Forbidden fruit has always been the greatest temptation of mankind. Even when all our needs are met, as in the Garden of Eden, we have this instinctive impulse for more and a resistance to boundaries, rules and guidelines.
Traffic on the interstates exceeds the speed limit, whether it is 55, 70 or even 80 mph. Entertainment media calls for more action, more thrills, more violence. “Extreme” defines the appetite for more, bigger, stronger, faster. Music of the modern era is loud with writhing bodies attacking instruments and screaming into amplifiers. Children’s games and even cartoons have weird creatures in combat with each other.
I believe that America’s greatest temptation in our day is lust of the flesh — going beyond the boundaries. We have reared one or more generations on glorified flesh. From lusty commercials flashed in our faces to beauty contestants whose costumes could be hidden in a tea cup. Web sites of pornography, trashy books and magazines have opened the door wide to the tempter who understands unregenerate human nature.
America is the largest exporter of sex, violence and profanity. Jesus said, “I say unto you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:28) Therefore, adultery is a matter of the eyes and the heart. Therefore, pornography of any kind, whether word pictures or full color, is adultery. God gave Moses a message in stone, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Jesus said, “When you pray say, ‘Our Father who art in heaven ... lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’” Sexual pursuit outside the plan of family such as living together without marriage, being unfaithful in marriage, pornography in any form is forbidden fruit and leads us into temptation and away from the Creator and the Christ of the cross.
Anyone who pursues temptations of the flesh has an adulterous heart and is thus separated from God by willful sin. Ask God to cleanse your heart and soul of all sins of lust and lead you away from temptations and evil into His holy presence and power. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8, Psalm 24:3-6, Psalm 5: 1-10)
The life of a Christian must be in submission to the spirit of God. While we claim no perfection in ourselves, we claim the perfect and sufficient sacrifice of Jesus, the Christ whose blood cleanses us of sin and enables us to live with a pure heart toward God and each other.
The flesh (physical appetites) must always be in submission to the spirit “for he who sows to the flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the spirit will of the spirit reap eternal life.” (Gal. 6:8)
The body is not the engine of our lives. It is the caboose. Never body over mind over spirit, but spirit over mind over body. The former is the way of our culture; the latter is the way of our Christ. One way leads to the pig pen; the other leads to heaven. You make the choice.
Martin is a retired clergy member of the Mississippi Conference and a regular contributor to the “Advocate.”