Not Traditional, Original

H4 The Difficulty Of Some Decisions, The War in our Flesh, Renewing the Mind

This article is about both who we may be now, and who we can become even though it may be so hard that it appears impossible. I’ll start off by saying that at one time I was a smoker, and even though after a while I didn’t want to be a smoker I couldn’t just stop being a smoker. I was a smoker and my mind and body were determined that I was going to stay a smoker! It was a huge struggle for me.

The Apostle Paul writes in the book of Romans about the struggles with following God. He doesn’t mince words either. He calls it a war!

For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom 7:14-24 ESV)

This is no joke or hyperbole. And I believe that Paul is talking about believers here, although I acknowledge that some teach that this was only the struggle of those under the law while others teach that this war is the inner struggle of many believers.i

If you are struggling with something that you may even see as impossible then you are experiencing this war. There are people who want to change something about their life but for one reason or another struggle to the point where the change just doesn’t happen. It could be quitting smoking or drinking too much, or not taking care of your body, or being in a wrong relationship with someone you shouldn’t be, or working in a dead-end job when you have the desire to do something more suited to your talents and dreams.

Let’s talk about decisions. Everybody knows that some decisions are harder than others. You’re in a hurry to get somewhere so you quickly eat some cereal and take a cup of coffee for the road. That was an easy decision. And lots of decisions are easy. We have a number of clothes outfits we wear on a regular basis. We may or may not take a minute to decide which, but the decision is still relatively quick. Innumerable decisions are made this way; which shoes to wear, what time to leave, where to walk today, what to have for lunch etc. Oh, we might occasionally agonize on important dates or momentarily day to day, but there is just not time to agonize over everything so we decide rather quickly on many decisions.

However, I have seen that the more expensive something is and the longer that I will own something I take more time and effort to choose carefully. So I may make pro and con lists, spreadsheets comparing qualities and quantities, and pour over review sites. Buying a car, choosing a school, deciding which job to take, these are huge decisions for a lot of us and we can really focus and put all our skills to use to make these. But they are still not that hard to make, relatively speaking.

Some decisions we make can be easy to make but have hard to change consequences later, When I was a senior in high school I was with people that smoked cigarettes. I decided to do that occasionally when I was with them. My dad had smoked most of my life and so many adults smoked that it wasn’t funny. Yes, there were Surgeon general warnings on cigarette packs but the media, TV shows depicting cool characters smoking, TV ads doing the same, made whatever risk appear not very impactful. The media promoted smoking literally everywhere you looked. When I was in college so many smoked there I decided to start smoking cigarettes daily. Nicotine seemed to give me an edge and help me focus,

It is important to realize that my decision to become a habitual user of cigarettes was a gradual one that was many years in the making. In fact, for a long time, I thought I could quit at any time, the foolishness of my youth.

I didn’t suddenly wake up in college and realize I was a smoker. I was seduced by it, the taste of it, the quick rush of nicotine, the relaxing effect sometimes, even the social aspect of gathering regularly with the smokers. I had a little reservation about the surgeon general’s warning but the lure was too big. After about 5 years I was a pack and a half a day man.

So by then, I was one of the people that started realizing that I needed to change something. I started trying to quit, but never for very long. The illusion that I could stop like I could years before was a fantasy I quickly realized as I tried to stop and failed numerous times.

By the time I was was in my thirties I was smoking even more but I coughed regularly, and cigarettes along with my allergies combined to give me chronic bronchitis.

I tried quitting any number of times and fell back into it every time more quickly each time. There were so many times when a “smoke” just felt good and when I was in one of those times I really had a powerful urge to smoke. There’s first thing in the morning, and there’s after meals. There are the coffee breaks where I was used to gathering with the smokers, and there were times with beer and friends. The urge at any one of those times was powerful and relentless.

I had researched stop-smoking programs, and I had heard some training on what was required to genuinely commit to stop smoking. The concept boiled down this: no matter what aids you use you have to decide that you want to NOT smoke more than you want to smoke. That sounds easy, but it’s not. It’s very hard. The urge to smoke was overpowering me every time I tried to quit. This was no light whim or fancy. I was discouraged by the number of times I had so easily started back smoking.

But the concept made sense. To quit successfully you have to have more of the desire to NOT do it than to do it at every possible temptation.

Have you ever heard the expression, “God is in the details?” This expression refers to the truth that an overview of the plan doesn’t work. Just saying I want to quit without thinking it through was my recipe for disaster. You have to do the detail work. In this case, the detail work is to build up the desire for each and every case where I might be tempted to stop. I recognized that I had some desire to change but when that temptation came, my desire wasn’t stronger than the temptation. So I learned to focus on each scenario when I was in it. I thought about waking up and feeling the desire to smoke and then I focused on building my desire to NOT smoke when I was in that scenario. I rehearsed what I would say to myself in that scenario. I did each scenario that way. I started building the desire to NOT smoke in each situation like waking up, breaks, when I feel stressed, around other smokers, having a beer, etc.

