Freedom is good. Freedom is commendable.
But not everything that we are free to do is right for us (1 Corinthians 6:12, 23).
One thing I have to handle to us is that the youth of this age are quite free to do just pretty much anything and with that freedom, there have come lots of opportunities to do good and to do bad.
But there have also come many temptations, temptations to do as our evil desires wish, temptations that sinful natures simply have found too attractive.
When we are young, which I am at the moment, I feel like we want to experiment a lot of things, spend our youth doing lots of things that we feel we won't have the opportunity to do once we start meeting more responsibilities that come with adulthood.
We want to enjoy our youth which is not wrong in itself. We are to enjoy every part of our lives: our childhood, our youth, our adulthood and so forth but, how we enjoy them matters a lot.
There are many ways we can enjoy our youthful lives - Gazillion of ways - but not all of them are the right way for us to do so.
But, many times, we fail to understand that until we are forced to by our circumstances.
You see, too much freedom can make us pursue our own desires without giving much of a second thought to the consequences and that is not only risky, dangerous but, deadly as well.
Following our deceitful hearts and our sinful desires are deadly things, things that can and most likely lead us to our eternal deaths if we keep listening to them.
When we are young, we tend to want many things, explore many things, live through many things - go wild - and most frequently than not follow our youthful lusts.
And we are called to flee from our youthful lust, our evil desire and pursue a life of righteousness and have faith, love, and peace along with those who trust in God (2 Timothy 2:22).
But wait. . .
What is youthful lust?
To be honest, when I have searched for the meaning of the term ‘youthful lusts’ and based on what I have researched, I believe that those are the evil desires, as so it is addressed in 2 Timothy 2:22 in the New Century Version, that we have when we are young.
It embraces a lot of things, lusts, actually such as the lust for power, money and recognition - when we want to make a name for ourselves, have the whole world know how achieved we are and how successful we have become.
It embraces the lust deep in sexual immorality such as us wanting to be sexually involved with others, wanting to satisfy our sexual desires way before we are allowed to which is in marriage.
When we are young, we desire lots of things that aren't just quite right, quite biblical and Christian. Things that seek to satisfy our evil desires, our sinful appetites and don't seek to please God and that is just a recipe for disaster.
When we listen to what we want, our flesh and deceitful heart want, we divert our ears and heart from God and go after things that will only end up hurting us.
When we don't seek God and His Kingdom of God and follow our evil desires to wherever they want us to go, whether it is to have the best new thing in the market, the best position of power in the world or our corporations to brush our pride, or satisfy the burning sensations of our flesh, we are stirring away from a relationship with God, from enjoying His presence to a relationship with things that perish and will eventually perish us.
In other words, when we are entertaining the lust of our eyes, our flesh and the pride of life, we are not pleasing God nor doing any good to ourselves, regardless of how it may feel. We are walking in the wide and fantasy-filled path of destruction.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for 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 pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever."
- 1 John 2:15-17
I would say that youthful lusts are linked to the lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride of life, and those things are not from God but from this world, and along with it will perish all the things it offers and all the people who love it.
So, let's see a bit more of what lust of the eyes, the flesh and pride of life mean:
The 3 temptations of the world
If you take the verses above and read them in the in the New Century Version, you will get this:
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you. These are the ways of the world: wanting to please our sinful selves, wanting the sinful things we see, and being too proud of what we have. None of these come from the Father, but all of them come from the world. The world and everything that people want in it are passing away, but the person who does what God wants lives forever."
- 1 John 2:15-17 NCV
So, let me try to explain what I understand from what lust of the eyes, the flesh and pride of life means when I read the verses in this version:
Lust of the eyes
Wanting things we see. . .
The world has a lot to offer; a lot of appealing and beautiful things to offer and there are times, many - If I may risk saying - that we just want those things because they are there because lots of people have it and we want to have it.
We want that new iPhone because it is there, it looks appealing and it's trendy.
We want that clothing line because it is there and it looks chic.
We want those new shoes not because we lack footwear or we are in dire need of new pairs but because they are there, they look nice, they are trending and why not?
We tend to want lots of things that we don't need, that we just find it appealing and we feel like we have to have it.
We just have to.
We have this impulse to possess what we see, what is visually appealing even though we don't really need it and we shouldn't do it.
When we look with desire at things and people, because we can desire the people we see we are just coveting and the Bible clearly tells us not to (Exodus 20:17):
“You must not want to take your neighbor’s house. You must not want his wife or his male or female slaves, or his ox or his donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
This world offers us a lot of things that our eyes can feast on; from pornography to flashy cars, from new and trendy pieces of clothing to amazing and gigantic houses, from sensual man to fat bank accounts, status and power.
It shows us people in power and tells us that we can have what we see. That we should want what we see.
