What does the Bible say about worldly desires?

The Word of God is filled with all kinds of encouragement, displays of love and service, and examples of God’s faithfulness to us. However, it also reveals that we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. So, it gives us warnings and instructions on how to live in a right relationship with a holy God. And sometimes, like a surgeon with a scalpel, the Word of God cuts us to heal us. For instance, look at what James says in his epistle: “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). No one wants to be thought of, much less called, an adulterer or an adulteress. The thing we must remember about the Book of James is that James is a Christian writing to Christians about how to live the Christian life. In a marriage, if a husband starts a relationship with another woman, it's called adultery. As Christians, we are the bride of Christ. (See Revelation 21:9.) Therefore, if we start a relationship with the world, we are committing spiritual adultery and thereby choosing to act as an enemy of God instead of as a family member.

Look back at verse 16 of 1 John 2, “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” In this verse, we see the three categories all sin falls into: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. There is always a battle going on to draw us away from the Lord and toward sin. Peter calls it a war in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” Paul describes the flesh and the spirit as being contrary to one another in Galatians 5:16-17, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” In this passage, we see that the Holy Spirit who lives inside each believer is constantly at odds with our flesh and its desires. In our humanity, we are always battling to stay in right fellowship with Jesus. We want to do right at times, but our sinful flesh draws us away from Him who saved us. That’s why Paul says to, “walk in the Spirit.”

How do we walk in the Spirit? Jesus said in Luke 9:23 we must “deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily, and follow Him.” This is an everyday choice to lay aside what we want and ask Jesus what He wants. We are to sacrifice our own aspirations, seek out His will, and mimic His life example. We can only do that by walking in the Spirit. This means that we walk in a state of prayer—constant communion with the Lord—looking for where He is working and being ready to join Him in that work. It means to forcefully remove anything that is before us that leads us to sin. Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5:22, “Abstain from every form of evil.” To arm ourselves for battle, we must remain continuously in God’s Word. Psalm 119:9 reminds us, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your Word.” (See also Ephesians 6:10-18.) If we do not battle as we should, we will eventually conform to the world's way of thinking and be consumed by the sin which so easily traps us.

Paul warned against conforming when he wrote in Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” The Bible needs to be the final authority for our daily choices. All that we do needs to be viewed through the lens of Scripture! The Holy Spirit will teach us, encourage us, motivate us, prepare us for battle, convict us, and chasten us through the Bible. Until Jesus calls us home, we who are saved must be a people of the Book! Titus 2:11-13 says, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”