This post has been updated as of March 9, 2021.
“Don’t touch. Don’t taste. Don’t handle”. We hear these three “rules” often when learning how to overcome lust.
The problem is, mere rule-keeping does not itself get to the heart of lust. This is one of the great lessons Paul teaches in Scripture. Merely knowing the law only aggravates our lusts (Romans 7:7-12), and following rigid ascetic regulations—don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t handle—is “of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh” (Colossians 2:20-23).
If the “law” itself is not able to turn our hearts away from temptation, then how exactly do we overcome lust?
How to Overcome Lust: 3 Key Strategies
In 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul offers some of the best, most concise bits of Biblical advice on how to overcome lust: “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
Commit it to memory. Chew on it daily. Let your mind marinate in it, for in it lies three biblical strategies for fighting lust.
1. Run From
“So flee youthful passions”
“Passions” refer to our cravings, our longings, our desires. More specifically the passage speaks of “youthful passions.” These fleshly lusts are said to “wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). On the surface, these cravings are anchored in the members of our body (Romans 6:12), but as we look deeper we find they stem from our sinful hearts (Romans 7:7). Ultimately these passions are forms of idolatry (Colossians 3:5), revolving our lives and desires around created things rather than the Creator.
We must run from these things. Every Christian, even though he or she is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, still lives in a mortal body surrounded by worldly amusements. These youthful lusts stubbornly cling to our heels. As we see these passions stirred in us, we must habitually flee from them.
- This might mean mentally fleeing: bouncing our thoughts away from lustful imaginations.
- This might mean visually fleeing: bouncing our eyes away from lustful images.
- This might mean physically fleeing: walking (or running) away from tempting situations.
2. Run To
“. . . pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace”
It is not enough to flee from youthful lusts. We must run toward a new passion. We are to “pursue,” that is, eagerly and swiftly run toward Christlikeness.
Christ promises His people a heart of . . .
- Righteousness (real integrity, a passion for justice, and a life pleasing to God)
- Faith (strong and welcome conviction and trust in God)
- Love (benevolent affection toward God and others)
- Peace (tranquility in the heart and harmony with God and others)
We are to run hard after these things each day knowing these character qualities are how we were created to live. We pursue these things knowing it is our destiny to live this way. A billion years from now, when sin is a distant memory, we will be living lives of love, peace and righteousness in the kingdom of God. Having this hope we purify ourselves, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).
3. Run With
“. . . along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
We must not only run from lust and toward God’s vision for our lives, we must also run with our brothers and sisters with the same vision. We must all find companions for this stretch of the road, those who share our faith and convictions, those in the common struggle for holiness.
These friends should be those who “call on the Lord,” an expression for those who are saved (Acts 22:16; Romans 10:13). These are other men and women who have also cried out to God for the forgiveness of their sin from a “pure” (genuine) heart.
Running with others involves a certain level of intentionality. It is not enough to simply know others around us are on the same journey because they profess a Christian faith. We must have real running companions, those who actually help us flee youthful passions and pursue a Christlike heart.
James 5:16 and Hebrews 10:24-25 offer four key building blocks that give structure to how Christian accountability should look. These building blocks are: meeting together, confession of sin, prayer, and encouragement.
Meeting together is the foundation. This includes all the basic methods of communication and conversation: meeting for coffee, talking on the phone, texting, writing emails, or anything that involves a meeting of minds. The central pillar in the room is confession of sin: getting honest with God and one another about what we are doing that we shouldn’t do or not doing that we should. The outer walls that support and protect this relationship are prayer and encouragement.
Why can’t I just stop lusting?
People ask me all the time, “Why can’t I just stop lusting?” I share my response to these people in this video below, which happens to include references to 2 Timothy 2:22. We believe so strongly that this verse contains the best strategy for how to overcome lust and quit porn that we actually used it as the foundation for a 40-day challenge called Overcome Porn. This challenge walks you through these three strategies and equips you with some of our best resources to put porn in your past for good. So watch this video, and give Overcome Porn: The 40-Day Challenge a try today.
Overcoming lust isn’t easy, but it’s also not something that you need to do alone. Through prayer, Scripture, biblical accountability, and a heartfelt desire to flee from lustful passions, you can fight against temptation and overcome lust.
We’d love to hear from you. What has God taught you about breaking free from lust? Comment below!