This is the fourth and final part to a series dealing with lust and how to find victory. Part III deals with the things we need to “put off.” If we don’t put off, we can’t put on. I hope you’ll find both an aid in your desire for holiness.
12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Rom. 12:1-2)
How do we have our minds transformed? By presenting our entire selves to God in all things. It is not enough to just throw off the old nature. We must, as Scripture commands, “put on Christ.” Below are some of the means I have incorporated in my life which have, by the grace of God, transformed my mind from a lustful, selfish thing to one free to do God’s bidding. I, and other readers, would love to hear your own ways of “putting on Christ.” Please share in the comments!
1. Wonder and Wander in the Word
There is no substitute for God’s word. Gorge yourself on it. Read it with the spirit and abandonment of Peter who said, “To whom shall we go? Only you have the words of eternal life!” (John 6:68) For those of you who are in ministry it is very hard to read Scripture for yourself. If you are like me, I felt I read Scripture a lot because I was preparing a sermon, a bible study or even worse, trying to prove my point via a blog post or some other media.
This is not edifying for you! Pray that God would give you ears to hear what the Spirit wants to say to YOU in this moment, to change you, recreate something new in you that is not currently there. God’s Word is powerful and effective at changing hearts. It will come alive to those who come hungry and thirsty.
A nightly practice of mine for nearly a year was to read 3 stanzas of Psalm 119 every night (and 4 stanzas on the 7th night – in this way you have read the entire Psalm in a week). I read it in hopes of one day being able to identify with it. Over time I found, to my great surprise, that the Scriptures were working on me and I was looking more and more like what I was reading.
2. Pray, Pray, Pray
We need regular dialog with our Father. Set a goal at first to spend 15 minutes in prayer each morning before doing anything else. Find a prayer rhythm. I know some who love to sit and pray. Others write out their prayers. Others, like myself, like to walk and talk aloud to God. I take my dogs for a walk and pray aloud. I never knew this was how I would pray best until being forced out of my routine one day and stumbling upon this exercise. In other words, be open to change!
Knowing what to pray is important, too. While at Pure Life I learned the Mercy Prayer, developed and taught by Rex Andrews. This prayer, I believe, was one of the biggest contributing factors to my own transformation. Praying this prayer is a prayer directly in line with God’s will for not just your life but everyone. I pray it all the time even now. When I am stressed, angry, when my will is being crossed, when I don’t know how to pray for someone who comes to mind, when temptation arises, etc. When you ask me to pray for you, this is what I am most likely praying. Learn this prayer and pray it. It will change your life!
1) Lord, I thank You for_________.
I thank You for saving him. Thank you for what You have done and are doing in his life.
2) Make__________ to know Jesus (more). Help him to increase in the knowledge of God. Destroy speculation and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and help him to bring every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
3) Make__________ poor in spirit. Bring him down Lord, but please do it gently. Help him to see his neediness. Help him to see himself in light of You. Put him in his rightful place Lord.
4) Fill ___________ with Your Holy Spirit. Immerse him in Your Spirit Lord. Come to him in power and in might. Baptize him in fire Lord.
Life him according to Thy lovingkindness. Pour out Your life giving mercies into his soul.
6) Bless__________. Lord, bless him in everything he touches. Bless him spiritually, physically, and financially. Bless his loved ones. Do for him Lord, instead of me.
Flood him with need-filling mercies. Pour them out in super abundance. Find and meet every need in his life as You see it Lord.
3. Read and Study Religiously
You need to fill you mind and heart with wisdom and instruction from godly men and women. Seek out spiritual writers who are focused on repentance and holiness and matters of the heart.
A powerful, daily study guide is Steve Gallagher’s Walk of Repentance. This will take you day by day through 24 weeks of studying the word which will get to the heart of many things in your life and give you a new hunger for God’s word in the process. His first book, At the Altar of Sexual Idolatry is also must reading for anyone struggling with sexual sin of any kind.
Other books I highly recommend, which helped me see a life of repentance as a daily practice:
Many of the spiritual classics are excellent as well. Fenelon’s Seeking Heart, for example, is a wonderful devotional that will help aid in spotting pride in your life and putting it to death.
4. Find a Fast
Victory over lust came for me when I started fasting. I didn’t realize the benefits of fasting until I actually did it. I knew all about it (or thought I did), preached about it, talked about it, but never really did it. And even while doing it I wondered what the use might be. But God revealed that to me soon enough.
For me a good fast is 24 to 48 hours. For a number of months I fasted for 24 hours once a week (one of my weekend days). What I learned during this time was the most valuable lesson anyone struggling with lust needs to learn:
You can say no to your flesh! (and you won’t die doing it).
Having lived such a defeated Christian existence for so long, always giving over to my flesh whenever I desired, saying no to food when I was hungry helped build my spiritual muscles. I was growing in that fruit of the Spirit I lacked most: Self-Control. When I learned that I could say no to food, I knew I could also say no to lust when the temptations arose.
Through the discipline of fasting I have learned that I am no longer a slave to my old self but can willingly choose to submit my body in righteousness and make good decisions when I’m tempted in other directions.
Speaking of fasting, this will be my last post until Easter. During Lent I will be fasting from social media and blogging, along with my weekly food fasts.
5. Journey in a Journal
Whether you type it out on a Word document or like to hand-write in a notepad, it will do you well to write out your trials, struggles, and, as you’ll come to see, victories. Keep a record of God’s work in your life. Write down what He is saying to you in your time in prayer and the word. Talk about what it’s like to walk in victory. Take note of how your thoughts wander and where. During your journal time you will notice areas where you might need to tighten off on the “putting off” and other ways you need to “put on.”
Well there you have it. I pray these bless you as they have blessed me over the past 2 years and continue to do today.
Grace and peace,