Living Above Lust

Living Above Lust

Wallace had a secret. He kept it for over twenty years. It went back to his preteen years when he pored over the pages of the Sears catalog. He graduated to increasingly coarse magazines in his teen and college years.

Wallace came to know the Lord in his late teens and saw many areas of his life transformed. He thought for a time that even his little secret was fully conquered, but eventually learned differently. Despite becoming a devoted father and later a deacon in the church, Wallace’s secret continued, in the form of Internet exploring at work and at night.

The guilt, internal conflict, and shame of his double life made him feel he would explode. He prayed. He memorized Scripture. He fasted. He begged God for deliverance. He vowed many times that he would break his addiction and live a holy life before God. Although he had some longer periods of “victory,” he failed every time.

One day in desperation, Wallace shared his secret with someone and began to get spiritual help. That critical step was the beginning of his restoration to God, his wife, his friends, and himself.

Many believers today struggle with the lure of pornography and cannot gain victory over lust. Many who are secretly entangled with impurity were snared by exposure to pornography in their preteen or early teen years. They developed a pattern of secretive behavior, leading a double life. They appear to others as good Christians but continually experience guilt, internal conflict, and shame.

Too many Christians have been willing to exchange their birthright—their grand and rich position as heirs of glory with Christ—for moments of illicit sexual pleasure. Too many men and women of God have traded in their inheritance for a bowl of stew as Esau did.

Are you one of these? What is your secret? Are you desperate for help? There is hope. Restoration to God and others can happen. A focus on God and His glory is vital.

Can believers live victoriously in a sex-crazed society without being ensnared by pornography, sensuality, and lust? Yes, they can! But again, they must focus on God and His glory.

The Problem

We live in uniquely difficult days. Dark­ness is increasing. Depravity, corruption, moral rottenness, and perversions are esca­lating. Particularly in the area of sexual sins we see a growing lewdness and casting off of restraints. Inflamed, unbridled passions lead to exaggerated and perverted sexual behavior. Depravity and lusts have always been with us, but they seem to be intensifying, fueled and turbocharged by the glut of glamorized and embellished erotic material available with a click or a touch.

This explosion of pornographic material is caused by amazing advances in technology that have made such material easy to produce and readily available. Technology, in itself, is amoral—neither good nor bad. Technology is defined as “the tools, machines, materials, techniques, and processes used to produce goods and services.” Technology serves won­derful purposes and has brought about much good. It is a part of today’s infrastructure that aids in sending the Gospel to all parts of the world.

However, technology also allows men to commit sins in more ways and more quickly than ever before. Our use of technology is not amoral. We are responsible for how we use technology. The hand that uses technology gives it moral content.

The Internet gives us the world at our fingertips. With it, all that the world has to offer—its systems and values—is almost instantly available. John reminds us that the whole world lies under the sway and control of the wicked one (1 John 5:19). The Bible calls Satan “the ruler of this world,” “the god of this world [age],” and “the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the children of disobedience.” God’s people live in the world, but are not of it. Since we live in enemy territory, we do well to live carefully, diligently avoiding the snares and strategies of the adversary.

Satan hates God and His work. He hates us and wants us to be lost. He delights in robbing us of joy, messing up our lives, and spoiling our relationship with God. He is very aggres­sive; he will do everything he can to disrupt our abundant life in Christ.

Josh McDowell, speaking at the 2011 meet­ing of the American Association of Christian Counselors, said that he believes the perva­siveness of sexually immoral material on the Internet is the greatest threat the church, missions, and families face today.

Consider these 2011 statistics:

  • 43% of Internet content was pornographic.
  • Sex was the No. 1 topic searched on the Internet.
  • 80% of 15- to 17-year-olds had multiple exposures to hard-core pornography.
  • The average age of exposure to Internet pornog­raphy was 11 years old.
  • 27% of 4- to 6-year-olds were on the web, and 35% of those visited pornographic sites.
  • Every second 30,000 people were viewing porn.

