A Drawer Full of Memories

Those seeking to overcome lust face a unique problem.  Not only must they resist new temptations that come their way, but they must also deal with things in the past that they have seen and done.

Years ago, a pastor at a men’s retreat called this his “drawer full of memories.”  He bemoaned things he had seen and experienced and that the memory of these caused him enduring problems.  When he least expected it, these memories would pop out of the drawer and cause him to lose his way.

Thankfully, your memories, thoughts and desires—no matter how repugnant—are not sin.

As one who had not yet learned how to overcome lust, I knew exactly what he was describing.   The memories that I carried around seemed like an insurmountable barrier to purity as well

The solution that this speaker offered was that we needed to fill our lives with Bible study, prayer and other positive activities.  However, that was an incomplete answer.  By itself, concentrating on positive, spiritual behavior is not enough. That approach had not worked for me and from what I could tell it wasn’t working for him either.

How then do we deal with our persistent memories?

An important part of the answer lies in the nature of lust itself.  Lust is a powerful sin because it is insatiable.  “The eyes of man are never satisfied” (Proverbs 27:20).  Lust always wants more and something new.

That is why denying lust a place in your heart, recoiling from it and making no room for it is so important.   Without new fuel for the fire, it burns itself out.  The “desires of the mind” (Ephesians 2:3) can only be resisted inside.  Observable behavior is not the primary battle ground.

Thankfully, your memories, thoughts and desires—no matter how repugnant—are not sin.

Sin occurs when you dwell on, ramp up and invite evil thoughts, desires and memories into your heart. You—like everyone else—are capable of using a memory to generate an “illicit sexual buzz”—that unmistakable signal that you have allowed lust to creep into your heart. That is why you must recoil from lust no matter how it seeks to draw you in.

It does not matter if the temptation of the moment comes from something you see, a willing partner, a misdirected desire or the memory of such things.  In fact, your heart and imagination are fully equipped to take you where you should not go without any obvious temptation.

Recoiling from lust within your mind may initially seem like a foreign concept.  It goes against the grain.  It forces you to do something strange.  However, over time it becomes a healthy, wholesome spiritual habit.

As Paul described it, we take off the old man and put on the new.   The old man goes in the drawer and gathers dust.  The things we once did and took pleasure in no longer appeal or exert power over us.  Instead of a slave to sin we become a slave to righteousness (Romans 6:18).

If memories of sexual sin continually trip you up, you have not yet overcome lust.  Are you willing to do so?

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