I’ve always had a natural curiosity for how things work. As a kid, if I saw that a household appliance was broken and destined for the garbage, I’d ask to take it apart to see what I could uncover. I love knowing the why behind the what. Sure, this toaster heats up bread and bagels, but why does that happen? The same thing is true with my faith life. When I find an area in which I have a tendency to keep on sinning, I like to find out why it keeps happening. After all, our actions are almost always a direct result of our thoughts. Because of this, the book Sex is not the problem…Lust Is by Joshua Harris, was a perfect fit for me.
It’s a relatively short read (which I’m always a fan of), the title basically tells you the gist of the book, and it managed to be incredibly honest and very relatable. It really gets down to the heart of why so many of us struggle with sexual sin.
The heart of the matter
In the church, we often talk about the sexual acts we should not commit. Some sign purity pledges, some get accountability, and some simply say it’s too hard to live in purity, so they compromise their theology. Really though, as with all sin, at the end of the day, it all comes down to being a heart issue. With sexual sin, lust is the root of the problem, and lust is 100% a heart issue. Lust starts in your heart before it makes its ways into your actions. So it’s time we get real about what our hearts desire and start thinking about what we’re thinking about.
God created sex and our sex drives, and as a result, many have tried to add to their theology that a little bit of lust is okay and possibly even healthy. However, the Bible says in Ephesians 5:3, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity or of greed.” The Bible makes it clear that there must not even be a hint. But why?
As Joshua Harris so honestly puts it, “Lust is always an unholy desire for the forbidden. But though lust longs for an object or a person, ultimately this object is not its prize; its goal is the very act of desiring. The result is that lust can never be quenched. As soon as the object of lust is attained, lust wants something more.”
A heart that’s never satisfied
The more we feed lust, the more we will lust, and our small compromises will become interwoven into our foundation. And so, we will start to crumble. I’ve seen it many times over years – a husband with a loving wife and family, but he cannot lay down his constant “need” for prostitutes and pornography, and so, he slowly loses his family and all control over his life. This may sound hard to imagine to many of us, but that’s the result of not controlling lust. It will ultimately end up controlling us as it constantly asks for more and more of our thoughts and actions.
Maybe for you it’s as “simple” as drooling over that really attractive musician or movie star. Maybe we like to look up pictures of them shirtless and admire that which God has created. But as we spend our time focusing on them as an object, where does that ultimately lead our thoughts? And no, I’m certainly not saying we should not have an appreciation for attractiveness, but we should ask ourselves honestly, where are those thoughts leading us? Do they honor God and that person?
Saved for something
God is calling us to a better life than simply being controlled by our impulses. As Joshua Harris says, “God isn’t just saving us from sin; He’s saving us for a life of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, and self-control. Yes there’s sacrifice involved. The call to follow Jesus is a call to put our sin to death, to crucify it and then let the Holy Spirit control every part of our lives – including our sexual desires. He asks us to give up chasing the lustful desires that could please us temporarily. Yet on the other side of that sacrifice is freedom and true pleasure.”
Naturally, it’s impossible to sum up all the contents of a book in one simple blog post, so if you do struggle with sexual thoughts or sexual sins, especially if you’re feeling shame around the subject, this book is a must read. Joshua Harris is honest, but understanding. He will call you to a higher standard, but will show you how it has to be as a result of submitting to the Holy Spirit rather than just bullying yourself into changing your behavior. He encourages heart change first and foremost, which is exactly what I see God calling us to do when I read the Bible.
One of my favorite quotes from the book and the most empowering, is, “Lust seeks to use what we know about the weaknesses of [the other] to manipulate them. Isn’t it wonderful that as brothers and sisters in Christ we can use this same information to help each other pursue holiness?”
When we submit ourselves to the Lord and submit all parts of our sexuality to Him, we are empowered to really love our neighbor well.
If lust is an issue you’re wrestling with, let’s be honest, it can be really, really hard and feel really embarrassing. Know that God is not surprised by your sin, but is overjoyed by your surrender and repentance. It may feel awkward talking to God about the subject you feel makes you dirty, but God is is always clean, and He wants to invite us into His cleanliness, no matter how much dirt we bring to Him. He is a loving God, and He wants to set you free from the slavery of lust.