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What to Do When Lust Sounds the Alarm

Pause and think with me for a moment. The last time temptation to give into unwanted sexual behaviors stirred for you, did you hear an alarm? (If you don’t struggle with a sexual temptation, the same can apply to other addictive behaviors.)

I don’t mean a literal alarm, but for many of us, we experience one of two alarms, sometimes both.

The first kind of alarm sounds, “Opportunity! Opportunity!” It clangs to get your attention and direct it toward the temptation. Its goal: Get you to seize the opportunity and give in to sexual sin.

The second kind of alarm sounds, “Danger! Danger!” It clangs to get your attention to direct you to resist the temptation. Its goal: Get you to see the threat and run from sexual sin.

I was talking with a friend recently who was describing a recent time of temptation that was really intense for him. When the temptation first came to his attention, he heard, “Opportunity! Opportunity!” Then very quickly, those alarms were replaced with, “Danger! Danger!”  

At first glance, these two alarms look like complete opposites: One was against him and one was for him. Even though they seem to be pointing in different directions, look closely at how similar the two alarms are:

  1. They both grabbed for his attention at the same time.
  2. They both sought to get my friend on high alert.
  3. They both treated the person as a thing—one as a thing to objectify, the other as a thing to avoid—but not as a human being.
  4. They both neglected my friend’s heart and focused only on his behavior.
  5. And perhaps most surprising, they both drew his attention toward the object of his lust.

Chances are, most of us are familiar with the problem with the first alarm, but many of us have wrongly believed the second alarm is good for us.

My question for you is, how much has the second alarm actually helped you? For those of you who have indulged in lust and are just beginning to notice how embedded in your life it’s become, the danger alarm is a helpful wake-up call. But long-term, it is limited in how far it can take you. For my friend, the second alarm sounded in his ear over and over again the entire time the other person was nearby. He couldn’t help but be distracted, which just makes sense. Have you ever heard an alarm go off and not been distracted by it? But for my friend, each time he found himself distracted, he felt worse and worse.

The next time you hear these alarms, might I encourage you to try a different approach? Instead of trying to replace the “Opportunity!” alarm with the “Danger!” alarm, take a few deep breaths while inviting Jesus to meet you in that place. Then calmly tell both alarms to quiet down. Thank the first alarm for pointing out the beauty of the person in front of you. Thank the second alarm for reminding you that you don’t want to misuse this person. And then firmly tell them to quiet down because you have the Spirit of Christ who will help you instead.

In contrast to the alarms, the Spirit of Christ works differently:

  1. He is with you always.
  2. He seeks to bring you love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22, 23).
  3. He helps you see people as people, not objects to lust after or avoid.
  4. He cares for your heart, resulting in transformation of your actions.
  5. He draws your attention to Jesus.

Do you resonate with hearing “alarms” when you experience temptation? How have you responded to them?

For you,

Josh

Want to hear more this week? Check out the latest Becoming Whole podcast; Disarm the Alarm.

3 thoughts on “What to Do When Lust Sounds the Alarm”

  1. I’ve had alarms going off all day! I ran into a girl I dated over the weekend and it made me think of her. I’ve also dealt with a lot of rejection, as many of us have, over the last few years. I struggle with it and I am undergoing some big life changes these days with a new job and new apartment. There is an alarm going off telling me to relieve my stress by acting on my sexual temptations and looking at porn. But there is also a “danger” alarm telling me to turn away and turn to Jesus. I know that every time I act on my temptations it only ends with me feeling even worse. So, I am listening to the “danger” alarm today. And am leaning into a new assignment at work to keep me busy, going to the gym tonight and preparing to lead worship at my church this Sunday. I don’t believe in “distractions” but believe in putting my energy into more productive and fruitful activities. Thank you for the post, Josh.

  2. Thank you Josh for this post. It has been extremely helpful. I could immediately relate to the two alarms going off. Ive always thought of the danger alarm as a good thing, but as you said, it still treats the object of the alarm as a “thing or object”. What was most helpful is this idea of inviting Jesus into these moments. Ive never really been able to wrap my head around what that means. To resist temptation for me has always meant to run, hide, avoid, tamp down, stuff it, etc. All those tactics accomplish is to reenforce the false notion that i am only holding back the tide and suppressing what’s natural. But the very first time I tried to employ your suggestion of thanking the alarms for the purpose they serve and then telling them to move along and invite Jesus into what Im experiencing, was immediately satisfying and a relief. Ive been employing this strategy now for the last several weeks and its been extremely helpful. It’s even helpful if I end up going through that process a day later, as i look back on the previous day and the Holy Spirit reveals to me that i failed to respond to those alarms in a healthy way.

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