I believe lust is the number one threat to the rise of a Man of God in today's society. You don't have to look far to see it being peddled everywhere around us. We live in a culture powered by lust. Businesses take advantage of it's lure in order to get you to buy their products. Television shows put sex related material or commentary in their commercials to draw you in. Even if you get rid of television and Internet, you walk outside the door and see an ocean of bare flesh thinly veiled by short skirts and low cut blouses beckoning you to desire more. I am a songwriter and just today on my Facebook page I saw a post from the Performance Rights Organization I am a member of with a naked woman laying across the laps of three musicians. I'm not talking about strategically covered anatomy either. The world is a battle zone in the war to destroy the heart of the Man of God!
Most men, if they are honest, will admit they find themselves being tempted by lust daily. Those who are experiencing victory over it, still find thoughts that have to be captured and destroyed hitting them daily. The men I know don't want to be in bondage to lust. They love their wives desperately and want to be devoted to her and her only. They struggle daily to keep their thoughts pure and yet, they see a beautiful woman walking down the street and all hell breaks lose. In that moment, their heart starts racing and blood begins to flow, bringing certain parts of their body into full alert. Suddenly, they get tunnel vision and the only thing their eyes can find to focus on is her anatomy. These men are not scum of the earth who are lacking in morals but they are men who love their wives and God. They desperately want to live holy lives but simply don't know how to defeat a very ancient and powerful foe.
The church world's approach to lust has been relatively ineffective for the most part. Don't get me wrong. I'm thankful for the movement that has been rising up to restore sanity to the hearts and minds of men but to be honest, my experience has been that the church's idea of how to deal with lust is, "don't do it". Okay, but how? I don't know of a single man I've spoken with about lust who wakes up in the morning and says, "I think I'll go find a woman to lust after today. I don't want to feel intimacy with my wife or God. I'd rather be bound up with a guilty conscience." All the while, the church tells us to "renew our mind in Christ Jesus", "think on these things", "cut off the hand that offends". These are all great tools in the fight against lust but there's something we have been missing. You see, in order to renew our mind, think on these things and cut off the offender, we have to find the strength to do so. Where does that come from? The simple answer is Jesus but the truth is, it's a journey that is long and treacherous.
So, the million dollar question is how do we defeat lust? I believe the answer doesn't lie in running from it but embracing it.
Whoa! I can feel the angry thoughts and cries of heresy now. "He just said that lust is okay!". Let me explain myself before you go gather a lynch mob to kill the false prophet. I believe the biggest impediment to the success of a man's battle against lust is an unhealthy understanding of the truth of this God given desire for the opposite sex. I have a friend who also struggles with lust and we speak about it often. He once told me he read a book that said he should train himself to look away from beautiful women when they walk by in order to avoid lusting after them. The idea is that if we don't look at them, we won't be able to notice how great their breasts, butt and legs are and therefore we won't lust. Aside from the fact that we are surrounded by women and looking away might simply reveal another beautiful woman on that side, there is a big problem with this idea.
You see, lust doesn't require eyesight to exist. It is a mind issue, not a sight issue. Sure, you may look away but instead of looking at her breasts you are now wishing you could look at them. You are still lusting, you just aren't acting on that lust and your heart is still being ravaged. Although depriving yourself of the pleasure of staring at a woman in an unhealthy way is a good thing, it is insufficient to deal with the lust that makes us want to do so. Not to mention the fact that this causes us to have fear every time a beautiful woman walks in our path. That's not deliverance but another type of bondage.
The most popular passage on lust in the Bible is probably Matthew 5:27-28 where Jesus tells us lusting after a woman makes us an adulterer. "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." These words ring in the ears of men who struggle with lust and pornography throughout the day. We hear them repeated in our minds when we feel an attraction to a woman and it brings a chill to our heart when we read it. The Greek word used here is epithumeo and it comes from two words meaning "in the mind". The word is not exclusively used in a negative sense but is also used throughout the New Testament in a positive sense (see Luke 22:15, 1 Timothy 3:1). The truth is there is nothing inherently wrong lust. Our culture has narrowed lust's definition down to only the negative connotation of it but at it's heart it simply means desire. That is where most approaches at overcoming an addiction to lust fail. We teach men it is wrong to be attracted to a woman who isn't our wife. We tell them being a godly husband means you'll never see another woman and think she is beautiful. As if the part of us that caused us to find our wife attractive when we met, miraculously quit working for anyone except her once we began a relationship. As a result when men do find a woman attractive, they feel condemned. Condemnation then opens the door to lost hope, guilt and a belief that we are a failure. Satan loves when we reach this point because it means open season on our heart!
Let me stop here and issue a warning to those reading this article who may be of the female community, I'm going to be brutally honest with you. If you want to marry a man who will never be attracted to another woman, you need to be looking for that man in the gay community. Sorry, but it's the truth. Your husband, your father, your son and that wonderful uncle you look up to because he loves his wife are all hard wired to find beauty in the female body. They will be attracted to other women at some point in their life and there is nothing wrong with that. Instead of being angry that they are, you should be thankful that in spite of finding other women attractive, they choose to spend their life with you!
God created man and woman to be attracted to each other. He made the land of the female with it's beautiful curves and mysterious valleys and peaks, not simply for mechanical purposes but because He wanted men to find pleasure and desire in it, to pursue it like we pursue Him. John Eldredge, in his book Wild At Heart says God created everything on earth, including Adam but waited until the very last to create the crown of God's creation, Eve. I love that. The beauty of woman is the greatest achievement of God's creation. Yes, she is a "helpmate" but there is so much more to her than that. She is the culmination of creative beauty, physical pleasure, driving passion, sensual touch and abandon-all-for-the-pearl-of-great-price-worth. At the risk of sounding like a cheesy comedian, that is why Adam called her Whoa-man! It is not a bad thing but it is a God given desire.
Most of you who are reading this felt uncomfortable during that last paragraph with the descriptive analogy of the female body and words like pleasure, passion and sensual. That's the problem we have and that is why Satan's attack on the minds of men is so effective. We need to realize this in order to be able to defeat the grip of lust in our hearts.
I am told that when banks train new tellers how to spot a counterfeit bill, they don't sit them down with hundreds of counterfeits and point out the flaws in them. Instead, they sit them down with one real, US Mint-made bill or coin and let them study it. By learning what the real thing looks and feels like, they are able to spot the counterfeits by knowing what the real thing is.
That is the approach we need to take in the battle against lust. We need to teach men God's view of sexuality. We need to equip them with the right attitudes toward sexual attraction. We need to embrace the positive side of desire instead of trying to deprive ourselves of it. That way, when Satan throws a counterfeit in our way, we can spot it. Once a man tastes God's version of sexuality, they will find Satan's version to be unfulfilling.
That is why, if the Lord allows me to, I am going to begin a series here on Square Watermelons dealing with the subject of lust. I am going to attack the mentality's we have been taught which hinder our recovery from an unhealthy lust and together, we will learn what a godly desire for the opposite sex looks like. The most asked question I hear from people and one that I have asked myself many times is, "when have I crossed over into lust". To be honest with you, many times when men feel condemned for lust, they haven't actually done so because they don't really understand what constitutes lust. That is what I hope to address in the next installment. In the mean time, feel free to check out the article I wrote titled Let There Be...SEX!
Thanks for reading!
Live Square my friends!
Romans 6:6 "Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. FOR HE WHO HAS DIED HAS BEEN FREED FROM SIN"