Using Your Imagination to Fight Sexual Sin

Like most men with a healthy libido, I too struggle with my oft sin-tinged imagination (yes, even as a very happily married man with a great wife and five kids.) And while I can quickly recall the seventh commandment regarding adultery and know Jesus’ words, “that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28), sadly sometimes those texts (and similar passages) aren’t enough to curb the imagination.

But herein lies the problem. I’m not called to merely curb my lustful imagination. I’m called to kill it.

Or am I?

God doesn’t call us to kill our imaginations as much as redeem them.¹ Jesus didn’t come merely to redeem your soul from hell. Rather, he came to redeem all of you for himself. So how do you redeem lustful thoughts? Surely there’s no one right way, but here’s what I often do: I imagine.

I imagine that 30 years from now, my three sons and I are gathered together. One of them asks, “Dad, were you faithful to mom all these years?” Then I imagine what would happen if I weren’t faithful to her, looking into my sons’ eyes and shamefully telling them I wasn’t faithful. I imagine how this might affect their marriages, their fight with sexual sin, their raising their children in a hyper-sexualized culture.

But then I also imagine a very different answer. I imagine that I have been faithful to their mother all of these years, and I could look into my sons’ eyes, and without a shadow of doubt truthfully say, “Yes, I’ve been faithful to your mom all of these years. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, it’s hard. But, by God’s grace I’ve been faithful to her.”

Yes, by God’s grace. But also with no small amount of redeemed imagination.

¹I fully realize that killing sin, i.e. mortification, is not an option for the Christian. But I consider the above exercise as a form of mortification, not antithetical to it. I also realize that the relationship between thoughts, imagination and fantasy is often complicated, as well as how sin influences both. Bottom line: there are many ways to kill sin (negative) and foster sanctification (positive). This is just one of the many tools in my arsenal that has helped me over the years. Your situation may be very different from mine (i.e. female, married/single, no kids, etc.). The question before us all is the same: How might a redeemed imagination look given your context? 

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Now Available: New City Catechism App (For Android)

Here’s a welcome addition to Droid apps that arrived with surprisingly little fanfare: Redeemer’s  New City Catechism. Unlike the iPhone version, this app also includes an unexpected bonus: Packer’s Concise Theology. It’s even seamlessly integrated with the catechism or to read as a stand alone book. Golden. And it’s all free! What a gift to the Church.

The app’s developer also released some other great apps, including Matthias Media’s popular gospel presentation Two Ways to Live and Who Will Be King, a kid-friendly version of TWTL.

Amper (the apps’ developer) only recently entered the app developing scene. From what little I know about that world, he’s off to a smashing start.

04/04/14: Regrettably, Packer’s Concise Theology is no longer included in the app. (But it’s still a great tool!)

Redeemer: Recommended Reading for Church Planters

Redeemer City to City, a ministry out of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NY, compiled a church planting reading list. It’s the best I’ve seen in scope, breadth, and depth.

Even if you’re not a church planter, or even a pastor or missionary, the list covers other helpful topics:

  • Urban Ministry / City Studies
  • Evangelism
  • Ecclesiology
  • Missional Movements
  • Missions
  • Cultural Studies / Engagement
  • Ethnic Concerns / Studies
  • Spiritual Growth
  • Leadership / Organization
  • Hermeneutics

Compiled in 2010, the list needs minor updating, but it’s a great place to begin.

Download the PDF here.