3 minute read

John Piper on Fighting Lust – ANTHEM

Last Updated: October 28, 2020

Luke Gilkerson
Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Your Brain on Porn and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

This short article is from the minsitry of Desiring God, available in their online Resource Library.

I have in mind men and women. For men it’s obvious. The need for warfare against the bombardment of visual temptation to fixate on sexual images is urgent. For women it is less obvious, but just as great if we broaden the scope of temptation to food or figure or relational fantasies. When I say “lust” I mean the realm of thought, imagination, and desire that leads to sexual misconduct. So here is one set of strategies in the war against wrong desires. I put it in the form of an acronym, A N T H E M.

A – AVOID as much as is possible and reasonable the sights and situations that arouse unfitting desire. I say “possible and reasonable” because some exposure to temptation is inevitable. And I say “unfitting desire” because not all desires for sex, food, and family are bad. We know when they are unfitting and unhelpful and on their way to becoming enslaving. We know our weaknesses and what triggers them. “Avoiding” is a Biblical strategy. “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness” (2 Timothy 2:22). “Make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).

N – Say NO to every lustful thought within five seconds. And say it with the authority of Jesus Christ. “In the name of Jesus, NO!” You don’t have much more than five seconds. Give it more unopposed time than that, and it will lodge itself with such force as to be almost immovable. Say it out loud if you dare. Be tough and warlike. As John Owen said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” Strike fast and strike hard. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” ( James 4:7).

T – TURN the mind forcefully toward Christ as a superior satisfaction. Saying “no” will not suffice. You must move from defense to offense. Fight fire with fire. Attack the promises of sin with the promises of Christ. The Bible calls lusts “deceitful desires” (Ephesians 4:22). They lie. They promise more than they can deliver. The Bible calls them “passions of your former ignorance” (1 Peter 1:14). Only fools yield. “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter” (Proverbs 7:22). Deceit is defeated by truth. Ignorance is defeated by knowledge. It must be glorious truth and beautiful knowledge. This is why I wrote Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ. We must stock our minds with the superior promises and pleasures of Jesus. Then we must turn to them immediately after saying, “NO!”

H – HOLD the promise and the pleasure of Christ firmly in your mind until it pushes the other images out. “Fix your eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 3:1). Here is where many fail. They give in too soon. They say, “I tried to push it out, and it didn’t work.” I ask, “How long did you try?” How hard did you exert your mind? The mind is a muscle. You can flex it with vehemence. Take the kingdom violently (Matthew 11:12). Be brutal. Hold the promise of Christ before your eyes. Hold it. Hold it! Don’t let it go! Keep holding it! How long? As long as it takes. Fight! For Christ’s sake, fight till you win! If an electric garage door were about to crush your child you would hold it up with all your might and holler for help, and hold it and hold it and hold it and hold it.

E – ENJOY a superior satisfaction. Cultivate the capacities for pleasure in Christ. One reason lust reigns in so many is that Christ has so little appeal. We default to deceit because we have little delight in Christ. Don’t say, “That’s just not me.” What steps have you taken to arouse your affection for Jesus? Have you fought for joy? Don’t be fatalistic. You were created to treasure Christ with all your heart – more than you treasure sex or sugar. If you have little taste for Jesus, competing pleasures will triumph. Plead with God for the satisfaction you don’t have: “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Psalm 90:14). Then look, look, look at the most magnificent Person in the universe until you see him the way he is.

M – MOVE into a useful activity, away from idleness and other vulnerable behaviors. Lust grows fast in the garden of leisure. Find a good work to do, and do it with all your might. “Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord” (Romans 12:11). “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Abound in work. Get up and do something. Sweep a room. Hammer a nail. Write a letter. Fix a faucet. And do it for Jesus’ sake. You were made to manage and create. Christ died to make you “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). Displace deceitful lusts with a passion for good deeds.

Fighting at your side,

Pastor John

© Desiring God

  • Comments on: John Piper on Fighting Lust – ANTHEM
    1. This is a good article.

