Honest to God
August 10, 2003
[Ed opens the message with prayer]
Dear heavenly Father, I thank you for this opportunity that we have, once again, to hear your truth. I have nothing to say, God. You have everything to say. This topic is very difficult for me to talk about. I know so many are struggling with it and dealing with it. It’s an issue that is all encompassing. Give me the courage and the discernment just to say the right thing. I ask that you speak through me and that people would receive your word and, by your power and your grace, make decisions that would affect their lives here and also for eternity. In Jesus’ name, amen.
What I want to talk about this morning robs more people of more stuff than almost anything I know. This subject matter can set off a chain reaction that explodes your marriage, your family, your career, and even your faith. As far as the men here are concerned, it’s the number one barrier that keeps you from experiencing the power and the presence of God. You know what I am talking about. I’m talking about lust. When I say the word “lust,” what comes to your mind? Lust is a God-given desire that has simply gone haywire. It’s when an attraction segues into an illicit sexual action — mentally, emotionally or physically. Shockingly, our culture packages lust, we promote lust and we all buy it, don’t we? We spend billions, probably trillions of dollars each and every year just on what I am talking about today.
LEVELS OF LUST
In a crowd this size, I know some of you are dealing with different levels of lust. For example, when I said I was going to talk about lust several weeks ago, some of you probably broke out into a cold sweat because you have this secret life that no one knows about. You are kind of freaked out about being found out. Others here are more “recreational” lusters. Do you know what I am talking about?
You say, “Man, what’s the big deal about lust? Boys will be boys. I can check out the menu but I don’t have to order, you know? If I see a good-looking girl, I’m looking at her from the neck down. That’s just the way it is, brother.”
Maybe you are into a “thinking man’s pornography” — Victoria’s Secret, Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Addiction. Addiction… that’s true. I meant to say “Edition.” That was a great slip, wasn’t it? That was from God, there. There’s no doubt. Maybe you like to watch Wild on E! and all this stuff.
You see, recreational lusting seems benign. It seems like no big deal. It’s just your little “thing.” You’re not hurting anybody. But recreational lusting segues into deeper forms. Most people here, most men in particular, are at this “recreational” level. You frequent Gentlemen’s Clubs. You find yourself now and then pursuing porn on the internet. When you travel, you are ordering the adult movies. Maybe you order them at home in the privacy of your bedroom. Whatever the case may be, some of you are into that level.
Others here are lusting in a different way. You have moved from Victoria’s Secret or Sports Illustrated Edition. You have moved from watching the stuff on television. You have moved from adult movies and you have actually put skin on to your lust. Do you know what I am saying to you? Right now, you are in an adulterous relationship. Or, maybe you are flirting with it — those long lingering lunches with that attractive co-worker, those conversations. And you are believing the lies of lust. Next weekend we are going to talk about the lies of lust, because lust is something that will lie to you like, “Man, if you would have met her before you met your wife, things would be different. She could do stuff for you that your wife can’t and she understands you. You deserve it and no one will know.”
People right now are listening to that and you are turning it over and over on the rotisserie grill of your mind. You have put skin onto your lust.
LET’S BE CANDID
Let me say something right upfront that we need to understand. Let me make several statements in an introductory fashion, because I want you to know my heart and my spirit when I talk to you about this subject matter.
Statement number one — I’m going to talk about lust in a very candid, straightforward and biblical manner. The Bible has some wonderful things about lust and we are going to talk about what it says. This is not my opinion. This is not what I think or we think at Fellowship Church. This is what the Bible says.
THERE IS HOPE
Number two — the underlying theme of this entire series is hope. That’s what is so amazing about Scripture. We are sinners. We are a colossal collection of moral foul-ups. Yet, we serve a God who gives us the good news of hope, and we are going to talk about hope. I don’t care where you are, I don’t care what level of lust you find yourself in, you can walk in purity and holiness and righteousness. You can do it, not by your own strength, but by His strength. But, also, we have to know some things and apply some things.
