Mercy triumphs judgment.” Now, I think I understand what they were trying to say, and I even looked up the passage of scripture to which this would be refererring. It’s from James 2:13 and the closest I can find to this song is the NIV translation, “because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Now, this scripture is referring to the fact that we are not to be judgmental and that we are to show mercy to those around us. This is not about the nature of God, nor about whether there will be some kind of final judgment. The problem with the way that I heard the song was that it could lead you into believing some kind of universalism — that is, God’s mercy will triumph over final judgment. I don’t think this is the intent of the song but as I watched young people get into it, I thought, they could really buy into this idea that there is no need for judgment because God’s mercy will simply triumph. The point is, we are to be filled with God’s mercy towards others, because we, ourselves, are sinners who have been redeemed because of the mercy of God. We are the ones with a judgmental attitude. 

So, how does this play into this text from Paul? The problem is that we live in a world that would like to say — don’t be judgmental about my sexual behaviors, my greedy attitudes, the way that I text, the porn that I watch, or the jokes that I make because, you are to show mercy! Now, there is mercy and love, and it’s directed toward the individual, and it does not encourage us to continue in destructive behaviors. That’s the point — these behaviors will lead to the loss of inheritance, and that is incredibly destructive. However, it’s not just destructive in the long-run, but it’s destroying lives and families in the short run. New creation is supposed to result in changed lives within the body of Christ — the church. 

Any vehicle of behavior that moves us from a deeper relationship with God will be destructive. How many people have been “taken down” lately by doing stupid things, like texting inappropriate messages, sexting, or lying and cheating? Rather than being judgmental, Paul is encouraging us to be aware of what is happening in the lives of those within the church and hold them to a standard that will lead them in the direction of Christ’s holiness. In other words — we aren’t supposed to tolerate these kinds of vehicles of lust within the life of the church. The church is to be a place where disciples are formed and shaped into the likeness of Christ. Vehicles of lust are incompatible with Christlike discipleship. 

Maybe it’s time to be honest and real about the problems we may have in our pews. Paul was confronting the issues head on, and so must we. It is in confronting the issues that we show mercy, because mercy may lead to transformation. If we show no mercy, the individual may have to face judgment. Let’s not confuse these matters and brush over what is happening, even within the life of the church. Yes, show mercy, but help lead people into the direction of Christ. 

Prayer:


Lord, these are tough subjects, and so I ask for grace and mercy-filled conversations that can keep us on the path that leads to you. Amen. 

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