Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How Can We Defeat the Lust of the Flesh?

How Can We Defeat the Lust of the Flesh?

What Is the Lust of the Flesh?

Oftentimes, I think we hear the words “the lust of the flesh” and immediately think of lust or sexual sin. Although sexual sin is included in the lust of the flesh, this mindset leads us to disregard all other sin, and isn’t in alignment with what the Bible teaches about the lust of the flesh. Simply put, the lust of the flesh is just another way to say the desire of sin. This means it can be sexual lust, but it also means it could be bitterness, jealousy, envy, gossip, pride, and idolatry. The lust of the flesh is more easily thought of as the desires of our earthly nature.

On my wedding night, my dad stood up and gave his father of the bride toast. In it, he told a story about a sneaker wave on the Oregon coast. Our family had gone on vacation to Cannon Beach, and as I played in the water the waves quickly crashed over me and swept me out to sea. Thankfully my dad was able to quickly recover me, but he shared that my husband was also like a sneaker wave. Just like that, I had grown up, and Daniel (my husband) swept me off my feet and married me. Although I have no memory of that wave pulling me under and dragging me into the ocean—the sneaker wave on the Oregon coast is a lot like the lust of the flesh. It’s something we have to be proactive to fight against. It’s waters rage around us, as it wants to pull us away from the Lord and out into a life of death and destruction. Until Jesus comes to calm the sea, we’re all sitting in the sand, feeling the effects of a world tossed about by the lust of the flesh.

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What Does the Bible Tell Us about the Lust of the Flesh?

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul defines the lust of the flesh, or desires of the flesh as “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”. Essentially, Paul is saying that all sin can be summed up as the lust of the flesh. Therefore, if we want to inherit the kingdom of God, we have to put the lust of the flesh to death through faith in the gospel.

When we believe in Jesus, and put our faith and trust in His life, death, and resurrection, we are given new desires and new life in Him (Galatians 2:20). The Bible tells us that our heart of stone is removed, and we are given a new heart. This means we are no longer calloused to the ways of sin and our fallen world. Despite our sinful nature, in Christ we are given a new identity and the Holy Spirit to help us live that identity out (Romans 3:23, Ezekiel 36:26-27). Paul in Galatians 5:16-17 tells us to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.”

Walking by the Spirit can only happen when we are empowered by faith in the gospel. Faith in the gospel is not something we move beyond or outgrow but instead move more deeply into. As we continue to uncover the grace and mercy God has had on us in Jesus, we will be empowered to silence the sin that Christ has already put to death on the cross.

4 Ways to Defeat the Lust of the Flesh

4 Ways to Defeat the Lust of the Flesh

We defeat the lust of the flesh through faith in the gospel and active obedience to God’s Word. This statement, although true, makes practical application slightly more difficult, as each sin will need to be addressed more specifically. Books like The Mortification of Sin by John Owen, and Battling Unbelief by John Piper are extremely helpful and foundational resources if you want a more in-depth look at defeating the lust of the flesh. However, for now, let’s consider what God’s Word has to say about walking by the Spirit and defeating the lust of the flesh.

1. Walk by the Spirit in Prayer

In order to walk by the Spirit—and not by the flesh—we must submit ourselves to faith in the gospel and prayer. We pray, as instructed in Titus 3:5 for “the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” that comes from God’s mercy. We ask that the gospel of grace would wreck afresh our souls so that “sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14). We seek to defeat the lust of the flesh by crying out to God our Father (Galatians 4:6). When we are unsure of what to pray or how to pray, we trust and ask, as in Romans 8:26-27, that the Spirit would intercede for us according to the will of God found in His word.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27

Related Resource: Listen to our FREE podcast, Teach Us to Pray with Christina Patterson. You can find all the episodes on LifeAudio.com. Listen to an episode right now by clicking the play button below:

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2. Walk by the Spirit in Word

As we walk by the Spirit in prayer, we need to ensure that what we are praying for is in alignment with God’s Word. “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Not only do we walk by the Spirit in praying through the Scriptures, but we use the very Word of God as our battle weapon against the lust of the flesh. Ephesians 6:17 calls the Word of God the sword of the Spirit. In it we find life, and in its promises, we put our faith (John 6:63). If we are struggling with anxiety, we look to Matthew 6:25-34 and trust that our heavenly Father will supply all we need. If we are wrestling with resentment, we consider the mocking, beating, and excruciating death Jesus endured in order to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

As we trust in the grace and forgiveness that has been granted to us, we are empowered to release resentment and forgive those who have hurt us. When sin comes in like a sneaker wave—unseen and seemingly dormant, we trust that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). Reading God’s Word gives way to the Spirit’s conviction of the lust of the flesh and calls us back to repentance.

3. Walk by the Spirit in Remembrance

When the Word is not in front of us, Jesus tells us that “the Helper, the Holy Spirit…will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26). Therefore, the Spirit both reminds us of our calling and brings convictions to walk in step with the Spirit. We walk by the Spirit as we actively seek to remember who we are in Christ—that He has called us child, chosen, beloved, and friend. With this in mind, the lust of the flesh is uprooted as we seek to solidify and step into our new identity in Christ. This means we rest in who God says we are, and ask for wisdom and discernment as we desire to live out the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25

4. Walk by the Spirit in Community

4. Walk by the Spirit in Community

Finally, the lust of the flesh is defeated in the body of Christ—the Church. God uses the people of God around us to encourage, exhort one another in the Word, convict, and call us back to repentance and faith. We all need a local body of believers that is seeking to walk in step with the Spirit according to the Scriptures. Without the church, we are prone to the lust of the flesh. For we need one another to help us pursue holiness. Galatians 6:1-2 calls us to gently restore those in the church that are caught in sin.

If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

We walk in the Spirit both by calling those around us to be holy as Christ is holy, and by being humble and willing to allow the church to gently pull us out from underneath the waves of living in unrepentant sin.

Overall, we defeat the lust of the flesh by walking in step with the Spirit. We seek life in God’s Word and cling to the gospel of grace that it so proclaims—as this is our joy, our hope, and our glory as we defeat the lust of the flesh through the power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

“To the world the gospel doesn’t look like power at all. It looks like weakness—asking people to be like children and telling them to depend on Jesus, instead of standing on their own two feet. But for those who believe, it is the power of God to give sinners everlasting glory.” ― John Piper, Battling Unbelief: Defeating Sin with Superior Pleasure

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Stephanie Englehart is a Seattle native, church planter’s wife, mama, and lover of all things coffee, the great outdoors, and fine (easy to make) food. Stephanie is passionate about allowing God to use her honest thoughts and confessions to bring gospel application to life. You can read more of what she writes on the Ever Sing blog at stephaniemenglehart.com or follow her on Instagram: @stephaniemenglehart.