RPM, Volume 12, Number 2, January 10 to January 16 2010


By Scott Schuleit

Just a cursory glance at our overtly sensuous culture reveals the fact that something has gone dreadfully wrong with regards to sexual behavior. For the Christian reader this should be manifestly obvious. It is also true, to some degree that a secular attitude towards sex has infiltrated the church, and though, ever since the fall of man, this area has always been a battle for us, within our particular culture, the fight is even more vicious. Within the church, lust is something that many unmarried and married individuals (to one degree or another) struggle with. Despite the extensive reality of this problem, lust is still a difficult subject to discuss, it's embarrassing, and in one sense, that's the way it should be, for that means shame and guilt is still associated with it. Of course, despite the embarrassment, Christians still need to be open and accountable to others with their struggles.

What is lust? Lust could be described as the inner desire to pursue any manner of sin, but within the context of this discussion, I'm speaking of sexual thoughts and actions that are either intrinsically perverse, or thoughts and actions that are either intrinsically good or neutral but become sexually perverse when engaged in outside of biblical parameters. For example, homosexuality and adultery will always be, despite popular opinion, inherently perverse, while ones God-given desire for the opposite sex should be seen as healthy and only becomes perverse if it degenerates into thoughts, words, desires and actions that transgress biblical boundaries.

The main difficulty in dealing with lust is that its intense cravings arise from the sin nature residing within us. This enemy trails us wherever we go, striving, at the very least, to hinder the progress of the Christian's sanctification, and at best, to destroy others as it destroys us. Its desires are completely antithetical to that of the indwelling Spirit of Christ.

Though not as formidable as our flesh, another powerful enemy is the world system, of which, by preaching voluminous amounts of persuasive propaganda (directly and indirectly) through various powerful mediums, has been largely successful in its assault on the Christian view of morality and in corrupting the minds of the populace into believing that most manner of sexual perversions are normal, that homosexuality, adultery and fornication for example, merely represent a mature response between individuals in love…. Homosexuality and adultery are still, perhaps, in general, mildly frowned upon, but are certainly becoming more and more widely accepted as being normal. In the world, various sexual perversions—though they are usually called something else like alternative lifestyle or sexually active (as if chastity is dull and lifeless) to help soften and sanction them—are expressed as something exciting and robust, as a freeing activity, of which, when engaged in, unshackles one from the dark binding chrysalis of stale traditions, allowing ones wings to unfurl to live free and unfettered! The opposite, of course, is true. Lust enslaves. We are made to believe that lust produces immeasurable benefits without any consequences. In contrast to what the world system may say, descending into sexual perversions does not make a man more masculine or a woman more feminine, but, rather, makes them less so and more like some heavy-laden beast, enslaved and responding to every whiplash and slightest tug of lust.

Our third adversary is, of course, the devil and his minions and sometimes even those human beings who unwittingly follow them. (There is also a very small portion of people who wittingly follow them) The way in which this adversary seeks to incite us to lust is through either direct temptation or indirectly through the world system.

How can we effectively deal with the sin of lust? First of all, if you have a problem in this area you must first repent and confess it before the Lord. The other alternatives to repentance and confession all constitute gross rebellion against God and are destructive to the one committing the sin, and can, by consequence, be damaging to others.

One alternative to the proper method of dealing with lust is to deny that the problem exists. The world system is constantly communicating the idea that lust is not a problem, and thus, because the one struggling with this problem might not want to give up their sin, they may willfully choose to agree with what the world says about the situation. Prolonged denial can eventually lead one into becoming so jaded and desensitized to the voice of God that extreme disciplinary measures may be meted out by Him to waken the individual to reality. If one continually refuses Gods loving chastisement, then that individual will either be suddenly broken beyond remedy or lead a tragic, spiritually impotent life.

Another alternative is to try and rationalize the problem away. This kind of behavior is sad and pathetic. In time, this conflicted character has to try and produce more and more sophisticated arguments in an attempt to drown the searing voice of his conscience. The end result of a futile life and a growing addiction to lust isn't too hard to predict. I know this sounds extreme, but this is a serious issue we're talking about here. Throughout the centuries, lust has brought down many Christian men and women.

The third alternative is to try and hide the problem. You might be able to hide it from friends and family, but you will never be able to hide your problems from God, and once again, though the problem might be hidden beneath the surface, be sure that it will manifest itself in a number of ways, including certain detrimental patterns of behavior.

All of these methods of improperly dealing with sin are forms of rationalization. When one suppresses sin it can do great damage physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Refusing to confess one's sins before the Lord is like refusing to take God's medicine of forgiveness and embracing cancer as the only other alternative.