Speaking of hope, a gentleman wrote me a letter that impacted me greatly a couple of days ago. I have his permission to read it:
[Ed has the letter with him and reads it to the audience]
“Dear Ed, I’m hesitant to write to you about something so deeply shameful to me but I feel that I am being led to do so. Your upcoming series on lust will be especially relevant for me and I want to share my story and experiences with you. It’s my battle with lust that ultimately led me to become a Christ-follower this past January at Fellowship. While I’ve been involved in many disconcerting things over the years — pornography, voyeurism, adult book stores, massage parlors, strip bars, escorts, street prostitution, date lines, chat rooms and anonymous sex — my largest battle has been with prostitution.
Eleven years ago, I was set up by a girl posing as a prostitute and was mugged by the girl’s boyfriend. I drove myself to the hospital where I was hospitalized for nine days due to my injuries. I am writing to you because I believe you recognize how insidious and challenging this addiction is. What should have been a sufficient intervention 11 years ago did nothing to lessen the grip that lust had on my life. Instead, my addiction only progressed from that point forward. I became hopeless, lost, afraid and certain that I would never break free of the bonds of my addiction. I received a glimmer of hope, though, this past January. You are not going to believe this.
In January, I received a call from my best friend who was the only person I trusted enough to tell what was really going on when I got mugged 11 years ago. He shared that one of his female employees told him that eleven years ago, because of her drug addiction, she posed as a prostitute and would lure men into secluded areas where her boyfriend would be waiting. They attacked six different men before being arrested and sent to prison. After going to prison, this lady shared that she gave her life to Christ and joined Alcoholics Anonymous. My friend, when he heard this, recognized that I was one of her victims and he called me. Since then, I have spoken to, and ultimately met, this lady and she told me how her life had been permanently changed in miraculous ways. As I listened to her story, I became ashamed and jealous that, while she had turned her life around, I was still deep in my addiction.
The next day, I went on the Internet and found Sex Addicts Anonymous. Simultaneously, I ratcheted up my attendance at Fellowship and prayed with you to turn my life over to Christ. While my relationship with God is still developing, I no longer doubt his word and know that I can’t live life on my own terms. It’s still challenging for me to release my self will and turn things over to him, but I am making progress. Fellowship and your teachings have touched my life and the lives of many friends who I have asked to join me. I want to thank you for providing me a safe environment to worship and grow in my faith even though I am far from perfect. I felt that the church had no place for someone as unworthy as me and I felt that I should clean up my house before I turned my life over to Christ. I only recently learned that I had it backwards. I turned my life over to Christ and I let Christ help me clean up my house. I’ve maintained over six months of abstinence since turning my will over to him.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story and I pray you will focus your message on hope over the next four weeks. I expect that I will encourage fifteen or more of my 100 group members to attend some or all of your services over the upcoming weeks. I would like to get your series on DVD to donate to my 12-step group. I want to thank you for having the courage and vision to tackle this topic in such a direct and no-nonsense way. Your candor and real life approach to tackling each and every message has been a blessing in my life.”
[The letter ends]
That really meant a lot to me. I want to tell you again that this whole message, the whole desire from my heart, is all about hope.
IT’S NOT JUST A GUY THING
Let me give you a couple more statements. I think you know this next one. Let me state the obvious. Lust is not just a guy thing. It’s not just a guy thing. Ladies, you need to understand a man’s sex drive. You need to understand your sex drive as well. I’m going to bring my wife and some other women up here during this series to talk about a woman’s lust and how they process it and deal with it. We are going to all learn together. So, no matter where you are in your Christian life, where you are in your investigation into the claims of Christ, or where you are in levels of lust, we are going to take from this series and learn from it. I believe we are going to experience the greatness that God has for us, sexually speaking.
