Living a pure life is hardly an easy task these days. Every day is inundated with things to tempt the eyes and the mind toward impure thoughts. One can hardly watch television or walk through a shopping mall without catching a glimpse of some display meant to trigger lustful imaginations. It's simply everywhere.
And yet, men who would follow Christ can’t afford to simply accept such an environment without fighting back. You see, sexual temptation that leads to lustful thoughts and behaviors weakens a man. Culture may tell us that engaging and expressing our sexuality any way we please is a sign of our freedom and virility, but the Bible makes it clear that the opposite is more true. A man’s real strength and greatest freedom is in the choice he makes to be pure, to turn away from temptation, and to live wholly committed to the woman God has (or will) give him to love.
So, the man who would be pure must take charge of his thoughts. In many years of ministry, I’ve met dozens…no, hundreds of men who fight a losing battle with sexual temptation every day. They typically don’t act out in sinful ways such as adulterous behaviors, but their minds are too easily turned to unwholesome thoughts and fantasies that zap their spiritual strength. Like kryptonite to Superman, such thoughts corrupt their strength and hinder their abilities to love their wives as they know they should.
What can we do?
First, you must know that temptation itself is not a sin. All of us are tempted. But the space between temptation and lustful thoughts isn't a very wide gap. Yet, it is in that small space where purity must be defended. Let me explain...
God has promised an escape route when temptation comes. That means there's a way out EVERY TIME! Something I've noticed about that escape route--it always comes very early in the temptation. Within seconds of seeing something that will draw your eyes, God sends the thought to turn away. He opens that window before we begin thinking about what we have seen or moving into position to look some more.
While I'm not qualified to identify the exact moment when temptation becomes sin, I think it's probably when what we see becomes what we are thinking about. And by then, we've probably waved farewell to the alternate route God offered.
You see, if you let the tempting thought linger, you won't be able to hold it off. Once you start dwelling on the moment, there's too much of you pushing that train down the track to turn back. The temptation has gained a foothold and stopping the thoughts has quickly become a task most of us lose.
So watch for the early escape opportunity. When you feel that "I shouldn't look" pang run through the places beneath your forehead, TURN AROUND QUICKLY! Redirect your eyes, redirect your thoughts. You can win this small battle before it becomes something too large to manage. And the more of these battles you win, the more you'll keep winning. You might even end up training yourself to be pure in an impure world!
So, yes, there is always a way of escape. But never forget that it’s a door your mind will soon shut. Run through that door at the first sign of daylight. If you do, you’ll find God giving you the power you need to keep running!
Dr. Michael Clarensau serves as Dean of the College of Bible and Church Ministries for Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) in Waxahachie, TX. Prior to accepting his position with SAGU in 2015, Clarensau served as the director of the Healthy Church Network—the U.S. Assemblies of God’s national effort to aid plateaued and declining congregations. Dr. Clarensau was asked to fill this role after he and his wife Kerry led Maranatha Worship Center in Wichita, Kansas, for ten years. Rev. Clarensau has authored numerous books, including A Spirit-Empowered Life and From Belonging to Becoming. He earned a DMin and an MA from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary and a BBA in Corporate Finance from the University of Missouri.
Read more of Mike's insights at mikeclarensau.com.