A letter to a friend:
E., as has often been the case, I appreciate what you have to say in these kinds of matters and the way you say it. I’m thankful for your honesty, a token of God’s blessing on you, which was working in you even before you came to us, though the Lord needed to chasten you.
I can look at a delicious plate of my favorite food and be excited, particularly when hungry. I can appreciate beautiful scenery or anything that excels in power or beauty or some desirable characteristics. I’ve been very impressed with writers who have such wonderful abilities to express themselves. I often wish I could write like them. But these excitements and desires, while legitimate or neutral in themselves, can’t be allowed free rein. I can’t allow myself to covet my neighbor’s goods or any other thing, though I may appreciate what’s there.
So with women. Let’s face it – we all know women can be beautiful and desirable to any healthy man; it’s a fact of life; it’s nature; it’s the way God has made things. How can we deny it? How shall we deny that we find beauty desirable in whatever form it takes? I can’t. Can you? Can any man?
Our problem is that we’ve been corrupted in the lusts of our flesh. We’ve known ourselves to be given over to eating forbidden fruit and even enjoying it in our lusts. We also know that in our flesh dwells no good thing; we know it’s contrary to God and how He would have us conduct ourselves in all aspects of His creation. He brings the Law and teaches us temperance, constraint, discipline, and judgment. He enables us to manage ourselves and those things around us with His Mind and Attitude.
I confess I look at women, especially when they’re dressed seductively, as with everything else the flesh finds attractive. But by God’s grace, I’ve been able to control myself and not entertain those things, knowing full well I can’t have them and that it wouldn’t be good for me to have them. Boundaries have been set, and to trespass those boundaries is never wise. So why go there?
But will logic win the day? Not at all! We can tell ourselves right and wrong all we want, but the lust is there in the flesh, isn’t it? In fact, the more we try to instruct and control ourselves in the right and wrong of things, the more it seems we’re vulnerable. So what’s the answer? The Lord and His grace to us is the answer, the only answer. So while temptations are there, and while our carnal natures are so perfectly willing to indulge in things we ought not indulge in, and while we can’t escape those facts, we do have the Lord to keep us, in spite of ourselves. Any man who thinks a good-looking woman isn’t appealing isn’t honest with himself or anyone else.
Our virtue, apparently real or potential, isn’t our hope, is it, E.? It is Christ Who keeps us. It’s His righteousness, never ours.
That’s my understanding of things. Perhaps some may say I’m living by the Law. Could be. Or is it that I make the effort to keep my body under, lest after preaching, I should be discarded? I recall someone saying, “Look, but don’t touch,” but I’ve learned that looking too well or too long is as good as touching, so, “Don’t look,” is most advisable. I’ve also been keenly aware that if I look, others see me looking, and therefore I cause them to stumble.
But what if no one sees me looking, like on the internet, for example? We’re aware that while man may not see, God does, always. Furthermore, we can ask, “Does God care? He knows our natures; He understands,” but I know that what we say, think, and do is built into us. Nothing occurs without affecting our natures, to whatever degree. So why should I damn myself by thinking God won’t mind? He minds! All of nature, and how He has set things up, minds, always.
Law, law, law! Temptations, difficulties, capitulations, consequences… these are all facts of life. This is the way the Lord has formed everything. We know, however, there’s sure hope of perfection and victory in Him, and as Paul exhorted, let’s “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 MKJV). Our hope is sure.
Summing it up: Let’s not condemn ourselves for the temptations that are there or for our fleshly inclinations to indulge in those temptations. Those are facts we can’t avoid, being made subject to them and to all vanity. But let’s rejoice that the Lord has given us the way out, thus demonstrating His power and glory.
“No temptation has taken you but what is common to man; but God is faithful, Who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but with the temptation also will make a way to escape, so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13 MKJV).
I’ve felt a need to express these things, particularly in the sexual context, for some time now. I hope I’m right and that this will help many.
– May 10, 2014