“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”
abstain from fleshly lusts
“Abstain” means to hold yourself back from. The phrase “abstain from fleshly lusts” means to hold the self back constantly from fleshly lusts. Anything incompatible with our fellowship with God is a fleshly lust: lust for power, lust for personal approbation, materialism lust, or lascivious lust.
Lust is simply a craving. Some desires are legitimate. We have a God-given desire for food, drink, and sex. “Fleshly lusts” are carnal appetites. This is human nature apart from God. It is our fallen nature. This is not only gross lust but a lust of any kind.
These lusts attack the soul (Galatians 5:19-21). This involves more than sexual sins but sins of the attitude such as jealousy, envy, hatred, resentment. God wants us to keep on avoiding fleshly lusts (Acts 15:20,29; I Thes 4:3; 5:22; I Tim. 4:3).
Lusts originate from the Devil. They are the desires of the Devil.
John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”
Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
Galatians 5:16, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
Galatians 5:24, “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”
Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.”
2 Timothy 2:22, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.”
Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age.”
Titus 3:3, “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.”
God wants us to hold ourselves back from fleshly lusts.
The Savior insists on managing our affairs. Yet, we insist on managing our own affairs. We attempt to run our own life. “I know how to run my family. I don’t need any help from God.”
Fleshly lusts will consume us. We will become a slave to them because they will wage war against us.
God does not want us ruled by our lust patterns. The lust pattern is seeking to neutralize our lives. God’s Word gives us an appreciation for God. We appreciate the source of the gift.
The how to abstain is the question. Being absolutely honest with myself before God , the only reason I don’t give in to lust is the opportunity. It is a continual on going struggle. Looking back on my life I see where God has removed me from situations or temptations He knows and that I know I could not handle. Telling a normal male to not lust or abstain is like telling him to stop eating or going to the bath room to take a leak. Passion builds or explodes to point of no return. It’s only by God’s grace that I have not destroyed my life by the lust of my flesh in every area. I think many have been led astray believing that these temptations and desires go away when we are saved . Because we have a new nature in us now. It seems quite the opposite to me. The more I understand who God is the more I understand how sinful and unable I am. The trying part of abstain makes it impossible to abstain. I keep thinking I will grow out of the lusts of the flesh. Hasn’t happened yet. To even know when you are being lead by the Spirit or just the flesh is hard to discern. It’s a very fine line between a normal desire of the flesh and sin. How to live in this fallen world without becoming part of it requires much grace. Sometimes I wonder if we have drifted so far from God, lost so much truth , that were just not even in the game. I think it’s our perceived goodness that keeps us from God. The great deception is believing that we can abstain from sin. Believing trusting in fact that you have been made righteous in Christ requires much faith. I believe that is the real struggle. Believing who you really are in Christ instead who you are in the flesh. If there is any one out there abstaining let me know. I haven’t found one yet. Christ is the only one I know of who measured up.
Jim, building strength to overcome lust is a process of sanctification. Note these two articles: 1) https://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/christian-maturity/living-by-the-book/ this article introduces the issue. 2) https://versebyversecommentary.com/articles/christian-maturity/the-edification-construct-discussion-guide/ Building an edification construct of the soul is a process; this will take some time to study. The Bible never promises us freedom from the lust of the flesh but it does give us the means to conquer sin in our lives. If we focus on lustful things then that will produce lustful actions. What we take into our minds will manifest itself in how we live our lives.
Jim, I thought I would expand a little more and give a personal testimony about your issue.
If we keep appropriating the principles of Scripture to experience on a regular basis this becomes the basis or platform for a much stronger spiritual stance. When we do this our span of focus will gradually increase until we build an edification construct. The body needs exercise or it becomes weak and incapable. The mind must be employed in the acquisition of truth, in reflection upon truth and life, or its powers must be called forth in some other way, or it will sink into a condition of feebleness and decay. The principle is equally applicable to the soul. If its powers be not employed, those powers will perish or grow weak; the eyes of the soul will become blind, its ears deaf, its aspirations extinct.
When I first became a Christian I was beset with temptations. I then found a Scripture that pertained to my temptation, then put it on a card to memorize it. Each time I faced that temptation I quoted the Scripture to myself. I did this again and again with different temptations and different passages that applied to that particular temptation. As time went on the focus of my attention was not as vulnerable to the sin conquered over and over again by this process. My point is not that the believer gains total victory in this life but that he becomes stronger against temptation as he matures in applying the Word to experience.
The reverse is also true. The conscience can go from being defiled (Ti 1:15), to evil (He 10:22) then to a seared conscience (1 Ti 4:2). A seared conscience does not respond to God’s norms or standards and loses it capacity to apply Scripture to experience.
This is why I recommended the studies above.