The next part of the plan involves what to do in all the tempting scenarios. We do things because we get some benefit from them. Smoking is relaxing, Smoking has a taste. Smoking and talking go together for a lot of smokers. Smoking gives a pickup. How was I going to replace those benefits? Part of this concept of quitting smoking involves replacing the benefits of smoking with healthier alternatives.

It was months before I finally decided I had the desire to overcome smoking. For actions, I decided to chew gum, do deep breathing exercises, exercise more, drink more coffee if I needed a pick me up, talk with the non-smoking crowd, and avoid the scenario altogether if possible.

The gum was easy to do. I bought lots of gum to always have a taste I liked, and something to do with my mouth. I exercised more and did more deep breathing exercises. I did allow myself to drink more coffee, I stopped hanging out with the smokers, and started talking with the non-smokers. And I tried to stay away from the smokers even in a bar having a beer, but that wasn’t easy at that time because the second-hand smoke in bars back then was so bad. Eventually, I had to avoid bars with any significant smoke.

Every time I was tempted to smoke I focused on the desire I had built to NOT smoke more than that desire to smoke! It was working! It took time because I knew the desire to not smoke had to be more powerful than the very powerful urges to smoke that I was experiencing.

I stopped successfully! Or so I thought! I lasted six months. Then I was at a bar having a beer with a friend, and I thought to myself, I have cigarettes beat, but that smoke smells so good. I know I could have just one and not start again. Boy, how wrong I was! Soon my habit was back full strength. I was so disappointed! And my bronchitis was back, and the cough! And, my wife was pregnant with my son!

I prayed about my dilemma. I knew that the plan had worked except that I hadn’t seen one detail The one scenario I hadn’t planned for was after I had quit for a while and I am tempted to think that I can have one cigarette now and then like before I smoked habitually.

The plan needs to have a provision for handling a relapse and mine didn’t at that point.

So I followed the plan again. And this time it included the scenario of having just one cigarette after I quit for a while. I again took my time, And before my son was born, I quit for good.

I’m proud of that decision and that I was able to carry it out.

So it took me maybe 5 years to quit smoking from my late twenties to the age of thirty-three, But after I failed a bunch of times and really planned it right to the point I knew I could quit it took only about a minute to quit. I just knew I was ready this time.

This time I still was very tempted all the times I had been before; after a meal, with a beer, at a break and so on and so forth. And this time I knew I knew I couldn’t just smoke one. And I haven’t for thirty-some years.

There are people who say that God just takes away the desire for something and they can stop doing something they have been doing wrong for a long time. I believe that some people do get that blessing. Or maybe we all do on different things. But, at least sometimes, stopping something we know we need to stop can be very, very hard and take a lot of work. And even then, only if you want to do the right thing more than the other option will you be successful. You may need to get help for any number of sources including counselors, programs, support people, and more. And you need to not be shocked if you relapse and need to further intensify your efforts to make the change permanent.

Years ago I was running a fellowship when a younger man started attending. After a meeting, he asked if he could talk to me. He told me he was gay and asked what I thought about it and what he should do about it. He didn’t have a long term partner, he was in a series of short term relationships. He said he wanted to get out of the lifestyle but just couldn’t after repeated attempts.

I told him along the lines of what I have written about here on this website (see H1 Homosexuality Revisited). He said that he had tried reparative therapy but it didn’t work for him and some others he knew that had tried it with poor results. He told me of strategies that included professional help, all unsuccessful to that point. The lure of the gay lifestyle overpowered him time and time again even though he had decided to stop numerous times,

I told him that I had little experience with the area other than hearing what a difficult struggle it was. I prayed with him and shared with him my struggles with cigarettes and other things. What I had heard were key elements were thinking through the steps to get out of the lifestyle including avoiding places, media that promoted the gay lifestyle, other gays, and so forth that are part of the lure and replacing them with people, places, and media that promote Godly sexuality. I advised him to find more qualified people than myself to help him. I told him we could talk and pray whenever he wanted. He occasionally came to the fellowship, and we would talk afterward. But He couldn’t break free. I didn’t see him after a while.

Then after years had gone by he caught up with me just to tell me that he had done it. The key for him was finding someone else who had done it and really connecting with that person.

He did it. But even though he had wanted to do it for years it took him all those years to finally get there. He had stopped the lifestyle and relapsed numerous times. But he didn’t quit and kept going. He finally was very happy and at peace with where he was.

There are other hard decisions that could apply here as well. Most people who lose a lot of weight gain it back. Most people know that maintaining weight loss is very difficult. There are articles that say the failure rate is as high as 90%ii Additionally one article says that more weight you gain the slower your metabolism becomes. This makes it harder to lose weight the more weight you gain.

Yet there are people that do.

Also I wasn’t a nonsmoker who happened to smoke, I was a smoker. My friend wasn’t a straight person who had a few gay experiences: he was totally gay.

I was a smoker, now I am not, My young fried was gay, now he is not. But it was neither easy nor fast

Words are often easy to say but the action behind those words can be very difficult.

