The fourth thorn in the Parable of the Sower are “the lusts for other things.” The Greek word for “lusts” is epithymia and means a passionate and strong desire or longing for something and an unbridled craving that attaches itself to the object of its affection. It conveys the picture of explosive desire with the intensity of an erupting volcano. It is desire excited to the point of uncontrollable arousal. It is an impulsive and intense sensual desire contrary to the will and pleasures of God.
In its oldest root, this Greek word is associated with the violent movement of air, water, earth, animals and men. It has the meaning of boiling up emphasizing excessive indulgence, impulsive passions and frenzied desires. It is often associated with sexual appetite and conveys the image of lascivious passion built on animal desire for sexual indulgence. Lust is excessive desire that has gone overboard and adrift from the heart of God that seeks self-satisfaction, self-gratification and self-pleasure as its ultimate thrill ride. Lust has no perception of eternity and no realization of its deadly consequences to the heart. Lust is blind to the spiritual ramifications of its actions. Lust puts the heart in direct rebellion and mutiny against the rule of God.
Skip Moen, the Hebrew scholar, gives a thought-provoking definition of lust in his article Sleeping with the Enemy:
Epithymia is used to highlight the sin of longing for desires outside the will of God. Epithymia is … a deliberate violation (violence) against the will of God … a sin of willful disobedience marked by violent overthrowing of God’s expressed will … Epithymia is a manifestation of sin that dwells in man and that controls him, for although unholy desires are kindled as a result of the presentations of the world, it is the internal resolution to self-will, stirred up in impulsive motion that causes violence toward God’s rule. Lust is nothing less than the spiritual outburst of anxious self-seeking. Lust characterizes man as he really is, apart from God as a being who is at any moment willing to erupt in a burst of self-proclamation and self-determination … Therefore, the New Testament contains dire warnings against the danger of lust and instructs Christians to fight against such impulses. Here is instruction to use spiritual warfare and resistance against a great enemy of God, namely, the desire within us to create our own world. James 1:15 says that when lust conceives, it brings forth sin … James makes it clear that the very presence of epithymia is the seed bed for the propagation of sin. What James is saying is simply this: the presence of lust (epithymia) is pregnant with sin. Lust always conceives. There is no numinous condom that prevents lust from impregnating its recipient. If you and I allow lust to penetrate our lives, we have already assented to the dominance of our will in opposition to the will of God and that can mean only one result – the birth of sin. No wonder we are exhorted to violent action against such an enemy. There is no passive acquiescence here, no humble supplication. This is war, a war of self-will against the divine will and the prize is none other than our very being. Lust is not subtle. It is aggressive, violent, impulsive, explosive, demanding, commanding and overpowering. It wants only one thing – the object of its desire. And this is the antinomy of God’s way. Let us not be deluded. Lust is a powerful, cunning enemy, hideously concealed within our very being.[i]
Lust is an intense longing and hunger for something that is contrary to the will of God. It is the obsessive desire to eat and partake of the forbidden fruit that God has warned us about. Lust is a craving for the unholy.
The Kingdom of Lust
The Devil is the father and originator of all lust that spreads like wildfire throughout the earth in the hearts and minds of the human race. The Devil was the first being in the heavens and earth to lust in his heart, and he allowed lust to consume him, which resulted in him rebelling against God and causing a war in heaven. One third of the angels followed the father of lust in his mutiny against God and were cast out of heaven to the earth. Lust destroyed their heavenly calling and thrust them from the throne of God into utter darkness and chaos.
The kingdom of darkness was borne out of lust in the heart of God’s head archangel and cherubim, and lust is the centerpiece of all the works of this wicked kingdom throughout the earth. Unbridled lust always results in the downfall of the human heart. Lust is the precursor to rebellion against God and His Holy Word and causes the Word of God to be choked and strangled from the heart. When lust controls one’s thoughts and actions, it is a sure sign that one’s heart is not abiding in the truth and has wandered from the true way of God and His commandments. As a rapidly spreading disease, lust consumes the heart with its wicked desires, corrupting everything in its path. This prickly and poisonous weed may be the fastest growing thorn ever known to the heart as it spreads like a forest fire destroying all life in its path.
Lusts War against the Soul
Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul. (1 Peter 2:11, KJV)
Divinely loved ones [loved by God], I beg of you, please, as aliens and those who have settled down alongside of pagan [unsaved] people should, be constantly holding yourselves back from the passionate cravings (lusts) which are fleshly by nature [fleshly in that thy come from the totally depraved nature], cravings of such a nature that, like an army carrying on a military campaign, they are waging war, hurling themselves down upon your soul. (WUEST)
Lust is in constant war against the heart, attempting to turn it from God and contaminate it with impurity, wickedness, and unrighteousness. Lust is the great poison of the heart that suffocates the life of God and His Word. Lust causes the heart to war against God and keeps godliness from taking root in the heart. Lusts always corrupt and deteriorate the inner life of the heart.
