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Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dealing With Lust

Something interesting has happened this week. A number of bloggers have suddenly noticed that pagans don't have a monopoly on lust - many of us Christians are just as guilty.

Let me give you some examples. A blogger named David Bayly has recognized that stat counters have turned many of us bloggers into statistics-addicted influence seekers. Marla over at Intellectuelle has noticed that a lot of Christians dress like tramps.

Both of these posts do an excellent job of exposing ways we lust for things we do not have. We are sluts, harlots, whores - in heart if not in deed. And if the ensuing discussions are any indication, the problems they unearth seem to resonate with many.

What I find fascinating in all this is not the fact that so many of us struggle in these areas; what is interesting to me is how people respond to these struggles.

Almost without exception (you'll have to read the articles yourself if you want to fact check me on this), all of the advice and comments generated in these discussions seems to center on coping strategies: Find yourself craving more hits on your blog? Try turning off your stats counters, try "fasting" from posting. Find yourself looking at all that cleavage in church? Women, you need to dress differently; men, you need to try not to be around them, and if you must, then stare at the ceiling. Got a problem? Try this, try that...

Now listen - I'm not suggesting that we don't need to be serious in our efforts to combat our desires. Scripture is practical and we should be too. It just strikes me as interesting that almost no one is talking about how to eliminate the underlying desires. Almost no one is talking about where those lusts come from.

Wouldn't it be best if I didn't crave the attention and influence that blogging seems to promise? Wouldn't it be better if a woman in a bikini didn't even register on my radar because I am so in love with my own wife? Wouldn't it be best if I could actually overcome my lust altogether, rather than merely trying to control the sinful behavior that results from it?

How come no one's talking about how to change the heart? Hmmm?

(I have some suggestions, but I think I'll let you ponder the question for a while first).


At 8:28 AM, July 14, 2005, Blogger rs said...

I would like to add to your list of lusts that I check SLD after I post for weeks to see which one of us got the most comments!!!

At 11:55 AM, July 14, 2005, Blogger Krissy said...

Thanks for the different perspective. I wonder if we go around too much trying to cut off our desires instead of seeing them as clues to something more. Maybe its not that we have to stop wanting all together or cut ourselves off from things we desire, but maybe we are letting ourselves settle for too little. Maybe we need to want more.

The whole lust thing as it relates to what women wear really hits a nerve with me. I think too often women and girls are made to feel responsible for men's thoughts. The way some people expect women to dress and men to behave amounts to little more than covering shame and hiding in fear. That is not victory and it is not life.

At 2:41 PM, July 14, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

Krissy: I would tend to agree with you about us guys. Too many guys cannot act right when women wear more revealing clothing. On the other hand, why do women wear that revealing clothing? Is it because they seek this lust in Men that we talk about? Is it because they want approval from other fashion conscious women?

At 6:43 AM, July 15, 2005, Blogger Krissy said...

The thing is that what counts as revealing is up for debate. I was reading the discussion on the blog linked in this post and was feeling a little trampy myself, but i think it would be fair to say that compared to my peer group i what i wear is pretty average and not too shocking. Its funny to me that you ask the question about why women wear "revealing clothing." I cant speak for all women, but i like clothes. I like to look good. Does that mean i want to incite lust? Not necessarily. Does that mean i seeking approval from anyone else? Not necessarily.

In the church instead of telling women and girls that they are beautiful and that they are worth more than going after the attention of men, we tell them they have to be careful of men and boys. We are telling them they are dangerous and it causes shame. I agree with Christian, we need to address the root issues not the surface details of what to wear or how to avoid seeing women at whatever level of undress causes temptation.

At 1:18 PM, July 15, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

Krissy: I agree that the word revealing is vague, and I kept it that way for a reason. Then we get into the term trampy. Can something be revealing and yet not be trampy? I think so, but of course, both revealing and trampy are vague terms.

It’s true that some people just like to look good and like nice clothes. They do not try and provoke a response from people. All I was trying to point out is that there is a two way street. Many women wear these clothes because they provoke responses, not in spite of it. They wear them to impress their female friends too. That is a form of lust too.

