A good friend of mine asked a great question: “I know I shouldn’t lust after them, but is there a way I can stop wanting to lust after them?”
I totally get that! You know, sometimes I find myself getting discouraged when faced with temptation again and again. Shouldn’t I be over this by now? But, I still get those feelings, and part of me likes it! I don’t want to be attracted to kids anymore. I wish there wasn’t any temptation in the first place.
God promises us freedom, but it hasn’t happened like I thought it would. I imagined that once I asked God to set me free, he would do a miracle and I’d no longer be attracted to kids. I believe he has the power to do it, but he hasn’t done that for me. I’m still attracted to kids. So, what did Jesus actually mean when he said that he’d give “freedom for the prisoners”?1
We humans are a very interesting case. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34) When Adam and Eve chose to be separate from God, it really messed things up for us. God told Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” 2 What God said still applies to us today – sin wants to grab us by the heart, but we must rule over it.
The Apostle Paul talks about this struggle. He says:
I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.3
You and I have a Savior! Jesus came to rescue us; “whoever has the Son has life”.4 Jesus said that the way to be saved is to be born again – a new spiritual life – “Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives birth to a spiritual life.”5This happens when we ask God to forgive us, and Jesus to be our Savior and King. God actually comes to live inside us! Jesus said, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.”6 Also, the Holy Spirit will live “with you, and in you.”7
The reason we are able to beat temptation is because God lives inside of us! Jesus conquered sin, and he will do it again in us. How that happens, we can’t see with our eyes and don’t always feel with our emotions. It’s happening in our spirits. Every time we make a good choice in the face of temptation, the Bible says we are “sowing to the Spirit”.8 The idea is that our good choices – our obedience to God – are like little seeds of faith, which the Holy Spirit makes grow into a new, spiritual life.
We still have a part to play! Remember, God said we must rule over sin. But, HOW we beat sin is by our faith in Jesus our Savior.
Therefore, the next time temptation strikes don’t think you have to beat it with your own willpower (your strength can only last so long). Also, don’t beat yourself up, because the Bible says that won’t help either (see Colossians 2:23). And, don’t let the devil make you feel worthless and ashamed, because God himself doesn’t condemn you! “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus… It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns?”9
Instead, when temptation strikes, build up your faith! It’s the best weapon you have – “This is the victory that has overcome the world: Our faith.”10 When temptation hits me, I say, “I know I have this attraction, and I’m having a hard time thinking good thoughts. But, I have Jesus inside me. He’s my righteousness. I’m going to choose what’s right, even if it’s a little step at a time. God is growing a new life inside me.”
Allow me to repeat, because it’s so important: When temptation strikes, the best response is to build up your faith in Jesus your Savior, right then and there. Your faith gives God the opportunity to fill you with his power, and that’s how you overcome. A great way to build your faith is by claiming God’s promises (see below for a list).
That’s the answer to my friend’s question. Our victory over lust is “Christ in you, the hope of glory”.11 God is making real changes in us each time we obey in faith. He’s changing our hearts.
Yes, our brains are wired to be attracted to kids, and sometimes, we want to enjoy the sexual satisfaction that comes from wrong thoughts and acting on those desires. It can seem like we’ll never escape the struggle. The truth is that our battle with sin won’t be over until we leave this earth, but you’re going to grow as a child of God. “God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”12
It’s a process! “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day”.13 It’s also a journey that you and God are walking together. “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.”14 So, let’s you and me keep pushing forward, joyful that God is with us! “Let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”15 Our lives can be wonderful stories of victory torn from clutches of defeat. God said, “I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”16
A few more thoughts…
It’s important to remember God’s words of wisdom. If you’re in a tempting situation, the Bible says to “FLEE temptation”.17 Get out of there! Don’t intentionally hang around and expect God to keep you safe. That’s presumptuous, because God already tells us to run. He will strengthen us to beat temptation when we are doing the things we should be doing, not when we’re foolish on purpose.
Another word of wisdom is to connect with others who can help you stay strong. The Bible says, “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”18
I hope that knowing these things will make it easier for you to think right thoughts, look away, and fight temptation. The battle can make us weary sometimes! But, God’s victory for all his children is through a relationship with Jesus Christ, walking day by day with his Spirit, and a new life inside. Next time temptation strikes, respond by strengthening your faith in who Jesus is to you.
Here are some promises that have helped me. Say them out loud so you can hear them (and the devil and temptation too):
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4
I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Romans 6:5-11
If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:9-15
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Romans 6:12-14
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16
The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6
1 Luke 4:18; 2 Genesis 4:7; 3 Romans 7:23-25NLT; 4 1 John 5:12; 5 John 3:6NLT; 6 John 14:23NLT; 7 John 14:17; 8 Galatians 6:8; 9 Romans 8:1,33-34; 10 1 John 5:4; 11 Colossians 1:27; 12 Philippians 1:6NLT; 13 Proverbs 4:18; 14 Galatians 5:16; 15 Galatians 6:9; 16 Jeremiah 29:11; 17 2 Timothy 2:22; 18 Ecclesiastes 4:12