You’ll be free from lust when you’re dead. No, not dead in the physical sense, contrary to the very unscriptural advice that many well-intentioned people give when they say things like, “As long as you have a flesh, you’ll struggle with lust.”
We don’t say similar things about any other sin. You never hear, “You’ll always be greedy.” “You’ll always struggle with lying.” “God can’t deliver you of covetousness.” Yet for some reason, we largely elevate the status of lust to a “bigger sin” than these “little sins.” In doing so, we take for granted God’s ability to heal, deliver, and sanctify us.
I submit that this attitude itself is one of the reasons we aren’t experiencing freedom from lust as easily as we should (and yes, it is easy for God to deliver you from lust). How do we get there? Simple: we have to die.
The Amazing Christian Life of Death
The life of death: does that sound like an oxymoron to you? The Christian life is full of invitations to abundant life through death–and it starts with the “first death” of being born again.
As scripture says, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it. But whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matt. 16:25). The paradoxical invitation and spiritual paradigm is established: we enter into eternal life by laying down our life. We die with Christ and are resurrected with Him. We become truly free by becoming His slave. This process continues for our whole life in every area of sanctification.
Scripture is full of these dualities–seeming contradictions that invite us into this death and resurrection process. God brings us into a spiritual realm of understanding, and our renewed mind receives the things of God and blessings we only enter into spiritually. For example, in Matthew 6, Jesus warns us not to do our good works before men (vv. 1-8). Contrast this with the previous chapter where He says to let men see your good deeds that they may glorify the Father (Matt. 5:16). So which is it? Do good deeds before men or don’t?
The answer comes through this death and resurrection process. When we die to self (self-glorification and pride, the desire to be seen as spiritual), we no longer do deeds before men even if men see them. We are resurrected into selfless freedom. God is then free to take the glory, and even glorify us without feeding the pride that desperately needed to die in order for the blessing to not become a curse to us.
Here’s another example from Luke 12:33-34. Jesus tells us to sell all our possessions and give to the poor–to not store up treasures on earth. We find similar admonishments throughout scripture, yet we also understand from many other scriptures that God’s will is to bless and prosper us–even to leave an inheritance for our children’s children (3 John 2, Prov. 13:22). So are we to be these disciples “owning nothing” like we read in 2 Corinthians 6:10, or blessed sons of Abraham who inherit the whole world (Rom. 4:13)?
The answer is that by dying to the love of money, by being willing to give every penny we own, we actually become free from its false securities. We are then made alive to the Great Provider who can bless us without reinforcing our idols and false gods of monetary security. We become generous like God and able to enter into spiritual blessings that often become tangible blessings.
The Bible is packed with these dualities. Each contains the invitation to real freedom by dying to the carnal man and carnal mind so that we may encounter the Living God and partake in His divine nature.
Duality Not Division
Christianity easily gets divided over these dualities rather than understanding how to “rightly divide” the word of truth and enter into real freedom. For example, whole sects of Christianity have gotten out of balance on the issues above. Some, for example, take vows of poverty. Others teach an imbalanced “prosperity gospel.”
The church is likewise easily divided on sin and how to deal with it rather than understanding the harmony of the scriptures in these dualities. Lust is one of these divided issues with a wide range of teaching that can easily get out of balance.
But when you understand this process, it easily reconciles all scripture–not excluding the importance of forsaking sin. Instead of accomplishing this through the ineffective lie of “try harder next time,” we easily overcome when we enter God’s rest and allow the whole burden of sanctification to fall on the only One able to sanctify us. This isn’t a message of “greasy grace” that gives license to sin, but one of powerful grace that gives the ability in Christ to overcome in a way that legalism never can.
Killing the “Big Sin” of Lust
Why do we give lust greater weight than other sin and allow it to make us doubt Christ’s ability to give us right standing with God?
After committing a “lesser sin” like losing their temper, complaining, or gossiping at work, nearly every man I know hardly gives it a second thought. They confess, repent, and move on. But if they fall to lust, oh my, they’ve just really stepped in it and feel like they are on the outs with God for weeks.
This is not conviction, but a religious spirit that gives way too much emphasis to something puny compared to our awesome God. All sin is small compared to God’s infinite grace and ability to heal and deliver.
Understand something about the devil–he doesn’t care whether he can trip you up with physical sin or religious sin. 2 Corinthians 11: 14-15 says that the devil masquerades as an angel of light to make slaves disguised as slaves of righteousness. He first appeals to the carnal nature of lust saying, “Look at what you’ll gain from this sin. Look at what you’ll miss out on if you don’t indulge.” Then with a switch of his mask, he comes as that angel of light saying, “Look at what spiritual gain you’ll have if you don’t sin. Look at what you’ll lose if you do.”
God must open our eyes to see that this is the same spirit–the same self-centered thinking. The one says we’ll gain in the fleshly pleasure. The other says we’ll gain in spirituality (which is religious self-idolatry). And we fall into a fake “spiritual warfare” between the devil and the devil.
So whether falling to the sin of carnal idolatry or religious idolatry, the spirit of gain and loss is the same. God is altogether separate from this entire line of thinking. Self-centered religiosity can’t free a man from self-centered sin. Ever.
Who the Son Sets Free Is Free Indeed
What can we lose by sinning that Christ hasn’t already purchased? Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound (Rom. 5:20). This means you can’t out-sin grace (if you are honestly pursuing God and His righteousness).
The throne of grace and the blood of Christ stand ever ready to cleanse any sinner who repents. Through this grace, we enter right into the presence of God that is able to change us. We can’t get more of God by our own righteousness. He has already blessed us with every spiritual blessing and given us all things that pertain to life and godliness. In Him, all of the promises of God are “yes and amen” (Eph. 1:3, 2 Pet. 1:3). Christ delivered us from every curse of the Law and your blessing is not based on your works. You can’t add to Christ. You can’t take away from Him. So what do we think we are gaining or losing in this whole sin thing?
When you start thinking like you are free, you’ll begin to understand that you actually are dead to sin in every way and free to come to the Father, to start thinking His thoughts, and to see sin and temptation for the slavery it really is. Apart from this freedom, God can’t give the grace to overcome sin. A humble man struggling with sin but dependent on Christ is far better than a Pharisee who thinks that their great spirituality makes them more qualified for blessings and fellowship with God. Freedom from sin is the reward for being free from sin.
God isn’t controlling you. We are so free that Paul said in Romans 7:17 that it isn’t even him who sins–just sin living in him. It is just this corpse, this dead man, we are supposed to reckon as powerless. A corpse is not affected by drinking poison or medicine. In the same way, reckon yourself dead to sin but alive to God. Then you are ready to begin the journey to freedom.
Yes, this is just the beginning. Knowing you are dead to sin simply removes the idols that inhibit God from giving you more of Himself as He deeply yearns to do. He longs to show you the lies you’ve believed that keep you bound in lust. He longs to heal the wounds of the heart that formed this stronghold. He’s jealous to show you His nature so that you can be more like Him.
It will take time with God to learn to think and walk like Him. He didn’t design it to work any other way because He loves you and wants a real relationship with you. If there were a magic pill for instant freedom, it would be cheap by comparison. Freedom isn’t the means to more of God, but the results of more of God. And God has given you everything you need in Christ to begin to freely and joyously receive everything you need and all the intimacy your heart has been yearning for.
If you would like more help on this journey to freedom, The Mighty Man Manual by Jon Snyder may be an excellent resource as it helps take you through the stages of Jon’s walk into real and lasting freedom.