Tag Archives: lust

What Did Jesus Mean, “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”?

When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, “Do not lead us into temptation” (Matthew 6:13), He was not implying that God would ever encourage us to sin. Scripture makes this clear:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone (James 1:13).

Nor was He implying that there is something unusual about being subjected to temptation.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:12-14 NIV).

Rather, Jesus was modeling the healthy self-distrust that should mark every child of God. He was showing us that we must be continually conscious of our own weakness and of the wiles of our enemy. We are not to have any false assurance about our ability to do as well as Jesus did when “put to the test” by Satan in the wilderness. Instead, we are to recognize our inclination to be headstrong like Peter, thinking he was equal to any challenge that might come his way (Luke 22:31-34,54-62.)

We as God’s children never have to give in to temptation, for God will “make the way of escape” (1 Corinthians 10:13 nkjv), but we must be conscious of our vulnerability. Jesus therefore emphasized the need for humble dependence on God. He called us to recognize our human frailty and to acknowledge that we on our own are no match for our triple foe: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

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Can a Person Who Continually Struggles With Impure Thoughts Be Genuinely Saved?

Being born again doesn’t keep us from having impure thoughts. First John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (KJV). And in Romans 7:15-25, the apostle Paul describes his continuing struggle with sin.

The Bible teaches that all of us have fallen characteristics—a “dark side” that is inclined to sin and rebellion (Romans 7:23; Colossians 3:5)—and it tells us to resist our destructive inclinations and be obedient to Christ (Galatians 5:17-21; 6:8; Ephesians 1:2-6). In this life we will never escape the influence of our old nature, including evil and impure thoughts.

There probably isn’t a single Christian who isn’t ashamed and saddened at the thoughts that sometimes come into his or her mind. If Satan can get us obsessed with the evil thoughts that flash into our consciousness, he can rob us of our joy and keep us from being effective workers for the kingdom of God. This is what Satan tries to do as our adversary (Job 1:7-12), “slanderer,”1 and “accuser” (Revelation 12:10).

Although in this life we will never be completely freed from the taint of sin and impure thoughts, we can grow in our ability to control our response to them. Just because we have a thought doesn’t mean we need to dwell on it or, even worse, commit ourselves to a sinful action because of it. Our goal shouldn’t be to eliminate evil thoughts altogether but to recognize them when they appear and, instead of giving them influence, acknowledging them as sin and rejecting them (James 4:7).

By responding to our evil and impure thoughts with disciplined resistance, we can go a long way towards cleansing ourselves of habitual, willful sin. But we still live in a fallen world and will continue to struggle with our dark side. If we don’t acknowledge this unpleasant reality, we may become drawn into spiritual pride—perhaps the most dangerous sin of all.

  1. The name “devil” is from the Greek word diabolos, meaning slanderer, false accuser. Back To Article
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Is Masturbation Wrong?

The fact that the Bible doesn’t specifically mention masturbation implies that we should approach this topic with sensitivity and caution. Most teenagers and single adults face an enormous struggle coming to terms with their sexual longings. Often the individuals who are most conscientious about their sexual feelings are the ones most likely to be tormented by unrealistic guilt. If we add to Scripture and weigh them down with even more unwarranted guilt, we become like the Pharisees and their legal experts. To protect holy principles, they added their own laws to Moses — like fences around fences — and in the process they heaped on others burdens that they themselves were not willing or able to bear (Luke 11:46).

If we are honest, each of us will acknowledge the difficulty of keeping sexually pure in a permissive and sexually obsessed culture. We struggle to avoid either of two extremes. We must not surrender to the hedonistic spirit of the age, but we also want to avoid the spirit of asceticism and proud self-denial that has often marred the history of Christianity. Any belief that our sexual desires and feelings are evil in themselves is based in the Gnostic1 denial of the goodness of the body and the natural world, not in the teachings of Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1-3).

On the other hand, we can’t entirely discount the significance of habitual masturbation as a moral issue simply because it isn’t mentioned in Scripture. One doesn’t speak of “habitual” eating or “habitual” sleeping unless someone is eating or sleeping much more than they should. The fact that you realize you are caught up in a cycle of habitual behavior implies that you know that something is wrong.

All of life’s pleasures have an appropriate context. When we eat entirely for pleasure, we become flabby and unhealthy. When we sleep much more than is needed for rest and bodily health, we become mentally and physically ill. Any misuse of legitimate pleasure has bad consequences.

The purpose of sexual pleasure is to nurture intimacy and unity between a husband and wife (Genesis 2:24 ; Mark 10:6-8 ; Ephesians 5:28-32). Sexual desire is related to our deepest longings, our profoundest potential for intimacy and joy. It is like a fire. In the right circumstances a fire provides warmth, light, and food. In the wrong place it has enormous capacity for destruction.

