LUST FREE PASTORING
BY DAVID ALSOBROOK
How to resist the temptation of lust in your ministry
We live in a lust-infected society. All forms of media continually bombard us with sights and sounds designed to ignite sensuality.
Instead of providing a safe haven from the attacks of lust, the ministry is actually targeted for more attacks than any other vocation. The most cunning enemy in the universe purposes our destruction, and lust is one of his many powerful weapons of assault.
Pastors are generally aware that outward sexual sins are to be avoided but often fail to see the inherent dangers of tolerating lust.
In my experience, many individual men of God have come to me confessing horrible inner battles with lust. Fearful of damaging their fellowship with God, their marriages and their ministries should they fail morally, they have come to me for help. By the grace of God I have been able to help some of them.
I hate lust because I have seen firsthand the havoc it causes, the lives it hurts, the marriages and ministries it damages, and the
souls it injures. Lust cheapens all it touches; those lured into its trap degrade and debase themselves and others. Lust devalues the appreciation of marriage and causes frustration and pain in many marriages whether it is externalized or not.
Considering the public carnage caused by sexual lust in the ministry, we might assume that there would be a sober attitude among
preachers today. However, I frequently hear some pastors joke about lust. From what I’ve learned about lust, I know that these preachers are often masking a hidden problem in their own lives.
WHAT IS LUST?
The Bible uses the term “lust” to denote more than sexual desire. Lust refers to any natural, human desires that are expressed
illegitimately or intemperately. Manna-loathing Israel is said to have lusted for meat (see Ps. 78:18). Lust is too much desire. Many marriages suffer when one of the marriage partners’ sexual drive exceeds normal limits. Lust is illegitimate desire, which leads to covetousness and greed for material things. Lust is the basis of all temptation: “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed” (James 1:14, KJV).
The object of lust can be food, power, prestige, money, sex–in short, “all that is in the world” (1 John 2:16). Because any human appetite can become infected with lust, it rarely confines itself to one mode of expression. It is even possible to lust for a bigger ministry!
In recent decades, much of the focus in ministry has encouraged rather than curtailed the appetite for possession, recognition and
personal fulfillment. This naturally leads to one of the strongest drives of our nature: sexual lust.
Moffat’s translation renders 1 Corinthians 6:13 this way: “Now the body is not for lust but for the Lord,” inferring that our bodies
can only be used for one or the other, not for both. This is why every Christian should make lust-free living a lifelong, permanent goal–especially since our Lord equated lust with the act itself: “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28, NKJV).
James 1:15 declares, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (KJV). Notice that death begins with lust. The effects of lust are evident everywhere. Consider the disaster wrought by the failures of some of our most noted leaders in the previous decade: “And he called the name of that place Kibroth-hattaavah [the graves of lust]: because there they buried the people that lusted” (Num. 11:34).
Ask any Christian leader who has fallen prey to sexual lust if his core of affections has not been burned. -Do not lust after her
beauty in your heart…Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? (Prov. 6:25, 27, NKJV).
There’s a lot more to having a lust free ministry than following such common sense rules as:
1. Don’t counsel alone.
2. Don’t be too friendly with members of the opposite sex.
3. Take your wife with you when you visit.
4. Keep your marital relationship fresh.
Although all of these admonitions are good, they do not cure the inner problem many preachers have. Jesus counseled a promiscuous woman alone at a well, yet His disciples knew He was lust free (see John 4:27). A former prostitute traveled with Jesus as part of His entourage (see Luke 8:1-2). Jesus was free on the inside. Many men of God never fall into outward sin but suffer from years of inner defeat and reduced anointing in ministry as a direct result of inner bondage to lust.
One successful pastor in his 70s confided, “I have never been free from lust in my entire adult life.” Another defeated minister
admitted, “I feel like a dying salmon swimming upstream against a powerful current.” Like so many others, this pastor could not refrain from fantasizing about certain women in his congregation even while ministering. I saw him several years later and he told me, with great joy, that he was free.
