The Demon of Lust
MAY 9, 1969
This article is from the May 9 1969 issue.
This article was copied from Christianity Today archives for preservation. Please find the original article, here.
Although it was written over a half a decade ago, it feels like it’s describing us today. I wonder what the author would say if he were looking at us now.
There are millions of demon-possessed people in the United States—possessed by the unclean spirit of lust.
Satan, the prince of this world, fans the flames of lust in the hearts of men and women. Playing on one of the strongest urges of nature—one that, when controlled, is one of God’s great gifts to mankind—Satan has down through the ages perverted it, wherever he can, for the destruction of his victims.
Some may think it fantastic to say that lust is a demon, but let them not forget that there is perhaps no more vulnerable point in the human personality, and that sex obsession has been a prime reason for personal and national disintegration all through human history.
America seems to have gone nearly to the limit in worship at the shrine of sex. In every medium of communication today, authors, publishers, producers, and advertisers vie with one another in encouraging lust.
History is filled with records of religions that have fostered unbridled lust, some through phallic objects of worship, others by the use of cult prostitutes. But not until the last few years has the Christian Church been infiltrated by those who have regarded the Seventh Commandment as relative. Through the permissiveness and twisted philosophy of the “new morality” and “situation ethics,” these persons have attempted to break down the moral concepts and restraints of God’s holy laws. Our risen Lord’s denunciation of those in the church at Pergamum who “taught” men to “commit fornication” (Rev. 2:14) is going unheeded by these new apostles of “freedom,” with devastating results to themselves and to their victims—usually young people.
Perhaps only those from whom this demon has been exorcised can tell the sordid story of lives so possessed. Like David of old they can rejoice: “He brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” (Ps. 40:2).
The points of entrance of this demon are legion. Usually he finds easy access through the thoughts. Like bottle flies swarming over a carcass, thoughts flit hither and yon and linger on forbidden areas and uncleanness until the soul is saturated with filth.
The lustful look—how easy to let the eye linger even as the mind gloats. Who can withstand such temptations? Who can say, I am not guilty? The Apostle James describes the process of this demon’s work: “Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:14, 15).
The lustful thoughts, the lustful looks lead on to the lustful acts—and without the forgiving and cleansing power of the Saviour, these lead on to death.
Many of today’s novels, particularly paperbacks, are wholly unrestrained in describing any and every kind of lewdness and perversion. And for a play or movie to become a hit now, it seems almost essential (so the producers say) to portray some form of sexual activity—even perversion. Those who feed their minds on this garbage find themselves possessed by the demon of lust, with an insatiable desire for more and more filth.
Newspapers and magazines often warn of the dangers of mixing alcohol and driving, of the immediate and ultimate dangers of LSD and other hallucinatory drugs, and of other things that are a menace to health. But only the Church has the message about the things that harm the soul, and of late the Church has been woefully silent about those moral standards affirmed by Christ and his Word. The demon of lust is unrecognized. The Church seems more concerned with social problems—few of which have eternal implications.
Lust defiles the mind, body, and spirit; it consumes its victims with unholy desire. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews speaks clearly: “God will judge the immoral and adulterous.” The risen and triumphant Son of God pronounces solemn judgment on the “polluted” and fornicators: they are among those whose “lot shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). The Apostle Paul is equally explicit: “Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Eph. 5:5).
Has God set for mankind standards that cannot be met? Humanly speaking, he has. The natural man finds himself bound in the chains of the flesh. But right at this point there lies the wonder of the Gospel: What we cannot do, Christ does for us. The temptations that constantly assail us are never greater than we can bear, by his grace and strength. The demon of lust can be exorcised. This Christ will do for all who turn to him for help.
Perhaps at no point is the compassion of our Lord more in evidence. He forgave the woman taken in adultery even as her accusers slunk away, convicted by their own consciences. Denouncing the Pharisees for their hypocrisy Jesus said, “The tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you …, [for] the tax collectors and harlots believed him—[John the Baptist]; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him” (Matt. 21:31b, 32b).
There is victory over the demon of lust, victory by the Cross. Christ died to condemn sin in the flesh and to give freedom and release to those who look to him.
These are days of unusual testing. The demons of lust lurk on every hand. Like David of old all of us can say, “As the Lord lives … there is but a step between me and death.” Satan controls so many areas of life that we are confronted by these temptations daily.
But God offers to give us clean hands and a pure heart, by an act of creation. After his double sin of adultery and murder, David prayed, “Create in me a clean heart” (Ps. 51:10).
Beware of self-reformation! The demon may depart only to return with others. This must be a work of God’s grace—a cleansing by the atoning blood of the Cross and an infilling with his Spirit.
L. NELSON BELL