What’s a Christian to Do?

Psalm 119:11 ESV

11 I have stored up your word in my heart,
    that I might not sin against you.

Dear Friends in Christ,                                                                                  

   Times are changing.  How many times haven’t we heard that familiar saying and perhaps used it ourselves?  And while some change can be good, not all change fits that description.  For example, many of you older parents here today can no doubt remember the days when you could sit down and watch any television program with your children and never have to worry about being bombarded by the foulest and filthiest of language coupled with a whole host of sexual images and innuendos?  Families like the Cleavers and the Ozzie and Harriet’s, the Andy Taylors and the Rob and Laura Petreas were certainly not without their problems, but overall they presented good and wholesome pictures of what most families aspired to back then.  You might even recall that when couples were shown in their bedroom, husbands and wives slept in separate twin beds – not that I’m advocating that.  I’m just using that as one example of how times have changed because today such scenes would be laughable, ridiculous, non-existent as few things are left to the imagination.

   Or consider another change.  When I was a young lad growing up in Staunton, IL, I can remember walking the 3 or 4 blocks uptown to the local Rexall Drug Store where they had a rather large magazine rack which I would gravitate to because of all the comic books it held.  I took a great deal of delight in keeping up on the escapades of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and Green Lantern.  But there was also an area behind the check-out counter which had magazines in plain brown wrappers.  Eventually I learned that that’s where they kept what my friends and I called the girly magazines like Playboy and Penthouse.  I couldn’t imagine that many of them sold because I couldn’t picture anyone having the guts to step up to that counter and ask for one, knowing that other people might see you doing it and at the very least the checkout person would know.  But again, times have changed as the kind of pictures that appeared in those magazines are now plastered all over the Internet and are readily available for anyone who wants to view them in the privacy of their home.  And this change has brought with it an avalanche of problems.  Consider the following statistics and information I came across while working on this sermon:

  • There are now more than 420 million porn pages on the Internet, by far the most of any other subject.  89% of those sites come from the United States.
  • 40 million U.S. adults regularly visit porn sites on the Internet.
  • The No. 1 search term used at search engine sites is the word “sex”.
  • In March of 2002 Rick Warren’s (author of the Purpose Driven life) Pastors.com website conducted a survey on porn use of 1351 pastors: 54% of the pastors had viewed Internet pornography within the last year, and 30% of these had visited within the last 30 days.
  •  47% percent of families said pornography is a problem in their home.  Focus on the Family Poll, October 1, 2003.
  • 17% of all women struggle with porn addiction.  1 of 3 visitors to all adult websites are women.  9.4 million women access adult websites every month  Internet Filter Review

   I could go on and on like this, but I think you get my point.  To paraphrase the words of the astronauts on the Apollo 13 space mission: “America, we have a problem” because not only does pornography do significant damage to families, marriages, and individuals, it also does major damage to our spiritual lives for it is just another one of the many ways whereby we violate the spirit of the 6th Commandment which is what we spent most of our time talking about a few weeks ago.  To put it another way, pornography is sin, plain and simple.  And though I know we’re living in a time when a great many people in our country no longer take sin seriously, let us never forget how seriously God takes sin.  In fact, he takes it so seriously that he put his own Son to death on a cross as the ultimate sacrifice and payment for sin so that we might be able to be forgiven and set free from those sins that made that death so necessary.

   So what’s a Christian to do?  That’s the theme that I’ve chosen for my sermon this morning as we continue our study of the 6th Commandment.  The reason I’ve chosen that theme is because today I want to get real practical with you and give you some good solid biblical advice on what you can do to help guard yourself against sexual temptation and give you victory in your life over this area where so many people are experiencing defeat.

   So what’s a Christian to do?  First of all, be firmly grounded in the Word of God.  The psalmist understood the importance of this in our text for today where he says to God: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”  Elsewhere the writer to the Hebrews compared the Word of God to a sharp double-edged sword with which one can slice and dice to pieces any temptation that comes your way.  And nobody demonstrated this better than Jesus himself when he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  For each temptation that Satan brought his way, Jesus responded with a quotation from Scripture.  “It is written…It is written…It is written” is how he began each one of his replies to those subtle enticements that the devil dangled before him in a time of extreme weakness and vulnerability.  And do understand that about Satan, my friends.  He is the master strategist and he knows when best to attack.  Peter found that out the night before Jesus was put to death when he ended up denying his Lord and Master 3 times.  And I can’t help but feel that that spiritual downfall must have been very much on Peter’s mind when he penned these words in the 5th chapter of his 1st epistle: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 

   Of course, it goes without saying that to be firmly grounded in the Word we need to read that Word on our own, study it in Bible classes, hear it in worship services – in short, expose ourselves to it as much as possible so that it becomes a part of our very being and acts as the compass and guide, the warning system and weapon that God intends it to be.

