Overcoming (?!?) Lust
Are you among those who feel uncomfortable with someone saying, “I have overcome lust”? Does it come off sounding presumptuous, brassy and overconfident?
Might it even be contrary to Scripture and looking for trouble? Consider:
- “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
- “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8)
- “I have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3)
I believe the answer depends on what is meant by the word “overcoming.”
So what does it mean to overcome lust?
To say that you have overcome lust means that you have gained victory over it—that it is not a habitual, life dominating sin in your life.
What does it not mean when we overcome lust?
- It does not mean that you no longer have lustful thoughts. You cannot eliminate thoughts of sin. Thought suppression is not a workable or biblical strategy. The key is to stop yourself from using thoughts to obtain illicit sexual gratification in your heart.
- It does not mean that you no longer have illicit sexual desires— that you will not experience desires that are misdirected. Such desires do not go away. The key here as with lustful thoughts that may lead you astray is that you not act on these desires by lusting in your heart. Gratifying desires and allowing an illicit sexual buzz is when you are sinning.
- It does not mean that you are not tempted to lust. Satan does not take a holiday. He will not stop probing or tempting us to sin sexually.
- It does not necessarily mean that you eliminate lust from your life. Perfectionism is not possible in this life. John is clear—even including himself—when he wrote. “If we say we have not sinned, we deceive ourselves” (1 John 1:8). The key here is that whenever we sin, we confess, repent and obtain forgiveness. We do not let any sin become a habitual problem.
The proper response to all sexual temptations including misdirected thoughts and desires is to recoil from them—to reject them—to flee from them. (1 Corinthians 6:18) This approach is available to all God’s children since He is faithful to provide the way of escape. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
If you have the opportunity to disciple children and new Christians, I urge you to address these principles frankly and clearly. By modeling and teaching what it means to overcome lust, you will equip them, strip away confusion and point them to a realistic, workable standard of how they are to live in a way that is pleasing to God in a dark and sin infested world.
“Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). It is the Spirit of God filling our lives that enables us to confidently and thankfully proclaim that we have overcome lust.