The past two weeks (1, 2) we’ve looked at Jesus’ difficult words about lust in the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s be honest: the standard Jesus calls us to can feel profoundly unfair. It is God, after all, who created us as physical beings. It is God who created us as sexual beings. It is God who gave us desires. God gave us libido. And God gave us imaginations.
And in this, God has created us in his image! God is the being with the most powerful desires in the universe! What kind of image-bearers would we be if we did not also have desires?
And so, in recognizing the reality that God created us as desiring beings, we recognize that God has called us to direct those desires at himself and his righteousness.
Is it possible to never lust? No. Not in this life.
But it is possible to fight against anger and lust? Yes.
Tolerating sin is not okay. We must fight with everything we’ve got, small and large.
Knowing what is at stake, Jesus calls us to take radical measures to flee from lust. He says:
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. 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. (Matthew 5:29-30)
Let’s be clear what Jesus is and isn’t saying here. Jesus isn’t calling for self-mutilation. But Jesus is telling us to treat our twisted desires with the utmost seriousness. In fact that little phrase “causes you to” that Jesus applies to our right eye and our right hand is the same word for a trap in Greek. Jesus tells us to treat temptation to lust like a spring-loaded trap. Stay away!
The first two weeks we’ve addressed two large camps of how to do battle: 1) fight for the greatest pleasure of all (God himself); 2) consider the stakes of giving into our lust.
Today, let’s conclude by considering nine practical ways to battle lust in our lives[i]:
1) Fight against cultural norms of beauty. What we think is beautiful has not emerged from a vacuum. Our culture’s norms of beauty have shaped us. Work to have your eyes for beauty transformed by God’s eye for beauty, that “imperishable beauty of a gentle and a quiet spirit,”[ii] that beauty that is exhibited in the fruits of the Spirit.
2) Put protection on your devices. Our devices are potential portals to a world of pornography and lust. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you’re strong enough. You don’t get brownie points for creating more temptation for yourself. Don’t put yourself or your family in that situation. Our family uses Qustodio. I’ve used Covenant Eyes in the past and think they are an excellent choice. I know those who like other services they use. Choose a service you think you will be best for you. It’s worth every penny.[iii]
3) Keep your family’s devices in public areas of your home. Don’t let your family slip into the habit of sliding into your rooms with your devices. Aloneness plus devices is a bad combination.
4) Don’t mess around with traps. Each one of us has different things that can entrap our hearts to lust. Do you know your traps? It isn’t just porn sites that can entice your heart to lust. For some, lust is stoked by romantic books, shows, or movies. For others, images on sports or even news websites are triggers. Stay away from traps.
5) Go to bed when your spouse goes to bed. That extra show isn’t worth it. If you want to read, use a book lamp. Whether you are married or single, get in the habit of not allowing technology to put you to sleep.
6) Cultivate your marriage bed. If you are married, expend emotional and relational energy to maintain a healthy and intimate relationship. Real intimacy takes a lot more work than the phony version. Don’t settle for the status quo. If you’re single, cultivate healthy relational intimacy with brothers and sisters in Christ.
7) Don’t mess around with inappropriate flirtation. If you are married, anyone you flirt with is inappropriate. If you are unmarried, don’t even begin flirting with someone who might not be a potential spouse.
8) Find accountability. Accountability is found in the context of true and transparent Christian friendship. Invest in Christian relationships. Join a connection group. Be real. James and John both tell us to confess our sin to one another, not just to God.[iv] Satan loves darkness. God loves the light. Bring your sin into the light and you will loosen the evil one’s grip on you.
9) Seek help. If it seems too daunting to you to start this process with a new men’s or women’s group, start with a Christian counselor[v] or a recovery group. Or, perhaps you just need additional help than your group. Those who are strong recognize their need for help. Don’t buy the lie that you can go it alone.
Fight with all you’ve got! Fight the small battles. Fight the big battles.
And then fight with the most important tool you can fight with: pure desire. Cultivate your love of God and desire for him.
In the midst of this, don’t forget God’s purpose for us in the midst of this battle: it is to shape our hearts and minds and lives so that they image him in this world. He wants the world to see purity and true love and faithfulness on display in us. And don’t forget that he has given us his Spirit that empowers us to walk out the life that he has called us to.
This is part 3 of a 3 part series on lust.
For part 1 see here: Does Jesus Tell Us We “Can’t Get No Satisfaction”?
For part 2 see here: Can Lust Send Me to Hell?
Photo credit: Unsplash, DDP
[ii] 1 Peter 3:4
[iv] James 5:16; 1 John 1:9