You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
The power of lust is its embedded lies – little white ones, dark and monstrous things. With Christ dwelling in us, our hearts cannot endure the pain of outright rebellion.
So, to do the unthinkable, we conceal ideas under layers of lies. We smuggle lust in, dressed in rationales and justification, always hoping the metal detector will not go off. We tell ourselves the following: “It’s not that bad. God doesn’t care about me anyway. I’m already this far gone. I might as well keep going. It’s just a small sin. This is really the last time. After all, my desires are stronger than other people’s desires. I should have the freedom to watch this show. I’m just doing an image search.” And the list goes on, etc., etc., ad infinitum.
We also lie to put ourselves into the path of temptation. We have believed lies about women. We lie to both justify and hide our behavior. We have told ourselves – and listened – to lies that tell us God is at fault, doesn’t care or hasn’t provided. We have been less than honest with ourselves about the potential consequences. Then, when we sin, we fail to believe that God is merciful and forgiving and that our debt for sin has been paid. These are all lies, lies, lies.
We also believe lies about ourselves. We can often buy into the schemes of the enemy and think, “My identity is based on my performance,” or “There’s something wrong with me,” or “I have little to no value.” All of these lies can lead to feeling overwhelmed, hopeless or a desire to escape and cope through sexual sin. As Christians, our identity is not in what we do but in what Jesus did for us through His life, death and resurrection. In Jesus, we are blameless, forgiven and made whole. In Jesus, we are now of infinite worth and value as His adopted sons. We must attack these lies head on if we ever hope to see victory in the battle of lust.
The result of all these lies is a haze-filled layer of pollution that hangs over our lives like smog over Los Angeles. Our protection is the bright and blinding light of truth that harshly renders all shades into black or white, right or wrong.
To put it simply, the battle of lust is ultimately about coping with core lies we believe from the enemy about ourselves, God and others. These lies are often developed through painful life experiences that have left emotional wounds in our souls. One of the biggest keys to this battle is experiencing healing from these wounds with Jesus and others.
The “Living Free Leader’s Guide” has incredible insights into understanding emotional wounds. It mentions that emotional wounds often come from two different sources. The first being infrequent painful experiences of high intensity. For example, you may have developed emotional wounds from physical or sexual abuse, a car crash, a life-threatening situation, the divorce of parents or the sudden death of a family member or friend.
The second source of emotional wounds comes through frequent painful experiences of low intensity. For example, maybe you developed emotional wounds as a result of a parent being physically or emotionally absent. Maybe you were bullied, controlled or manipulated. Maybe you felt like you could never get the approval of your parents or friends no matter how hard you studied, practiced for sports or did chores around the house. Many of these painful experiences can lead to lies and faulty core beliefs such as “I can’t trust people,” “I’m unlovable,” or “I’m worthless.”
So be honest, how do you truly view yourself? What do you believe, not simply intellectually, but in your heart? Often, our reactions to stress, challenges or rejection from others are great indicators of our core beliefs. Do you often feel like a failure or that you don’t have what it takes to face challenges? Are you quick to get angry or feel sad when someone doesn’t agree with you or when you don’t feel heard? These feelings are all ways of compensating for a common lie and faulty core belief known as “I’m worthless” or “I’m not good enough.”
When these wounds and lies get triggered through stress, anger and interactions with others, we will have strong urges to cope and escape through lust and other forms of sin. By identifying our emotional wounds and what we truly believe in our heart of hearts about ourselves, we can begin the process of renewing our minds as we fight lies, depend on the Spirit, reach out for help and “take every thought captive to obey Christ …” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Behavior follows belief. Understanding our emotional wounding can help us uncover our false beliefs and lead us to the truth so that life transformation occurs (Romans 12:2).
Truth comes in two “containers.” One container is a rather generic-looking box, simply labeled truth. It refers to a lifestyle that shuns all forms of falsehood. The other container is the Bible, God’s special revelation of truth. Christians often focus on the second and overlook the importance of the first. Ephesians 6:14 says, “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place.”
What might be surprising is that Paul is not talking about the truth of Scripture in this verse but truth in general. He is making reference to a lifestyle of truth on which he had already elaborated. We see this shown in Ephesians 4:25, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”
In his book, “The Most Personal Addiction”, Joe Zychick defines the lifestyle of honesty this way:
I define honesty as the attempt to make accurate identifications and communicate them to others. In other words, it’s the intention to figure out what’s going on and sincerely trying to tell other people what you are aware of. Honesty is the heartbeat of mental health because the mind longs to know and experience itself, and allows the people you value to know you.
One component of this life of truth is transparency, which is well described by the phrase “living life with the walls down and roof off.” A life of truth is an honest disclosure with others of your actions and motivations as best as you are aware, coupled with honesty and transparency with yourself. Upon being tempted, I have found it very powerful to voice out loud, to myself, my own duplicity, “What you’re doing is trying to tell yourself that this will have no consequences. Rather clever of you – but a lie!” or, “Oh, that was a good one! Did you catch that? You were trying to make this seem like it was God’s fault? Let’s also blame the military while we’re at it!”
Another aspect of lifestyle-honesty is a careful attention to detail, guarding against all levels of exaggeration. Have you ever told your parents you’d be home around 1:00 a.m. when in your heart you knew it would be closer to 2:00 a.m.? As a lifestyle, we are talking about an intentionality to be truthful in every way. Such a life has a hard time supporting the habit of sexual immorality because there are so many fabrications that attend it. The more powerful the lifestyle of truth, the more scandalous you find it to harbor the dozens of rationalizations and lies that cloak the activities of sexual misconduct.
A lifestyle of truthfulness is a wonderful focus, for it moves us from avoiding lust and pornography to living truthfully. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a “Wet Paint, Do Not Touch” sign I haven’t been compelled to go and touch. The point being, it’s helpful to focus on being truthful rather than simply not lusting.
Imagine that moment when a lie concerning lust begins to ticker tape through your mind. At that moment, consider stopping and telling God, “Lord, I was just thinking that it wouldn’t matter if I quickly went to a website right now.” Or consider telling God or a friend, “I’m already beginning to get excited about being alone tonight and how I might have an opportunity to satisfy my flesh.” Look at the following passage:
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days, rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter, “Get behind me, Satan” (Mark 8:29-33).
Wouldn’t you expect that Jesus would greet this temptation (the same one given by Satan to bypass the Cross) with a passage of Scripture? But he doesn’t. He does, however, resist it with truth. He blurts out the bald, blunt and hurtful truth that Satan is using Peter to tempt Him, and He will not listen to it.
What I also take from this passage in Mark is the importance of voicing the truth, not simply thinking or confessing the truth to God in our thoughts but actually hearing our voices speak and say the truth. If you commit yourself to a life of truth and make it your goal to inject every thought and action with the serum, it will be difficult to continue in sexual sin. The truth will continually drive lies further and further away from your life.
I have not put the truth of Scripture as the second container because it is secondary to honesty. It isn’t. But, because the first thought is less obvious, I didn’t want you to miss it. Knowing you (the reader) would be more sprightly on page one than on page three, I put it first in order, not priority. Scripture is not only truth, but it also has the power to renew our minds, strengthen our faith and inflame our hearts with loving God. As Joshua Harris states in his book Not Even a Hint:
Scripture cuts through the confusion and hazy half truths that our sin generates. It reveals our wrong desires. It rebukes our apathy. It corrects our selfish human thinking. It unmasks the deception of sin. It points us to God’s goodness and faithfulness when we’re tempted to forget. It counters the false promises of lust with God’s true promises.
Part of sin is dissatisfaction with God. Lust’s power comes from the promise it gives that something besides God can make us happy. What this means is the only way to overcome the power of lust in our lives is by finding better promises.
In moments of temptation, your mind instinctively scans the database for Scripture. If you haven’t memorized any, you’re likely to make up your own: “This is really, really, dumb. So … like … just stop it, thus saith … me.” Or, worse, you might quote Walt Whitman, at which point you might as well just begin confessing because the ball game’s over. Only Scripture has divine power to dismantle falsehood.
In arming yourself against lust with the sword of Scripture, we would make the following suggestions. First, find a few verses to memorize that relate to sexual sin. You could rip these right out of the book, but don’t. It’s always better to deface a library book rather than your own. Or better yet, buy yourself a Bible. Here are a few suggested verses:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5:3).
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18).
For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you (1 Thessalonians 4:3-6).
Now, don’t just memorize these verses, but meditate on them. Think about the truth encapsulated in the words. This ain’t Harry Potter. Bible verses are not spells. They are truths that, if meditated upon and believed, will protect and renew our minds.
I’d also recommend an exercise that is very helpful with fighting the lies that lead us to cope through sexual sin before the moment of temptation. It’s from “Living Free”. Here’s how it goes:
Make a practice of meditating on the verse and visualize the experience when lies and faulty core beliefs are triggered. Over time, your mind will physically rewire and be renewed as you take your thoughts captive.
We found this major common denominator for those who have seen victory: a clear, memorable decision or resolution to fight - to make no compromise nor to allow even a hint of sexual immorality.
For testosterone-enriched men, besides the issue of masturbation, there’s no bigger question than where the line is drawn on physical contact in a dating relationship.
What does God have to say on the topic of masturbation?
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