(Link to entire sermon audio at bottom of post)
“What is the matrix of fallenness? The pathology of fallenness? The cardiology of the unregenerate that the world appeals to? It is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life. Those are the three gateways to which the world system finds its way into the fallen heart and generates sin. All that is in the world, the world is the anti-God, anti-Christ, anti-Scripture, anti-righteous, deceptive order, controlled by Satan. The world is synonymous with the kingdom of darkness. It is dangerous. It is deadly. It is designed by Satan to appeal to these three avenues into the fallen heart….”
Now I would agree, we would sin without the world’s system because in the millennial kingdom when Jesus comes back, there won’t be a world system. There will only be one King in the world, and that’s Jesus. There will only be one kingdom and that will be His Kingdom. Righteousness will prevail. Wisdom will prevail. Knowledge will prevail. Unrighteousness and sin will be punished instantaneous with a rod of iron. There will be a perfect world in the millennial kingdom. But you know how that millennial kingdom ends? Even people who are physically alive in the millennial kingdom in a perfect world will finally come to a rebellion and they’ll fight against Jesus Christ. They’ll organize and fight against Christ which again indicates the fact that sin does not come from the outside, it comes from the inside, from what is in man. Sinners would sin in a perfect environment. Sinners would sin in an environment where righteousness prevails and holiness dominates. Sinners would sin in an environment where there is swift, exacting and absolute justice. That still wouldn’t prevent sinners from sinning because they can’t stop sinning. Sinners would sin in an environment where every blessing imaginable and unimaginable was provided. Sinners would sin in an environment where disease was mitigated and life was long and happy and fulfilled because it’s the nature of sin.
And our susceptibility which the world appeals to is the avenues that are here described as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. And even in the millennial kingdom, those will still operate as the avenues of temptation, and there still will be though it will be much smaller because Satan will be bound for a thousand years and all his demons are going to be bound, there will still be enough left in the unregenerate humanity to develop a system of appeal. But even if there wasn’t, we would still fall victim to these three areas. There is no way to conquer these humanly speaking, environmentally speaking. The only conquering of these comes through the saving work of Jesus Christ.
Let’s look at these three just briefly. The lust of the flesh. This is the craving of our sinful hearts, epithumia, desire, the craving of the sinful heart. It’s a common word used in the New Testament, sometimes means good desires. The context is what you have to look at to see whether its meaning is positive or negative. This means the negative cravings of our sinful heart, our world impulses. The impulses that draw us toward the evil that is around us so that the evil in us is attracted to the evil around us. Or rather the evil outside of us solicits the evil that is in us. It doesn’t mean…when you talk about the lust of the flesh, you immediately think of sexual sin. Well that’s certainly included, but that’s not any limit on this. It’s any desire for anything outside of God’s Law…any attitude, any thought, any word, any action that God forbids. It’s the corruption of desires. It’s selfish desires of any kind, sinful desires of any kind, the gamut. And God is not saying we can’t have desires. There are normal, healthy desires. Nothing wrong with desiring a partner in marriage. Nothing wrong with desiring to eat. But it’s sinful to desire a partner outside your marriage. It’s sinful to become a glutton. Obviously. Nothing wrong with enjoying a good time and having fun, it’s wicked to be consumed with pleasure and irresponsible regarding duty. Nothing wrong with being comfortable, it’s sinful to become a slave to luxury.
Everything can be perverted. The lust of the flesh is a slavish kind of relentless gratification of all desires outside of God’s limits, or exceeding God’s limits, oblivious to what is good and reasonable and righteous. That’s the lust of the flesh. It’s wanting what you want and you could care less what God has to say.
And what are these lusts? Well, as I said they’re not just acts of immorality. Galatians 5:19, “The deeds of the flesh are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.” Just fill in your own lists. Anything done to satisfy your yearning that violates the Law of God. The world is made up of these things, that’s essentially what the world system is and the world on the outside, the world system on the outside that Satan rules is simply an external projection of the heart of man. The world really appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life because the world is made up of sinners who run on that basis, who function on that basis.
