The whirlpool of emotions threatened to engulf her. Her throat ached with unshed tears as she curled up on the cold floor of her dark dorm room. I can’t believe I gave in again! It was supposed to go away once I came to a Christian college. I’m not supposed to have these desires. I’m not supposed to like these things. It’s dirty and wrong. She shoved the offending laptop across the scuffed floor of the freshman dorm. What had begun that afternoon as a seemingly harmless moment of fantasy had quickly digressed into an evening reading the stash of books hidden far beneath her bed and ended with her manipulating the school’s Internet protection controls to visit illicit websites. “Oh, God!” She cried in agony, the sobs finally ripping from her throat. “How do I stop? How do I get back to purity? How do I fight this… beast inside of me?!
The Nature of the Beast
Current society takes it for granted that pornographic websites, erotic videos and romance novels are a normal, healthy part of the human sexual experience. Popular media depicts romance as a fit of overwhelming lust that turns into ‘like’ the morning after, and – if you’re lucky – develops into ‘love’ when you move in with each other. But that isn’t the nature of lust. Lust is not the prelude to love. Lust and love do not go hand in hand. They are not similar, they don’t come from the same motivation and they don’t lead to the same place.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Love is from God (1 John 1:1-8).
Lust is selfish and about what makes self feel good. Lust is all about giving in now. Lust dares you to indulge in the things you stand against. Lust ends quickly and leaves a trail of hurt in its wake. Lust is the Devil’s counterfeit for love. It’s a cheap, destructive and addictive alternative to love. Short of an intervention of Divine power and grace, a life characterized by lust will always be driven by lust. This is why marriage to the love of one’s life does not stop a spouse from cheating or prevent an addiction to pornography. Lust is a sin (Matthew 5:27-28), and like all sin, it will destroy you (1 Peter 5:6-8).
As females we long to experience the beauty of love. And so, when presented with the temptation to indulge in some type of lust, we take it, unaware that pornography, erotic literature and fantasies will exploit our heartfelt desire for true love and reduce it to ashes, leaving us wounded and addicted. No female is exempt from this temptation. The more we deny and ignore it, the more vulnerable we are to succumbing to temptations in the dark, secret places of our lives. While Christian parents are finally having the difficult conversation with their 12-year-old son about the sexual temptations he will face, most are not having that same conversation with their 13-year-old daughter. Meanwhile, the current generation is being strangled to death by the sins of lust. Statistics show that in a typical small group of Christian college-aged girls, 4 are sleeping with their boyfriends, 3 are reading trashy romance novels and sexting their guy friends, 2 are addicted to pornography, and the good girl of the group struggles with sexual fantasies.
No matter how attractive it may appear on the surface, lust is a beast whose only goal is to steal, kill and destroy. “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” 1 Peter 2:11
Awakening the Beast
The single, uniting factor in any group of Christian girls is the desire for love. No shock there. But often, rather than waiting in purity as our Lord asks us and living in the power of the Holy Spirit through the grace of Christ, we ‘indulge’ in lustful sin as a temporary fix for the lack of love in our lives. You may buy into the lie that lust is just a temporary fix until Mr. Right. Or maybe it’s a way to punish God for not giving you a man. Or it could just be something to keep you occupied on yet another date night without a date. But no matter how harmlessly it begins, that is never how it ends. Because lust is a raging lion, always hungry, never satisfied, with ever-expanding appetites that will consume you.
Surprisingly, science agrees with Scripture on this issue. Neuropsychiatrist Norman Doidge’s scientific research reveals that pornography results in addiction and an eventual decrease in pleasure. Scientists also report that pornography should not be encouraged if we are to preserve the health of individuals and communities. Journalist Pamela Paul surveyed pornography users, discovering that for most users, pornography quickly becomes a slippery slope, leading them to engage in acts they once held in disgust.