I am an unabashed liberal, so teaching women to respect their bodies and not be ashamed of them is something that I believe dearly. That, however, doesn’t mean that there aren’t problems on both sides. Teaching them to cover up and be ashamed is a problem, as well as letting them think that the only way to find a man is to have a specific body type and style.

At 3:26 PM, July 15, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

I'm debating how much to say here.

My original post was simply an observation that most talk (in Christian circles at least) centers on how to avoid or "control" the situations in which my lust percolates to the surface.

Now, I'm not trying to say such discussions are bad (on the contrary, I think we need to be talking about these things more, especially w/in the church), but I sure wish we would focus on the heart issues a little more - because what I really need and want is a heart that delights in God, not one that is focused on fulfilling my own desires and cravings.

Even here in this discussion that has ensued, no one has really touched that yet. How do we alter the affections of our heart?

I think part of the reason people don't spend much time talking about how to actually change the heart is they simply have no clue where to begin.

Thomas Chalmers says that "the only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one." In other words, the only way to overcome lusts of the flesh is to cultivate loves of the spiritual that are even stronger. I think he's on to something significant which probably deserves further reflection.

I am also not trying to say that the problems aren't really a big deal. I was talking with a friend recently, and she mentioned that she really didn't struggle with sexual temptations - part of that is simply due to God's grace, but she also felt that part of her "sucess" in this area was due to the fact that she had never really indulged her sexual desires in the first place. Her self control is commendable - but she was quick to note that most of her peers experience WAY more pressure in this area.

My point here is that we live in a hyper-sexualized, hyper-materialistic, hyper-affirmation-oriented society - MOST of us (myself included), have been inundated with a culture that titillates those desires. Because we have fed our cravings for so long, they exert immense power over us.

So should women feel responsible for men's thoughts? I would probably want to lean in the direction of keeping the pressure on the men - guys, your sexual fantasies really are serious in God's eyes (cf. Mt 5); we need to take them seriously and point our fingers squarely at ourselves.

That said, women don't get a free ride either - girls (especially those of you who are Christians), you need to understand just how easily you arouse men. I'm certain that in most cases that's probably not your intent, or at least you don't want to arouse ALL men; there's usually a select subgroup whose attention we deperately want, and if showing a little skin and cleavage can improve our prospects, why not - we're just "appreciating the body God gave us."

It would be nice if women _didn't_ wear certain things, not because they couldn't, but out of sensitivity for their spiritual brothers. You tell me - does that ever happen?

This raises another question too - women, how do you want guys to talk about this? If you think you are dressing cute, and I think you look so slutty I can't take my eyes off you, what do you want me to do? I obviously need to work on my lust, but my task would certainly be easier if you a) knew about it, and b) wanted to help me, rather than pour fuel on the fire.

It seems to me none of us do a very good job talking about this, and its something we all need to be more open and honest about if we hope to see much improvement.

Geez, I've gotta learn to write shorter responses...

At 9:18 PM, July 15, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

Christian: I think that your sermon hit it on the head. We need to get rid of our desires that consume us. Now, you and I may not agree on the method of getting rid of those desires, but I can get together with you and say that they consume us all. And, I guess, to answer your question in the email, that is what I believe as a “non-believer”. These desires, whether it be for beer, or sex, or money, or whatever, consume our society. How do we get rid of them? I don’t know. I think that the realization that they are bogus is a step in the right direction. But that is where you and I disagree.

So, I guess what I am saying is that I loved your sermon. I liked the beer guy reference. That was funny. And I liked your delivery. It was passionate and heartfelt. Now, you and I may disagree on logistics, but we do agree that we are brothers struggling with the same things.

At 10:00 PM, July 15, 2005, Blogger Charles said...

OK, it’s time to make a confession. I lust after attention. The other day, I saw a guy who I met a few times from a Cabaret show and also randomly hung out with at a Bar. He was so happy to see me. I got high off the experience. I really did. I love the fact that people love being around me. Do I seek this? Well, yeah, I probably do. Is that bad? Well, yes and no. It’s good to be around people who appreciate you, but it is bad to seek attention from other people.

My sophomore year of college, I had a fallout with a group of friends of mine. I stayed in my dorm room, depressed, and I got sucky grades. The next semester, I found a group of new “friends”, and I partied all the time and made the Dean’s list. It’s all because I had that little kick of knowing that people “liked me”, even though the people whom I talk about were good for nothing more that sinful fun.

