The past two weeks were spent taking our annual boys’ and girls’ trips (which I’m now using as my excuse for the lack of posts). We had a great time spending 3 days with each group over on the west coast of Florida. Our days were full of activity, enjoying God’s creation and enjoying one another’s company. At the end of the day we would gather as a group to talk about the day, lay out our plans for the next day, and spend some time in the Bible.
These devotions were profitable times, so I wanted to pass along some notes on the things we discussed.
This first word of instruction was actually given to the guys before we even got started with our first activity of the trip – collecting shark’s teeth at Venice Beach, the shark tooth capital of the world. (Which was great, except for the fact that we decided to store our finds in an empty, plastic water bottle. It is not hard to imagine what happened to that bottle before the end of the trip.)
Though the spot where we were on Venice Beach was nice and fairly secluded, we do live in modern-day America. In Florida, no less. So regardless of whether we go to Venice Beach or any beach (or the “coast” for all us Independent Baptists), just going out in any public place requires an ability to deal with seeing things that we’d be better off not seeing.
The scripture says in Lamentations 3:51 Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city. And in Proverbs 4:23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.
We have to be careful about what we allow to enter into our eyes, because it is impossible to keep what enters into our eyes from affecting our hearts, and it is impossible to keep what enters our hearts from affecting the very issues of our lives. (Think hard on that before you take your next dose of Hollywood. Learn to practice some remote CONTROL.)
This battle is one that is faced by the entire fallen human race, but it seems to be a difficult and important battle for the male gender in particular. So here are two ways from the Bible that I gave to our young men on how to deal with living in a society that would fill our eyes and seek to fill our hearts with things that shouldn’t be there.
1. LEARN TO CONTROL WHAT YOU LOOK AT
Sometimes you can't help what you see. But you can always help what you look at. A young man who wants to guard his heart and keep his thoughts pure must learn to choose not look at some things that he sees.
The Bible says we live in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation (Philippians 2:15). There are certain things we can avoid (insert long list here), but there are certain things we can’t. A person can’t drive down the highway without seeing things you shouldn’t see. A person can’t go through a check-out line at the grocery store without seeing plenty he’d be better off not seeing.
But a person can choose to divert his gaze. A young man can choose to focus his attention elsewhere. A young man must learn not to look at the things that he sees.
The Bible puts it this way in Ecclesiastes 2:14 The wise man's eyes are in his head...
Remember David? And the sin he committed with Bathsheeba? Adultery? That led to murder? There is a very definite progression in the events of 2 Samuel 11.
David’s first problem was that he wasn't where he was supposed to be or doing what he was supposed to be doing (v. 1). Instead, he was at home at his palace, walking on the roof of his house, and there he saw a woman washing herself (v. 2). Maybe Bathsheeba shouldn't have been washing herself where she was washing herself. Maybe David shouldn't have been walking where he was walking. The Bible’s not totally clear on that. But whoever's fault it was, David saw this beautiful woman.
But the story did not have to go on. David could have stopped this whole thing right then and there. He could have turned away. He could have simply walked back inside.
But that's not what he did. The Bible says that he found Bathsheeba very beautiful to "look upon" (v. 2). Seeing and looking are two different things. David saw. Then he decided to look at what he saw. And before he took her (v. 4), the Bible says that he enquired after her (v. 3). Which leads us to our next point…
2. LEARN TO CONTROL WHAT YOU THINK ABOUT
A young man’s attempts to stay his mind on things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, or good report, worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8) will be fought and opposed by the world, the flesh, and the devil every step of the way.
We live in a dirty world. We’re encumbered by this sinful flesh (Romans 7:18) and these hearts that are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).
Even if it were possible to keep ourselves from every influence that would defile (impossible and outside the will of God – John 17:15; 1 Corinthians 5:10), we would still have to learn to do as scripture says in 2 Corinthians 10:5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.
David didn’t have to look at what he saw. And he didn’t have to dwell on the wicked plan immediately devised by his wicked heart.
At times, you might not be able to control what thoughts somehow enter your mind. But you can always choose what you do with those thoughts. Temptation cannot always be avoided. But thoughts can always be controlled. The flesh can always be refused.
The battle of temptation is fought and won in the mind. That’s why it’s so important to fill your heart with the word of God and fill your home with the songs of God and fill your mouth with the praise of God (Psalm 119:11; Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19). So when the moment of temptation comes, you’re better able to immediately divert your thoughts to what is good and what is right.