THIS WILL BE DIFFICULT
One more statement, and this is may be the most important one that I have said thus far. This series will be difficult to attend. It’s not going to be easy to show up here at Fellowship Church for this series. This series will last four or five weeks, but I’m going to tell you something. The Evil One will give you every excuse imaginable not to show up. You’ll have trips out there, games out there, events out there, and this fun fix or that fun fix. Satan has a major grip or grasp on lust and he does not want lust to be drug out into the light. He doesn’t want it. So, he is going to make it difficult for all of us. But I’m going to tell you that, as you pray for me and for our team, as you pray for yourself and others, make sure you are here. Because, this is one of the most important things we can talk about and sadly, very few churches have ever tackled this topic. As I said, it’s the number one barrier that keeps men from experiencing the power and the presence of God. It robs more people of more stuff than almost anything I know; yet, the church has been strangely silent about it. All we have said is, “Hey, don’t lust. Lust fascinates and assassinates. Stay away from it.” Oh, so that’s it, huh? Thank you very much. This is church. We need to get real and open and honest about our sexuality. God is open and honest. He invented it. We better talk about it. So, if you have a problem about it, chill out or go to another church. We are going to talk about it, because it’s that serious and it’s that powerful. I’ll tell you something — we can all walk in victory. Now, having said all of that, let’s jump into this introductory material.
I’m going to make four statements about lust and I have limited it today to four statements. I would love to go deeper, but let me start with four statements. This is going to be a very in depth study on this topic. The stakes are sky high when you talk about lust and that is why I want you to understand these four statements and get them down cold.
LUST IS NOT PREJUDICED
Statement number one: No one is immune from lust. I have had the opportunity over the last several years to speak all over the country. I’ve talked all around the country about lust. When I talk to audiences, I know what some people are thinking.
Some people are thinking, “Well, Ed, what do you know about lust? You are a man of the cloth. You are a pastor. You probably don’t even deal with it, you know? It’s probably not even on your radar screen.”
Let me tell you a story. Recently, I had a meal with some friends at a restaurant in Dallas. Lisa and these friends went outside to pick up the car while I stopped by the men’s room. When I came out of the men’s room, I had to walk by the bar area and the bar was closed down. I got about fifteen feet from the front door. I was by myself when the door swung open and I saw before me the most beautiful and seductive woman I have ever seen in my life. Guys, I kid you not, her figure would have embarrassed Pamela Anderson Lee’s figure. She had about as much clothing on as a Victoria Secret model would wear. I was attracted to her. I was like, “Unbelievable!”
Now, let me stop here and tell you something. It is not a sin to be attracted to the opposite sex. That will happen. We are going to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. I hope you realize that and understand it. That’s not sin.
So, I saw this girl and thought, “Wow!” Now we have the moment of truth. She’s walking past me. No one is in the bar. I’m alone. No one says, “Oh, there’s Ed Young, Fellowship Church.” I have a choice, don’t I? I can turn, watch her and go, “Whoa,” and follow the path of lust. Or, I can keep walking, press the delete button, erase the image and just go about my day. What do I do? Do you know what I do? I press the delete button. I walk in purity and holiness. I don’t score a 100 every time, but by God’s grace, by his power, I’ve learned to press the delete button.
Let me do a quick sidebar for next weekend. Every time you deal with lust, it follows the same predictable pattern and most people are clueless about the pattern. We’ll talk about the pattern next weekend. I want to talk about it this weekend, but I can’t. I’ve got too much stuff to talk about. That’s next weekend.
IT’S A MIND WAR
Lust is a battle in the mind. That’s where it goes on. It starts with the eyes. Did you see the eyes when the service opened? Was that incredible or what? [Ed is referring to the video montage that opened the service] What we see, we then absorb and it goes into our minds. Our minds basically have two painters in them. You’ve got the Evil One painting illicit images all the time. You’ve got the Holy Spirit painting pure and holy images. Which one wins out? I’ll tell you — the one that we supply. A lot of us are supplying the Evil One.
We say, “Oh, yeah, paint her a little bit more in detail. You missed a spot. Fill that in and oh, yeah, mat that and frame that.”
