Before the fall, our first parents only knew good desires. They had an untainted desire for life together with God and each other in the garden. After they took the wrong off ramp they were introduced to other desires. For the first time they not only knew good and evil, they had a hard time doing the good and resisting the evil. They had “desires for things other” (Mark 4:19) than God and everything (and everyone) he provides. Ever since, we’ve all been born with this same not-so-civil war between desires inside.
In Part 1 I introduced the idea that we humans do have some good desires, some bad ones, and bunch that are neither good nor bad, they just are. In this post I’ll share a list a number of New Testament passages that speak of human desires that can damage the soul, and when acted upon, create a distance between us and the God we love.
- In the well-known Seed Sower parable in Mark 4:19 Jesus taught that those who were planted among the thorns had a life-sapping tendency toward a “desire for other things.” He didn’t specify what those “other things” were, which might suggest that he was talking about any number of things that draw us away from our desire for God!
- Jesus boldly told a bunch of spiritual posers in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires.” Wow! Apparently the devil has desires too, the kind that, if we’re not careful, can become our own desires. Pretty scary prospect!
- Paul referred to a category of desires that are “deceitful” in Ephesians 4:22. These cravings trick us into believing that they will fulfill us. Like their father, they lie to us and promise something they can never deliver.
- Colossians 3:5 is one of a number of cases where Paul came right out and called some desires “evil desires.” That is, they’re inherently evil, which means that just because we have a predilection for something doesn’t mean it’s okay to give in to it.
- “Those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” 1 Timothy 6:9 So, some of our desires are “senseless and harmful” and will entrap us if we’re not careful where we step. Instead of fulfillment, they bury the unwary in “ruin, destruction, and piercing pain.” Wow!
- In 2 Timothy 2:22 Paul warned his disciple of “youthful desires.” Kids tend to give into whatever they desire. They haven’t developed an adult filter that warns them of the toxicity of some desires. Unfortunately, you don’t have to be a youth to be plagued with “youthful desires.” I once was young and now I’m old and I’m beginning to think that some of my evil desires won’t die until I do!
- “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” Titus 2:11-12 So, certain desires are “worldly,” which certainly doesn’t mean they’re sophisticated or cultured. They’re “worldly” in the sense that they are inspired by the order of things here on earth, things that alienate us from God and harm our relationships with one another.
- “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions (desires) and pleasures.” Titus 3:3 The passions and pleasures to which we formerly submitted deceived us and made us slaves. Like they say, “The fear of jail (spiritual incarceration) is the beginning of wisdom!”
- According to James, some desires are indeed morally “evil” – dangerous and deadly. “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” James 1:14-15
- Judging by the number of times in his two short epistles he refers to “evil desires,” Peter obviously had this on his mind. In 1 Peter 1:14 he says, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” Evidently, such desires are not only evil but they’re an ignorant way to live life.
- In 1 Peter 2:11 Peter tells us to “abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against our soul.” There’s war going on for the control of our soul. Desires for sinful things are trying to destroy the most important part of us.
- In 1 Peter 4:2 he commands us not to live for our “earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.” So, “evil human desires” are set in contrast with the desires that God has for us. The defining distinction between a desirable desire and a dangerous one is God’s will.
- 2 Peter 1:4 says we who are twice-born, “participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” These so-called evil desires corrupt our world, while Jesus who lives in us, living his life through us, counteracts the corruption.
- 2 Peter 2:10 says that some people “follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority.”
- 2 Peter 2:18 says that there are those who “mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the sinful nature.”
- Lastly I quote 1 John 2:16-17 (NLT). “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.”
So, all desires are not created equal, still the question remains: How can we tell the difference between good and evil desires? It’s really not all that complicated. We can know the difference by the things that we desire. If it’s an attitude or action that God proscribes, it’s an evil desire. If God says something isn’t good for us, then it’s not good for us or good for his glory. If we want something that he prescribes, then we know that it’s a good want and we should pursue it.
All our desires should be vetted by passing them through the filter of the mother of all goals: “the glory of God and the good of people.”
That you still have evil desires doesn’t mean you’re necessarily a bad Christian. What matters is what you do with your cravings for things on which God has posted a “No Trespassing” sign. Do you turn back at the sign or skulk past it into forbidden territory? A little bit of both. Am I right?
But when you’re tempted, you make every effort to resist, and when you don’t succeed, you repent. Right? That’s the nature of the marathon we’re running. “For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again. But the wicked stumble in time of disaster and collapse.” Proverbs 24:16
My point is that your evil desires don’t necessarily define you. The good things you long for in that deeper part of your being may, on the other hand, indicate more about your true identity as a child of God than your evil longings. That is, if, alongside your evil desires you also crave the pleasure and glory of God, then it’s likely that you are a genuine disciple of Jesus, fighting the good fight of faith.
The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other… Galatians 5
All that said, next time I want to narrow the conversation down to one particular set of desires, same-sex desires. Are desires of that nature part of nature or against it? Are they legitimate from God’s vantage point?
The main question I’d like to address is: Are those who possess same-sex desires, defined by them? That is to say, if someone is born with or somewhere along the line develops LGBT desires, is is a foregone conclusion that he or she is to assume a lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender identity and lifestyle?