[Editorial Note: Throughout the month of April, we’ll replace our normal Key Connections with one Key Connection from the Puritan era. Today, we have an excerpt from Isaac Ambrose’s Looking unto Jesus. This is an edited and condensed excerpt, and you can find the original here.] The most excellent subject to [talk...
I sat quietly as prayer requests were shared. Typical answers were offered: busyness, health, etc. Until I heard my own struggle spoken through the words of another woman, and I realized I wasn’t alone. We were both battling a lustful heart.
I thought my promiscuous past was the cause of my strife back then. But over time, women have confided in me regarding their own struggle, most of them being women who grew up attending church.
We’ve been taught to believe lust is a man’s issue, but truly, it’s a human issue.
Lust can make you feel hopeless. Like a worn down beast of burden, we carry the weight of it upon our backs, tarrying further into darkness. Who will save us from this body of death?
Lustful Heart Defined
Lust takes many forms, and its definition goes beyond sexual fantasy. For clarity’s sake, I’m defining it how Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology does: “a strong craving or desire, often of a sexual nature.”
Lust starts in the heart, springs forth to our thoughts, and most often results in an action. In Matthew 5:28, Jesus tells us “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Men are prone to visually undressing a woman in their mind, though certainly women fall prey to this too. But for most women, lust is less about desiring a man sexually and more about wanting to be desired sexually and emotionally.
Regardless of the shape our lustful thoughts take, they always tempt, and often persuade us to sin outwardly. To battle our lustful heart, we must be equipped to fight, using our minds and our bodies.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. (1 Peter 1:13-15)
We must prepare our minds for action and be obedient to Jesus, striving to be conformed into his image instead of our fleshly passions.
Fight by Renewing Your Mind
If we aren’t striving to renew our mind, we mimic a deer in open season. Eyes wide and body void of response to danger, we stand in the pathway of sexual temptation—and it hits us like an arrow between the eyes. We cannot escape Satan’s “flaming darts” if our minds are too dull to discern the threat (Ephesians 6:16).
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
We must put off thoughts of our old self and think on things of our new life in Christ. Meditate on the gospel—remember who you were before Jesus called you to himself and praise him for making you a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). When temptation enters your mind, choose to think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8).
We renew our minds by immersing them in God’s Word, seeking him fervently, and praying he would purify our hearts (James 4:8).
Fight by Fleeing
Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. (1 Corinthians 6:18)
To flee is to bolt—to run away from danger. Sexual sin is dangerous. Here are some practical ways to “flee”:
- Go for a walk/run.
- Go for a drive and call someone.
- Run an errand.
- Go to a coffee shop to study.
- Listen to the Bible while doing house or yard work.
- Go to the gym.
Furthermore, we must recognize where we’re tempted most often by our lustful heart, and set boundaries to protect ourselves.
Maybe temptation floods in at night when all is quiet and coffee shops are closed. We might be tempted to yield in order to get some rest. But it’s better to lack sleep than to transgress against God. Instead, we can redirect our mind by accomplishing a task or reading Scripture.
Fight With God’s Word
Though it’s the last thing we want to do when feeling sinful, our greatest need when faced with temptation is God’s Word. Force yourself to focus on a passage of Scripture, and pray for help to abstain from sin. Allowing ourselves to wallow in shame over temptation we face is exactly where Satan wants us. If he can keep us there, we’re more likely to give in.
Keep your Bible on your lap, mind fixed on God, and he will give you grace to fight. He’s not aloof in our struggles. He is near.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)
Draw near to him. He promises mercy in time of need.
Fight With Accountability
There’s lack of transparency regarding lust among women, causing many to feel alone in their struggle. Reaching for help feels paralyzing, and we may fear the response of others.
Truly, we cannot fight this on our own. To overcome lust, we need to share with a godly mentor. This provides accountability and shines a light on sin’s darkness, making it less attractive.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (James 5:16)
Whether we’re the struggling sister or the one who’s struggle has eased, we must grow in our openness regarding sexual sin. If we don’t, our sister remains isolated and in bondage to lust. But if we speak forth, “Me too. Here’s how I fought it. Let’s fight this together,” we lift our sister up, bearing her burden with her.
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness…Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1a, 2)
Fight From Freedom
Many believe their lustful heart is unbeatable. Its draw is strong and its lies, sweet to the ears, but any pleasure found in it quickly turns sour.
Sin has the capacity to ruin us, but the born-again believer has a choice. We don’t have to sin. Remember, we are free:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin….Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. (Romans 6:6, 12-14)
While those who remain dead in their sin are still enslaved to it, sin has no dominion over the Christian. We aren’t fighting for freedom; we are those who fight from freedom—the freedom Jesus Christ bought for us.
Lust isn’t invincible, nor is it outside of God’s power—and his power lives in you if you are his. So choose to wage war on your lustful heart today. This battle is difficult, but with each step toward victory, temptation will have less and less strength.