Disciplined Desire

This entry is part 96 of 140 in the series Holiness Matters
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The Bible was written because we forget some of the things it says. It’s hard for us to remember so much information. But it also helps us to see things in different contexts. The Bible covers some of the same issues over and over.

That’s one of the most helpful ways the Bible can influence our daily lives. The Holy Spirit uses Scripture to speak to our issues and change us from the inside out. He is always working on our behalf, but making us more like Jesus.

I’ve dealt with desires and how the Bible talks about them before. But it’s always important for us to share the messages the Holy Spirit speaks to us more than once. It’s not that we don’t get it the first time. But it’s putting it into practice many of us have trouble with.

Aside from that, one of the biggest questions is, “How do we turn bad desires into good desires?” Switching from one to the other is not easy, but the Holy Spirit is here to help us.

Unholy Desires

The Bible regularly addresses evil desires and passions. In Romans 1, it talks about people suppressing the truth about God so they can do what they want. That is the main thrust of the Scriptures, that our evil desires control us and we think we are doing what we want.

Evil desires and passions are all about ourselves. These are selfish desires that grip us in their control. That doesn’t mean we don’t have personal responsibility for the desires we choose to gratify. In fact, the Bible holds us responsible for every sinful desire and evil thing we do.

But selfish desires can easily fool us. For instance, I may show love to someone else or do something charitable, but it’s not because I selflessly do it. I do it because I want to be recognized, to be famous or seen, to have my fifteen minutes of fame.

This is the wrong approach for our character. We base all of our desires out of what gratify his us and what pleases us instead of helping others. This is one of the things Jesus changes in us. We have the ability to unconditionally love others and do things out of different motives instead of selfish ones.

Evil desires in us tend to be about our own entertainment, advancement, or ability to gain some kind of power. We chase money, sex, drugs, food, and many other desires. They tell us what we want to hear, and we rarely listen to people around us.

All of these desires can be dangerous to our health and person. But we seem to continue doing them. If people do address our desires and how they are endangering us, we ignore them. This is the mind of the unsaved one. As Paul said, “Who can save me from the wretched man I am?” (Romans 7:25)

Holy Desires

That’s when Jesus comes in and changes our hearts and minds. He gives us a different way to look at our desires. Most importantly, he gives us a way to conquer them through the power of his Spirit.

Jesus saves us from these unholy desires and replaces them with holy ones. One of the most important lessons we learn is to never leave a void. When we have an evil desire, Jesus doesn’t just take it away. He replaces that desire with a godly desire.

The most godly desire is to love and serve Jesus with our whole being. This is probably the primary desire he changes. Instead of serving ourselves, we turn to serve him. We replace those wicked desires we used to have with desires to please the Lord.

Paul presents many evil desires in Galatians 5:19-21, calling them the works of the flesh. When the Bible talks about the flesh, it’s not referring to our skin. It’s talking about evil actions that tempt us as Christians, who are changed by Jesus’ grace.

He says these wicked actions are immediately conquered by the fruit of the Spirit, who is working his godly character in us (Galatians 5:22-23). Christians have the opportunity to decide what they’re going to do. Are we going to live by the Spirit, or are we going to gratify the sinful desires that lead to evil actions?

The Bible contends that unbelievers cannot choose godly character and actions. Everything they do comes out of selfish ambition. If you look at the list of some nineteen evil actions, it’s hard to find an unselfish motivation among them.

Jesus changes our motivation and intention. He makes our desires come from a place of selflessness and unconditional love for others. These are expected of us, even commanded throughout the Scriptures.

The Bible uses commands to show us what’s expected of us as Christians. God’s high expectations demand that we do the works that glorify him. We don’t do these out of a sense of duty, although there is duty in the Christian life, but out of love for God and love for others.

The Holy Spirit is building godly and holy desires in us. He works in our character, changing it to conform to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29). These transformations are all for God’s glory. It is not about making us better so we can gloat. It is about glorifying God and everyone seeing a witness of Christ in us.

His godly enterprise is for our good. We may not always feel great about what he’s doing in us, but we must look at the long term. The Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification in us takes time. We must be patient with ourselves and with the Spirit.

Discipline for Holiness

One of the words anyone hates to hear is discipline. We don’t want to be disciplined by her parents or by others. When the Bible talks about discipline, it doesn’t only refer to God’s correction and rebuke.

Discipline in the Bible also points to the ability to choose to walk with Christ instead of gratify the flesh. Discipline is our ability to stay on the right path and follow Christ. It is the ability to ignore the temptations of this world and our desires.

The more we walk in the path and ignore these things, the easier it will become. When we choose to fall into temptation and allow it to win, it makes it that much harder to get back on the path. When you want to strengthen your muscles, the less you work out, the easier it is to become a couch potato.

Hebrews 12:5-11 describes discipline that comes from the Lord for his children. We must take the Lord’s discipline seriously. It’s one of the ways we know we are his children. He disciplines us because he loves us. He wants us to grow in godliness.

He has high expectations for each of us. If we do not walk in his discipline instead of our desires, we will not take part in his family. We don’t like discipline at the time. Sometimes it hurts, and when the Lord chastens us or reproves us, we must remember the fire refines us.

Conclusion

God disciplines us so we can be holy before him. He cares very much about us. If he didn’t, he wouldn’t discipline us. We must die to our flesh, our old desires before we met Jesus. Just because we are saved doesn’t mean we don’t have to keep up the battle against returning to the flesh.

But Jesus gives us a way out of temptation, the ability to fight, instead of just give in. We must get into the habit of our new desire, to please God in everything we do. These new desires are the foundation for walking with Jesus. Leave a comment about how you fight the battle against the flesh. We can all learn from one another.

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