by Eric Elder
You can listen to today’s message by clicking this link. (13 minutes)
A few months ago some pictures were released on the Internet of several famous people–and they happened to not be wearing anything. When I read about this, I recognized one of the stars from some movies I’d seen and I thought, “Wow, I wonder what she would look like?” And I was tempted to click and take a look.
But I thought, “That’s not going to be good for me, that’s not going to be good for her, and there’s really no point. Don’t do that.”
I read an article later about this woman when she was interviewed, and she said she was so upset because those were private pictures that she had taken for personal reasons. She was upset that they were leaked without her permission, and she was really upset that people would click on those links and look.
I felt better for not clicking; not looking, and just saying “If she was upset about this, then certainly you wouldn’t want to do it, and it’s not even right even if she wanted you to see it.”
But a week or so ago, I saw that she had done a photo shoot for a national magazine, and they said that she had some pictures in this magazine. And I thought, “Oh, maybe I could click on that.” Those were pictures that she took with a purpose and it’s a national magazine–it’s not like it’s a pornographic thing. I clicked. And as soon as I did, I said, “I shouldn’t have clicked that.”
It didn’t help that she was wearing nothing and she was draped with a live boa constrictor. If God wanted to speak to you and say, “This is from Satan,” how much clearer could He be?
Then I pulled out the passage that we were going to be looking at this week. This is Jesus speaking:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:27-30).
Those are some really strong words, and they can be either really freeing if you follow them, or really heavy and burdensome if you haven’t been following them. So I’m trying to balance a little bit today between those of you who are really needing a word to set you free, and those of you who are struggling under the weight of sin and don’t need one more word of condemnation.
When Jesus says, “If your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out,” I don’t think He really means literally, and yet I think His words are strong enough that you get the point. He says if it really does cause you that much of a problem, you need to take care of it.
So what’s wrong with private sins? What’s wrong with clicking on a few pictures? What’s wrong with going a little farther? What’s wrong with the variety of things that we desire, whether it’s sexual or other kinds of appetites?
There’s a verse in James 1 that talks about what happens. It says:
“Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).
So James says it starts with desire–it starts in your heart–but then you get dragged away and enticed. Then once desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin–you actually do something with it–and then sin, when it’s full grown, gives birth to death.
Our private sins have a way of taking on a life of their own, and they can quickly consume us. They can take over, and they can cause all kinds of problems. So what’s the solution?
Jesus says, gouge out your eye, cut off your hands; it would be better for you. I’ve talked with some guys who struggle with pornography, and I say, “It’s probably time to cut off your Internet connection.” They protest and say, “No, I need it for this or this or this.” And I say, “Well, it’s that or gouge out your eyes. How painful is cutting off your Internet connection, compared to cutting off your right hand or gouging out your eyes?”
How serious do you want to be about getting free? There are some simple things we can do. Don’t click the link. Just don’t click. It sounds easy, and it can be really easy.
Look away. This was some great advice I had from some guys years ago. When you’re walking down the street and someone catches your eye and you’re tempted to look back again…and look back again, my friend said, “Look away. Leave ’em there.” It’s amazing how that has helped me through years of life, and years of marriage, to say “Look away. Leave ’em there.” Then don’t look back. It’s so freeing, and you just walk on.
Each one is tempted. Jesus was tempted. But we don’t need to take a second look. Or a third. Or start following them down the street. Don’t go looking for trouble.
I had a friend who was a body builder, and he came to me with a confession. He said he really had a wandering eye when he went to the gym. He would see these girls, and he said, “Eric, I just can’t even take it. I’m not sure what to do.”
I said, “Well, let’s pray.” We had a long session of prayer, with a lot of confession and a lot of things he poured out. He felt so free after that.
