Killing Sin: Lust

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

The forbidden longings of lust are a very real and present danger. Although Christians may be diligent in being on the lookout for lust, we often find it has passed through our defenses and is present in our hearts. Lust may be subtle in its entrance, and then strong in its growth and pursuits. Such longings in our hearts are part of the three that the Apostle John lists in 1 John 2 above. Don’t miss John’s words that importantly reveal to us that these lusts are both in the world and of the world. Notice that all three of these longings have to do with three predominant inclinations of the depraved nature. All three of them demonstrate personal gratification, and not a heart of love and obedience to God. Yet, all praise be to our God for the truth that though the natural man is in bondage to his lusts (Rom. 3:10–18), when the Lord saves us, because of our union with Christ, we are delivered from the dominion of them (Rom. 6:12-14).

To better understand them and their origin, God graciously teaches us in Scripture that these forbidden longings are the fountain of sin (James 1:14-15). As we study this, it’s important to know that the Greek word for “lust” literally means “desire.” In Scripture, this word can refer to a good desire or an evil desire. Here in 1 John 2, these lusts clearly refer to an evil desire. What is the lust of the flesh? It’s the lust of the body evident in wrong desires of the heart with an appetite to excite sensual pleasures. What must we do with it? The Apostle calls Christians everywhere to put on Christ, making no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Rom. 13:13-14). The lust of the eyes is covetousness, or longing for something, or someone, you don’t have. The pride of life points us to self-exalting, vainglory, and selfish ambition.

The world would like to convince you that it has good things to offer, especially in its assortment of lusts.  It seeks to entice you to come and drink deeply from its well and freely let your desires be driven and expressed by the influence of what you drink. It tries to deceive you into thinking that you can make pain and suffering go away as you indulge in the things of it. Yet, if you love God, you are called to desire the things that are of Him. You will desire to have His peace, His comfort. You will desire to keep His commandments, and in doing so demonstrate your love for Him. Considering this, we must have renewed zeal to kill all such lust in our hearts and keep them far from us! 

We are bombarded by sexual temptation from all directions – via clothing (or lack thereof), TV, billboards, songs, suggestive language, and content on social media, etc.. The world works hard to progressively desensitize our consciences to public displays of immodesty and immorality. Access to the evil, deadly beast of pornography is easier than ever. Therefore, it’s entrance through the eyes and ears is as close as the privacy of your computer screen, or smart phone. Despite what the world says about it, despite what those who have been wooed by it tell themselves, it is powerfully addictive, taking its patrons down to deeper levels of sin and addiction, all of which lead to death.

But we must never give in to this! We are not under the dominion of sin. Praise the Lord! Therefore, we need to take daily precautions. We need to develop habits that will help guard the heart. All individuals, families, and churches need to foster a culture of chastity, emphasizing sexual purity in thought, dress, language, and behavior. Such a culture begins with parents in the home and officers in the church.

Here are seven things to help you establish and keep your godly guard:

  • Prayer for a Clean Heart:  As the heart is the fountain of sin, it’s good and right to pray that God would cleanse our hearts, like David did in Psalm 51:10-19. We all have a daily need for the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. We need His work of purifying us, getting sin out of our life, helping us keep it out, as well as sharpening our conscience if it has been seared.
  • Never Forget Who Is Watching You: Since much of the sin of lust is carried out in private, whether within the heart or behind closed doors, you need to be mindful that your Lord sees all and knows all. Though we may think that we’ve successfully closed off the sight and knowledge of other people knowing or seeing our sin in practice, we can never escape God. This must impact and guide our thoughts, words, and actions. For Satan loves to convince us that we should go ahead a do it. No one will know. It’s Ok to do it this one time (which will never be just one time). God won’t do anything about it. Fulfilling your lust will feel good and be just fine. Yet, this is so far from the truth! (see Westminster Confession of Faith 11.5
  • Keep Yourself Busy: Solomon teaches us in Prov. 15:19 that laziness is characteristic of the sluggard. Idleness takes us to the door of temptation and makes it easy to welcome it in. Therefore, being busy in prayer, Bible study, family life, and work helps guard us from putting ourselves in tempting situations. As temptation often arises when we find ourselves in a compromising situation, when we focus on staying engaged in good and godly work, there is less opportunity for us to get into a situation that makes resisting temptation difficult. 
  • Guard the Company You Keep: As Paul warns us to not be deceived, for evil company corrupts good habits (1 Cor. 15:33), he is not only pressing the truth about the effect bad company has on us, but he’s also shining light to the reality that we can easily be deceived into thinking they won’t have any corrupting influence in our lives. Yet, they will…drip by drip, pressuring you to participate in that which is lustful, along other sin. Keep in mind that evil company isn’t only regarding people you know and hang out with, but it also includes the media and people you allow into your head and heart through movies, music, books, podcasts, websites, etc. Keep a godly guard on your heart and eyes! 
  • Be Dedicated to Practice Self-Control: Have an absolute, prayerful commitment to the daily practice of self control (Gal. 5:22-26). As lust is a beast that grows and thrives when it’s fed, by the grace of God, refuse to feed the beast! Intentional starvation is a must, but isn’t easy. The killing of this beast often involves its extinction feeling like your going through withdrawal, as it claws and scratches on the way out. Fight the good fight and resist temptation no matter how it feels!
  • If You’re Married, Delight in Your Spouse: Lust is a destroyer of marriages. If you’re married, delight in your spouse. (Prov. 5:18-19) Intimacy, and particularly physical intimacy, is a God-given protection against unlawful lusts.
  • Get Help for Your Fight: Use a good filter on your computers and smart phones to help protect you from pornographic threats. Having someone you trust for accountability may also be helpful. This being said, know this – sinful hearts will seek to find loopholes in filters, blaming the filter when they fall into sin. Likewise, they will be tempted to blame others when they fall as well.

Yet, what is true? We are responsible to walk rightly before the Lord, as well as for our law breaking, evidenced by lust in our hearts and any other sin. If, and when, we fall, we must be prompt to go to Jesus, to confess and to repent of what we’ve done, seeking His forgiveness. We then must strive to walk worthily, by the grace of God, and never return to that sin again.

I pray this equips, strengthens, and encourages you today!