In order to kill lust you have to completely place your trust in God and hope only in him for true change.
But trusting in God does not mean you sit back and wait for him to do it; passivity does not require inactivity.
Occasionally I get confused about how to work diligently yet also trust in God every moment of my life. It seems when I am trusting God in my heart I get lazy with my hands; and when I am diligent with my hands my heart starts trusting myself instead of God.
I saw this tension most clearly when I was unemployed. I bounced between, on the one hand, working really hard to find work and trusting in my own efforts to get a job. And on the other hand, being at peace when waiting for calls and trusting in God when I couldn’t do anything else.
But this tension comes from a very small view of God’s involvement in this world and my life. Yes, God is the one working between the time I submit my resume and the time I get a call. But he is also the one who intricately designed the DNA and life experiences of both the HR representative and me that led to an agreement to work together. He is the one who holds all of the molecules in my hands together as they type resumes and emails.
Trusting in God while you work diligently means constantly acknowledging the source of your ability to work. There is a secret dialogue deep in your heart every time you act. You either say “This act will be effective because I am knowledgable, skilled, wise, and intelligent,” or “This act will be effective because God made me and made the world I act in.”
That said, let’s look at the three interrelated actions* you need to constantly be doing in order to kill sexual lust in your heart:
1. Flight: Flee Sexual Immorality
Flee situations that you know will be beyond your ability
Know yourself and what situations usually cause you to fall. Do you need to drive a different way home from work? Do you need to avoid the magazine isle at grocery stores or certain clothing sections at Target? Do you need to avoid websites that have tempting ads? You know what causes problems. Flee those situations because eternity is at stake for yourself and others.
Flee desires that lead to tempting situations
Obviously the desire for sexual pleasure outside of marriage needs to be fled. But are there other seemingly harmless desires that tend to lead you toward a fall? Do you desire a perfectly calm and happy wife when you come home from work? In that case, if she is not, then you are tempted to seek comfort in lust. Do you expect to be praised for something you accomplished at work? In that case, if no one acknowledges you, then you are tempted to lust. Flee those desires.
Your emotional response to various things throughout the day can help you detect potentially idolatrous desires.
Flee thoughts that lead to desires
Sometimes a simple seemingly harmless thought can have dangerous unintended consequences. If you think, “I worked really hard today. I deserve some ‘me’ time,” then you could over-desire rest and comfort that may not be available exactly when you want it. Flee these kind of thoughts.
2. Fight: For the Faith
Fight for faith building situations
Taking in nature in all its beauty can be powerful fodder for worship. Do you need to fight to take time to enjoy a sunset or take a hike? Being around people who love Jesus can restore your strength. Do you need to be more active in pursuing community? Fight for these kinds of situations.
Fight for faith building desires
Obviously you should fight to desire Jesus more. But there are some desires that can indirectly increase your desire for Christ. When you want your wife to feel loved and well taken care of, that desire can increase your appreciation for the One who loves and takes care of you. When you want to benefit those who cannot directly benefit you in return, that desire can increase your appreciation for the One who greatly benefitted your eternal future. Fight for these kinds of desires.
Fight for faith building thoughts
Sometimes a simple seemingly insignificant thought can give powerful unintended renewal for your faith. If you think, “I worked really hard today. Just like God works hard for my good every day,” then you lose all self-entitlement that can lead to lust. Fight for these kinds of thoughts.
3. Unite: With Other Men
Join other men in strategizing better situations
Some tempting situations just seem completely unavoidable. Until you share it with someone and they come up with an easy, obvious solution that you didn’t want to think about. Join other men who know how to apply the Gospel to all of life.
Join other men in encouraging better desires and confessing false ones
Join other men in encouraging better thoughts and confessing false ones
Again, don’t wait until you accidentally reveal a harmful thought pattern. Be active in disclosing your thought life to other men and find better thoughts together.
Remember, these are things you need to do because it is God who is doing them in you. You have hope to progress in these things because you have the Spirit in you, the source of self-control. Look to Jesus who perfectly fled temptation and successfully fought to always love God the Father yet suffered alone the eternal punishment sinners deserve. All so we could be regarded as obedient sons (and daughters) of God.
What are some situations, desires, thoughts that you need to flee from and fight for?
* These are extracted from 2 Timothy 2:22, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” If you are familiar with John Frame’s triperspectivalism then this triad can be viewed as follows: Flight (situational/control), Fight (normative/authority), Unite (existential/presence)