Sex and the Single Guy
- Joseph Knable Author
- 2005 25 Mar
Lust: Where the Battle Starts
Lust. Our oldest enemy. The most frequent of all our sexual sins, and quite possibly of all our sins in general. We can lust after many things, such as power, money, and status (1 John 2:16), but this chapter deals specifically with physical lust.
Before we have sex or do any sexual act outside of marriage, we lust. When we sin by looking at pornography, we lust. When we masturbate, we lust. Jesus said lust is as bad as adultery, and many times we consider adultery the worst of all these sins. So it's a pretty bad problem that we need to deal with. And there's no tourniquet for this baby either, because even gouging out our eyes wouldn't cure lust, as we can still lust with just our minds.
Lust certainly is a tricky little devil. I'm not writing as one who has completely gotten rid of all lust from his life. I can think of a time when I lusted today, in fact. I repented of that sin, and I will make a point of avoiding that temptation the next time I'm in that same situation. But there will always be more and more opportunities to lust, and it will only get worse as society lowers its standards for what women should wear and what media can expose us to.
However, there is hope! Although Christian men are not totally free from lustful thoughts, I've talked with many guys who have made an incredible amount of progress in their lives over this sin. And, thank God, so have I. I do remember a time when my mind was clouded with lustful thoughts practically all day long; now an indulged sexual thought is the exception that stands out, and I usually repent of it quickly and move on.
There are many clear steps that we can take to run from lust and gain sexual purity, even in our minds. Remember, Jesus said that He wasn't going to give us more temptation than we could handle and that he would always provide a way out (1 Corinthians 10:13), and that applies even to the temptation to lust. Here are some practical ways to run away from a lustful situation.
How to Escape Lustful Situations:
1. Recite Scripture
As always, pray first. While you're praying, call to your mind some of those Scriptures that you've memorized. Have them ready and shoot them like darts at your tempting thought, while at the same time darting your eyes or mind away from that temptation. Like Job (31:1), you should be able to tell yourself, I've made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl! I've made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl! Say this over and over again. Say it out loud if you can!
Find some catchy phrases that will stick in your mind and that will be effective in your life when you use them. When I was a lifeguard at an amusement park, there was temptation to lust literally everywhere I turned! I had never seen so many scantily-clad women in all my life, and I was around them all day long! This was torture on my hormones. It was either indulge myself all day long, or else find out some ways to run. And while I did not look lustfully at the women many times, I spent the majority of the time running from lust. Here's a mind trick I came up with: Every time my eyes would get drawn to a girl's body, I would scream in my mind, Not mine, don't look! Over and over again in my mind I said, Not mine, don't look! I must have said that one little phrase more than 10,000 times to myself over the course of the summer. And it worked, too! I was in prayer, praying for my purity, and praying for these people as well.
If I hadn't done this and had simply indulged my lust all day long, just imagine how terrible the consequences could have been! I could just see the headlines: "Nine-year-old boy dies at water park because lifeguard was too busy checkin' out the beach babes." OK, so I had a lot of added incentive to keep that garbage out of my mind, but the point is still made. Reciting Scripture or Scriptural principles is a key way to combat lust.
2. Look at Women from the Chin Up
When I was in high school I noticed these guys who always walked around with their heads hung low, and they never looked anyone in the eye. I always felt bad for these guys, because I thought that they were depressed or something. But soon enough I found out: they weren't depressed, they were just staring at all the girls' butts as they walked down the hallway! OK, they might have also been depressed, but they were definitely on butt-watch patrol.
In order to stop lusting after women as objects, we need to see them as human beings, and in order to see them as human beings we need to see them as such; we need to look them in the eye. This is a rule that I've made for myself for quite a while: Anything below the chin is off-limits!
This doesn't mean that we should not look at girls at all. The issue is where and how we look at girls. It is OK to admire and even be attracted to parts of a girl's face, which often give clues to her heart. It's a wonderful thing to have an attractive girl smile at you, and to smile back at her, and there's nothing wrong with that. In your heart you know the difference of looking at a girl as a person and a friend, and looking at a girl as an object. Girls certainly know the difference as well.
