How can you avoid lust? Is there a way to avoid sexual temptation when it seems to be all around you?
Reader O.M. emailed me this question: “How can one avoid lust? I mean there are sometimes where by you will want to avoid ladies or men but they will be there one coming to you and that makes you to be tempted.”
Thank you O. M. for being bold and asking a hard question. I'm thankful for the opportunity to help you work through a strategy for dealing with lust.
It sounds like you're referring to lustful situations where you may be or are tempted to enter sexual sin.
The word lust is both a noun an a verb. Lust can be described as sexual desire or sexual appetite. As a verb, lust is the action of sexual desire for someone, the burning for, or panting for another person.
Lust: Separate Feelings from Actions
When you're talking about lust it is important to understand that feelings and desires are not the same as actions.
Lustful feelings do not need to turn into lustful actions.
One of the beautiful, powerful truths we get to live by as Christians is that we can take every thought captive.
We are not at the mercy of our thoughts, our thoughts are at the mercy of Jesus.
In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul tells declares this:
For walking in flesh, we do not wage war according to flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but divinely powerful toward the demolition of strongholds, we tear down arguments, and every presumption set up against the knowledge of God; and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (BLT)
Catching Lustful Thoughts
If you are having lustful thoughts the first step to avoiding lustful behavior is to grab hold of those thoughts and make them subject to the Truth.
Here are some ways to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ:
- Recognize the thoughts are not from God. Any thought that tears you down, depresses you, tempts you to sin, or do evil is not from God
- Know the truth – if you're struggling with lustful thoughts about women memorize scripture that declares the truth
- Speak out loud – literally say out of your mouth the truth that contradicts the lie
- Purposefully change your thinking – being to sign your favorite worship song, read a book, call a friend, do a cross-word puzzle
- Remove yourself from where you are – sometimes changing location or position will help, especially if there is a visible temptation before you
Dealing with Lustful Situations
O. M., you mentioned trying to avoid ladies or guys but they are “coming at you”. This is, of course, different than lustful thoughts although they thoughts and actions do like to work as a team.
Gaining control over lustful actions can mean taking drastic measures.
- Are your friends not honoring your desire to obey and honor God? You may need a season of separation from them.
- Are you frequenting places where lustful behavior is condoned, accepted, or encouraged? (Bars, night clubs, pubs, etc). Stay away from them.
- Do you find yourself alone with women who do not share your desire to honor God? Plan ways you can avoid being alone with them.
I know these are not easy things to do and they could mean life-changing measures for you. But falling into or back into sexual sin will have far more life-changing consequences (spiritual and natural).
Joseph could not avoid being Potiphar's slave. He could not avoid Potiphar's wife but he could stand firm on his faith in God and his conviction to honor God above all else, even when it cost him dearly.
Joseph had a choice to make, offend his master's wife or offend his master, and more importantly, his Master. (Genesis 39:1-20)
He chose to stand firm in his conviction even when lust was coming at him day after day.
Friendships and Witnessing
You may be wondering, is it right to avoid friends as you gain victory over this area of your life?
Let me say this: Friends are not true friends if they do not respect your desire to honor God.
And, if this is an area of struggle and temptation for you getting the victory is the first step before trying to witness to or evangelize to your friends.
Think of the alcoholic who realizes the error of his ways. He has built relationships, friendships with those at the bar but now he wants to have victory over his drinking and honor God. He will be an amazing witness to those bar friends but not while downing shots is still a burning desire of his flesh. He may always be tempted to drink but once he has mastered, with God, the captivity of those tempting desires than he can reenter the bar and witness to those old friends.
How long does this take? That is an individual answer. For some the miraculous healing process is quick, for others they walk it out slowly.
You Are Authorized
As a saved, Christian you are authorized by God through Jesus to take captive your thoughts. You are authorized by God through Jesus to chose what situations you will put yourself in and how you will deal with the unavoidable ones.
I pray this helps you walk with confidence and lead on God for victory.