The Greek word for “war” means to perform military service, to serve as a soldier in the army, to carry on a military campaign, and to lead soldiers to battle. This verb does not just imply mere fighting, but all that is included in military service. Lusts carry on a daily military campaign against our hearts, which will rage on until the return of Christ. Lusts march off to war as soldiers in active military service against their enemy, the soul. Lusts have a great military strategy at every turn of the battle, which is to destroy the heart for God. Lusts have devoured more human lives than all the wars in world history combined. In the church especially, lusts have ruined more ministries, destroyed more callings and wasted more godly potential, than anything upon the earth.
The statistics are staggering as it has been estimated that 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women are addicted to pornography as the lust problem is escalating in the church with devastating consequences. The Christian heart that is supposed to be a pure, honorable and glorious inner sanctuary devoted wholly to God has become a den of lust, and the entire body of Christ is affected by this contamination. Thorns of lust are multiplying at an unprecedented rate in the hearts of Christians and suffocating the life of Christ from growing. Instead of shining as lights in the world we are living in darkness because we have allowed the lusts of our sinful nature to control our thoughts and behavior.
Lust is a heart-killer and every moment of the day it has its aim on the soul. We must be vigilant to stand at the door of our heart and diligently guard it against lust ever entering its chambers. One of the greatest weapons of Satan’s kingdom against the lives of Christians is lust. When lust thrives in the heart, we cannot truly love God for our heart has turned passionately to something else that it craves more than God. Lust steals a Christian’s love, passion and devotion away from the Lord. Lust is constantly crouching and banging at the door of our heart demanding to be let in, enticing us to open the door and welcome it.
We must raise the shield of faith to quench the fiery darts of lust that are relentlessly being hurled at us. We must take the breastplate of righteousness and protect our heart and wield the sword of the spirit to cut the luring promises of lust into a million pieces. It is only by the great, precious promises of God’s Word, vibrantly alive in the heart by confession, study, meditation and prayer, and walking by the mighty gift of the holy spirit of God, which dwells in us, that we can escape the corrupting influence of lust.
Lust the Destroyer of Relationships, Cultures and Nations
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:4, KJV)
It is through him that God’s greatest and most precious promises have become available to us men, making it possible for you to escape the inevitable disintegration that lust produces in the world and to share in God’s essential nature. (PHILLIPS)
All the corruption in the world that is bombarded daily across our computers, radios and televisions has its root in the thorns of lust. Lust always corrupts and causes the disintegration of godliness in the heart. Lust destroys relationships, societies, and nations.
Every part of our heart matters to God, and we cannot give lust a part of our heart where God cannot enter. Jesus Christ has to be Lord of every room of our heart for every square inch is His dwelling place. When we harbor lust in our hearts, we are limiting our intimacy with God. Lust is never governed, regulated or guided by a supreme love, adoration and worship of God. Lust only falls to its knees before the object it craves and is blinded to the magnificent glory, grace, and love of God.
Lust never originates in the heart of the Heavenly Father, but in the world system orchestrated by the god of this age. Lust drives the heart to love and treasure the world. Lust always entices and leads the heart into idolatry. If lust dominates our thoughts and passions, then the love for our Heavenly Father does not abide in our heart. Our heart has become closed off from the love for God and the desire to do His will when the thorns of lust are the crop that our heart is producing. Lust always suffocates our fellowship with God.
May our heart cry out: “I only have one passion, one love, one hunger and one craving and it is for God alone!” We must never erect a golden calf of lust in our heart and dance around it with passion. God wants our whole heart, and we must utterly exterminate every lust of the flesh which stands against the glory of God living radiantly in us. God must be the only king of the inner court of our heart.
Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. (1 John 2:15-17, NASB)
Lust: The Chief Characteristic of Our Sin Nature
To fight off these military campaigns of lust, we must understand where lust originates, how it operates and how to overcome it. The most basic question is why is there such a natural tendency and impulse within me to be pulled into the world of lust?
Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts. And put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22, 24, RSV)
No, what you learned was to fling off the dirty clothes of the old way of living, which were rotted through and through with lust’s illusions. And, with yourselves mentally and spiritually re-made, to put on the clean fresh clothes of the new life which was made by God’s design for righteousness and the holiness which is no illusion. (PHILLIPS)
But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall no way fulfil flesh’s lust. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these things are opposed one to the other, that ye should not do those things which ye desire; But they that are of the Christ have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts. (Galatians 5:16-17, 24, DARBY)
As Christians, we have both a new nature in Christ and an old sinful nature inherited from Adam, and they are at war within us for control of our hearts. Both natures are born into our very being, the fleshly sinful nature at our physical birth, and the new divine nature at our spiritual birth when we are born again and come to Christ. These two natures are in constant conflict and struggle against each other as each one tries to dominate our lives.
There is intense warfare raging within us daily between our fleshly nature and our spiritual nature with each trying to take the territory of our heart. Both natures want to desperately win this war and advance in military might seizing the reign of the kingdom of the heart. The stakes are high in this spiritual conflict. This is the monumental internal struggle between good and evil in the human heart. This is a battle for the purity and character of the Christian heart and whether the heart will be transformed into the beauty and likeness of Christ or be conformed to the wickedness of their sin nature and the ungodly lusts of this world. This is a battle for what fruit will adorn the Christian’s heart and define his witness for Jesus Christ. This is a battle of eternal consequences, as the future rewards of the kingdom are at stake.
Lusts are the essential ingredient to the operation of our sin nature. The fleshly sinful nature is fueled by the thorns of lust, and its passionate cravings feed and drive the flesh into action. The old man nature inherited from Adam is corrupt, according to Ephesians, because of deceitful lusts. The Greek word for “corrupt” means to waste, wither, decay, shrivel and pine away. It is to corrupt by inner degeneration and decay. The Greek word is in the present passive participle, which means is it being corrupted more and more each day by lusts, and characterizes a progressive condition of decay like a decomposing corpse. Rogers and Rogers in The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament vibrantly illustrate this Greek word “corrupt”:
The whole character representing the former self was not only corrupt but ever growing more and more corrupt … Every trait of the old man’s behavior is putrid, crumbling, or inflated like rotting waste or cadavers, stinking; ripe for being disposed of and forgotten.[ii]
When the thorns of lust dominate our heart, it is like having rotting, stinking garbage or a putrid decaying corpse living within the very center of our being. Lust causes this horrible condition of degeneration and always leads to a worse state of corruption eventually causing the heart to waste away. Lust has an insatiable hunger and is never satisfied, always demanding more. When we sow the seeds of lust, we will reap the fruit of corruption. This is why Jesus warned in the Parable of the Sower to not allow the thorns of lust to grow and flourish in the heart because they will produce a putrid harvest of corruption, decay and destruction.
It is interesting that from the Greek root for “corrupt” we get our English word diphtheria, which is a contagious disease that produces a toxin that causes inflammation of the heart and nervous system. Lust is very contagious and toxic to the spiritual life of the heart. Lusts harden the heart causing it to lose all sensitivity to the voice of God and indulge in every kind of impurity that causes our growth in Christ to decay. The flesh dominated by lusts always corrupts His way upon the earth and in the human heart.
The Pregnancy of Lust Ready to Give Birth
But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished (brought to completion), it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (James 1:14-16, NASB)
Temptation is the great indicator of who possesses the throne of our heart. Temptation shows what our heart is rooted in and what our heart hungers after. Temptation will gauge our spiritual strength and is a measuring stick of our growth in Christ. Temptation reveals where the gaze of our heart is directed. Are our inward eyes beholding the beauty and majesty of our God or the lusts of this temporal world? If our inward gaze is upon Jesus, temptation and lusts fall by the wayside and fade into the night.
Temptation feeds off of our lusts and can only lure us from the heart of God and His Holy Word when the fires of lust are burning in our souls and the gaze of our heart has turned away from God. Temptation will test the deepness of our relationship with God and always tries to lure us to another altar where God is not worshipped. Lusts flourish in the heart of a person who does not know God and the awesome nature of His character. Lusts abound in the heart of a person who has not seen the breathtaking beauty of God’s Word, which He magnified above all His name. Lust always carries the heart far from God into the darkness of a world where God is forgotten.
Lust is deeply embedded in the impure passions of the flesh and yearns to give birth to sin in every level of human activity. If we cannot control and mortify our lusts, then we will never be able to resist temptation. Temptations to disobey God are constantly hurled at the heart like piercing arrows, and we must know how to shield our hearts from their enticing offers. All temptation is an invitation to forsake God, and the only way temptation is successful in getting us to follow its bait is through appealing to a variety of different lusts of our flesh. Lust is what entices us to give into the temptation.