Lust is more than sexual thoughts – it's longing for or coveting a girl who is not ours. The problem is not always belittling the girl with our lust. For some, lust is so closely tied to worship – we're longing for someone to worship and our eyes fix on something tangible, something that we can see and admire and say Hey, I can worship this. We need to recognize that she's not the goddess we make her out to be, nor is she an object. She is a person.
A friend of mine pointed something out to me the other day that really put this in perspective. He explained that when he looks at other guys, he is trying to understand them; he is looking at their eyes to learn what is in their heart. Seeing is a huge part of communication between guys. We need to look at girls with the same dignity that we look at guys with. Not with a selfish, covetous gaze that oozes shallowness and either makes her uncomfortable or causes her to stumble, but with a sincere, respectful look that builds her up as a human being and a child of God. There's much more to it than just keeping our eyes off her body, but looking at women from the chin-up is a great start.
3. Pray for Her!
Going along with this whole "View her as a person and not an object" idea, try praying for the girl when you see her. Sure, at first your prayers might be along the lines of, "Lord, please bless this woman with a bigger shirt or a job as a nun," but eventually you will start to earnestly pray for the daughter of God that you're passing or that you're talking to. It's a great strategy and it works. Try it today. She is a person, just like your sister or a friend's sister. Speaking of which …
4. Picture Her as Your Sister
There are four women in this world whom I love more than anyone else. They are my awesome mom and my three amazing sisters, Ellen, Susan, and Jane. I would do anything for any one of them, and I get absolutely ticked when I hear that anyone has done anything to hurt them or offend them. I also have no problem whatsoever understanding that each one of them is a precious and beloved daughter of the Most High God, and I demand that I and everyone else treat them as nothing less than that. I become much more leery of the world when I consider my sisters.
One of my best friends believes the "sister view" is the way to go. "Whenever you see a woman whom you're attracted to, begin thinking of her as a sister, even praying for her as a sister. If it's necessary, imagine that person being your actual sister – that, for most guys, cools off the lust because it suggests something that most people would be absolutely disgusted with.
Darren, who is twenty-one, then adds, "Keeping with this sister theme – imagine what you would do to another guy who even thought about your sister the way you're thinking of this girl. Most guys are fiercely protective of their sisters' safety – the idea of a guy touching her wrong is stronger than most any other instinct I can think of. I threaten my sister's many 'pursuers' with my 32-inch, 27-ounce Easton metal baseball bat that consistent years of baseball, softball, and batting cages have enabled me to swing at terrifying velocities. I have to threaten myself too."
We become a little more honest about the way things are when our sisters and mothers are concerned. But wait, something doesn't add up here: If we are children of God and these girls are also children of God, then that must mean that we're both … siblings! These girls are our sisters!
So why doesn't that relationship change things? Oh, because we might marry one of them and then we'll be allowed to have sex with her? But the problem is that we will at best marry just one of these people we call girls, and all the rest of them will never be our wife! Besides, absolutely none of them is our wife right now, so there is no one that we may have sexual thoughts about!
5. Occupy Your Mind
I know that occupying your mind is a tough task, but there are so many other thoughts to think! Take up a sport, learn to fix cars, become a marine, write a book, go to college, go to high school: do something productive with your brain today! Can you imagine the potential we guys would have if we channeled all the mental energy we invest in thinking about women into something productive? We'd be colonizing Mars and taking vacations to Jupiter by now!
I pray that these strategies will have a significant impact in your life as you battle these temptations. Before we conclude our discussion on lust, we need to address a couple of other issues.
Look Out for Your Brother
This thing is not just all about you, and it's not about me. It is not enough to look out only for ourselves, and abstain from something only if it causes us to stumble or sin personally. We are commanded to look out for our brothers and sisters in Christ as much as we look out for ourselves. Consider these words from Paul: "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters … Therefore, let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way (Romans 14:1, 13; italics added).
