Saving grace makes a man as willing to leave his lusts as a slave is willing to leave his galley, or a prisoner his dungeon, or a thief his bolts, or a beggar his rags.
Imagination is a God-given gift; but if it is fed dirt by the eye, it will be dirty. All sin, not least sexual sin, begins with the imagination. Therefore what feeds the imagination is of maximum importance in the pursuit of kingdom righteousness (Phil. 4:8).
Will you give your hours to fantasizing about and dwelling on and longing for the vile things that nailed the Lover of your soul to the cursed tree?
If my thirst for joy and meaning and passion are satisfied by the presence of the promises of Christ, the power of sin is broken. We do not yield to the offer of sandwich meat when we can see the sizzling steak on the grill… At first lust tricks me into feeling that I would really miss out on some great satisfaction if I followed the path of purity. But then I take up the sword of the Spirit and begin to fight… And as I pray for my faith to be satisfied with God’s life and peace, the sword of the Spirit carves the sugar coating off the poison of lust… And by the grace of God, (lust’s) alluring power is broken.
When sexual desire rises Satan shifts his missile carriers into high gear. The rise of sexual desire does not mean victory for Satan, but does mean vulnerability to Satan.
We must not give a sexual image or impulse more than five seconds before we mount a violent counterattack with the mind. I mean that! Five seconds. In the first two seconds we shout, "NO! Get out of my head!" In the next two seconds we cry out: "O God, in the name of Jesus, help me. Save me now. I am yours." Good beginning. But then the real battle begins. This is a mind war. The absolute necessity is to get the image and the impulse out of our mind. How? Get a counter-image into the mind. Fight. Push. Strike. Don’t ease up. It must be an image that is so powerful that the other image cannot survive. There are lust-destroying images and thoughts.
Have you ever in the first five seconds of temptation, demanded of your mind that it look steadfastly at the crucified form of Jesus Christ? Picture this. You have just seen a peek-a-boo blouse inviting further fantasy. You have five seconds. "No! Get out of my mind! God help me!" Now, immediately, demand of your mind – you can do this by the Spirit (Romans 8:13). Demand of your mind to fix its gaze on Christ on the cross. Use all your fantasizing power to see his lacerated back. Thirty-nine lashes left little flesh intact. He heaves with his breath up and down against the rough vertical beam of the cross. Each breath puts splinters into the lacerations. The Lord gasps. From time to time he screams out with intolerable pain. He tries to pull away from the wood and the massive spokes through his wrist rip into the nerve endings and he screams again with agony and pushes up with his feet to give some relief to his wrists. But the bones and nerves in his pierced feet crush against each other with anguish and he screams again. There is no relief. His throat is raw from screaming and thirst. He loses his breath and thinks he is suffocating, and suddenly his body involuntarily gasps for air and all the injuries unite in pain. In torment, he forgets about the crown of two-inch thorns and throws his head back in desperation, only to hit one of the thorns perpendicular against the cross beam and drive it half an inch into his skull. His voice reaches a soprano pitch of pain and sobs break over his pain-wracked body as every cry brings more and more pain. Now, I am not thinking about the blouse any more. I am at Calvary. These two images are not compatible.
The evil in our desires often lies not in what we want but in the fact that we want it too much. Natural affections (for any good thing) become inordinate, ruling cravings. We are meant to be ruled by godly passions and desires. Natural desires for good things are meant to exist subordinate to our desire to please the Giver of gifts. Grasping that the evil lies in the ruling status of the desire, not the object, is frequently a turning point in self-understanding, in seeing the need for Christ’s mercies, and in changing.
Pop theologies baptize the longings of sinful hearts: health and wealth, significance and security, self-esteem, power to get what you want. But the Holy Spirit is in the business of changing what you want.
Imagination is the hotbed where this sin is too often hatched. Guard your thoughts, and there will be little fear about your actions.
The most important thing to remember as we talk about sexual purity is this: God is for you! God wants you to win. People often view God as their adversary when it comes to sex: “He’s against me. He’s hates sex. I’m repulsive to Him. He’s ashamed of me for what I’ve done. And to be perfectly honest, I can’t blame Him much.” Misconceptions such as this only serve to convince us that our situation is hopeless and drive us farther away from the arms of Him whose love and support and affirmation are the only thing that will enable us to win this war with the flesh.