We are in a war. Satan seeks to entrap and ensnare us through insidious methods, trying to make what is extremely dangerous appear harmless, working in secret to develop his deadly traps. He is sly, crafty, tricky, treach­erous, cunning, and underhanded. He uses subtle tactics and weapons, stealthily maneu­vering his forces. He desperately wants God’s people to be indifferent. But since he is out to destroy us, we cannot afford to be uncon­cerned. We must band together, talk, and pray specifically regarding these matters.

Inadequate Responses

Today’s tsunami of filth calls for our reasoned and vigorous response. We must be like the people of Issachar, who “had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32) What should be our response? Let’s consider some inadequate or wrong responses.

Silence. One of the enemy’s advantages we need to remove is the hush-hush and hesi­tancy to talk about sexual and moral purity. Sexual matters have been kept secret and pri­vate, and the enemy attempts to keep them there—hidden in that arena of “personal mat­ters.” Many deny or at least do not realize the seriousness of this hidden scourge that can have such devastating effect on the body of Christ.

Indifference. Apathy or an uncaring atti­tude is simply not an option for the believer.

Throwing Up Our Hands. Neither can we give up because of the loss of control and the per­vasiveness of the problem. “What can we do? It is beyond us.”

Overreaction. Attempting to cut off all access to technology will not work in today’s world.

Conservative Anabaptists have historically responded to some mostly harmful technolo­gies by prohibiting and avoiding them. Absti­nence has served us well and will continue to serve us well in some instances. But it is not the total answer.

Fear. Responding in fear leads to other wrong reactions, such as overreaction, or choosing not to deal with the issue, thinking, If we don’t confront it, it will just go away.

We dare not let fear motivate our decisions and actions. We must act in faith—faith in Jesus. His voice must be the only one we hear. We must pray in faith. We must in faith be actively involved in the lives of those we are respon­sible for. Faith finds direction in the Word and enlists the power of the Holy Spirit. Faith acts in courage and in obedience. It chooses to say, “I will.” Faith works together with love.

Technical Restraints. We should use filters and blockers, but we need more than that. Tech-savvy young people can, if they want to, find things that appeal to the flesh no matter how many restraints are in place. Further­more, filters do not stop titillating, suggestive material from popping up during searches and on Internet sites. New devices and ways of accessing the Internet continue to appear. Rules, controls, and filters have their place and should be used, but they alone are not sufficient. They won’t stem the tide of glam­orously packaged corruption.

For example, when a teen emails porno­graphic content to a friend, filters may not detect it, and parents may be oblivious to what is happening. Cell phones can be used to exchange indecent pictures and may be more difficult to filter. The ways of media sharing are many.

What will our loved ones do at sleepovers, in the workplace, with friends or relatives, while traveling, or on their own with no super­vision? Outward rules and controls must be accompanied by inner controls, put into place by a heart that loves God. Heart matters must be taught and cultivated.

Some Basic Principles

How can we use technology responsibly and with moderation? Let’s look at some prin­ciples. As we understand these truths and let them grip our hearts, they will help us toward freedom, strength, and victory.

Love the Truth. We must love the truth and let it sink deep into our hearts. Love for truth will help us not to sin (Psalm 119:11). Loving the truth of God, following Jesus (truth per­sonified), and being truthful about ourselves (“truth in the inward parts”—Psalm 51:6) are like powerful bombs that will blast away built-in advantages the enemy has in fleshly desires and worldly allurements.

We must be filled with God’s truth and con­trol our thinking by it. Under that control, God’s Spirit can empower us to triumph over temp­tation. We must bring our minds and hearts into the captivity of Christ and spiritual truth. Those in our care or who follow us need to see us living and modeling truth. Truth taught by both word and example is very powerful. It provides ammunition for winning spiritual battles and help growing in Christ. It helps fortify those we care for against wickedness.

Guard Your Heart. In discussions on purity, we frequently hear the expression, “It’s a matter of the heart.” How do we flesh that out?

