"I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matthew 5:28).
"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin" (James 1:14-15).
The Lord Jesus Christ and His servant James unite to reveal that the lust (desire) of the flesh must "conceive" before "it bringeth forth sin." It must unite in the heart with a partner, as it were, in order to produce attitudes, words, and deeds contrary to the will of God.
What is this partner? Our answer is found in the contrasting response that brings forth the fruit of obedience in us.
"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4).
"The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17).
"Now to Him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began. But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:25-26).
"They... through faith... wrought righteousness" (Hebrews 11:29; 33).
"I will show thee my faith by my works" (James 2:18).
It is through faith that God's leading and enabling are revealed in our practical experience. Accordingly, the opposite of faith must be a vital element in producing sin. Unbelief, united with the lust of fleshly desire, conceives sin and disobedience. Consider, for example, that we are tempted to bitterness toward another person. Knowing that "all bitterness" is to be put away from us, we are confronted with certain choices as to what to believe. First, the Bible plainly declares that God's way is perfect (Ephesians 4:31; II Samuel 22:31). Therefore, if He commands us to reject bitterness, we must believe that doing so is in our own best interest, as well as every one else involved in the matter. We must furthermore believe in our Lord's presence, willingness, and ability to enable our overcoming of the temptation. And we must believe that regardless of contrary emotions and thoughts that may be present in our sensibilities, or of past history, the desire of our innermost being, our Christ-inhabited "inward man," is to trust and obey God (Romans 7:22). By such faith, we "through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body" because the desire of our flesh can find no partner of unbelief in us (Romans 8:13).
Implicit in this truth is the fact that fleshly desire is not in and of itself sin. The Lord Jesus alluded to this in raising the issue of looking upon a woman to lust. The matter, He said, involves the heart, that is, the particular "look" our Lord referenced was more than a mere glance that led to the sensation of desire, but was rather the prolonged gaze whereby lust ultimately bore sin. Again, if we sin, fleshly desire has united with unbelief in a choice to turn away from the will of God. Our brains and bodies may tell us that it is good to look and lust. The Bible says that it is not. Our flesh may feel as if God is not with us, and His strength is not present within us. And it may seem that our deepest desire is to disobey our Lord. What, or who, will we believe? The answer will determine whether fleshly desire finds a mate by which sin is conceived, or is denied the union, leading to faithful obedience.
We were born again by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). We are commanded to continue in the same dynamic. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6). Again, we "live by faith," that is, everything in our lives is to be faced by the trusting submission to the Lord Jesus whereby believing His Word puts to death the unholy union of fleshly desire and unbelief that produces sin. May God increasingly reveal Himself and His truth to us so that we may know Him so well that trusting Him is the norm of our existence. "The obedience of faith" will ensue, and the promise of the Apostle Paul will be more and more fulfilled in us...
"Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh."