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Reflections on C.S. Lewis and Killing Lust

Last Updated: May 17, 2021

Brian Gardner

Brian Gardner leads the Sexual Integrity ministry at Xenos Christian Fellowship. By day, he works as a software developer; the rest of the time he leads a college home group, teaches classes on pornography addiction for men, does pastoral counseling, and tries to find time once in a while to play some golf. Brian has been married for almost 35 years and is the proud father of two grown kids (and grandfather to one grandson). He blogs at “Bought With a Price."

I first discovered the Breaking Free blog somewhere around the beginning of 2008. I was in the middle of extending the curriculum I had developed for the Sexual Integrity for Men course that I teach. In the midst of my research on the web for resources, I found a link to Luke Gilkerson’s blog at Covenant Eyes. I was hooked at once.

I have been a Covenant Eyes user and supporter for many years and firmly believe it’s the best accountability software out there, but we need more than the reinforcement of having someone know what you’re doing online. There’s also a need for mental transformation by the word of God and the power of the Spirit.

  • Seeing the effects of pornography on the minds of those who abuse it, the negative effects on spouses, families, friends, and ministry, and the devastating consequences of sin left unattended is important.
  • Understanding the power and primacy of the grace of God as witnessed through the cross of Jesus Christ, the friend of sinners like me, is important.
  • Moving towards real community through accountability, confession, caring, and prayer is important.

There is more, but to put it as simply as possible: it’s important to formulate a Christian worldview on sin, grace, and redemption, and to be continually re-inoculated with the truth. Breaking Free is a great resource that helps to meet that need in my life, and I’m sure the lives of many of its readers.

One of my very favorite posts, C.S. Lewis on Lust (Part 1), excerpts a story from The Great Divorce. If you don’t know what I’m talking about go read it right now – I can wait. (Read Part 2 and Part 3 if you like, but don’t forget to come back here.)

Now that you’re back let’s reflect on Lewis’ insights into lust.

1. The inner turmoil of the one caught in sin.

The “ghost” is experiencing what we have all experienced: the love/hate relationship with his sin. Even when we see the pain that bondage to pornography brings us, that “I can’t believe I did that again” feeling, we still hold on—it has become a most comfortable tormentor. The pleasures that it brings are small, but so familiar and easy. We would like to experience true intimacy, but to put away our habit exposes us to uncertainty. Will my needs be met? Will the other person hurt or reject us or not come through for us? All of these fears are related to our faith. What we are really saying is, “Will God come through for me? Can he be trusted?”

Jesus’ answer to that question is seen at the cross. “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32). When you think about it, it becomes quite simple. God was willing to look past your sin and adopt you as his son. He has promised to satisfy you through the loving relationship that you have. “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). The more we know him, the more we see that all of our needs will be supplied through the riches of his grace.

In his A Gospel Primer for Christians, Milton Vincent says,

“On the most basic of levels, I desire fullness, and fleshly lusts seduce me by attaching themselves to this basic desire. They exploit the empty spaces in me, and they promise that fullness will be mine if I give in to their demands. When my soul sits empty and is aching for something to fill it, such deceptive promises are extremely difficult to resist. Consequently, the key to mortifying fleshly lusts is to eliminate the emptiness within me and replace it with fullness; and I accomplish this by feasting on the gospel.” (p. 45)

2. “May I kill it?”

Over and over again the angel asks this same question, persistently, calmly, simply. Sometimes we want to make dealing with lust complicated. Surely, we say, it can’t be as easy as all that. I’m reminded of the man that Jesus encountered who had apparently sat by the pool of Bethesda for a long time, hoping that he might be healed. “When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk’” (John 5:6-8).

Notice what happens in this interchange. Jesus asks a simple question: do you want to be healed? The man responds, “Well, you see, it’s complicated, there are a lot of factors here, and no one seems to care about me, it’s really not fair at all.” Like the ghost in Lewis’ story, the man doesn’t answer the question, because maybe he’s never really asked it of himself. He’s much more focused on how unfair life is than he is on how he might find real healing. Maybe that’s you. Maybe the reason your struggle with lust hasn’t changed much is that you’ve made it complicated. It’s all about your background, and our pornified culture, and the stress in your life, and some deep-seated psychological insecurities, and a thousand little hurts. In the midst of that maelstrom, all of which could all be valid in themselves, stands Jesus, with a hand outstretched and a simple question: “May I kill it?”

I’m not minimizing the real issues and real pains in our lives, but in our constant efforts to be our own saviors, we often look to the things we can do and handle and control rather than allow Jesus to put our sin to death.

3. “There is no other day. All days are present now. This moment contains all moments.”

We all love to procrastinate, perhaps the most venial form of lying to ourselves. We say to ourselves, “I’ll stop tomorrow,” or “I’ll stop when the stress of graduate school is over,” or “I’ll stop once my wife is feeling better.” Paul David Tripp once said, “You live in little moments. And if God doesn’t rule your little moments, He doesn’t rule you because that is where you live.” I was really hit when I heard that. We get used to thinking that only the big things really matter, that our “little moments” are insignificant and unimportant.

This is where the encouragement of an accountability partner comes in: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). When we realize that this moment contains all moments, and that our “little moments” are so significant, another brother or sister can mean the difference between being hardened by sin and repentant joy.

4. “Have I your permission?” said the Angel to the Ghost.

“I know it will kill me.”
“It won’t. But supposing it did?”
“You’re right. It would be better to be dead than to live with this creature.”
“Then I may?”

I love that question—“But supposing it did?” Is it worth suffering pain, or loss, or inconvenience, or even death for the sake of freedom? Jesus said, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43). If God showed you that you would be better off without a computer in your house, could you give it up? What about your Blackberry or iPhone or Android? Could you give that up for the sake of obedience? Dare you be inconvenienced like that? We don’t give up our freedoms easily, but when we abuse our freedoms, maybe it’s time for a change.

So how do we gain that attitude, the one that says I would give up all sinful pleasures to know my Lord better? I think that the answer lies in the question: we give up sinful pleasures, as we know our Lord better.

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11)