At SALT a couple of weeks ago, Mike gave a talk to the year 9 & 10s on lust, possibly something that Christians are notoriously known for either talking about too much and condemning it, OR avoiding the topic altogether. It was a really good talk; challenging, rebuking and helpful, and so I thought I’d give it a bit more of an in-depth ‘review’ with added discussion, history and implications from my own life and personal experience (hopefully not over-sharing in the process…). It you want to hear the talk, it was recorded and is available on the SALT website.
Lust is longing and fantasizing after someone you’re not bound to by marriage. It’s important to define and to say that not all sexual desire is lust. Sex is a part of God’s good creation. One person has said
Sex is not gross, Sex is not God, Sex is good.
We have a God given desire, but sadly sin has corrupted our sexual desire. This world is sexually saturated, it promotes a common message of “if it feels good, do it!!“. Lust is a hard thing to battle, and it’s even tougher when the world around us discourages us from fighting it.
The Bible, however, tells us that lust is a sin, over and over again:
Proverbs 6:25-26: 25Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;26 for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life.
Matthew 5:27-29: 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
Ephesians 5:3: 3 But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.
Colossians 3:5: 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
1 Thessalonians 4:3-5: 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;
God doesn’t like us to be lustful, so how do we fight it?? Mike gave us some helpful tips, beginning with the theological then moving to the more practical.
We need to know God, and we need to know the gospel. We need to continually remember that God loves us. That He showed on the cross, and He has our best interest at heart. He is for us and wants what’s best for us. So when we sin sexually, we can know that there is forgiveness because Jesus died for us, as it says in Romans 8:32: He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?. Piper says that we should fight fire with fire; fight lusts pleasures with God’s pleasures.
We need to make it our aim to please The Lord Jesus as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:9 – So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him., and to strive for peace and holiness so that we see God as Hebrews 12:14 says: Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
One very intriguing thing that Mike said was that the world’s view of sex is both pricey and cheap. It’s pricey in the fact that people are willing to pay so much in order to satisfy their sexual desire by way of prostitutes or pornography, but then it’s cheap in the sense that they break it down and belittle it to something with so little meaning.
So how do we fight lust practically??
We need to make up our minds right now, before we fall into it, before the temptation is there to be lustful. We need to be making the decision to fight it before we are caught up in the heat of battle. Job 31:1 says “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? This is a great example and idea. I know that so many times when I’m been looking and thinking about things I’ve seen, it’s been such an easy thing to get caught up in the moment and commit sin because I’m not thinking rationally, but I’m thinking about my own pleasure. What would have been a great help would have been making that kind of a covenant, giving me peace of mind and control, somewhat, over my actions.
We need to be committed to not taking the next step. The example of David and Bathsheba is a great one. David noticed that Bathsheba was very beautiful, and this in itself is not a sin; it is a good thing and we should praise God for such wonderful creation. The sin comes in when we gaze, linger and lock the image of that beauty in for our own purposes of longing after and fantasising about that person. The key to David’s sin was inquiring after Bathsheba, and sending for her; the actions that followed with the sole purpose of pleasing himself.
A technique that Mike told us about was to “bounce the eyes“. When you look, acknowledge the beauty and then turn away or move on. This doesn’t give you time to linger or dwell on the image, and that saves you from locking that image into your head. It has been said that it only takes a second for an image to get into your head, but it can take 20 years for that image to vacate. I can definitely testify to this… In my past I’ve fallen victim to pornography; it has had a big impact on my life, and I regret my involvement in it all the time. It has changed and influenced the way I think about things; situations and sayings, and especially relationships. There are times where scenes or images just float into my head, seemingly out of no-where, and it is difficult to resist. Though it’s not just big bad pornography that we need to be careful of. This world is saturated with sexual or even suggestive images, magazine covers, advertising materials, and even just people in the streets are more and more dressing with less and less. These, when used as sources of temptation, may even be more prolific in satan’s toolbox of sin; the slippery slope that makes us creep into sin, one tiny step at a time…
Remember that sin is life destroying; it leads to death as James 1:14,15 says. We need to have a healthy distrust of ourselves, because though we may be Christians, we are not perfect, we are sinful, and so we need to ask for God’s help in our battles. We need to remember that when we do sin sexually to confess it to God in prayer, and to ask for forgiveness. We also need to make sure that we aren’t trying to fight this battle by ourselves. Often sexual sin is kept in the dark, as a taboo subject, but we are children of the light and so we need to make sure that we reflect that in our lives and speak to, and be accountable to, at least one person. Remember that if you are struggling with sexual sin, that this is a good sign, because that means that you feel uncomfortable with it. The worry would be if you were comfortable with it.
So there it is, hopefully helpful for you. If you are keen for more resources, I have an e-book called “Sexual DeTox: A guide for the single guy” that I can pass on to you. I’m still in the process of reading it, but so far it’s been helpful.