Troublesome Topic: Three More Truths that Relate to Lust

God Will Not Purify Garbage in Our Minds

Here the principle of clean and unclean things comes back to instruct us. God never offered to magically convert the unclean things into clean things, rather He told His people to stay away from them.

I have come to realize that if I put garbage into my mind God cannot, and will not, purify my mind. He will never magically turn an evil influence into something pure and wholesome. If I choose to open myself up to such an evil influence, He is hurt and saddened, but He will let me suffer the consequences of opening that door—which always includes greater distance in my relationship with Him. If we want God to purify our minds of lust then we need to stop feeding our minds stimulating input.

Consider what the Holy Spirit said through Paul in Romans 12:1-2:

I therefore urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God, for this is the reasonable way for you to worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but continuously be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God’s will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect (ISV).

Here we are given three key directives regarding what we can and should do in this struggle. First we are to present our bodies to Him as a sacrifice, i.e. something that is totally consumed or given up. Yet in His plan we remain alive, and our bodies continue to function in their natural way, but now totally under God’s control. Hence the oxymoron “living sacrifices.”

Secondly, we are to stop being conformed to the influences of this world. Here the reference is to outside influences that try to mold us into a certain shape or in this case, lifestyle, like clay or silly putty can be shaped by someone’s hands. Paul is saying, “stop conforming already!! Stop allowing yourself to be influenced by the world!” If we are influenced by the world’s thinking it is our own fault for having allowed ourselves to be “conformed.”

Thirdly, instead of allowing ourselves to be molded to the world’s way of thinking we should keep being transformed. Here the reference is to a different kind of change, one that starts from inside and works its way to the outside. This is the word from which we get the term “metamorphosis,” used of the total change that makes a caterpillar into a butterfly. While the world wishes to mold us from the outside, God wants to transform us from the inside. And how does He do that? Such a transformation is described in this passage as something that happens when our minds are “renewed.”

Do we need to carefully control what goes into our minds? You can bet all your lug nuts we do! For as surely as a car with no lug nuts will not go far, so a mind that keeps taking in impure influences will not draw close to God. God will renew our mind and transform our life if we allow Him to be the one to choose the input, rather than letting the enemy of our souls choose the input. When we have done these three things then we will be able to discern what God’s will for us is, and we are assured that it is something good, pleasing, and perfect.

Evil Is More Attractive When We Imagine it than When We Do it; Doing the Right Thing is More Attractive after We Have Done it than When We Imagine it.

(I have my brother Dave to thank for this principle.) When a man or boy chooses to watch something that he knows will provide some sexual stimulus he does so because of the anticipation of the “benefits” he will receive by doing so. He imagines a level of pleasure and sexual charge that will come as a result of those images. As he imagines this, it is all very exciting and thrilling. Yet after having watched it the thrill of what he saw is mixed with guilt for having displeased God. Although the images did thrill him, the level of “benefit” was not as high as he imagined it would be. Evil is more attractive when I imagine it than when I do it. The anticipated level of pleasure always exceeds the achieved level of pleasure. The nature of sin is to always want more. So things like pornography are a vicious circle in which the desires are never satisfied. All this to say that when we imagine evil we only see how attractive it is, we never see how harsh the consequences are.

However, let’s imagine that same man or boy finds a folded bill of money on the sidewalk outside a business, and picks it up to discover it is a $100 bill. He contemplates trying to find who had dropped it. Yet as he thinks about doing the right thing, it is actually somewhat painful. What could he do with $100? After all, he has not stolen it, and the person who dropped it does not even seem to be in sight. Like they say, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” So doing the right thing is not a pleasant thing to imagine. There is usually a price to be paid for doing the right thing, and that price is often obvious “up front” (but not always). When the imagination goes to work it does not picture all the wonderful outcomes of doing the right thing. Yet when the proper owner of the money is found, then the deeply rooted feeling of satisfaction comes. Perhaps he has made a friend, or won the respect and admiration of all who work in that business establishment. In the end, to do the right thing turns out to be better than was imagined. I have seen several news stories of people who have found money in quantities much larger than $100 and returned it. They made the news for not keeping it for themselves. They were held up as good examples for others. People knew they could trust them. They became friends with the people who had lost the money. Can we possibly put a price tag on those things? Yet when we imagine doing the right thing we cannot see those positive consequences, all we see is the sacrifice.

