Chapter One: Not Even a Hint
Why Can’t I Seem to Beat Lust?
Because the possibilities are endless, I have a simple definition for lust: Lust is craving sexually what God has forbidden. To lust is to want what you don’t have and weren’t meant to have. (p. 20)
Is there anything more discouraging than losing the fight against lust? It saps your spiritual passion. It makes your faith feel hollow. It stifles prayer. It colors your whole view of your walk with God. At moments you’re so overwhelmed by shame that God seems a million miles away. (p. 22)
In our losing battle against lust we’re often misguided in three key areas. We’ve had…
- The wrong standard for holiness
- The wrong source of power to change
- The wrong motive for fighting against our sin. (p. 23)
God’s Word shows us how to get on the path to freedom. It shows us that the key to escaping the cycle of defeat is to embrace God’s standard for holiness, His source of power for change, and His motive for fighting sin. (p. 24)
[God] wants us to eliminate any kind of impurity in our thoughts and actions. He wants us to dig down into our hearts and uproot sexual greediness, which is always seeking a new sensual thrill. (p.25)
Here the author pinpoints the correct source of power for us to change:
Sexual purity is clearly something only God can bring about in your life and mine. God’s standard of not even a hint quickly brings me to the end of my own ability and effort. It reminds me that God’s standard is so much higher than the standards I place for myself that only the victory of Christ’s death and resurrection can provide the right power and the right motive needed to change me.
Willpower won’t work. Only the power of the cross can break the power of sin that keeps us on its treadmill. (p. 27)
And when we destroy our lustful desire, we come not to the end of desire, but to the beginning of pure desire—God-centered desire, which was created to carry us into the everlasting morning of God’s purposes. (p. 28)
If you ever expect to find victory over lust, you must believe with your whole heart that God is against your lust not because he is opposed to pleasure, but because he is so committed to it. (p. 29)
God wants us to despair in our own strength so that we have no other option but to throw ourselves on his grace. (p. 29)
Chapter Two: Sex Is Not the Problem
Is It Biology or Is It a Sin?
Noticing an attractive person is not wrong; but undressing that person with your eyes or imagining what it would be like to “have” them is. (p. 35)
And what is the source of our lust? When we sin, it’s our own evil desire that entices us. James 1:14…And Jesus taught, “For out of the heart come…adultery, sexual immorality…” (Matthew 15:19) (p. 39)
One of the reasons God calls us to cleanse our lives of lust completely is because He knows that lust never stays at the level of “just a hint.”
Lust is always an unholy desire for the forbidden. But though lust longs for an object or a person, ultimately this object is not its prize; its goal is the very act of desiring. The result is that lust can never be quenched. As soon as the object of lust is attained, lust wants something more…
…God says “not…even a hint” because you can’t give in to lust’s demands and hope to pacify it. It always grows. (pp. 40-41)
As Christians, embracing our sexuality looks radically different. We don’t obey every sexual impulse—nor do we deny that we have sexual desires. Instead, we choose both restraint and gratefulness. For us, sexual desire joins every other part of our lives—our appetite for food, our use of money, our friendships, our dreams, our careers, our possessions, our abilities, our families—in bowing before the One True God.
In other words, to rightly embrace our sexuality we must bring it under the dominion of the One who created it. When we do so, we’re not fighting against our sexuality; we’re fighting for it. We’re rescuing our sexuality from being ruined by lust. We’re exalting our God-given identity as sexual creatures by refusing to be trapped in the never ending dissatisfaction of lust. (p. 42-43)
Chapter Three: You Can’t Save Yourself
Where Can I Find the Power To Change
Only the power of the gospel can rescue us from the prison of our sin, and only the motive of grace can sustain us in the ongoing struggle against lust. Getting these two wrong will derail our efforts. (p. 47)
Law can never bring about deep, long-lasting change…[we] need to be rooted in the life-transforming truth that someone has already “taken the punishment” for [us]. Jesus Christ bore God’s wrath for every one of [our] sins when he hung on the cross. This is the good news of the gospel. (pp. 48-49)
But we were pursuing holiness divorced from an understanding of what Jesus had accomplished. This is the essence of legalism. (p. 49)
An important part of standing firm in the gospel and avoiding legalism is understanding the difference between the work Christ accomplished to save us and the work of becoming holy that he enables us to participate in after we’ve been saved. Theologians assign the terms justification and sanctification to these two closely related but different concepts…
- Justification refers to your status before God. When you placed your faith in Jesus, God the judge handed down the verdict that you are righteous. He transferred the perfect sinless record of Jesus to you. God completely and totally forgave you. He not only wiped away the record of your sin; He credited the righteousness of His Son to you.
