How Can I Gain Victory Over Impure Thoughts?

How Can I Gain Victory Over Impure Thoughts?

How to Conquer 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 to man. 

Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. (I Corinthians 10:13)

The Douay Rheims explains it this way, "Let no temptation come upon you as yet, but what is human, or incident to man." Another way to say it is this, "let no temptation seize you because temptations are that which is common for people."

In Christ we have victory over the destructive power of sin through the grace of God in our lives after we have been made free from sin.

But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end life everlasting. (Romans 6:22)

The next verse explains that the fruit unto sanctification is a reference to grace given unto sanctification, that is grace to help become set apart for God which in the end leads to eternal life.

"But the grace of God , life eternal" (Romans 3:23)

"For the law of the spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, hath delivered me from the law of sin and of death." (Romans 8:2)

"The law of the Spirit is the the power of grace we receive to counteract the downward pull of concupiscence. It is also the positive force of divine love that the Spirit pours into our hearts and enables us to fulfill the righteousness of the love"                        

[The Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans. Ignatius Press]

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.

“But thanks be to God, that you were the servants of sin, but have obeyed from the heart, unto that form of doctrine, into which you have been delivered. Being then freed from sin, we have been made servants of justice.” (Romans 6:17–18)

However, you must choose to walk in that victory.

Daniel “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not be defiled” (Daniel 1:8).

Every believer needs to make that decision as well. God promises, “And when thou shalt seek there the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him: yet so, if thou seek him with all thy heart, and all the affliction of 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.

Remember this:

For a just man shall fall seven times and shall rise again. (Proverbs 24:16)

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 this truth in mind:
You will never face a temptation that is impossible to overcome.

Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human. And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able: but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it. (I Corinthians 10:13.)

God is eager to give you all the grace you need to reject the temptation.

Let us go therefore with confidence to the throne of grace: that we may obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid. (Hebrews 4:16.)

God promises to give you wisdom, but you must ask for it in faith.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, which is moved and carried about by the wind. Therefore let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is inconstant in all his ways. (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.

But he was wounded for our iniquities, he was bruised for our sins: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his bruises we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

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.

Then the Philistines seized upon him, and forthwith pulled out his eyes, and led him bound in chains to Gaza, and shutting him up in prison made him grind. (Judges 16:21)

David with a divided family and kingdom.

And David said to Solomon: My son, it was my desire to have built a house to the name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Thou hast shed much blood, and fought many battles, so thou canst not build a house to my name, after shedding so much blood before me: (1 Paralipomenon {I Chronicles} 22:7–8.)

Contemplate the horrible consequences of sin.

Global Consequences-Because of human rebellion, the entire “creation” was subjected to the “bondage of corruption”. 

For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him that made it subject, in hope: Because the creature also itself shall be delivered from the servitude of corruption, into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. For we know that every creature groaneth and travaileth in pain, even till now.(Romans 8:20-21)

National Consequences-There is a moral standard the Creator expects of nations.

Justice exalteth a nation: but sin maketh nations miserable. (Proverbs 14:34)

Physical Consequences-Death, and all of its preliminary problems, are the consequences of human disobedience to the Creator. In the garden of Eden, the Lord warned Adam that “the day” he ate of the forbidden fruit he would “die.” “Death” is used in several senses in the Bible, yet it always implies some type of “separation.” When the original couple ate of that “fruit” they immediately were separated from their Creator in a spiritual sense. When they were banished from Eden and the “tree of life,” they were subjected to a process of degeneration which eventually would culminate in physical death (Genesis 3:22-24; 5:5)

Mental Consequences-Unless one is so hardened that his conscience can no longer feel guilt the consciousness of sin will trouble the sensitive soul. It is the sorrow of guilt that leads one to repentance.

For the sorrow that is according to God worketh penance, steadfast unto salvation; but the sorrow of the world worketh death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

It is a reality beyond dispute that many of the maladies characterized today as “mental illness” are the result of consciences laboring under the burden of guilt.

Societal Consequences-There are numerous lingering consequences of sin, both collective and individual, that plague the human family. For example, the refusal of the descendants of Noah to “replenish the earth” (Genesis 1:28), and their insistence that they would remain in the land of Shinar, and not be “scattered” (Genesis 11:1-4), caused Jehovah to “confound their language” and scatter them abroad (vv. 7-8). As a result of language isolationism and genetic pool developments, various “races” ultimately sprang up. The sad history of racial rivalry and hostility within the human family is too well known to need documentation. It is a lingering effect of humanity’s disobedience.

Spiritual Consequences-The prophet Isaias (Isaiah) declared:

Behold the hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have divided between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you that he should not hear. (Isaias,[Isaiah] 59:1-2) 

Eternal Consequences-And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 7:23; 25:41)

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 my eyes, that I would not so much as think upon a virgin.”

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.

The light of thy body is thy eye. If thy eye be single, thy whole body shall be lightsome. But if thy eye be evil thy whole body shall be darksome. If then the light that is in thee, be darkness: the darkness itself how great shall it be! (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.
⦁ You can invest in that person’s life through prayer.
⦁ You can trust God to deliver you from temptation.
⦁ You will walk in freedom from sinful thoughts toward that person.