The Apostle Paul’s solution to the war is at the beginning of Romans chapters 8 and 12:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. (Rom 8:1-2 ESV)

As believers, we have this very Spirit of life in us. But we need to follow it with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Here’s how:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. (Rom 8:5-6 ESV)

These verses lay out the battle strategy for winning the war, When I smoked my mind was set on the lifestyle of smoking, I looked forward to the morning smoke, smoking with the crowd, having a smoke after this event or that. My gay friend looked forward to his encounters and relationshonips with other gays. Our minds were set on these things and we stayed in them even though at times we wanted out. That was death to us.

But when I started scheming in my mind about life without cigarettes I started winning the war. When my friend connected with an ex-gay and followed his lifestyle his mind became set on the victory he wanted. When we finally got our minds changed we won those wars,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:1-2 ESV)

The world may tell you how appealing it is to smoke. It may lure you with the concepts of casual sex, adultery, the gay lifestyle, and more. You may want to comfort and indulge yourself with the deliciousness of food way more than you need. These concepts apply to every area of life. Gossiping looks like fun, the next thing you know you are part of the evil rumor mill. The world says “everyone cheats”, maybe you should, even if just a little. The world says “everyone lies. go ahead, everyone does it”. The world says “you can take that. They have plenty.” Or “it’s covered by insurance.” The list goes on and on.

But Romans chapter 12 starts with saying that presenting our bodies as holy sacrifices, giving up these attractions of the flesh is our spiritual worship!

And Romans 12:2 says that it is in the changing (renewing) of our minds that this process can happen! Changing your mind may sound easy. But it can be very hard, and take years on some things.

Victory is available, and hopefully won’t be that hard, but you must be ready to go to war if necessary.

i Is Romans 7:14-25 describing a believer or an unbeliever? https://www.gotquestions.org/Romans-7-14-25.html

iiWeighing the Facts: The Tough Truth About Weight Loss, MARSCHALL S. RUNGE, M.D., PH.D. April 12, 2017 , at https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/health-management/weighing-facts-tough-truth-about-weight-loss

December 14th, 2019 Posted by | Homosexualtiy, Sermons | no comments

H3 Four kinds of love in the Bible, When Love is not Love

(Warning – mature content, parental guidance, items of a sexual nature are discussed)

In Agape – First Things First – Christians Love we learn that the love of God is the great commandment of God and the mark of the true believer. But not every place that the word love is used in our English Bible does it mean this love of God.

There are four different Greek words translated love in the English Bible, and they mean different things.

The four words are:

  • Agape – unselfish, unconditional love
  • Phileo – friendship
  • Eros – sexual, romantic love
  • Storge – familial affection

The Definition of Love is a Huge Cultural Topic.

There are some popular songs along the line of love is just love. In fact, Love is Love is a popular song by Grace Potter. It’s a song about infidelity where love is the justification for it.

LeeAnn rhymes wrote a named song Love is Love is Love which is a pro LGBTQ song. Here are some of the lyrics:

“These politics and religion
Everyday they’re starting wars
And we believe we’re not the hateful, no no
When we can dance with the worst of them
When we can sing with our enemies “

In this song, LeAnn projects that anyone that disagrees with the LGBTQ agenda is a hater. But in the song, she does promote hating the hate, not the hater. Hating the sin, not the sinner has been a theme in Christianity for who knows how long.

Love is love is an LGBTQ mantra sold on T-shirts and other paraphernalia. A visit to a gay pride site reveals that mantra along with things like, being Bi is not a choice, being gay is not a choice, being trans is not a choice, do you know what is a choice? Homophobia!.i And then the mantra Love is Love. The LGBTQ point being that any of those lifestyles is not by choice (see H2 Born Gay: Scientific Fact or False Idol of Bad Science?) and they do involve the argument that love and any kind of love is love and is therefore okay and anyone who disagrees with that is just wrong and a hater and so on and so forth.

But, even people in those camps will draw the line at some things. For example, incest. Incest is sex between immediate family members, and in some jurisdictions, first, or even second cousins. For example, in the United States over half of the states ban sexual relations between cousins while the remainder does not. That begs the question of whether love is love there.

Or even more taboo, bestiality! Did you know that bestiality is not illegal in ten states in the US?ii There are three countries in Europe where it is still legal.iii But in most places it is taboo. Sexual love between people and animals in those places banning bestiality is not considered love. Do the people in favor of bestiality call the rest of us bestiphobes?.

There are even groups that advocate for the decriminalization of pedophilia. That is another love that today almost everyone sees as taboo. But the point is that the procession of homosexuality from taboo to legal is an example that what is taboo today could be legal tomorrow. That is true especially if the rule is that all love is love. But the truth is that not all love is love everywhere under all conditions. The disagreement then is what are legitimate conditions. Fifty years ago the argument was for free love, that is sexual love outside of marriage to be acceptable. Today the push is for LGBTQ loves to be acceptable. What is coming tomorrow?

Examples of Different Kinds of Love in the Bible.

Agape – the Love of God

Agape love is the topic of Agape – First Things First – Christians Love. Basically, the greatest love in the Bible is agape. In fact, it is written that God is love:

Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1Jn 4:8 ESV)

The words used for love in the above verse are both the verb and noun forms of the Greek word agape.

As we saw in the above-mentioned article agape is the love that we as Christians are called to live.

