It’s all around us, permeating our senses. This thing — let’s call it the “L” word — is ever so subtle, creeping into the crevasses of our minds though sites, sounds, smells, and conversations. No one seems to notice it until devastation hits.

The “L” word is lust. And lust is everywhere.

Many believe lust is harmless. They think it has no ill effects, is fun, and adds spice to a marriage. But the alarming truth is lust destroys hundreds, if not thousands, of marriages every day.

Scriptures speaks clearly about what lust involves:

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:28).

For everything in the world the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life come not from the Father but from the world (1 John 2:16).

An “I did everything but” attitude still fails to honor a marriage.   Frequently I hear, “We didn’t have sex” or “I kept my pants on.” First of all, kissing, massage, using sex toys, masturbation, and oral or anal sex — is sex. Sending sexually explicit messages or photos is lust. Lust begins with the eyes, the heart, and the mind.

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Here are eight faulty beliefs that subtly lead men and women away from fulfilling their wedding vows:

That Flirting Is Harmless

Too many men and women have the attitude that they can “look at the menu” as much as they want, as long as they don’t order anything. There is ignorance in this attitude. Innocent looks and playful conversations can lead to bigger problems far too easily. Flirtations are “emotional adultery.” There’s no other way to slice or dice it.

That You’re in Control

Many men and women feel they can tame the beast of lust, underestimating the enemy they fight. You don’t have to go looking for lust-causing images — they will find you. Temptations are aggressive, accessible, available, and appealing. We can never choose to go toe-to-toe with them and expect to come through them; to choose this is prideful, foolish, and unbiblical.

Scripture says, Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? (Proverbs 6:27-28).

That No One Will Ever Know

The foolish man in Proverbs 7 believes no one will catch him in his act of adultery. This foolish attitude is the same as someone who constantly gives into porn or emotional or physical affairs. Instead we need to live lives of confession, exposing sin to trusted friends, pastors, or mentors.

That You Can Take Just One More Look

When the one more look drags you toward sexual sin, take ten long looks at the cross of Jesus. Think about Jesus’ stunning sacrifice, his great love, his awesome freedom, and his gripping grace gifted to you when he saved you by his death on the cross. We are free from addiction and struggle and sin because he beat it all on the cross. We are no longer a slave to our lusts. We are sons and daughters of his love and glory. So embrace that truth and live it by constant repentance and faith.

That You Can Act Without Thinking

It is important to take a serious inventory of our lives, to really think about what we are doing and if we might be crossing the line. When an impulsive heart meets with pornography or with an all-too-vulnerable friendship, this is the first step on the road to immorality. We will not stumble into purity or trip into godliness. We must aim for it.

That You’re the Exception

You think you are somehow different from others. You’re either guilty of incredible pride or incredible ignorance (or both). Sexual sin is a road to spiritual death; there are no exceptions. You don’t want to be the exception. Being the exception means that God never brings your sins to light, never brings you to conviction, and thus never leads you to repentance. You are not “just in a season” of weakness. Be honest with yourself and with God, admit selfishness, and seek God’s mercy.

Live in Denial

Be aware that we all have the tendency to rationalize sin. Be aware of vulnerable moments when we’re likely to want to rationalize: when we are hungry, angry, lonely, or tired.

That You Don’t Need Community and Accountability

Marriage was never intended for isolation, but for community with fellow believers in Jesus Christ. The more we isolate, the more vulnerable we are to sin. When we invite others into our lives who get to know us at a deeper level, we create an environment for a greater honesty and transparency.

To remain physically, emotionally, and spiritually faithful in marriage requires diligence, prayer, community, and accountability. Hopefully, awareness of how quickly lust creeps into our line of vision provides an avenue for doing more than keeping it at arms length. We must make a daily choice to keep lust away from our hearts and minds.

Portions of this were adapted from 13 Ways to Ruin Your Life by Jarrod Jones.