Previously, we noted the Bible’s teaching that sexual lust is due to a sinful heart. Consequently, the place to begin in dealing with sexual lust is the heart. For the unregenerate, this means a spiritual heart transplant is necessary.
36:26-27 describe this spiritual transplant like this, “Moreover,
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove
the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My
Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful
to observe My ordinances (NASB).” The
prophet Jeremiah called this the spiritual heart transplant the New Covenant in
In the New Testament it is referred to in various ways, for example,
John 3:5-8 describe it as being born of the Spirit, and Titus 3:5 describes
it “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit. Notice that spiritual birth is God’s work and
man does not initiate it. “But as many
as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to
those who believe in His name who were born, not of blood nor of the will of
the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God John 1:12-13 (NASB).” As this verse intimates, one experiences the
new birth and gets a new heart by receiving Jesus Christ.
Once the new birth replaces old unregenerate heart through faith in Christ, a person has the God-given resources to overcome the monster of sexual lust. Here is what the apostle Peter says about God provision:
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust
2 Pet. 1:2-4 (NASB).”
Without heart-change, it might be possible to manage behavior for a time, but eventually sexual lust will manifest its enslaving, idolatrous power through mental and or physical immorality.
Unfortunately, the new birth does not automatically provide freedom from sin. Sin’s enslaving power has been broken, as Roman’s 6 reveals, but what is true spiritually takes time to manifest itself experientially. It requires Spirit empowered effort on the Christian’s part to defeat the old slave-master sin (
Rom. 8:13). The battle against sin will not end until the
believer’s glorification when they are made like Christ (1John 3:2-3).
How does the believer defeat sexual lust? First, they must acknowledge and confess their sin. Secondly, they must renew their minds. Third, the believer must practice what biblical counselor Jay Adam’s calls radical amputation. Finally, they must establish accountability. While confession is truly the first step, steps two through four should be worked on simultaneously. We will now examine these steps in more detail.
The first step of acknowledgment and confession of sin is crucial. As Abercrombie and Skinner say in Wonderful Counselor, this step seems simple enough but often we resist due to pride (Pro. 29:23), self devotion (
Rom. 1:25), a refusal to call sin what it is ( 1 John 1:8) and
sundry other reasons.
Confession is more than simply saying, “I sinned.” Tripp says a person’s confession needs to be
concrete and specific, and not weakened by “if onlys.” God
makes it clear that failure to acknowledge and confess sin is foolish and
spiritually detrimental. Proverbs 28:13
says, “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who
confesses and forsakes them will find compassion (NASB).” In addition, James 4:6-10
teaches that God gives grace to those who humbly face up to their sin but he
resists those who are too proud to do so.
Of course, we must not forget 1 John 1:9 which promises, “If we confess
our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us
from all unrighteousness (NASB).”
Too many believers have falsely assumed that once they confessed their sin they have dealt with it properly. As author and biblical counselor, Kerry Skinner is fond of saying, “confession is common but repentance is rare.” Confession of sin is truly just the first step in overcoming sexual lust or any sin for that matter. Repentance requires that we forsake our sin and live for God’s glory. Repentance will not happen if we do not strive to renew our minds, practice radical amputation and establish accountability.
The apostle Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect
( NASB).” To the Ephesians he wrote, “that, in
reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is
being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed
in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of
God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth Eph.
4:22-24 ( NASB).”
Every believer needs to renew their minds continually with God’s truth,
but this is especially true for those who are battling the monster of sexual
lust. For our purposes, we look briefly
at five key passages of Scripture that if rightly understood and applied will
equip the believer for victory over sexual lust. Many other Scripture passages speak to the
problem of sexual lust but the five chosen cover the most salient points.
The first key passage is
2 Pet. 1:3-11. This passage is listed first because it
teaches that God has granted to the believer everything he needs to live a
godly life. Furthermore, it reveals that
believers are partakers of the divine nature and that because this is true they
have already been released from the lust that corrupts the world, including
sexual lust. This passage also makes
clear that it is the believer’s responsibility to be diligent and disciplined
in their pursuit of Christ-likeness. Spiritual growth and victory over sin do not happen without sustained
effort by the Christian.