SIX STEPS TO LUST-FREE PASTORING
1. Recognize the reasons. Why do I have this problem? What triggers lust in one does not in another. Are you trying to medicate
an inner pain that just won’t go away? Sometimes the reason is much deeper than sensual baseness.
One of the common underlying causes is loneliness. Another common factor is insecurity, which is a major ministry problem in itself. Sometimes our love for Jesus wanes as the world pulls at us. Maybe the roots go back to childhood molestation, abuse or an environment of family sins. Even Christian homes can be lust-plagued. God will reveal the core reasons as you pray in an honest, open manner to your Father.
One thing true of all lust is that selfishness is the root! This is where responsibility and repentance come into focus. We are not
responsible for the core hurts in our lives (other than to forgive all who wrong us), but we are responsible to recognize that we lust because we care more about ourselves than our Lord, our loved ones and our calling.
The desire to gratify oneself is the essence of selfishness and a root of every lust problem. It can only be dealt with by the cross of
Christ. “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:11).
When we recognize why we lust we must ask for the Lord’s healing of our inner man. There may be family curses that need to be addressed and broken as well as evil spirits that need to be rebuked and cast out.
2. Define the symptoms. How do I manifest this problem? Write out a personal symptom list beginning with the phrase “Lust is…” and fill in the blank. Then write a Scripture verse after it. In the second step we recognize how we lust. This is why writing out your own list beginning with the phrase “Lust is…” can be so helpful. It brings you face-to-face with the unpleasant reality of your condition.
A personal symptom list helps you target your enemy and recognize your areas of weakness because lust operates in patterns of thought. It helps you stop before you get started by seeing how the enemy works in your mind.
It is amazing how much victory comes by just writing out your own symptom list. Don’t just think about them. Write them out followed by the appropriate verses of Scripture. Here are some samples:
Symptom: Lust is a wandering eye–turning my head toward attractive people, looking the second time.
Scripture: “Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you” (Prov. 4:25); “‘I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a young woman'” (Job 31:1, NLT)
Symptom: Lust is using my spouse as an object rather than expressing genuine love through marital relations.
Scripture: “That each of you should know how to procure himself a wife in holiness and honor, and not for the mere gratification of his passions” (1 Thess. 4:4-5 Weymouth, RSV).
Symptom: Lust is pausing at a newsstand to glance at the covers of erotic magazines, watching inappropriate programs, going to sensual movies.
Scripture: “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” (Psalm 101:3, NKJV).
Symptom: Lust is placing myself in dangerous situations that incite my passions or make me vulnerable to outward sin.
Scripture: “Flee sexual immorality” (I Cor. 6:18); “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness” (2 Tim. 2:22); “She caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside” (Gen. 39:12).
What are your definitions of lust? How do you internalize it? How do you externalize it? Lust can be a major blind spot–when one is so accustomed to it that the conscience is cauterized. It takes a major working of the Spirit to awaken some from this condition.
3. Make yourself accountable. Few of us have the fear of the Lord in our lives as we should, otherwise we would never tolerate unclean thought patterns because “the fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way” (Prov. 8:13).
Most of us who have lost battles with lust need the support of someone of our own gender who is strong in the Lord in this area, yet sympathetic to our weaknesses, to lead us to inner moral purity. Finding such a person can be difficult, but God can direct us to someone who embodies Romans 15:1 and will bear our burdens. James had this in mind when he wrote, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, in order that you may be restored” (James 5:16, Norlie).
The value of a Christian buddy system in combating any fault or area of weakness cannot be overstated. The requirements for this type of relationship are confidentiality and commitment. It is possible to be too transparent with those who do not have your best interest at heart. They can turn against you and tear you to pieces, even projecting their own guilt or jealousy against you!
