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Ask a Pastor: How Do I Overcome Lust?

Question

I struggle with sexual temptation daily and most days I don't resist those temptations like I know I should. What should I do? I know that Christ promises there is always a way of escape but most of the time I don't see it.

Answer

Thank you for being so forthright in admitting your struggle with sexual temptation. Let me assure you that you are not the only young person struggling with that temptation—and that many older persons also struggle with this issue.


As fallen human beings, we are all very vulnerable in this area. In fact, having been created by God as sexual beings, we might be more vulnerable to sexual sin than many other sins. What greatly compounds the problem is that we live in a culture saturated and obsessed with sex. I don’t need to provide you with detailed evidence of this.


The fact that access to vile pornographic material is only one click away makes the media-saturated environment in which we must now function as Christians exceedingly treacherous. Therefore, in addition to praying daily and fervently, “Lead me not into temptation, and deliver me from evil and the evil one,” as well as making David’s commitment our own, “I will set no wicked things before my eyes” (Psa. 101:3), we need to take radical steps to deal with sexual temptation.


You stated that Christ promises a way of escape, and that is true indeed. His grace is sufficient, and He will make His strength perfect in our weakness. However, Christ also gives us very explicit directions on how to deal with sexual temptation. He provides the following counsel: “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell” (Mat. 5:29-30).


Rather than commanding us to physically remove body parts, Christ here directs us to take radical steps to keep us from yielding to sexual temptation. In other words, He wants us to identify the circumstances and/or environments that make us particularly vulnerable to yielding to sexual temptation.


And that is precisely what you need to do. You need to be brutally honest with yourself about what it is that causes you to fail time and again. Unless you deal with those external causes, you will fail over and over again. You cannot ask Christ to help you and not deal with the causes that repeatedly trip you up.


Though I do not know what sexual temptation you are yielding to, let me nevertheless give you some straightforward advice:


- If you are struggling with online pornography, you must get proper filtering for all your devices and allow a trusted person to manage that filtering for you. Apparently, the most effective filtering in the world, called “Canopy,” has been developed in Israel. The web address: https://canopy.us/. Another trustworthy option is “Covenant Eyes”: https://www.covenanteyes.com/


- Even if you are consistently struggling with other sexual temptations, I urge you to find a trustworthy accountability partner with whom you would regularly interact about your issues—and thus who will help you to “pluck out your right eye” and “cut off your right hand.”


- Also, go and talk to your pastor. We are called to shepherd sinners; thus, your struggle with sexual temptation will not surprise him. He may be willing and able to assist you in implementing my recommended course of action.


Thus, also when it comes to relentless sexual temptation, you must pray and work. You cannot keep praying and yet make no concerted effort to deal with the causes that invariably lead to failure. You may be the best swimmer in the world, but if you choose to swim in shark-infested waters, you will surely perish.


May the God of all grace assist you in dealing with a sin that can so easily become addictive. His grace infinitely exceeds our sin. If you prayerfully use all available means, Christ will enable you to be victorious in this battle. Let the words of 1 Corinthians 10:13 be an encouragement to you: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

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