The second that he mentions is the lust of the eyes. It’s not just what you feel, it’s not just those impulses and compulsions that you feel down inside toward self-fulfillment against the will of God. It’s also what you see. It’s also what you see. “Eyes…Proverbs 20:12 says…are a gift from God.” And what a blessing, what a wonderful, grace to be able to see the beauty of God’s creation, to see all the people that you know and love and all the wonders of life. But the evil of the heart twists and perverts the eyes and Jesus says, “If you look on a woman to lust after her, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.” And what God gave you to appreciate His beauty can come a point of terrible sinful pursuit. Lot’s wife misused her eyes and perished, killed by God. Achan saw with his eyes and coveted and took. Samson saw something he wanted with his eyes, and it cost him his eyes. David was walking on his balcony and with his eyes he saw a woman who was another man’s wife and he paid profoundly for that iniquity the rest of his life. That’s why the psalmist said, “Please, Lord, keep my eyes from beholding vanity.” That’s why Job said, Job 31, “I made a covenant with my eyes.”
The lust of the flesh is the allurement that comes from the bodily impulses, the impulses of the mind and the body. The lust of the eyes is what is the lure of the outward appearance. It’s a form of covetousness.
The third component in this matrix is the boastful pride of life. Boastful pride, alazoneia, it’s not just pride, it’s the braggart, it’s the loudmouth boaster. In fact, the alazon was the braggart. This form of worldliness, this component of our fallenness, this piece of the matrix in which fallenness functions that gets projected into the world and then appealed to by the world, this is at the base of all sin. The boastful pride of life is the desire to be better than everybody else, to desire to tell everybody how much better you are. It is the desire to exceed everybody else. Boastful pride of life, to make your life more important than everybody else’s life.
This form of worldliness, as I said, is at the base of everything. The longings of pride that seek to exceed everybody else, even in iniquity, although sometimes in the iniquity of self-righteousness.
There you have it, that’s really the cardiology of the worldly heart. It is driven by sensuality, covetousness and pride. Sensuality, further defining a little bit, is the corruption from the lower part of man’s nature, gratification of bodily desire in forbidden ways. Covetousness is the corruption of a nobler part of man’s nature, unlawful abuse of God’s creation. Pride is the corruption of the noblest part of man’s being, the self-exaltation of his spirit made in God’s image.
The lust of the flesh, that’s just base desire, gratification. Covetousness, that’s a little bit higher on the scale. You see something, you recognize the attractiveness of it and you want it for yourself. And so there comes envy, covetousness, jealousy. And sometimes leads to murder, James says. Pride is the corruption of the noblest part of man’s life, his mind, his rationality. What exalts man above all the rest of the creation is that he is made in God’s image. Instead of being humbled by that, he seeks to fulfill things that glorify himself and not God.
In sensuality he functions lower than an animal. In covetousness he seeks to have everything that his fellow man has. In pride, he defies God. Sensual, he’s like an animal. Covetous, he’s like all other men, desiring to have what they have. But in pride he defies God, he rears up to replace the sovereign God Himself, he like the devil who was lifted up with pride. Therein is the web of sinful impulse, provides the beachhead for the system’s temptations to land and conquer the sinner’s heart.
Now that’s so far a bit of an abstraction. Let me give a concrete conclusion by having you turn to Genesis 3. This is not a passage we can fully explain tonight, but just a few minutes on this will, I think, be a help to you. Here is the first temptation, the first sin in the fall of the human race.Genesis 3:1 to 7.