   Then another practical suggestion: Pray when temptations arise.  Now you probably won’t feel like doing that, but do it anyway!  Again, Jesus set the standard here for us.  Can you imagine the amount of temptation he must have had to deal with during his life?  You see, Satan is not stupid and he knew that if he could get Jesus to stumble and fall spiritually just one time, that would be it.  That would spell an end to God’s plan of salvation, a plan that was entirely dependent upon Jesus living a perfect and sinless life on our behalf.  So Satan must have been constantly hounding and harassing Jesus like an annoying gnat on a hot and humid summer day.  But Jesus was ready for him.  How often don’t we read in the Gospels that he withdrew from the crowds that constantly followed him, clamoring for his attention, and he went off by himself to pray?  Sometimes he spent entire nights in prayer.  And when he faced the greatest temptation of all, the temptation to quit, the temptation to run, the temptation to not follow through on his mission of redemption, what did he do?  He escorted his disciples to his favorite prayer spot, the Garden of Gethsemane, and he fell on his face in prayer before his Heavenly Father and found strength to carry his mission through to the bitter end. 

   So be firmly grounded in the Word.  Pray when temptations arise.  And then thirdly, Work hard and stay busy.  I’m sure most of you have heard the saying “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” and you’ve probably experienced the reality of that firsthand, perhaps more times than you care to remember.  When people have time on their hands and nothing in particular to do, that’s when Satan especially loves to show up with his many suggestions of things they could do, none of which however are honoring or pleasing to God.  Can’t you just picture him whispering in your ear: “So, you don’t have anything to do, huh?  Well, let me see if I can help.  How about hitting the Internet and adding a little excitement to your day by checking out a few porn sites?  How about heading down to the local video store and renting a few sleazy movies to fill your day?  How about you and your girlfriend going for a drive to a nice secluded spot where you might just get lucky?”   

   So work hard and stay busy.  And then fourthly: Keep away from bad places and bad company.  In other words, don’t knowingly expose yourself to temptation.  For example, if you’re a teenager and you’ve been invited to a party where you know there is going to be free-flowing alcohol or no parental supervision or guys and girls hooking up with one another, kindly decline the invitation.  I know that’s not always an easy thing to do, especially when you’re a teenager, because you want to be where the action is.  You don’t want to jeopardize or compromise your popularity.  And you certainly don’t want to come across as a holier-than-thou-Bible-thumping-church-going-goody-two-shoes.  But Jesus had some pretty radical things to say about this in his Sermon on the Mount.  In Matt. 5:29-30 he says: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”  Now Jesus is not advocating self-mutilation here.  If he was, then we’d have a lot of one-eyed and one handed Christians walking around.  Rather he is using a figure of speech that I spoke of a few weeks ago known as a hyperbole which is simply an exaggeration for the purpose of producing an effect in the minds of the listeners.  And what he is saying here is that we should be prepared to take drastic measures, if necessary, to avoid any and every temptation to evil.  And please understand, Jesus says that not because he is some sort of prude or because he’s trying to deny us any fun in life.  Rather, he says it because he loves us and he’s wanting to protect us from any future pain that the consequences of our sin might bring our way.

   And that leads right in to the last practical suggestion I have for you today: Consider the consequences of your actions.  I know that’s not always an easy thing to do in the heat of the moment, which is why I said in my last sermon that you need to think about these things before temptation strikes rather than when it strikes.  And what are the consequences?  Well, how about the multitude of sexually transmitted diseases that are now so prevalent in our culture today.  When I was in high school there were only 2 that we were taught about – syphilis and gonorrhea.  They are still the 2 most common STD’s today, but they’ve been joined by more than 25 others, many of which are resistant to any type of treatment.  And with 20 million new infections occurring in our country every year, this is not a good time to be careless with sexual activity. 

   Other consequences may include overwhelming guilt and shame; an unplanned pregnancy which can hamper or ruin plans for the future; and even possible death, especially if you contract the HIV virus.  So there is much to think about and much to consider before yielding to sexual temptation.

   Well, we’re going to put our sermon series on the 10 Commandments on hold now until after the new year because the next time I preach will be Christ the King Sunday and then we get into the whole season of Advent and Christmas.   But we will get back to it in January.  And when we do I want to spend some time taking a look at the whole subject of marriage before we leave our study of the 6th Commandment.  I want to talk about the key ingredients that make for a strong, healthy relationship and how our young people can properly prepare themselves for marriage.  Until then, may each one of us know the joy and peace of Christ’s forgiveness for all the times that we’ve broken not only the 6th Commandment but all the others as well, and may his Holy Spirit enable and empower us to do all that is necessary to fight and overcome temptation, not if it comes our way, but when it comes our way.  Amen.