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Defeat Lust & Pornography 8 minute read

How to Overcome the Flesh

Last Updated: February 27, 2023

Most people who are parents, or have had parents, can relate to a scenario like this:

A child is watching, doing or listening to something objectionable, and the parents either catch them or realize the thing or activity isn’t wholesome. What happens? The typical response is usually a strong “Don’t do that! Don’t watch that! Don’t listen to that!” followed with an appropriate punishment.

What’s the problem with this parenting response? Proverbs tells us to train up a child in the way they should go and when they are old they won’t depart from it (Prov. 22:6). Reactionary parenting, if it doesn’t go any deeper, doesn’t train the child in the way they should go, it trains them in the way they shouldn’t go.

The child doesn’t learn what to do–they just learn that something is bad. And if they were enjoying it, they’ve most likely just created a shame-based identity formation that says, “I like a bad thing; therefore I’m bad.” In the end, the confusion and shame-based identities actually drive them toward bad behavior, rather than from it.

Christians are in a similar conundrum. We all know lust and pornography are bad. We all know what we should do, but how do we get there? How do we actually find freedom?

It is like this: you are lost, and you pull over to ask a local resident for directions, “Excuse me. Can you tell me how to get where I’m going?”

Their terse reply is a matter-of-fact, “Well you sure can’t get there going this way.” And before you utter another word, they scoff and turn away.

“Great, I already knew I was going the wrong way. Now what?”

You spot another local, “Please, I know I’m going the wrong way, but can you tell me how to get where I’m going?”

“Yep. You sure are mixed up. You need to be heading north, and you are going south,” they chuckle and amble on their way.

What happens? Maybe you take a wise course correction and at least start driving in roughly the right direction. But most likely this type of scenario would create confusion and frustration that leave you feeling more lost.

It’s Not About the Nots

I fear we’ve bred a generation of believers whose souls are fixated in the way they shouldn’t go. My personal experience and the experience I have ministering to men is that most Christians are inherently focused on the “nots and don’ts.” We are acutely aware of what we shouldn’t be doing, what we shouldn’t be thinking, how we don’t measure up, what we don’t have, how we fall short, what we haven’t done, what we aren’t doing, etc.

But God isn’t interested in what you’re not. He’s interested in who you are. He’s not training you how to not look at porn but how to walk as a son. Walking like a son will show you how to not look at porn but the converse isn’t true–simply not looking at porn can never teach you who you are in Christ and how to walk with Him.

Nevertheless, this dilemma plays out with Christian men trying to navigate the sea of lust that’s out there. Paul writes in Colossians 2:20-23,

Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations ‘Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,’ which all concern things which perish with the using-according to the commandments and doctrines of men? These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.

Did you get that? The Bible itself says do’s and don’ts can’t help us stop sinning.

When tempted, “Don’t do that! Don’t think that! Don’t watch that! Don’t like that!” All those sound godly, don’t they? What we’ve been taught as “spiritual advice,” the Bible actually calls carnal thinking. Don’t get me wrong, lust is sin; we just can’t beat it the way we’ve been taught. You see, don’ts have no power against the indulgence of the flesh. They tell you what not to do, but don’t tell you what to do or how to think. They tell you not to think like a devil, but don’t teach you how to think like God and see life from His perspective.

How to Overcome the Flesh

The Bible makes it crystal clear how we overcome the flesh. It isn’t with ten steps. It isn’t by trying really hard. It isn’t even by getting super spiritual–but rather by walking in the Spirit.

Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. –Gal. 5:17

By the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the flesh. –Rom. 8:13

Basically the entire New Testament is full of this truth. Different writers refer to it in different terms: walking in the Spirit, putting on Christ, walking in the new man, walking in the light, etc. And without fail, these concepts are contrasted with their counterpart: walking in the flesh, being carnally minded, walking in the old man, walking in darkness. Without fail, these passages shout from the rooftops: this is how we stop sinning!

The devil has taken this simple answer and made it more complicated and overly-mystical than it needs to be. Most of the instruction out there on walking in the Spirit is either too vague, too weird, or too impractical to do us any real good. Walking in the Spirit isn’t weird or hocus pocus. It is, however, fundamentally different from the do’s and don’ts that most of us have been trained by.

Because we don’t know how to walk in the Spirit and be spiritually minded, the problem is we only know what we know. All our life we’ve been carnally minded, so when we come up against a temptation, we relate to it like we’ve always related. If we try to fight it, we are fighting in a carnally minded way. Walking in the Spirit isn’t for the super spiritual elite who have arrived someplace you haven’t. You have the same Holy Spirit as anyone–and He’s waiting to show you how to think His thoughts and then walk with you through your times of testing.