We need to make up our minds that we're not going to do anything, say anything, or have anything available that will cause our friends to stumble into sexual sin, including lust. I had an experience some time ago where I had to go the extra mile to keep from causing my brothers to sin because of something I had in my room. During my freshman year in college, some weightlifting magazines were lying around my room that had pictures of nearly naked women. Many people would say that there's nothing wrong with this, because we honestly had them to learn about nutrition and weightlifting. But when some guys came into my room and looked through the magazines, they lusted and sinned. I couldn't allow that to happen again, so I got rid of the magazines the next day, and I've been careful ever since not to have anything that will cause anyone else to stumble, even if it doesn't bother me personally.
Don't take lightly the warning from Jesus when He said, "Things that cause people to sin are about to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves (Luke 17:1-3a). When it comes to sexual temptation, we must look out for our brother. Whether it's magazines, posters, crude jokes, or even pictures of our female friends, we need to be careful not to distract other Christian guys or cause them to stumble. Look out for your brother.
Don't Even Stick Your Toe in the Door
As I mentioned earlier, we will never mosey into sexual purity. As another roommate of mine once said, "Don't tolerate just a little sin, because sin doesn't tolerate just a little of you." Sexual sin is one of the most vicious, deliberate, and devastating kinds of sin I have ever seen. I have seen friends of all ages almost crushed under its powerful arm of destruction, and it's not pretty. People can have great and glorious plans for their future, and then suddenly they are crushed by some sexual mistake. They get their girlfriend pregnant. They contract a sexually transmitted disease. Infidelity destroys their marriage. Their world is turned upside down because of a heated night of passion.
Of course, these aren't the only things that God calls us to steer clear of. Perhaps you are strong or fortunate enough to keep from impregnating your girlfriend, but even a lustful thought can be spiritually deadly. Jesus told His listeners that once they entertained a lustful thought, they had sinned as much as a man who committed adultery (Matthew 5:28).
Be Like Joseph (Not me … the one in the Bible!)
The only chance we guys have at victory is to not even give sexual sin a chance. Consider Joseph in the book of Genesis. When Potiphar's wife was coming on to him, he didn't stick around to give her some godly counsel and try to get to the root of her problem; he ran screaming out the door! She grabbed at his clothes and he simply fled. If something is causing you to sin, get rid of it.
I imagine that King David could have taken a lesson from his forefather Joseph. One day David was on the roof and saw Bathsheba taking a bath. His lust burned for her so fiercely that he commanded her to come to his palace and had sex with her, a married woman. Then he murdered and lied to cover up his actions. Imagine: adultery, murder, and the big lie, all because of wanting to satisfy a lust.
I wonder how many times he recalled that day and thought to himself, Why didn't you just get off the stinking roof? Note to self for the future: stay off roof. Better yet, maybe I should just move!
God has provided us two very vivid examples for us to observe, so that we can make the right decision. Take the right action. Run away! Get off the roof! Do whatever it takes!
Do you need to burn some calendars or magazines? Do it! Do you need to replace the picture of that sexy lady on your computer? How about a photo of a nice kitten? OK, you can go with a monster truck – but only if there's not a lady in a string bikini next to it! Whatever the temptation is in your life, get rid of it. Whatever you need to do to keep from presenting your brother with a stumbling block, please, do it! The rest of your life will thank you for it.
Lust is the genesis of our war with sexual temptation. If we want to have any chance of not becoming a casualty in this war, it has to start here. We have to fight to win our minds back with strategies like prayer, reciting Scripture, looking at women from the chin-up, praying for women we think about, and occupying our minds. While we do, we must not forget to look out for our brother, and to be like Joseph by not even sticking our toe in the door of sin.
If we get serious about fighting back in the battle for our minds, then fighting the other battles will become much easier.
From "Sex and the Single Guy." © 2005 by Joseph Knable. Used by permission of Moody Press. All rights reserved.
Joseph Knable is a graduate of Cedarville University, and a Second Lieutenant and pilot trainee in the United States Air Force. He speaks to college students, churches, high schools, men's groups, singles, and youth groups about purity and related topics. For more information about his ministries and to contact Joe, log onto www.josephknable.com.