Saturday, September 27, 2008
The Importance of a Pure Heart
There is some truth to the old bumper-sticker adage, "Lead me not into temptation. I can find it myself." We all do a pretty good job of putting ourselves in the way of temptation. While we love to blame it on the devil or on other people, the fact is that we often place ourselves unnecessarily in temptation's way.
Maybe you have felt that if you could somehow remove yourself from all outward enticements, you would never sin again. But that simply isn't true. The problem is within us.
The Bible tells us, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9 NKJV).James wrote, "Temptation comes from the lure of our own evil desires.These evil desires lead to evil actions, and evil actions lead to death"(1:14-15 NLT).
That is what Jesus spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount. He addressed areas of sin that are widespread in our culture today, including lust.
Rather than focusing on externals, Jesus dealt with the heart, saying that if our minds are filled with lustful thoughts, it is as though we have actually committed the deeds themselves. It is still sin before God, and God wants to change our hearts.
Jesus said, " 'You have heard that the law of Moses says, "Do not commit adultery." But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eye has already committed adultery with her in his heart'" (Matthew 5:27-28 NLT).
There are so many things in our culture today that push this sin. We can't escape it. Everywhere we go, there is something--from billboards to television commercials to web site pop-up ads--that feeds the fire of lust.
So here is what it comes down to: we need to do everything we can to stay out of the way of temptation.
For example, if you are watching TV and a scene comes on that you know will only feed lust, here is an idea. There is this thing you hold in your hand called a remote control. Usually, in the upper right or left-hand corner of this object, there is a red button labeled, "power."If you push that button, something miraculous happens: the image goes away. Use that button. Turn the TV off.
If you are in a movie theater and a scene comes up that would encourage lust, instead of thinking, "This is so horrible. Look at that. I can't believe that," get up and walk out of the theater. Better yet, find out what the film is about before you go inside to see it in the first place.
Here is why maintaining a pure heart is so important for believers. If the only thing that is stopping us from committing a certain sin is the fear of getting caught, then when circumstances change in such a way that we feel we can pull it off, we will indeed go and commit that sin.
We need internal incentive, not just outward deterrents. We need a motivationto do the right thing that is based on a fear of displeasing and dishonoring the Lord. We need a motivation that comes from a desire to not sin against God.
The Bible tells us to bring "every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5 NKJV). Why? Because our thoughts can turn into actions.
It has been said, "Sow a thought; reap an act. Sow an act; reap a habit. Sow a habit; reap a character. Sow a character; reap a destiny.
Each of us needs to periodically look at our lives and say, "Are there any things that I am doing or people that I am spending time around or places that I am going that would encourage lust in my heart and mind?"
Maybe it is something you have been doing, music you have been listening to, movies or television shows you have been watching, or Internet sites you have been visiting that are feeding the fires of lust. These will never satisfy you. They will only make things worse.
Do whatever is necessary and give up what is necessary to keep yourself from falling into sin. Do what you need to do. Take extreme measures, because THE HEART OF THE MATTER IS THE MATTER OF THE HEART. If we can get our hearts changed, then our actions will change as well.