Lust is an ancient and universal human sinful appetite. The more we feed it, the more ravenous and perversely diverse it becomes. And the more socially acceptable perverse diversity becomes, the more sexual immorality steals, kills and destroys human lives.
No wonder lust is one of Satan’s choice temptation weapons. Few sins wield as much power to blind unbelievers and seduce Christians, and then immobilize them with shame. So, at all costs, we fight and flee it lest it make us a prisoner of war (1 Corinthians 6:18; 1 Peter 2:11).
A few centuries ago, the English word lust described a fairly wide range of human desires, both good and evil. Today, lust is typically shorthand for “sexually immoral desires.” But still, lust covers a lot of ground, because there is a wide range of “sexually immoral desires.” These desires, and the behaviors they produce, if not vigilantly resisted, have been a devastating part of the human experience since the forbidden fruit was eaten in Eden.
But the driving force behind lust is frequently misunderstood. The human sexual drive, while strong, is not the dominant power in lust. Sin is the dominant power. Various kinds of sin seize or infect the sexual drive in order to gratify selfishness through sexuality.
This is why lust can be so difficult to fight. Our sexual drive can be infected by many different kinds of sinful desire viruses, resulting in multiple variants of lust disease. What helps us fight lust one day might not help the next, because a different virus is infecting the sexual drive.
Viruses leading to lust
One common virus is coveting. Our rebellious sinful nature finds forbidden things attractive and covets them (Romans 7:7–8). Since sin infects our sexual drive, it is no surprise that we are tempted to lust after forbidden sex. This was Amnon’s lust for his half-sister, Tamar (2 Samuel 13). The fact that he despised her after he sated his lust reveals that his desire was fueled by coveting Tamar as a sexually forbidden object, not by real love for Tamar the person (2 Samuel 13:15).
Another virus is self-indulgence. Self-indulgence can manifest in any corrupted human appetite. In fact, self-indulgence can be contagious. I have found if I sinfully indulge in one area, like overeating or entertainment or laziness, I am more vulnerable to sexual temptation. Certain emotional states also may trigger a desire to indulge lust (among other things), like the euphoria of success, boredom, self-pity, discouragement, anger and more.
A host of other sin-viruses can infect us and become manifest through the sexual drive. Lust can be fueled by a desire to wield self-exalting dominance or manipulative power over another. It can be fueled by discontent. It can be fueled by the fear of death, manifested in a sexualized desire to recapture youth or be sexually desired by youth.
And more than one virus frequently powers our lust. For example, when David lusted after Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11), his sexual drive was infected with selfish indulgence, coveting someone forbidden and possibly numerous other sin-viruses.
Lust also can be hard to fight because the fog of arousal often obscures the sins that are fueling it. But the more we recognize the sin-triggers, the better we can cut lust’s fuel supply and blow away its fog.
The most powerful way to fight lust
Crucial to fighting lust is identifying triggers and choking the fuel supply. Accountability partners and software safeguards can be great helps. But these are defensive measures and only half the battle—and not the most powerful half.
The most powerful and successful way to fight the desire fire of lust is with the desire fire of faith in what God promises to us. Faith in God’s promises prepares us for offensive action. Faith shields us from enemy blows while God’s promises hack down spiritual enemies like broadsword (Ephesians 6:16–17).
When faith in God’s word swells in our hearts, lust is no match for it. You know what I mean. When you have been most filled with hope and trust and delight in God, what kind of grip did lust have on you? Hardly any. You didn’t want to defile your mind and heart with anything impure.
We are not naïve. We know we will not always surge with lust-dousing faith. So we need to put strong defenses in place. We must understand the nature of lust so we are not ignorant of Satan’s designs (2 Corinthians 2:11). But the only way we will not gratify lustful desires of the flesh is to walk by the Spirit—cultivating love for and trust in what the Spirit of God says in the word of God (Galatians 5:16).
Lay aside the weight of lust
The cross of Christ guarantees that every moment of confession and repentance is a cleansing moment (1 John 1:9) and that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Last year’s or yesterday’s or this morning’s lust need not linger or flagellate us with shame.
But our birthright as children of God is far more than the removal of condemnation. It is freedom (John 8:32; Romans 8:21; Galatians 5:1). That’s why Satan tries to enslave us with lust: to steal our spiritual freedom and joy. For when indulged, lust weighs down our souls, quenches our faith and shuts our mouths. It robs our desire to worship God, witness for Jesus, intercede for kingdom needs, encourage others, give generously, reach unreached peoples or engage in spiritual warfare. It makes prisoners out of freemen.
So let’s lay down this sin-weight, this demonic ball and chain (Hebrews 12:1). Let’s press to see lust for what it truly is, and more importantly Christ for who he is. Let’s fight for lust-crushing faith and to be filled with the Spirit. For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).