Spiritual Lust and Infatuation

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A couple weeks back, I posted that one of the Enemy’s tricks is to stoke the fires of wanting more (“Tangleknot on Leading the Opponent’s Subjects Astray“). In that desire for more, Christians may even make the mistake of overdesiring to grow deeper in the Faith.

“But, Dan,” you say, “how can that ever be a bad thing?”

Well, it’s a bad thing when it leads to spiritual lust.

Lust happens when all the boundaries that normally hold good gifts in check fall away, leaving a naked core of desire that knows no limitations. It’s playing the piano—by dropping bricks on the strings. Performing that way may make a sound, but it’s noise, not beautiful music. It’s a misguided approach. Should one want to play the piano correctly, one should play it as its design demands it be played. And as any skilled pianist can attest, one does not go from “Chopsticks” to Carnegie Hall overnight.

Spiritual lust occurs when Christians in their desire to know God violate the design He created by which we can know Him, grow in Him, and develop intimacy with Him. In the desire to know God, people inflamed by spiritual lust can instead find themselves drawn away from God because they violated His means of approaching Him. They become moths drawn to a flame, plunging down the pathway toward strange fire.

Spiritual lust is a kind of addictive behavior because it will drink whatever it can find to feed the thirst.  A little or a lot, it doesn’t matter. Nor does the quality of the spiritual experience or its rightness in the eyes of God. Spiritual lust makes demands that must be filled, no matter the expense.

Adoring fans...That addiction often leads Christians into pointless searches for truth in places where no truth (or precious little) can be found. A prospector looking for gold nuggets would not likely find them examining the contents of a septic tank. Yet this is what some Christians do when they go on quests to find the truth of God in other religions. Or it’s what too many charismatics do when they hop a jet bound for the far side of the world to bask in some new “revival” rather than finding God right where He has always been. Some Christians will tolerate all manner of skubalon in hopes of finding some tiny morsel to feed their spiritual rapaciousness.

The sad truth is no path to deeper intimacy with God exists than the old-fashioned ways found through the classic spiritual disciplines of the faith. We can’t help but grow in the Lord if we pray, study, meditate, fast, embrace solitude, practice submission, live simply, serve others, worship, confess our sins, seek guidance from the Lord, and celebrate.

Too many Christians want faster methods than those. Or they want whatever’s “new.” But both of those are simply spiritual lust. And God will never be honored through lust of any kind.

Spiritual infatuation tangentially connects with spiritual lust, but in a different way. It’s what happens to Christians who begin to veer into spiritual lust, but who sidetrack quickly because they find what they believe to be the perfect object of their theological affection.

Just as we old fogies get a whimsically nostalgic smile on our faces when we see a young teen utterly smitten with another, so it is that we recognize the signs when a young Christian has discovered a truth for the first time. How many times have we seen others find a tiny nugget of truth they then use as the sole basis for constructing elaborate theologies? How often do we run into other Christians, even older ones who should know better, who are infatuated with one truth to the point that all other godly truths become irrelevant?

I have many friends who are involved in the International House of Prayer (IHOP). IHOP has built much of its teaching foundation around Mike Bickle’s concept of Bridal Theology, connecting the Song of Solomon to Revelation’s depiction of the Bride of Christ.

Though I have grave concerns regarding Bickle and the Kansas City Prophets movement he came out of, I think that the Bible does show that God has a profound love for us akin to that of a groom for his bride. We Christians can be encouraged by this understanding.

But a problem swiftly rises: Building an entire theology off bridal imagery leaves out a big chunk of the rest of the Bible. Doing so avoids other perfectly legitimate explanations of the Gospel. It also forces proponents to keep expanding the morsel, blowing it out of proportion to its basic reality. Think how easily infatuated kids gush about their objects of affection, inevitably magnifying the character of that person to superhuman—and clearly mistaken—levels. After awhile, the voice of reason no longer penetrates the gauzy dreams erected by the infatuated. The infatuated filter their entire experience of reality through their infatuation. And we all know where that leads.

But before some of you high-five each other and yell, “Dude, Edelen totally dissed IHOP,” let me offer a different subject: atonement. A gnarly subject, yes?

Many reading this will defend a penal substitutionary view of atonement to the death. I, myself, believe in a penal substitutionary atonement. That said, I will also claim that some of the other views on the atonement (such as the ransom, governmental, Christus Victor, and satisfaction views ) all have some very good points going for them. In fact, it may even be possible—at least as I see it—that all those views work together in synergy much the same way that the four Gospels reinforce each other and give us a more complete understanding of Jesus.

Yeah, I know, heresy.

When you get to the heart of this problem, though, too often the pitchfork and torches crowd are the ones suffering from a spiritual infatuation. Remember, if Martin Luther hadn’t called the Roman Catholic Church on its spiritual infatuations….

Spiritual lust and spiritual infatuation lead to one unavoidable reality: a defective understanding of the revealed truths of God. And that defective understanding leads to all sorts of blindness and error when taken to extremes.

Trust me, too many of us take them to their extremes.