We are to watch and pray at the gateway of our heart so lust does not enter and carry us away into the den of temptation. Sin is crouching behind every lust waiting to pounce and bring us into bondage. We become a traitor to our God and play a dangerous game when we allowed the enemy access to our heart through unbridled lust.
When temptation and lust are joined together, a conception takes place, and sin is borne from this dreadful union. Lust is always pregnant with sin and if not dealt with in the human heart, it will give birth to sin. It is amazing to think that all sin is caused by lust. Lust is the precursor, forerunner and foundation of all sin. Without lust there is no temptation to sin. The bait and enticement to sin is always through lust. Lust is the proud parent of sin. Sin is the child and progeny of lust. All of the works of flesh mentioned in Galatians 5 and Colossians 3 have lust at its core. Anger, strife, envy, jealousy, impurity, idolatry, witchcraft, sexual immorality, slander, hatred and stealing all are caused by the lusts of our flesh. At the exact center of everything unholy are the flames of lust.
Runaway Lusts Have Caused Great Damage in the Church
Lusts are incredibly powerful and can cast the heart into spiritual darkness and change its entire composition. Lusts are one of the primary weapons of the Devil because when they get ahold of us, they will consume everything we are and everything we love. Uncontrolled consuming lusts destroy lives and wreck everything in their path. Runaway lusts have ruined more marriages, more families, more churches, more callings, more destinies and more nations than anything upon the earth. The heart consumed with lust will move heaven and earth to protect its unholy passion. No cost is too high. No price is too great. Soon our lives come crumbling down in a heap of corruption because there is nothing good, holy and pure in the lusts of our flesh. They always lead to death in some form as they destroy godliness, morality, honor, respect, virtue and holiness. Lust is a lethal enemy that cannot be allowed to grow as a thorn in the heart.
Becky Tirabassi in Sacred Obsession says:
Perhaps there is a lie you will buy. You believe you are entitled to chase after that which you think will make you feel alive-full of real, living passionate feelings. But you know, as I knew that these things or persons, pornography, illicit sexual relationships, greed-don’t make you more alive … they make you numb. They actually steal from you. They steal your joy, your peace, even your money! They use you. They take from you. Eventually (sooner, rather than later) they will ruin your reputation, smother any affection you might have for God, and ultimately destroy your purpose for living … If you have opened your heart to the unholy, you will soon close your eyes to the deception involved. But if you can still hear the plea of a sojourner who once loved sin and found it empty, please hear me say, “It cannot save you; it cannot satisfy you completely; it is not your friend. It is a stealer, a killer and destroyer. It seeks to own you. It has a nature, a purpose, a passion to possess you. It cannot love you. It hates you-and hates the holy. Instead I know only one way to be free from it-run from it. Hate it. See it as the poison it is … Run toward the holy God … relinquish the unholy passions in your life.[iii]
Jesus Christ: The Liberator from Unholy Passions
There is no release from this vicious power of lust without the Lord Jesus Christ. The power of the sin nature and all of its lusts have been forever crushed and defeated at Calvary through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has freed us from this insidious law of sin and death that works in the lusts of our flesh and given us a new divine nature. We must put on this new nature and put off the old. We must adorn our heart and mind with this new clothing of the divine nature that was created in righteousness and true holiness and cast off the filthy, putrid rags of our old sin nature.
It is a new day for Christians where we no longer have to live helplessly enslaved to the unholy cravings of lusts. The glory of the Lord has shined in our hearts, and our God will be exalted above all the lusts of our flesh for our desire is only for Him. We are dead to sin and lusts and our heart is now alive to God! Sin is no longer the king of our hearts making us bow to the passions, cravings and lusts of the flesh. We are sons and daughters of God and we now offer our bodies, minds and hearts to God as a living sacrifice to accomplish His will upon the earth as we magnify God in our thoughts, words and actions. We have decided to arm ourselves with the mind of Christ and to live the rest of our lives not to the lusts of the flesh, but to the will of God (1 Peter 4:2). God has made us a new creation in Christ, and the old habits of lust have passed away. We have been made lovely, acceptable, righteous, justified, sanctified, holy, and redeemed in Christ and the lusts of our flesh can never compare to the glory of God that has been revealed in us. We are now the living habitation of God, and our inner heart is God’s holy of holies where there is no room for any impurity, lust, and unholy passion.