While it is hard to put into words the greatness of this love we must try. Agape love, the love of God, is the subject of many verses in the Bible including first Corinthians chapter 13:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1Co 13:1-13 ESV)

Some of the highlights to me are that Love is patient, kind, rejoicing, and enduring. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and never ends. Of all the fruit of the Spirit it is the most powerful and important.

It is impossible to quantify this love. In I John it is written that God is love. That is so huge! Agape, the love of God, is God himself, Everything that you can imagine about being good and awesome is in there and then some. That’s our God and that’s the love that we are called to live.

Phileo Love – Friendship

Phileo love is a category of love that refers th that special bond between friends:

… there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Pro 18:24b ESV)

Here we see a closeness referred to that is closer than family. That is the potential of friendship.

In the Bible a very interesting place where we see this friendship love being talked about is regarding Lazarus:

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” (Joh 11:1-3 ESV)

Now we all know this great story of Lazarus and how Jesus waited until Lazarus was actually dead before he came to heal him. And the resulting miracle is of great note in that Lazarus was raised from the dead.

But this is also an illustration of the fact that our Lord and Savior had friends. Verse three refers to the person that Jesus loved, and the word love there is phileo. Another way to translate it would’ve been “was friends with.”

A very interesting example in the Scripture that contrasts two Greek words, agape, and phileo is in John chapter 21:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (Joh 21:15-17 ESV)

The first two times that Jesus asked Peter if he loves him he uses the word agape, but Peter responds with the word phileo. The third time that Jesus asked Peter if he loves them he uses the word phileo, and again Peter responds with phileo. In the English, this looks like they’re using the same word but in the Greek, we see that they are not which shines new light on what is going on here. Jesus is asking Peter if he loves him with the love of God to which Peter never responds that he does. But he does respond that he loves him as a friend. In the end, Jesus charges him to feed his sheep, to pastor his flock.

We are not called to have this special phileo love with everyone. In fact, Paul writes:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Rom 12:18 ESV)

This verse expresses the reality that you will not be able to live as peaceably with some as others. Not everyone will be that special phileo friend, but we still are called to agape love them,

And not all friendships are good! Look at these verses:

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” (1Co 15:33 ESV)

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Pro 13:20 ESV)

One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray. (Pro 12:26 ESV)

Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways, for the devious person is an abomination to the LORD, but the upright are in his confidence. (Pro 3:31-32 ESV)

You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (Jas 4:4 ESV)

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler. (Pro 20:19 ESV)

There are some strong admonitions here. You may be attracted to certain people as friends who are not good for you. Basically, if someone is following the ways of the world they may be an influence for you to do likewise. Stay away from the violent person, the devious person, the foolish person, the babbler. Don’t make friends with people that will increase your temptation to sin!

If you tend to drink too much stay away from people who drink too much. Any person that manifests a tendency to do things that tempt you is probably not a good person for you. People get caught up in all kinds of things; lying, stealing, gossiping, envying, being lazy, hooking up (sexually), drugs. And it may not be apparent right away.

That isn’t to say you can’t be friends with a person with flaws because we all have flaws. But being friends with someone who is weak in a flaw that you are also weak in is flirting with disaster.

On the other hand, there are cases where God calls people to help flawed people with caution:

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. (Gal 6:1 ESV)

There is a great benefit of friendship. If you are caught up in some flaw and someone could help you get out of it, wouldn’t that be great? Or maybe you could be the inspiration for someone else to overcome something! How great would that be!

That brings us to something else. The bible has some good things to say about the benefits of friends:

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. (Pro 17:17 ESV)

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! (Ecc 4:9-10 ESV)

How great it is to have a friends to help each other out in times of need,

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. (Pro 27:17 ESV)

You want to have sharp friends! And you should want to be a sharp friend yourself.

Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered. (Pro 11:13 ESV)

Are you a person that blabs everything they hear? You won’t be a good friend. Good friends keep secrets so that there is trust. With trust, you can feel safe. Good friends can confide in each other.

And the Bible teaches us that it is not about how many friends you have but how good they are. Good, good friends are precious gifts:

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. (Pro 18:24 ESV)

Eros – Sexual, Romantic Love

Sexual love is its own category. We are attracted to some people and not to others. That, of course, does mean that God okays pursuing every attraction we feel. King David was severely admonished for chasing his attraction with Bathsheba, a married women. She got pregnant! David schemed to cover it up! When he couldn’t he schemed to have Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, a valiant man, killed! God sent Samuel to reprove David for his sin:

And the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him and said to him, “There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. And he brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children. It used to eat of his morsel and drink from his cup and lie in his arms, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the guest who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” Nathan said to David, “You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you out of the hand of Saul. And I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your arms and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah. And if this were too little, I would add to you as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.’ Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’”

(2Sa 12:1-12 ESV)

This isn’t just about the murder of Uriah. Samuel says David despised God by taking another man’s wife. This is definitely against infidelity and adultery as not being something to pursue because love is love.

