The trouble with lust isn’t that we lust. As I’ve said before, we were born to lust.1 You see, God created humans as beings with strong desires. God could have created humans with weak desires but then we wouldn’t care much for even honorable things like friendship, or sex (it’s not wrong to desire sex, after all), or marriage, or children, or God. But since God gave us strong desires, the key is to focus our desires after what is right: God and His Kingdom.
You are either going to lust after God and His Kingdom or you are going to lust after people, possessions, positions, and pleasures. But, no matter what, you are going to lust.
Many people giving advice on controlling lust miss this point and without it, you will never have victory. The last thing a Christian should do is spend much of his or her life focusing on not lusting. After all, everyone knows that the way to stop thinking about pink elephants is to start thinking about purple ones, and the way to stop thinking about worldly lusts is to start thinking about heavenly ones. We must learn to long for God! Learn to enjoy what He’s giving us for eternity.
Let me give you a very personal example of what I’m talking about. In the mid-1980’s I worked for a large corporation and my territory consisted of the San Francisco Bay area. One night in a hotel I was watching TV and on came a commercial for porn that would begin in just 20 minutes on the station I was watching. Suddenly I was torn. I wanted to see it! But I turned off the TV and, feeling rather desperate, I got out my Bible and turned to a passage that I’d basically memorized because I’d read it so many times. 1 Peter 1:3-7:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
I read it quickly, urgently. When I finished, I read it again. And again. And Again. I don’t know how many times. But as I kept reading it, a calm came over me, I never turned the TV back on, and I went to sleep. I was accountable (as I mentioned in my last blog), but even more importantly, I was enamored with something better.
I had refocused my desires on to something glorious: “an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade—kept in heaven for you.”
Quoting a verse like this doesn’t work like magic, by the way: if I hadn’t been focused regularly on eternity then my quoting it might have had little effect. Our hearts must be constantly fixed on God and His kingdom, not just in a pinch.
I’m going to talk about this heavenly focus in my next blog and in time I’ll write about it in many future blogs but I’m not going to do it specifically as it relates to sexual lust because focusing on Heaven does tremendously more than help us conquer sexual lusts.
One of my favorite verses is Colossians 3:1-4. I pray that you’ll memorize it and then make sure you also practice it: “If then, you have been raised with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things, for you have died and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
- Of course, by “lust” I mean “strong desire” (lust doesn’t always have a negative use in English) and that’s what it really means in the NT. For example, when Jesus warned about looking at a woman lustfully [epithumeo], He used the same Greek word as Paul in Gal. 5:17: “For the desires [epithumeo] of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires [epithumeo] of the Spirit are against the flesh.” [↩]