- Sanctification is a process—the process of becoming more like Christ, of growing in holiness. This process began the instant you were converted and will not end until you meet Jesus face to face. Through the work of His spirit, through the power of His Word and through fellowship with other believers, God peels away our desire for sin, renews our minds, and changes our lives. This ongoing work is what we call being sanctified. (p. 51)
The process of sanctification is the result of being justified. Nothing we do in our pursuit of holiness adds to our justification. (p. 52)
The person who has experienced God’s grace and has been genuinely converted can still choose to sin, but he can’t love sin like he used to. He can’t continue to sin indefinitely. (p. 54)
The gospel frees us to do what we were originally created to do: enjoy and glorify God with our whole lives. The gospel sets us free to be holy. (p.55)
So the Spirit-led life is one submitted to the direction, agenda, values, and priorities of God’s Spirit, as illuminated through Scripture. (p. 56)
Place your faith completely in Christ’s substitution for you, and make your pursuit of holiness a response to His grace. (p.58)
Chapter Four: A Custom-Tailored Plan
Where Am I Weakest and What Can I Do?
Paul warns in 1 Corinthians 1:12: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (p.64)
Richard Baxter wrote, “Keep as far as you can from those temptations that feed and strengthen the sins which you would overcome.” (p. 65)
For many men and women, the Internet isn’t just a little battle; it’s the main battleground where they’re temped daily to indulge in lust. (p. 71)
You can obey God with your eyes. You can avert your gaze. You don’t have to take a second look or let your eyes linger on someone.
It helps me to remember that my eyes are actively obeying my heart. They don’t have minds of their own. They’re obeying me. So it’s my job to command them to obey God. They don’t have to see everything around them. If an attractive girl walks by, they don’t have to survey her body. But they must obey Jesus Christ. I’ve offered my eyes to God to be used in His service. Because Jesus dies for me, my eyes are no longer tools in the service of sin—they can and they must obey God (see Romans 6:13). (p. 74)
You must be willing to take specific and dramatic action. Are there things in your home you need to throw away? Are there habits you need to end decisively today? Be radical for the sake of holiness. Jesus said, “And if you right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:30). Jesus used an extreme example to illustrate how we must be willing to do whatever it takes to avoid sin. (p. 76)
Chapter Five: Guys and Girls
How Are We Different, and How Can We Help Each Other?
Understanding God’s plan helps us see where lustful desires will seek to sabotage the original purpose. Lust always starts with something good—like a mirror at a carnival, it takes God’s design then distorts it. (p. 85)
Lust blurs and bends true masculinity and femininity in harmful ways. It makes a man’s good desire to pursue all about “capturing” and “using,” and a woman’s good desire to be beautiful all about “seduction” and “manipulation.” In general it seems that men and women are tempted by lust in two unique ways: men are tempted by the pleasure lust offers, while women are tempted by the power lust promises. (p. 85-86)
Lust offers men the pleasure of sex devoid of the hard work of intimacy. Lust offers women the power to get what they want relationally if they use their sexuality to seduce. Dr. Al Mohler once made a shocking yet accurate statement: “Men are tempted to give themselves to pornography—women are tempted to commit pornography.” If you’re a woman, you don’t have to pose for a picture or star in a pornographic movie to commit pornography. When you dress and behave in a way that is designed primarily to arouse sexual desire in men, you’re committing pornography with your life. (p. 87)
All that being said, [men and women] can do so much to help one another. Our interaction with the opposite sex can strengthen their resolve to flee temptation. Second Timothy 2:22 says, “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” Paul told Timothy to pursue godliness with other Christians. This is to be our goal as Christian men and women. (p. 89)
Probably one of the most important things godly single men can do to help their single sisters is to actively be brothers to them….And finally, we can pray for our sisters. (p.90)
…in any interaction with a woman, a healthy man is aware that you’re a woman and that you have a body his sinful desires would love to lust after. A Christian man seeking to resist lust never reaches a state where he’s unaware of a female’s body. He just learns to actively choose not to stare. So a godly Christian guy really does (or really should) want to view you as a sister and maintain eye contact—not “eye to something else” contact. But when you wear clothing that accentuates, draws attention to, or highlights the feminine parts of your body, it’s like wearing a flashing neon sign pointing to the very thing he’s trying not to be consumed with. Sure, guys can resist the temptation to lust, and it’s our responsibility to do so, but your dressing immodestly makes this very difficult. (p. 92)
My wife, Shannon, puts it well when she says that there’s a difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract. (p. 92)
Chapter Six: Self-Centered Sex
How Do I Deal with Masturbation?