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (NKJV). We usually think of guarding our hearts as keeping things out. Corruption, false ideas, impurity, temptations—we must ward them off, never allow them into our affections. The things that can assail a heart from the outside are innumerable, far too overwhelm­ing for us to manage alone.

There’s another side to this vigilance. We are also to stand guard inside the gate, being careful about what is leaving. Hold on to true worship, the spirit of sacrifice and servant­hood, humility, gentleness, thankfulness, the fear of God, brokenness, and above all the presence of Jesus by His Spirit. Keep these things; they are all-important.

Most religions tell us to avoid the bad, but God tells us to embrace Him. We are to focus on Him, not on the enemy’s devices. Paul, in Galatians 5:16, says it simply: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” The Amplified Bible expands the verse: “Walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]: then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh [of human nature without God].” God does not tell us to put down the sinful nature and hope the Spirit will show up. He tells us to live by the Spirit and expect the sinful nature to have no power.

We must hide and keep God’s Word in our hearts, not just in our minds. We must medi­tate on, take ownership of, and put before our eyes God’s Word, will, and thoughts. We must keep these things in our hearts. Do this, and the corruptions and temptations will find no place there. Treasuring the wellspring God has birthed in our hearts leaves no room for those corruptions that were once our obsessions.

Put Away Idolatry. Romans 1:25 speaks of those “who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.” The phrase worshipped the creature speaks of idolatry. It can include the worship of or undue attention to the human body. Idolatry elevates the creature above the Creator. Through a lust-filled focus on the human body, people get a pleasurable sensa­tion—an uplift, boost, or a “high.”

God, the source of all true beauty, created mankind beautiful. This is good and right. But a muscular, well-built male or an endowed female should never be seen as an end in themselves. Give God the credit for the beauty. But we dare not focus on the body or become obsessed with it; it is temporal, and will soon pass away. It is only skin, muscle, and bones; it will not satisfy, no matter how it is exploited, embellished, or exaggerated to appeal to evil desires. To view bodies in illegitimate ways, for pleasure, is to commit idolatry. It is bypassing God, the Creator and giver of life.

Our world is obsessed with sex, constantly trying to create euphoria with cranked-up, twisted, sexual explicitness and perversions. But people find no satisfaction, no true joy in these things—only emptiness, disillusion­ment, and increased bondage. Why would we want to dabble in that idolatry? Why con­nect with the enemy of our souls? Why join the multitudes, who like brute animals, go the way to slaughter?

The Israelites left God to go after other gods. In worshiping other gods, including the Baals, they found tangible physical pleasures. Such “worship” often included sexual sins. God has not changed; He views idolatry as He always did. Neither have humans changed; like the Israelites, we can be deceived into focusing on visible and tangible sources of pleasure rather than on the invisible realities of the life-giving God.

God knows idols are deceptive and will only destroy us. He is a jealous God, wanting only the best for the beautiful bride He is preparing for Himself. Let’s cooperate with Him and do our part to eradicate the Baals from our lives. Separation from these is necessary if we are to be holy and wholly His.

Obey God’s Command to Be Holy. God’s people are His special (peculiar) treasure, a holy people. To be holy is to be set apart or separated; it is to be “other” in a special way. Words used to describe holy people include sanctified, consecrated, pure, different, apart, and special.

Our God, who is completely different, utterly transcendent, totally other, satisfies our long­ing for something beyond this fallen world. He is remaking us into His Son’s image as we seek Him and live in faith and obedience. The more like Him we become, the less we desire to ful­fill our sinful lusts and the more separate from sin we are.

We believers are dramatically different from the world. We should seem strangely alive, compared to the walking dead around us. If the life of God is not flowing out of our lives, some disconnect or obstacle stands between the Living One and us.

Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 instructs us how to grow in holiness. Verses 3-5 read, “This is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (NKJV).

Living a life of personal holiness by the grace of God is the putting on of the breast­plate of righteousness. It is the practical righ­teousness of a life lived in obedience to God’s Word. It is putting on the righteous behavior of the “new man” or “new self,” which refuses to give the devil an opportunity (Ephesians 4:24-27).

