What God Says About Lust

Written By: Ethan Howard


June 27, 2024

I laid there restlessly throughout the night as, once again, my mind filled with lustful thoughts. Sometimes I would give into them. Other nights, I just felt trapped — even while praying against these temptations. Whether it was masturbation, porn, or sex, throughout my life, there were symptoms of a bigger problem within my heart. Over time, I realized my true problem was with lust.

I remember once hearing a pastor say this:

“The human addiction to sin can be categorized into three vices: power, pride, and pleasure.”

Obviously, there’s a lot of overlap between these three vices. The one that particularly gripped me was pleasure — however, notice that lust resides within all three vices:

1️⃣ People lust for power: instead of using platforms to protect others and improve communities, they abuse their positions to benefit themselves.

2️⃣ People lust for attention: instead of living humbly with what God has given them, they make their viewership, social status, and relationships about themselves because of their pride.

3️⃣ People lust after pleasure: instead of enjoying good things from God in a way that honors Him, they idolize and abuse everything ranging from entertainment to sex.

To a degree, we all struggle with these things. But lust lured me especially with the simple question: “What if?” I found my value in who I could sleep with and how sex, masturbation, or related experiences made me feel.

I’d become a believer in my teens, so purity culture and clear teachings against premarital sex led me to feel a great deal of shame. A few specific verses had been engrained into me:

“But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” — Matthew 5:28 (This is a verse I always remembered while dealing with lust. The implication here is the sinfulness of desiring something that is not yours).

“For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world.” — 1 John 2:16 (Here we see John talk about lust more broadly, in terms of desiring things that are of the world and not of God).

“So flee youthful passions(desires/lusts) and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” — 2 Timothy 2:22 (I always remembered the word “flee,” and felt like it was the one thing I couldn’t do).

These scriptures expose lust as sinful, deceitful, and something that is not of God. They also expose the severity of lust, clarifying that the issue lies with our thoughts and intentions. Lust is a problem of the heart because our behaviors are shaped by our beliefs.

Years ago, I didn’t believe in the consequences that came with unchecked lust — but eventually they found me, bringing shame, depression, and confusion. My lust hurt me deeply and left me in bondage to my sin. Worse, as a full-blown believer, I’d put my trust in the Lord while ‘tasting and seeing that He was good’ (Psalm 34:8), yet I kept going back to my sin. I felt trapped, and as much as I tried to avoid it, this pattern in my life affected everyone around me in some capacity.

When I realized that my view of women and the rest of the world was tainted because of lust, I started to truly believe the evilness of sin. That’s also when I began to fully understand the grace and mercy that God has for me. When I started to comprehend and despise my lustful appetite, the Lord showed me how good His ways are. Instead of obsessing over what not to do, God helped me focus on what I can do: serve and love the Lord with all my heart and live for Him with my mind, body, and soul (Matt. 23:37).

Through wise counsel and the honest community of fellow believers, I realized that, ultimately, my sexual desires were good. Sex is a beautiful gift from God that He has given within the covenant of marriage. It’s good because God created it! The first time I learned this, I literally cried tears of joy because my perspective of sex had been tainted for so long.

I’m constantly reminded that our God is in the business of redeeming. When we put Jesus at the center of our desires, we start to see the beautiful gifts we have in and with Him. Pursuing purity is good and holy, and pursuing righteousness simply guides us to live a better life. This doesn’t mean the struggle and temptations go away, but the first part of the battle is fought by exposing sin for what it is.

As Paul states in Ephesians, we are to ‘be strong’ and ‘put on the full armor of God to stand against the schemes of the devil’ (Eph. 6:10–20). We do this by being real with people, exposing sin to the light. Be accountable with a trusted brother or sister in Christ who can check on you and ask the challenging questions.

We also need to be real with ourselves about the type of content we consume. Once I started doing this, I was surprised to see how easily my mind wandered because of something “innocent” on social media or YouTube. We need to prioritize our time with the Lord through prayer and by studying his Word. Be real with God and take comfort knowing that we can’t surprise Him with anything. Find peace in talking to Him and trusting His will as you walk with Him. As Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 4: 3–4,7:

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”