Others though, by God’s power and grace, are feeding the Holy Spirit. So, it’s a battle in the mind. It starts with the eyes, especially for the men here. And men, isn’t it weird how we are wired? We could be attracted to a woman just by the way she looks. We don’t have to hear her voice, or know her likes or dislikes. She might be a complete jerk, but we are attracted. Just like Billy Graham said, the first look will not get you into trouble, it’s that second, third and fourth look that will mess you up. It’s about the eyes, moving the eyes.
It’s also about the mind — pressing the delete button. People have told me stuff like this before, “I don’t really deal with lust, Ed. It doesn’t affect me. I could never go down that path, man. Because my wife and I …” I just look at them and go, “Man, that’s very dangerous for you to say that.” For any of us to say we can’t deal with it, for any of us say we are above it and beyond it — you better watch out, because, after a while, you will get leveled by lust.
Remember David in the Bible? He wasn’t a wimp or a weak guy. He was an athlete like you have never seen before — a poetic genius, a musical genius, and a military genius. They still study his military strategy today at West Point. He was a man after God’s own heart at the peak of his career. What happened to our boy?
2 Samuel, 11:2 reads [paraphrased], “One evening (and David should have been on the battle field, he should have been fighting) David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof, he saw a woman.” You are going to be attracted. It’s part of life. But when the attraction segues into illicit sexual action mentally, emotionally and physically, that’s where sin comes in. David lusted for her and committed adultery with her. David, the giant killer. David, God’s man. Guys let me tell you something, none of us can say we are above and beyond this stuff. Every one of us in the right circumstances and situations would do the same thing David did. If you doubt me, you are lying to yourself and to God. No one is immune from lust. That’s the first statement.
SEX IS A GIFT FROM GOD
The second statement: our sex drive is from God. God thought sex up. It’s his idea. It’s his deal. It’s a good thing, because it’s a God thing. Go back to the book of Genesis. God created man in his image. Then God said, “It’s not good that man is alone.” So, what did God do? God took a rib from man and fashioned woman. Men are looking for completeness. We have a rib that’s missing. We have a desire for the opposite sex. We can’t explain it. It’s just God given.
The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. It’s very interesting to do a word study in the Hebrew. The word “man” in the Old Testament is pronounced “ish.” The word “woman” in the Old Testament is pronounced “ah.” Scripture does not tell us what Adam said the first time he saw Eve. God presented to Adam this perfectly built and made woman completely naked. What was Adam thinking? What did he say? Maybe Adam said, “Ish. You are like me.” But then, as he looked at her closer, maybe he said, “Ah! You’re different.” It’s the “ah” that God has given us.
I have a desire for thirst. I get thirsty and I drink. My throat is a little bit sore from speaking so much this weekend and it’s good to drink water. I’d be stupid to pour arsenic in the water, because if I drank that, I would die. I have a desire for food. Between services, I eat stuff to keep my energy up. I had a bowl of fruit a couple of minutes ago. Then, I had some of those organic black bean guiltless gourmet chips. Have you ever had those before? Man, those things are incredible! I love them. I had a little bit of espresso. I eat. And it’s good to eat, but it’s not good to be gluttonous. We shouldn’t overeat. Eating is good, though. I have the desire for sex and so do you. I am a sexual being and so are you. God made me that way and God made you that way. Isn’t that good? I’m not to use this God-given desire in a God-forbidden way. That’s sin. I’m not to have sex outside the marriage bed. I’m going to do sex God’s way — one man, one woman, together in the covenant of marriage. I trust God. I say, “God, you have greatness in store for me and I’m going to do life your way. What I drink, what I eat, where I sleep, how I practice my sexuality, I’m going to do it your way, by your guidelines and guardrails.” Sex is a God-given desire.
UNDERSTANDING A MAN’S SEXUAL DESIRE
Now, we are going to talk in this series about the different desires that we have. Most guys are clueless, really, about a woman’s sexual desire. And most women are clueless about a man’s sexual desire. You might think you know, but let’s face it, you don’t know. In 1999, I told a story to the women about a man’s sexual drive. Over the years, people have asked me, “Ed, tell it again. Tell it again. Please, tell that story again.” Well, we have gone back into the archives and pulled this story out. Don’t laugh at my clothing. It’s a long time ago. Here’s what I said about sexual desire. Check it out.
