By Alan Dowd
To get an idea of how sex-soaked our culture is, try to look at life from the perspective of an innocent child of, say, 6 years of age. He is bombarded by suggestive, sexualized images: the magazines at the grocery store checkout, TV shows celebrating the hookup culture, the way women (and girls) dress, what boys (and men) get away with, music videos that leave nothing to the imagination, TV commercials pushing soft drinks and chips and beer and lingerie—and even candy.
That’s right, candy. A popular commercial features animated M&M’s® candies dancing to the hit song “I’m Sexy and I Know It.” The lyrics (”look at that body, look at that body”) pulsate while the characters talk about taking off their clothes at a party.
If you think I’m too sensitive or too square, consider the Colorado first-grade boy who was suspended for sexual harassment because he sang that very song to a female classmate. He probably didn’t know what the song meant, but after just a few years of being marinated in our culture, he was saying things that no 6-year-old boy should say—and no 6-year-old girl should hear.
Given all the junk being spewed at them, our children don’t remain innocent for long. They grow up fast because our culture makes them grow up fast. So how do we protect them—and ourselves—from all this junk?
We should remember that God has been dealing with this human frailty of the flesh from the beginning.
When Adam and Eve gave into the serpent’s temptation, it was a kind of lust. Genesis tells us that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were drunk with lust. Potiphar’s wife “took notice of Joseph” and with a brazen bluntness befitting today’s popular culture demanded, “Come to bed with me!” (Genesis 39).
David watched Bathsheba bathing. It’s worth noting that he wasn’t supposed to be there. The passage in 2 Samuel 11 tells us it was spring, “the time when kings go off to war.” Yet David, the king of Israel, “remained in Jerusalem.” In other words, bad things happen when we’re not where we’re supposed to be.
Worse, the poison spread throughout David’s family. Amnon, one of David’s sons, lusted after Tamar, one of David’s daughters. Driven “to the point of illness” by lust, Amnon attacked her.
Samson’s lust for Delilah led to ruin; Solomon’s countless bedmates led to idolatry; and the list goes on.
In the New Testament, the story of Herod and Herodias is laced with lust. Matthew’s account tells us Herod had taken Herodias, his brother’s wife, as his own. Herodias then used her daughter, Salome, as a sexual lure (Matthew 14:6).
The Samaritan woman’s days and nights were shaped by loveless marriages and lust. The woman caught in adultery was a prisoner to the lust of others. Paul’s letters underscore that the Roman world of his day was a society consumed by sex.
In short, God has seen it all. He wants us to avoid the destructive mistakes of so many others. And he offers us plenty of ways to do so.
By Encountering Him
Perhaps we are too familiar with the one who stooped low to call us “friend” to notice that he is perfectly pure. He’s so holy that our ancestors dared not pronounce or write his name. His law is so perfect that we cannot even keep the letter of it, let alone approach the spirit of it.
When we encounter him, we start to grasp this holiness. And in this, we start to die to sin. As Paul put it (perhaps mindful of his own struggles with the flesh), ”I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do . . . For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” Who can rescue Paul—and us—from this lifelong struggle “from this body of death”? (Romans 7:24, NIV 1984). The one who is remaking us in his image.
By Knowing the Word
God’s Word is “sharper than any double-edged sword,” as Hebrews says. “It judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”
Jesus quoted the Word when the enemy tempted him in the desert. Each time the enemy whispered a lie, Jesus answered with the truth. We need to become that familiar with the Word—with Jesus.
By Calling for Help
Paul reassures us that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness (Romans 8:26).
By instructing us to ask God to “lead us not into temptation (Matthew 6:13),” Jesus underscores the enemy’s strength, our weakness, and most important, his sovereignty. It’s as if Jesus is saying, “Instead of asking for strength to overcome temptation, let me help you avoid it.”
Paul promised believers that when we are tempted, God will “provide a way out” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Likewise, in a letter to Timothy, Paul advised the young evangelist to “flee the evil desires of youth” (2 Timothy 2:22).
But we need to have a place to flee to, which means our homes—our bookshelves, computers, DVRs, car stereos, iPods, SmartPhones, and Facebook accounts—should be safe zones.
By Armoring Up
On those occasions when we are tempted, Paul reminds us that God clothes us with armor to withstand the enemy’s schemes. Paul was right to invoke the image of battle. After all, the enemy wages war with God through us. In fact, we are the battlefield.
The helmet of salvation covers my mind, which directs my thoughts. Paul’s letter to the Romans advises, instead of being conformed ”to the pattern of this world,” we must “be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). I cannot do that if I’m marinated in the world rather than the Word.
The Lord issues me the shield of faith to “extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one”—all the temptations and obstacles he fires my way. Without the shield—without my faith—I am defenseless. But with just a mustard seed’s worth of faith, Jesus can move mountains of temptation.
The breastplate of righteousness protects my heart. The writer of Proverbs reminds us that the heart is “the wellspring of life” (Proverbs 4:23). Its waters can be pure or poisoned.
Like the author of Hebrews, Paul equates the Word with a sword. I can use it to fend off the tempter only if I know the Word.
The belt of truth holds everything else in place. Knowing the One who called himself the truth helps me steer clear of the danger zones.
God fits my feet with the gospel of peace. I should bring peace—not poison—wherever I go.
The armor covers me in such a way that, miraculously and mysteriously, the Father sees the Son when he looks at me. He doesn’t see my failures. He sees the one who defeated the tempter.
God knows we will sometimes lose the battle. When that happens, we need to seek forgiveness. David offered a roadmap in Psalm 51. We should think of David’s words as an assurance—not as a license to keep sinning—for God is not a hapless pushover.
Alan Dowd is a freelance writer in Fishers, Indiana.
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by Mark Atteberry
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Holiness, Truth and the Presence of God: A Penetrating Look at the Human Heart
by Francis Frangipane
(Charisma House, 2011)
Be Holy (Leviticus)
by Warren W. Wiersbe
(David C. Cook, 2010)
Overcoming Sin and Temptation
by John Owen
(Crossway Books, 2006)
The Message of Holiness: The Bible Speaks Today
by Derek Tidball
(InterVarsity Press, 2010)
Transformed by Grace: Paul’s View of Holiness in Romans 6-8
by J. Ayodeji Adewuya
(Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004)
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