I recently became a Christian and gave up all sins that I know I'm doing and trying to live a God-centered life. Among these sins was masturbating and watching porn. But now I get a lot of sexual thoughts sporadically and I DO NOT want them. This is probably a consequence of watching porn for years, but is there any way to combat these thoughts?
Thanks for your question, and praise God that the Lord has brought you to himself! This question on fighting lust and sexual thoughts – especially as it relates to the scourge of pornography (I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I think that’s the right word for it) – is one we get a lot. Let me offer some ideas that I think will be helpful for you as a new Christian in “taking every thought captive” for Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
My first suggestion doesn’t specifically deal with sexual thoughts, but it will certainly help you in the bigger fight against sin (including lustful thoughts) and help you grow in Christ. If you haven’t done so already, join a solid, Bible-believing church. Get really involved. Go to every service. Look for ways to serve in the ministries of the church. Get to know people and, even more importantly, put yourself out there and let people get to know you. In the bigger picture, joining a good church is critical to growing in Christ and fighting sin. More specifically, being a member of such a church will provide a context for accomplishing a couple of my other suggestions below. By the way, a great book on what to be looking for in a church is Mark Dever’s Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. It’s a short, easy read and gets it exactly right.
My next suggestion is that you begin to actively train your mind to positively “crowd out” lustful and other sinful thoughts by filling your mind with Scripture and the things of God. This effort involves several different things. One of them is to spend time every day in prayer and in reading God’s Word. In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells us, “brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” A steady diet of real fellowship with God in his Word and in prayer is the only way we can train our minds to do that.
It might also mean memorizing a few “go-to” passages that you literally use as an antidote to the sexual thoughts that threaten to invade your mind. A short, simple one that has worked very well for me is Job 31:1, “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a young woman” (this is the NIV translation – I think it’s more helpful than the ESV on this passage). Another good one is the passage I quoted above, Philippians 4:8. Another good one (though more complex) is the rest of the passage I cited earlier, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” Have these verses or others on the tip of your mental tongue, and recite them to yourself when sexual thoughts intrude. It’s not magic, but it will help.
Another great tool in the fight against lustful thoughts (and actions) is accountability. It should be regular, consistent, in person, specific, hard-question accountability. As I mentioned before, the place to find the deep, healthy Christian friendships that can lead to such accountability is in a healthy, biblical church. If you’re already in such a church, seek out accountability relationships. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for this or to reveal the thoughts you are struggling with. One of God’s gifts to us in the Christian life is other Christians. God does not intend for us to fight sin completely on our own.
Another set of tools for the fight against lust and masturbation are the common sense steps that reduce or eliminate opportunities to sin. If you live alone, consider finding some Christian roommates. Use your computer only in group areas of your house or apartment, or decide not to have a computer in your home. Remember that the fight against sexual sin – in both thought and action – is about fighting not just the sin itself, but also about fighting temptation.
Finally, remember God’s grace. Even as Christians, we are fallen people in a fallen world. God calls us to fight the good fight in the Spirit while never forgetting that Christ died on the cross for all of our sins, including the sexual thoughts that are so hard for us to eliminate. Keep at it, fight hard, but be encouraged that the war against your sin is already won in Christ.
I will pray that you will have wisdom, joy and victory in your new faith.
Copyright 2015 Scott Croft. All right reserved.