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Legalism and Lust

Updated on August 1, 2012

Walking that Narrow Path of Freedom in Holiness

I have been greatly encouraged by Randy Alcorn’s resource for Christian couples.

He gives a convincing (and real) argument in favor of purity in the dating relationship, describing many scenarios where couples may find themselves and therefore, being unprepared, give in to sexual temptation. However, as much as I had read this document over and over again, and tried to memorize its many Bible verses to support just about every significant point he made, I still found myself struggling intensely with sin.

And then, as I was reading Sex is Not the Problem (Lust Is), I was reminded about Joshua Harris’s reasons why we often lose our battle to lust:

· the wrong standard for holiness

· the wrong source of power to change

· and the wrong motive for fighting our sin

I knew that God was calling me to live up to a holy standard, to respect my body and as well as my boyfriend’s, and not to engage in acts that would lead to something dangerous…however, when your body screams for fulfillment, it is extremely, and I repeat, EXTREMELY, difficult to control yourself.

So, how do you fight against lust?

1. Focus on the intense joy that God has for you instead.

John Piper writes,

We must fight fire with fire. The fire of lust’s pleasures must be fought with the fire of God’s pleasures. If we try to fight the fire of lust with prohibitions and threats alone—even the terrible warnings of Jesus—we will fail. We must fight it with the massive promise of superior happiness. We must swallow up the little flicker of lust’s pleasure in the conflagration of holy satisfaction. Do you want to be free from the oppression of lustful desires and actions?

I try to think about it like I’m cheating on my boyfriend. If there is another man who is wooing me, and I am giving him the attention he is asking for, admiring his good looks, and focusing on his personality and how he can fulfill my desires… I’ve completely lost sight of all that I would be missing out on with my babe. Instead, I would be consumed with the other guy and thinking, “Don’t fall for him, don’t fall for him, don’t fall for him, don’t fall for him…” and then I catch a glimpse of him and realize, “Oh my gosh, I’m falling for him…”

It’s the same way with lust. It divides our interests. Instead of worshipping God and realizing how wonderful the man is that God has provided for you, you go on after something else that promises pleasure yet fails to deliver.

2. Draw strength from God’s promises

He has already equipped us for battle. We simply have to find His unlimited resources and access them daily.

Even after putting our physical intimacy guidelines and boundaries on paper and committing to them, it was still incredibly easy for my boyfriend and I to push against them and as a result, dishonor God with our hearts. The endless cycle is extremely tiring… it seems impossible to have “not even a hint of sexual immorality” (Eph. 5:2). Yet, how would a good God who has given us such strong sexual desires for one another give us a commandment impossible to obey? Well…if that makes us throw ourselves at His mercy, then yes. His strength is perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). I know God wouldn’t give us a command if He knew it was impossible for us to obey without His help. I know He has something very special prepared for us…and when I focus on that, I receive all the motivation I need.

3. Live a life led by the Holy Spirit

Just like it’s not right to focus on “the other man” as compared to my boyfriend, I will not focus on lust and forget all that God is saving me for. You see, it’s not just about making sure we don’t break the rules; it’s about making sure we get the most out of the relationship. God is not just saving us from pain, hurt, rejection, and disappointment, but saving us for a life that bears “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22, 23). Verse 23-25 (NLT) goes on to say:

Here there is no conflict with the law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. If we are living now by the Holy Spirit, let us follow the Holy Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

This Spirit-guided life, as Harris puts it, is “a proven but narrow path winding between two deep ravines. The safe path of grace and Christian freedom travels between the treacherous pits of legalism on one side and indulgence in sin on the other.”

So can we have the promise of pleasure with each other while still keeping God’s standard of purity? You bet. It is truly difficult to keep your balance on that narrow road…but even “as you despair in yourself, you will find hope in Him. And as you turn your back on lust, you will discover that true pleasure is something only God can give.”


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