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In Matthew 5:28 Christ struck at the heart of everyone of us. "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." James 1:13-15 states: "Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 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: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." I believe the word conceived in this context is used metaphorically yet also represents that which is actual. Example: If a woman is said to have conceived, is she pregnant? If a man has observed a woman to the extent that he imagines or fantasizes about seeing her nude, fondling or having sex with her, yes it is sin in my opinion. Jeremiah 17:9 "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:10 "I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings."
Lust (strong desire) is a sin if what one is desiring is inappropriate. This sin begins in the heart. It is a sin whether one commits an outward act (such as adultery) or an inward act (fantasizing about adultery). James 1:3-5 is perhaps the most well-known passage on the gestation of sin: "When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." James 1:13-15 We sin not when we first see an object or face a desire, but rather we sin when we first embrace the idea of that object or desire. Jesus is an excellent example of how to resist temptation without sinning: Though starving and presented with the idea of food, He held to higher truth (Matt 4:1-4), rather than giving in to Satan's taunt. When faced with the temptation of authority on earth without having to die (a false offer), Jesus rejected it outright and clung to God's plan (Matt 4:8-9) He also was not tempted by ego or pride to prove Himself (Matt 4:5-6). In the same way, while we encounter temptations in life, the sin is letting that temptation turn our hearts away from God. It is not a sin for a man to encounter a pretty woman, for example. It is not a sin for him to notice that she is pretty. It is a sin when he starts fantasizing about how pretty she is, or dwelling on it, or comparing her to his own wife - etc. This is him letting himself be "dragged away and enticed" by his own lusts. (Prov 6:23-29). Even if it never reaches the point of a physical affair, it is wrong (Matt 5:27-28). Similarly, a woman lusting after a movie star or fantasizing about the good looking man in a romance novel is also sin. It is not a sin to notice how great a father a colleague at church or work is; it is a sin to start inwardly comparing notes between him and your spouse, or secretly fantasizing about conversations or encounters. This leads to emotional affairs. Desire, in itself, can be either positive or negative. For example, Jesus eagerly desired to eat the Passover with his disciples (Luke 22:15). To lust is basically to 'set one's heart towards' or 'to long for' something. So, to desire God is a good thing - but to desire evil is sin. Sin is 'missing the mark', and to set ones desire on things below vs. Things above is how sin is conceived. "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God...Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived...And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Col 3:1-17
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