By Mike Genung
Our culture is saturated with lust. Turn on the TV and you’ll be exposed to 6.7 scenes with sexual content every hour (source: Citizen Magazine). Walk to your mailbox and you may find an unwanted lingerie catalog. Newspapers are often packed with pictures of women in their underwear, in addition to the ads in the Sports section for the local strip bars. Magazines are filled with sexually provocative ads. Then there is the internet, where even legitimate news websites can prominently display pictures of soft core porn.
Take a trip to the local grocery store to buy a birthday card and you’ll be hit with images of women in various stages of undress in the card rack. As you walk down the aisles you’ll be exposed to a number of products packaged with pictures of undressed women. The grand finale comes at the cash register, with many magazine covers featuring (mostly) naked women.
As you’re driving it wouldn’t be uncommon to see billboards using an almost naked girl to sell a product, or promote a stripper bar or casino. Turn your radio to the wrong station and you will hear men and women singing about sexual sin.
As you walk outdoors on a warm day in a densely populated part of town, there will be numerous women wearing tight, thin, revealing clothing that accentuates every curve. You’ll see this in the church too.
At the mall there are many store fronts filled with larger than life images of half (or not) dressed women. Victoria’s Secret and the other lingerie shops thoughtfully place their soft core pornography where everyone can see it. Walk into Barnes and Noble, or one of the other respectable book stores and you’ll see they have a fully stocked section of sex books. Often these books are adjacent to the psychology section with the self help books… you can look at porn and buy a book on recovery from sexual addiction in the same aisle.
Living with a clean heart in the cesspool of cultural sewage is hard enough, but the man who’s defiled his mind with pornography struggles even if he’s alone in a room with blank white walls. Like a computer infected by a Trojan spyware program, his mind is saturated with porno popups; just going five minutes without running a sexual fantasy through his mind is a challenge.
We know we need to live with a pure mind, the hard question is, how do we cleanse our mind and deal with sexual temptation while living in Porno Land? And what do we do with our fallen flesh, which loves to lust?
When I’m hit with a temptation to lust, I have several choices for dealing with it:
1. I can do nothing and try to ignore the thoughts. This doesn’t work because they keep coming back. 2. I can play with the images. This is messing with fire; once I start running thoughts of sexual fantasies through my mind I’ve given lust the keys to the car and it will drive me into the ground. 3. I can try “casting it out” or “commanding the devil to leave”. This would work if the temptation was strictly a spiritual one and I was free of the spiritual doorways that allow spiritual influence, but it won’t silence my flesh or stop my corrupt mind from firing off lust popups. 4. I could call a friend like we talk about in What to do. This will work if I’m able to reach my friend immediately, but what happens if it takes several hours to make contact? I can’t let lustful thoughts run unhindered in my mind until I can talk to someone; I need a way to deal with the thoughts the second they hit.
There must be another way. The Lord’s commanded us to live with a pure heart so He will provides a way for us to do what He asks. The principle we’re looking for is found in the following verse:
“…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14”
In the context of Chronicles 7:14, to repent is to turn from our wicked ways. We don’t fight sin or try to beat it, we turn away from it and seek God’s face. This simple principle provides the answer we’re looking for.
The second a lustful thought or image hits we don’t fight with it. Fighting with lust and our flesh is a waste of time; both are stronger and more cunning than we are. Instead, we turn to God and connect with Him, asking that He fight the battle.
Here’s what “turn and connect” looks like: I’m sitting at my office and a picture of an old girlfriend pops up in my mind. Immediately I turn to God in my heart and say “Lord, create in me a clean heart. I don’t want any other women except for the wife you’ve given me.” I picture the Lord, seated on His brilliant, shining white throne in the splendor of Heaven. My attention is now off of the lust thought and on the Lord. I didn’t fight with the thought, I just turned away from it and set my mind on Him. The sinful thought fades away as I come into the Lord’s presence, and His power changes me. I’m training my imagination to feed on God instead of lust, and am connecting with the One who my soul truly thirsts for.