[A video is played on the side screens. It is a clip of a message that Ed did years ago]
Dr. Willard Harley, a Christian psychologist, has a beautiful illustration that really hammers home to women a man’s sex drive and, specifically, what a man goes through when he gets rejected. Let me go through it with you right quick.
Suppose, husbands and wives, there was a stool, a glass of water on the stool, the husband was next to the stool, and the wife was next to the husband who was next to the stool with the glass of water. The wife is immobilized. She can’t get the water. The husband is the only one who can get the water for her. Here’s what happens, Harley writes.
Let’s say the wife turns to her husband and asks, “Honey, would you please pour me a glass of water? I’m getting thirsty.”
The husband turns and responds by saying, “I don’t really feel like it. I’m not in the mood. Maybe in a couple of hours.”
Hours roll by. One more time, the wife turns to her husband and says, “Honey, I am getting thirsty. Would you please give me a glass of water?”
The husband looks at the wife and goes, “You know, I’m kind of tired. I’ve had a long day, okay?”
Then the wife begins to get angry. I mean, she can feel the temperature rising. She wants a drink of water. So she begins to demand a drink of water. “I want a glass of water. You are the only one who can give me the glass of water.”
And the husband looks at the wife, spins on his heels and exclaims, “You’re not going to get any water with an attitude like that!”
Then the husband returns to the scene about a day later. The wife is now livid. And finally, the husband says reluctantly, “Okay! Here’s your water! Just drink it. Just drink it!”
Now, when the wife is going [Ed acts like he is drinking a glass of water], do you think she is satisfied? Do you think her thirst is really quenched? Not really, because she is thinking, “I’m going to be thirsty again. I better watch what I say to him from now on because….”
So goes a man’s sex drive. Like water quenches our thirst physically, sex in marriage quenches his emotions in a physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological manner.
[The video ends, and Ed begins to speak from the stage again]
Our sex drive is from God. Parents, single parents, let me ask you a question. How do you teach your junior high and high school students about how to handle lust? We are going to talk about that, as well, because that is a huge thing. No one is immune from lust. Our sexual desire is God-given.
YOU CAN’T DO IT ALONE
Here’s the third significant statement — you can’t handle it alone. The stakes are sky high and we can’t do this stuff alone. Do you realize that most of the power of lust is in its secrecy, men?
We say, “Oh, man, if people realized the level of lust that I deal with, if they knew the temptation, they would think this about me or that about me. They would think, ‘Man, you are some strange guy!’”
It’s time that we drag the lust into the light, because most of the power of lust will dissipate when we drag it into the light. What’s the bottom line of this series? The bottom line is hope. The bottom line is victory. But we can’t have hope until, first of all, we are honest — honest with ourselves, honest with God and honest with others. That’s why we challenge you to be in small groups or HomeTeams. That’s why we challenge men to get to know other men very well so that you can share your life, so that you can share your struggles. When you have accountability going and when you share your stuff, you are not going to hear, “Man, that’s crazy!” You’re going to hear someone who understands, someone who struggles. As iron sharpens iron, the Bible says, we can walk together in purity and holiness and with victory.
Sadly, the church in a weird way has perpetuated lust. Did you hear that? People have become Christ-followers and people have thought, “Well, once I become a Christian I guess I don’t deal with lust anymore.” Hello?! Yes, you do. It’s there. It’s a constant. What the church has done is, a couple of times, said, “Don’t lust. Don’t lust.” People who have been Christians for a while just say, “Well, I’ll just go ahead and keep my lust over here. It’s like 10% of my life, this little area, but I’ll project this one image that I’ve got it together, that I’m this mature believer. But when no one is looking, see, I’ve got this area over here and…”
You know what I’m talking about. You can’t really worship God that way. You come to church and you feel like there is a barrier. You are in this relationship with someone else and there is a barrier, or at work there is a barrier of sharing your faith because you have this illicit, this secret stuff, this lust that is leveling you. Discrepancy in many churches has sort of become great between what people project and who they really are. Here at Fellowship Church, we want to get real. We want to drag it into the light and say it’s an issue for all of us. God, we want to be honest with ourselves, honest with you, and honest with others. That’s the tri-fecta. That’s the thing that will give us the octane to walk in purity and to walk in holiness. It’s very interesting. Anytime the Bible talks about lust or sexual sin, you always see phrases like: “have nothing to do with it,” or “put it to death,” or “flee from it.”