      I wish the acronym was a little easier. We need something quick and simple (Like ABC which the Red Cross uses). It’s hard for me to remember ANTHEM one minute before I step over a bottom line.

      Nevertheless, I like the content of the article.

    2. This is a great article and I will share this strategy with my boys. Thank you, John.

    3. I love how 4 out of 6 of these are so positive. Gaining ascendancy over porn is not a matter of control, but of feeding your desire for God. I tried for years to control my problem with pornography, but it wasn’t until I sought a higher love and desire that my life began to really change. “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.”

      I love what Thomas Chalmers said in his sermon, “The Expulsive Power of a New Affection, “It is seldom that any of our tastes are made to disappear by a mere process of natural extinction… But what cannot be thus destroyed may be dispossessed—and one taste may be made to give way to another, and to lose its power entirely as the reigning affection of the mind.”

      I seek more and more to be captured by the love of Jesus, and the hope of His calling, so that I can die to lust with a smile on my face.


    4. James

      I know… I was stiff necked and stubborn, suffered greatly for sexual sin(s), porn, adultery, one night stands, even though in my heart i knew i was doing wrong. I always believed in Jesus ever since a child. I was believing but not obeying.

      Dont think that messing with porn on and off over the years wont weaken you, and corrupt your mind. Run brother run! The devil wants to destroy you. If you knew what i saw and the terrors of it all, and nearly dying and ending up in a hospital for a month, you just couldn’t even comprehend it, or EVER want to. I believe I barely escaped the fires of hell.

      It was revealed to me that i deserved to die, but God in His mercy still saved me.

      Its taken a few years to be functional again and to begin really healing.

      Praise God for his corrections and rebuke, without it I wouldn’t have had any hope.

      He still loves me, and you too.

    5. Mac Fish

      Thank you for your comment James- for sharing your experience! It is encouraging and challenging for us all. Pipers article is so condensed and packed full of light that it exudes exciting radical hope and implores us to live a full life of victory over the sexualized nature of our current generation! The power of the cross is often denied or ignored when dealing with the sins we love so very much… but like Piper challenges us with this ANTHEM we have a mighty advocate who commands us to take offensive/defensive action against the ruling power of sin in our own bodies!!! The comments on each word in the acronym are very powerful indeed! Praise God for giving us tools to fight this battle!!
      I love the concept of replacement- replace our love for sexual sin with our new radical and insatiable desire for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!! Awesome

    6. Chris

      Hey Thank you so much, for the last 6 years I’ve been caught in the snares of pornography, and it has been killing me softly and distorting my relationship with the Lord, tonight I still am being tempted. Please keep me in your prayers as I am keeping you Brothers in mine

    7. Abs

      God bless. Chris, here is a psalm that has helped me get through my hard times! Only the holy spirit can change you. Ask God for a new pure heart! Cry out to him and use the word of God to provoke God! The bible tells me that if I call on the Lord in truth he will answer me! Tell the lord, “Lord, Im calling on you in truth and spirit, answer my prayer! Break this chains and bondages in the name of Jesus!! Fight! Here is the psalm!
      I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry.

      2 He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.

      3 And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.

      I know the word tells me that If I knock it will be open, if I ask it will be given to me and if i seek I shall find!! God has given you the victory already in the name of Jesus!!!! Fight against those measly demons in the name of Jesus!

    8. Charlie

      I am a Christian and I work in the recovery field. I have a sponsee that has an addiction to pornography. I found that over time I began to have pornographic thoughts, I was in the word and prayed but still relapsed into porn. Even though I have done the 12 steps of aa I was not able to see the start of relapse. I didn’t think it would happen but it did. Now I thank God I have found your web site.I know that I have to have a constant spiritual relationship with Jesus Christ 24-7 to have the power source I need to be free of all addiction. I am going to share this web site with the men I work with.Thanks and may God Bless your ministry.

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