At 3:35 AM, July 17, 2005, Blogger Jeri said...

In either Perelandra or That Hideous Strength CS Lewis' main character, Ransom, declares that such natural desires in us cannot be removed, but they can be engulfed by something greater.

The weakness of the flesh can be engulfed by the strength of God's presence with us. If I were in the company of the engineer of the universe, with all His servants attending, the importance of my blog would dwindle to nothing in significance in my mind.

Indeed, in Perelandra Ransom travels to a world still in its "Eden" state, and there he discovers that world's "Eve," and she has no clothes on. But her incredible joy at all things, her profound insights into his mind as she learns of him, and her deep, abiding trust in God, which contintually confounds Ransom (as she has no sin), keeps his own desires from kindling. In fact, when another character enters the story and Ransom realizes that the Woman might actually be the object of sinful lust, he is revolted and shocked by the idea: a great example of natural desire being engulfed by something greater.

At 4:54 AM, July 17, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Well said Jeri! And thanks especially for connecting it to Lewis' space trilogy - those books absolutely rock.

Now for a practical question - how do we actually experience that kind of freedom ourselves? How do we practice inhabiting his presence (Lauren Winner talks about 'inhabiting our chastity') so that the reality of _him_ overcomes the reality of our lust?

This is a genuine question here - I'm wondering if you have any suggestions...

At 10:19 PM, July 19, 2005, Blogger Dan McGowan said...

I have often said (and, in fact, my next book will cover this topic, I think...) that "authentic, true worship is THE solution to ALL of the problems of life." And I truly believe that with all my heart. If I truly were worshiping the Lord with ALL of my heart, soul, mind and strength, then - by definition of the word "all" - I would have no room to ponder anything else - sinful or otherwise. I would be "fixed" on the Lord.

I fully realize that this is the GOAL; this is what we STRIVE for. But we live in a real world with real battles. And we are supposed to face those battles - and, in fact, it is in the facing of those battles that our hearts ARE refined and made more pure. Some battles we win, some we lose. But God's grace COVERS all the battles because of what Christ accomplished on the cross. Do we AIM to lose the battles? Of course not. But humans are humans and sometimes we fall. Some fall farther than others, of course - but everyone falls. And God continues to love us EVEN AFTER WE FALL. And it's not because of US - it's because of HIM.

Everyone reading this blog knows "how" to work on changing our hearts. We've heard all the many ways ever since we came to Christ. The Bible is chalk full of "ways" to make the heart better. We don't need more information on how to improve our hearts. We simply need to turn away from the plate of Oreos...

Love the discussions on this site! I'll be linking at my blog, if that's okay (


At 10:33 PM, July 19, 2005, Blogger Christian said...

Hey Dan, thanks for the link! Glad to have you reading and commenting.

I would tend to agree that Scripture holds the keys to "open heart surgery", but I'm not sure I would assume that it's as cut and dried as you think.

What I mean by that is that a) not everyone reading this blog is a familiar w/ the Bible (or even a Christian for that matter), and b) even those who are still struggle.

So maybe you could help us make things practical - I'll start with a real life example that I shared in a sermon a few weeks ago.

I have a friend (let's call him Steve). Steve is happily married to a godly wife, he loves her, they have great sex, etc. The only problem is, Steve also finds himself attracted to another woman - a common friend they both know. He takes Mt 5 seriously, he wants to stop feeling this way, he prays, he tries to overcome his desires, etc...but it just gets worse - to the point where he's gone all the way in his mind.

I'm not making this up - this is real, this is the reality of sexual desire. And it's strong.

Now you tell me: what does Steve need to know or do to experience change in his heart? Where does the rubber really meet the road?

At 2:59 PM, July 20, 2005, Blogger Dan McGowan said...

Hi Christian...

First, I imagine a lot of "Steve's" are running around out there - some are followers of Christ, some are not. I don't think following Jesus makes one bit of difference - for anything - unless we CHOOSE to flee from the temptation. Sometimes I flee. Sometimes I don't.

