Beat lust by focusing on Jesus
Keep your eyes on God with these three ways to avoid lustful thoughts.
Let’s try an experiment. For the next minute I want you to close your eyes and not think about chocolate! Don’t think about Mars Bars, chocolate cake, chocolate milk shakes or chocolate donuts. Don’t think about Yogo, Tim Tams, Wagon Wheels, Magnums, Oreos, Choc-Chip Cookies, Chocolate fudge or Chocolate topping. Your time starts now!
So how did you go? Was your last 60 seconds chocolate-free, or more like death by chocolate?
If you wanted to give up chocolate for good there’s a number of things you would do. You would talk to someone about it, ask for accountability and remove the chocolate from your fridge and any other secret stashes you might have. One thing you wouldn’t do is spend your days trying not to think about chocolate. The more you try to not think about it the more chocolate you have on the brain. The same can be true with the battle against lust.
Maybe you can relate to Paul in Romans 7:18-20 when he said..
I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."
This describes very well my own battle with lust in my teenage years. I would tell God I was sorry and I would commit to never doing it again. I would try to not think those thoughts but found myself thinking them all the same. The solution to lust must be more than simply ‘not thinking about lustful thoughts’ anymore.
The problem with accountability can be that you only ever get asked “How many times did you sin this week?” Instead of also being asked “How did you move closer to God this week?”. Accountability should be more than simply counting your sins; it should point someone to Jesus’ forgiveness and God’s power to bring change within your life. Paul says in Romans 8:5...
Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit.
Three ways to avoid lustful thoughts
Instead of not thinking about pornography or masturbating, the solution is instead to allow the Holy Spirit to transform your heart and mind. It’s as much about pursuing God as it is about avoiding lust. Here’s three things I’d encourage in order to pursue God and in doing so move away from lustful thoughts.
1. Meditate on Scripture
I’d encourage those who are struggling with lustful thoughts to fill your mind instead with Scripture. Choose some Bible verses related to the subject of lust. Put them on your wall, memorise them and talk about them with an accountability partner. Don’t just commit to avoiding bad thoughts, commit to investing in good thoughts! Here are a couple of helpful ones.
I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman. (Job 31:1)
So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. (Matthew 5:29)
Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. (2 Timothy 2:22)
Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. (Ephesians 5:3)
2. Keep company with Jesus
I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t watch pornography in your room if you knew your parents were about to walk in uninvited. You’re not in the company of your parents of all the time but you are in the company of God all of the time: "don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you?" (1 Corinthians3:6)
If you’re a follower of Jesus then every day God is keeping company with you. He’s with you no matter which room you’re in!
James 4:8 says "draw near to God and he will draw near to you". Every day is an opportunity to draw closer to Jesus or become more distant. The closer company you keep with God the less likely you’ll want to show him the porn you're looking at. If your relationship with God is dry and distant you probably won’t think twice about indulging in behaviour that is hurtful. The solution isn’t only about avoiding sin, it’s about pursuing God.
Repentance isn’t remorse. Remorse is feeling bad for getting caught. Repentance is turning around and going the other way. Repentance is telling a Christian friend to keep you accountable. Repentance is setting up online accountability software. Repentance is throwing out your pornographic material. Repentance is saying sorry and making irreversible decisions so that it’s much harder to go back their next time.
There’s good news for those who repent, 1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness."
Meditating on scripture, keeping company with Jesus and repenting will help you to pursue Jesus and in doing so you’ll move away from focusing on lustful thoughts.