It shows us luxurious lives, celebrity lives, and tells us that we can have what we see. That we should want what we see and if we believe those lies, those illusive whispers, we are going to be snarled into a horrible life of wanting the lives of other people, the success of other people, the family situation of other people because they look great, they look ideal.
Besides being a sin to desire the things of others, whether that is their success, their families, their status, their whatnots, let's all take a moment and let this following phrase sink into our brains:
Not all that glitters is gold.
Not all that we see as truly beautiful as we give it credit.
We should not allow ourselves to forget that the king of this world is about ready to use anything in it to make us fall.
The Devil can surely use someone else's financial success be the temptation that drags you into being greedy, into wanting to pursue riches in this world and forget all about storing up riches in heaven, where things last forever (Matthew 6:19-21).
He can use your eyes to tempt you, use what you see to tempt you and that's why we have to be careful with what we lay our eyes upon.
Instead of seeking to have that glamorous lives that we see on the telly, or that amount of money we hear that many people have, or that house that whoever that person has, we should focus on seeking for the Kingdom of God and what His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).
We should steer our eyes from the spectacles of the world and focus on God and His kingdom, on serving Him and others for Him, and resting in the truth that He will meet our every need.
Watch out for what you watch, what you see and keep yourself from desiring the things that this world has to offer you for, it has a lot and they are destructive to our souls.
Lust of the flesh
This one is a big one and many young people suffer from this. All humans suffer from this, I believe, but let's just focus on the youth for now. . .
Lust of the flesh can be described as the temptation to feel physical pleasure from sinful activities, the desire to satisfy our flesh when instead we should not (Romans 13:14).
We should starve our flesh.
You see, the flesh is not to be our friends, ever, but it is a part of us - a part of us that should die and thanks to God, His Spirit in us is fighting it (Galatians 5:17).
They don't want the same things, obviosuly.
Our fleshes want worldly things - to do what pleases them and makes them look good - while God's Spirit wants godly pursues, things that please God and lead us to serve others.
So, there is a war in us Christians and this is a war we can never root for our fleshes, no matter how begging they are, how infuriating it may feel to ignore their wishes.
We need to daily starve our fleshes and its desires, and work on spending more time with God, embracing the transformation brought by His Spirit in us (2 Corinthians 3:18).
So, when our fleshes seek to satisfy their sinful desires, for they can never have godly desires, we are to starve them even if it hurts a little.
When our fleshes seek to pleasure themselves by indulging in sexual sin - both in thought and act - excessive consumption of food or beverages, emphasis on alcohol, violence and gossip, drugs use or whatever it feels like it needs to be satisfied, we are to deny it.
I know, I know, the desires can be obnoxiously intense and you might feel like it is better to just do as your body request to make it go away but, it is not.
I have been there with lots of the desires of my flesh and when I had succumbed to them, as far as I can remember, I have felt awful afterwards.
I have done really regretful and shameful things because of listening to the desires of my flesh, and though I walked away from doing them again, the consequences of it weren't fun.
It took me months to get over the grip of it, get over the shame and immense regret, and when I look at those times, I tend to see ways that I could have done things differently and had avoided months of anguish.
And that's what happens when we listen to our flesh and the desires it comes with it: There is pain - whether psychological, emotional or physical.
Our fleshes tell us that it's going to be okay, that we are going to feel good if we do it, and we actually do sometimes - feel good, that is - but not for long. After we have listened, we begin to see the desires for what they truly are, what they truly offered and it's not good - it's never good.
So, I am pleading that you all - we all, because I also desperately need this - to avoid listening to our fleshes, to make no provision for their desires no matter how intense they get and when they do come, when they do start to whisper, for us to run to God and ask Him to help us overcome those desires, help us fight against them with self-control, with faith, with endurance and confidence.
After all, we need God to fight our fleshes - we are too weak to fight our fleshes alone.
We need God to help us fight the sinful activities that our fleshes desire, help us stay away from the works that come from the flesh, as Apostle Paul so kindly enumerated for us in Galatians 5:19-21:
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”
— Galatians 5:19-21 ASV.
We need God to help us stay away from sexual immorality, from drunkenness, jealousies, gluttony and any other desire that comes from our flesh.
I have failed in successfully fleeing from sexual immorality, as we are called to do (1 Corinthians 6:18), I failed to honour this body of mine well and all because I succeeded in listening to the desires of my flesh, and forgetting that this body is not mine.
God Spirit's lives in this body, lives in our bodies and we are to honour them for they are His temples that were bought for a price, for the highest price which was the precious blood of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, 1 Peter 1:18-19).
God died to save us, and His Spirit now lives in us and guides us through this journey, teaching us everything and helping us remember what Jesus said (John 14:25), and we are to glorify God in our bodies.
Listening to the desires of our flesh doesn't do that.