All of us suffer from some amount of spiritual lust and spiritual infatuation; it’s part of the human condition. That said, we don’t have to be complacent about this tendency. True growth in Christ comes when we seek Him rightly, discern truth from error, and allow Him to show us how our infatuations may be keeping us from knowing Him by His design and in His time.

 


18 thoughts on “Spiritual Lust and Infatuation

  1. David Riggins

    To carry the bridal analogy further, we have to remember that we are not married yet. We are to keep ourselves chaste and pure until the marriage, which doesn’t take place until after this world is over with. Too many Christians are taking the worlds method of hopping into bed in order to become intimate with God, not understanding that the point of this life is courtship; developing a relationship that will bear intimacy.

  2. Penal substitutionary atonement? ransom? governmental, Christus Victor? satisfaction? Huh? Whah? Dude, are you, like, some kind of glossolaliac? “Strifes of words,” dude, “strifes of words” (1 Timothy 6:4 KJV).

  3. Paul in the GNW

    Great post. I am guilty of something similar myself at times. One form of ‘lust’ is the obsession for knowledge – particularly current events in and around the Church and especially obsessive blog reading.

    Another more insidious version is a sort of ‘spiritual voyeurism’ where I read great saints and mystics with the ‘fantasy’ that I’ll get holier by osmosis.

    Thanks

    Paul

    • Paul,

      You’re right. I know Christians who are spending thousands of dollars every year to fill their heads with more knowledge gleaned from conferences or books. They are always learning, but rarely living out what they learn.

      Hey, if you do obsess over reading blogs, when you do away with reading all the other ones will you still hang out here? 😉

      Good insight on the osmosis thing, too.

  4. Paul in the GNW

    I have been forcing myself to fast from the internet entirely on Fridays and its turned out that most weekend I’ve maintained “blog sobriety.” I don’t plan to give up entirely! I still think I can manage and control my addiction!

    This was my first visit to your blog. I have looked around, you are a great writer and a clear thinker. It took me a while to realize you weren’t actually Catholic – I mean that as a compliment.

    I will be a regular and I’ll try to bring a few others along. You won’t hear from me for the next two weeks however, as I’ll be out of wi-fi range and my charismatic powers don’t do mass media 😉

    God Bless

    Paul in the GNW

    • Thanks, Tony.

      Most of the time when I write something at Cerulean Sanctum, it’s largely to remind myself of the very thing I write. This issue, though, is not quite as much my problem as it is something I’ve seen in others. If anything, people may accuse me of being too middle-of-the-road on a lot of issues, but it’s what I’ve learned. Perhaps I’m just very cautious for having been burned so many times by the fires stoked at the extremes. When people cry, “Man, this is it!” I’m more likely to say, “It may have its points, but as for being the sole ‘it,’ probably not.” That may get me labeled a killjoy, but wisdom is found in careful consideration.

  5. Shawna

    I just wonder where love comes in all of this. Don’t you think that Jesus would want to come back for a passionate bride. One that is ready and eager to receive her groom. A bride that is happy, not an old maid trying so hard to adhere to strict wedding protocol that she completely misses the joy of her day. And how about joy? Where does it play a part? I believe that people are making coming to God more difficult than it really is. All God said was come as you are. And the more you fall in love with Jesus, I mean really fall in love. To where He is the only one you think about all day. It really is like a first crush, but so much more. I KNOW that I am special in His eyes. Its not spiritual infatuation at all. It’s a revelation of the Love that God has for me, Shawna. I am the apple of His eye. It’s a personal revelation. I am having so much fun with the Holy Spirit right now getting to know Him and learning His voice. It truly is a relationship. How much are you willing to surrender? Not just lip service.
    I want to see the miracles that Jesus did. He said we could and would, so why aren’t we? Is that spiritual lust, wanting to see God’s word come to pass. Sounds to me like its just simple belief. God said it, boom, its done. I want that kind of faith. Literally faith to walk on water, heal the sick and lame and blind. Is that spiritual lust to want what God said that I could have. Jesus said that He only did what He saw the Father doing and said only what the Father heard the Father saying. I’m just brave enough to believe that I can have a fantastic relationship with the Holy Spirit, seeing and hearing, and that I can believe God’s Word for what it said. I believe that God said what He meant and meant what He said. I don’t see anything wrong with simply believing God at His Word. If that is spiritual lust, then give me some!!!

    • Shawna,

      There is intimacy, and then there is lunacy. Sometimes people can’t tell the difference. And in their quest for intimacy, they open themselves up to weird teachings that lead them into lunacy. I have seen it more times than I can count.

      • Truthseeker

        I’m not totally into the ‘kundalini spirit language’, but maybe the whole thing simply could have been called: spiritual lust! Seeing the conection between the spiritual and emotional/Physical as well! So sorry to say I have been there…!

        Thanks for having your arcive open for us that have been slow to recognise our own deaf ears and blind eyes. – Your thoughts are more than attacs on this or that movement (that we so foolishly followed), and I really value it!

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