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Lust: You’re doing it wrong

Here’s a quick bite.

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (5:17)

Who ever lusts against something? You don’t hear anyone use the word like that. We lust for things, but who ever talks about lusting against something.

Webster defines lust as:

  • a strong feeling of sexual desire
  • a strong desire for something

(Emphasis not mine)

Even Strong’s concordance defines the Greek word here (epithumeó) as:

  • I long for
  • covet
  • lust after
  • set the heart upon

To lust against something is an odd use of the term.

Paul goes on to outline specific “lusts of the flesh,” and they’re things we lust for. But at the beginning of this part of the conversation he’s speaking in broad terms about the Spirit vs. the flesh, and it’s interesting the way he phrases this.

It would seem to say that in individual temptation and sin we lust for things, of course, but in general, the flesh simply lusts against the Spirit. Period. It is always opposed, always contrary. The desire and passion isn’t for one thing in particular, which is probably why sin and compromise are never as fulfilling as they promise to be. Do it once, and we want more; buy one, and we need something else; etc.

The flesh passionately desires to be against the Spirit, to rebel. It’s not about specific temptations that each of us battles, as though if those things weren’t there – or if we could just master obedience in this one area – we wouldn’t be tempted, the lust would go away. Not so. With the same passion that we yearn for momentary pleasures, our flesh constantly yearns to push against the Spirit of God within us.

It’s not the lusting for anything that’s at the heart of our trials and temptations, but the general lusting against the Spirit of God that is the root of our daily battle.

But before that becomes an overwhelming discouragement, read on: The Spirit lusts against the flesh. And God is stronger. Our hope is always and forever in Him and His strength.

Allow Me To Explain (72 of 439) – Burn It With Fire

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72. On what day did the temple burn? 2 Kings 25:8-9 vs. Jeremiah 52:12-13

Yes. Oh, wait …

2 Kings 25:8-9
Now on the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire.

Jeremiah 52:12-13
Now on the tenth day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, who was in the service of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 13 He burned the house of the Lord, the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every large house he burned with fire.

The seventh day or the tenth? There are any number of explanations:

Ending #1 – Nebuzaradan left Riblah on the seventh day, and arrived in Jerusalem on the tenth.

The Middle East is a messed up place these days, and it screws with Google Maps. So while I can tell you the exact coordinates of the ancient city of Riblah (34°26′0″N 36°33′0″E), I can’t tell you how long it would take to walk from there to Jerusalem. If I use the rudimentary scale, I can estimate the distance between the two at about 200 miles.

Screen Shot 2014-05-13 at 10.48.26 PM

The internet says the average person walks about 3 miles per hour. So that’s a 66.7-hour walk, which is a little over two and a half days. Of course an army would move much slower, and probably not for 24 hours each day, so it’s not unreasonable to say that it might have taken three days to make that journey.

Ending #2 – Nebz came into Jerusalem on the seventh day, but didn’t set fire to the temple until the tenth.

Also perfectly reasonable. If you’ve just moved an army three days south, are you going to immediately set to work? Doubt it. Jewish historian Taanith reports,

“… strangers entered into the temple, and ate in it, and defiled it, the seventh and eighth days; and on the ninth, towards dark, they set fire to it; and it burned and continued all that whole day …”

You’re going to eat, rest, treat your troops – take a day off. Maybe you’re not the only one.

Maybe you’re going to loot. 2 Kings 25 goes on to describe the temple booty that Chaldeans destroyed and carried away, and it’s no small order: two huge bronze pillars were broken up into pieces, all of the tools were stolen, etc.

Ending #3: It burned for three days.

TempleMy house is a small cottage made mostly of wood that is more than half a century old. It would burn up like a Christmas tree in January. Solomon’s temple was a much larger building made mostly of stone. Even some of the wood that was used in its construction was completely overlaid in gold – like the entire floor. It would have taken longer to consume.

Short answer: We may never know.

Neither of the texts really go so far as to say that Nebz burned the temple as soon as he arrived in town. We’ve no reason to believe he didn’t hang around for a week – collecting kindling, evacuating priests, looting, lollygagging … who knows.

Does it mean that the Bible is in error? No. It means that Jeremiah was telling the story that he knew, as he was inspired to tell it, rather than copying it from an earlier scroll. If anything, it gives weight to the similarities between the two accounts by establishing the credibility of the second writer. (Such as 2 Kings 25:1 and Jeremiah 52:4, which both name the exact day that the armies arrived and walled-in the city.)

The question we should be asking is not, “When?” but, “Why?”  Continue Reading…

Grace and Law

We love to discuss the Law vs. grace, but what if it’s both/and?

Hear me out.

And allow me a disclaimer: This is for disciples – for people who have dedicated their lives to Christ.

Don’t get all crazy on me.

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:13-14, NKJV)

In Christ, we are called to freedom. We were invited, drawn, chosen. To be free from the bondage and the slavery of sin, and – in the context of Paul’s letter – from the requirement of the law.

“However,” he warns, “don’t use your freedom as an excuse to indulge in temporary pleasures. Instead, serve one another, through love.”

That’s an interesting juxtaposition.

We might expect something like, “Don’t use it for this, but do use it for that.” But Paul doesn’t do that. He contrasts the idea – the natural inclination – to use God’s grace as an excuse for our own pleasures, with a call to love and serve each other. As though the two are opposites. As though you can’t really excuse questionable behavior on the basis of God’s grace, and serve your brother in love. (Paul has a similar conversation in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8.)

But then he goes on to explain why. Verse 14 begins with, “For …” which is like saying, “Because …”

Why should we serve, rather than make excuses for our questionable pleasures? Because the fulfillment of the law is that we love our neighbors as ourselves.

But Paul has written four chapters to the Galatians about how they’re free from the requirements of the law in Christ. He’s spent pages explaining why and how our salvation is in the faith that was promised to Abraham and delivered in Christ, and not in fulfilling the law.

So why is he now explaining the purpose of our freedom by explaining how to fulfill the law?  Continue Reading…

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