Our culture has become so sexualized over the past few decades that it’s easy to become hardened by the number of images and temptations that bombard us each day. Walk through a supermarket and you see suggestive photos on the covers of magazines … turn on the television and it doesn’t take long before you see advertisements for sexy lingerie and erectile dysfunction … switch on the computer, and you find unwanted e-mails offering x-rated images with just one click.
I think we would be shocked if we could count the number of times we are tempted each day. Sometimes life feels like a continual stream of choices: Will I trust God for the power to turn from that temptation, or will I dwell on it just a bit? Will I take a second look? Will I click on that tempting link … just this one time?
I am reminded of a story that FamilyLife President Dennis Rainey tells in his upcoming devotional, Moments With You:
I was seated in a car with another Christian leader—a good friend of mine. We were both away from home, without our wives, waiting for a colleague who had just gone inside a store. And as we sat there, a woman walked by who was, well, drop-dead gorgeous. I caught sight of her as she entered the store, and then turned back to our conversation.
When she walked by again, by God’s grace (or the fear of my own reputation being spoiled), I summoned up enough self-control to look away. But I did notice my friend’s eyes lingering as she walked on to her car. Knowing we were both fighting the same battle, I casually said, “Hey, you can look at her once, you can look at her twice, but if you look at her that long . . .”
We laughed. We knew.
Guys, there’s nothing wrong with appreciating a woman’s beauty. But we all know in an instant when we’ve reached that point where we’re no longer simply noticing her but have begun enjoying her and letting our minds become a playground of lustful thoughts.
As Dennis writes, it’s often not the first look that gets you—it’s the second, and third, and fourth. If you dwell on that temptation, you begin playing with powerful forces. As James 1:14-15 tells us, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
These words run contrary to the spirit of our modern age, which tells us that biblical boundaries for sex are prudish and outdated. Our culture encourages us to embrace and experiment with sexuality to help “discover who you are.” And then it avoids taking responsibility for how uncontrolled lust can ravage lives, marriages, and families.
Whenever “FamilyLife Today” airs programs on pornography, for example, we receive a number of heart-breaking e-mails about people giving in to temptation and getting caught in a trap from which they couldn’t break free. Here are just two examples:
“At the age of 13, I started my first job. That day I took my first puff of a cigarette and was exposed to pornography for the first time. I had no idea of the power that was to take control of my life as a result of that action. For the next 25 years I battled with pornography. My sin did not stop with pornography but took [other forms]. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make real changes. I could not escape it.”
“My dad had pornographic literature in the house that I found as a young girl. It distorted my view of male-female relationships. I began to see sex as a way to get love. I led an extremely active sexual lifestyle and eventually started working as an exotic dancer. I’ve been following the Lord for 11 years now, and am married to a wonderful man. But the ghost of pornography still haunts me. Fantasies still plague my mind and interfere with what should be pure love for my husband. I can see the connection now between how I feel and what you said. I am praying for God to cleanse me of the effects of pornography.”
Letters like these echo the warning of James 1:14-15 and show us that giving in to temptation is far more dangerous than many people realize. One of the most critical commitments you can make to your marriage is to stay clean. You can’t avoid temptation. But you can control your response.
Choose to turn away. And ask God for the power to continue turning away every day.