After one confesses the sin of lust before the Lord, the next step is to actively pursue certain measures to help reduce the intensity of the temptation to lust. Temptations to lust come through various external means as well as our internal desires.

One way to reduce the pull of lust is to keep up the spiritual disciplines. When engaged in from out of a grace-oriented posture to draw closer to God, the spiritual disciplines, such as studying the Bible, prayer, and meditation etc., can be very helpful, yet in and of themselves are not direct means towards the eradication of one's problem with lust, but rather, an indirect means to help diminish and resist the temptation to lust. The spiritual disciplines are a necessary means towards the end of developing and growing in one's relationship to God, from Whom we derive the power to die to our sinful desires daily, and produce the fruits of the Spirit. One can be rigorous in keeping up spiritual disciplines and still grow in the desire to pursue sexual perversions. If spiritual exercises are engaged in for any reason apart from deepening one's relationship with the Lord, then they were pursued through self-effort and motivated by pride, and though these exercises may look stupendous on the surface, they are in actuality, yet another glittering form of legalism. It's a matter of our motivations, the desires of our heart. The spiritual disciplines are not intrinsically powerful, but are a means towards accessing the power of the Person of the Holy Spirit to work through our lives.

Since the flesh profits nothing, the only possible way to avoid lust is to abide in Christ, for then and only then can we resist temptation and bear forth the fruit of the Spirit to the glory of God. I know of no other way to starve and resist the temptation to lust than to fall unreservedly in love with Jesus. In accordance with spiritual principles contained within John chapter 15, Galatians 2:20, and in many other verses, only Christ living His life through us can effectively and appropriately neutralize the temptations we constantly face. One can resist temptations inappropriately. Some might think that the main thing is to simply resist the temptation, disregarding, to some degree, the importance of how that end was achieved. This appears to be truth, especially at an experiential level, but in actuality, can lead to greater bondage than if one had given in to the sin. (On a side note, lust can, of course, act as a bridge to sins that are by nature more corrupt) There are sins that are far more abysmal than lust and though the foundation of all sin is pride, that is, the attempt of the creature to exalt himself over the Creator, there are levels of pride in sinful actions. Certain sinful acts involve a greater level of sinful pride than others. If you commit the greater sin of self-righteous pride by utilizing your strength to resist the lesser sin of a lustful thought, then you've resisted the temptation inappropriately. Whenever you resist a sin by your own self-will, by your own strength, you've resisted that sin inappropriately, that is, you've resisted it in a sinful manner. The pride of self-effort is one of the most subtle and difficult sins to be aware of, keep in check, and diminish because it can sometimes feel like a striving towards righteousness. The most destructive sins are the most complex and subtle. Brute lust is easier to deal with than the subtle and sophisticated rationalizations of self-righteousness, the lies of which, look closer to the truth than lurid lust, and thus, hold a greater potential to be adopted into our mindset as if something good.

One of the problems with living in our culture is the constant bombardment of messages in conflict with our Christian beliefs. A couple of actions that have proven helpful to me in my battle with lust, has been the decision to avoid places that make "provision for the flesh" (Rom. 13:14) and to reduce or eradicate my intake of various forms of media that offer temptations to sin. I'm not talking legalism here, just practical reality. This is something that each believer has to decide before the Lord. Along with avoiding certain places (that may not necessarily be bad influences for all) you may want to consider fasting from movies, video games, television or the radio etc. for a while and replace the time normally spent in these activities by adding it on to your practice of the spiritual disciplines to see what affect it may produce in your relationship with Christ. I can't recall a time when turning the television off and either completely avoiding or diminishing my intake of movies for a season hasn't proven spiritually beneficial. Since most of the material on television is pure rubbish, rather than make resolutions to avoid this or that, perhaps it would be wiser to simply get rid of the television set altogether. That's right, you heard me correctly! I'm rarely edified by something on television and there's just too much refuse to sift through to find it. You may not have a problem with it. One way (besides fasting) to gauge whether or not you have a problem with this issue is to evaluate how much time you spend in the spiritual disciplines in comparison to how much time is spent engaged in entertainment. If you desire to spend more time engrossed in entertainment than in communion with the Lord, you should consider it as a definite sign that there is a problem. Please consider doing an honest assessment of this, and in light of the evidence, pray about what your response should be. With respect to this issue, these are, of course, only suggestions. Each person has to make these choices alone, (hopefully after seeking godly counsel) but when making this decision or any other decision, please remember that all of our earthly decisions will ultimately, in some way, hold some weight towards affecting our lives and others for eternity.

In 1 John 2:15-17, it states: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."

This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.

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