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Finding the Power to Change

with Joshua Harris | April 13, 2007

Just as David overcame Goliath, so we must overcome the giant of lust lurking in our lives. On today's broadcast, Josh Harris, a pastor and author of the popular book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," tells Dennis Rainey how he was able to win the battle with lust in his own life.

Just as David overcame Goliath, so we must overcome the giant of lust lurking in our lives. On today's broadcast, Josh Harris, a pastor and author of the popular book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye," tells Dennis Rainey how he was able to win the battle with lust in his own life.

Finding the Power to Change

With Joshua Harris
|
April 13, 2007
| Download Transcript PDF

Bob: If you think that there is nothing wrong with a little lust now and then, listen to Josh Harris.  He says you're believing a lie.

Josh: Lust comes with a lie that God won't mind a little compromise, and yet Romans tells us that setting our mind on the flesh brings death.  Galatians says that "sowing to the flesh brings spiritual ruin and corruption."  God is holy, and His wrath is coming on this very sin.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, April 13th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Do you need to take some radical action in your life to deal with the issue of lust?  Stay with us.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.  We're going to talk today about the other side of the story.  You remember a couple of years ago we featured a message on our program on the subject of modesty from author and pastor C.J. Mahaney, and we heard from a lot of our listeners, got lots of feedback, and there was one letter that I thought was very interesting. 

 It came from a woman who is 40 years old.  She's a married mom, and she was a little taken aback by the conversation on the subject of modesty.  She said C.J. didn't go into the reason why women dress immodestly.  The blame for that goes to Christian men.

 She said, "When I was growing up, I always dressed modestly, I wore simple, tasteful dresses most of the time; rarely wore jeans.  My mother was strict with my clothing, however, you can't imagine how painful it is, as a woman, to hear all the boys talking about the very beautiful other girl, the one who is dressed immodestly."

 And she took us to task a little bit in her e-mail.  She went on to say, "I still dress modestly in church, but outside of church I often dress immodestly, and I've noticed how much more respected and treated as someone special I am when I look attractive.  It's time to tell men to stop their bad behavior that makes women want and, yes, even need to dress immodestly.  It's not right, and it hurts deeply."

 So I read that, and, by the way, we're going to re-air the message from C.J. Mahaney on modesty in the next couple of weeks here on FamilyLife Today.  But I thought, you know, we ought to have the guy who took over the pastorate from C.J. Mahaney at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, Maryland, a guy who has written a book on the subject of lust.  We ought to invite Josh Harris to come join us and tell men to stop this bad behavior.

Dennis: What do you think about that, Josh?  Do you think the real problem is with the men?

Josh: I think that we're all sinful, but I think we all need to recognize that no one else can make us sin, and I would say to any woman who feels more respected when she's dressed immodestly, you ain't being respected.  You are being lusted after, you are a piece of meat, and it's not love, and it's not something to desire.

 Yes, you get more attention, that's absolutely true.  The girl that is dressed immodestly is going to get more attention, catch the guy's eye, but it's another one of those examples of will you love the praise of men or the praise of God?  Which are you going to live for?

Bob: At the same time, what this lady is saying about there being a problem with men …

Josh: … absolutely, it's true …

Bob: As Proverbs described, we're like stupid oxen when presented with a temptation, oftentimes we just kind of glaze over and are led astray.  We really fall in this area.

Josh: Well, I think this is so true, and I think this is a place where men should really grieve and repent before God for all the ways in which they have encouraged this in our culture, and the Christian men are at the forefront of that.

 You know, we're the ones that have bought our ticket and supported the movies that propagate this.  We're the ones that give more attention, at times, to girls that are dressed immodestly.

 But, for women out there, I think it's so important to see, and I addressed this in "Not Even a Hint."  I want this to be a book that serves women to see that it's not just men forcing you to do something.  What that's revealing, what I'd encourage them to see, is what that's revealing in your own heart is that you want that lust.  You want that kind of attention, and I think that's a way in which a woman's lust is uniquely expressed.

 They want to stir up something in a man, and they love the feeling that gives them.

Bob: We kind of jumped right into the subject without even really introducing our guest today, didn't we?

Dennis: Well, I think many of our listeners know who Josh Harris is.  He is the author of a book we featured a number of years ago called "I Kissed Dating Goodbye."  My kids loved that book.

Bob: Oh, yeah.

Dennis: Oh, they were just – they were wild about that.

Bob: They were thrilled.  We'd bring it home and say, "Here, you kids need to read this."

Dennis: It was like I brought a rattlesnake into the house among my teenagers.  Josh has written a new book called "Not Even a Hint."  It comes out of Ephesians, chapter 5, verse 3, where Paul exhorts us, "Let there not even be a hint of sexual immorality named among us," and, Josh, you point out how lust is really a lie.

