How can I gain victory over impure thoughts?
Many Christians are discouraged because they are unable to conquer impure habits. Impure habits are a by-product of impure thoughts, and only as the battle is won in the thought life will there be hope of victory over impure actions.
Satan wants you to believe that you’re the only one who has this problem and that you can’t gain victory over it. However, these beliefs are false. We are overtaken by temptations that are common (see I Corinthians 10:13), and in Christ we have victory over the destructive power of sin. (See Romans 6:22 and 8:2.) By God’s grace, as you follow His plan, you can conquer impure thoughts.
Realize that Christ has already made provision for your victory.
Christ has already won our victory on the cross. “God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine [instruction] which was delivered to you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17–18).
However, you must choose to walk in that victory. Daniel “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” (Daniel 1:8). Every believer needs to make that decision as well. God promises, “If from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29).
In the war against impure thoughts, you may lose some battles. These losses should only increase your determination to win the war. If you expect to win the war without ever losing a battle, you will become discouraged.
God can redeem each defeat by revealing the root cause of each failure. Ask Him for wisdom and help as you discern the root causes of your impure thoughts and actions.
Keep these truths in mind:
- You will never face a temptation that is impossible to overcome. (See I Corinthians 10:13.)
- God is eager to give you all the grace you need to reject the temptation. (See Hebrews 4:16.)
- God promises to give you wisdom, but you must ask for it in faith. (See James 1:6–8.)
Replace the secret pictures that exist in the gallery of your mind.
At the heart of impure thoughts are secret, wicked pictures in our minds. During times of temptation, we often “revive” these pictures and focus on them. Attempts to forget the pictures usually fail. However, as we superimpose God’s pictures over them, we will experience freedom from the influence of the evil pictures.
When you face temptations, picture Christ suffering for you. The first vivid image you should visualize is that of Christ being bruised for your iniquities. Visualize your sins nailing Him to the cross, and consider the pain He experienced in paying for the debt of your sins. Gratefully rejoice that He died to free you from impurity. (See Isaiah 53:5 and Romans 6:6.)
The next series of pictures in your mind should be images of men in Scripture who lost the battle against impurity: Samson with his eyes gouged out and David with a divided family and kingdom. (See Judges 16:21 and I Chronicles 22:7–8.) Contemplate the horrible consequences of sin.
Make a covenant with your eyes.
One of the main keys to protecting the mind from temptation is control of the eyes. Job was one of the most righteous men who ever lived, and a key to his righteousness is found in Job 31:1: “I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think [lustfully] upon a maid?” To guard against impure thoughts, we must guard our eyes from evil. What your eyes see affects your whole body—physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. Scripture tells us that the eye is the lamp of the body. When it is “evil” with impure thoughts, the whole body will be full of darkness. (See Matthew 6:22–23.)
If you yield control of your eyes to God, He can train you to see others as He sees them. When you are tempted to sin against someone with thoughts of lust or greed or other wickedness, ask God to give you grace to see that person as He does. As the Lord grants your request:
- You can visualize that person as a radiant expression of Christ. (See Colossians 1:28.)
- You can invest in that person’s life through prayer. (See James 5:13–18.)
- You can trust God to deliver you from temptation. (See I Corinthians 10:12–13.)
- You will walk in freedom from sinful thoughts toward that person. (See Romans 12:2.)
Correctly identify the battlefield.
The battle against impure thoughts is far more than a mental or physical struggle—it is a spiritual battle against forces of evil. (See Ephesians 6:12.) God wants us to resist the devil (see James 4:7), and He also knows that our natural inclinations easily betray us. They betray us to the delusive, glamorous, and temporal pleasures that Satan offers. (See Romans 7:14–25.)
God wants to use the pressure of the battle in your mind to motivate you to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). God wants to transform you by renewing your mind, and He renews your mind through His Word. (See Romans 12:1–2, Ephesians 4:23, and Hebrews 4:12.)
Remove hidden provisions for defeat.
Scripture declares, “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:14). Any provision for the flesh not only proves that you expect to fail, but it actually invites you to give in to temptation. It provides tempting possibilities for the mind, stirs up the emotions, and then defeats the will.
In Proverbs 4:14–15 we are told to not walk in the way of the evil, to completely avoid and turn away from it. Remove from your life the things that Satan uses for your defeat: wicked books or magazines, sensual music, sensual pictures, ungodly friendships, or sinful activities. As you remove these sources of temptation from your life, you can avoid entering the path of evil.
Realize that winning a war involves fighting many battles.