However, God is in favor of sexual love and believers have celebrated it throughout history. The Song of Solomon is in many ways an erotic poem. You don’t have to go further than the first verses to see that this is about love in the bedroom:

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine; your anointing oils are fragrant; your name is oil poured out; therefore virgins love you. Draw me after you; let us run. The king has brought me into his chambers. Others We will exult and rejoice in you; we will extol your love more than wine; rightly do they love you. (Son 1:2-4 ESV)

“His chambers” is his bedroom! This whole book is talking about romantic, sexual love.

The Greek word Eros isn’t found in the New Testament other than being in the root of a name: Erastus. But it is in the Old Testament as found in the Septuagint. It’s found in the context of both legal and illicit love. Here’s an example of “legal” use.

the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. (Est 2:17 ESV)

The king loved (eros, romantic, sexual love) Esther more than all the women.

In the next verse, the word lover has as its root this erotic, sexual love. This is in the context of illicit love as it involves the multiple lovers of a loose woman:

Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. (Hos 2:10 ESV)

The love that a man and his wife share is this eros love. But, interestingly, when the husbands are commanded to love their wives the word used is agape, not eros!

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, (Eph 5:25 ESV)

Husbands aren’t commanded to romantically love their wives here, rather, they are commanded to love with the love of God. The commandment is that husbands are not just to love their wives romantically and sexually, but with the whole love of God.

In like manner, in the context of the LGBTQ mantra, “Love is Love”, any kind of romantic, sexual love falls in the eros category which is clearly different from the agape love that we as believers are commanded to live. Eros love is not Agape love. Again, while the Love is Love mantra certainly has an emotional charge to it, it has flaws in its argument.

Storge Love or Lack of it

The last Greek word, storge, that we’re going to look at is found in the New Testament only in its opposite sense. By that I mean the word is used in a couple of places to indicate a lack of appropriate affection:

They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Rom 1:29-31 ESV)

The word heartless above is the Greek word storge meaning hard-hearted, heartless, without natural affection toward. Another example is:

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, (2Ti 3:2-3 ESV)

Again, storge is translated heartless here. Both these examples show lists of sins, deficiencies, that mark people that are the opposite of true believers.

The theme here is to guard against losing your natural affection and becoming hard-hearted.

In Summary

There they are, the four words for love in the Bible; agape, phileo, eros, and storge, They all have their place. If we want to live in holiness, we need to be careful to love in each of these categories in the way God has called us. Just because we are attracted to a person in either a friend way or a romantic one does not mean that it is a good thing as God has called us to be holy in all the ways we love.


iiFor Nat’l Cousins Day, 3 Legal Facts About Cousin Relations, https://blogs.findlaw.com/law_and_life/2014/07/for-natl-cousins-day-3-legal-facts-about-cousin-relations.html

iiiDenmark passes law to ban bestiality, http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/32411241/denmark-passes-law-to-ban-bestiality

December 8th, 2019 Posted by | Homosexualtiy, Sermons | no comments

Global Warming

“The earth is heating up!” “We are at record warming levels.” So the global warming warnings go.
I’m watching Nova on PBS. The episode is Making North America: Origins. As the narrator displays palm frond and coral reef fossils he makes a startling statement. He’s finding these artifacts in Alaska. And he says this, “This palm grew here when the climate in Alaska and the rest of the world was much warmer (emphasis added).”
He’s talking, of course, about a period hundreds of millions of years ago by his dating. But the point still remains: The whole earth has been much warmer than it is today,
So the statement that the earth today is warmer than it has ever been is repudiated by this statement in this Nova presentation.
What this illustrates is that the range of temperatures that the earth has naturally swung from very warm to frigid cold over the eons and millennia.
This is not to say that we shouldn’t be good stewards of out planet. Freon is a good example where it was proven both that something we were doing (using freon) was harmful and stopping it was worth the trouble.
Carbon emissions are certainly something that we should keep an eye on. But alarmist cries that we are heating up the earth to unprecedented levels is clearly untrue. We’re nowhere close to where the earth itself has engineered its own global warming levels.
Nevertheless, we are called to be good stewards of the earth. As Christians we are taught:

And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so.
(Genesis 1:28-30)

Man was charged with the care of the place in which he was placed.

At the same time, we individually are incapable of impacting more than our individual range of responsibility and we are often fully engrossed in just accomplishing the task at hand:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
(Matthew 6:34)

So if you follow this instruction while not ignoring the charge given to us in Genesis chapter 1, each of us does the best we can today with what we are in charge of so that collectively the earth is properly tended by all of us together.

But the emphasis is that we have to take care of today.

So as stewards of the earth we need to be responsible in this area today and everyday.

As individuals that means using more energy efficient products. We insulate our houses better, reuse bags, cover our pots while cooking, turn off appliances and lights when not in use, and recycle. There are websites devoted to how we as consumers can help.

On a larger scale, businesses and governments have the same responsibility to be more efficient and steward the earth.

Its one of the first charges God gave to man. God gave us this earth, to keep it in good shape.

June 30th, 2016 Posted by | Modern Christianity, Sermons | no comments

Looking At Women and Adultery, Part Two

Contents of this Article

With Lustful Intent

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:28 ESV)

In the last article, we looked at the part of the verse “everyone who looks at a woman”, and identified that women are looked at more sexually by everyone in general, and especially men, in particular.  We also looked at how women contribute to this process in their choice of attire.

