“What is happening?” someone said to me yesterday. “I can’t believe all the pastors and ministry leaders who are falling morally. It seems that it’s increasing exponentially.”
But sadly, it makes perfect sense. With the increasing access to moral impurity permeating every media device we have, including the phones in our pockets, how could moral failure not be increasing? Satan has hooked us on the mediums, and then subtly (and now aggressively) changed the message.
We can’t control everything, but we can cooperate with God, by His grace, to see spiritual protection in our own lives.
Paul’s Two-Word Instructions
There are many directives in God’s Word about this issue. And some biblical passages require a lot of explanation. But one message from Paul is amazingly simple, direct, and effective:
“Flee immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18 NASB).
The verb tense is continuous. The idea is, “Be continually fleeing.” It’s not once and done. It must be a constant, daily choice. So, how can we be fleeing, practically?
It begins and ends here. The man or woman of God who desires lifelong protection in this area must learn the art of mental escape. You can make daily choices to run mentally from the fiery darts the Enemy aims at your thinking. It takes practice, but it’s doable by God’s grace.
I once did a nine-month study on moral purity with ninety men. We studied every passage we could in the Word and discovered there are seven major preventatives God gives regarding immorality. But the first one, mentioned more times than any others, is the continual, daily intake of the Word of God that produces a renewing of the mind.
This doesn’t mean mere intake of the Bible intellectually. Learned seminary professors and long-term, Bible-teaching pastors can fall.
It means the experiential, responsive study of God’s Word. You must be daily at His feet and choosing to obey His Word, responding to His reproofs and adjusting your life to His correction (2 Timothy 3:15-16). And as the temptations around you increase, your running to Him must increase.
My father and I often discussed his moral failure at the age of 65. When I would ask him how it happened, his answer was always clear. “Bill, the Word of God had always reproved and corrected me as I read it every day. When I got hurt in a ministry moment, I chose to nurse my hurt, and I simply quit reading the Bible.”
Satan was waiting for this moment with just the right temptation, which began with a lingering, emotional conversation with a co-worker. Dad avoided God’s Word and aborted God’s preventative tool.
If a lion where coming toward you, threatening your life, you would have no problem running away. Why? You would realize the danger and know that your best bet of survival was rapid retreat.
There are some things God says to stand against. But here, God says, “Run!”
- RUN from every appearance of evil.
- RUN from immorality on every device around you—phone, Internet, television, movies. RUN! Don’t tell me you can’t make choices with these devices. You’re bigger than a phone, and there are multiple ways you can communicate with others. Get a simple flip-phone if necessary, unable to access the Internet. Do whatever is necessary to run from the lion as he seeks to devour your soul.
- RUN from every suggestive image. Years ago, I taught my boys the old military drill of “Eyes right!” or “Eyes left!” When we would pass a store or billboard that was immoral, we’d say, “Eyes right” and snap our heads away from the temptation. It became for us a choice to run away from something we knew we couldn’t handle.
- RUN from every enticing individual. You don’t have to be rude. But Satan loves to bring others across our paths who will be a temptation to us. There is a single remedy for this: RUN. You might say, “Well, they work with me. It’s impossible.” That’s an excuse. You can lift your relationship with them to a kind but very professional level. You can choose to not swing by their office for casual conversation. You can choose never to ride in a car with them. It may be hard, but it can ALWAYS be done. In our “liberated” day, others may make fun of you. But they won’t laugh when their marriage fails and yours remains intact for fifty years.
- RUN from every excuse. “I can handle this” is the motto of the fallen. God says you can’t. Don’t play games with this. Satan will string you along with subtle excuses just long enough to lure you in to a lifelong habit that will destroy you and everyone around you. Don’t be an excuse maker.
You may think you’re not an emotional creature, but you are hardwired that way by God. Everyone longs to love and be loved. When you are not feeling particularly appreciated, the Enemy loves to bring along someone in the office or church to pay you a little extra attention. They think you’re wonderful … and it feels good. Really good.
Harmless at first, if you go there emotionally and begin to dream, it is a setup for the lion’s attack. You cannot indulge yourself emotionally. You must guard your affections with the opposite sex.
The fall of every man or woman we are seeing around us began with the first look, the first thought, the first emotional flurry. It is right there where we must run … and keep running.
We must not just run away, but run toward something if we are to find lifelong success morally.
- RUN TO Pursue intimacy with Him relentlessly. He is the only One who can satisfy the spiritual and emotional needs of your heart. Let your heart find joy in Him.
“The believer is in spiritual danger if he allows himself to go for any length of time without tasting the love of Christ and savoring the felt comforts of a Savior’s presence. When Christ ceases to fill the heart with satisfaction, our souls will go in silent search of other lovers” (John Flavel).
- RUN TO your mate. “Rejoice in the wife of your youth.… Be exhilarated always with her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19). When you find yourself tempted with mental images, turn from those images to images of your wife or husband, and go engage with your mate. Run to and delight in them.
- RUN TO godly friends. We all need the accountability that wraps cords of pulling protection around us. Find some godly friends who are ahead of you on this issue, get honest, and do everything necessary to maintain consistent accountability.
I can name a hundred great, godly men who I thought would never fall morally, beginning with my own dad. I’ve learned that no one is immune. We can never let up until we die.
Everyone—including me, including you—must put on their runnin’ shoes every day.