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? 

Sanctification For Real Life

Carl Trueman nails it:

As recent events have shown, churches contain perverts. Churches contain perverts who are Christians. Churches contain perverts who are Christians who do real harm to others and to themselves in their sin. And pastors are called to confront such people, to protect the flock, and to ensure that civil authorities deal with them.

But they are also called to pastor such perverts, to call them to repentance, to faith, and to lives that reflect their status in Christ. How is that done? Our theology of the Christian life needs to be able to address all Christians in their sin in a consistent manner. (Emphases mine.)

Read Trueman’s post on how sanctification and justification have significant, and often difficult, pastoral implications here.

Law and Gospel Unhinged?

A fellow Presbyterian pastor on Tullian Tchividjian’s recent comments on law and gospel:

Many of us have hoped that real good will be done in the current debates on sanctification, in which Pastor Tchividjian plays so central a role on the law-gospel side of the discussion.  I still hope that good is resulting.  But it is now unavoidable that real harm is being done by Tullian’s runaway rhetoric in opposing the Bible’s clear salvation teaching.  At this point, we have to wonder how long The Gospel Coalition will permit this frankly false doctrine to continue on its web pages.

Strong stuff.

Read the post here.

Free E-Book Today Only: How People Change

For today only, the excellent book How People Change by Paul Tripp and Timothy Lane, normally $17.99Image, is free (e-book format only). 

From the publisher:

A changed heart is the bright promise of the gospel.

When the Bible talks about the gift of a new heart, it doesn’t mean a heart that is immediately perfected, but a heart that is capable of being changed. Jesus’ work on the cross targets our hearts, our core desires and motivations, and when our hearts change, our behavior changes. It’s amazing to watch people who once seemed stuck in a pattern of words, choices, and behaviors start living in a new way as Christ changes their hearts.

This is one of, if not the, best books I know on the subject of how the gospel produces deep and lasting change in matters of the heart.