I don't know that there is "a thing" that Steve, or me, or you, or any man or woman reading this blog can DO to stop this. I think it comes with living a life of obedience... doing what God wants us to do in all areas of life. It's like working a muscle, or training for a race. Each day gets a little easier because of the strengthening we had the day before... over time, you get to a place where it is easier to say "no" to things - or, at least, you say "yes" less often.

It's not easy. I am on my umpteenth diet! And every day, every meal, I need to say "no" to some things and "yes" to others.

Consistency is a key - and I suck at it! But that is what is needed for developing any discipline - or so I've been told! (LOL!)

Does any of this make sense or help? If not, then could you hand me an Oreo and get on with it!

At 5:50 PM, April 04, 2006, Anonymous Peter said...

i am a 21 year old male and i was directed here by q lee. needless to say i think about sex a lot. i think about it analytically and spiritually as well as lustfully. a few years ago i did a paper in english class comparing and contrasting the 10 commandments and the sermon on the mount. i concluded that those writings are not rules for restriction but rather freedom. thou shall not kill isn't just prohibitting murder but giving freedom to those who choose, to walk around at night without worry. thou shall not commit adultry is not just a restriction on sleeping around but gives a person freedom of worry and freedom for primarily women not be raped or sexually assaulted. in the same way, the sermon on the mount allows women to walk around and not be gawked at. she doesn't have to be friends with men and wonder "what do they really want from of me?". i was more thorough in my assessment, but my point still stands.

i read the link of the samantha post and was annoyed at the discussion. people calling sex "it" does not help the situation and i think hinders progress within the christian community on these issues. i think that being open is in order. i think that it helps tremendously as "steve" learned. being open takes courage, and is hard at times but progress is not made by being subtle or reserved. i have discussed sex with different women and watched talk sex with sue and the more i learn about the opposite sex the more i learn how much women struggle with the same things as men. my little sister has a poster of orlando bloom in her room. granted he isn't wearing a thong like most pictures directed at men but the same battles occur. i don't think they are talked about because women aren't supposed to be the aggressors and men are and the faster the "independent woman's movement" progresses the more the oral sex statistics will rise. i think that women are figuring out that they do like sex just as much as men but don't have the same support system in place that men do and once again this has to do with the willingness to be open and talk about it.

i think another big problem that needs to be dealt with is the lack of breakdown youth group leaders do in regards to our culture. they either embrace the culture or run away from it. this leaves little alternative for the youth. do i embrace the entertainment age or completely reject it? this leaves room for a lot of rebellion. a lot of fence hopping. also the idea of sex being much more rampant than ever is very foolish because homosexuality and sex was commonplace in the ancient world. the jews dancing around an ashera pole (penis pole) and taking part in orgies around it is something that should be discussed. this gives hope to young christians that jesus and paul know what they are talking about and gives hope that it is more possible to be chaste than they would be led to believe. jesus and paul weren't talking to a bunch of amish. the more open we are and the more we confess to jesus and to our brothers and sisters in christ the less room there is for sin to manifest itself and become attractive. as steve found out when he became open to his wife the less his friend became desireable. this applies to all sin not just lust. i once thought about committing suicide and the more i kept it inside the more attractive it became. however once it became open, the more foolish and ashamed i felt.

on that last note, the more "negative" feelings should also be embraced a lot more. just because i am depressed does not mean that i am far from god. the trinity broadcast network does not help in this. there is after all a book in the bible called lamentations and the psalms is chawk full of depressing tid-bits. jesus himself sweated blood and asked his father why he was being foresaken. the more open and honest we are with each other, especially the youth, i think the easier it will be to conquer our sin or at least be held to a certain degree. for example, i keep myself checked at masturbation. do i cross that line? yes. i do masturbate and i repent daily for it (that's not to say i masturbate everyday). but keeping myself checked at masturbation smothers the idea of going further into sexual impurity.

sorry for the rant, but i have a lot of time to think and this blog got my analytical juices flowing. i hope this answers any of the questions or reacts positively and/or negatively with you all. comments are always appreciated.

