“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshy lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:12 NKJV).
This admonition establishes what God expects of us. Having been calling out of the evil system of the world, we are temporary residents and foreigners in this world. We are to be separate from its dictates and abstain from its pervasive lusts.
Fleshy lusts broadly refer to the desires of the corrupt carnal nature. The Greek word there is epithumion which means desire or passionate longing. Based on 1 John 2:16, these expressions of worldly lusts are broadly classified into:
1. Lust of the flesh – a craving for physical pleasures; uncleanness; selfish ambition; lewdness; carousing; overindulgence in food and drink; strife; uncontrolled anger and all other evil passions.
2. Lust of the eyes – a craving for everything the eye sees; covetousness towards luxury cars, mansions, food, flashy clothing and material prosperity; sexual objectification of men and women; obsession with having a muscular or voluptuous body and other forms of idolatry.
3. Pride of life – self-exaltation based on physical beauty, race, or personal achievements; inordinate desire for power, wealth and position; self-projection and desire for domination, control and adulation.
In this article, I will be focusing on the lust of the flesh, particularly sexual uncleanness since it is prevalent in our day.
The Greek word for all illicit sexual relations outside scriptural marriage in the New Testament ( Gal. 5:19-21) is porneia. This includes:
(a) Adultery – extramarital affairs; open marriage; polygamy; “sugar daddies or mamas”, wife/husband swapping.
(b) Fornication – premarital sex, even if courting. This includes the act of “swinging” partners, “test driving” an intending suitor and one-night stands.
(c) Prostitution – forms of whoredom, exhibitionism, go-go dancing, sex in exchange for gifts, promotion or to seal a contract; ritual/temple prostitution and prostituting with the eyes (e.g. voyeurism).
(d) Incest – sexual acts between closely related people e.g. father and daughter, mother and son, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew and cousins.
(e) Sexual perversion – sexually deviant acts such as homosexuality (those who practice as “top” and “bottom” and frottage), lesbianism (“studs” and “femme”), bestiality, sadomasochism (e.g leather sex, spanking, whipping, bondage sex), paedophilia or pederasty, necrophilia and all forms of rape.
Another general term used in the NT is akatharsias which refers to uncleanness or impurity of every kind. This involves sexually impure acts and speech such as:
(a) Oral sex, anal sex and “fisting”
(b) Use of artificial phalli, sex dolls, sex fetishes and toys.
(c) Virtual prostitution – sexually explicit messages/chats (“sexting”); nude selfies, erotic video chats, phone sex, online sex cruising.
(d) Porn – all forms of pornography featuring sex acts, from reality TV “soft” porn to home-made porn to live stream sex; non-consensual sex, child porn, snuff films etc.
There is a conditioning going on in our day through the media and the culture around us for Christians to accept sexual uncleanness and perversions as normal and compatible with the Christian faith.
Nothing is now off-limits on the Internet and entertainment world, and many believers have lost their ability to be shocked by what they watch.
Ordinarily, when a Christian sees something he/she is not supposed to see, there ought to be an inner protest or recoil, but many are losing that inner response and it shows the extent to which the god of the world is influencing many minds.
The enemy of our souls understands full well that if he can saturate the Internet, music, magazines, movies and TV programs with sexual sins and make it accessible to as many people as possible – especially youths – the next logical step will be a gradual erosion of sexual mores.
For Christian youths, their moral walls will give way to the forces of constant bombardment.
I read about Herod the Great. That man had a twisted wisdom. Whenever he built up an area, one of the things he did was to build a large amphitheatre, because he realized that if you control the arts you control the culture. And when you control the culture, you shape minds and direct the course of many lives.
You see, the human soul consists of the will, mind and emotions. Once the soul is besieged, it will play out in these 3 areas. It’s with our spirits that we fellowship with God, and as we surrender our souls and bodies to God, we will walk in His will.
But when the soul is out of harmony with the Spirit of God dwelling in our spirits, we will start to walk in accordance with the dictates of the flesh or “natural man” and we will be unable to appropriate spiritual truths (1Cor. 2:24).
It is God’s will that our spirits, souls and bodies be sanctified, but when the soul has been defiled or invaded by hostile forces, living out the Christian life becomes very difficult.
You won’t be willing to surrender all to Christ; your mind becomes a reservoir of filthy images, words and desires which you know are sinful. Your emotions will be geared only towards carnal pursuits.
Perhaps some of my readers can relate to this. You are born again, you know the Word of God and attend church regularly, yet, in the depth of your heart, you frequently have these vile, sick and ungodly cravings that make you feel guilty, filthy and ashamed.
You want to follow the Lord, but your mind keeps pulling you away; unclean and sexually impure thoughts constantly stream through it. There is a war being waged against your soul. The enemy is trying to control you and steer you off the faith.
So what can you do?
One, “guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Prov. 4:23). What springs in the well of your heart will show in the bucket of your speech and action.
Once your mind is crooked, your life too will become crooked. So straighten out your life by straightening up your mind.
Two, exercise your authority in Christ and expel the strange invaders that have taken residence in your soul (Psalm 18:45). When people dabble into sinful sexual acts, they invariably open up their souls to unclean spirits that take over the steering wheel of their minds.
These vile spirits are like birds that pick out the Word of God from people’s hearts and in turn fill it with garbage. Renounce the sins that brought them in and prayerfully kick out these evil squatters.
Three, “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). When vile and defiling thoughts filter into your mind, directly reject them in Jesus’ name and speak the Word of God against them.
Now, let me add that many believers don’t understand that sometimes after demonic strongmen have been kicked out, the same thought patterns they use to energise still remain.
It doesn’t mean the demons didn’t leave, it only means that the strongholds of the carnal nature/flesh that used to house them need to be totally crucified.
This usually takes time, discipline and consecration. This leads me to the final point: be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a must if you are going to live a powerful and victorious Christian life. Without the power of the Holy Spirit you can’t crucify the flesh.