The Bible doesn’t provide a detailed discussion of human sexual issues. It tends to refer to sexual matters indirectly and with considerable delicacy. For example, even the term sex isn’t used in the Bible, and the male and female sexual organs are referred to only indirectly, as is the act of intercourse. Even such a serious issue as pedophilia isn’t mentioned specifically. It’s likely, therefore, that although it isn’t mentioned specifically in Scripture, habitual masturbation would be included under the categories of “lasciviousness,” “impurity,” and “uncleanness” (e.g. Leviticus 15:16-17 ; Mark 7:20-22 ; 2 Corinthians 12:21 ; Galatians 5:19 ; Ephesians 5:3,5 ; Colossians 3:5).2

What are some of the illegitimate uses of sexual pleasure that we should be on guard against?

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t serve merely as a “pressure valve” for the release of physical and emotional tension. There are more constructive, loving ways to release — and even to harness — our physical and emotional tension.

Sexual pleasure shouldn’t be fed by sinful fantasy. Jesus made it clear that sexual sin isn’t limited to physical act. Sin occurs equally in fantasy and imagination. There is a healthy imagination that leads to actions that honor one another, and a self-absorbed imagination that inclines us to use others for our own pleasure (Matthew 5:27-30; 15:19). Sexual fantasy can be a destructive expression of rage, revenge, or lust. Such unhealthy fantasies can scar and harden our hearts even if they aren’t carried out in the real world.

Sexual pleasure should never be a way we demand that God satisfy us immediately, on our terms. We should never expect sexual pleasure to compensate for our loneliness, disappointment, powerlessness, or sense of rejection. If we use it for these reasons, it is illegitimate.

Followers of Christ have been given freedom and forgiveness to love and honor one another, but not to be enslaved again to the flesh (Romans 6:16). We have been given God’s Spirit and wisdom so that we can understand that our bodies make good servants — and cruel masters.

  1. . Gnostics represented a wide range of beliefs, but they universally believed that a certain gnosis (wisdom) could be attained that is far more important than “mere obedience” to God’s moral law. Paul’s strong words in 1 Corinthians 6:13-20 were written in response to a Gnostic heresy that claimed one could sin “in the body” without sinning “in the spirit.” The Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus) were also written largely to counter an early form of Gnosticism, as were a number of other sections of the New Testament.
    Gnostics tended to deny the goodness of the material world and of physical life. They glorified the spirit while maintaining that the body was evil and the source of every kind of corruption. If you are interested in Gnostic beliefs, it would be well worth your time to read about Gnosticism in a good Church History text, like A History Of Christianity by Kenneth Scott Latourette, or A History Of The Christian Church by Williston Walker. Back To Article
  2. Leviticus 15:16-17 makes it clear that masturbation would have been considered “unclean” under Old Testament Law. On page 12 of his highly regarded book, Homosexuality And The Politics Of Truth, Dr. Jeffrey Satinover comments:

    On the basis of the Pentateuch, the Talmud treats all sexual activity outside of marital relations, including masturbation, unequivocally as sins, though it makes careful distinctions concerning their varying severity.Back To Article

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Why Shouldn’t I View Pornography or Sexually Explicit Educational Videos?

Pornography and sexually explicit “educational” videos don’t promote the development of love and intimacy — they undermine it. A married couple may benefit from better knowledge of sexual physiology and technique, but information about sex should be provided in a way that respects the tenderness, mystery, and wonder of marital love. Filmed sex is a crass violation of human dignity and intimacy.

Intimacy is a matter of the heart. It can’t be captured by bright lights and a camera. All that can be captured on film is an illusion of intimacy. Lonely people who watch pornography in hopes of satisfying some of their longing for intimacy will be drawn in the opposite direction — toward voyeurism and self-absorbed lust. In fact,the more a person succeeds in imitating pornography, the more he will fall into the snare of sexual addiction and the further he will be from understanding the nature of real love.

Scripture contains some of the most beautiful erotic literature ever written ( Song Of Solomon 4:9-15; 5:10-16 ). It is clear that God created us as sexual beings, and He intends for us to delight in our sexuality when expressed within the bond of marriage. But Scripture also contains severe warnings against self-absorbed lust ( Exodus 20:17 ; Proverbs 5:3-6; 9:13 ; Matthew 5:28; 15:16-20 ; Colossians 3:4-7 ; 1 Thessalonians 4:2-7 ). In the same epistle in which the apostle Paul wrote his marvelous “love chapter,” he made a striking observation about sexual sin:

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

In these verses Paul indicated what it is about sexual sin that makes it so destructive. He declared that it is a sin “against the body.” This clearly refers to much more than the mere physical effects of sexual sin. Real love and intimacy require a commitment of the heart ( 1 John 2:16; 4:8 ). Human sexuality is designed for much deeper purposes than mere sensual pleasure, release of tension, and self-gratification. It was designed to express the passionate, tender unity of a husband and wife in committed love. The apostle Paul wrote:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ Himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who unites himself to the Lord is one with Him in spirit (1 Corinthians 6:15-17).

“A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery (Ephesians 5:31-32).

If a person commits his body to sex according to the pornographic model, the power of self-absorbed lust is released in full force,untempered by love. The Scriptures warn us that this will produce a darkened mind and an insensitive and hardened heart ( Romans 1:21-24; Ephesians 4:17-19 ). As a hardened heart and darkened mind vainly try to duplicate the joy of an intimacy in counterfeit form,the flames of lust flare with ever greater intensity. As lust grows, so does sexual addiction, diminishing our ability to experience in the body the ecstasy of real intimacy and genuine erotic love.