Is masturbation a trivial issue that we need to stop worrying about so much? Or is it a big deal?
I think it’s both. Let me explain. First, I think Christians make too big a deal of masturbation in that we obsess over the act and neglect the more important issues of the heart. No Question, God is concerned with our actions, but He’s even more interested in our motivations. Men and women I talk to are often consumed with how many times they’ve masturbated, but I think God wants us to be more concerned with the soil of our hearts, out of which a lifestyle of masturbation grows. (p. 99)
God’s solution for our guilt is not to change His definition of sin. God dealt with our guilt at the cross of Christ: “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God” (1 Peter 3:18). Even when we sin again and again, we can find grace again and again. And the power of God’s Spirit can help us to grow in obedience. (p. 100)
The reason this very private act matters to God is not because it involves our genitals, but because it involves our hearts. And God is passionately committed to our hearts belonging completely to Him (see Deuteronomy 6:5).
Masturbation isn’t a filthy habit that makes people dirty. It only reveals the dirt that’s already in our hearts. It’s an indicator that we’re feeding the wrong desires. That’s’ why problems with lustful actions are symptoms of deeper heart problems. (p. 101)
Even if it were possible to masturbate without lust, I think a lifestyle of masturbation is based on a wrong understanding of God’s plan for sex.
Masturbation is built on a self-centered view of sex. This wrong attitude says that sex is solely about you and your pleasure. Your body. Your genitals. Your orgasm. This is the natural tendency of sin. It isolates us from others and makes pleasure self-focused…
…If you want to break free from a pattern of masturbation, the first step is to renew your understanding of sex. You must embrace a God-centered and selfless attitude toward sex…
…Second, a God-centered view of sex strives to honor God’s purpose for sex. It’s not enough to know God’s rules for sex. We need to understand his purpose and plan for it.
Marriage and sex are inseparable in God’s design. You can’t have one without the other. In Hebrews 13:4 when God addresses our attitude toward sex, He starts by adjusting our view of marriage:
Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. (pp. 103-104)
Jeffrey Black writes: “The goal of pornography and masturbation is to create a substitute for intimacy. Masturbation is sex with yourself. If I’m having sex with myself, I don’t have to invest myself in another person…” (p. 105)
When God says no to something, it’s because He’s saying yes to something better. (p. 106)
Chapter Seven: Half a Poison Pill Won’t Kill You
How Do I Cope with the Temptation of Media?
Entertainment goes straight for our hearts. Have you ever thought about this? Media never reasons with us in its attempts to convince us to love lust and sin. You’ll never see the CEO of a television network standing in front of a flip chart explaining why adultery is good. But that same CEO might have his company create a television drama that engages your emotions and, through the power of the story, makes the sinful act of adultery seem appealing.
Television and film stir up feelings and emotions that bypass our minds and go straight for our affections. The incredible power of media is that it can make something evil look good or exciting without appearing to make any argument at all! (pp. 117-118)
So what are we allowed to view? It’s easy to latch on to a rating system or some set of rules that will make it clear what we will and won’t watch. But no rating system based on content can replace a heart that wants to please God. If we’re to honor God with our entertainment choices, we must be willing to carefully evaluate how what we watch affects our love for God. We must be willing to wrestle with our standards and often refuse to watch what others think is permissible. (p. 119)
The next test is one I find the most challenging. “If God’s Spirit is not to be grieved,” Joel Belz writes, “you should be able to honestly give thanks to God for the portrayal in its totality. This is not a simplistic test, but wholesomely biblical. If you can’t bow your head and sincerely thank God for a movie or symphony or a newscast or a novel—then for you that activity is wrong. Stop arguing with yourself and move on to something else.” (p. 121)
True discernment is very different. First Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” If our discernment doesn’t lead to appropriate action—either holding on to or avoiding, it’s worthless. Biblical discernment involves bringing God’s standards to bear in our evaluation of what we watch and responding accordingly—whether this means refusing to watch something, refuting its message, or agreeing with it. (p. 122)
In Psalm 101:2-4, David says to God:…
- I will set before my eyes no vile thing…
- …That’s the banner I want hung over my TV or any movie screen. (p. 124)
There is no such thing as “must see TV.” And if we’re the only people in the world who don’t see the latest summer blockbuster movie, we’ll be all right. The only thing that’s essential is walking with God and pleasing Him. And if that sometimes requires cutting back on what we watch, it’s no real sacrifice. (p. 127)
Chapter Eight: Lone Rangers Are Dead Rangers
Why Is Accountability So Important?