In the case of sexually inappropriate actions the imagination of both men and women can go long distances in several directions in milliseconds, but it will always paint for you a picture of pleasure and enjoyment. The picture never includes the harsh consequences. When you try to reel in your mind and get it to focus on being faithful to God’s plan, the picture your imagination usually paints for you is somewhat colorless and void of adventure. These are results that the fall had on the way our minds work. Yet being faithful and utilizing God’s gift of sex in the way He intended has many wonderful pleasures, accompanied by joy and peace, not guilt.

It takes self disciplined focus to guide the mind to consider the long term consequences of either act, doing wrong, or doing right. II Corinthians 10:5 tells us that one of the things we as believers do with the weapons of spiritual warfare given to us is “we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We cannot afford to let our minds run wild and rewrite the ending to the story when God has already told us what the consequences of certain acts will be.

And the thing about TV, movies, and even the internet, is that our minds are in neutral, taking in whatever they are shown. These serve as guides to our imaginations, leading us in the wrong direction, while God wants us to take captive every thought.

“Dear God, please forgive us, for our minds have become Satan’s greenhouse to grow his evil desires, and we have offered to do the watering. Forgive us.”

Someone on the Internet has said, “Temptation always over-promises and under- delivers” (I don’t know who said it first, but I like it). This is the economy of lust. The price tag associated with following sexual stimuli is higher than anyone can afford.

I love old pickup trucks, but I don’t have one because I don’t have the time or money to fix one up. I like seeing them, but I don’t “lust” for one (lust means “strong desire”) for two reasons – I have what I need, and the price tag would be more than I can afford.

Satan tells us we can have something for nothing (e.g. pornography) then he tacks on various fees and charges, and we realize down the road that it was not free after all.

If I Am Ensnared by Something I Know Is There I Have No One to Blame but Myself.

In the Former Covenant the people of Israel were taught to constantly be on the look-out for potential uncleanness, and do what they could to avoid it. That alertness, that constant vigilance, is a very good picture of what God expects from us regarding the spiritual contamination all around us. If someone back then knew uncleanness was present and went to it anyway, not caring about the high likelihood of becoming contaminated, that would constitute willful disobedience, punishable by death. Our God is a gracious God, but He also has a very high standard. He will forgive us of our many blunders if we come to Him with a sincere heart of remorse, but He also expects us to do our part to stay away from uncleanness and not knowingly place ourselves in situations where contamination will likely occur.

This makes me think of some people I heard about in Honduras when I was a young boy. Some men who were mechanics would get a new shirt and proudly wear it everywhere, even to work in the mechanic’s shop. When the shirt became covered with grease and oil they would just turn it inside-out and wear it some more. In reality this was rare, most women did a good job of washing the clothes and most Hondurans like to look clean and well kempt. But it did happen occasionally back then. To us having all that grease and oil next to our skin seems gross and unacceptable. And yet, we consider contamination of the mind to be normal American living, and we think nothing about keeping it around.

Now think of some of the traps that were used in the Vietnam war. I was not there, and those who were do not often speak openly about it, but I understand those traps along the jungle trails were of the most gruesome and hideous kind imaginable. When I think of the internet, one of those Vietnam-style traps comes to my mind—undetectable, lightning fast, and potentially fatal. The number of Christian men who struggle with problems stemming from the use of the internet is astronomical. This is not because the internet is all bad and should never be used; indeed it has many positive uses. In the comparison of the internet and the Vietnam jungle everyone knew or knows that the traps were\are there. The difference is that soldiers knew enough to keep from roaming aimlessly through the jungle just to see what was out there, while so many Christian men surf the net regularly knowing that the likelihood of being ensnared is high. Call me stupid if I know the trap is there, but I get caught in it anyway.

For me the number of traps, and the severity of being ensnared pose so high a risk that I would rather use the internet as little as possible. Even a good filter is not always a safeguard, if someone wants sexual stimuli he can find it. There is also a great deal of “soft-porn,” or sites with suggestive images; that stuff is not filtered out, but it does have a negative effect on the mind of a man otherwise seeking to follow God.

The next lesson is: Several Short Points about Lust