The Key to Overcoming Lust
Is overcoming lust that important? Isn’t it just a men’s issue? The truth is that lust is not only a male issue, but it affects women too.
The sin of lust has both temporal and eternal consequences, but it is God’s desire that any Christian learn how to live free of lust. Overcoming besetting sins such as lust is crucial to being pure in heart. Psalm 24 reads, “Who can ascend into the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.” Jesus also declared in His famous sermon on the mount, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8 NIV)
Seeing God is important to me. It is part of my inheritance as a Christian, and I want it. So finding the key to overcoming sin and having a pure heart is vital if I am to possess my inheritance. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, He became our only source of purity and righteousness. He has become for us, according to 1 Corinthians 1:30, our wisdom, righteousness, holiness and redemption.
Martin Luther rediscovered the truth that it is by faith in Christ alone and his finished work of the cross that a man shall be saved and not by human striving. As you stop trusting in your own ability to overcome sin and place your faith in Jesus Christ, the power of God flows in you and enables you to overcome every temptation.
The grace that cleansed you of your past sins is the very same grace that enables you to continue to walk in the power to overcome the temptation to sin in the future.
How often does a person believe that by grace God paid the penalty for his sins and removed the shame of having committed them, but then later returns to his own effort when it comes to sanctification? When you say, “I will not sin; I will not look at that woman/man; I will not commit adultery; I will not tell lies; I will not cheat; I will not lose my temper...,” doesn’t the very fact that each vow begins with “I” give you a clue? You have stepped out of grace and returned to the futility of your own effort.
Take for example, the habit of masturbation, a problem for many men and women. It creates a connection between the eyes, emotions and hands. I once heard somebody say that 90% of men admit to having an issue with masturbation and the other 10% are liars. Some would argue that it is only dangerous if it becomes habitual. I believe avoiding it all together is the best way of avoiding it becoming a habit. But dealing with it by your own effort sounds like this: “I will not- I will not- I will not! Oh my gosh, I’m doing it! I’ve done it; I’m so sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Please forgive me. Thank you, Jesus, for your forgiveness! There now; I’m free.”
What usually follows, though, is another cycle beginning with “I will not; I will not...” Each go round on the cycle heaps condemnation upon the person who is powerless to overcome it. This cycle locks him into a secret world of habitual defilement, guilt and shame and paralyzes him with the fear that he will be tempted again and overcome.
Isn’t it true that even though salvation moves a Christian out of the law and places him in the higher place of grace, he sometimes lives under a tyranny of “shoulds”? “You should not do this or that,” which we translate to “I will not, I will not, I will not.”
The solution comes when you find the secure place of grace where you KNOW that you are one with Christ. When you are there, it all sounds like this: “I do not and I didn’t.” It is simple.
The only access to this place of grace comes by believing in the finished work of the cross, and the power of the resurrection. Paul says in Romans 8 that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the same Spirit that gives Life to your mortal body. He is not just talking about the day of resurrection. He is saying that in every single moment we live, as we share in the death of Christ, the resurrection life of Jesus is working in us, empowering us to overcome the temptation to sin.
How Jesus Overcame
If we can discover how Jesus overcame temptation, we will find the key to overcoming the sin. Hebrews 12:2 says, "Jesus...who for the joy set before him endured the cross...” What was His joy? Joy to Jesus came in seeing the Father filled with love, pride and joy as His kids come home.
Jesus overcame sin by fixing his eyes on the Father.
He never looked at anything else. He was seeing something much greater than what the sin had to offer. The Father rewarded Jesus by seating Him at His right hand.
The temptation to lust will be with us the rest of our lives. The world we live in is unconcerned about chastity. The struggle is one hundred times greater, at least for me, in the summer months. To dress in ways that might cause others to stumble is also sin.
Jesus said, “If one of you causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he (or she) were thrown into the sea, than that he (or she) would cause one of these little ones to stumble.” Jesus didn’t add, “...unless, of course, low-cut clothing is in fashion.” Maybe you should take another look at your summer wardrobe and even ask a Christian friend of the opposite sex whether or not items in your wardrobe could cause someone to stumble.
That works in the body of Christ, but what about in a world that doesn’t care about Jesus’ teachings? We have to learn to deal with what our eyes might see. Learning not to take the second look is an important key. Before you take a second look, ask Jesus for help. All that is in Him is so not worth throwing away for the sake of that second look.
So here’s how it works. We can fix our eyes on Jesus, our everlasting reward, rather than on our neighbor’s “flesh.” As we gaze upon Jesus, our passions become His passion. We cut off the root of lust, which is “getting” and turn our eyes to “giving.” When our eyes are riveted on our prize, temptation fades.
But What If I stumble?
If you do sin, immediately say to God, “Jesus I’m so sorry for my sin. Thank you for Your wonderful grace. I step back into faith in You alone.” 1 John 1:19 says, “When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Receive His cleansing by faith.
Do not wallow in guilt. What God intends as conviction to move you to repentance and restoration, can turn into feelings of guilt, which produce shame and put a wall between you and God, a wall of your own making. Instead of experiencing the Father’s love again, one who lies in guilt gets into the mindset that he is a law breaker and cannot go to God. Then he finds himself headed towards the condemnation that he was in before he was saved in the first place.
“I have decided that God’s presence and friendship are of far higher value to me than a few minutes’ lust.”
The Bible does not deny that sin is pleasure. Hebrews 11 talks about how Moses “gave up the fleeting pleasures of Egypt.” Why would we want to give up the eternal pleasures of Jesus Christ for the fleeting pleasures of a moment of sin? Why spoil a precious friendship and love affair with Holy Spirit that leads to sharing in God’s secret life and the powerful unhindered flow of His anointing through us? The good news is that Jesus is real. He is alive and his power is greater than any force of sin.
What Set Me Free
The desire to masturbate was once a problem for me. One day the Lord whispered into my heart, “Duncan, so you’re just about to put your hands on your “manhood”, masturbate in the secret place, then go out in the public place, and lay those same hands on my children’s heads?”
Suddenly my appetite for masturbating in secret dried up right there in that moment! Now, whenever I face those old urges, I remember how precious it is to God that I remain clean so that He can use me to touch a broken world.
When I fix my eyes on the precious worth of Jesus Christ, a passionate love for Jesus wells up on the inside from the Holy Spirit within me and conquers those urges. I have decided that God’s presence and friendship are of far higher value to me than a few minutes’ lust. May the Holy Spirit forever continue to make it so for you and me.
Prizing him is a much better way of staying free from lust than trying to fight lust.
So my friend in Christ, be filled with the warm comforting love of the Father that is yours in Christ, poured into your heart by the Spirit, draw all your comfort from Him. Be filled with His presence, glory and love and live in the transforming grace that saved you on the day you invited Him into your heart and found Him to be your first love.
Why not make this verse of scripture your home? “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever.” (Jude 24 NIV)