Walking in the Spirit

All of us have been trained by the world from the minute we drew our first breath. We are born into sin and the carnal mind has created “ruts” or tracks that our mind runs on. When we are exposed to a temptation, our carnal mind knows how we’ve responded to that in the past. We’ve been conformed to the image of the world. So when we come up against temptation again, we are inclined to go down that path again and again, unless, through the Spirit, we are given a new way to think and walk altogether.

If there’s a “Step 1”  to walking in the Spirit, it is this:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. –Rom. 12:2

The Bible says we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16), and we have been made one with Him (John 17:22). This means exactly what you’d think: we have the right and ability to think the same way Jesus thinks about things. We can start to view people and temptations the same way Jesus would view them if He were walking in our bodies (because He is!).

Renewing your mind is an activity you can initiate at any time with the Holy Spirit who is living in you. Simply take some time to sit with Him and ask Him to give you Jesus’ thoughts about the thing or person tempting you.

Walking in the Spirit doesn’t start when you face temptation. If you wait until then, it is too late. Walking in the Spirit starts now. Even as you read this, sit and ask God to give you new ways of thinking, new ways of seeing, new ways of feeling and watch as God puts His thoughts in you. He gives you new perspectives. He fills you with His love. Then when you are later confronted with temptation, you already know how you are going to think, feel and walk. You’ll have options you never had before. When you face temptation again, you’ll have a different track for your mind to run on.

Our Minds Can Change

One time, while God was teaching me this, I struggled with a temptation to look at porn. I complained, “But God, I really like pornography.”

Then a thought came into my mind that I know was the Holy Spirit, “What if you don’t?” I had never even contemplated the idea that maybe I really didn’t like pornography. It was as if the spell was broken as I allowed God to minister this truth to my heart that I really didn’t like it. It was as if new pathways, new ways of thinking were being formed in my mind.

Later I was thinking about a person who was a typical trigger, something that sets off the chain reaction in your soul that leads to a fall, for lust. Similarly I allowed God to reshape my thinking about that person. The things that used to trigger lust in me, a scantily clad woman for example, now elicit a totally different response in my heart. Now I see a person who Christ died for, a person who doesn’t know their created value, and doesn’t know they are worth the blood of Christ.

This way of thinking has re-trained my soul to be moved in love rather than inflamed in lust. The same trigger has become a catalyst for the Holy Spirit to be released in me rather than for lust to be resurrected in me. Yes, there is still a temptation to walk in the flesh, but now I’ve got options I never had before. I can walk in the Spirit because the Spirit has shown me how.

You see, if we have the mind of Christ and the Holy Spirit in us, then we have the option to be spiritually minded and to think like Jesus does. God can renew your mind and rewrite what you do and how you think when your triggers go off.

You see, God trains you in the way you should go–rather than you simply knowing the way you shouldn’t go. When you are triggered, you’ve been going in the wrong direction because you didn’t have a clear understanding of any other direction to go in. What you need to know is the way you should go. And you already have the tools in God to get the proper directions.

If you’d like more information about any of the truths presented in this article, check out The Mighty Man Manual by Jon Snyder. It’s been a tool to help thousands of men and women find freedom from lust and learn to live in the fullness of all God has for them.

  1. Hello. I have been a trapped servant of the pleasures of the flesh for decades. I have tried the blocking of access to porn sites but realize that all that does is remove a tool that I use to achieve my goal of sexual satisfaction.
    Not having the visual imagery from actual porn scenes does not stop the need to indulge. I will just turn to using visuals in my own mind, creating porn type scenes in my mind, or using remembered visuals of actual porn scenes viewed, or viewing in my mind the beautiful women I saw throughout the day.
    So the problem isn’t just the porn sites, their just tools. Rid one , use another!
    The problem is within myself, not the actual tool! How do I deal with that! Especially since their is plenty of triggers.
    The lusting really comes down to coveting which in turn becomes idolatry when the lust/ coveting is compulsive. Addiction! As there are many different kinds of addictions.
    So, for me anyway, blocking porn sites will not really help! Because the sinfulness is in the flesh/ carnal mind. I’m so tired of the fight! I always fail. Guilt? Oh yea!!!
    When Jesus said, “ It has been said, you shall not commit adultery , but I say to if you look at a woman with lust , you have already committed adulatory in your heart” . That is a tough one, especially today!
    If I see a woman and if I feel she is beautiful and sexy, and that is all I feel and / or think about her, have I committed adulatory in my heart? Yes, I know if I keep thinking about her in a fantasy way, using an image of her beauty to achieve sexual relief, that I have committed adulatory in my heart.
    I also wonder if the sex addiction is also a chemical addiction? Meaning, addicted to the chemical reaction/ production of the endorphins , etc. , in the pleasure centers of our brains, just like the, “ runners high”, for people who run/jog compulsively.
    Either way, I hate being a sinner, especially in my weakest area…lust.

