& lust - how a Christian can survive!
have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out"
Can Christians overpower temptation and lust?
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
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,
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.
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
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.
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.
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,
"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,
"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
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."
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
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."
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."
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