Like any pastor I find myself talking with men about pornography and other expressions of sinful lust. Through the years I have found that there is a biblical framework that is often neglected when counseling through this issue. I have laid it out in some detail here, and I regret that it is so long. However, I post it because it has served to help many through the years. In short the post is broken into three parts: 1) What is Lust? 2) Where is it sourced? 3) How do I combat it? The answer to this is not to stop desiring things but to properly desire God. Hence the title, “Fighting Lust with Lust”. We combat sinful lust by fixing our “lust” upon the glory of Christ. In other words, we slay sin by savoring Christ.
Awhile back I preached a sermon in which I emphasized the deception and danger of lust. I regretted not being able to further develop the topic, specifically how to fight lust. The answer to lust may surprise some, but it is the answer and frankly the only answer to lust that ultimately works.
What is lust?
The word translated lust in the New Testament is epithumia. The word simply means ‘desire.’ This desire can be good or bad; whether it is good or bad depends upon how it aligns with God’s revealed will.
For example, we do not understand a potential elder candidate to be in sin who is desiring (epithumia) to the work of an overseerer (1 Tim. 3:1). In this case the desire is a God-honoring desire; therefore, it is not a sinful lust.
On the other hand, we have the sin of lust. In our greed we crave or desire something that is not consistent with what God has revealed or provided. Simply put, sinful lust is to desire something that we believe to be good outside of what God has called good. It is to put our own will and pleasure above God’s.
This is seen quite clearly through the example of sexual lust. God has said that sex is to occur within the framework of marriage (between a male and a female). Therefore, any sexual lust is a craving to experience the intimate pleasures reserved for the marriage apart from this sacred institution. Therefore, it pursues enjoyment apart from and in contrast to God’s clearly revealed will. When a man sits and quietly fixes his eyes and heart upon a woman (whether it be on a computer, television, photo, in person, or in his imagination) and then begins to desire her sexually, this is sinful lust. The man has lustfully craved sexual satisfaction apart from what God has called good.