Tuesday, March 27, 2007

keeping your thought life pure


The most powerful of created instincts, sex, is indeed like dynamite! What potential for blessing there is in this wonderful gift of God and yet what havoc has been wrought by its abuse.

In every man and woman there exist sex instincts and wants. These instincts may not be of the same strength in all, but they do constitute a powerful force in all normal human beings for at least thirty years after adolescence. Like dynamite, sex can be used for good and for evil - for the glory of God or for the service of the devil. There is nothing inherently sinful in dynamite, it all depends on how and for what purpose it is used: so with sex. If accepted as God's gift and used wisely under God's control, it can be the means of man's highest fulfillment. If misused, it can lead him down to the lowest depths of degradation. It is indeed, as one has said, "a wonderful servant but a terrible master."

Sexual desire is as normal as the desire for food and for rest. But the God Who created these desires has also ordained the means for their legitimate satisfaction.

Perverted views

Sex, as created by God, is sacred and pure. This is evident from the fact that it was created before man fell into sin and existed in a world which God Himself considered "Very Good". But ever since the Fall of man, his view of sex has been perverted and he himself has become a slave to sexual desire. As soon as Adam and Eve sinned, they became sex-conscious and ashamed of their nakedness and immediately sought to cover their bodies. We live in a world which is still reaping the sad effects of that Fall. As a result, sex which was meant to be a blessing to man has become a burden instead.

The word "sex" itself has an impure connotation in the minds of most people today because of man's repeated abuse of this God-given function. The cinema, the advertising world and much of the cheap literature sold on book-stalls today have all served to give a crooked and perverted conception of that which God intended to be pure, beautiful and holy.

There is abundant evidence to prove that our thoughts about sex are perverted. In `Christian Behaviour', C.S. Lewis writes, "You can get a large audience together for a strip-tease act - that is, to watch a girl undress on the stage. Now suppose you came to a country where you could fill a theatre by simply bringing a covered plate on the stage and then slowly lifting the cover so as to let every one see, just before the light went out, that it contained a mutton chop or a bit of bacon, wouldn't you think that in that country something had gone wrong with the appetite for food? And wouldn't anyone who had grown up in a different world think there was something equally queer about the state of the sex instinct among us?"

A Christian is called to shine as a light for God in this perverted world. He must therefore stand against the world's low views of sex, which reduce it to a mere physiological phenomenon and a source of pleasure. He should allow the Spirit of God to so renew his mind that he begins to look at sex as God looks at it - not as something sinful to be ashamed of, but as something sacred and intrinsically beautiful.

Many religions and philosophies hold perverted views of sex either because they look upon the human body as something evil to be cast off at the earliest opportunity, or because they go to the other extreme and worship the body, fulfilling its every desire without question.

The Christian view is that the body is as much a part of God's good creation as the spirit and the soul - although of lesser importance than these latter. The body therefore has a definite purpose in God's plan. The Bible teaches that the Christian should glorify God in his body since it is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:13-20). We are exhorted therefore to present our bodies in an act of worship as a living sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1).

Martin Luther reminded those who felt that the body was the cause of sin, that the Lord Jesus had a body on earth, but was yet sinless, whereas the devil who has no body, is full of sin. The root of sin is to be found not in the body but in the human heart. Deliverance from sin comes not by eliminating the body and its desires but by the change of heart. We do not have to pray, as some do, that God will remove our sexual desires. That would mutilate our manhood and destroy a part of God's temple. God wants us to be complete men living in victory. The fire in the fire-place does not have to be extinguished. We have only to be careful that the house does not catch fire.

Even in the realm of sex, God permits us to be tempted with a purpose - the same purpose with which He permitted Adam to be tempted in the garden of Eden. Adam was innocent but God wanted him to be holy. Holiness is more than innocence. Adam could have become holy only as he made a moral choice and overcame temptation: so it is with us.

Unclean thoughts

Every young person is sooner or later tempted by unclean thoughts. The sexual urge being stronger and more aggressive in men than in women, the former face this problem much more than the latter do.

In Mark 7:21, Jesus listed evil thoughts as the first things that proceed from the heart of men. The hearts of all unconverted men are equally wicked and so the description Jesus gave is true of all. Unclean thoughts plague the mind of the morally upright man as much as they do the mind of the adulterer - even though lack of opportunity and fear of society may have prevented the former from committing adultery in the flesh.

