Can a man scoop fire into his lap and not be burned? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? (Proverbs 6:27-28 NLT)
Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. So don't live in darkness. Get rid of your evil deeds. Shed them like dirty clothes. Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light. ... Let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don't think of ways to indulge your evil desires. (Romans 13:11-14)
Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God's people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes — these are not for you. ... You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. ... Don't be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him. Don't participate in the things these people do. For though your hearts were once full of darkness, now you are full of light from the Lord, and your behavior should show it! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. (Ephesians 5:3-9)
God is light and there is no darkness in him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness. We are not living in the truth. But if we are living in the light of God's presence, just as Christ is, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from every sin. (1 John 1:5-7)
There are times that I simply hate the routine! Since I am usually the last one in bed, I go around and check all the door locks, turn off all the lights, and make sure the alarm is set.
Why do I do it if I hate it so much? When I'm worn out, tired and ready to drop into bed, why do I get up and make the loop around the house checking all the doors?
I want to make sure my family is as safe as possible. I know that if I don't check things each evening, some nights some things get forgotten and we are left completely vulnerable. That last check has become a routine — a habit of sorts, that is as automatic as my bedtime prayers. Every time I am tempted to slack up, I find a door left unlocked or the alarm left unset and I am reminded of why vigilance is important once again. I don't want my family unnecessarily exposed to danger!
What's my point? Well, actually I want to make two points.
First, my guess is that many of you are tempted to skip past the Scriptures listed above and get on to the meat of the article. But, today, I'm especially asking you to take the time to go back and read those words of the Holy Spirit one more time, asking God to speak to your heart. His Word is crucial before my words mean anything!
Second, I want to visit with you for a moment about being vigilant about protecting your home — not your house or your possessions, but your heart and the hearts of those you love. Too often, we have not been vigilant about locking the door and setting the alarm against unwanted spiritual attackers. In fact, many have actually been inviting darkness home with them.
More than a decade-and-a-half ago, the famous church growth expert, Lyle Schaller, spoke with a group of ministers from the largest churches in Austin, Texas. It was an informal meeting at a good ol' Bar-BQ place called The County Line. Someone asked him what he felt would be the biggest problem confronting the evangelical church community in the coming decade. His answer shocked everyone: "Pornography! It's already ripping apart many people's lives and it's only going to get worse."
That was before the Internet had hit the popular scene. Nobody really could believe what he said at the time. However, my last five years of ministry has proved him true. My visits with folks from all over the world have confirmed the validity of Schaller's unwanted prophecy. My visits with fellow ministers and webministers have been filled with story after story of sexual addiction, broken marriages, and men and women caught in a sexual bondage they couldn't break. And yes, I did say BOTH men and women.
Most of the focus about the dangers of the Internet has been geared toward men with their vulnerability toward visual pornography (pictures, streaming video, email baiting through SPAM, and online voyeurism). This is rightfully so. Nearly every church of any size can point to a marriage on the brink or on the scrap heap because of this problem. An increasing amount of legislative focus has been geared toward protecting our children from the dangers of the web and online predators. Meanwhile, a septic flood of another variety has quietly seeped into many of our homes and has contaminated the hearts of many otherwise godly women — sexual chat. Appealing to the romantic fantasy ideal and to the need to be heard and understood, women are being increasingly drawn into an intimate verbal relationship with someone online. As they unwittingly reveal incredible amounts of private detail about their lives to absolute strangers, many of whom are predators, they very seldom realize the danger to themselves, to their marriages, and to the physical safety of their children.
What do we do in the face of these challenges? The Internet is not going away; it is an increasingly vital part of modern life and communication. So how do we deal with the challenges that we face as God's people?
First, don't dismiss the threat. If this is not a temptation for you, that's great. Realize, however, that it is for the majority of people around you. While it may not be something to which you are vulnerable now, there may be a time when you could get sucked in and trapped like so many others. Simply telling folks to "just quit," or shaming them for their habitual or addictive sins, only enforces their secrecy and their bondage. Firm empathy, stressing the absolute necessity of quitting while offering genuine ongoing support and referring them to helpful resources and counseling is crucial.
(We are to bear one another's burdens and to help rescue those trapped by sin. Galatians 6:1-3 & James 5:19-20.)