Listening to the desire to have sexual relations outside of marriage, indulge yourself in excessive consumption of food and beverages, in violence and brutality, and whatever else our fleshes crave don't glorify God.
Instead of embracing the desires and activities of the flesh, let's seek to embrace the works, virtues of the Spirit God has given us which are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
If you have failed in listening to God and succeeded in listening to the desires of your flesh, as I have, it's not too late to begin to starve them to death.
Though you have rebelled against Him, God loves you - so much - and He wants you to live a godly life, filled with joy, and away from the works of the flesh.
A life where you and I make no provision for our flesh desires.
So, I am urging us to not provide for the desires of our fleshes, just as the Bible says.
Let it starve to death.
Pride of life
Pride of life can be described as that desire we have for excess power, recognition and greatness. You know, that desires to make much of ourselves before our peers.
This one is tricky because pride itself, being an awful sin, takes many subtle masks and can be hard to detect. However, as Pastor John Piper said, pride is a universal problem.
In other words, we all deal with pride. Yet, we are to get rid of it.
It's really tempting to contemplate on our personal achievements, our status, our possessions and believe that we are great, that we have it all when, in reality, those things we see are all perishable and perishing.
It's tempting to boast about what we have in our lives, how well we are doing in life, and just how well things are looking for us, how well succeeded we are and all because of our efforts, our good works, our merit when in reality, all that we have was given to us (1 Corinthians 4:7):
"Who says you are better than others? What do you have that was not given to you? And if it was given to you, why do you brag as if you did not receive it as a gift?"
This world tells us to be proud of our achievements, be proud of our status and possessions and how well we are doing in life, and let the world know just how well we are doing, let them praise us for what we have achieved with our hard work when in reality, we haven't.
Many may argue that we're the ones that work up every morning to hustle, to put in the good work and get to where we are but, we weren't.
For it is God who gives us new mornings and new blessings (Lamentations 3:22-23), it is he who keeps us safe (Isaiah 41:10) and He who provides for our every need (), who gifts us with everything good:
"Every good action and every perfect gift is from God. These good gifts come down from the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars, who does not change like their shifting shadows. God decided to give us life through the word of truth so we might be the most important of all the things he made."
- James 1:17-18
In this life, we are given many opportunities to exalt ourselves:
Did you have an awesome mark in your last paper? Let the whole class know and see how smart you are.
Did you get a promotion at your job? Let all your family members and friends know so that they may see how successful you are becoming.
Did you achieve something great? Let the whole world know and praise you for your good works.
Pride wants us to boast about what we have, what we have achieved and to do things that will bring to us the praise, the glory - to do things for God's glory.
We aren't called to bring the glory to us but to God, not only because we don't deserve it but also for the fact that it is rightfully God's.
For who would any of us be without God? Where would any of us be without His providence? How well would any of us be living without His gifts, His blessings, His perfect love?
We would be doomed.
Without God breathing life into us, we would be dead and all of what we have acquired, all the talents we have, all the nice things we have achieved, would not exist.
Without God, we wouldn't be.
So, when we look at all the nice things we have, the talents we possess, the achievements we have accomplished, let us not fall into the trap of believing that it was all thanks to us when it was all thanks to God.
Yes, you got that highest grade in your class and you are smart, as some can testify, but, that smartness is a gift, that brain of yours was designed by the Creator of everything and it is thanks to Him that you are there, getting those high marks, sinking in all that knowledge.
It is because of Him that I am able to write this post and, if He wills it, will keep on writing many more.
It is because of the His Spirit that I am able to grow closer to Him, not my ability to read - which was also given by Him. No, whenever I can understand more from God's word, whether directly through the Bible or other sources, it is thanks to Him, His Spirit who helps me understand everything and remember everything that Jesus has said/is saying - His word is alive.
So, all that we achieve is thanks to God, all that we are is thanks to God, all that we will get will be thanks to God for there is nothing in this universes, in existence, that happens without God allowing it.
Even if you are the smart one, the privileged one, the rich one or whatever else, you wouldn't be it if God hadn't allowed it to happen.
So, I urge ourselves to try focusing on God a whole lot more whenever we contemplate the things that we have, and instead of priding ourselves in our achievements, wanting people to praise us for what we have and are, let us pride ourselves in boasting in God, in giving the credits to our lives to the One who sustains them.
Let's delight - seek even - to bring the glory to God and point to how amazing He is, not how amazing we are because, to be frank, we aren't.
We are so imperfect, so sinful and were so doomed without God but, now, we are perfect, holy and saved by and in Jesus, who is God.
Outside of God, outside of His holiness, we are not holy, we are not perfect but, in Him, in His presence, we are.
So, if we are great, which we are, it is because of God and only because of God, not what we have, what we have done and what he have achieved.
So, let us all thank God for everything that He has done, is doing and will do in our lives.
May all the glory go to Him!
Amen and Amen!