Let’s suppose you had a friend who has struggled with lust for most of his life. He reads what Jesus said in Matthew 5:28: “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Then he thinks to himself, “Wow, Jesus didn’t condemn my enjoyment of looking at women. It’s just sin when I allow it to go to lust.” So he decides that as long as he just enjoys looking at women all is fine. He just can’t let the looking turn into lusting.
My guess is that you would tell your friend that he will not be successful in not lusting. The flesh is the flesh, and no matter what his good intentions are, he will lust. When it comes to truth, the question is: How do we apply it to our life?
Likewise, the practical application of Ephesians 4:26 regarding anger presents a challenge for some. “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” It can be read as “in your anger, when you begin to feel angry, don’t sin.” The problem is what a person does with his anger. Isn’t that similar to enjoying looking at women but not lusting? That is likely why God tells us to “cease from anger” (Psalm 37:8) and to “put off all these; anger…” (Colossians 3:8). Then in Ephesians 4:31 we find this: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger … be put away from you.” What is it that we don’t understand about ceasing and putting off?
Lust and anger are both powerful in the flesh. That is why Proverbs 6:25a says, “Lust not after her beauty in thine heart.” A man’s heart will quickly move from appreciating her beauty to lusting. In a similar way, might it be wise to abhor anger because of how easily it leads to sin as opposed to allowing it and then trying not to sin in it? Some sin dies hard, and man is reluctant to let it go.