Do you feel like the picture above when confronted by temptations to lust—strongly pulled in two ways—often making the wrong choices? I can relate. I was like that—frequently doing what I did not want to do. (Galatians 5:17)
I know now that my anguish came because my approach was wrong. Instead of directly confronting the sin of lust, I chose instead to:
- Change the bad behaviors that resulted from my sin.
- Crank up positive behaviors like prayer, Bible teaching, Bible study, and fellowship.
This did not work. In fact, it does not seem to work for anyone. Instead it results in the conflicted life illustrated above.
Happily, there is a solution.
“Come…let us reason together” about this. Think about it. If you want to wash the “scarlet” sins out of your life, you need to figure it out (Isaiah 1:18). Isaiah shows us the way:
“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
Put away your evil deeds from before My eyes.
Stop doing evil. Learn to do good.” (Isaiah 1:16-17)
Do you see how Isaiah teaches us to approach sin? “Wash yourselves….make yourselves clean….put away your evil deeds….stop doing evil.” Our first priority whenever we are caught up in sin is to “stop”—to repent. This must come before we can “learn to do good.”
Only after the inner sin is addressed will the cascade of sinful behavior— and the overwhelming temptations to go there—be choked off as well.
You may say, “I have stopped a thousand times.” Here is the key. It is not enough to just stop the visible gratification of lust—bad behaviors like using pornography. Instead you need to “put away” the internal, hidden lust—the evil going on in your heart. It must be crucified (Galatians 5:24). Only after the inner sin is addressed will the cascade of sinful behavior— and the overwhelming temptations to go there—be choked off as well.
This is not to diminish the necessary task of cranking up godly behavior— learning “to do good”— and actually living godly lives. However, without deeply rooted repentance our attempts at better behavior will be ineffective and hypocritical. Only by turning our backs to the invisible sin in our hearts can we move forward away from it.
Do you want to escape the torment of failure when tempted? Recognize the sin of lust in your heart and turn from it.
I know—I have heard it before—I have said it before. “I can’t stop. If I could, I would. What Jesus wants from me (Matthew 5:28) is too hard. No guy can resist temptations to lust when the temptations are so numerous and, well….so tempting.” You need to understand that such a response is full of rationalizations. Lust is not required of you. You can stop yourself from lusting in your heart. Perhaps you do not understand the process, or you are refusing to obey. Either way, your lust is an avoidable sin.
Facing a sexual temptation and turning from it—refusing yourself an illicit sexual buzz—is the necessary first step if you ever hope to overcome lust. If you have not done this before in many situations you commonly face, it will feel kind of weird, but it is the first and necessary step. You must do this not now and then, but every single time. You must “learn to do good”— make the right choices.
Are willing to “stop doing evil” in your heart?
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