In my previous post (here) I identified what lust is, how it is sinful and the process of grace we need to be freed from it. In this post I’ll look at specific steps we can take in order to grow in grace and put sin to death. Again, I must stress that these are not legalistic guidelines; it is not by our own power that we do this but through Christ’s.
Prayer – This should be a no brainer but I know how easy it is to forget to pray. As Christians we need to be praying for purity of thought and action every single day. When we feel lustful temptations: pray. When we’re confronted with a lustful picture: look away and pray. Even when we think we’re doing fine: pray.
There is no such thing as too much prayer. And while you are praying make sure to pray for the purity of your friends as well in case they forget. Pray, pray, pray. It focuses the mind away from the pleasures of the flesh and onto the spiritual pleasures of God.
Bible reading – We need to constantly remind ourselves about the truths of lust. It is a sin. It will not bring lasting pleasure. Reading the Bible will re-affirm these Biblical truths. Start with Romans 13 v 14
“Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
Memorising verses like these and many others can be a real benefit when lustful temptations strike. Repeat these verses to yourself to remind you of the truth.
Sowing in the Spirit – any type of Spiritual activity will help you combat any temptation. Go to church, worship God, read a Christian book, study the Bible, anything that has God at its direct centre. Do it. As Paul urges us:
“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
Do not sow in the flesh but in the Spirit. Focus on God. Avoid lustful situations. Flee from sin. Pursue holiness.
What does sowing in the flesh look like?
Sowing in the flesh means we do anything that condones or praises sin. So in this case anything that glorifies lust needs to go. The easiest way to combat lustful temptation is not during the heat of the moment but rather beforehand. We should seek to avoid as much lust as possible i.e. not sow in the flesh. We also need to remember that we will all have lust triggers that we will need to avoid:
Certain times of day – are bad for us. Typically this is early in the morning and late in the evening. Do what you can to avoid placing yourself in a situation where lustful temptation is easy to give way to and these times. Listen to Christian music, always set a bedside alarm so you get up and you’re not lying in bed with nothing to do, stick up Bible verses around your bed, pray before you go to bed and when you get up. Sleep with your bedroom door open.
Locations – Maybe abathroom, bed, friend’s house, bookshop with ‘smutty’ books, a beach, part of town, etc. Avoid. If you have to go there do so only with much prayer and an accountable friend.
Television/computer games – We can’t be foolish here. All these entertainment mediums are constantly portraying lust as something good or using lust to sell you something. Cut it out. If it’s lustful you don’t want to be entertained by it. Be aware that even watching a soap can lead you to lust. Take drastic measures. As Jesus says:
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”
Matthew 5 v 30
Cut off any lustful media. Yes, even One Tree Hill. You may not think it is affecting you but it probably is. And the less said about the Inbetweeners the better – just because it’s funny does not make it good. In fact, comedy is a really easy way for lust to get into our heads. And guys: some computer games have a lot of lust in them. Not COD but many others will. Again, cut it out.
Movies - too often we think we can ‘handle’ films we know will be bad for us. Again, this is the wrong way of thinking about things. It’s not even a hint of lust not how much lust can I handle. As a general rule: avoid 18s. Avoid lust ridden teen comedies. Even rom coms could be affecting your behaviour.
Magazines – Again, see above, if it causes you to think lustful thoughts cut it out. Also consider the affect of fashion magazines that may have a bad influence of how you think about yourself. Do not covert a model’s beauty. Living without even a hint of lust may mean living without even a hint of Vogue.
Books – Romantic novels may seem harmless but they often portray sex outside marriage or adultery or other lustful sins in a positive light. If a book has a sex scene in it either skip those pages or stop reading. Avoid trash novels. Women’s literature is especially bad.
Internet – Porn is just a Google search away. If you struggle with this then try moving your laptop to a busy area of your house/flat. Don’t use the laptop when and where you are alone. Stick a Bible verse on it. Listen to Christian music whilst browsing the internet. Have a Bible next to your computer. Be radical – cancel your internet if that is what it takes. Never go online just to browse aimlessly.
Music – is really quite a subtle temptation. Music bypasses our logic and plays with our emotions. In generally a lot of modern songs are about lust, sex outside marriage, adulterous affairs, etc. Not healthy. Be prepared to prune your music collection.
Thought life – we need to be able to control our own thoughts. If a lustful though enters our heads then get into the practise of thinking about God instead. Pray for holy thoughts.
Above all, let’s not be half hearted in our attempts. Sure, we like watching TV, reading, sleeping in, going to the beach, etc. But if it leads us to lustful sin then cut it out. Sure, these measures may seem drastic but we need to root lust out of our lives. Anything that it takes we should do.
And now let’s look at some specific lustful sins:
Masturbation – follow much of the above advice. Masturbation is usually the end result of a long trail of lustful temptation. And remember that God centred sex happens in marriage between a man and a woman. Masturbation is a self centred, isolated, perverted image of Biblical sex. Take things one day at a time. And this may sound contradictory but Christians can become too focused on Masturbation – remember that lust is at its heart. And also remember that lust is just one of many sins that we need to put to death.
Relationship - our relationships with the opposite sex can be just as lustful as anything else. We must be careful to act with complete purity and holiness in our relationships. We must not push for any form of sexual intimacy before marriage. We can do a lot to help each other here. Women that means dressing attractively not to attract. Virtuous rather than seductive. Guys, this means watching the signals we send as Harris puts it: “There are certain things a guy can do or say to girls that are equivalent of a male cleavage.” Above all, we can pray for each other!
And one of the best steps you can take to fighting lust:
Accountability - What is the worst thing you can do if you struggle with lust? Answer: keep quiet about it. Seriously, don’t. Tell a godly person you know. In saying this DO NOT tell someone of the opposite sex - that could just lead you into more lust! Find someone who will question you regularly about how you are coping with lustful temptations. You need someone who can challenge you and who you can trust as well. Someone who will still build you up even when you fail by reminding you of Jesus’ forgiveness. Don’t be afraid to ask older Christians.
Do not be proud about this – we’re all sinners here. You need someone to pray for you, challenge you and encourage you. And if you can find someone who struggles in different areas to you.
It’s too much, I can’t do it.
I have just given a ton of advice here and it is a lot to take in. Start by changing one thing and then build up. Don’t become discouraged. Remember the promises of the Bible:
“I can do all things through Christ who strengths me.”
Philippians 4 v 13
“That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Corinthians 12 v 10
You have Christ on your side. You can do all things. Lust is still subject to God’s authority.
I have committed too many lustful sins
Perhaps you feel as if you have gone too far. You’re committed a terrible lustful sin. You’ve sinned again and again and again and again and again. You feel as though Jesus couldn’t possibly forgive you for all that lust!
He has. I can put it no other way. Banish all thoughts to the contrary out of your head. Your sins are forgiven. When you repent God forgets them all. Take heart!
Your struggle with lust is different from my struggle with lust. Yet we share the same God that can work miracles in our life. Remember: God wants us to be holy. He is more than willing to help us. When we are at our weakest he is at his strongest.
We like to be foolish about lust. We like to think it is something we can control. Or we like to think it’s completely beyond us. The truth is it is something that only Christ can control but we have Christ on our side so it is not beyond us!
I urge you then to think deeply about how what you read, see and hear can affect you. It may not seem so at the time but any exposure to lustful thinking can be deadly. So really think about the advice I’ve given. Be prepared to take radical action. Be prepared to give up things you like. But above all: Pray! Read your Bible! Mediate on God’s promises and on his commands! Combat the lies of lust with the truth of God’s word. And find someone to be accountable with.
Oh yes, and 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.