In our search for victory and purity in life, it's essential to understand that there is a wrong way to approach these goals. Too often, we find ourselves caught in a cycle of failure, confession, and re-commitment without realizing the key elements we're missing. Have you ever been there? By exploring some wrong approaches to victory, we can gain valuable insights into victorious living.
The Trap of Self-Reliance
The wrong way to approach victory and sexual purity begins with a focus solely on our own actions and determination. After a sinful fall, we make promises and commitments to ourselves, vowing to do better next time and striving to - once again - live a righteous life. While our intentions may be noble, this approach fails to acknowledge what is necessary for true transformation (which we will discuss in a minute).
Missing the Power Source
The fatal flaw in this wrong approach is the lack of reliance on God. By solely depending on our own efforts and discipline (even if we don’t know we are actually doing this), we miss out on tapping into the divine strength and guidance readily available to us. The Bible reminds us that "it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Instead of exerting greater self-discipline, we must recognize that true change comes from surrendering to God's authority in a time of temptation and allowing Him to work through us. You may want to read that last line again.
The Unplugged Vacuum Cleaner
To illustrate this point, imagine having a vacuum cleaner that's not plugged into an electrical outlet. No matter how much the person using it is determined to do a good job vacuuming the floors, the vacuum cleaner will be of no help whatsoever. Why? The vacuum cleaner simply lacks the power to do so without being connected to the source of electricity. This is obvious, I know, but by relying solely on our own efforts (determination, self-regulation, re-commitment to do better), we are like an unplugged vacuum cleaner, incapable of producing lasting change. It will forever be this way. We need to humbly, by an act of faith, “plug” ourselves into God's strength to experience true transformation. I’m not trying to be over simplistic or trite here, but many times our biggest problems throughout the day arise because we are simply not plugged in to the Lord.
Dependence on God's Power
The Lord does not call us to live in human strength alone. The old hymn says, “The arm of flesh will fail you; ye dare not rust your own”. All that relying on ourselves can do is produce failure. Rather, God calls us to consciously depend on Him for the strength to live righteously. Our job is not to be the power source but to rely on the Power Source of right living. As I said recently when preaching in a church: We are not to blame for being innately unable to do a certain thing that God wants; but we are to blame if we don’t go to God to get the ability we need. He has the ability we need! By dependently involving God in a struggle, whether it be for sexual purity, patience, love toward others, self-control, etc., we acknowledge that He is the One who can work through us and enable us to live according to His will.
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
Embracing God-empowered living is the only true way to pursue victory over besetting sins. We must surrender pride and acknowledge that true transformation can only come from the Holy Spirit's work within us.
God- Empowered Living
As we depend on the Holy Spirit to enable us to do what we cannot do, we tap into God's limitless resources. He actually gives us the desire and strength we need to overcome temptation and live clean lives. It may be a little hard to get our mind around it, but this is really what God is after. He has the grace I need; now I have to avail myself of it.
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).
The above verse means that He is willing to send “all” grace our way – as much as we need. This is what Hebrews says: Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
According to this verse, we can “find” that grace as we look to Him in a “time of need”. Are you doing this?
So, to summarize: In our pursuit of getting on the victory side of a struggle, whether it be regarding a clean thought life, not being fearful, or overcoming pride and selfishness, we must recognize the wrong way to approach these goals. Relying on our strength alone will lead to a cycle of failure and despair. It is time to get out of the cycle. Instead, the answer is this: We should humble ourselves, literally “plug into” God by real dependence, and embrace the grace He gives us in that moment for righteous living.
By relinquishing any self-reliance and depending wholly on God, we open ourselves to His amazing work in our lives. You can experience lasting victory and true purity! Let’s willingly submit to Him. He knows the challenges and temptations we face. Let’s face them looking dependently to Him.
In the last blog post, I dealt with overcoming temptations in a large airport with thousands of people milling all around. Of course, the principles I'm sharing can apply to any venue. In this post, I’ll give a few more points to help with victory.
4. Avoid the obvious places where you know you will struggle
If I had it my way, I would not have chosen to have the “4-Airport Day” that I mentioned last time. But sometimes it may happen. However, there are certain venues that are bound to produce some temptation that are best to avoid altogether. If you know you are going to have a struggle at the mall, or the ball game, a parade, or the annual fireworks display, etc., be wise and avoid the large gatherings. If you know that at certain venues there is a high chance of finding “trouble,” it is best to ask for God’s wisdom, come up with an alternative, and stay away.
Proverbs 4:14-15 Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.
5. Be in the spirit of giving out the Gospel
On trips such as the trip to Canada, I try to make it a habit to give out Gospel tracts to those who are sitting around me. Giving out a tract to a seat mate and perhaps getting to witness to them is a “mindset”. To stay in this mindset – to be ready always (ref) – means one cannot descend into sexual, lustful thoughts. If he does lust, it will take them out of the spiritual ballgame every time.
By the way, in the illustration in the last post of the young lady sitting next to me, I tried to give her a tract at the end of the flight. Guess what? She took it. Would I have given it to her if I was in a lustful mindset? I doubt it.
6. Have Scripture Memory tools at hand
If I can try to have a few verses to work on, it will help fill my mind, as opposed to sitting in an airport for an hour just mindlessly watching all the sights around me.
The real problem a man has with lust is in his thought-life. Lust lives and feeds on images in your thoughts and mind. When a man casts down the idea of letting his mind be a safe-haven and breeding -ground for sensual thoughts, and begins to line the walls of his mind with God’s Word, something has to give.