1 Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.”
Guys, we are more rebellious than women. We just have this autonomy about us, don’t we? We think, “I’m going to do my own thing and you can’t tell me what to do.” We just thumb our noses in the face of God. A man says, “I know what’s best for me and I can handle lust by myself. I’m strong enough. I’ve got enough stuff, enough guts in my life to do it.”
But, you can’t. You can’t do it alone. Think back to the garden. Eve was deceived by the serpent. Adam wasn’t deceived. Eve said, “Adam, here’s this apple.” Adam knew it was wrong. He just said, “Thank you. I’m just rebelling from you, God. I’m just turning my back.” He knew what he was doing. Eve did, too, but not to the degree that Adam did. That is a true picture of our view on life, especially when it comes to sex. We want to be very secretive about it, but we’ve got to drag it into the light.
KNOW YOUR TRIGGER POINTS
The fourth and final statement — ignorance will destroy you. When it comes to lust, ignorance will mess you up. We’ve got to know the stuff. Most of us don’t know when we are the most vulnerable, why we are the most vulnerable and how to stay away from it. As I said a second ago, most of us have no idea about the process, the predictable path that lust takes every time we are tempted. Temptation is not lust. It’s not the sin. It’s what we do with it. If we are going to know what to do with it, we have got to have some knowledge. We can’t be ignorant. That’s why we are teaching in depth on the subject matter.
Let me give you several things we need to know. First, we need to know the trigger points in our lives that have squeezed lust into our eyes and into our minds and into our hearts. What are your trigger points? And guys, I would especially encourage you to write out this afternoon or maybe tonight in a journal — the trigger points of lust. For example, geographically, what places do you frequent? What areas do you drive by geographically that pull the trigger of lust? Write them down.
What relationships in your life squeeze the trigger of lust? Is it with that attractive co-worker, with that neighbor, with that woman at the gym, with your best friend’s wife, or with others? What squeezes the trigger of lust?
How about mentally? Who are you giving your supplies to? Who are you giving the art supplies to? Who are you talking to when you say, “Here’s a brush. Here’s some paint. Here’s another canvas. Mat it. Frame it. Hang it up here.” Which one?
How about technologically? When you are on the internet or you are channel surfing, what triggers lust?
Once we get specific and write this stuff out, we begin to have knowledge and we will see how to begin to do what Jesus said. Jesus said, “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” We are to be wise. We are to be discerning. We are to have wisdom over these desires. So, know your trigger points.
KNOW THE CONSEQUENCES
Also, know something else. Know the consequences of lust. If you continue down the path of lust, if you continue with your level of lust, what will happen? If you are a recreational luster, it’s going to segue into deeper forms. One day you will put skin on the lust. What will happen, if you are married, to your marriage? What will happen to your family? I cannot even entertain the thought of sitting down with my four kids, who think I am the greatest guy in the world, and telling them, “Because my lust was out of control, your mom and I are divorcing.” As a single adult, can you imagine the collateral damage that will occur in your life if you continue down the path, in relationships, in connection to your family, and your connection with the Lord? Think about how it will affect your career. I’ve talked to so many men who have been just leveled by lust, who have built their careers around lust.
It’s all about hope, but we can’t understand hope until we are honest. Isn’t it time you got honest with yourself, honest with God and honest with others? Because when you do so, you will bust lust and live in victory, in freedom, and in concert with our great and awesome God.