Satan comes along. He finds the woman, Eve, in the garden. Verse 1, he approaches the woman. He says, “Indeed, has God said you shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” That’s the first question in history, by the way. Designed to start Eve on the path to distrusting God. He wants Eve to doubt the character of God, wants Eve to disobey God. He wants Eve to believe that God is a liar and that God is restrictive needlessly and wants to put her in bondage. So here for the first time he offers Eve the option of subjecting God’s Word to human judgment. This is a sad moment. This is the first time anything God said was subjected to human judgment. “Has God said ye shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” Satan in the way he poses the question turns the positive into the negative. God had originally said you can eat from anything in the garden, everything in the garden except that one tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan turned it into a negative, “Has God said you shall not eat from any tree of the garden?” emphasizing the negative, forcing Eve to contemplate the fact that God is restrictive. He turns what was a provision with only one small limitation into what is a prohibition, setting her up for the main assault on God. He is implying God is restrictive, God is narrow, God hampers freedom, God wants to rain on your parade, God doesn’t want you to have something that’s really good, He wants to limit your enjoyment. He wants to limit your pleasure. On the other hand, he implies, “I am devoted to your full fulfillment, I am in the freedom business. God may even be cruel and uncaring if He restricted you from that tree. God’s pro-bondage, I’m pro-freedom.”
“Oh, the woman answered to the serpent and said, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat. But from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said you shall not eat from it, or touch it.’” God didn’t say that. God didn’t say that. By adding those words, “or touch it,” she’s saying, “Yeah, you know, you might be right,” and she’s starting to add restriction to what God said, feeling the weight of Satan’s approach.
There’s no defense of God here. She doesn’t say, “How dare you question the word of God. You didn’t get it right. It was a provision with only a minor restriction, not a prohibition.” She doesn’t defend God at all. She says, “Yeah, you shall not eat from it, or touch it, lest you die.” God didn’t say that but she’s beginning to buy into this idea that God is restrictive so she throws in a restriction of her own. Her heart has set its course. And she fell really at that moment, the moment she didn’t defend God. Satan knew it so in verse 4 he went all the way. The serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die.” He knew where she was. God said you’ll die, Satan said, “No you won’t.” And by saying that Satan said God is a…what?…He’s a liar. He’s not only narrow, not only restrictive, He not only wants to rain on your parade, He not only wants you to keep from enjoying the pleasure of that tree, but He didn’t tell you the truth, I’m telling you He lied to you, you won’t die, that’s a lie.
Well, why would God lie? Why would God say I’ll die? Verse 5, “Because God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The reason He doesn’t want you to eat is not because He loves you and you’ll die, it’s because if you eat you’ll be like Him and He hates competition. He doesn’t want anybody equal to Him. He’s jealous and it’s an evil jealousy and it’s a narrow jealousy, and it’s a restrictive jealousy.
She was gone in her mind. She had fallen but she hadn’t yet sinned. She was in a fallen condition. She hadn’t yet sinned. What is the matrix in her fallenness that’s going to literally cause her to sin? Verse 6 tells you, follow this, “When the woman saw that the tree was good for food,” what’s that? Stomach, bodily appetite, lust of the flesh, it isn’t related to hunger, she had all kinds of things to eat. It was the idea that there was some satisfaction being withheld from her. It was good for food, the lust of the flesh, fulfill some desire, some appetite.
Secondly, she saw also that it was a delight to the eyes. That’s the lust of the eyes. It not only excited her…her sort of basic desire for the sensual joy of food, it excited her otherwise noble appreciation of beauty so it went from her physicality, to her emotion. And she saw that it was a beautiful tree and that made it desirable. She could appreciate beauty. And so she was seduced by her hunger and she was seduced by her vision.
And then she also saw that the tree was desirable to make one…what?…wise. What was that? Pride of life. That’s the matrix that sin works on, the baser desires and appetites of the body, the nobler visions of beauty and form and the highest of all, the ability to know wisdom because you’re made in the image of God, comes the point of pride.
There was physical impulse. There was an emotional impulse. There was an intellectual impulse. That is the matrix of temptation, it comes in that way. It did that first time and it always has since. These are the avenues. That’s why you have to beat your body and keep it in subjection. That’s why you have to make a covenant with your eyes. That’s why you have to humble yourself. Even when you’re saved and you become a Christian, those are still the beachheads where the troops of temptation land.
