Heath Lambert: Last week on the podcast, we talked about temptation to sin and the internalization of desire. One of the examples that I used throughout the podcast was that of lust, sexual lust, and sinful, sexual desire. I did not want to address the issue of temptation and lust merely academically, as though that’s all it is, but I wanted to deal with it pastorally and practically. On this edition of Truth in Love, we’re talking about not just the sinfulness of an internalized sinful desire, but how to fight it.
I want to speak to you very personally. We have people listening to the Truth in Love podcast all over the United States and in more than 50 countries. I know that in every one of those places, there are people who are struggling with lust, and there are some people who are struggling with lust right now. I want to speak to you with a great deal of urgency and very personally about how you could address this problem in your life if you’re struggling.
The first thing I want you to do is to think about memorizing Scripture. In Psalm 119:9-10 it says, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to your word. With all my heart I have sought you; do not let me wander from your commandments.” This is written by somebody who is interested in keeping their way pure, and they know the way to do that is through the Word of God. The Word of God is a weapon for you to take up in the war against sexual immorality and lust. You can fight lust by memorizing the Word of God.
If you’re looking for verses to memorize, this is a good place to start, but you also might want to think about verses in Scripture that have specifically to do with the power of the Gospel. One of the most important things that the Word of Truth does is it communicates that our sin is defeated not by our own effort, but by the effort of Jesus Christ in His life, in His death, and in His resurrection. The only way you know that is in the Bible, and if you do not commit that message to memory you will forget about it when the stakes are high with lust. You can memorize Scripture.
A second thing that you can do is talk to someone. I have talked to people all over the world who are struggling with lust, and one of the most common denominators that people who are losing the fight against lust share in common is that they are fighting all alone and not including other people in their struggle. It is deadly for you to engage in this battle all by yourself. I want to encourage you to find somebody to talk to about your struggle. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” The encouragement here is not to confess our sins to one another in any sort of sacramental sense, but as simply to say that I need you and you need me in our battle against sin.
You should find somebody that you can talk to about your sin. You should find somebody right now. If you’re listening to this in the throes of a struggle, I want to encourage you to hit pause on the podcast right now, pick up your cell phone, and send out a text message or a phone call to somebody that you love, that you trust, and that you can open up to about this and get help from somebody else. Don’t fight this battle alone, but do it with somebody else who’s going to come alongside you and help you.
A third thing you can do as you wage a grace-centered war in the fight against sin is to come up with a plan. In Romans 13:14, the Apostle Paul says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Now, this verse starts out again with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The first and most important thing you can do in your battle against lust is to put on Jesus Christ. We don’t put on our effort. We don’t put on our guilt. We put on Jesus Christ. We remember who He is. We remember what He has done, and in recalling the Gospel of Jesus and putting on Jesus, there is power and victory in that.
Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, but that’s not all the verse says. It says to make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lust. Now, you can read that quickly, but when you slow it down and think about it, there’s a lot of effort involved here. This passage is an invitation for you to slow down and think about all the ways you leave the door of your life open a crack to make room for lust. Make no provision for lust. You make provision for the flesh when you say, “I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it,” but then you don’t seal off access to that sin in your life.
This text is an invitation for you to think through all the different ways that you have access to fulfill the lusts of the flesh and then, as a further invitation, for you to think very, very carefully about how you’re going to seal your access to that. The reality is, one of the reasons that you continue to battle against lust is because you have not thought carefully about how to slam the door on your opportunities to do it. This has to do with making a plan. When are you tempted to lust? When are you most weak and most vulnerable? Talk to that person that you’re reaching out to for help and come up with a battle plan to make no provision for the flesh to gratify its desires.
A fourth thing you can do in your battle against lust is to pray. When we pray, this is the transaction we make with God to depend on Him and to ask for His help. You can pray. You can pray right now. You can pray with that person that you’re reaching out to for help. You can pray on your own. You can beg God for an ability, a power, His own power given by Jesus Christ, to turn from sin. You can pray to have a heart and a mind full of thoughts that are holy and pure and praiseworthy and wonderful. You can pray that God would surround you with men and women, depending on your gender, who are going to help you fight this battle victoriously. You can pray, you can pray, and then you can pray some more. I want to encourage you to stop what you’re doing right now, to hit pause again, and ask for the Lord’s grace to give you the people you need to wage war against this, to give you the grace you need to wage war on this, and to thank Him that in Jesus Christ, He has given you the resources you need to fight lust.
Then a fifth thing you can do as you wage war against lust is you can sing. This is one of the most profound strategies I have found in my own life to grow in the midst of any struggle with temptation. Honestly, I was struggling this morning as I was praying with a failure to forgive in my own heart and some attitudes in my heart about someone, and I immediately recognized it as a seed of hate and a failure to forgive. As I was praying for grace to turn from that, I started to sing about the love of Jesus Christ and about His provision for me in my life, and I noticed that sin begin to evaporate.
That is no less true for me in that sin that I was struggling with this morning than it is for you and you sin of lust. When you sing, something happens in your soul. There are 150 chapters of singing in the Psalms because God has wired our hearts to magnify Him with music. One of the things that I’ve said and written in several different places is that you can lust or you can sing, but you can’t do both at the same time. You have to stop doing the one to do the other. If you are fighting against lust, then you fight to sing, and I promise you that you’ll be surprised at how the Lord uses that grace in your life.
If you’re going to win against lust, you need the grace of Jesus Christ. You cannot do it on your own. As you depend upon the grace of Jesus Christ, these are five strategies that you can leverage to defeat lust and grow in holiness and purity.