Josh: That's right.

Dennis: Or leads us into several lies.  And I thought this was one of the parts of your book that our listeners really ought to get here, because we don't see, many times, past the enticement of lust to what it really offers.

Josh: That's true.  Lust never comes and tell us, "Here is where this is going to really lead.  You're going to do this, you're going to look at this magazine and watch this show, you're going to indulge sexually, and you're going to feel miserable.  You're going to hate the consequences."

 It never mentions any of those things.  It never talks about the disappointment and disillusionment.

Dennis: You're going to break your marriage covenant.

Josh: Exactly, you're going to destroy your family.

Dennis: Yeah, you're going to show disrespect for your spouse and ultimately end your marriage.

Josh: Yeah, we don't hear any of those things.  We hear promises.  We hear, "This is going to feel good, this is going to be the thrill that you've been lacking, this will bring lasting pleasure."

 And so I've learned that the only way to fight these lies is not to argue – "Well, no, it won't be that good, it won't feel that great."  We can't argue on our own opinion.  We need to bring Scripture.  The Bible refers to itself as the "sword of the Spirit."  And this is the only offensive weapon that God has given us, and, really, only Scripture can cut through the lies of lust.

 Let me give you some examples.  Lust comes with a lie, a little sinful fantasizing won't hurt, and yet Romans tells us that setting our mind on the flesh brings death.  Galatians says that "sowing to the flesh brings spiritual ruin and corruption."  Lust says taking radical action against sin isn't necessary.  You know, we've all heard that lie – "Well, you don't have to get radical about this."

Dennis: Right.

Josh: And yet Jesus said, "If your right eyes causes you to sin, cut it out."  In other words, be radical. 

 2 Timothy says, "Flee the evil desires of youth."  Don't hang around, don't look at what you can handle – flee.  Lust comes with a lie that "God won't mind a little compromise," and yet Colossians 3 says, "Put to death whatever belongs to the earthly nature.  Because of these, the wrath of God is coming." 

 That's like a cup of cold water in your face, when lust is lying, "Hey, God doesn't mind.  He looks around, and He says, 'Well, everybody's compromising, so it's no big deal.'"  No, God is holy and His wrath is coming on this very sin.

Dennis: Here is a lie that I've heard, and I've heard other people express – looking at a few pornographic pictures won't affect me.

Josh: And this is where the Book of Proverbs is so powerful where it says you know what?  If you follow that adulterous woman down her path into her home, and that can be in the form of a movie, that can be a pornographic image, it's going to lead to your ruin in life, and it really describes the consequences.  It says, "Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?" 

 And I love Psalm 101, verse 3 that says, "I will set before my eyes no vile thing."

Dennis: You know, Josh, in all of these lies, the actual temptation to take the bait is not sin, it is just an enticement to sin.  It's a bait, like a worm on a hook to a fish to try to get us to take the lie and believe it and act on it.  It's not wrong to hear the lie, it's wrong to believe the lie and embrace the lie and take action based on the lie.

Josh: And what's so wonderful is that God's promises are better.  Lust gives us the lie that too much purity is going to keep you from seeing and enjoying beauty.  And what I'm grateful for is that God doesn't just offer threats of what will happen if we do what's wrong.  He offers us promises of how much better it is to obey him.

 So he says in Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."  What an amazing promise.  All the images that this world offers us, there's something that's more beautiful.  You walk in purity, you walk in holiness, and God has promised you will see Him.

 And then this one in Isaiah 33:17 – "Your eyes will behold the King in His beauty.  They will see a land that stretches afar."  Lust comes and says, "Right now is all that matters.  This moment is all that matters.  Pleasure right now.  God says, "No, there is a greater pleasure, there is a greater reward that is waiting for those that will trust me and obey me."

Bob: You mentioned talking to a woman who confessed an issue of lust.  We don't typically think of lust as being an issue for women, but as you've talked to women, as you've talked on this subject, you've had a lot of women who have said, "I deal with this, too."

Josh: That's been a real education for me.  I first gave a message on this topic of lust two years ago, and it was for all men.  I was asked to speak, and I gave this message, and I was overwhelmed by the response from the men, the encouragement.  But what really shocked me was that women started writing and saying, "We'd like to hear this message, too."  And, frankly, I didn't want them to.  I didn't want them to hear what I was confessing in this message to guys.

 But as they continue to ask and say, "No one ever talks to us about this, no one ever addresses this issue."  I said, "Okay, fine."  They begin to listen to this tape in small groups and dialog about it, and I learned through that experience that there are many women who deal with thoughts, they deal with impure desires, but because so few people are willing to talk about it, I think women deal with even more shame, which hinders them from receiving God's grace by going to another lady and confessing this.