Weeks went by and he said, “Eric, I am so free from all of that. I’m amazed I’m so free.” But about a month later he came back to me and he said, “Eric, we prayed and I thought I was free of all that, but every time I turn on Baywatch, all that stuff just comes right back up!” (If you don’t know that show, it’s a show with a lot of women in bathing suits and body builders on the beach.)
I thought, “Oh, come on, guy! Just because you’re free doesn’t mean you can go watch anything and everything that you want to watch!” Don’t go looking for trouble.
I had another guy came to me. He said he was having trouble with intimacy with his wife. I was really trying to help him. I said, “Well, let’s talk about this. Let’s try to get to what it could be.” And I started going through a few things it might be. At one point I said, “None of these things seem to be it. Is there anything else that comes to your mind?”
He said, “Well, I did sleep with the caterer from our wedding two weeks after we got married.”
I said, “Well, maybe there’s something there!” Sometimes I’m telling people not to click, and they’re doing way more than clicking. Don’t go looking for trouble.
The best way to stop a bad habit is never to start.
There’s a movie coming out this weekend. I wouldn’t say it’s the best movie to go see for Valentine’s Day. But their advertising is all based on the word, “Curious?” Aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to see what this book is about that has been an international best seller? It’s sold more books than any other fiction book in the last ten years, as well as the sequel and the third book. They’re all three in the top of the best-selling books.
“Curious?” it says. And sometimes we are. But I can tell you that you don’t need to go see that movie to satisfy your curiosity. Because it never will be satisfied. If Satan’s behind it, he just puts all the sugar on top and he says, “Come on in.” Then you will go deeper and deeper and deeper. Your curiosity will never be satisfied if Satan’s behind it. So it’s best just to “Look away. Leave it there.” Don’t go looking for trouble.
I had a great conversation with a guy this week, and I’ll close with this. He said he went to Russia on a missions trip. He’s not a speaker, not a pastor. But the pastor at the church in Russia wanted my friend to get up and speak that night to the group in Russia.
My friend was sort of panicking and wondering what the pastor wanted him to talk about. The pastor said, “You just pray and speak whatever God puts on your heart.”
As the day went on, my friend still had no idea what to talk about. He told me that he was secretly struggling with chewing tobacco. He had given up a lot of things in his life, but not that. He said he’d always put a wad in his mouth and he’d be chewing and nobody knew what he was doing. But he felt so convicted by it.
He had some stuff with him when he was on this mission trip in Russia. He came back to the pastor and said, “I have no idea what to speak. I have no idea what to talk about.”
And the pastor looked at him and said, “If the vessel is pure, the Holy Spirit will speak.”
My friend was so convicted. The pastor had no idea what was going on. But my friend took everything that he had brought with him and flushed it down the toilet. He hasn’t touched it in three years since. He said that as soon as he got rid of it, God’s Spirit spoke to him, gave him an incredible message that God spoke into his heart, and that he then spoke out to the people. He said this:
“That night on the third floor of the church in Russia I put my hands in the air and told Jesus I wanted His righteousness over my addiction. I dumped out every bit of the substance that I had brought from America, all that I had, and by doing so drove a stake in the ground, drew a line in the sand. I wanted Jesus back. And after I flushed it down the toilet, I had every word that I needed to speak to that congregation and I wrote down every bit of it. My relationship with Jesus was suffering because I put Him second and the substance first. My heart changed in Russia and Christ trumped my addiction. I have not had the substance since.”
I’d like to pray with you today. Maybe there’s anything that’s come up even while you’re reading this today, something that makes you want to say, “I don’t want this in my life anymore. I’m done.” Maybe you’ve tried to walk away before, but today could be your day. This could be your time.
I’m going to pray these words over you that David spoke in Psalm 32:
“When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
Your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to You
and did not cover up my iniquity
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And You forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Father, we confess to You right now anything that’s not right in our lives. God, we don’t want it anymore. We invite You in to come, take over, fill us with Your Spirit so we can be pure vessels, so we can hear from You, and so we can pour out Your love to others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.