Christian men are too busy fighting the so-called “battle of lust” to be of any use to God’s kingdom.

From a recently posted John Piper sermon about lust:

My text on that point was Matthew 5:28–29 where Jesus says, “Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” I pointed out that Jesus said heaven and hell are at stake in what you do with your eyes and with the thoughts of your imagination.

After the message one of the students came up to me and asked, “Are you saying, then, that a person can lose his salvation?”

This is exactly the same response I got a few years ago when I confronted a man about the adultery he was presently living in. I tried to understand his situation and I pled with him to return to his wife. Then I said, “You know Jesus says that if you don’t fight this sin with the kind of seriousness that is willing to gouge out your own eye, you will go to hell and suffer there forever.

He looked at me in utter disbelief, as though he had never heard anything like this in his life, and said, “You mean you think a person can lose his salvation?”

So I have learned again and again from firsthand experience that there are many professing Christians who have a view of salvation that disconnects it from real life, and that nullifies the warnings of the Bible and puts the sinning person who claims to be a Christian beyond the reach of biblical threats. And this doctrine is comforting thousands on the way to hell.

Jesus said, if you don’t fight lust, you won’t go to heaven.

Fear is the most powerful persuasive tool. And there’s nothing more fearful than the thought of spending an eternity in hell.

But remember that God says it’s the fear of the Lord that’s the beginning of wisdom, not the fear of preacher’s rhetoric. Fear of the Lord means we’re careful not to violate or abuse God’s Word. And we know that God hates it when people add to his Word:

Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar. (Pr 30:5-6)

Given that the entire modern doctrine of lust is based this single passage in Matthew 5, we should be careful not to distort the definitions or the context.

The Hart translation of the New Testmanet (a more literal, albeit less poetic, translation of the Greek) renders the text in question more accurately based on the context:

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ Whereas I tell you that everyone looking at a married woman in order to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Remember that the sin of adultery can only be committed with a married woman.

To clarify the meaning of “lust”, all a layperson has to do is use a Greek word reference tool. We learn from HELPS word studies that epithumeó (lust) means:

properly, to show focused passion as it aptly builds on (Gk epi, “upon”) what a person truly yearns for; to “greatly desire to do or have something – ‘to long for, to desire very much’

In other words, lusting after a married woman means having a focused passion for another man’s wife. Your heart is set on seducing her away from her husband and having sex with her and you continue to build upon this fantasy.

This is a far cry from the fleeting sexual imaginings a man might have at the sight of a beautiful woman.

Granted, I am no expert in Greek. I can only look at the context of the text and use the accepted references that Greek scholars have created for English speakers. But by looking at the text in context and using accepted definitions of the Greek words, the meaning is plain.

The Real Damning Doctrine of Lust

Far more serious than the “battle of lust” is the matter of conscience. When preachers such as Piper preach damnation for so-called “lustful thoughts” they are doing the very unloving thing the Apostle Paul warned us about:

I know and have been persuaded by the Lord that nothing is profane in itself except to the one who reckons something to be profane—it is profane for him. For, if your brother is caused distress on account of food, then you are no longer proceeding in accord with love. So do not let the good be blasphemed by you. (Rom 14:14-16)

The male sexual instinct is not profane. It is something good and pure that God created. Teachers who teach otherwise and call a man’s sexual instincts a “sin” are blaspheming God’s good creation and causing men to stumble.

Persuading somebody that something is evil (that God did not call evil) is a serious matter. For as Paul continues…

How blissful is he who does not judge himself by what he approves of. But the one who has doubt has been judged, whether he eats or not, because it is not out of faithfulness; and everything that is not out of faithfulness is sin. (Rom 14:22-23)

If you allow yourself to be convinced that something is a sin yet continue to do it, then you are sinning. Rather than gritting your teeth and trying harder to avoid your self-defined “sins”, Paul instructs to not profane what is good and thus condemn yourself by your conscience.

Each man must choose what he will bind his conscience to: the Word of God or the traditions of man.

Plead with the Lord to give you wisdom so that you may be set free.