Strategies for Killing Lust
John Owen famously said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
A young man recently said to me about lust, “I just want to be done with it.” I replied to him pointedly, “You will never be done with it until you stand before Jesus who died to save you from your lust.”
This is why Owen’s grammar and the grammar of the title are so important. You must be continuously killing lust. You don’t kill it, but rather you must be killing it. Jesus killed your sin once for all with His death on the cross, but you must be killing it because sin has lost its sting and death has been killed by Christ for those in Christ. You must be killing sin everyday. You must die everyday to the flesh and walk with the Spirit.
God gives us the power through the gospel and by the Spirit of Jesus, but we must respond with loving obedience.
The struggle is not all bad, it makes us trust God all the more. Additionally, struggling to resist sin does not mean that you have to cave and give in, it just means that we are constantly waging war against the temptation to believe that we can provide for ourselves a greater and more satisfying good than God is able to provide with His plan of purity before marriage and purity in marriage. To embrace and accept lust is to reject Christ and the goodness of God.
And this war against lust is deadly serious. Listen to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:27-30:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go to hell.
Our hearts matter as much as our outward actions and Hell is a very real consequence of lust that goes unchecked. And Jesus says that we are to deal with lust and adultery drastically. We are to treat adultery extremely serious and take actions to deal with it that reflect how serious the sin of lust is.
So what’s your strategy. How are you fighting and killing lust and adultery?
Here are some lust killing strategies:
Start with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We tend to far too easily minimize the gospel and its application to solve practical and everyday problems. Every sin solution is grounded in the gospel first and foremost. This also means that theology is important. All theology is practical.
To begin with Jesus lived, died and rose from the grave to take care of our sin once for all. When Jesus said, “It is finished”, he meant it. So if I am in Christ, having repented of my sin and believed in Jesus, then I can bank on verses like 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
The application of the gospel by grace through faith is that my sin was imputed (credited) to Jesus and taken care of on the cross once for all. God is not out to get me because of my lust or any sin – if I am in Christ. Jesus’ perfect righteousness is imputed to my account by grace through faith in Christ. When God sees me, He does not see the sick sin of lust that belongs to an adulterer, but He sees the righteousness of Christ. I have no righteousness in and of myself, but I bear the righteousness of Christ and I have been declared righteous by God through faith. Because I have been given so much that I don’t deserve, this should make me want to be killing lust because it has been taken care of on the cross. I should want to live to righteousness (1 Peter 2:24) and not in a life of lust.
Though I am forgiven and righteous in Christ, once for all, sin still has consequences in this life. But the gospel has freed me from the law of sin and death.
Additionally, trusting the good news of Jesus Christ means that God has put His Spirit within me (John 14:16-17; Ephesians 1:13-14), and it is the Spirit who convicts me of my sin and empowers me to follow Christ so that sin might be purged from my life.
The gospel is of first importance for salvation, but it is also of first importance for fighting sin in the here and now. If the gospel is not applied to my life then I am not righteous and I have no power to overcome sin. But if I am in Christ, then I am transformed to be transformed.
Look to the Bible to diagnose your weakness. Why do men, more so than women, battle lust? What’s wrong with us? Why can’t we beat it. What is our handicap? Believe it or not, the Bible has the answer. Men are passive and lazy. Genesis 3:1-7; 16, displays so well the tendency of men. Adam was given by God the one prohibition of the otherwise free and open garden (2:15-17), and yet when it came time to lead and take the initiative, he let his wife lead, plunging all mankind into the disease of sin. Men are lazy and they are sight-driven, and instead of waiting on God in purity, we tend to indulge ourselves visually, thinking that no one else knows. This is why the television and computers are so dangerous. We can sit and watch lazily. We must discipline ourselves for the purpose of Godliness, but sitting in our lazy chair, which is a badge of honor to most men, is often the very thing that leads us down the road where lust lives.
A Negative Strategy That So Often Fails Us. I am afraid for most men, their sum total strategy goes something like this when they are tempted to lust; “Don’t lust! Don’t lust! Don’t lust!” Result: Lust. Why? Because that is what they have filled their life and mind with lust. Even when they try to get away from lust and fight lust, they lust because that is what they are focused on. We need a better strategy, a strategy that does more than say, “Don’t lust!” We need something more. We need a strategy that helps us be so full of Christ that we can’t be full of our sinful selves.