It’s critical we deal with the thoughts the second they hit. Someone came up with a 3 second rule, where the idea is you can look at a woman for 3 seconds before it turns to sin. This is playing games (and maybe trying to justify some sin) because I can undress a woman in my mind in less than a second. We cannot allow lust a foothold in the mind for an instant; once we crack the door open lust charges in and runs amok.
Another example. I’m walking down the hall in our office building and notice a pretty young 20 year old girl approaching in my field of vision. Without locking onto her form, I can see she’s wearing tight or revealing clothes, and I know I don’t want to go there. Immediately I turn to God in complete honesty: “Lord, I don’t want to look, but I’m tired and know my flesh would like to, so please help me. Create in me a clean heart, Lord, I want You. This girl isn’t my god.” I’ve admitted my complete dependence on the Lord’s power, and my heart is communing with Him. At the same time I keep my eyes up and don’t let them drop. If she says “hello” I’ll politely say “hi” back, and look her in the eye when I talk to her. If I have a work issue to discuss I keep my eyes focused on her face. Some times I’ll pray as I’m talking: “Lord please help me to keep my eyes up…”
“I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” Job 31:1
There is one woman in this world whose body I allow myself to gaze over: my wife’s. When it comes to other women I keep my eyes locked on their face when I talk with them. I may notice their figure in my field of vision, but I don’t let my eyes “drop, lock and roll”.
Incidentally, there’s nothing wrong or sinful with noticing pretty women or handsome men (if your bent is homosexuality). We can’t exist in society without seeing other people, and there are times when we will need to interact with a physically attractive person. We don’t want to lust, or live in fear of it. Learning to interact with other people without going somewhere in our mind that we shouldn’t is a part of growing up.
When we turn from sexual temptation and seek God, we deny sin the chance to ensnare us. One of hell’s strategies is to get us to look at a lust object, even if we’re fighting it. Satan’s strategy is to sucker us into the ring, but if we don’t take the bait he loses.
In God’s word, we are always told to run from lust (“Flee sexual immorality”, 1 Corinthians 6:18), not fight it in our own “strength”. When Potiphar’s wife grabbed Joseph he ran from her; he didn’t try to bargain with her while she was touching him.
If you’ve spent years soaking your mind in with lust it will take time before you see a reduction of porno popups in your mind. You may find yourself praying a lot in the beginning, even many times an hour. Don’t get discouraged. It will take time to build up your spiritual muscles. If you were to start lifting weights, in the beginning it would take more effort and you wouldn’t be able to lift as much. But if you kept at it your muscles would adapt to the training and grow. Your mind works the same way. As you continue to turn to the Lord your mind will transform from being lust focused to God focused, and saying no to temptation will get easier.
“Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:17
There are times when the lust images keep coming even when we’re praying and connecting with God. This may be a spiritual attack and in these instances we need to take up our authority in Christ and command the forces of darkness to leave. Persevere in prayer, and if the thoughts stop you’ll know the temptation was from spiritual influence.
Another time when we may find ourselves steamrolled with lust thoughts is if there’s unresolved sin in our life, which is an open door for spiritual influence. If I’ve said something harsh or unkind to my wife, or if our relationship is being neglected and we’re distancing from each other, the frequency of lustful temptations in the mind can increase. Increased temptation is a gage that reveals the need to examine our life. If this happens, ask the Lord to reveal the roots of the problem, and then take immediate action.
Being tempted is not sin; it’s when we cooperate with temptation and start running sexual fantasies through our mind when it becomes sin. Satan uses the fear of lust as much as he uses temptation. He’ll slip a sexual image into your mind and then carpet bomb you with thoughts like “you’ve sinned… you hypocrite, you’re hopeless… you might as well take the next step…”. Ask the Lord for discernment in these areas, and always stay out of isolation. Your brothers can help you discern what’s going on.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” Philippians 4:8