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.

For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. (Ephesians 6:12.)

God wants us to resist the devil.

Be subject therefore to God, but resist the devil, and he will fly from you. (James 4:7)

He also knows that our natural inclinations easily betray us. They betray us to the delusive, glamorous, and temporal pleasures that Satan offers.

For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I work, I understand not. For I do not that good which I will; but the evil which I hate, that I do. If then I do that which I will not, I consent to the law, that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that there dwelleth not in me, that is to say, in my flesh, that which is good. For to will, is present with me; but to accomplish that which is good, I find not. For the good which I will, I do not; but the evil which I will not, that I do. Now if I do that which I will not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that when I have a will to do good, evil is present with me. For I am delighted with the law of God, according to the inward man: But I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind, and captivating me in the law of sin, that is in my members. Unhappy man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death? The grace of God, by Jesus Christ our Lord. Therefore, I myself, with the mind serve the law of God; but with the flesh, the law of sin. (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 Jesus the Word and his Written Word.

I BESEECH you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1–2)

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: (Ephesians 4:23)

For the word of God is living and effectual, and more piercing than any two edged sword; and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

John Chrysostoms Homily.....

on Hebrews 4:12 tell us this: " 'For the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' "In these words he shows that He, the Word of God, wrought the former things also, and lives, and has not been quenched.
Do not then when hearing the Word, think of it lightly. For He is sharper, he says, than a sword. Observe His condescension; and hence consider why the prophets also needed to speak of saber and bow and sword. If you turn not, it is said, 'He will whet His sword, He has bent His bow and made it ready.' (Psalm 7:12)"

He includes in his description of the Word not only the Spoken Word but the Living Word, Jesus Christ. And because today we have scripture so readily handy to read, we can include the Written Word as well.

Remove hidden provisions for defeat.

Scripture declares, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh in its concupiscences.” (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 we are told to not walk in the way of the evil, to completely avoid and turn away from it.

Be not delighted in the paths of the wicked, neither let the way of evil men please thee. Flee from it, pass not by it: go aside, and forsake it. (Proverbs 4:14–15)

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.

Now these things were done in a figure of us, that we should not covet evil things as they also coveted. (I Corinthians 10:6.)

Scripture is filled with examples and reminders that we need great determination to wage the battle against impure thoughts.

If thou lose hope being weary in the day of distress, thy strength shall be diminished.(Proverbs 24:10)

And he cometh to his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and he saith to Peter: What? Could you not watch one hour with me? Watch ye, and pray that ye enter not into temptation. (Matthew 26:40–41)

But you, brethren, be not weary in well doing. (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. (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 who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will. (Philippians 2:13)

Not with an army, nor by might, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. (Zacharias [Zachariah] 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 Catholic 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 strengthened in the Lord, and in the might of his power.” (Ephesians 6:10) and to put on the spiritual armor God has given us.

"Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places". (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 , 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 eyes of the Lord in every place behold the good and the evil. (Proverbs 15:3)

The Lord beholdeth the ways of man, and considereth all his steps. (Proverbs 5:21)

Thou hast known my sitting down, and my rising up. Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off: my path and my line thou hast searched out. And thou hast foreseen all my ways: (Psalm 138:2-4)

Engraft relevant Scriptures into your mind and heart by memorizing and meditating on them and applying them to your life.

Thy words have I hidden in my heart, that I may not sin against thee. (Psalms 118:11)

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 a clean heart in me, O God: and renew a right spirit within my bowels.” (Psalm 50:12). 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.

"Federal agents don’t learn to spot counterfeit money by studying the counterfeits. They study genuine bills until they master the look of the real thing. Then when they see the bogus money they recognize it.”

[John MacArthur’s Reckless Faith.]

It is the same with evil and good. You do not study the details of evil you study the details of good. So that when evil appears in all its deception, you will know to stay away from it.

God would have us to be “wise in good, and simple in 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 Church and the Holy Spirit.

Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God; that we may know the things that are given us from God. But the spiritual man judgeth all things; and he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that we may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. (I Corinthians 2:12, 15–16.)

"The spiritual man is he who, in the mysteries of religion, takes not human sense for his guide: but submits his judgment to the decisions of the church, which he is commanded to hear and obey. For Christ hath promised to remain to the end of the world with his church, and to direct her in all things by the Spirit of truth."

Become mighty in God’s Spirit.

All believers face the battle against impure thoughts.

“For the flesh lusteth against the spirit: and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another: ” (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, “Wherefore having the loins of your mind girt up, …As children of obedience, not fashioned according to the former desires of your ignorance: But according to him that hath called you, who is holy, be you also in all manner of conversation (behavior) holy: ” (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, The Mass, fellowship with Godly Catholics, studying the life of the saints, regular confession 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 what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit shall reap life everlasting. And in doing good, let us not fail. For in due time we shall reap, not failing.” (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. (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. And by listening and obeying when the Church Speaks. (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. (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.

[Some things in this article was taken from the "Institute of Basic Life Principles" and adapted for the Catholic Church.]