Reckoning the Lusts of Our Flesh Unemployed
We were buried therefore with Him by the baptism into death, so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, so we too might habitually live and behave in newness of life. For if we have become one with Him by sharing a death like His, we shall also be one with Him in sharing His resurrection by a new life lived for God. We know that our old, unrenewed self was nailed to the cross with Him in order that our body, which is the instrument of sin might be made ineffective and inactive for evil, that we might no longer be the slaves of sin. Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God, living in unbroken fellowship with Him, in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore rule as king in your mortal, short-lived, perishable bodies, to make you yield to its cravings and be subject to its lusts and evil passions. Do not continue offering or yielding your bodily members and faculties to sin as instruments tools of wickedness. But offer and yield yourselves to God as though you have been raised from the dead to perpetual life, and your bodily members and faculties to God, presenting them as implements of righteousness. For sin shall not any longer exert dominion over you, since now you are not under Law as slaves, but under grace as subjects of God’s favor and mercy. (Romans 6:4-6,11-13, AMP)
So kill, deaden, deprive of power the evil desire (lust) lurking in your members [those animal impulses and all that is earthly in you that is employed in sin] … (Colossians 3:5(a), AMP)
And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Galatians 5:24-25, KJV)
Those who belong to Christ have crucified their old nature with all that it loved and lusted for. If our lives are centered in the Spirit, let us be guided by the Spirit. (PHILLIPS)
We yield our hands, feet, mouth, eyes, ears and heart as tools of righteousness to our God, and never allow our body to be an instrument of sin. We must not allow the thorns of lust to exert dominion over our heart for the grace of God teaches us that we deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world (Titus 2:12). We walk in newness of life according to our divine nature giving us the power to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust. We render the lusts of our flesh unemployed, as sin is a dethroned monarch in our heart. We refuse to yield to lust’s evil passions, impulses and cravings. Lust is dead in the heart of the Christian that walks by the Spirit.
The Heavenly Emancipation Proclamation
God has issued the Emancipation Proclamation from the legal court of heaven, and in Christ we are no longer slaves of sin and all its corresponding lusts. The edict has been proclaimed that we are forever free from the corrupting power of lust through the redeeming work of Christ. In His salvation, lusts have no strength or vitality, for we are now moved by our yearning for Christ. Our new nature operates by love not lust, and God has poured His love into our hearts. We can love like Jesus loves and no longer have to lust like Satan lusts. Our new spiritual heritage is to love God and love people with a selfless love as we no longer run on the course of this world, recklessly fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and of the mind.
Why would we want to lust for other things when we have God as our Heavenly Father? Why would we want to lust after other things when we have Jesus as our Lord, brother and Savior? Why would we turn our hearts over to lust when Christ is in us? Christ’s life, power, and love abide within us waiting to be brilliantly manifested to the world through our faith. Do we want to be a vessel of honor or dishonor to our God? Don’t we yearn to be a vessel of honor shining brightly as lights in this crooked generation, demonstrating to the world that our awesome God is infinitely better than anything that the world lusts after?
But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also utensils of wood and earthenware, and some for honorable and noble use and some for menial and ignoble use. So whoever cleanses himself from what is ignoble and unclean, who separates himself from contact with contaminating and corrupting influences will then himself be a vessel set apart and useful for honorable and noble purposes, consecrated and profitable to the Master, fit and ready for any good work. Shun youthful lusts and flee from them, and aim at and pursue righteousness (all that is virtuous and good, right living, conformity to the will of God in thought, word, and deed); and aim at and pursue faith, love, and peace (harmony and concord with others) in fellowship with all Christians, who call upon the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:20-22, AMP)
Do you want to be set apart from the world and useful for the noble and honorable purposes God has ordained for your life? Do you want to be consecrated and profitable for your Lord, fit and ready to do every good work that He has called you to in your generation? Then you must cleanse your heart from every lust that craves for attention. You must separate your heart from the contaminating and corrupting influence of lust. You must shun and flee from lusts with the speed of an Olympic runner and aim your heart at your glorious God, pursuing His righteousness, love, and peace with the intensity of a spiritual athlete. As Christians we must all call upon the Lord out of a pure heart free from the control of earthly lusts. As the Body of Christ we must pledge to live a holy life that is no longer enslaved to the sins and lusts of our old flesh. Oh what a magnificent day it will be for Christianity when lusts fade away in the glory and power of our new life in Christ.
[i] Skip Moen, Sleeping with the Enemy, Hebrew Word Study: Skip Moen, http://skipmoen.com/2007/03/05/sleeping-with-the-enemy/
[ii] Rogers and Rogers, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1998), 442.
[iii] Becky Tirabassi, Sacred Obsession: What You Chase After You Become (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, 2006), 21.