Conclusion: The temptations of this world are not going to go away. If you have a massive, day-and-night lust struggle, a few tips from this blog post will help you, perhaps, but they won’t completely root out the major problem you have on your hands. Only Jesus can do this. He will need to have your full permission to do a complete overhaul. Purity Plan Ministries is designed to help a man with major lust struggles. Please reach out to us if we can help you.
Remember, a victorious focus will always be found by “looking away to Jesus” [see Hebrews 12:2a]. Only walking with Him moment-by-moment is going to keep you from lusting person-by-person.
Theme: Steps to keep you out of "lust traps" in public places
Recently, I was flying back into the States after a preaching trip to Canada. The flight to Canada was relatively straight-forward and I had only 1 stop-over. However, the return flight home was a little different. There were 2 stop-overs, including a lot of time going through Customs as I re-entered the States. I believe I spent about 10 or 11 hours in the air or in various airports (i.e. Winnipeg, Toronto, New York, St. Louis). Needless to say, with a “4-Airport day,” it was a long day.
This all resulted in a lot of time around a lot of people. Needless to say, on a hot day in July, with people traveling to all sorts of summer destinations, many of the women were not dressed modestly. I believe that some people don’t actually care whether they are dressed modestly or not; others dress on purpose, it seems, to attract your eyes. So, as I made my way through the airports, trying to find my way, one of the most significant issues I had was the matter of some very improperly clothed women.
I will have to say that the Lord brought me though a long, tiring day in victory, even with many ungodly sights. But my heart goes out to others who often have to resist similar levels of temptation, perhaps even daily at work. How does a person keep their heart pure when out in settings where there are a myriad of temptations? Here are a few thoughts:
1. Get your heart in the right place before you leave.
When you know that you will likely be heading into a situation with significant temptation, make sure you are on firm spiritual ground first. You should consecrate your day to the Lord, commit yourself to Him, and pray for a successful and godly day BEFORE you even get on the road. The day that lies before you may, perhaps, be hectic. It will likely have some frustrations, disappointments, challenges, and many decisions to make. The key is, in the midst of all this, you must center your heart and mind on God (see Colossians 3:1-2). You must make a full commitment to do His will, walk in the Spirit, and depend on Him for the strength for the day. You likely won't make it spiritually if you don't.
The Bible says, A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished. Proverbs 22:3
If a person is in regular “failure mode” in public situations, often it is due to a battle not won at the heart level BEFORE entering the arena of temptation.
2. Bounce your Eyes [Don’t focus]
Some people enjoy “people watching”. Indeed, people can be interesting to watch. But, if I want to stay above the struggle, I cannot focus on people who will be temptations to me. Any kind of real focusing on women will often be the start of other problems. So, when I am in public arenas, I am constantly bouncing my eyes off potential landmines, and not “locking” on any person or part of the body.
3. Avoid even looking
On one of the full flights, a young lady came to my row, asked me about the seating arrangement and sat down next to me. I could see in my peripheral vision that she was not dressed properly, and in my mind this posed a potential temptation. As the flight was a couple of hours in length, I had a decision to institute throughout the time she was seated next to me. The decision was: “I won’t look”. Period.
Of course, to implement a “no look” policy doesn’t mean keeping your eyes closed literally all day. That’s impossible, and it’s not what I’m saying. You actually have to look at a million things to navigate through an airport. You have to look where you are going, where your gate is, when your flight leaves, your seat location on the plane. But, there are some things you don’t have to look at: What that particular person is wearing, that attractive woman in the checkout line in front of you, a person showing lots of skin. Did I momentarily look at the young woman when she spoke to me? Yes. Did I “look”? No.
Most men would understand the nuance.
Curiosity killed the Cat
A guy who constantly struggles with lust is probably in the throes of a condition I’ll call “The Obsessive Fear of Missing Out” [o.f.o.m.o]. He has a pleasure-driven curiosity that obsessively “looks” for potential sexual objects. All throughout the day, every woman is a possible “treat” to the eyes (at least until he looks and decides it’s not something he wants to lust after). This condition is also the reason men continually flip through the channels on a TV with a remote. It may not be only with lustful motives, but they are scanning looking for the next “treat” to the eyes or senses.
Peter speaks of the lifestyle of unregenerate men in this way: “Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin;...” [2 Peter 2:14] Sadly, this is also the template of some believing men.
When around tempting women, victory in the mind comes down to making a God-dependent decision that says, in effect, “I won’t look to see if she pretty. I won’t look to see if what she is wearing is revealing or tight.” My eyes belong to the Lord (I Corinthians 6:15-20). I belong to the Lord, and I “keep” my soul, by “keeping” my eyes in His keeping.
There are a few more strategies that can help us in this area. I will deal with them in the next post.
Looking back, it has probably been at least 3-4 years that I have wanted to write blog posts about purity-related subjects.
A lot has changed in our life over the past few years (i.e. stepping down from the pastorate, moving from where we lived, setting up our online curriculum to help promote Biblical morality, recovering from Lyme disease, etc.). In all the changes, the desire to write content on purity has survived. In fact, now it seems more important than ever.
In these posts I hope to provide solid, Biblical thought applied directly to the sexually-toxic culture we all share. My burden is the strongest for struggling men, but I believe that the content here will be helpful to most everyone, not just those who are struggling – wives, parents, pastors, etc.
My goal is to help people find real victory over sexual sin - victory that is found only in Jesus. To that end, I trust readers will find Jesus time and time again shining through the lines of these posts.
Thanks for stopping by.
Having successfully helped men for years who have had struggled with besetting sin, Dave has a real heart for those who are daily besieged by temptations to impurity. This blog is designed to be a help to those who are looking for answers.