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Striking At The Heart of Lust

Sixteen-year-old Alex of Tampa, Fla., feels defeated. "I’m a Christian," he told me, "but I get so caught up in the things of the flesh—especially lustful thoughts. I feel as if my faith has lost its fire, and I feel distant from God. What should I do?"

Now listen to the pain—and the hope—of a young man who asked to remain anonymous:

"Lust has been a battleground for me. I was first introduced to porn when I found some in my dad’s closet. To be honest, I knew it was wrong but I still looked at it. Then Satan began attacking my purity. But I serve a powerful God! We are called to flee from youthful lust (2 Tim. 2:22) and to intensely pursue righteousness! Psalm 119:9 asks the question, ’How can a young man cleanse his ways?’ It says, ’by taking heed according to your word.’ The writer goes on and talks about seeking God with your whole heart. The way we can be pure is not by seeing how close we can get to the line without crossing it, but instead by seeing how close we can get to God. Each morning, I strive to make Hebrews 12:1-2 my prayer: ’Lord, help me throw off the different sins that entangle me and allow me to run toward you with patient endurance.’"

Taming the Beast
Lust is a beast—a sharp-fanged, drooling monster that can sink its venom into any area of desire and poison with its self-centered craving. And while young women aren’t immune, I’m convinced that it’s a teen guy’s No. 1 battle. That’s why I urge parents and youth workers to communicate these key messages to the teenagers in their care:

God doesn’t make mistakes. Most teenagers of a certain age—especially guys—share the same desperate plea: "It’s as if my sexual appetite is controlling me! I beg God to forgive me, and I even promise to stop doing what I don’t want to do. But then I fail again and again." Help your teen understand that the Lord designed adolescents with those strong sexual desires. It’s how we deal with them that matters most. Explain that this is an area of their lives that they must allow God to bring under His control.

Sexual desire is not sin. Some young people are weakened by guilt from sexual desire and temptation. Tell your teen that a pure mind is not one that’s free of temptation. A pure mind chooses to act in the right way when temptation strikes.

Respect the opposite sex. When teens look at others in sexual terms, they need to catch themselves and train their minds to view the opposite sex in Christ-honoring, non-sexual ways.

God wants to guard your heart. Let your teen know that it’s OK to admit a weakness to sexual urges. Tell him to ask God daily to remind him when his thoughts need controlling.

Understand the real problem. The problem usually isn’t what most teens think it is. Struggles with lust are almost always just symptoms. The real problem is actually a heart problem. And the only way to fix a mixed-up, sin-filled heart is by having a daily truth encounter. That means spending time in the Word and in prayer.

Saturate your mind with Scripture. Help the teen in your life understand that the Bible is more than just a bunch of letters printed on paper. There is a supernatural component to God’s Word that saturates our hearts and shapes our lives into what He wants us to be. If your teens combine Bible reading with prayer, they will have a powerful weapon—an invisible sword, so to speak—that can fend off any deception and defeat any struggle that threatens to trap them.

Published December 2006