Let’s get real. There are some obvious sins that EVERYONE knows they should not do: murder, adultery, and stealing. Pretty much every moral system would not condone these, am I right? So many times we hear things like, “sure I’m going to heaven, I mean I’m a good person,” implying that compared to the “criminals” of society, they haven’t committed nearly as many bad acts.
When I was a Christian for only a few months, one Saturday morning my eyes were opened to what seemed to be a lesser sin that I had in my life: lust. I had never committed physical adultery yet part of my lifestyle that had carried from singleness to marriage was considering what it would be like to have sex with someone (not my wife) and to sometimes act out on that through masturbation. For me until this day I would have answered the true/false quiz like this:
Having physical sex with someone else is a sin: True
Masturbation is a sin: False
Imagining myself with someone else is a sin: False
That Saturday while walking through the store with my wife, I just knew for the first time that questions 2 and 3 were actually “True” and I needed to confess to God, to her, and ask for help to overcome this sin. I did just that. I told my wife that I sometimes imagine other women and that I had been self-gratifying for the first few years of my marriage. Blacghh!! It was finally out of my mouth like a sourhead on my tongue. She was gracious and simply asked for us to not talk about it anymore that day and never really brought it up again. By confessing my sin to God and my wife I brought that sin into the light and it lost some of its power over my life.
Jesus made it very clear that “lustful intent” is a sin. He said in Matthew 5:28, “But I say to you everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” So it goes like this, if someone catches your eye and he/she passes by and you move your mind past that person, no issues with Jesus. Yet, if you imagine yourself with that person….GUILTY! Lust means “longing for” a person that is not your spouse, and Jesus drew the line of sin at that point. Ouch! As a new Christian that line hurt for me because it was so seemingly subtle and hard to fix. I needed a way to not long for another person. How?
First, plead with God to take away the urge to think about other people with lustful intent. Paul had something that bothered him about his flesh, saying in 2 Corinthians 12:7-8, “a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.”
Second, confess your sin of lustful intent. John says in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” The Holy Spirit has power over the darkness of your heart and will cleanse you, bringing that sin to less power simply because you bring it to the light.
Third, commit yourself to the Lord as a first priority. 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV) says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” What does it look like to commit yourself to the Lord? It means to be close to God, in relationship with Him. Be close to the Lord by asking Him to reveal Himself to you through the Word and through prayer. If you are not reading your Bible, you have little to no chance to get committed to the Lord.
I am thankful today that my struggle with lust has dissipated to nearly nothing. There are other sins that I deal with more frequently (ie: anger, jealousy) and that day in the store I believe God took away this thorn in my side. My hope is that you, too, see God’s hand in helping you to get rid of the thorn in your side of lust.
-Written by: Joe Seestadt, Young Adult Pastor at Wells Branch Community Church