The Bible is crystal clear regarding its stance on lust. Sexual acts or fantasies before the God-ordained time (also known as marriage between one man and one woman), is a sin (Genesis 2:22-25). While it’s a book of love poems, Song of Solomon also serves as a powerful warning not to participate in the sin of lust. This book is a heart-pounding, knee-shaking, shockingly passionate love story between a king and his new bride. Yet, in the midst of waxing poetic about her new husband’s muscles, she pauses to warn her bridesmaids three times, “Promise me, O women of Jerusalem, not to arouse or awaken love until the time is right.” Song of Solomon 2:7, 3:5, 8:4 As a woman, thoroughly enjoying her honeymoon, she tells her friends, “love burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame…. Many waters cannot quench love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” Song of Solomon 8:6-7 Inside God’s parameters, the blazing inferno and intensity of love is safe and beneficial. But if her friends were to partake of this raging inferno before God’s time, they would be burned.
As the new wife of Solomon said to her friends, I say to you – do not arouse or awaken love before God’s time. Don’t seek sexual knowledge or expand on what you already know. Guard your innocence. It is the best weapon against temptation.
Conquering the Beast
“There is so much secrecy and fear.” Michael O’Brien, lead singer of the contemporary Christian band NewSong, publicly confessed his addiction to pornography. “I should have been kicked out of NewSong for the things I was doing. That would have done more good for me than bad and made me realize how serious things were. I was consumed with guilt, shame and all the things that happen when you hide sin.” Michael was introduced to pornography at the age of six, when he caught a glimpse of a Playboy Magazine; by age 12 he was addicted to hard-core pornography. For some, like Michael, it starts by accidental viewing of a dirty magazine. For others, it begins with a love of love and fanciful imagination that digresses into impure exploration. For still others, it’s the result of an inappropriate act by someone beyond their control. The reality is in this sinful, sex-crazed world where porn/erotic content takes up over 12% of all websites, that every man, woman and child will be exposed to lust-inducing materials. And with the increase in singleness in the 20-something-aged church and the saturation of sex in contemporary media, young women are struggling more than ever with sexual sin. Lust is all around us – so how do we fight it?
Fight lust with purity and holiness. If you’re innocent, you must fight to remain pure. If you’re battling temptation, you must fight to resist. If you’re engaged in sins of lust, you must cry out to God. The only way to conquer the beast of lust: our repentance and God’s grace.
Confess: let your guilt and shame turn into grief over your sin. “Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead and your members as instruments of righteousness.” Romans 6:13Confess your sins to God and to other believers. Exposing secret sins to the light removes their power over you. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:5-9
Flee: Part of repentance is turning from the sin – getting as far away from temptation as humanly possible. “Flee from sexual immorality.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) Flee from everything that you connect with the sin of lust. It may mean only using your laptop in public places when people are around. It may mean disabling the Internet browser on your smartphone. Or giving away all romantic books. Or turning off the TV…a lot. Or creating a temptation-free playlist on iTunes. If you flee temptation, God is faithful to provide an escape. (1 Corinthians 10:13) “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” 2 Timothy 2:22
Accountability: Nothing defeats secret sins faster than public confession to believers who will hold you accountable. Find a couple of mature believers who love you enough to ask the hard questions and help you live in repentance. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” James 5:16 As a believer, you are dead to sin and lust, and have been given life through Jesus Christ! Choose to live like the free, holy and cleansed person that you are. (1 Peter 1:14-16, Romans 6:9-10)
Live: in grace. You have been forgiven your sins of lust. You are set free. Now, live in that freedom. There was a woman caught in the very act of adultery, dragged by the religious leaders into a public square and thrown at the feet of Jesus for judgment. He looked at them and said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” They went away one by one, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. He said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:1-11) Jessica Harris explains, “Go and sin no more” is the crux of grace. Mercy says “I won’t stone you” and leaves you there cowering on the ground. Grace is what says, “Get up and fly.”
Battling the Beast: a girl’s fight against lust
Freedom. Grace. Strength. Power.
These emotions felt completely foreign to the college freshman. After baring her sins, struggles and temptations to her Small Group Leaders in a crowded Starbucks, she anticipated more guilt at the public confession of her shame. But instead she experienced her forgiveness for her secrets, sadness over her sin, strength to repent, and freedom to live as Christ intended. Scripture Memory cards in one hand, latte in the other, she left the coffee shop overwhelmed at the grace available to save her from this sin.
Late that night, in the darkness of her dorm room, she opened her journal and scribbled across the page, Jesus versus the beast: day 1 = victory.