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Internet filters like Covenant Eyes have helped Christians avoid temptation for years. It exists as one tool among many to accomplish the same thing: to help users stop clicking into websites they shouldn’t.

As almost anyone will tell you, however, website filters are not enough. The power of temptation enforced by years of habit cannot easily be overcome by filters. We cannot overcome lust by only avoiding it. Instead, the goal should be that we renew our minds by putting on our new self (Eph 4:23–24).

The reason why this is so important is that the only way to break a bad habit is to create a new habit. But more than this, the only way to break a sinful habit is by a habit of grace. As Christians, we have a new Spiritual principle for overcoming sin and temptation, a resource that is not merely about words but about power.

Habits of the Mind

Paul identifies real change as happening in the mind (Rom 12:2; Eph 4:23). The mind—that inner man—starts the change. The reason why is that God through faith recreates us into the image of Christ in the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit or “the Spirit of wisdom” enlightens “the eyes of your hearts” (Eph 1:17–18). The heart here functions as a synonym for mind. It is worth noting that the word mind or heart do not refer to organs like the brain or heart. They refer to the inner person, the soul, the spirit, or whatever language one prefers.

We overcome lustful temptation by goodness, not by only avoiding of temptation.

Another way to put it is this: the Spirit renews our minds, so that “by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom 12:2). This testing takes effort, practice, or habit. As Hebrews 5:14 says, we have our “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.”

Testing in Romans 12:2 is akin to constant practice in Hebrews 5:14. The goal here is to train our “powers of discernment.” The effect is that we can “discern what is the will of God,” which here is identical to: “what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

But notice the means to attain this goal and experience the effect: testing, training, practice.

To overcome sin and temptation, it takes habits of the mind.

Faith And Spirit

Faith informs our mind by the Spirit. The Spirit, we might say, pours out faith into our hearts as a gift (Eph 2:8). And faith unites us to the body of Christ. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body” (1 Cor 12:13).

As a consequence, our efforts and habits do not conflict with faith and Spirit. In Paul’s language, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Cor 15:10).

Or even more directly, Paul can say, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12–13).

The gift of faith that informs our mind by infusion itself requires the abolition of sin and a growth in godliness. Hence, faith by the Spirit explains how we can work out our salvation.

The reformer Martin Luther explains, “Faith is the gift and inward good which purges the sin to which it is opposed.”[1]While grace remits sins, faith purges sin in us. Grace cancels wrath; faith destroys sin. The one removes God’s wrath outside of us, while the other heals the sin inside of us. That is, “The gift [of faith] has been infused.”[2] The word infusion here signals an inward gift of the Spirit. That is also how I use this word.

Grace And Effort

Because of grace, our efforts are not in vain. God justifies us and makes us into a good tree, so that we do good works. God plants us as a tree by fresh streams of water, so that we can bear fruit in due season. God declares us just, so that we can do good (Eph 2:10).

That is what holiness means. Of God, the psalmist says, “You are good and do good.” And so God calls us to be holy as he is holy, to be good as he is good (Lev 11:44).

And this means our effort against sin, our war against lust does not terminate in using the right apps to avoid temptation.

Our struggle does not work by asking:

Got lust?

And answering:

I’ve got an app for that!

Website filters can assist useful tools in our struggle, but they are insufficient as the solution.

The only thing that can truly produce lasting change is a renewed mind nurtured by constant practice, so that we can put off the old man and put on the new man (Eph 4:22–24).

If we do, we act out what is true of us, namely, that we are created “after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24).

Practically Speaking

Moral formation requires extensive deliberation, planning, and effort. With Paul, we should aspire to work harder than the rest, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. A renewed mind becomes a good mind by faith; and that faith purges the sin within our mind.

This effort is not apart from faith, but it flows out the mind informed by faith. By inform, I am speaking metaphysically about how the Spirit shapes our inner life by faith in God. This shaping is not only information but also a metaphysical reality that means that deepening our faith lessens our sin.

As Martin Luther says, “peace and the remission of sins are properly attributed to the grace of God, while healing from corruption is ascribed to faith.”[3] This healing of corruption or sin flows from faith.

Faith itself purges sin. Our efforts are wholly centred in and from faith and by the Spirit. But faith itself launches us into the fight against sin.

So what do I mean precisely? How can we practically follow my advice in this article? Here are three steps to start:

Deliberate. To deliberate means using our mind to discern right from wrong. Deliberation or discernment leads to wisdom. In Paul’s language, we “think about these things” (Phil 4:8). Living wisely here is the goal, and the pathway is deliberation. Deliberation specifically in this context means to know right from wrong, what is good from bad, what is acceptable from unacceptable, what is perfect from what is imperfect.

Choose. Next, choose what is right based on deliberation and wisdom (Gal 6:9; Micah 6:8). By spending the time in deliberation to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect, we can know what to choose. As we choose the good, we increasingly know and choose the good by habit. It becomes second nature, we might say.

Practice. By knowing and choosing the good, we like a good tree produces good fruit in due season. Having become the kind of person who knows the good, chooses the good, and practices the good, we can be said to be holy as God is holy (Lev 11:44)—at least as much as is possible before the resurrection. As John says, “everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him” (1 John 2:29).

By following these guidelines and applying them specifically to our situation, we can become the kind of person who by habit acts out of a renewed mind.

A Good Tree Bears Good Fruit

We need to become the kind of person who does not want to click on links to satisfy lust, because we have become “mature” by having our “powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Heb 5:14).

This is the renewed mind of Romans 12:2 and Ephesians 4:23. This is the good heart, not the bad heart of Mark 7:21–23. This is the tree planted by the waters of the Spirit, nurtured by faith from Psalm 1. And as this good tree, we produce good fruit in its due season (Ps 1:3; Matt 7:17).

But this starts in a mind informed by faith through the infusion of the Spirit which is an inner gift (Eph 2:8). From there, we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). We “[meditate] day and night” on God’s instruction (Ps 1:2)—we deliberate.

As we deliberate, we ask God to “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Ps 51:10). We choose and do good (1 Pet 2:15). We practice it (1 John 2:29).

And at the end of the day, we learn a key lesson about sanctification: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21).

The way to overcome evil is not to use an app to avoid evil. The way to overcome evil is by doing good. That’s why it’s insufficient to use an app to prevent sin and temptation from getting to your eyes.

We may (and often should) use apps like Covenant Eyes. But the most important thing is that we renew our minds by meditating day and night, so that we can choose and practice the good until the point that it becomes habit, or second nature.

We need to bear fruit as the good tree that God declares us to be us by faith in the Holy Spirit. We overcome lustful temptation by goodness, not by only avoiding of temptation.


[1] Against Latomus, 32:227.

[2] Against Latomus, 32:229.

[3] Against Latomus, 32:227. Specifically, God’s grace puts an end to wrath while God’s gift (of faith) puts an end to reigning sin in us. “We therefore have two goods of the gospel against the two evils of the law: the gift on account of sin, and grace on account of wrath” (Against Latomus, 32:228). In the next line, Luther will point out also that wrath and grace have to do with matters “outside us” whereas by implication faith and sin have to do with manners inside us.