Our enemy goes after people who have isolated themselves from other Christians…
…There’s nothing more important than being connected and accountable in a local church…
…The Christian life is something we do together. (pp. 133-134)
What does accountability look like? Alan Medinger gives this helpful description of what an accountability relationship involves:
An accountability relationship is one in which a Christian gives permission to another believer to look into his life for purposes of questioning, challenging, admonishing, advising, encouraging and otherwise providing input in ways that will help the individual live according to the Christian principles they both hold. (p. 136)
Repentance involves a change of heart and a decision to turn away from a sin. It’s proven over time and involves an ongoing choice to put sin to death…
…Here are some helpful questions to ask:
- Do I view this sin as an act of rebellion against God
- Is there true sorrow over my sin or do I merely dislike the consequences?
- Am I cultivating a hatred for this sin?
- What further action do I need to take?
- What will I do the next time I’m tempted in this way?
- What preemptive actions can I take to avoid this sin next time?
- What activities or thought patterns do I need to turn from? (p. 142)
But we don’t need to be consoled or comforted for our sin; we need to kill it!
I’m grateful to have Christian men in my life who love me enough to firmly challenge my sin. They urge me to put my sin to death. They remind me that God is holy and is opposed to my sin and that sin leads to death. They ask if I’m meditating on Scripture and crying out to God for help. They don’t let me excuse or justify my sin…
They always remind me that God is at work in my life. (p. 143)
At times, follow-up might even take the form of a phone call. The important thing to remember is that accountability doesn’t end with confession. We need to pray for each other and keep checking in with each other. (p. 144)
The most important thing we can do for each other when we talk about sin and temptation is to remind each other of God’s provision for our sin—the Cross of Jesus Christ…
…It’s only when we remember that God has forgiven our sin because of Jesus Christ that we can find the resolve to keep battling sin…
…In Romans 12:1, Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” He urged them, but he urged them “in view of God’s mercy” at the cross. (pp. 144-145)
“And let us consider,” the author of Hebrews writes, “how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
Chapter Nine: The Power of a Promise
How Can the Truth Help Me Defeat the Lies?
Are you memorizing any Scripture right now that can help you battle the lies of lust?…
…Suddenly it hit me how foolish I was being. I supposedly hated lust and its lies, but I wasn’t fortifying my heart with the truth of God’s Word. I’d gone into battle without my sword.
Throughout this book we’ve looked at many practical ways to avoid temptation. But we also have to know how to do battle when temptation has us in its grip. I want to teach you how to combat the lies of lust with the truth of God’s Word. My goal is to do more than just suggest a few memory verses—I want to help you develop a conviction that Scripture is the only weapon that can successfully fight off lust. (pp. 149-150)
Scripture cuts through the confusion and hazy half-truths that our sin generates. It reveals our wrong desires. It rebukes our apathy. It corrects our selfish human thinking. It unmasks the deception of sin. It points us to God’s goodness and faithfulness when we’re tempted to forget. It trains us in righteousness. It counters the false promises of lust with God’s true promises.
I’ve learned that I can’t reason with lust or argue against it with my own opinions. I can’t put my fingers in my ears hoping to drown out its lies. And I’m definitely not going to last long if all I can answer is, “I’m not allowed to do that.” I need an authority greater than my own. I need the very words of God. Hand-to-hand combat with lust doesn’t work—I need the sword of the Spirit [Ephesians 6:17]. (p. 151)
Getting Specific (pp. 151-157)
Lie: Lust is not a big deal.
Truth: Job 21:11-12
Lie: A little sinful fantasizing won’t hurt.