 I've had several ladies say, "It's a taboo subject.  I feel like if I confess it, the other women are going to look at me and say, 'What planet are you from?  How can you struggle with that?'" and yet Scripture says these things are common to man, common to humankind, and none of us should feel that our particular area of temptation is unique.

 We need to realize God's grace can help us to change.

Bob: Is it different?  Do women lust differently than men do?

Josh: I think they, from the letters that I've received and even as I wrote the book, what I did is I had an assistant who did all the interviews with women, all the interaction, because I didn't want to have that one-on-one interaction with women on this topic.

 But as she informed me and my wife, Shannon, what we heard consistently is, number one, there are women out there that deal with lust in ways that you might call the "traditional male way."  So that happens, that's common.

 But I think what's more common is they deal with lust on the level of wanting to be desired.  I got a letter from a lady who said, you know what?  What I have experienced is that a man and a woman driving down the street who see a provocative billboard of a woman, the man will be tempted to desire the woman, to desire her sexually to have.  Where the woman will be tempted to want to be like that woman so that she can get that desire from other men.

 So I think the temptation is to use sexual appeal as a tool of manipulation.

Bob: It's like the e-mail from the woman that I shared at the beginning of the program, where she said, "I dress immodestly not at church but in public because I'm more attractive, and people pay more attention to me."

Josh: Dr. Al Mohler said to me in a conversation once something I'll never forget.  He said, "Men are tempted to give themselves to pornography; women are often tempted to commit pornography."  You never have to star in a pornographic movie or pose for a picture to commit pornography.  If you are someone who is dressing and acting in a way primarily designed to stir up lust in other people, you are committing pornography with your life.

 So the temptation is different, but it's still lust coming with a lie.  Here's how you'll be satisfied apart from God.

Dennis: You know, it's interesting what we're talking about here, because it, in a way, does explain why some women choose to dress immodestly.  They are seeking approval, attention.  They, perhaps without even realizing it, are seeking to stimulate men to come to them.

 Last summer, I had the opportunity to go to China, and the women in China were dressed incredibly modestly, very modest.  And I was in China for over 10 days and didn't realize how modestly the women were dressed until I came back to America, and it was like a bucket of cold water thrown over me.  Western civilization doesn't even realize how far we have gone with our dress, especially with our daughters.

 I think what needs to happen today is the fathers – yes, the mothers, too, but I think the fathers need to call their daughters to really understand the heart of a man, the anatomy of lust, and to dress appropriately so that these desires are not stirred up in the opposite sex.

Bob: I just want to step up on the soapbox here with you for a minute, if I can.

Dennis: I'll slide off to the side, Bob.

Bob: I would encourage women – you can be attractive and modest simultaneously.  You don't have to be unattractive.  Don't assume that modesty automatically means a lack of attractiveness.  It's appropriate.  It adorns the Gospel well, to be attractive.

 At the same time, I would encourage single men – if you see women dressed modestly, go over and talk to them, spend time with them, affirm them, give attention to them as sisters in Christ.  Encourage them, and you don't have to walk over and say, "I see you're dressed modestly.  I came to encourage you."  You can just go over and say, "Hi, what's your name?"  And chat with those women so that they get the message, "I don't have to dress like the other girls I see who have got the boys around them."

Dennis: That's a good word.

Bob: Guys can be proactive in this regard, and in a healthy way affirm our sisters who are trying to do it right.

Josh: And I think it's so important, too, that we not judge women who are dressed immodestly, that we pray for them; that we love them as sisters.  I think many are naïve.  They just know that they feel better, they feel sexier, they feel like guys pay more attention, and some are not really thinking through the fact that they're stirring up lust.  So let's maintain that focus that we're the worst of sinners; that we're accountable to God, and I think that's great – encouraging those that are dressed modestly, making a statement how much we appreciate that.

Bob: I want to ask you a question.  Do you have victory in this area?

Josh: I am experiencing God's power to change.  I have not experienced victory in the sense that there is no longer temptation.  On a daily basis, I need to ask God for help.  I think too many Christians want some experience of "victory" that means they don't have to fight anymore.  But I believe what God wants us to do is to trust Him in the midst of the struggle and so prove the reality of the victory that Christ accomplished for us.

 So I'm not saying we shouldn't desire to put this to death completely, but when I've spoken to older men, older women, about this, what I hear consistently is the battle doesn't go away, but God's grace is there for all of us.

Bob: And I think, Dennis, that's important, because even as I was asking the question, I was thinking, "The time when I will have complete victory in this area is when I am dead."

[laughter]

 Prior to that, I don't know that I'll ever have complete victory.

Dennis: Yeah, yeah, I was thinking how I would answer, and I had similar thoughts, and then my mind raced to Galatians, chapter 5, verse 16.  Paul said, "I say, then, walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary to one another that you do not do the things that you wish.

