Lust vs. the Desire for Sexual Intimacy

Question from a Site Viewer
My question is about lust. Can it be beaten totally? Or will lust always be a factor, and I need to stay strong? Also, is the desire for sexual intimacy different than lust? I’m torn about this issue, and being a teen I sometimes feel it’s just normal to give in. Any advice?

Tim’s Answer
Thanks for your question.

First, there is a difference between lust and natural desire for sexual intimacy. I believe that all (or nearly all) humans have a natural desire for sexual intimacy. I believe that God created us with such desire. However, God created us with a will that is stronger than the desire and with a design that the will keep a reign on that desire. Thus, one of the fruit of the Spirit is “self-control.” We are told not to yield our members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but to yield ourselves unto God and our members as instruments of righteousness. In 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5, Paul urges us to abstain from sexual immorality and to possess our vessels in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God. Paul speaks in Romans 1 of those who turn that natural desire into an unnatural desire.

Thus, the desire for sexual intimacy is not sin, at least as I understand Scripture. I think that many in the church in the past have greatly erred on this matter, seeking to become monks to drive away the desire, only to find that the desire remained. The ascetics went out into the desert to flee from the desire, only to find that the desire came with them.

Believing the desire to be good, I think it becomes bad only when the desire is allowed to control us or we use the desire to obtain gratification in unlawful ways in the sight of God. Thus, the desire becomes a powerful expression of unity within marriage, and Scripture states that husbands and wives ought not to defraud one another in this matter, except to devote themselves to pray for short periods of time, then coming back together (1 Corinthians 7:5). The expression of sexual intimacy within a marriage is God’s design, and is a good thing (Hebrews 13:4). The Proverbs tells us to rejoice in the wife of our youth and let her love always intoxicate us (Proverbs 5:15-20).

However, the expression of sexual intimacy or the giving over to sexual fantasies outside of marriage is evil before God. I believe it requires constant vigilance to avoid the ways of the world and keep oneself unspotted before God. Joseph is such a good example, because his motivation to avoid sexual sin was his great desire not to sin against God in this matter. Such action is well pleasing to God.

The battle to keep sexual desires in check until marriage is a good battle. It is a battle worth fighting and worth winning. I give the following advice. When looking at a woman, always look at their face. This helps you see the woman as a person, not as some sexual object. Avoid magazines and pictures of scantily clad women. I know this is difficult, especially in our world, but make it a priority. It will serve you well to always look away when faced with such pictures. Keep any sexual thoughts in the abstract, never focused on an individual, until you find that special person. Pray about this matter with God. Seek His will and direction. He will go with you and provide you the guidance.

There is a common error that I see often in some Christian circles. It is a view that sex is a bad thing. I find such view not supported by Scripture. I think it is more healthy and Scriptural to view sex as something that is good, but to be expressed only in the marriage relationship. Moreover, sex is not the only good thing. There are many other good things in life that one can pursue during the time before one is married. Focus on those things. Pursue them, and then when the right person comes along for you, you can pursue a sexual relationship in the commitment of marriage.

I pray that God will continue to lead and guide you as you seek to follow our Lord Jesus.

your fellow servant,

tim

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