How a Christian Can Survive & Overpower Temptation & Lust!
“I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out”
OK – the answer you’ve all been waiting for – how do I stop lusting!!? The apostle Paul understood our predicament. He told the Romans, “I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18-19). This means Paul struggled with sin-just like the rest of us. And like us, he would make up his mind not to commit a certain sin ever again. Did he succeed? No way!
Now, if the apostle Paul couldn’t overpower his sin, what makes us different. Will power alone is not enough. Even when in a world free of erotic images, like a country like Pakistan, where men and women never hang out together, and the women are covered with clothing from their head to their feet, you still find prostitutes. If men in a country like that can’t control their lust, how can we?
From the moment we get up in the morning until we climb between the sheets, we’re bombarded with erotic images and messages. Suppose you made up your mind to get through one day without lusting after a woman. On your way to work your eyes are drawn to the bikini-clad model greeting you from a billboard. A few moments later as you stop at an intersection, you aren’t able to keep from noticing the attractively dressed young woman crossing the street. At work a friend brags about the gorgeous babe he bedded the night before. As you order lunch, the waitress with the short skirt winks at you and smiles. When you get back to the office, a coworker eagerly shows you his favorite erotic image on the Internet. On your way home you stop at the grocery store and catch yourself gazing at the seminude models that adorn the magazines by the checkout counter. When you finally get home, you plop down in an easy chair and flip on the TV. – you’re exposed to more of the female anatomy than I found in the pages of Playboy when I was a kid.
With the high level of erotic stimulation you face on a daily basis, do you believe you can control your lust alone? A friend once told me (and he said this with a straight face), “I’ll never have a problem with sexual lust.” I looked at him and said,
“You’re absolutely amazing. If that’s true, you’re stronger than Samson, godlier that David, and wiser than Solomon.” I’ll never forget his response. He sat down and stared at me for a half minute without uttering a word. And then he said, “I never though of it like that.” I’ll guarantee you, if Samson, David, and Solomon were here, they’d all say, “You can’t defeat your lust alone!”
You Can’t Reform Your Lust “OK,” you may be thinking, “maybe I can’t beat it. But I can make myself better. I can reform my lust.” I frequently talk with new Christians who think that becoming a follower of Christ means the lust problem is solved. It’s as though they think Jesus waved some sort of magic wand over them and-presto!–their sinful nature was transformed. Their lust was gone. When they discover that their problem with lust seems even worse than before, they decide they’ll study the Bible and pray more. Much to their surprise, that doesn’t seem to solve the problem, either.
Listen to Paul’s words (Romans 7:10-11)
“The very command that was supposed to guide me into life was cleverly used to trip me up, throwing me headlong.”
As sinful human beings, our lustful appetites are so evil, they’ll use God’s good commands to tempt us. Like a rod stirring up dirt that has settled to the bottom of a jar of water, so God’s law excites our lust. Forbidden things are more exciting. Women who are off-limits take on a greater appeal. God says don’t and our lust says do. God says do and our lust says don’t.
Trying to reform our lust is like trying to make a dog into a person. For thirteen years a buff-colored cocker spaniel named Pumpkin graced our family. Over those years I taught Pumpkin all kinds of tricks. She obeyed the common commands like sit, lie down, and roll over. I also trained her to jump through a hoop, close a door, sit on her hind legs, and fall over as though dead when I shot her with an imaginary gun. Yet in spite of all my training, I couldn’t keep Pumpkin from acting like a dog. She always did doggy things. She ate things people tried not to step in. She sniffed other dogs in places only dogs sniff. She went to the bathroom in public. No matter how well I trained Pumpkin, she was still a dog. Similarly, your sinful propensity doesn’t reform when you enter a church. It doesn’t change when you come to faith in Christ. You can go to church, read your Bible, pray daily, and even lead a ministry without reforming your sinful nature. Paul said, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Romans 7:18).
When we fall under the domination of our sinful nature, we’re capable of doing anything evil, whether we’re believers or not. When controlled by our lust, we can no more do good than a dog can talk. Yet when dealing with their lust, men sometimes think they can reform it. They deny its evil power. You may grow as a Christian. You may become more like Christ in your spiritual nature. But in the flesh, in your sinful nature, you’re no better than the day you trusted Christ. And because your lust is driven by sin, you can’t reform it. You Can’t Starve Your Lust One of the problems I have with a lot of recovery programs is that their primary emphasis is on abstinence. They think the key to defeating an addiction is to stop the behavior. Now, please don’t misunderstand me.
We can’t control any addiction unless we stop acting out. But if that’s all we do, it won’t work. We’ll simply change addictions. For example, our lust will transfer from sex to alcohol. And if we stop drinking, it will move on to shopping or work or gambling. It’s impossible to starve our lust to death. Until the day we’re with the Lord, we’ll struggle with sin. Your sinful nature will resist letting go. For a while you may ignore it. Later you may insist it doesn’t really have a hold on you. But if you hope to break its power, you must first realize it’s there and admit you don’t have the power to dislodge it. Hopefully, you’ll tire of fighting a losing battle. Paul did. In desperation he cried out, “Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from … this deadly lower nature?” (Romans 7:24 LB). If someone as spiritually together as Paul realized he was fighting a losing battle, isn’t it time for you to do the same thing? I know giving up isn’t easy. But it’s a step you must take if you’re’re going to find lasting freedom.
