Can Inclinations and Desires Be Sinful?
Apastor stands behind the pulpit, his Bible opened, about to begin the sermon. He locks eyes with an attractive woman sitting on the front pew. The pastor’s wife notices as her husband and the woman are caught in a momentary stare-down. The woman winks. The pastor replies with a huge smile as he begins his sermon.
After service, the pastor’s wife confronts him as they drive home. The pastor knows the woman has a crush on him and warned her not to flirt, etc. He said what happened is no big deal because he would never act on such tempting inclinations and desires. And since God made him with an attraction to women, he will live with those feelings.
Most people would agree that the pastor’s inclinations and desires are not acceptable. They are not acceptable because, as Scripture reveals, Christians are accountable for their thoughts which include inclinations and desires. Unless, of course, you can know your inclinations and desires without thinking or being at all consciously aware.
Sinful Inclinations and Desires
The truth is, we are all born inclined to sin with desires to sin. Some might argue that inclinations and desires are merely harmless thoughts. Not only are they not harmless, but they lead to sinful actions if not contained. Even God’s tenth commandment is against coveting which is a desire and an inclination easily seen in children when fighting over toys.
Jesus further explained the sinfulness of our desires in the Sermon on the Mount. Consider two examples from Jesus’ teachings recorded in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 5 – lust and anger. Jesus taught that lustful thinking deems us guilty of adultery. And we are guilty of murder when we have unrighteous anger toward someone.
Lust and anger are two emotions we are born with and naturally inclined to. Even so, they not okay to hold onto and exercise at will even though we are born with such inclinations. Lust is sinful (Job 31:11) and godly sex is that done inside a marriage between a man and a woman (1 Cor. 7). Christians are not to sin in their anger (Eph. 4:26). That is, we are to have a godly anger. We may rightly be angry over sin when someone sins against us. We may be rightly angry over our own sin when we sin against God.
Killing Sinful Inclinations and Desires
As the hypothetical story above about the pastor illustrates, and the rest of the article explains, inclinations and desires can be sinful. Therefore, Christians must put such inclinations and desires to death. Godly inclinations and desires are those that lead to godly actions. The pastor’s sexual inclinations and desires noted above are to be aimed toward his wife. All ungodly desires, whether sexual (heterosexual or homosexual), lustful (idolatrous immorality), anger (murder), greed (idolatrous desire) and so on must be addressed.
Unaddressed sinful desires may keep you on the edge of temptation and even lead to sin. Thankfully, Jesus has overcome sin and death. Not only has the Holy Spirit transformed us Christians, but he has given us his power to overcome sin and sinful desires and put them to death (Gal. 5:22-25).
While there are several Scriptures that speak to Christians exercising self-control, walking by faith, and living godly lives, I leave you with three to consider to help overcome sinful inclinations and desires.
- 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 – Destroy strongholds by God’s power and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
- Philippians 4:8 – Think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent.
- Colossians 3:1-2 – Seek and set your mind on what is above where Jesus is rather than what is on the earth.
Finally, I pray the above is helpful and you are encouraged to meditate on those Scriptures that the Holy Spirit would use them to kill your sinful inclinations and desires. We are not without hope. Jesus has won the war with the gospel and left us with the power, tools, and armor to win our daily battles (Eph. 6:13-18).
Grace and peace,
About Mark Lamprecht
Mark is a Jesus follower and a Southern Baptist minister writing, preaching, and teaching to encourage believers. He lives in Metro-Atlanta with his wife, a daughter close-by in college, and a house full of dogs. He is available for pulpit supply and is seeking a full-time ministry position. He also founded Pulpit Supply Preachers ministry. Read more...