Many of the accounts in the Bible are given to us as examples of the battles we will face in our lives. (See I Corinthians 10:6.) Scripture is filled with examples and reminders that we need great determination to wage the battle against impure thoughts. (See Proverbs 24:10, Matthew 26:40–41, and II Thessalonians 3:13.)
In warfare, the more entrenched the enemy is, the longer it can take to have complete victory, and it may not come after one battle. Be ready for additional attacks, because our adversary goes about as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. (See I Peter 5:8–9.)
Remember that it is God’s power at work in you that will bring victory.
Keep in mind that this battle will be won by God’s strength in you, not by your own strength. “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). (See also Zechariah 4:6.) It doesn’t matter what Satan brings against us; God’s power in His people will always be greater than Satan’s attacks.
Learn to live in the fear of God.
The Bible says that “by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil” (Proverbs 16:6). One aspect of having a proper fear of the Lord is a moment-by-moment awareness that God is watching and weighing every one of our words, thoughts, actions, and attitudes.
A sincere Christian cannot enjoy sensual thoughts unless he temporarily blots the presence of a Holy God from his consciousness. If you walk in the fear of the Lord and consequently realize that God is evaluating every one of your thoughts (and He is), it will help you quickly reject impure thoughts.
Learn to use the sword of the Spirit.
The Apostle Paul urged believers to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10) and to put on the spiritual armor God has given us. (See Ephesians 6:11–12.) Included in this armor is the “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).
Jesus responded to the temptation of Satan with the Word of God. In the same manner, when tempted, believers are to resist the devil and confidently wield the sword of the Spirit: the Word of God.
Memorize verses such as Proverbs 15:3, Proverbs 5:21, and Psalm 139:4, so that they can serve as constant reminders of God’s presence and thus encourage you to walk in the fear of the Lord. The concepts in Romans 6 describe the victory that believers have in Christ, and this passage has helped many experience moral freedom. Engraft these and other Scriptures into your mind and heart by memorizing and meditating on them and applying them to your life. When temptations arise, speak the truth of the Word of God to help you maintain victory.
Ask God to give you a pure (clean) heart.
Ask God to give you a pure heart as King David did after his sinful acts with Bathsheba: “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). When a man or woman has a pure heart and a Godly countenance, he or she will project to others an awareness of God’s presence. This results in a wall of protection and restraint.
Learn God’s limitation to curiosity.
Beware of undisciplined curiosity. It is one of Satan’s most effective traps. God has given us a marvelous intellect, but with it He gave a limitation: we are not to learn the details of evil.
God would have us to be “wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Romans 16:19). He never intended that we learn evil with the mind or through experience, but rather, He wants us to discern evil under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (See I Corinthians 2:12, 15–16.)
Become mighty in God’s Spirit.
All believers face the battle against impure thoughts. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Galatians 5:17). To become mighty in God’s Spirit you must conquer impure thoughts, and that requires a decision on your part: a decision to obey God.
We are told, “Gird up the loins of your mind … as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation [behavior]” (I Peter 1:13–15). In practical application, this means that we must remove from our eyes and minds a host of books, magazines, television programs, Internet sites, various types of entertainment, and discussions that appeal to the lust of the flesh.
Replace the things that draw you into impurity with activities that strengthen your spirit. Deepen your walk with God through prayer, Bible study, worship, fellowship with Godly Christians, and engrafting God’s Word into your heart and life. Strengthening your spirit in these ways will help you win the war against lust.
“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:7–9).
Use temptations as signals to seek God.
Temptations are often based on legitimate human needs. Satan wants us to satisfy those needs with sinful choices, but God wants us to give Him our needs and trust Him to meet them in His time and in His way. Therefore, we should ask God to turn each temptation into a signal to seek Him and learn His ways.
Jesus wants us to come to Him, take up His yoke, and learn from Him. (See Matthew 11:28–30.) God can show us how to respond to temptation by using the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. (See Ephesians 6:17.) As we do so, God will lead us out of temptation and “deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
Sinful desires—temptations—can be transformed into paths to spiritual power. Some of our greatest insights about the Lord and His ways will grow out of these struggles.
Realize that victory is possible.
Although in the past we all have fulfilled the lusts of the flesh, now, through Christ, we can say no to temptation and walk in victory. (See Ephesians 2:1–10 and Ephesians 1:17–19.)
As you understand what Christ has done for you, remove hidden provisions for defeat, live in the fear of the Lord, become mighty in Spirit, and use temptations as signals to seek God, you will conquer impure thoughts. And as you win the battle over impure thoughts, impure habits will be purged from your life.