Putting on the breastplate of righteousness means living in daily, moment-by-moment obedience to God. He supplies the standard and the power for holy living; we supply the willingness. When we are born again, God counts our faith as righteousness (Romans 4:3, 24) through Christ. By Him we daily put on the breastplate of righteousness—practi­cal righteousness—thus becoming a vessel of honor and useful for the Master.

The breastplate is our protection against the attacks of Satan. We are to, as it were, wrap righteousness around our torso. When the breastplate is absent or has chinks or holes, Satan can thrust darts into our heart or bowels, causing spiritual and emotional disturbances. Many emotional and relational problems Christians experience are caused by lack of personal holiness; they aren’t wearing the breastplate. As a result, they lose their joy, live in anger, or are conquered by indiffer­ence and apathy. They become fruitless, bring reproach on the name of Christ, and lose their eternal reward.

We mend and maintain our breastplates by walking in the light, confessing and agreeing with God about our sin (1 John 1:7-9). This involves a lifestyle of repentance, where we live in openness, honesty, transparency, and brokenness. It involves close communion with the Father and minding the Spirit as He puts His finger on matters in our lives. It includes pursuing righteousness and fleeing youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22).

Cultivate the Fear of God. When we fear God, we will strive to “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

The fear of God includes all of these: respecting God deeply; holding a very high view of God; not allowing man and his opinions to keep us from doing God’s will; recognizing God as King and Judge (big God, small me); realizing deeply that Almighty God is not to be taken lightly or presumed upon (especially His mercy); comprehending that God cannot tol­erate sin because it violates His nature; know­ing He will always punish sin; being conscious of God’s presence and all-seeing eye; having a dread of and wanting to avoid His righteous wrath and judgment.

Fearing God helps us to see sin as sin, not compromising or making exceptions. It helps us maintain a moral compass that will keep us from getting sucked into the morass of this world. It helps us be responsible and intentional. It brings a strong conviction to not go beyond—to draw a line, a boundary; to be as Joseph was in Egypt when he said to Potiphar’s wife, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”

When we fear God, we will see godly wisdom as valuable, and to be sought after. His wisdom gives us a long-range view of life such as Moses had, but Esau did not. Esau had a wonderful and bright future; but he lived for the moment and traded his inheritance for a miserable bowl of lentil stew. Why? Because the bowl of stew met the immediate desires of his flesh.

When the aroma of stew comes your way, remember Esau. Going after momentary pleasure can destroy your life and bring untold misery and pain. To fear God is to obtain wisdom. And wisdom will help us not to be like Esau.

Know That God Chastises and Disciplines. When believers go after strange gods by per­sisting in pet sins, they set themselves up for God’s chastisement and judgments. These can be heavy-duty and very painful; yet at the same time the gentleness of Jesus is there. Since we don’t like being spanked, let us not hanker after sin. “We have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjec­tion to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness” (Hebrews 12:9, 10 NKJV). Our God chastises in love and mercy.

If we choose the lusts of our flesh or eyes, God in mercy and love will discipline us to bring us back and rescue us from destruc­tion and ruin. If we sin but experience no chastisement, we are not His children. Do not despise God’s chastening; it indicates His love for us and gives evidence that we are His.

Recognize Our Actions Affect Others. What we do affects those in our care. When a person is involved in pornography or other sexual sins, there are repercussions that affect not only the one who sins but also others, espe­cially the spouse and children.

A parent, especially a father, is a protec­tion for his children. When a father fails and chooses to delve into moral corruption, he opens doors for the enemy to influence his children in ways not possible otherwise. The father loses his ability to protect his children spiritually. Parents do not want to open doors for Satan to more powerfully harass and tempt their children.

A wife can often sense when a husband is not clean or free. This may affect how she responds to physical intimacy. Anger often becomes a problem in a marriage where a partner is involved in sexual idolatry.

