Question: “I am an ex-gay Christian struggling with lust in my heart, and I get really down about it. I keep praying that these desires will disappear, but I get the feeling this will be the thorn in my flesh, that I will have to work extra hard at getting deliverance from it. I gave up all the small stuff first, i.e. smoking, drinking, and swearing. But lust really has a hold of me for some reason.”
Reply: Your’s is a very common frustration, but God in His word has given you the answer and assurance of victory. Allow me to enumerate a few Biblical suggestions:
1) Know “that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance” (Romans 2:4) And what is repentance? “The act of turning with sorrow from a past course of action.” You, obviously have the sorrow. But you don’t quite know how to turn away. Right…? The text says that the goodness of God will show you how to turn away. So,
2) “Submit [yourself] therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) To have a complete victory you must completely submit your entire will to Him. Daily (sometimes even moment by moment) reconsecrate your life and will to Jesus, asking for His will to be worked out in your life. Then, obviously from this text, there is something for you to do: Resist the temptation. All God’s biddings are enablings. So, if the Word says to resist, then God’s grace will aide you in that resistance.
3) “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image…”(2 Corinthians 3:18) In other words, By beholding we become changed. By beholding the life and habits and sacrifice of Christ, we become like Him. Can you picture Jesus lusting after another man…?, or involved in self-abuse..?
4) “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way.” (Psalms 119:37) Take control of what you look at and what you watch, whether it be people, TV, movies, magazines, pictures, billboards, etc. You can choose where your eyes linger and focus.
5) “[Bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5) And how do you do that? Again, “flip the switch”, “change the channel”, “turn the page”, “divert your attention”, to something else, to something higher and nobler. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” (Psalm 119:11) You can do this, for you have the gift of the power of choice. And Jesus promises to help you:
6) “For it is God which worketh in you both to will (desire) and to do (act, behave) of his good pleasure.” And you can be “confident of this very thing,that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 2:13; 1:6)
7) The secret to this whole question is to act quickly, based upon knowledge rather than upon feeling, emotions, and unholy desires of the heart. Remember how Joseph dealt with his almost overwhelming temptation as a very young man with raging hormones when approached by Potiphar’s wife. “How can I do this great wickedness,” he cried, “and sin against [my] God!”
Joseph placed the feelings, emotions, and desires of His God above those of his own self. He also considered the feelings, emotions, and desires of his master Potiphar above those of himself.
8) Here is a method that I came up with for myself. I picture two trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life, and the Tree of Death (knowledge of good and evil). You remember that one was off limits, while the other one could be partaken of freely. I developed the method of mentally hanging on the Tree of Death all things God has placed off limits to me in His love for me and desire for my well-being. Try it! If you are tempted by cigarettes, mentally hang them on the forbidden tree. If your desire is for alcohol, hang that beer (or martini) on the tree. If you find yourself lusting over some one or his body…, hang him on that tree. Then turn from it, and walk away.
9) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) Believe this! A genuine conversion results (it’s a process) in new motives, new tastes, and new tendencies. When one is truly born again, he can overcome every inherited and cultivated tendency to wrong. “For if we confess our sins (our lust), he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins (of lust), and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (including lust…).” (1 John 1:9) “Only acknowledge thine iniquity (lust, as a sin issue)…, and I will heal your backsliding.” (Jeremiah 3)
10) You have referred to your problem with lust as a possible “thorn in the flesh.” But for every thorn in the flesh Jesus has promised, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in [your] weakness.” And “Grace” is defined as “the divine influence working upon the heart and reflecting in the life.” Grace is none other than divine omnipotence. And it is yours for the asking. “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22)
All Power (omnipotence) to you!
P.S. One more thing…! In order to have assurance of sufficient grace for you to overcome in this one area, the breaking of the 7th commandment, it is important that you acknowledge God’s authority as expressed in all 10 of His commandments… “If you love me,” Jesus says, “keep my commandments.” He doesn’t say “Keep 9 commandments,” but “keep my commandments.” There are ten…! Think on these things!