In this article we’re going to focus on the words “with lustful intent” to get at the true meaning behind this teaching.

First, though, let’s look at some examples. Most of us enjoy some candy every now and then, or perhaps some ice cream.   Let’s say you are at an ice cream place.  At the wonderful ice cream store you have a generous serving of ice cream and it should be time to go. But your eyes are drawn to, lets’ say, a triple scoop hot fudge sundae, and your mouth starts drooling.  You keep looking at that ice cream sundae, and you can almost taste it going down.  You know that you have already had all you should have.  Anymore and you could get fat, or spike your blood sugar which will cause health problems, weight gain, diabetes complications, and so on.  But it looks so good.  You look a long time.

How many people would say you have sinned?  No, you are sorely tempted, but you have not sinned.

So let’s take it a step further.  You don’t stop looking. Finally you can’t say no to the anticipation of more cold, sweet, gooey delight, so you go get that triple scoop chocolate fudge sundae, and start wolfing it down.

The question is when did you sin?

Before we answer let’s look at another example. Let’s say you are 12 years old again, and your brother just won’t stop mouthing off about something nasty about you. You could walk away, but you’re really angry. He really needs to stop talking that way about you. Part of your reasoning is that because he’s done it before and he will do it again. And if you tell your parents it is just going to get both of you either a lecture, or some pious platitudes like, “You boys need to just get along.  Go along and be friends, be brothers.” That’s never worked either. The more you think about it the madder you get.

So, you feel like you can’t take it anymore, you rear back and you sock your brother in the jaw.

Again, the question is when did you sin?

Here’s the answer. In the above case, you sin when you fully committed to actually throw the punch. In the ice cream store above, you sinned when you fully committed to overeat.

There is a point at which the desire to do something sinful wins. It captures the person’s mind and heart. They give in. That is the point of conception, the point at which the person changes from being tempted to having sinned.

That is what it’s talking about in Matthew 5:28.  The verse is simply saying that just like everything else in life the sin doesn’t start with an action.  It starts with the committed decision to do the action.

Matthew 5:28 gives an analogy form the method of how people sin. It starts with people being tempted. Some people are tempted and they don’t walk away from the temptation. Instead, they allow all the temptation to dwell and grow in their mind. The overeater, instead of walking out of the ice cream store, allows himself to just look at the delicious ice cream products until he just gives in, and decides to have too much. The 12-year-old doesn’t decide to walk away; instead he just keeps dealing with his brother, letting his anger build until he just gives in and starts fighting.  And, likewise, the adulterer doesn’t turn his eyes away, but keeps looking and letting the desire build until it is overwhelming to him, and he gives in, and decides to go after the illicit sex.

The point is that sin is not just a physical act. It is a process. It starts with temptation, and a decision that results in an act.   Jesus’ point here is that sin begins in the mind and heart. And the only way to stop sin is to change the mind and the heart.

Jesus taught about this same kind of thing in another parable:

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. (Matthew 21:28-31 ESV)

The above parable by Jesus really nails this idea of when sin actually happens. Here we have two sons. He told both of the sons to go work in the vineyard. The first son said he wouldn’t go. The second son said he was going to go. Jesus’ question is which of the boys did the father’s will.  The answer is the second, the one who said he wouldn’t go.

Why?  Because he changed his mind and went. The end result of his thinking process was that he did the right thing. The first son said he would go, but he sinned because he changed his mind and his resulting action was that he didn’t go.

This is a wonderful example. It shows how the mind reasons but can be changed. It shows that the end result is either sinning or acting righteously, and coupled with these other verses we see that the sin is conceived when the final decision is made to do the sinful act.  And the most important part about this verse highlights that despite what you’re thinking in any given time in the process you only sin if you do the sinful act.

So what all have we learned here? We also see here that it is not sin to be tempted. In the previous article about this we talked about how men look at women naturally, instinctively. It is not a sin when a man’s eyes are attracted to the sight of a woman.  And even when he is tempted, he has not sinned if he does not do the sinful act.

In Matthew 5:28, the key words are “with lustful intent”.  With lustful intent refers to the fact that the person has decided to commit adultery. He’s done deliberating and he’s committed to doing the deed.  The deliberation may have been long and hard or it may have been short and shallow.  It doesn’t matter; a hasty decision is as much a decision as a lengthy one.  Once you have made a decision, you now have intent. 

It says that when a man has looked at a woman “with lustful intent” he has committed adultery with woman.   It doesn’t say in Matthew 5:28 that when a man looks at a woman he has already committed adultery in his heart.  It says when he has looked at a woman with “lustful intent”, when he has made the decision, when he means to do it, then he has committed adultery.

The writer of James addresses this concept also:

But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin…  (James 1:14-15a ESV)

Isn’t this interesting?  This really describes the process well. We all have desires. Some desires are not bad at all but good, like the desires to get some fresh air or to work in the garden or to be the best you can be at your job. However, some desires are enticing, luring, and captivating. Riches can be very captivating.  Food can be very enticing.  Power can be a great lure.  And here, in our example, the pleasures of illicit sex can seem so wonderful.