A book you may find helpful is False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumberg (Navpress).

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How Can I Overcome My Urge to View Pornography?

Each of us is vulnerable to the temptation of sexual fantasy. When our faith is weak and we feel that real fulfillment and joy are out of our reach, it’s difficult to resist the powerful illusion of fulfillment that sexual fantasy offers. We shouldn’t be surprised when we are tempted, nor should we be surprised when we don’t quickly “outgrow” this temptation. Writing specifically about sexual temptation, the apostle Paul said, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man” ( 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 ).

It may be that pornographic fantasy and sexual addiction draw their strength from a natural desire to return to the world of intimacy and security that we may once have enjoyed as infants. In adult relationships, it takes a long time to develop real interpersonal intimacy and trust. We often feel lonely, powerless, and rejected. By contrast, wrongful sexual fantasy offers the illusion of instant intimacy, respect, and acceptance with anyone we want. The powerful illusion of sexual fantasy makes sexual addiction much more enslaving than it would be if it were the mere expression of a biological appetite.

The first step toward freedom is acknowledging that your sexual obsession has taken on a life of its own. A great deal of time and energy can be wasted trying to rationalize and conceal our secret sins.

The next step is facing the fact that there will be no quick cure. No matter how resolutely we pray for deliverance, sexual obsession never disappears in an hour, a month, or even a year. No miraculous spiritual gift will instantly free you from a habit that has had years to develop. You have much work to do.

Withdrawal from any addiction is painful. Withdrawal from sexual addiction involves agony that can’t be avoided. Heroin addicts sometimes take methadone in hopes of avoiding the pains of withdrawal. They soon discover, however, that their heroin addiction has been replaced with addiction to methadone. There can be no real cure without pain.

To jaded senses and underdeveloped emotions, the first experiences of real intimacy are too subtle and uncompelling to offer much comfort. Initially, no relationship or activity will provide the intense, short-term pleasure of sexual fantasy. Like the rush from a line of cocaine or the quick euphoria of an alcoholic when he “falls off the wagon,” sin offers pleasure for a season ( Hebrews 11:25 ).

Intimacy in relationships is a living thing that must be nourished and given time to grow. Like a beautiful flower that blooms at the end of summer and wafts fragrance to every corner of the garden, intimacy is the product of discipline and commitment. Soil must be tilled, seed planted, water carried, weeds removed, and plants protected. These activities offer little immediate encouragement to a person whose will and emotions have for a lifetime been responding only to immediate pleasures. But genuine love is the gateway to joy and fulfillment, and addiction to sexual fantasy directly obstructs real relationships with real people.

In the long term, effort expended in resisting sexual addiction will be rewarded many times over. But movement toward freedom from addiction requires obedience, and obedience requires faith. You have used sexual addiction as a means of avoiding the legitimate growing pains of life. Now it’s time to learn to embrace the legitimate pain you’ve been trying to avoid.

Trusting God in spite of emotional pain, loneliness, and frustration produces sensitivity to the depth and richness of life. To a child, the sun-dappled beauty of a woodland meadow in springtime is less appealing than the garish lights and glitter of a traveling carnival. But it’s time to move on to better things ( 1 Corinthians 13:11 ). Resist wrongful sexual fantasy over a period of time and you will begin to notice changes in your perceptions as the Holy Spirit gains greater influence in your life. Paul wrote:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

Be grateful for the feelings of guilt, hypocrisy, and contamination that you experience when you fail to resist sexual temptation. These feelings don’t mean you are worthless or condemned in the eyes of God. His grace is still available to you ( Hebrews 13:20-21 ). These feelings are signs of spiritual life flowing within, the conviction of the Holy Spirit as He grants growing awareness of the repulsiveness and sterility of sin.

Don’t be ashamed to take steps to avoid circumstances and behavior that nourish your obsession. Satan, the “accuser of the brethren” ( Revelation 12:10 ) delights in making you feel as though you are inauthentic, a hypocrite, or a prude because you are resisting sinful thoughts and desires that are still part of you. Every Christian struggles with the same sense of dividedness ( Romans 7:21-23 ; Galatians 5:17 ), but don’t forget that you are fleeing from an addiction that leaves you empty and unsatisfied and are climbing toward the source of all pleasures ( John 4:14 ). Don’t forget too that the Bible promises that you will be given the strength to succeed ( 1 Corinthians 10:13 ).

One of the first steps you should take is to remove the source of temptation from your home. Then, instead of planning how you can do the things that have kept you in bondage, consciously avoid situations that expose you to temptation. Don’t lose sight of the fact that with time your healthy sensitivities and wholesome desires will grow, and the power of your addiction will fade into insignificance. Also, remember that God doesn’t judge you solely on the basis of your failures but on the basis of what you can become through Christ. Although your sin is an offense to God, He always loves you.

A book you may find helpful is False Intimacy by Dr. Harry Schaumberg (Navpress).

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