Overcoming Sin, Especially Lust

This is an ongoing battle in which even a little compromise, which enables Satan to get a foothold (Eph. 4:21), is a huge setback. Let me mention some things that have helped me in my battle which is still ongoing.

1. The clear teaching of the Bible is that victory is possible. There is no doubt about this. We put our faith in this. That enables us to look to victory as a reality that will be achieved.

  • He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. (1Thess. 5:24).
  • No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1Cor 10:13).
  • Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:25).

Just as salvation is by faith, so is sanctification. It does not happen through our hard efforts but through grace which is mediated by believing what God can do in us.

2. A strong belief in grace that is available for use all the time and the knowledge that God is more desirous than us that we have the victory, helps us to fashion our thinking so that sin will not be our preoccupation.

  • 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. (Heb 4:16).

Our preoccupation is always Jesus not our battle with sin. And the next point gives a way to ensure that.

3. As the world is bombarding us with incentives to lust we will have to take care about what we expose ourselves to in normal life. I have decided not to subscribe to cable TV for this reason. Even though we do not have adult channels there is a lot of unedifying and suggestive images which spark impure thinking. Instead we should saturate ourselves with God’s thoughts.

  • For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace (Rom. 8:5-6).

The best way to saturate ourselves with God’s thoughts is to read his Word. The Christian approaches the Word with a sense of desperation. We identify with the hymn that says, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love….” So we go to the Word with the attitude of Beatitude that says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”; and we are heartened by the promise that follows: “…for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). Praise God! He will answer the cry of the hungry soul! So we go to the Word with a sense of desperation:

  • Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation (1Pet 2:2 NIV).

We ask God for this sense of desperation, of thirsting for the Word of God. Fasting is a good way to nurture this sense. It reaffirms the priority of the spiritual in our lives.

So we go to the Word in order to become holy.

  • How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word…. I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psa. 119:9, 11).

4. We refuse give in even a little—because we know that giving in a little opens the door to other much, much bigger sins.

  • and do not give the devil a foothold (Eph 4:27 NIV).

If we see that we have given Satan a foothold, then we will run back to God without lingering there. This may involve, running away from the place which is causing us defeat, like Joseph did (Gen. 39:12).

  • So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tim 2:22).

We must remember that with each allowance made to Satan, our resistance is lowered. Therefore we have to take a fall seriously and do things which reaffirm our resolve to be done with sin. Examples of what we can do are, fasting and sending an SMS to our accountability partners. The latter would be a way of doing what Paul says follows fleeing youthful passions: “pursue righteousness… along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tim. 2:22).

5. Accountability. Our spouses can be a great help here. But another man or men would also be helpful. We need someone who is going to take pains to read everything in the weekly report from our accountability software.

  • Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Heb 3:12-14).
  • And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works… (Heb 10:24).
  • So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart (2 Tim 2:22).

We need someone we cannot play-act with; someone who senses when we are bluffing in our reporting; and we too must try to be honest in our reporting.

  • But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:7-8).

6. Sadly, often nothing helps me more than the threat of punishment. The fact that we will be disciplined, even if we have a relatively small departure in our weak areas, acts as an effective deterrent.

  • As for [elders] who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear (1 Tim. 5:20).
  • you are to deliver this man to Satan [i.e. discipline him] for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord (1 Cor. 5:5).

7. One of the most important functions of our accountability partners and friends is that of praying for us. Through their prayers God’s grace is mediated to our lives.

  • Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers (Luke 22:31-32).
  • Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thess 5:23).

8. Our victory over sin will be a means by which others also will experience victory over sin. Many of those who have written good books on overcoming lust are those who once were slaves to it and then experienced God’s victory.

  • And when you [Simon Peter] have turned again, strengthen your brothers (Luke 21:32).

Here is a prayer and two hymns that I have found very helpful

Dear God, I want to want what you want for me.

(from Robert Tuttle, Sanctity without Starch)

Oh, for a Heart to Praise My God

1 Oh, for a heart to praise my God,

A heart from sin set free;

A heart that’s sprinkled with blood

So freely shed for me!

2 A heart resigned, submissive, meek,

My dear Redeemer’s throne;

Where only Christ is heard to speak,

Where Jesus reigns alone:

3 An humble, lowly, contrite heart,

Believing, true and clean,

Which neither death nor life can part

From him that dwells within:

4 A heart in every thought renewed,

And filled with love divine;

Perfect, and right, and pure, and good;

An image, Lord! of thine.

Charles Wesley

I Want a Principle Within

1 I Want a principle within

Of jealous, godly fear,

A sensibility of sin,

A pain to feel it near;

I want the first approach to feel

Of pride, or fond desire,

To catch the wandering of my will,

And quench the kindling fire.

2 That I from thee no more may part,

No more thy goodness grieve,

The filial awe, the fleshly heart,

The tender conscience, give.

Quick as the apple of an eye,

O God, my conscience make!

Awake my soul, when sin is nigh,

And keep it still awake.

3 If to the right or left I stray,

That moment, Lord, reprove;

And let me weep my life away,

For having grieved thy love:

O may the least omission pain

My well-instructed soul,

And drive me to the blood again

Which makes the wounded whole!

Charles Wesley