Satan and his demons stalk the path of every believer
As a Christian, you will be offered all manner of enticements to lure you away from an obedient and faithful walk with Christ. No one is exempt from this, and no one is completely successful in countering them (I John 1:8, 10),
But some Christians succumb to temptation so often that they see no hope for victory. They give up and give in without a struggle. This is an unfortunate condition, born out of despair, for it will blind the believer to the marvelous provision God has made for overcoming temptation. The first thing the Christian must learn is that God does not lead him to sin. The Apostle James clearly condemns the attitude of blaming God for tempting circumstances (James 1:13-15). God may test His children, a process designed to purify and strengthen them, but He does not lead them into sin. Without exception, sin results when temptation strikes a sympathetic chord in the human heart, and man has no one to blame but himself. Blame himself he must, though, if he is to be forgiven. Our age is one in which blame is passed to society, to the pressures of the times, or to some other faceless, nameless creature. If one is to be forgiven, he must first humbly admit, “I have sinned.” As long as he looks for someone or something else to blame, he will be totally helpless in combating temptation. The Christian needs to recognize the role of Scripture in overcoming temptation. The Psalmist stated, “Thy Word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee” (Psalms 119:11). When God’s Word becomes an integral part of the believer’s life, it fortifies that person against temptation’s power. Christ Himself demonstrated the Word’s power when He submitted to Satan’s temptations with a quote from the Old Testament (Matthew 4:7).
A systematic, prayerful study of Scripture is an absolute prerequisite to defeating temptation. The Word not only warns of Satan’s methods (II Corinthians 2:11), but it empowers against attacks (Ephesians 6:11-17). Another essential to victory is to avoid temptation. On several occasions, Christ told His disciples to pray that they might not fall into temptation (Matthew 6:13; Luke 22:40). Some believers understand that temptation is not the same as sin, so then feel that they can enjoy the enticements of temptation without any harm. This behavior becomes a type of game – seeing how much titillation one can ‘enjoy’ without falling into overt sin. Such an attitude is sinful in itself, for it fails to take seriously God’s commands for holiness in attitude as well as in action. One of the most crucial passages concerning temptation is I Corinthians 10:13. “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.” This verse is God’s guarantee that He will never allow Satan to go too far. The temptation’s intensity and the escape route will be uniquely tailored to the individual, and will not exceed his capacity. Knowing there is a way of escape, and using that way of escape, may be quite different things. If one is ignorant of God’s Word, one will likely not recognize the escape when he sees it, for he won’t know how God works. Whether or not he uses the escape, though, the believer can never truthfully claim that the temptation was so strong that he had to succumb to it. Another promise is that no one in this universe is uniquely tempted. While no two people are exactly alike, the temptations confronting each individual are basically the same as have confronted others.
Jesus Christ was tempted in all points like we are, and suffered in this temptation, but did not sin (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15-16). He is, therefore, uniquely a sympathetic Savior, knowing from His own incarnate experience the pressure that temptation can exert. Since no one is uniquely tempted, Christians can help and learn from one another. Merely knowing that another Christian has overcome greed, for instance, may be just the assurance that someone needs to make another attempt to overcome it in his own life.
The Christian who has grown in one facet of his spiritual life is responsible for helping other Christians who have not yet grown in that area. In this manner, Christians can edify (or, “build up”) one another in their faith (Ephesians 4:15-16). The Scripture contains no promise of help in overcoming temptation for those who are unsaved. Indeed, until one repents of his sin and accepts by faith Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, he has no capacity for pleasing God. But those who are saved may appropriate the power and wisdom of the Word, relying upon God’s grace, and can therefore have victory, even over Satan’s most subtle and compelling temptations.
To experience God’s grace, we must first recognize our need. That’s not easy. You realize that you have a problem but still believe you can handle it alone. Guys especially hate to admit defeat. We don’t want to ask for help.
Lust is part of the world, I John 2:16-17, NIV.
“For everything in the world, the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does–comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.”
Lusting itself is often used as an excuse for further sin. Matthew 5:28, TLB. “But I say: Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
The lustful man will pay the consequences, Proverbs 6:25-29, NIV.
“Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.”
God’s grace enables us to say no to lust, Titus 2:11-12, NIV.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.”
God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to resist. I Corinthians 10:13, NIV.
“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
Those who do not yield to temptation will be rewarded. James 1:12, TLB.
“Happy is the man who doesn’t give in and do wrong when he is tempted, for afterwards he will get as his reward the crown of life that God has promised those who love Him.”
When a Christian is faced with a temptation, he should run the other direction. II Timothy 2:22, TLB.
“Run from anything that gives you the evil thoughts that young men often have, but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right. Have faith and love, and enjoy the companionship of those who love the Lord and have pure hearts.”
Prayer strengthens Christians against temptation. Mark 14:38, NIV.
“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Meet temptation with God’s Word. Matthew 4:1,3,4, NIV.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The tempter came to Him and said, If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread: Jesus answered, “It is written: Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
Temptation & Lust help at christian advice.net 2003