Moral failure always affects others. When we are tempted to gratify the demands of the lust of the flesh or eyes, we must remember that our choice will either help or hurt our loved ones. Let us not, in a momentary lapse of judgment, enter into things that give the enemy a foothold in the lives of our loved ones.

Avoid Occult Connections. There is a demonic spirit world involved and inter­woven with much of pornography. Whether or not demons have been “attached” to various porn sites or movies, there is no doubt that a demonic “virus” can enter the mind and heart of a person who knowingly dabbles in sin.

Choosing to get involved in pornography has the potential of connecting a person directly to the enemy. The death process ensues, entering all parts of a person’s life, affecting his relationships. The death princi­ple goes to work in subtle ways, often bringing death to marriages.

Forty percent of sex and porn addicts lose their spouses; fifty-eight percent suffer considerable financial losses; and thirty-three percent lose their jobs. Porn is satani­cally inspired perversion of God’s good gifts, and choosing to view it constitutes rebellion toward God. Those who give this sin a place give the devil the opportunity to drag them into deeper slavery to sin.

Avoid Harmful Addictions. Proverbs 27:20 says “the eyes of man are never satisfied.” Wisdom will help us avoid that which is addic­tive. We need spiritual eyes to see the invisible and understand how the enemy sets invisible traps. Wisdom helps us avoid the snare that would catch and strangle us in its ever tight­ening noose.

Today, a proliferation of devices provides easy access to the seemingly harmless nude­ness and sensuality that so attracts and appeals to the natural man. The “borderline” material that can’t really be called pornogra­phy is often the bait that begins an addictive pattern and leads to a downward spiral.

Pornography does not satisfy; it brings rottenness and deteriorates spiritual health. It leads to dissipation and wasting of time and resources. As with any other addiction, pursuing pornography usually leads a person ever deeper, into more and more perverted sexual material. Just as the drug addict needs an ever-bigger fix to reach the former “high,” so it is for the one addicted to pornography.

Careless viewing can lead you into on­going bondage. Be on guard; flee youthful lusts, realizing they can lead into sinful bondage and addiction.

Heed the Warnings of Proverbs. The Book of Proverbs is replete with admonition and pro­visions for moral safety. To men, a predomi­nant theme is warnings against the “strange woman.” The strange woman today includes not only the sensual, flirtatious, or seductive female in person, but also the printed and electronic versions.

The strange-woman syndrome includes secretly indulging one’s lust by gazing at sensual pictures, connecting electronically with unknown people, or intentionally going places where women are seductively dressed. Wisdom walks carefully, avoiding and abstain­ing from anything that may lead toward the strange woman.

God gives clear and emphatic instructions in the areas where men are most likely to fail. No one is above temptation. In our sex-saturated society we must pay close attention to the warnings of Proverbs against involve­ment with the strange woman. See Proverbs 2:16-22; 4:23-5:23; 6:20-7:27; 9:13-18; 22:14; 23:26-28; as well as Ecclesiastes 7:26 and Jer­emiah 5:8.

These Scriptures reveal that the one who chooses the pleasures of sin is selecting the way of death. The death principle will come into play; it will destroy and mar relation­ships, freedom, joy, and life in general. This self-destructive way will lead to death if not repented of and forsaken.

Consider God’s Permanent Record. In the case of suspicious behavior, government authorities can research and analyze a per­son’s “digital life”; examining such things as search engine usage patterns and Internet sites visited. What if the government would ask something of us we conscientiously could not do? We refuse. Officials could investigate our Internet habits to learn if our life is con­sistent with our profession. What would they find for you?

A list of all the Web sites we’ve visited is recorded somewhere. Would we be embar­rassed and ashamed if our acquaintances knew the clicking we have done? How much more should we be concerned, knowing that God sees it all? Every deed is forever recorded.

On Judgment Day the books will be opened. Everything we have done, including what we have clicked on and what we have gazed upon, will be revealed. Every secret action or word will be exposed and brought out into the open. On that day “God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ” (Romans 2:16).

