How To Fight Lust
Scripture: Matthew 5:27-30
It is hard not to recognize the damage that lust is doing to our society. I have written elsewhere about the problem of pornography, but this is not the only problem that lust creates. Lust is a killer of marriages, destroyer of families, and abuser of the vulnerable. When lust is involved, lives are destroyed, marriages suffer, and children are harmed by the effects of lust on the human heart. Lust diminishes others, making them less in a person's eyes than what they are supposed to be. Lust is often confused with love in our society, and the results are devastating. I have dealt with the effects of one of lust's outworkings elsewhere. The focus today is going to be on how we can fight lust.
It should come as no surprise to us that many of the heart issues that plague us today were also heart issues that plagued the people of Jesus' day. Lust is no exception to this. The very fact that Jesus had to address lust in his Sermon on the Mount shows that lust was a problem for people in the first century. In addressing this, Jesus gave the final, authoritative interpretation on the commandment against adultery means.
Jesus begins again by citing from Exodus 20, which contains the passage on the Ten Commandments. This time, Jesus cites the prohibition against adultery. When most people read the prohibition against adultery, the first thought is about external matters--not cheating on a spouse or something similar. However, Jesus makes it clear that this is not what was intended by the commandment against adultery. As with anger and murder, to commit adultery in your heart by lusting after another person makes you just as guilty as cheating on a spouse with another person. You don't have to go and physically commit the act to be guilty. You can be guilty because of a heart problem. So how do we fight something that has affected our heart? First, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to help us. We cannot do it alone. We need God's help. After this, we need a plan to fight against lust. Fortunately, Jesus has given us a plan here in this passage that I know works. Before we dive into it, however, I would like to point out that carrying this plan out requires quite a bit of commitment. When lust has you in bondage, it is difficult to fight back at all, much less carry out this plan. However, it works, and myself and countless others can attest to this fact.
To those who struggle with lust, Jesus has a simple, yet difficult to enact, solution: Get rid of anything and everything that is aiding you in pursuing your lustful desires. This requires you to do several things. First, you need to be honest with yourself and recognize when you have a problem. Any time you lust after someone else, you have a problem that needs to be addressed. After recognizing the problem, the command that Jesus gives is to cut off anything that is pushing you to continue in lust. When Jesus said to cut off your right hand or pluck out your right eye, it is clear that he is speaking metaphorically. However, this shows the extreme to which we should go to get rid of lust in our lives. Whatever is hindering us as we pursue a lifestyle of holiness must be thrown out. This may mean something as small as getting rid of a computer, or something as major as ending a friendship that is tending toward something more. It may also be significant that Jesus is warning us about our hands and our eyes, as we need to beware of both what we watch and what we do.
An excellent example of what it looks like to fight against lust comes from the movie Fireproof. When the main character wanted to kick the very thing that we are discussing in this post in order to save his marriage, he took his computer outside and beat it with a baseball bat so that he could not use it again. If this seems extreme, it is important to remember how much damage lust actually does. It is better to lose a computer than to lose your family or to lose your freedom because you are entranced by what you watch on that computer screen.
Finally, this passage subtly reminds us that there are eternal consequences for choosing to continue in lust. This is not a popular thing to say, but it is implied in this passage. It is better for us to cut off anything and everything that makes it easy for us to sin than to continue in sin and suffer the consequences of our sins. Sin is a slave master, and to continue in sin is to continue in slavery to something that does not benefit you. So get rid of whatever is pushing you to continue in sin, put on your fighting gloves, and fight back against the sin that enslaves you.
I know that fighting lust is difficult. If you would like help fighting it, the following are some resources that I recommend. I also recommend seeking out at least one accountability partner (preferably more than one) to help you along the way.
2. Pure Eyes
5. X3 Watch