Second, build healthy intimate relationships. Now, more than ever, it is crucial that we build vital and open relationships in our marriages. Intimacy isn't just about our sexual relationship in marriage. In fact, it may not even be primarily about that. It's about the sharing of our heart, dreams, dreads, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, likes, dislikes, and everyday coming and goings. Deepening our spiritual, emotional, and sexual relationship with our marriage partner is crucial to protecting us against outside temptations. A vital sexual relationship with our spouse is crucial and must not be allowed to slip, wane, or be ignored. We must remain vigilant and passionate about growing our marriages deeper in soul bonding intimacy.
(This is a directive from God, emphasized in both Proverbs 5 and 1 Corinthians 7:1-10!)
Third, being wise in our use of the web. The time we go access the web is important. Avoiding late nights alone is important. Intentional use of the web rather than aimless surfing is a must, both for our proper stewardship of time and also for protection. Using filtering software or a filtered ISP can be helpful, especially when it involves an accountability partner for our surfing. (We are offering a comparison of some of these software tools for you to check out and also for your input.) Positioning the screen to be visible to anyone who comes in the door of the room is preferable. Always having the door open when we are surfing, chatting, and emailing is a must.
(We must avoid the appearances of evil, staying far away from the traps of temptation -- Proverbs 5:7-8; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:22.)
Fourth, building open relationships with other believers of our same gender is crucial for accountability, confession, encouragement, and growth. This is simply deepening our small group Bible study relationships where men hold men, and women hold women, accountable for their actions. Finishing this accountability time with a few simple questions with someone we look in the eye and trust can be vital for us as we seek to be people of the light:
- Have you been a person of integrity and holiness this past week in your work and your relationships through your actions and your speech?
- In your viewing, reading, chatting, and surfing have you maintained your sexual purity?
- Have you hedged, fudged, distorted, or held back any information that would make either of your previous answers untrue?
(God gave us Christian community for our physical, spiritual and relational health. Let's be honest and redemptive with each other -- James 5:16 and 1 John 1:7-9.)
Fifth, being actively involved with real people, in real relationships, in real church settings is crucial. The web is a tool to our real world experience. It must not replace the real world. We need people we can touch, hug, and speak to face to face as part of our Christian experience. Our online relationships can be supportive, but they must not be exclusive — there have to be real people in our lives no matter how shy or vulnerable we feel. So much of the New Testament is about "each other" and "one another." A great deal of that experience is lost in the cyber part of space.
(Let's not avoid being with other Christians face to face, but instead see that as a time for mutual encouragement -- Hebrews 3:12-14; 10:23-25.)
Sixth, if you can't go 30 days without looking at pornography of any kind (movies, web, TV, magazines, books), or if you can't go a month without being involved in chat relationships on the web, PLEASE, see your minister or Christian counselor about help. Addictive sin eventually destroys us, along with those we love.
(Look for wise and godly advice, none of us can do it on our own -- Proverbs 15:22; 27:17.)
Seventh, use our sense of safety we have developed in other areas to keep us out of harms way on the web. When describing the Internet, I often use the image of a large city. In fact, in many ways, the web is the world's largest city! It has good neighborhoods, and bad ones. We have learned to steer clear of dangerous areas of the big cities in our real world, and we must learn to do the same in our cyber world. Some places you simply don't go because they are the habitation of danger, evil, and purification. We teach our children to stay away from strangers and we don't share our personal information with strangers we bump into on side streets or in dark alleys. Instead, we know the only safe course of action is to get to safety immediately.
(Let's stay away from bad places and bad influences -- Psalms 101:4; Proverbs 14:7; 22:5; 1 Corinthians 15:33.)
This week, we are going to focus most of our articles on this issue. Many of the claims that have been made in this article will be validated. Resources available for help will be explained and offered. We hope and pray that it will all be a blessing to you. If at first you don't find this relevant, please, read it anyway and be informed — the people around you are facing these battles and the Lord will need you to be a compassionate, informed, and helpful friend. If Heartlight.org can be of help to you or your church in these areas, please let us know. May God bless us all as we seek to be salt and light in a world of decay and darkness!
And I'm interested in hearing from you. What do you believe can be done to help us win the battle with sexual impurity? What resources do you believe are helpful?
I'd love to hear from you on my blog: http://blog.heartlight.org/phil/2007/04/inviting_darkness_home.html