  2. I love this. Actually, I wrote about a similar thing on my blog and I must say this knowledge is too expensive for money to buy.
    Keep doing the good works of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hoping to partner with you someday. God bless you.

  3. rose

    Don’t agree with the poster who said she thinks masturbation is normal. It is normal in the sense that it is a part of whole focused inward living for self thing we all inherit and which affects all levels of our humanity. But she fails to understand the principle of habituation. It is almost impossible to masturbate without some manner of fantasy or imagination. Usually the person or situation being pictured isn’t one’s spouse if one is actually married. Men who masturbate eventually develop problems with being able to have erections. In masturbatory fantasies, it always goes our way, is usually gratifying and exciting in an extreme way and very condensed .. Its about getting off. Its not about deep respect love and tender affection, patience, love, trust and attraction for someone you have committed to for life. Its about what self wants now. Like any drug ( our bodies release chemicals in response to things) it eventually requires more intensity and daring to produce the same high if one is addicted to it which happens as habitually practiced whether we realize it or not. Anything we do regularly we are beginning the process of habituation, laying down tracks . At first we are in control or so we think. But then eventually the tracks we have laid grab our wheels and something else is in control. This applies to all forms of satisfaction/gratification. It all emanates from and affects our heart and life. So no I don’t think masturbation is okay or normal , I think its one of those things with diminishing returns that entraps.

    Sadly, woman struggle with masturbation and porn more than ever these days and not just men. Many of the women’s romance novels are soft porn in actuality.

  4. BOB SCHROEDER

    I have been struggling with masturbation since I think 10 years old and my family caught me, then tried to look @ women then think they are forcing my clothes off. I heard a sermon at church called “Flesh and the Spirit”; the pastor now says we all are of the flesh and can’t enter the kingdom of God. So, I want to make myself right with God and Jesus, I am tired of doing things of the world as the world will soon pass away. Thanks and God Bless you all!

    • Moriah Dufrin

      Bob,

      It is not an easy thing to step forward and share your struggles! So, thank you for doing that. I would encourage you to continue turning to Christ as a source of hope and healing. If you don’t already use Covenant Eyes, I would also encourage you to use our accountability software.

      Do you have a trusted friend, leader, or family member who could help keep you accountable in this fight to victory? It is certainly not something that we can tackle on our own.

      Blessings, friend!
      Moriah

  5. Sally Spears

    Sir…you have NO IDEA how much you have helped me!!!! Hahaha well…actually you DO i.e. writing this article!! Sorry! I am that adult who began her childhood as always either a day late or a dollar short. It’s always been “if I’d have juuust done this…or not done that…THENNN I’d have made her proud or done it right.” Turned me into a perfectionist but never realizing it til about 5 yrs ago. It’s been so difficult, and I say that lightly, struggling and struggling with the KNOWING “I’ve got God’s Holy Spirit in me, but if I do, then, why can’t I stop this or that and why do I not WANT to?? I must not be walking with God.” And being so unbelievably heartbroken cuz it totally was in opposition with my gut, heart and soul. Then, add others telling you that you’re a hypocrite or a phony cuz you still do a, b or c…even tho you’ve NEVER denied stopping and are openly transparent about all your sins!? The worst has been from Christians, and good ones, whom I respect, tell me I’ve gotta do the work too…repent!!…do what’s right!!…you know better now!! And to someone who genuinely and authentically loves the Lord and believes He WILL move mountains not can, and is beyond open honest and willing in prayer…hearing these things makes you feel like the biggest let down disappointment to God ever and you honestly understand and “agree with Him” as to why He is so disappointed in you. Allllll a big lie!!! My heart, gut and soul has been right ALL along!! I’ve kept hearing that my feeling ok with doing a, b or c is not godly so my feelings can’t be from Him. Made sense to me but only intellectually. And at same time, my feelings of asking God to change my heart’s and mind’s desires to His while NOT TRYING to STOP doing a, b or c was me not doing my part…again, making sense but only intellectually. And, now i learn my feelings from heart, gut and soul were both right??!! Thank You Jesus!! Thank You thank You thank You!!! Ive KNOWN that God has known I haven’t been lazy!!!?? I pray to Him lately over this all the time saying “You KNOW my heart Lord, You KNOW where I’m at, I’m totally honest with You, and I’m SO confused!!” Thank you for being of His service and writing this. It is gonna be my whole game changer. I KNOW this already! I want to share this with SOOO MANY PEOPLE I know who have been in chains and ashamed and agree they belong there!! I love you sir so much right now and forever and can’t wait to meet you in heaven!! I love You Father for loving little ol damaged, ripped, torn, bruised, battered, worn out me…lil ol undeserving me…is wanted…and with ALL my CRAP (and I got bunches dude)!! I’m so honored and grateful and thankful. And in Jesus name…i KNOW You have ALREADY saved my boys too, Father…i thank You for ALREADY doing this and answering my prayers for their salvation…please forgive me Lord of all my stupid sins…i ask You to please change my thoughts and wants and desires to Yours…i can’t do this on my own and honestly I don’t want to…You know my heart God…thank You for loving me and allowing me to feel like when I was little again…funny I never felt little when I was little…thank You for giving me that…Jesus please continue riding shotgun with me everywhere I go…i know You’re with me and wanting to be and that’s the coolest…You choosing to give Your life for me to be able to live with You and God BOTH our dad’s plus getting to see my real daddy again too…??…is it bad I’d be fine with dying right now?? I’m sorry if it is. Thank You. In Jesus name I pray all this beauty…amen