Practical Strategies – Negative and Positive. One way you can fight lust is to think more specifically about the humanness of the person for which you are lusting. More than likely the person that is the object of your sin is not a synthetic replication of an idea, they are real and created in the image of God. They are someone’s daughter, someone’s sister and maybe someone’s mother. How would you like it if someone committed adultery in their mind with your daughter, sister or mother? How would you like it if someone took advantage of someone you cared? Additionally, lust is not only sinning, but if the lust is in response to a woman who is participating in some sort of pornography or inappropriate exposure, you are taking advantage of her sin, the sin that Jesus died for.
Another way that we can fight lust, or any sin, is to meditate for prolonged amounts of time on the cross. If you feel yourself being sucked into the black hole of temptation, then fix your thoughts on Jesus being crucified beyond recognition on the cross for your sins. Think about the crown of thorns, the nails, the lacerations, the mocking, the betrayal, your sin in His body, etc. Dwell on that for five minutes and see if it doesn’t make you disgusted that it was the very action that you were headed for the put Jesus there to die the death He died.
Some people might advise that the way to beat lust is to get rid of computers or phones or televisions. But that doesn’t deal with the real problem. The problem is not our television or computer, it is us. The problem is you. If we do a Kirk Cameron on our computer with a baseball bat, we are not solving the problem, we are shifting the blame and other temptations will take the place of those we removed. Besides, if pornography is the main impetus that causes lust in your life, then the images that you have already looked at our seared in your brain and the brain will easily open them if you don’t deal with the problem, which is you and your passivity in fighting lust.
These are good and helpful and I have found them advantageous in my fight against lust, but if we stopped there with strategies, I don’t think we would have a complete plan. We need to not only divert our attention and be disgusted with our potential perverted actions, we need also to develop a superior satisfaction for the things of God.
Developing a Strategy of God-Centered Satisfaction. It is not enough to say no to lust, but we must also have something or someone greater that we are saying yes to. I posit that because we were created by and for Christ Jesus that it is Jesus himself that we must learn to value as our deepest joy if we are to learn to hate and be killing lust. Augustine had it right when he said, “God, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find their rest in you.” Regardless of whether we have come to the realization or not, all our sin is actually a longing for the satisfaction that only God can give. John Piper has said, “Sin is what you do when your heart is not satisfied in God.” CS Lewis wrote, “The real way of mending a man’s taste is not to denigrate his favorites, but to teach him how to enjoy something better.” God the Father through Christ the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit is better. He is best.
We must learn to fill our lives with the things of God that produce a superior joy, lest we enjoy the temporary joys of lust and all others sins.
A pastor was recently at an aquarium that had sharks. There were divers in the tank with the sharks which prompted him to ask, “Why don’t the sharks eat the divers?” He was told that the sharks don’t eat the divers because their appetite has been satisfied from devouring the fish that the divers feed them. They are full from the kind of food they should be eating, so they have no desire or need to eat the divers. We need also to discipline ourselves to feast on the things of the Spirit so that we are full of the Spirit, not full of the things of this world.
We need to be constantly nourishing ourselves on the word. We need to be memorizing the scriptures for moments of weakness. We need to have accountability with brothers in Christ. We need to be praying constantly. We need the Spirit to empower us and so we need to be full of the Spirit. We need to pray prayers like, “God, satisfy me with who you are so that I won’t seek my satisfaction in the perversion of the world.” Then we need to seek God everyday. If we fail, we know we have forgiveness and we are righteous in Christ. We may feel the healthy pain of guilt and sorrow for our sin, but we don’t beat ourselves up because we know that Christ is our mediator.
We need the gospel and we need a gospel-centered plan. Remember the old anti-drug strategy, “Just say no.” That won’t wean you off of lust. It might help you a few times, but we need to have a greater reason to say no than saying no for the sake of no. We need to be certain that the hope of saying yes in Christ is the most satisfying and fulfilling thing we can humanly do until we get to heaven and sin is purged permanently by the gift of a glorified and resurrected body.
There is hope for you. There is hope for men in Christ. There are men who wage war against lust and say yes to Jesus and no to perversion. But it won’t happen for you if you passively wait for lust to go away. That day isn’t coming on this side of heaven unless you seek to be killing lust.
What’s your strategy for killing lust and living for the joy of obedience to Christ? Be killing lust or it will be killing you.