But the concept I want to focus most in this verse is “desire…gives birth to sin.”  Sin has a birth, a starting point.  That starting point is when you no longer are just thinking about it, it’s the point where you intend to do something about it.  There is that concept again: intent.  It’s exactly the same as what Jesus said in Matthew 5:28; “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent…”.

The Covetousness Clause


It may complicate things for some people (although I don’t think it should), but there is another sin that may be part of this process.

Matthew 5:28 is specifically talking about the sin of adultery. The point of the verse is to realize that the sin of adultery doesn’t begin when you actually touch the other person, but when you become willing to. But don’t think that someone can lust, and not be sinning.  We can’t think that we can lust and that we don’t sin unless we actually commit a physical adulterous act.

There is another sin that people can do, and it doesn’t involve touching other people at all.  That sin is covetousness. Covetousness is a mental state of powerful, wrong desires.  Just having powerful desires is not covetousness. Someone may have a powerful desire to become a doctor. That desire motivates them to study hard in school all their lives, to do the eight years of schooling beyond high school, to do the internships and all the other requirements to become a doctor. That’s not covetousness, that’s passion for a good thing. God wants us to maintain godly passions. Only ungodly passions are covetousness.

Yes, it is available to have a passion for the right thing, but for the wrong reasons.  Instead of having a passion to be a doctor in order to be able to use all your talents for God and to help people heal, you could have a passion to be a doctor in order to be powerful, and to get rich so that you just get the things that you want for you. It’s all about you, you, you.  That’s really covetousness for riches and power, and the person is willing to do the work of becoming a doctor in order to fulfill their covetousness for riches and power.

There are many examples of covetousness. A person walking around with his head driven with desire for big, expensive houses, fast cars, expensive vacations, partying is full of covetousness. A person walking around with his or her head full of desire to have sex with every person they desire is full of lust.  The words of lust and covetousness are synonymous. Most people just use the word lust in reference to sex, but lust can refer to any object of desire from cars to food to houses to experiences like traveling and entertainment.

And again, some objects of desire are neutral. Having sex with someone you’re not married to is wrong, but it’s not wrong to own a car, a house, some food, or to go on a vacation. It’s a matter of balance. It’s a matter of the motives behind the actions.

It boils down to whether or not God is more important, or that car, house, vacation, or money is more important than God.

The reason covetousness is wrong is because it’s idolatry. Instead of God being the object of a person’s passion it’s for all those things above; the houses, the cars, the money, the sex, etc.

In the case of sexuality, the Father wants us to have a passion for our spouses. The book of Song of Solomon has a big section that talks about the love between a man and a woman. Our Father, God, made man and woman, and endorses the marriage bed. Part of being a newlywed is the huge excitement over sexual passion, and being able to enjoy an abundant sex life with your partner.

But again, to have a passion for something requires a choice, a decision. You could be tempted to want riches and honor, but faithful believers decide not to. They resist that temptation.

So, once again, it’s not a sin to be tempted; it becomes a sin when the decision is made to do a sinful act. One of the sinful acts is to covet the wrong things.

Freedom from Guilt over Being Tempted


We are talking about an incredibly important distinction, and how it relates to this area of sexuality.   It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted in all ways as we are, yet he was found to be without sin. There is no reason for umpteen million men to feel guilty every time a beautiful woman enters their field of vision. It is especially important not to feel guilty if a man is out and about and sees an scantily clad girl on a billboard or on the beach or in the gym, or even just on the street. She doesn’t have to be scantily dressed, she can be just dressed in a that emphasizes her physical beauty. She’s dressed to look sexy, and she’s out in public for all to see.

(Again, one of the points that I hopefully made in the previous article is that women need to be more conscious of the affect they have on men in this area.  And you men that want your wives to dress sexy in public need to think about this too.)

So men, be at peace.  If a gorgeous, sexy woman pops into your field of vision and things start stirring, and your mind starts to think sexy thoughts, you haven’t sinned yet.

How to Deal With Sexual Temptation


Just stop looking.  In the book of Job we see that Job made the decision to do this very thing:

I promised myself never to stare with desire at a young woman. (Job 31:1 CEV)

If you don’t want to eat candy, don’t go into to the candy store. If you don’t want to keep eating, get up from the table.  And if you don’t want to commit adultery or the sin of lust, turn your eyes away, stop staring, look at something else, you get the idea.

We know that as simple as this sounds, this is not always easy to do from a strength and stamina viewpoint.  There are many books, counseling programs, sexual addiction clinics and other therapy options all designed to deal with this issue. If it were so easy we would not need all those things.  A lot of people need help overcoming this particular sin, and there is nothing wrong with that.  If you need help, get it.

Still the concept is not complicated. When you find your eyes fixing on an object, and your desire building for something that you should not desire, move your eyes somewhere else.

Just remember the temptation is not sin. So, if you are tempted, don’t feel guilty about that.  It is part of life.  And it is not a sin unless you decide to act on it.