Truth: Romans 8:6, Galatians 6:7-8, Romans 13:14
Lie: Taking radical action against sin isn’t necessary.
Truth: Matthew 5:29-30, 2 Timothy 2:22
Lie: God won’t mind a little compromise…
Truth: Colossians 3:5-6, Ephesians 5:3
Lie: It’s my body. I can do what I want with it.
Truth: 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Lie: I can’t control my sex drive.
Truth: 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6
Lie: Looking at a few pornographic pictures won’t affect me.
Truth: Proverbs 6:25-27, Psalm 101:3
Lie: I won’t experience any consequences for indulging my lust.
Truth: Romans 14:12, James 1:15
Lie: People get away with adultery.
Truth: Proverbs 5:3-5, 8-11
Lie: God is keeping something good from me.
Truth: Psalm 84:10-12
Lie: The pleasure lust promises is better and more real than God’s pleasures.
Truth: Psalm 16:11
Lie: Fulfilling my lust will satisfy me.
Truth: Lamentations 3:24-26, Proverbs 19:23
Lie: Too much purity will keep me from seeing and enjoying beauty.
Truth: Matthew 5:8, Psalm 11:7, Isaiah 33:17
Psalm 119:9-11 says, “How can a young man [or woman] keep his way pure? By living according to your word….I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (pp. 157-158)
Part of sin is dissatisfaction with God. Lust’s power comes from the promise it gives that something besides God can make us happy. What this means is that the only way to overcome the power of lust in our lives is by finding better promises. The key to holiness is satisfaction in God—faith that he is more to be desired than anything this world has to offer. We’re not just turning away from lust; we’re turning toward true satisfaction and joy in God. (pp. 158-159)
Chapter Ten: Holiness Is a Harvest
How Can I Sow to the Spirit?
God’s Word tells us how deep and lasting transformation takes place. It’s not a secret. It’s not even overly complicated. But it requires diligence and faith and daily dependence on His grace. (p.162)
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:7-9)…
…Paul presents us with two fields. One represents the Spirit and a life lived to please and obey God. The other represents our sinful desires, or the “flesh.” Each of us can choose which field to plant seeds in. On any given day, or in any given moment, we can walk from one to the other, kneel down, and sow seeds in either one. (pp. 162-164)
Do you want to grow in holiness? Do you want to see lust’s power weaken in your life? Then make personal time with God the first priority of every day. Read your Bible with heartiness of Spirit! Be diligent in prayer…
Do you want to experience lasting change? Do want to grow in holiness? Sow seeds to the Spirit every day through private times with God. Pursue intimacy with Him. (pp. 166-167)
I don’t think we should make overcoming lust our primary preoccupation—we need to make the gospel and God’s glory our focus. We need to give ourselves to knowing Him, worshiping Him, and meeting with Him every day. The result will be the weakening of lust and a growing passion for godliness. (pp. 169-170)
Remember that your hope for change is based in God’s grace. It’s because Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins that you can stand justified before God and know that He will sanctify you day [by day]. You can press toward God’s standard of not even a hint of sexual immorality in the unshakable confidence that through faith in Christ you stand before God with not even a hint of guilt.
Because of Jesus Christ, we can have victory over lust. Sometimes we want a victory that means no more struggle. God calls us to trust Him in the struggle against lust, to persevere and so prove the reality of the victory accomplished by His Son. John Piper calls it the “persevering fight.” (pp. 171-172)
Seven Tips for Fighting Internet Porn
- IDENTIFY WHAT’S LEADING UP TO LUSTFUL INDULGENCE ON THE INTERNET.
- RESOLVE THAT NO TECHNOLOGICAL CONVENIENCE IS WORTH SINNING AGAINST GOD.
- EXAMINE YOUR MIND-SET WHEN BROWSING AND THE AMOUNT OF TIME SPENT ON-LINE.
- HAVE AN ACCOUNTABILITY PARTNER THAT CONSISTENTLY ASKS ABOUT YOUR INTERNET ACTIVITY.
- REDEFINE “OVER THE LINE” (IT’S NOT THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF).
- USE WEBSITE FILTERS, BLOCKERS, AND ACCOUNTABILITY SOFTWARE AS A FINAL LINE OF DEFENSE, NOT THE FIRST.
- FIGHT THIS SIN THE HARDEST WHEN YOU’RE FEELING STRONG.