Only the blood of Jesus can forever delete those records and files. Only by confessing our sin, repenting of it, and receiving cleans­ing by the blood of Jesus can past history be removed. God will abundantly pardon—clear the record—when we come to Him in true sorrow and repentance.

Technically, nothing is hidden in the digi­tal world. Nothing at all is hidden to God; He already sees it all, without doing a search.

Stand Fast to the End. We are in a last-days’ test. It is an acid test—a litmus test. These times of shameless sexual wickedness sift and try men’s souls. They will reveal who is on the Lord’s side and who is worshiping Baal. But remember, Jesus said “He that endureth to the end shall be saved” (Matthew 10:22).

Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” We must have a single eye that tolerates no idols. Seeing God begins in this life. We see His hand and wondrous influence in our relationships, in finances, and in every area of life as we walk by faith. Seeing Him by faith ultimately leads to eternally seeing and knowing God in all His glorious beauty.

A day of clear distinction and separation is coming. God will have a bride that is prepared, pure, and righteous; thus He is calling out a people special to Him. Such people abstain from all harlotries and uncleanness. “Every man that hath this hope in him purifieth him­self, even as he [Christ] is pure” (1 John 3:3).

By abiding in God’s grace we can continue to make right choices and so pass this “semes­ter exam.” We cannot fail if we are taken up with Him—seeking Him, loving Him, enjoying Him, and glorifying Him (see 2 Peter 1:8-10). That is what we were created for, and in living that way, we find ultimate and true fulfillment, here and eternally.

Practical Principles and Helps

What are practical ways we can do the will of God and follow the ways of sanctification and holiness?

Be Accountable to Someone. Choose a person with whom you can discuss your Internet usage and temptations or struggles. Choose someone who will encourage and help you stay on the way of life. Accountability software may also be useful.

Build Your Marriage. “Let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:2). That com­mand is significant; for it tells us God’s good way for man and woman. Marriage is the only place for sexual expression. If you are married, cultivate that garden, that relationship; it is sufficient. The one-woman-one-man marriage is the place of true sexual fulfillment. Cultivate a real love and special delight in your spouse.

When exposed to sexual temptations, remind yourself, That is not mine to enjoy. The husband and wife are for each other, meeting each other’s emotional and physical needs. Faithfulness in marriage brings satisfaction beyond our expectation. Resist the tempta­tion to dissatisfaction.

Pray for your marriage, including matters of physical intimacy. Involve God in the details, the frustrations, and joys of sexual love. Do not be embarrassed to pray about such things, for God designed physical intimacy to be an important and beautiful part of mar­riage. The enemy, however, works to cause physical love in marriages to be dysfunctional and unfulfilling.

However, physical intimacy is not an end in itself; it is only part of the total package of marriage. When God created the beauti­ful “one-flesh” relationship for Adam and Eve, it was very good. This one-flesh concept is a complete package involving spiritual, emo­tional, and physical oneness. When all three dynamics are there, the marriage is rich and fulfilling. It is a foretaste of glory.

God gave mankind the gift of sex. It is a “God thing.” He created humans to be sexual—even to have desire. We could say He took a “risk” in doing so, knowing that man could pervert it. Satan is always working to distort and spoil God’s good design. He is succeeding in the world because it is under his control; but God’s children separate themselves from all sexual wickedness.

God’s pattern works and is glorious. It pro­duces joy, not guilt. It is symbolic of spiritual relationships and realities. It typifies the spiri­tual intimacy God desires with His beloved bride.

Exercise Self-Control by the Spirit’s Power. To single people who desire to be pure and holy, God gives abundant enabling grace. A sexual outlet is not a must; that is a lie pro­moted by our sex-obsessed culture.

Determine not to focus on sex or on the desire for marriage, but on loving and serv­ing God. The only legitimate place for sexual activity is within marriage. Since, as singles, you have no legitimate sexual outlet, ask God to diminish your desires and to help you con­trol them. Be especially careful to avoid places or activities where you know the enemy will have opportunity to tempt you.

