Have you ever done any "people watching" at the mall? I enjoy doing this (mostly because I hate shopping). Often times, when my wife is shopping at a store in the mall, I will park myself on a bench and watch the people go by. Given enough time one will see all sorts of things ranging from the comical to the downright bizarre. One can watch others as they interact with their families, friends, or sometimes their invisible companions. People watching certainly helps the time pass and keeps a man from constantly texting his wife, "Are you done yet? Can we go?"
I had the opportunity to do some people watching last night. After dropping my son off at work I decided to take advantage of those hours and get some studying done. I chose to go to a book store in the mall that had a coffee shop. I ordered a caramel macchiato (one of the few coffees that actually have any flavor at this particular place) and sat down in a comfy chair with a table to begin my studying.
About twenty or thirty minutes into my studies I noticed some movement at the magazine racks my chair was facing. I looked up to see a man in his late fifties or early sixties looking over the magazines with great interest. As I watched him he quickly went for the top row which of course contained the pornography. He picked one up and flipped through it and then returning that one to the rack he selected another.
At first, I chuckled to myself and thought, "Check out that dirty old man." However, I soon felt a check in my heart as God let me know that He did not find this situation amusing. This man was in bondage; probably for many years. With new eyes and understanding I continued to watch as this man went from one magazine to the next. He began to pick up pornography that was sealed in bags and feverishly tear it open like a junkie who just received a long over due supply of heroine. My heart began to break for this man as I watched him be consumed by his lust. Then suddenly he placed everything back and departed.
Over the next several hours my studies were interrupted as I observed other individuals going to the magazine rack, even one woman. Some came alone and hovered around the rack acting like they were only browsing, but they knew what they were there for. One man started off slowly, picking up a health magazine with a swimsuit model on the front. It wasn't long before he had his engine revved up enough to drop the mild stuff and go for the flesh feast in the top row. Others played around continuing to pass back and forth, their eyes constantly glancing to the top shelf. I could almost hear the temptation calling to them and see the struggle they were having with their flesh.
This struggle with sexual sin is nothing new, but it is very prevalent in our society among both men and women. Before I continue, let me point out that sex within the context that God created it for is a good and wonderful thing. It is sex outside of God's intended design that leads to bondage. In the book of John chapter 8 verse 34, Jesus is quoted as saying, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." Let's face it; that's true. We want to pretend that we are the ones who have it under control, but the fact is (especially when is comes to sexual sin) our flesh is calling the shots. Men and woman become slaves to their sex drive.
So how does one get emancipated from this type of slavery? If you proceed down two verses in John chapter 8 you will see Jesus also said in verse 36, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." You may think to yourself, "That's great news! So the Lord can set me free of this and I'll never be tempted again." While the Lord does that on occasion, it is not the typical way He works. Some Christians have a very un-Biblical idea that if you are born-again as Jesus said you must be (John 3:3) and have the Holy Spirit you will never experience temptation again. Nowhere does the Bible teach such nonsense. In fact, it acknowledges quite the opposite!
A slave can be set free but a slave can return to his slavery if he chooses so. Many people have broken free of drugs only to make a choice to "have one last one for old times sake" and put themselves right back into bondage. Freedom does not absolve us of responsibility. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9:27, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified." We have to exercise self-control over our body, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, if we are to remain in the freedom Christ offers.
There are many good books and sermons on this subject and I certainly can't cover everything in this blog. (I suspect that it is already getting too long.) However, I will mention two things briefly.
First, learn the art of running away. 1 Corinthians 6:18 tells us to, "Flee sexual immorality." An individual does not fight temptation by getting into a staring contest with it. The longer you lock on to something tempting the more you insure your defeat. 1 Corinthians 10:13 informs us that, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God
is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are
able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it." Some people use this verse to teach the false idea that God will never give you more that you can handle. Clearly that is not what is being addressed here. Temptation is being addressed and God promises, not to give your strength to stare it down, but to provide a way of escape. If you find yourself in the magazine rack of temptation there are to openings on either side. Choose one and run!
Second, learn to steer clear of temptation's usual hangouts. Proverbs chapter 5 deals with the seductress who lures individuals into her grip with her sexual temptations. Verse 8 gives the best advice of all by telling us, "Remove your way far from her, And do not go near the door of her house," Stay away and you won't have the problem of avoiding a staring contest! If you know temptation awaits down one aisle, choose another. If you know that a certain situation will lead you into temptation, avoid placing yourself in that situation. Every individual who entered that magazine rack seemed to know what was there. I didn't notice anyone taken by surprise. There were some who struggled, but they all came for a reason. If you avoid the street of the seductress, whenever possible, you won't have to deal with her siren's call.
The slavery of sex outside of God's design is a major issue today. People from all walks of life are chained to it. The Lord created this to be His wedding gift for a man and a woman to enjoy within the confines of a committed covenant marriage. But like the rest of His good creation, mankind has perverted it into something that ultimately brings us into bondage. Do not despair, however, because there is true freedom to be found in Christ and there is strength available in the Holy Spirit to remain free. If you are bound by this chain of sexual sin and have had enough, I urge you to contact a strong disciple of Christ and begin the journey towards freedom. May God bless you to experience His power to break chains!