Yes. You do. So buy this book: “Sex is not the problem – lust is” by Joshua Harris. It talks about the gift God has given us: sex and the way we pervert this gift: lust. Ok, moving on. Everyone struggles with lust in varying degrees.According to Harris there is little difference between men and women except in the type of lustful sin. The world around us is permeated with lust, our culture celebrates it, the media proclaims it and the internet is saturated with it. If I was to pick on a defining sin of our current generation it would be lust. Yet in Christian circles it is often the elephant in the room, we prefer not to discuss it, to keep it hidden.
This achieves nothing; in fact, it probably is more damaging than anything else. For it is when we feel as though we face a sin alone that we are most vulnerable. The purpose of this post then is to have a frank discussion about lust and the Biblical view on it. Despite a dazzling array of euphemisms available I’m going to be blunt but at the same time not crude with my language.
What is lust?
First things first: lust is not sex.
Sex is a God given gift to the human race. God is not ‘anti-sex’ in fact he actively encourages it by commanding the humanity to ‘be fruitful and increase in number’ (Genesis 1 v 28). Therefore our sex drive is not something to feel bad about but rather something to thank God for. We have been unashamedly created as sexual creatures.
But in saying all this Biblically speaking sex has a time and a place. And that time and that place is in a marriage between a man and a woman.
“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”
Genesis 2 v 24
What then is lust?
Lust is craving what God has forbidden. As Piper puts it: “Lust is sexual desire minus honour and holiness.”
It is not just the obvious lustful sins of pornography, masturbation and sex outside of marriage it is also erotic literature, sexual fantasies, impure thoughts, any sexual action or thought that falls out of marriage. Also, lust does not necessarily involve nakedness. A poster of a ‘cute’ male celebrity can lead to lust as easily as a pornographic poster. Focusing on a scantily clad woman is just as wrong as looking at pictures of naked women.
What is lust not?
Lust is not being attracted to someone or noticing that they are good looking. Lust is not looking forward to sex within marriage. Lust is not having a strong desire to have sex. Lust is not experiencing sexual temptation.
What matters is HOW we think of sex. HOW we think about the opposite sex. What we DO when we are tempted by lust. Let’s say you notice an attractive member of the opposite sex, nothing wrong there, but if you start to mentally undress them then there is something wrong. Or if a lustful thought enters your mind and you dwell on it; that again is wrong.
Why is lust wrong?
A large number of people would say that there is nothing wrong with giving into our lustful desires as long as we are careful. Why is lust wrong if sex isn’t?
Lust coverts the forbidden. There is only one person you’re allowed to entertain sexual thoughts or actions about and that’s your spouse. Lust makes us grasp at what God has forbidden. It is an idolatrous desire that places our sexual desire above our ‘God’ desire. It is idolatrous because we are making ourselves God by having what God has forbidden now, instead of when he intends i.e. in marriage.
Lust cannot be satisfied. Lust is never full, it always craves more, as soon as the object of lust is obtained it wants more. All the porn in the world can’t satisfy it. You’ll never be able to sleep with enough people. As Paul writes:
“Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”
Ephesians 4 v 19
Lust may involve our body but it still offends God.
“For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
1 Thessalonians 4 v 7 – 8
What is God’s standard for lust?
Some people may think that we’re allowed some lust. A little here, not much, it can’t hurt can it? Well God sets a higher standard.
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality”
Ephesians 5 v 3
Not even a hint. No lust. Ever. None. At all.
NO! That’s impossible! I can’t do that! I could never do that!
You’re completely right. Humanly speaking that standard is unattainable. Humanly speaking we would have no hope of ever meeting God’s holy standard. But whatever made you think we were dealing on purely human terms?
How then can I stop my lustful sin?
You can’t. Put every thought of you doing so out your head. There is only one way to keep God’s holy standard.
It is through God’s grace that we can fight lustful temptation; it is through his grace that we can have not even a hint of lust in our lives, through God’s grace we can do the impossible.
What is this grace?
God’s grace is given to us as we have been freed from our sin by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. As Paul writes:
“For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.”
Romans 6 v 14
It is easy to say “What can I do to stop me from sinning lustfully?” We like to think there is something we can do. But the answer is that we can do nothing. Jesus has done everything for us. We are justified in his sight.
Explain this justification
Justification is one of my favourite words! It is the awesome fact that as Christians our status before God is blameless. When we repent our sins are counted as nothing. Jesus’ perfect record is ours. So, having all our sin and guilt dealt with, and being given Jesus’ righteousness, we are FREE to live for Him. His grace motivates us. The only sin we can kill is a forgiven sin.
Stopping giving in to lustful sin will not make us ‘more saved’. We will not appear better in God’s sight because we already appear perfect thanks to Jesus’ death on the cross. He rescued us from sin. And he rescued us from lust. When we fall into lustful sin for the millionth time and cry for repentance we are forgiven. The truth is that when we come to God in repentance then he forgets our sin. If you struggle with this wonderful fact try saying this:
“Blessed is the man, whose sin the Lord does not count against him”
Psalm 32 v 2
Only replace ‘the man’ with your name. So I would say:
“Blessed is Ben Mildred, whose sin the Lord does not count against him.”
Remember this. This is what Jesus has done for you.
Why bother trying to stop sinning lustfully? Why bother trying to stop sinning when we have a blank cheque? If Christ forgives all things let’s go crazy!
But what you’re missing is a process known as Sanctification. I know; another long yet still equally amazing word.
Sanctification is the process by which the Christian becomes more like Christ. As we progress in our Christian life then God works in our lives. He roots out sin and guides us towards being more and more holy. All those who are justified are sanctified – justification and sanctification go hand in had together.
Is you have truly been justified then you will want to be truly sanctified! Christians can sin but they can’t go on sinning. Christians cannot help but hate sinning. They have the Holy Spirit within them and he works to convict us of our sin and puts within us a desire to be holy.
What has this to do with lust?
We need to get our motives sorted out. We need to want to live lust free lives not because that will make us saved but because we want to live holy lives before the Lord. And above all we need to recognize that it is the Holy Spirit’s transforming work in our lives that will allow us to be without a hint of lust. We need therefore to invite the Spirit in and submit to his work.
Our sexual desires must bow before God. We must submit our sexual desires before the Spirit.
Above all we need a balance. It is not by our own works. But that does not mean that we do nothing. Yet we must not be legalistic. We are completely forgiven before God. But equally we must act towards pursing a holier life. I think this balance is best summed up in Galatians 5.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”
v 24 - 25
As Christians our sinful nature has been overcome by the salvation Jesus brings. As saved beings we live in the Spirit – this is an act of God. But we are called to ‘keep in step’ with the Spirit. That requires action on our part and continued grace from God.
That’s part 1. The truth of justification and sanctification can apply to any and every sin in our life. In part 2 I’ll look at specific practical steps for dealing with the problem of lust. It is important to remember that your struggle with lust will be a daily one, you're never going to be completely free of lustful desires but through thr grace of God and the working of his Holy Spirit we have everything we need to fight against lust and triumph!
If you want/need more help on the matter then please, please, please buy “Sex is not the problem (lust is)” by Joshua Harris. It is very readable, good solid Biblical stuff and extremely helpful. Much of this post is based on that book. Only his book is better. At £6.12 it is a bargain and you can buy it instead of that lust filled book/DVD/game you were going to buy.
Just as something to think about before you read my next post here's a verse from Galations:
"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
Galatians 6 v 7 – 8
Are you sowing in the flesh? Are you sowing seeds of lust? Find out more in Part 2 coming tomorrow