Cultivate Strong Relationships With Your Children. “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion,” “Truth without relationship leads to rejection,” and “Discipline without relation­ship leads to anger” (Josh McDowell). Good relationships with our children are best devel­oped at an early age. Building a relationship after a child is older is like building a fire in the rain. It’s doable, but it is more difficult.

The astounding statistics about the avail­ability and use of Internet porn should waken parents to the dangers. It is especially tragic that preteen children are being exposed to pornography. Curiosity is strong in children. They explore and seek answers to their ques­tions. If parents do not satisfy their inquisitive­ness, someone else will, and too often answers come from sources not good and accurate.

Parents, especially fathers, must be pro­active, getting alongside their children in a loving and close relationship. They must speak and model truth as they teach and nurture their children. Only thus will children be able to stand and not be deceived by the counterfeits of the world and the devil. The most important factor helping children and young adults stand in spite of peers and hormones is a loving and close relationship with their father.

Parents need to have such a relationship with their children and young adults that they feel free to talk and ask questions. No sincere questions should be considered out of bounds. Answers should be straightforward and accu­rate, enough to satisfy the curiosity or to answer blunt questions, but not giving more details or creating more images than necessary or appropriate for the child’s age and capability.

The father must show the way in loving his children’s mother properly. While many kinds of physical intimacy must be private, children should know that father and mother enjoy a beautiful and mutually fulfilling relationship of a kind that neither of them has with anyone else. Children should be able to tell that the husband-wife relationship, as God designed it, is wonderful and good.

Fathers should take the lead in giving a bal­anced view of sex, correcting exaggerated and twisted concepts from other sources. Parents should by example and precept help children to realize that sex is not an end in itself, and that sexual expression is for the marriage relationship alone. Being single and not having a sexual outlet is not a deprivation but to be accepted as God’s leading. These matters can be taught and exemplified here a little and there a little, if parents are alert and use their opportunities.

Teach Godly Wisdom. Parents must teach God’s wisdom. Wisdom will make a person aware of the deceptiveness of his own desires. It will help him realize how the flesh (the sinful old nature, his selfish humanness) has a bent toward sin and away from God.

Along with the conviction that godly mar­riage is good and beautiful, children need to know the world is fallen and corrupt. Teach them that society’s sex-saturated views are deceptive and ensnaring. Help them see the death principle at work behind the glitz and allurement, and to realize the bitter, ugly end of pursuing that way.

Parents, use every opportunity to instill godly wisdom into children and influence them to develop hearts full of love for God and His ways. The heart determines behavior. “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23 NKJV).

Know Your Weaknesses. That may mean not going certain places or refusing to access cer­tain information. Just as the recovering alco­holic does not walk past the tavern, you may need to choose to avoid certain places. Do not expose yourself unnecessarily to temptation. Be careful about who you are with, for “evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33 NKJV). Keep safety checks in place. Make sure you have adequate filters or blockers on your computer and other e-devices.

Take time to examine your life. Are you put­ting yourself into compromising situations or settings? Paul teaches us to flee sexual immorality and youthful lusts (1 Corinthians 6:18; 2 Timothy 2:22). In other words, run from anything that stimulates wrong desires.

Be intentional in your use of the Internet. Use it only when you need to do specific tasks such as making a purchase, doing research, or communicating. Do not use the computer to fill leisure time or as entertainment. Such uses easily lead into “gray” areas and further.

Using social media on the Internet has its own dangers. Created by worldly people for worldly purposes, this media can quickly lead to connecting with much that is not edifying. Besides the general spiritual dangers of rub­bing shoulders with the world in such a con­text, there are other specific dangers ranging from borderline pornographic content to online sexual predators. People who want to maintain holiness will not sign onto singles’ or dating sites; that is playing with fire.

