Getting a Handle on Desires

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).

Some Christians wrongly suppose we must repress all desires, whether appetite, advancement or usefulness. But desires resemble human emotions in that they can be used for good or evil. The Psalmist “pants” after God, a truly good and upright desire. Yet the Bible warns us against indulging sinful desires that can harm us. How can we tell the difference?

1. Drink deeply from God’s Word.
Only when we learn from God’s Word can we tell right from wrong. David wrote:

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word” (Psalm 119:9).

The Word of God shapes and forms within us godly desires that please Him. When we renew our minds with the Word, we begin to desire different things than before. Formerly we desired sinful activities, the things we should avoid now (see 1 Peter 4:3-4). But we don’t simply empty ourselves of sinful thoughts. Instead we take up godly thoughts to replace them:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).

2. Ask God to transform sinful thoughts that linger.
The Bible makes clear that our battle with sin continues throughout life. The sinful principle within us makes war with our spiritual natures, creating conflict (Galatians 5:17). We need God’s help. How should we pray?

  • Pray honestly. Don’t hide your struggle from God; He knows about it already.
  • Pray dependently. Acknowledge your weakness and inability to ward off sin on your own.
  • Pray faithfully. Do not quit because of a setback; keep praying for victory.

When we take up these two powerful weapons, the Word of God and prayer, we prepare for battle God’s way. May God bless our efforts to think godly thoughts after Him.

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