If you want to overcome unwanted sexual behaviors, learn to eat before you shop.
I enjoy grocery shopping—perusing the aisles, reading ingredients, imagining delicious foods to make and eat and share around the table with those I love. But when I head to the store on an empty stomach, something goes awry. I lose perspective and end up buying too much food and usually more unhealthy food at that.
So I’ve learned to always eat just a little something healthy before I go shopping.
To deal effectively with sexual sin, you have to do something similar.
The temptation to lust comes because you’re hungry. Whether you’re tempted by pornography, stolen glances at body parts, or romantic storylines, whatever the temptation, lust promises to fill you up through sexually acting out. But it doesn’t work.
“Hell and Abaddon are never full, nor are the eyes of sinful man” (Proverbs 27:20).
Lust can’t truly fill you because it it’s not what you’re really hungry for.
You’re hungry for a love that satisfies, not pseudo-love, false intimacy, sexual excitement, and not even sexual climax.
If you want freedom from lust, you need to receive true love. This may feel counter-intuitive if your particular brand of sexual sin leaves you feeling ashamed and less worthy of love, which in my experience, sexual sin usually does. This becomes a trap because when you feel less worthy of love, you are less likely to be willing to open yourself to receive real love. But there is no other way. Sexual sin is only expelled as something better comes in.
The wealthy don’t search the floor for a dropped penny. Those with clean water don’t drink from muddy puddles. The well-fed don’t dig through trashcans looking for scraps. And those who know deep in the fabric of their being that they are the beloved—special, seen, heard, known, esteemed, wanted—the person who is filled with love doesn’t lust.
So the obvious next question is this: What has happened in your life that left you searching the trash bin instead of taking your seat at the banqueting table? And maybe just as importantly, are you willing to begin risking coming to the table?
In Luke 7, a woman of ill-repute entered a home where Jesus was dining. She pushed past the reproachful eyes and whispered disapproval of the other guests and made her way to where Jesus was. There, she poured out her tears in gratitude for whatever it was that Jesus had done for her (Luke never tells us). Others’ opinions of her no longer held her back. Her own opinion couldn’t hold her back either. Jesus’ love and mercy were now what meant most. She was the beloved.
In Luke 19, a sold-out Jewish tax-collector came to get a better look at Jesus. The crowd was thick and the man was small and unwelcome, so he wasn’t going to be able to get close, so up he went into that tree. For reasons only he knew, he just had to see Jesus. To his surprise, Jesus saw him too. And not just saw him, but knew him, called him by name even, and wanted to get closer to him. Later that evening, he pledged to give back his stolen wealth and then some. He no longer needed to grasp at money. He was the beloved.
If you struggle with sexual sin, hear this today: You are the beloved. Make your way through the masses, critical eyes and whispered accusations (even your own). Just get to Jesus. Pull back your coat and show him your festering wound. Undo your cloak and show him your shameful sin. Lift your face and tell him the heartache and hate you hold.
He is the one whose coat and cloak were stripped, whose body was whipped. He is the one who carried your cross through cursing and spitting crowds. He is the one who was pierced through, hoisted up naked on a tree for all to see, and mock, and scorn while life drained from his body.
Friend, he knows. He looks your way. He calls you by name. Ignore the crowd. You’re the reason he came. Do you think you’re reading this by accident today?
But there is another difficulty I need to mention. True and abundant love flows from Him who is Love. Christ’s love has come and is available to you today. And yet the fullness of his love for you is not yet. He satisfies, yes! True! Come and eat! But the full consummation of union with Him is also still to come. We do not yet see him face to face the way we one day will. This means simply that often you may not feel yourself to be the beloved, you will long to physically feel his touch, to audibly hear him speak your name. Today you groan for the Day that is still dawning.
Friends, come, join the communion of saints around this banquet table. Refuse all other invitations. Let us share the bread and the cup. Let us open ourselves, show our wounds, reveal our sins, bask in his mercy, and love one another. And let us encourage one another to wait. The meal to come will be worth any hunger now.
Only love can fill you substantially to satiate the temptation to lust. Christ’s love and only his love is food enough.
When have you experienced Jesus’ love in such a way that the temptation to lust diminished? What can help you receive this kind of love now? Leave a comment below.
Great article Josh. I can certainly say this morning for me was a huge challenge with lust. Thank God for his grace and strength to take me to his word and prayer which made it subside substantially. I can certainly relate to experiencing the Love of Christ when I’m in community with my brothers and sisters in Christ. My men’s accountability group where I’m loved and accepted for who I am in Christ. Quiet time in his word is a beautiful time for me also. Lastly my favorite verse for my lust is Proverbs 27:7! One who is full loathes honey, but to the man who is hungry everything bitter is sweet. Thanks again Josh and God bless!
This is a fantastic article. I did not get too far into it before I said, “Yes! This is what drove me to seek pornography!” And, now that I have been sober for over eleven years, I know that it was the Lord’s enormous love for me that rescued me from that horrendous bondage. I have been blessed to have a wife who loves me deeply, but my exposure to porn from before got me hooked – and of course, since my wife did not always say “yes” to my overtures, I did wind up seeking the women who never say “No.” But God released me, through his gracious love, and now I receive not only his love, but that of my wife, day by day, in joyful gratitude.