 And it goes on to say, "But if you are led by the Spirit, you're not under the law, and you're not going to carry out the desires of the flesh.  And I would answer your question this way – I am experiencing victory as long as I walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.  He is the power who raised Christ from the dead, and I promise you, if He can defeat death, He can help you defeat lust.  The question is, will you yield to Him or will you yield to the flesh?

Bob:  And if you want to be strengthened for that battle, I think a book like the one Josh has written can help you with that.  The book is called "Sex is not the Problem, Lust Is," and it is the renewing of our mind and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit that works together to help us defeat this kind of an issue in our own lives.

 You can go to our website at FamilyLife.com to get a copy of Josh's book.  Again, the title is "Sex is not the Problem, Lust Is," and, in fact, I want to mention that on our website at FamilyLife.com, we have an additional conversation with Josh – something that we didn't feel was appropriate to air on Christian radio.

 It deals with the subject of lust, and it deals with a controversial aspect of that – something that is a challenge for a lot of people today, something we didn't feel was appropriate to discuss candidly on Christian radio, and yet it's a subject that we've gotten a lot of letters about; had a lot of questions about, so we decided that we would go ahead and have the conversation and make it available for folks who want to go to our website at FamilyLife.com and listen to this audio.  It's about 40 minutes long, and you can download it and listen to it on your iPod or you can stream it, listen to it right there on the website.

 Go to FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go," and that will take you to the area of the site where there is more information on Josh's book, on other resources that are available, including Randy Alcorn's helpful book called "The Purity Principle," and there's a link to the audio stream that I was talking about.

 Again, that's on our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go" in the center of the screen, and that will you right to the area where there is more information about these resources.  You can order online, or you can listen to the audio that's available there as well.

 Our resources are also available by phone.  You can call 1-800-FLTODAY if that's more convenient for you – 1-800-358-6329; 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and someone on our team can make arrangements to have the books we've talked about today sent out to you.

 When you do get in touch with us, can I encourage you to consider making a donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today?  We are listener-supported.  Folks just like you are the ones who provide the funding necessary for us to continue on this station and on other stations all across the country.

 During the month of April, we want to say thank you to those listeners who are able to make a donation of any amount to the ministry of FamilyLife Today by sending you a copy of a book and an audio book.  They actually come together.

 The book is by Dr. Bill Bright.  It's called "The Joy of Trusting God," and it's a look at the attributes of God, His omnipotence, His omniscience, His sovereignty, His love, His justice.  You know, as we study the attributes of God, again, our mind is renewed, we get to know God better, and it transforms our lives.

 We'd love to send a copy of this book to you, as our way of saying thank you for your financial support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  You can make a donation online at FamilyLife.com, and if you do that, and you'd like a copy of the book, when you come to the keycode box on the donation form, type the word "Joy" in there.  Or call 1-800-FLTODAY.  You can make a donation over the phone and just mention that you'd like Dr. Bill Bright's book or the book on "The Joy of Trusting God," and our team will make sure that you get a copy sent to you.

 Again, it's our way of saying thanks for your financial support of this ministry, and we appreciate your partnership with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.  Dennis?

Dennis: Well, the subject we've dealt with today, the subject of lust, is not an easy one to tackle, but we've gone to a man who is a warrior for righteousness, and Josh Harris has joined us again on FamilyLife Today and, Josh, you're becoming well-known for kind of standing up and taking on some of the tough issues.

 Both Bob and I have talked about that privately.  We're excited that there are men like you stepping into the battle, calling the next generation to bear arms against sin like lust, and I want to thank you for writing this book, "Not Even a Hint," and we appreciate you and are grateful for your gift of writing as well as speaking.

Josh: Thank you so much.

Bob: And I just want to know, did you even consider calling your book, "I Kissed Lust Goodbye?"  Just curious.

Josh: Not even for a second.

[laughter]

Dennis: And the reason is, is he hasn't kissed it goodbye.  We've been talking about that today – we're all battling it.

Josh: I don't want to kiss it, I want to kill it.

[laughter]

Dennis: Well, in fact, there's a great story you tell or, actually, C.S. Lewis tells about killing lust.  It's about the ghost and – is it a red lizard?

Josh: That's right.  It's a red lizard on his shoulder that's whispering in his ear, and this angel offers to kill it, and he says, "Oh, no, you don't have to do that.  I can manage it," and gives all these excuses, and he hates the lizard, but he's afraid that if the lizard dies, he will die.

 And it reminds me of myself – that sense of if I turn my back on lust completely, will I lose my identity?  Will I have no pleasure in my life?  So he finally agrees, and the angel kills this lizard, throws it to the ground, but what's so amazing in the story, which is so true is that instead of just dying, this lizard is transformed into this breathtaking stallion, and this ghost of a man is transformed into a real man, and they ride off into the sunset of true pleasure and freedom in holiness.

Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 

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