©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.

February 2nd, 2013 Posted by | Sermons | no comments

Looking At Women and Adultery, Part One (And how even Christian women can contribute to the problem)

But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  (Matthew 5:28 ESV)

Sexual sin is a powerful topic in the Christian world. Lust, fornication, adultery, homosexuality are some of the these sins. And the above verse makes a powerful, if a little confusing statement about when sexual sin actually begins. I have heard some Christians teach that every time a man takes a long look at a woman’s body he is committing adultery. For some viewing a lingerie ad in the newspaper is crossing the line. This is their take on the verse above.  Not all Christians take this extreme of a position. So what is right?

Rick Warren, one of the United States’ most famous pastors, said a while back that sometimes he feels attracted to women who are not his wife. He doesn’t act on it though.[i]

But still it gets to the point that men simply are attracted by women. And the younger, and more attractive the women are, the more this phenomenon happens. It also addresses the fact that even godly men’s eyes tend to look at women.

Now that I am older I have a much clearer idea on the male reaction to the sight of women. While my hormones are not yet back to pre-pubescent days, they are clearly dialed way down from the raging levels that they were in my teens and 20s.

I can remember being about eight years old where when I looked at a female of any I didn’t get any different reaction than from looking at a door knob.

But, at puberty, all of that changed dramatically. At the site of an attractive female, things began to happen in a dramatic fashion.  Without getting too graphic, some of the lesser side effects might be an increased heartbeat, a little perspiration, an internal stirring.

And when it comes to looking, some of us, who played sports, have been trained from an early age to look with peripheral vision.  This is the practice of being aware of your surroundings within the entire range that the eye can see from side to side.  How this relates to this topic is that when an attractive female walks anywhere within the field of any man with peripheral vision the natural reaction is to focus on that vision.

Next, there is a clear difference in the way men and women are perceived in general in our society.  Look at this quote from a study:

“When viewing female images, participants were better at recognizing individual parts than they were matching whole-body photographs to the originals. The opposite was true for male images: People were better at recognizing a guy as a whole than they were his individual parts.

People were also better at discerning women’s individual body parts than they were at men’s individual body parts, further confirming the local processing, or objectification, that was happening. “[ii]

I believe that this phenomenon where the individual parts of women are focused on more than men is not, at least, completely a natural process.  Yes, there is a natural inclination for men to look at women.   But I am drawing attention to the fact that women aren’t helping and that part of the reason for this is the way women’s clothes are designed, and the choices that women make in wearing clothing.

The fact is, apart from nuns and some members of a few religious groups most women want to be seen as “attractive”.   And depending on the age of the woman, that greatly impacts how the woman dresses.  In the United States, as well as many other places in the Western world, it is not uncommon to see young women in their revealing bikini bathing suits, or other similar revealing attire.

To boot, I have watched young women clad in such attire get incensed when some man looks at them. Women need to understand, and I’m using the term for anyone that is able to bear children, that human beings in general, and men in particular are instinctively attracted to the sight of body parts used in bearing children.  That is what the study above shows.  So when you expose all a lot of skin you are drawing attention to yourself in ways that you may not want.

Next, I’m going to go even further than that, and address some of what is considered more “modest” female attire in today’s society.

Compare female attire to men’s attire. Men’s clothes do not draw attention to their body parts on anywhere near the same scale as women’s clothes do.  Often men’s shirts and slacks are loose enough that you really don’t have much of an idea of the man’s physique by looking at him dressed. Of course if he has on a relatively tight T-shirt and shorts that’s less true. But even in those cases, men’s clothes rarely show every curve on their bodies.

On the other hand, even a lot of matronly dresses are fitted so that the bosom, the waist, and the rear end are accentuated in a way to be seen as “attractive”.  Whereas a man’s business suit, for example, includes a shirt and tie that covers him to his Adam’s apple, and with a squared jacket and straight leg pants you often have no idea what his body looks like under that garb.  On the other side, a women’s business suit will still accentuate her “curves”.    Women’s tops are made  with “darts”  which draw attention  to their bosoms. A woman’s suit will often allow a top with exposure of a small amount of cleavage, while she may have a skirt that exposes her legs.  And she may wear heels, which further serve to accentuate body parts, in this case, her legs.   To top it off, women wear makeup and more jewelry than men as a rule, even in a business suit.

This example addresses the fact that even the most modest of women’s clothing, business dress, is designed to draw attention to women’s body parts.     How much more then are our eyes drawn to a woman’s body parts when women make the decision to dress in more sexy clothing.

All of this contributes to a society where EVEN Christian women  are usually dressed in clothing  that draws attention to their body parts.

All of this is part of the equation when we talk about looking at women.  So thus far we have just looked at the part of the verse “everyone who looks at a woman”, and identified that women are looked at more sexually by everyone in general, and also that women contribute to this process in their choice of attire.

In the next article I will talk about the words “with lustful intent”, and when looking becomes sin.

[ii] http://www.livescience.com/21806-brain-male-female-objectification.html

©copyright 2013 Mark W. Smith, all rights reserved.

January 23rd, 2013 Posted by | Sermons | no comments