David A. Banning
Lust has gone public in America. No subject is too delicate for a television or movie script. Pornography is big business. Absolutely nothing is left to the imagination. Yet, this business would utterly fail were it not for the fact that it feeds the private yearnings of corrupted hearts. It is from this private cesspool of defilement that this flowing well of licentiousness comes. Polluted minds demand a diet of contamination to gratify illicit hunger. This creates a climate in which the problem only feeds itself.
No man ever rises above the quality of his own mind. One cannot be more perverse than his heart allows him to be. Conversely, pure and noble words and deeds first proceed from hearts that are pure and noble. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23). “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7).
The potentiality of private lust was recognized by Jesus when He said, “Whoso looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). In this context Jesus not only condemned the act of adultery, but also the progressions of thought which culminate in this forbidden act. It is not wrong to recognize beauty. Some have a charm and grace which is at once attractive and appealing. But it is a far different thing to allow the mind to descend to the level of fantasizing about sexual relations with one we have found to be appealing. So then, the heart must keep a distinction between admiration and lust. It is in the heart that reserves are broken down and that schemes are devised to gain attention, then seduce the one who become the object of our obsession. Adultery committed in the heart, but which proceeds no farther, may not have the frightful consequences which the overt act does — but it is still an affront to God and destructive to the character of the one who entertains it. Recognition of the wrong and repentance are surely required.
The problem is pervasive in our society. Many streams strive to erode a channel into our hearts to pervert them. Modern television programming, to say nothing of the movie industry, grind out a continual stream of coarseness, vulgarity, sexual innuendo and compromising scenes which could wear down the best defenses of the most godly were these allowed constant entry into the mind. The print media carry reports which often titillate the senses. Even television news programming often resorts to this device, I suppose to add what is conceived to be “spice” to an otherwise dry business. The music of our time, with incessant beat, preaches moral permissiveness and does much to break down convictions and moral reserves. Perhaps the two worst offenders in this area are today’s rock and country-western music. The lyrics are not even subtle. They are brazen. How can any of us listen repeatedly to such lyrics without being affected to some degree?
What about pornography? Is it nobody’s business what a person reads or views in his own home? Should he have the Playboy channel hooked up to his cable TV? First, those who defend such right are the losers because they defile and debauch their own hearts to the destruction of their souls. Next, they contribute to a sordid business which promotes vice of every kind. Then, they run the risk of reaching a point where they cannot separate fact from fantasy and that can lead to criminal action. Unrealistic expectations develop which create disillusionment between spouses. The price for gratification of mental lust can become very expensive.
The divine mandate to “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18) must surely include flight from whatever channels of thought might lead us to this tragedy. We must not be filthy dreamers” (Jude 8) with defiled minds. In contrast to that, “Unto the pure all things are pure” (Titus 1:15). It is not enough to root out impurity of thought. These must be replaced with that which is decent, ennobling, gracious, uplifting and pure. “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Whatsoever things are...pure...lovely...of good report...think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Ultimately, the victory over private lust is bound up in the admonition of Paul to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Christ must not only be Lord of my external conduct; He must rule my mind. “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6). Paul wrote, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:23). Folks, this is a war we must win. Shall private lusts conquer us, or shall we bring our thoughts into captivity to our Lord Jesus Christ?
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer (Psalm 19:14). “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1).
Indeed, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste!” It was God’s purpose to put His law into our hearts and write His precepts in our minds (Heb. 10:16). When the mind is so filled with the knowledge of truth and right, then whatever thought-form is inconsistent with that divine system is rejected as repulsive. It cannot grow in unprepared soil. The antidote to private lust is a constantly growing knowledge of the will of God accompanied by an active life of service in which the fruits of righteousness may be seen by others.