    • Moriah Dufrin

      Sally,

      Thank you for sharing your heart. Isn’t it amazing that we can find hope and healing in Christ? Keep clinging to Jesus, for only he can pull us out of our misery.

      If you are having feelings of hopelessness or a desire to end your life, please call the National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255. You can also search for counselors or therapists in your area and reach out to them to guide you through your current struggles.

      Blessings,
      Moriah

    • Bird

      Sally, each and every moment of your reaction to this moved me & felt in tune with my own experiences as of late – as my heart and spirit have been echoing these same feelings and frustrations you shared. I’m overwhelmed with excitement for you and from your wonderful show of gratitude with this message to Jon Snyder and sharing a slice of your story with the other readers. Can I just send many blessings and so much love your way. Wishing you all the best, sister in Christ and thank you truly for being a major part of what impacted me so much in reading the article and your comments following it. Seeing my own reflected difficulty with these things, the strife and frustration I felt, and realization of what the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ heart had been leading me towards this whole time in a way I wasn’t expecting. His ways are not like our own that’s for sure and it’s wonderful to see the beautiful, way in which He leads us here and shows us the difference. I’m filled with gratitude for what you offered in testimony, Jon’s teaching and all of God’s goodness. Thanks a ton from a fellow child of God, fighting for our Faith and living to the fullest through His Grace. All the best to those finding this page and their own footing along His path lined mercy, truth and love.

  6. S Young

    I will pray for you, David. Just as Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry His cross, we must also help others carry theirs.

  7. Richard Christian

    Overcoming the flesh is all done by faith. The power of all sin has been defeated at the cross. We overcome all of these things by simple faith in Christ and what He did for us on the cross. The good book says in Romans 8:10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. All sin was defeated at calvary and we walk this way by simply believing it. Regardless of what you may feel, think or go through attempting to do this. Once we finally start believing God and what His word says then and only then can we walk completely free from all addictions. Replace your old sinful mind with the good word of God and eventually none of these things even bother you. You will find it becoming easier and easier as time goes on. It’s just like any addiction you may have. You will have cravings and desires for the thing pretty strong at first but the more time that goes by, the easier it becomes until eventually you don’t even think of the thing anymore. If we set our minds on the word of God instead of these things then eventually it becomes living in our very being and we walk this way naturally. God allows us to go through temptations and trials in order to strengthen our faith. You can walk free from everything by simply believing it. You also need the word of God living on the inside of you so it’s very good to always read it. We are not fighting sin, we are fighting the good fight of faith. When you get past something you were dealing with for the longest time then if something else comes up you learn to trust God even more. You can say Lord you got me past this so I know you’ll bring me through this. God is not angry at us when we sin, so we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over it, but it grieves the Spirit of God to see these things going on in His children.

  8. Nathalya

    Thank you so much for this article! As of now, I’m struggling with lust. I have a trigger person and I can’t get him off of my mind. I promised God that I’ll remain a virgin until marriage, physically I’m still but morally I’m so impure and it makes me so sad. I keep failing God, I always decide to stop but then all of a sudden I’m commiting the sin again. This article is very helpful and reassuring.

  9. Shona

    Thank you so much for this topic. This was the answer to the prayer I prayed this morning. “ How do I overcome my flesh?” This was my question. I know it’s not godly to do this, to think that way, or to feel these feelings. Thank you for actually telling me “how to” according to the word. This is my answer sent from God through your post,simply praying this prayer: Lord give me a new way of seeing, a new way of feeling, and a new way of thinking. Praise God!!!!

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