Paul in Romans 13:13, 14 commands us not only to avoid carousing, immorality, sensual­ity, and the pursuit of unbridled lusts; he also instructs us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ—that is, to clothe ourselves with the presence of Jesus. Then he adds, “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” We dare not make excuses or loopholes for indulging sinful desires. We must be sober, alert, and watchful, recognizing the propensity of the flesh toward sin. We must determine to make all our choices according to the Spirit of Jesus. Of course, we can only do all this as we abide in and depend upon Him in a daily relationship.

Continually Imbibe God’s Word. We must strive to take God’s Word so deeply into our lives that it changes us radically. Reading it, imbibing it, making it a part of our very hearts will lead us to love and obey our God, and we will find ourselves cutting things out of our lives that might hinder us spiritually, and adding things that will profit us spiritually. Obedience is the key. That is how we dig deep and lay a solid foundation on the rock for our house. With such a foundation, we can withstand and pass the test when the storm comes.

A piece of heavy equipment is useless with­out a hydraulic system to operate it. The grace of God is the hydraulic system that empowers us when we set our hearts on obeying Him. When we get serious with God and with our­selves by choosing to obey His Word, it is like pushing the lever on that heavy equipment: the grace of God will be operative. God’s grace is always available when we choose from the heart to obey.

Jesus said, “If ye continue [abide] in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed. And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31, 32). Abiding involves obeying; it involves making practical daily choices to obey God’s blessed command­ments that bring true freedom.

Always Remember Whose You Are. Believ­ers are temples of God, dwelling places of the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote, “Flee fornication [sexual immorality]. Every sin that a man doeth is without [outside] the body, but he that committeth fornication [sexual immorality] sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

In John 2:13-25, Jesus forcefully and radi­cally cleansed the temple in Jerusalem. Today, would Jesus find it necessary to take serious action to get rid of garbage and illegitimate accumulations in our lives? We must continu­ally walk in the light (1 John 1:6, 7), being trans­parent and cleansed daily; otherwise, God may need to take more drastic measures with us.

Depend on God’s Spirit. There are serious consequences to grieving the Holy Spirit, who was sent to teach, counsel, and help us. He provides the “oil for our lamps.” He makes all the difference in our lives, filling us and keep­ing us close to the Lord. We in no way want to sadden this glorious Person who lives in us.

The Holy Spirit is the all-important key in overcoming evil and avoiding wrong influ­ences from our sex-driven culture. Ask God to fill you with His Holy Spirit and to work in your life. Ask for the fear of God, wisdom, hatred for sin, and for an ongoing desire and determi­nation to be holy and to honor Him. Ask Him to fill and control you with His Spirit so that you can stand firm when you face temptations to deviate from the way of abundant life. Ask Him to teach you, lead you, and keep you in His ways in everything.

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free—and continues to set us free—from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). The Holy Spirit dispenses God’s grace to us, giving us the desire and power to do what is right. He teaches and enables us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright lives (Titus 2:12). Only by the grace of God and the Spirit’s power can we overcome temptation and live holy lives.

Conclusion

Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, and there find mercy and grace to help in this time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16). Only by God’s abundant grace can we stand. Let us acknowledge our total dependence on the Lord. Let us repent thoroughly, renouncing the sin and disobedience that so easily besets us.

In Revelation 2 and 3 Jesus addresses seven churches. In His message to each church He speaks to those who will overcome and prom­ises them great blessings and rich rewards. Individually and as a people, we must have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to us today.

We pray, “O Lord God, cause us to walk in the truth, persevering in faith, love, and obe­dience. Cause us to be faithful, abstaining from fleshly lusts that war against our souls. You are our Shield, our Strength, our Salva­tion. Deliver us from the evil of this perverse and crooked generation. Save us and keep us holy by your grace, through the Lord Jesus Christ and for His glory. Amen.”

— Linford Bontrager


Christian Light Publications, Harrisonburg, VA 22802 Phone (540) 434-0768.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for this helpful article and Scriptural basis to help us stand an regain ground in our marriage! The truth shall set us free. Thank You, Jesus.

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