Having looked into the tearful eyes of parents whose children have abandoned the Faith, I have learned there are a million miles between our children “going through the motions” in reference to their spiritual lives versus our children possessing hearts that dictate their actions. In this column, I plan to share with you what I hope to instill in the hearts of my own children and those whom I love.

In a hyper-sexualized nation we have almost become desensitized to it: lust. Scantily clad billboards are the norm. Restaurants featuring immodestly dressed women are not just doing well—they are thriving and new chains, also featuring immodest waitresses, are sprouting up in cities all across the nation. Television has become a parade of indecently dressed actors and actresses. Even many commercials use sex to sell products and feature immodest actresses.

Many people are dressing not just to just attract attention, but to also accentuate their bodies. Our society feels very comfortable wearing very little or very tight clothes. A Christian would be hard pressed to go to a local mall and not feel visually assaulted. Add to this the epidemic of Internet pornography and you can easily see the recipe for disaster. Infidelity has become the norm in television sitcoms, and marriages are falling apart all across the nation. And if we are honest with ourselves, lust does not stop at the doorway of a church building.

Here’s what I intend to teach my children regarding lust.

God created our bodies—and He created them “good.” The human body is an amazing thing. Unfortunately, many people have taken the human body and turned it into an ungodly object. A simple definition of lust is longing for someone to whom you are not married. Lust is not something that Christians should be doing. Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).

I believe part of the reason Christ said this was because the act of lusting removes the “human” element that was created in the image and likeness of God, and reduces that person down to an object. It also causes your mind to turn away from good things and to focus on fleshly things. In that moment you are walking away from a holy God.

Your mom and I have tried hard to shelter you from much of this filth during your short lifetimes—and we encourage you to do the same in your homes. We know you are exposed to many sexual images when we go out in public, but we do everything we can to limit that exposure and to protect your hearts and minds. Many people would argue that children should not be sheltered because they claim that protective “bubble” is not what the real world is like. However, God does not (and does not need to) immerse His children in vile and graphic details so that you can “learn” and recognize sin. You do not need to experience sin to know what it is (e.g., Jesus did not need to experience sin to know what was sinful). We have reared you in such a way that hopefully you will not even open your minds to the sin of lust.

Many people lust because they view it to be a “secret sin” that no one else is aware of. However, God is aware of everything—and please remember that what you are doing is bringing your mind into darkness instead of the light. The writer of Proverbs instructed his son to keep his father’s command, “To keep you from the evil woman, from the flattering tongue of a seductress. Do not lust after her beauty in your heart” (Proverbs 6:24-25). Later in that same book we read, “The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the unfaithful will be caught by their lust” (Proverbs 11:6).

Lust is a battle of the mind. What you must do is constantly discipline your mind against going there. Paul in writing to the church at Galatia admonished, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (Galatians 5:16-17). Every time you find yourself in that battle, consider that it was our wretched sin that put Jesus Christ on the cross. Force yourself to consider the real cost of making someone into an object for your pleasure. The cost of sin is death—it’s not worth a few minutes of mental pleasure.

Love, Dad

By Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

For more info on Dr. Brad Harrub’s book “Heart of the Matter: Letters to My Children,” click here.

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Think magazine.