This is why we need relational friendships with other peer-level leaders. All you really need is one true friend to help you be
accountable (Eccl. 4:9-10). Paul advises, “Practice bearing one another’s burdens, and in this way carry out the law of Christ (Gal.
4. Use Satan’s weapon against him. In the familiar account of David and Goliath we read: “So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone…But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it” (1 Sam. 17:50-51, NKJV).
Lust is illegitimate desire. Satan uses this against us in the area of the sex drive. We can take his own sword, however, and use it against him! He lusted for the very throne of God (Ezek. 24:14, Is. 14:12-14). Satan’s illegitimate desire for God’s throne resulted in his downfall.
The next time the devil tempts you with illegitimate sexual desire remind him of his lust for the throne. He doesn’t like to be
reminded of it. This step helps us defeat the author of lust by reminding him of his defeat.
5. Focus on love. Another powerful step in overcoming lust is to focus on its opposite–love. Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and Romans 13:10. In order to measure the amount of God’s love in your heart and life, put your own name every place it says “love” and say it aloud. You will both laugh and cry when you take “The Love Test.” Then to see how you compare with your example, put “Jesus” every place Paul says love.
Paul shows us what love is and does. John describes more fully how we can become filled with love. 1 John should be read frequently, especially the third and fourth chapters. Whenever I realize I am becoming “loveless” (less loving) I ask the Lord to pour His love in my heart afresh by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5).
It is impossible to lust after someone you love with agape. Make any lust object a target of prayer, and desire God’s highest and best for that person’s life. This fifth step helps us see there is no lust in love. We overcome the counterfeit by focusing on the genuine. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21).
6. Make lust-free living a lifelong goal. In the last dozen years I have prayed with many men who struggle with lust. It is a much
greater problem than many in the church are willing to recognize. Many pastors desire God’s will in their lives, but lust has been a poison in their systems they have not been able to neutralize–a besetting sin that weighs them down (Heb. 12:1-2).
I plead with them and with you, if you have this problem, deal with lust before it damages your life, your marriage and your potential in the body of Christ.
If lust tempts you now, then:
Confess lust as sin to God, receiving His forgiveness while affirming your stand against it.
Learn to associate lust with pain rather than pleasure, knowing the truth that all lust eventually causes pain.
Refuse to be driven by lust in your marriage. Instead, use the physical aspect of marriage as one of many expressions of love for your mate.
Live in the awareness that God is watching your thoughts (see Heb. 4:13). Ask Him to give you His love for anyone you are tempted to lust after, and pray for that person to know the love of Christ.
Overcome evil with good by filling your thought life with godly virtues (see Rom. 12:21; Phil. 4:8).
Learn to appropriate grace when you are enduring a time of testing (see Heb. 4:16).
Never allow a mental slip up to bring you to despair; confess it and go right on believing God to perfect that which concerns you (see Ps. 138:8).
Make lust-free living a permanent goal, enjoying the liberty God increasingly gives you.
Share your victories discreetly and properly with those of your own gender.
Minister to struggling believers as the Holy Spirit leads you.
Make lust’s opposite-love–a lifelong pursuit, frequently listing the characteristics of love from 1 Corinthians 13 in your heart.
Find a prayer and accountability partner.
Avoid any movies or music that focus on lust.
Enjoy and cherish your spouse in thoughts, words and actions.
Fill you idle time with prayer, Bible study and special times alone with your spouse.
Decide before you are tempted how you will react to lust with holy and pure thoughts and actions.
Now pray this prayer: “Father, I come to You in Jesus’ name today. I have just read this article, and I am convicted by the truth
in it. I do have a problem with lust. I ask Your forgiveness and truly desire a life free from lust-bondage. Give me Your grace to implement what I have read and to believe I can be truly free! Amen.”
DAVID ALSOBROOK is an avid snorkeler who enjoys playing with dolphins, turtles, eels and rays. He has written 35 books including Learning to Love.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY MINISTRIES TODAY, SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER, 1998, PAGES 36-39.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.