One of the best-known passages identifying snares for a Christ-follower comes from 1 John wherein John calls out three human lusts that threaten to ensnare and consume the individual.
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.
– 1 John 2:15-16, NASB
It’s Ultimately About Power
Lust is just such an ugly word. I cannot think of an endearing way to use it. In this passage, John has identified three lust-driven fountainheads of ungodly power and control that, unbridled, will drag the Christ-follower down some dark and dangerous roads. Power is fleeting. And the truth is, when we believe we have control, we end up making a mess of it.
Lust of the Flesh
Here we find the appetites of our senses, the desire for power or control over physical longings and hungers that will never satisfy us. These are physical drives that will never be sated by their targets. And these drives demonstrate the reality that in our lust for physical control, reality is the opposite of what we are telling ourselves. Indeed, our lust is controlling us.
Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God.
– Romans 8:8, BSB
The lust of our flesh puts us at war with the Spirit of God. Consider the implications of being in direct opposition to God! That never turns out well for us.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.
– Galatians 5:17, ESV
The apostle Paul told Timothy to flee youthful lusts,1 while the apostle Peter calls us to escape the world’s corruption that is caused by our lust!2
Lust of the Eyes
This lust goes well beyond what we see with our literal, physical eye. This is the lust of visual power, the lust of our imagination and our intellect. It is the inner drive of fantasy, that “if only” mentality.
It is with this in mind that Job said he “made a covenant” with his eyes to not look lustfully after a young woman.3 Peter speaks of those with “eyes full of adultery, insatiable for sin.”4
Pride of Life
Pride is all about me. Me, I, My, Mine. This is the repulsive, ego-driven self-worship and the search for the worship of others. It has no ethic outside of its desire for the praise of men rather than God.
This is the very individual the apostle Paul described to Timothy when he said people would be “lovers of self.” It is a self-love spiral that is a turn-off not only to God but also to godly men and women.
A Bad Outcome
These lusts may deliver a deceitful momentary pleasure, what the writer of Hebrews calls a fleeting pleasure,5 but the ultimate outcome is that they make us enemies of God.6 They further demonstrate that we are allied with one we have no business being allied with. Our temptations do not come from God.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 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, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
– James 1:13-15, ESV
The pleasures derived from our lusts are temporary. The perceived control and power tied to our lusts are an illusion. Reject the mind controlled by the flesh and yield to the mind controlled by the Spirit.
For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.
~ General George S. Patton Jr.
1. 2 Timothy 2:22
2. 2 Peter 1:4
3. Job 31:1
4. 2 Peter 2:14
5. Hebrews 11:25
6. James 4:4