At 3:26 PM, February 08, 2007, Blogger brian said...

lust is a very difficult area

but i must say i get disappointed when i hearpeople say they don't the answers or that it doesnt matter what you do as sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. i know life can be like that, but surely there must be some reward in following the lord., like maybe when you lose its not so bad.

for example manage your recurring sin was gambling most your of wages, you didn't happen all the time but enough to cause alot of pain. Do you believe that god can help you to overcome this typee of sin forever. what i'm tryin to say are we able through the power of god to live a generally lower rate life of sin.

At 4:18 PM, February 08, 2007, Blogger Christian said...

Hi Brian - I hear you asking something like this: As Christians, shouldn't we expect our faith in Christ to make a difference? Shouldn't we expect some success? (eg. sinning less).

On the one hand, I'd say yes - it's only as a Christian that I really find freedom from my sin. And I really have experienced it personally (so yeah, Christ does make a difference - in fact, he's the only thing that makes a difference).

At the same time, I can also say that I am an even bigger sinner now than I was when I first became a Christian - not because I am sinner more now than I was then, per se, but rather because I am becoming increasingly aware of just how sinful I am, of just how much reonnovation still needs to take place. So I can very honestly look at an unbeliever and say, hey, I'm an even bigger sinner than you are.

So can God help us overcome sin? Absolutely. But it may not simply be a matter of stopping bad behavior - true change must ultimately get to the heart of the matter, which is "what's the matter w/ my heart."

True change has got to go deeper than behavior and get to motivation and desire - what do I long for? Why am I doing what I am doing? (not just the things I shouldn't be doing - it's also possible to do all the right things for all the wrong reasons).

That help at all?

At 8:36 AM, April 16, 2008, Blogger KJ DJ said...

I love this discussion, as many points have been made about a topic I think is not served enough attention in our churches.
I see three major issues brought up and I would like to address each. Discussion has been made concerning attire in the church, dealing with our lusts and unhealthy desires, and dealing with what causes them.
My first view on lust in the church was this. A man, or woman, should not need to do a 'lust check' as it were, when he attends services. We should not be wearing tight or revealing attire. We are our brother's, or sister's, keeper. As in the New Testament, concerning eating the foods of God's. Do not do such things if it will lead another astray.

The problem with this view, is that not all visitors, some visitors attend regularly, to a church are that mature in there faith, and some just miss the point. The attire of the Christian mature in his/her walk, should be conservative. We should be careful and sensitive to what we wear, especially in church. We do not want to be the tool that the enemy uses to distract others in church, or otherwise.
My second point is this. We are humans, with a Godly spirit growing inside of us. The struggle is not because we are not Christian, rather, Christ followers, but, because we are. Our spirit, seeking the desires of God, is at war with our bodies, seeking the desires of this world. Sex, happens to be the strongest of these desires in most people. But the desires could be other things as well.

Galatians 5:17
For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

James 1:14
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

In the Bible it teaches us to flee sexual immorality. there is a reason for this. The strongest desire in our bodies, for most of us, is sexual. And with out bodies constantly seeking after its own. It is not a far stretch to sexual immorality. This is why you see so many posts on dealing with the lusts, as opposed to the root. This does not mean you do not address the root cause. this means you address both.
Fleeing sexual immorality is an issue, but not as much, for a mature Christian, as opposed to a new Christian. But, for those that it is a large issue, there are usually other factors at play here. Many of which center around the self esteem of the individual.
(I feel compelled to say one thing on self esteem. The worst thing you can do for self esteem is look into your self. True self esteem comes from God. That is a different discussion all together.)

In review, Mature Christians, should dress with the intent to not be a distraction in and out side of church. They should be forgiving and merciful of those that do, as we are not called to hate. We should address ways of dealing with the lustful desires and temptations that come our way. And they should deal with the root cause.
Remember, fellow believers, that we are called to serve and to love. Remember, we are our brothers keeper and we must do it in love. Do not forget, we cannot change another's heart, only God can. Befriend those that need befriending and help to bring their hearts to God.

At 6:37 PM, November 04, 2008, Blogger jeff brown said...

Whats the differance on who gets the most comments.Lust is lust we as christians cannot have this spirit in us.If we do then we must go to the elders of the church to have it cast out,or it will grow.We as believers cannot harbor sin sooner or later our brothers and sisters will find us out,through GOD.We must follow CHRISTS example when HE was on this earth or we will not make it in to heaven.


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