One closing illustration, Luke 4. In Luke 4 Jesus full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan and led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Luke 4 verse 1. He was 40 days in the wilderness tempted by the devil. Boy, wouldn’t you love to know how the devil tempted Jesus? You do, he’s revealed it here. He ate nothing in those days, when they ended He became hungry. He was being tempted the whole time. And here we get an indication how the devil worked on Him.
“The devil said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.'” Forty days of not eating, you can imagine He was hungry, right? Make some bread out of those stones, You have the power, turn those stones into bread. Fulfill that hunger.
Now Jesus did what He did because the Father willed that He do it. The Father willed that He do a fast for 40 days. When the time came, the Father would take care of Him. He was submitted completely to the will of the Father, He only did what the Father told Him to do. And He operated only in the power of the Holy Spirit and here He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The Spirit was in charge of everything. Jesus had yielded to that. But here comes Satan and Satan comes at Him in that same matrix and he says to Him, “You have some physical needs, You have some physical impulses, You need some food, turn those stones into bread.” “Jesus said, ‘It is written man shall not live on bread alone.’” He didn’t fall to that.
So, Satan led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world…take a look. All that your eyes can see. And he went at Him on the lust of the eyes. “And the devil said to Him, ‘I’ll give You all this domain and its glory. Look at it all. All the wonder of the created world. It’s been handed over to me,’ he said, ‘and I give it to whomever I wish.'” He is prince of this world. “‘And if You just worship me, it will be Yours, look at it all. Wouldn’t You like to have that, You who have no where to lay Your head? You have only the clothes on Your back. You who are the Messiah of God, impoverished.'”
“And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘It is written you shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'” I can’t serve you. I can’t worship you. Temptation with the lust of the flesh, He met with Scripture from Deuteronomy. The temptation to the lust of the eyes He met with Scripture, again from Deuteronomy. There’s only one last place to go and that’s to the pride of life, so he led Him to Jerusalem, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, probably a 400-foot drop at least to the valley below on that southeast corner of the temple ground. “If you are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.” You want these people to recognize You as the Messiah, the Son of God, remember the Old Testament says in Psalm 91, “He’ll give His angels charge concerning You to guard You, on their hands they’ll bear You up lest You strike Your foot against a stone.”
Can’t You imagine, Jesus…he says…can’t You imagine? You want acceptance, You want to be popular, You want to be somebody, You want the accolades of the world, just dive off this 400-foot precipice and the angels will all gather around You and You’ll float down like a feather and You’ll land and they’ll all bow down. And You’ll be preeminent.
Appealing to the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, now the pride of life, Jesus said to him, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” And again He quotes from Deuteronomy. He just met every temptation with Scripture. He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet…what?…without sin. This is how the world comes, beloved. This is how the world comes. It comes at the base level of bodily desires. It comes at the nobler level of the vision of beauty. And it comes at the highest of all, the intellectual level, the desire for knowledge and wisdom and to be significant. That is the matrix of temptation. Everything in the world works in that complex. This is the heart of man. This is how the world operates.
Since I said the world is nothing more than a system which Satan has accommodated to the corruption and corruptibility of the human heart, they work in perfect harmony. And as I said, even if you take the system out, the corrupting influences are still there. But marry the corruptive influences to the system, and you have the maximum impact for iniquity in the world. And it’s not going to get better, it’s going to get…what?…worse. Evil men, 2 Timothy 3:13, will grow worse and worse. As man gets more sophisticated in his ability to work the system that Satan concocts, he will appeal more to those elements of corruption.
That’s not us. Let me close with this. Back to 1 John for a minute. That’s not us. We’re not a part of that anymore. Gratefully all that is in the world is not from the Father and the world is passing away and also its lust, but the one who does the will of God abides forever. That’s not us. We are not driven by the world, we are driven by the will of the Father. We don’t always do it the way we should, but that’s always the longing in our hearts, always the longing in our hearts. We don’t love the world. We don’t love the things in the world because the love of the Father is in us, we are not of the world. We still have the residual impact of sin in us. We still can be tempted that way. But it goes against the grain of who we are. We do not love that system. When we fall victim to it, we hate the system and we hate the sin. This is how we are distinguished as true believers.
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