1 Thess. 4:1-8. This passage states in the clearest terms
possible that it is God’s will for Christians to refrain from sexual
immorality. Then it talks about
controlling one’s own body so as not to hurt others or take advantage of them
The fourth key passage is
1 Cor. 5-7. In this passage, Paul warns about the
toleration and dangers of unrepentant sexual sin. Paul demands that the church discipline a
sexual immoral person who is unrepentant. He goes on to teach about how the body belongs to Christ and that sexual
sin for a Christian is a misuse of the physical body and sin against the
spiritual body of Christ. Paul says a
Christian is obligated to bring glory to God through the proper use of their
physical bodies. Then in 1 Cor. 7 he teaches
about the proper context of sexual expression.
The final passage is
Eph. 4:17-5:21. Paul begins by reminding believers of the old
humanity’s corruption from which they have escaped. He instructs them to strip off the old
humanity like old dirty clothes and to put on the new humanity. The pattern for the new humanity is Jesus
Christ. Paul gets very specific about
what to take off and what to put on and he deals specifically with sexual
immorality in Eph.
These five passages of Scripture will renew the believer’s mind if they are thoroughly studied and digested. As stated before, two other steps need to be practiced simultaneously with mind renewal, and they are radical amputation and accountability.
Radical amputation is based upon Jesus teaching in
Matthew 5:27-30. Jesus taught that the sin of sexual lust is
so deadly that one must be willing to deal with it in a radical manner, thus
the illustration of plucking out one’s eye. In the words of Jay Adams, “. . . radical amputation is Jesus call on us
to incapacitate ourselves so that we find it extremely difficult to sin as we
did in the past.” According to Adams, four principles based on Jesus teaching are the
essence of radical amputation. First,
one must recognize they will be tempted to repeat their sin. Second, one must prepare to defeat temptation
in the future. Third, if old sin
patterns cannot be avoided, one must be willing to take concrete and radical
action to keep from falling into sin again. Finally, absolutely nothing must be spared in the process.
How radical amputation looks for a believer bound by sexual lust will depend upon the sinful behaviors connected to it. For those addicted to pornography, radical amputation may mean canceling internet service, cable television, getting rid of their computer and possibly the television. It could mean avoiding certain places and certain people. Whatever one can do to avoid temptation and falling into old sinful patterns, must be put into action.
The final step for overcoming sexual lust is accountability. Steve Gallagher says, “Sin is running rampant in the Church because Christians can now live out their lives without any true accountability for their actions.” Every Christian needs to be accountable to a local assembly of believers because it is God’s will (
Heb. 10:23-25). Additionally, they need someone who is fully committed to provide loving structure, guidance,
assistance, encouragement, and warning for the change God is working in their
person of accountability is especially needed by those struggling with an
enslaving sin like sexual lust. They
need a person like Paul describes in Galatians 6:1-2. “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any
trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness;
each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one
another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ (NASB).” If the person who is struggling with
sexual lust is married, they must be accountable to their spouse. It may not be prudent for the spouse to know
all the intimate details but they should be informed enough to pray, protect
one from temptation and provide accountability.
To summarize, the biblical steps for overcoming sexual lust are confession, renewal of the mind, radical amputation and accountability.
 Jay E. Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling: More Than Redemption (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 263-266.
Ab Abercrombie & Kerry L. Skinner, Wonderful Counselor: A Return to Truth (Fairhope, AL: Biblical Counseling Institute, 2007), 54-55.
 Paul David Tripp &
Others Change (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2000), Lesson 10, 5.
Adams, A Theology of Christian Counseling:More Than Redemption, 265.
 Steve Gallagher, “Breaking Sexual Idolatry (Part 2),” (Jan. 2010), [online], accessed 20 June 2010; available from http://bibletherapy.com/breaking-sexual-idolatry-part2.html; Internet.
 Tripp, Helping Others Change, Lesson 12, 6.