So How Do I Fight Lust On a Practical Level?
In last Sunday's message we contrasted love vs. lust. and after the Sunday meeting one of our small group leaders relayed an understandable question from someone in their group: “Well, that was good to hear but what I am supposed to do now? What if I have a struggle with lust? What can I do practically?” I hope to give some starting ideas in three big categories.
What can you do to fight lust?
1) Get theological
Sometimes the most “practical” thing you can do in fighting lust is to get theological. Why? Because lust is a theological problem. Lust is craving something God has forbidden. Lust is looking outside our Creator and his design for our fulfilment and joy. Our cravings are usually like trails of crumbs leading us to our idols––things we are worshipping instead of God. For example, someone can struggle with pornography because they’re really battling loneliness––they crave something that will take their mind off our loneliness and make them feel good. We need to get theological and see what idol we’re worshipping in order to get help.
See Your Sin
Here’s a simple way to diagnose your heart: Ask, “What am I craving in this moment and why am I craving it? What have I made an idol out of in my heart?” It’s also important to cultivate real conviction so our consciences are not dulled. Ask yourself, “Why is this sin so wrong in light of who I am in Christ?”
See Your Savior
But we don’t want to stare at our sin all day. We want to quickly move to ask: “How does being ‘in Christ’ address that craving?” If it’s a good desire turned bad––such as wanting to be married and not be lonely that leads us to porn as a way to dull that pain––we must cling to how Christ addresses that craving for companionship and love. In our example of battling loneliness we want to soak up passages highlighting God’s nearness and his love for us.
See More and More Clearly
I also recommend getting help from a good book in this area. I can personally recommend Josh Harris' "Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is)" and I've heard great things about "Finally Free" by Heath Lambert. You can also get a list of recommendations from blogger and pastor Tim Challies.
2) Get accountable
If you’re struggling with sexual sin your sin will tell you two lies: First, it will tell you that you can handle temptation on your own and don’t need help. Then, when you mess up and give in to sin it will tell you that you can’t possibly let anyone know because they won’t understand, won’t love you anymore, and you won’t get any help anyway. Those are lies.
The writer to Hebrews says this: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13, ESV)”
This means two things: First, you need Christians around you who know you. Second, they need to know you well enough to be able to exhort you to godliness in the areas you’re struggling with. If you’re a guy, you need guys in your life that know your struggles and temptations and will hold you accountable. If you’re a girl, you need girls to help. (And by the way, sexual lust is by no means just a guy problem. Similarly, emotional manipulation and sinful emotional cravings aren’t just girl problems.)
At the risk of stating what should be obvious, you must initiate this. If you don’t have close Christian friends you need to get out there and find some (not waiting for the “perfect” Christian friends either). And if you have friends you need to take that extra step, risk making things awkward for a second, and saying, “Hey I need your help here…” No one knows those specific struggles but you, and no one can force help on you. But we can all help one another by creating a culture of safety in Christ where honest struggles can be shared.
3) Get practical
You need to fight lust not just theologically but practically. (If you try to fight practically without theologically this will be in vain so don’t skip step 1). The Bible has one prescription for dealing with sin: run. Period. Don’t mess around. Get out of there.
1 Cor 10:13 says, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” So you need to think through details like this:
- Where are you tempted most? Certain places? At the gym? At the pool?
- When are you tempted most? At night when loneliness strikes? After a fight with your spouse?
- What are you tempted by? Watching certain TV shows? Movies? Surfing certain kinds of websites?
You'll probably begin to see common patterns, ways that you start inching toward temptation. At the risk of being simplistic, the answer is simple: run. Run from places that are special temptations, run to Jesus at times of special temptation, run from media that draws you into temptation.
While there are certain situations where avoiding a place altogether is impossible, etc. I think our default should be to run whenever we can, rather than make excuses about why we have to be there. If Jesus says it’s better to lose an eye than give in to lust (Matt 18:9), you can probably go work out with the old folks at the YMCA, go without a smartphone, or miss the latest show everyone is raving about.
The statistics on internet pornography alone are especially grieving and it’s an epidemic inside and outside the church so here are a few recommendations. Both offer practical suggestions on how to fight porn, as well as accountability software:
- XXXchurch and its accountability software site x3watch.com: They offer a help page with practical steps for those battling pornography. There’s also specific help for men, women, students, and parents. They also offer 30 day workshops for men, women, couples, and parents.
- CovenantEyes is primarily a filtering and accountability company but also offers lots of free resources for dealing with addiction.
This is a dogfight friends. This isn’t easy. But you know what? It’s a fight we can win. If we are in Christ we can fight knowing that our identity is secure, and we don’t need what lust after in order to be “complete.” We’ve been redeemed and washed and forgiven, and in light of that we fight hard to imitate Christ. At the risk of overstating things, if you’re not fighting this battle on some level, you’re either superhuman or you’re deceiving yourself. So let’s fight together. Let’s link arms with one another, armed with the gospel and the Spirit, and fight well for the glory of Jesus.
[And if there's any way we as pastors can help you, or if you'd like to get in touch with a Biblical Counselor, please contact us. We'd love to help.]