One of the many things that I love about Jesus is how he established that the motivation of our heart is just as important as what we do. Both in acts of righteousness and of sin, Jesus is clear that it is what happens in our inner man that will result in our actions being those of good or evil.
Luke 6:45 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.
Matthew 15:18-19 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.
Since it is difficult to say exactly where the line is in determining if a thought is lustful, it is helpful to use this principle of what is happening in our heart to help us establish if how we are thinking is lust or not. The actual definition of lust is “intense or unbridled sexual desire or longing.” When directed at your spouse, this is a very appropriate ingredient in maintaining a great love life, however when directed at anyone else God is clear that it is unacceptable to Him.
In the heart a shift happens when we stop seeing someone as a person and start seeing them as an object we can consume. It neither honors them nor the One who made them.It is what happens in our mind and how our body responds based on what is happening in our heart that will determine if a particular thought is lust. And because different people have different thought processes I can’t even give you a set of thoughts that are and are not OK. For example, my husband can see an attractive woman somewhere and notice that she is attractive and not be tempted to lust after her unless she is sporting a plunging neckline with portions of her breast showing. Other men can not even see an attractive woman without immediately wondering what it would be like to have sex with her. So their line is different and determined by what is happening in them because of the thought.
It is also important to understand that although one thought on its own can be free of sin, sometimes a process of thought that starts with something innocent ends up in lust so if someone finds that a certain thought is a trigger that will eventually lead them to lust it is better to take the thought captive before it becomes sin.
Overall it is a much better idea to make every effort to flee from temptation. My problem is with people who spend more energy trying to justify lustful thoughts than trying to avoid them. I have heard many people say things like, “Who am I hurting. I wouldn’t actually do it” and “Isn’t it OK to notice an attractive person that God made” and “That’s your interpretation of scripture” all in an attempt to validate their behavior rather than accept sin for what it is and ask the Lord and the body around them for help in having victory.
So for those of us who want to remove ourselves from sin as much as we can, what do we do when we find ourselves in the place of being tempted to lust? Realizing that God always gives us a way out let’s consider what practical things we can do to flee from lust. First, remember that:
God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)
A sound mind is simply the ability to remain self controlled over what you think about and how you behave. If we have submitted to the authority of God in our lives, then the Spirit of God is at work in us in such a way that we have received this ability to control how we think. So as this relates to lust, no sinful thought is one we could not have avoided if we had chosen to. When we are tempted to lust, we need to seize the thought and put it out of our minds by a) praying for the person we were going to lust after, b) focusing on Jesus and asking Him to help us by showing us what better thought He has for us to reflect on and c) removing ourselves from the situation that is causing us to lust, if possible. To begin with however, we need to avoid being in situations that are known to lead us into lust. If you can not be on the internet without finding yourself looking at things that cause you to lust, don’t go on unless someone is in the room with you, for accountability purposes. If you can’t go to the gym without lusting after the people there, find a same sex gym or work out at home And if lust is an issue you battle on an ongoing basis, get some accountability from someone you trust who will watch your back and get in your face when you need it without working you over with guilt.
So let your unbridled sexual desire be focused on the one God has given you, and flee from thoughts of all others.
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