Lust and the Light

by John Kim(ble)

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible (Eph. 5:8b-13).

Lust (n.) – a sinful longing, often sexual.

This four-letter word is often the elephant in the room. The consensus is that men, believers included, struggle with lust, which men can act upon through pornography and masturbation [1]. How might we address this?

In light of the union that believers have with Jesus Christ, God has redeemed us to walk as children of light. Faced with an un-respectable sin like sexual immorality – and its shame – the flesh seeks to mask and mitigate, not mortify, sin. The carnal mind is one wherein sin, especially lust, thrives. It feasts on lies and binds itself in the darkness.

Believers must fight the urge to cower from the light and instead, drag lust into the light where God has set us.

One way to drag lust into the light is by practicing confession in everyday conversations with brothers in the church, and to make this a practice, not a rare event [2]. Confession, acknowledging sin before God and before others [3], loosens lust’s grip on our hearts and our tongues.

Too often, I try to hide lust in the darkness by saying “I’m okay,” or, “You know, it’s a struggle.” Hiding lust in the darkness means masking details about my purity, especially when I don’t “feel” pure. Shining light on lust means voicing a confession like, “I was tempted to sexual immorality [e.g., dwell upon an image/idea, flirt with temptation, watch porn, masturbate, etc.],” opening my life for observations.

Shining light on lust exposes me to questions such as, “When are you tempted to commit sexual immorality? What lies are you believing when you act upon lust?” Hiding lust in the darkness feeds the half-truths and lies that go unchallenged. Hidden in darkness, I believe lies such as, “Confession won’t change anything,” or, “If I do confess, once is enough for me.”

Shining light on lust pushes me to articulate the lies that I have devoured to soothe my calloused conscience. Shining light on lust presses me to examine my rationalizations, which, though they had flowed plausibly in the recesses of my mind, now sputter like babble when dragged into the light of lust-killing conversation.

Hiding lust in the darkness numbs me to God’s word and twists my view of God and His grace. Shining light on lust awakens me to God’s word – a lamp to my feet and a light to my path (Psalm 119:105) – in which God’s truth exposes the lies for what they are and, ultimately, shines the true Light (John 1:1-5; 8:12).

Now, this might tempt some to imitate Jonah and take the opposite approach – to flee crucial conversations. But, for Maranatha’s men, I pray that we would pursue the light and the light of God’s revelation fulfilled in Christ:

The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone (Isaiah 9:2).

Day-by-day, may God shape us into men who set the culture of confession, repentance and faith, one conversation at a time, anytime, anywhere.

So, let’s talk.

Have you had any healthy experiences with confession or accountability in the past? Any disappointing experiences? If so, what could have been done differently in your efforts to confess sin and seek or provide help? Why do you think we are so prone to avoid the topic of lust in our conversations? Practically speaking, how can we help set a culture of confession and repentance?

Leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Helpful Resource:

Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace by Heath Lambert

[1] Books and articles that cover a wide range on this topic abound. The scope of this post will be the power of confession in the fight against lust. For other practical methods and more information for women/wives, please look under "Helpful Resource."

[2] I am not suggesting that we now treat lust as a trivial or casual thing, for instance, joking about lust. This matter is serious and we need to retain that attitude (Ephesians 5:3-4).

[3] Confession generally shows evidence of God’s grace in leading one toward repentance (i.e., the fruit of a repentant heart).