We need to distinguish however between temptation and sin. Even Jesus was tempted "in every respect as we are" (Heb. 4:15). But He never once yielded to temptation (even in His mind) and so never sinned. We too shall be tempted till the last day of our life on earth. But we need not sin. We sin only when the evil desire is permitted to conceive in our minds (James 1:15), i.e. when we accept the lustful thought flashed into our minds. If we reject the suggestion at once, we do not sin. As the old Puritan said, "While I cannot prevent the birds from flying over my head, I can prevent them from making a nest in my hair". When an evil thought presents itself to us, if we cherish it even for a moment in our minds, we allow it to "make a nest" there and so sin.

Lustful thinking, once indulged in, will make a person more and more its slave. Deliverance becomes increasingly difficult with the passage of time. The sooner we seek for deliverance the easier it will be. Victory over evil thoughts (like victory over all other sin) comes through an honest confession of failure, a real longing for deliverance, an acceptance of the fact of our death with Christ, and an utter yieldedness of our bodies and minds to the Lord (Rom. 6.1-14).

We must also "walk in the Spirit" and cooperate with Him in disciplining our lives, if we are to enjoy continuous victory (Gal. 5.16-19). If we fail to discipline our eyes and ears (cutting off all reading and seeing and hearing that is lustful), we shall not be able to discipline our thoughts either (this is the real implication of Matt.5: 28-30). Discipline of the body is essential for deliverance from lustful thoughts. The greatest of saints have confessed that they had to battle constantly with sexual temptations in their minds. They had to discipline their bodies severely in order to get victory.

Job, though a married man with ten children, recognized that if he was to be delivered from lustful thinking, he had to control his eyes. He said, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a girl" (Job 31:1-LW). For men, the greatest temptations come through the eyes. If care is not exercised here and an unclean thought or picture is once allowed to enter our minds through the eye-gate, it becomes almost impossible to remove it from there.

Disciplining our lives includes our having a daily devotional time with God each morning as soon as we awake and every night before we go to bed. If on awaking in the morning, we continue to loll in bed instead, we shall be leaving the door wide open for evil thoughts to flood our minds. We must fill our minds daily with the Word of God - for saturating our minds thus with God's Word is one of the surest safeguards against evil thinking. David said, "I have thought much about Your words, and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin" (Psa. 119:11-LW).

The Bible also says, "If you value the approval of God, fix your minds on the things which are holy and right and pure and beautiful and good" (Phil. 4:8 -JBP). Henry Martyn, the great missionary to India, has said in his journal, that he found great help by obeying this Scriptural injunction when battling with unclean thoughts. Whenever a lustful thought connected with some girl presented itself to his mind, he would immediately pray for here that she might be pure in her heart and mind and that she might be a temple of the Holy Spirit consecrated to the service and glory of God. He dared not harbour an unclean thought about her after having prayed for her in this manner. This is indeed an excellent method for maintaining purity of thought.

Some may say that the prevailing standard of morals in the world around us is so low that it is difficult to be totally free from unclean thoughts. But this state of affairs is not peculiar to the twentieth century. Corinth in the first century was a centre of licentiousness and immorality, yet the Spirit of God urged the Christians there to lead their every thought captive into the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). He tells us to do the same today. The way to life may be narrow and difficult, but the Holy Spirit can strengthen us to walk that way.

To discipline our lives thus, does not mean that we should develop a repugnance for the opposite sex. Far from it! The fact that we find the opposite sex attractive is, in itself, not sinful. It is quite natural. It is not wrong for us to admire a pretty face as a part of God's beautiful creation. But being fallen creatures, if we are not careful, we shall soon begin to notice the beautiful form and then to lust. Thus the attractiveness of the opposite sex, though clean in itself, can become for us, an occasion for unclean thinking.

Keith Miller, in `A Second Touch' says, "I have found that becoming a deeply committed Christian does not keep one from being fully aware of beauty in the opposite sex. And I do not think this recognition is in any sense sin or is an indication that one needs a spiritual check-up. In fact, if you do not recognize physical beauty in the opposite sex, and if you are my age, you may need a physical check-up. And I am very serious. 'Recognition', in my opinion, is never sin. As a matter of fact, recognition of specific possibility for sinning is a prerequisite for the development of Christian character. For instance, a blind man would not be considered honest for not stealing gold on a table before him - only a man who saw the gold, and recognized fully his drive for it, but chose not to steal it... It is what one does with that which is recognized, that causes the problems."

Our safety lies in instantly obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit within us, when He checks us and tells us to turn our eyes and our thoughts in another direction.

We should also frequently pray, "Lord, do not let me face temptation (in this realm) that I cannot overcome." Many young men have found victory through sincerely praying such a prayer.


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